While we at GSoM excited about the chance to hang out at Oracle with the best fans in the league and have a Q&A with Jerry West, we're also hoping for a win against a playoff-caliber opponent: the Memphis Grizzlies.
After being a league doormat for the first eight years of their existence, the Grizzlies are looking to do something that the Warriors haven't done since 1977: make the NBA Playoffs for a third consecutive year (Grizzlies fans, you know not how we suffer).
Of course, their turnaround was orchestrated by Jerry West, who won 2004 NBA Executive of the Year for helping the franchise earn their first-ever playoff berth, which turned into their first three year run of postseason play from 2004-2006. With West now working for the Warriors and doing a Q&A with Warriors fans for GSoM Night, it only made sense to ask Kevin Lipe and Tom Lorenzo of SB Nation's Memphis Grizzlies blog Straight Outta Vancouver what they would want to ask West if they had the chance in addition to offering some insight on the Grizzlies through the lens of their season-opener against the Clippers.
Q&A with Straight Outta Vancouver
1. As part of GSoM night we're having a Q&A with Jerry West. Obviously, West was previously in Memphis and left in 2007 after a particularly difficult season. Looking back at West's tenure in Memphis from 2002-2007, if you could ask him anything now what would it be?
Kevin Lipe: "Memphis is one of the smallest markets in the NBA. When you took the Grizzlies job in 2002, do you think you underestimated the challenges presented by building a team in such an environment?"
2. The Grizzlies of course have made their way back to the playoffs since 2007 and the last we've seen of them has been against the L.A. Clippers, both in last season's playoff loss and Wednesday's night season opening loss. As both the Clippers and Grizzlies look to become a mainstays in the playoffs, how big a rivalry would you consider that for the Grizzlies?
Tom Lorenzo: It's become a huge rivalry for the Grizzlies, and I say that recognizing that when you haven't won anything -- nor been in the mix, all that much -- losing a hard-fought playoff series, a physical one at that, can quickly turn into a rivalry. Which, it did for both us and the Clippers. There's no real love lost between these two teams, and we saw that last night with the minor scuffles, the stare-downs and Zach Randolph essentially throwing Blake Griffin down to the ground in the 4th quarter. I mean, no, it's not a storied rivalry, in the same way the Lakers-Celtics or even in the way Heat-Celtics has become, but when we don't have much of a history to pull from, rivalries like this tend to take center stage.
3. The L.A. commentators mentioned that the Grizzlies felt after their playoff loss that they were the better team and wanted to make a statement to start this season. Was there anything that surprised you about how they played in that season-opening loss to the Clippers?
TL: I mean, nothing really surprised me, except maybe that we were done in by the Clippers bench and not necessarily by their two All-Stars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. For the most part, the Grizzlies seemed to have Griffin and Paul in check, as much as one can reasonably have those two guys in check. Again, having guys like Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe just run all over us was something I don't think many people expected or had keyed in on.
To be honest, I think there was some sort of a statement made, in that the Grizzlies did show plenty of toughness, but they failed to execute on offense, which is ultimately what did them in. So, yeah, they showed up and put on their "grit and grind" act, but they weren't able to overcome the Clippers bench.
4. You mentioned in your preview for the Clippers' game that "stretch offense" is a need for the Grizzlies, but that you'd be looking at sets, looks, and shot selection/distribution. How did you feel those things played out in the first game?
TL: They did a terrible job with their 3-point shooting against the Clippers, including misses and missed opportunities. The two threes that they did hit, one belonged to Bayless at the end of the first half and the other was a Mike Conley desperation three as the shot clock was winding down. Other than that, they just didn't create open looks, and when they did, it was almost as if they knew they were going to miss so they didn't end up shooting, or they did and missed badly.
Quincy Pondexter had a terrible miss on the baseline, hitting the side of the backboard, and then later in the game when he had a wide-open look it was almost like he was running a replay of his baseline miss through his head, so he passed up the open look. It was awful.
Our 3-point shooting will remain a hindrance this year, unless someone like Josh Selby can get into the rotation and turn it on. I know that he's been fantastic this summer in terms of 3-point shooting, but he doesn't quite have a place in the rotation yet. That may change, though, as the Grizzlies continue to realize that they need him to stretch the floor.
5. The Grizzlies made a few changes to their roster this offseason, of course in hopes of improving their playoff fortunes in the future. With only one regular season game under your belt, what's your impression about which acquisition/departure will be most significant to the team this season?
TL: I think the most significant acquisition has to be the signing of Jerryd Bayless. Last season we just got killed by not having a true backup point guard -- I mean, we went into the playoffs with Gilbert Arenas as our backup! With Bayless, we have someone who can step in and spell Conley, while providing a nice offensive punch. He seems to be a great fit for the Lionel Hollins system, in that he's really active, and can cheat on both sides of the court. I think having a backup point guard, finally, gives us less of a reason to be concerned when Conley is either in foul trouble or in need of a breather.
As for departure, it's easily the loss of O.J. Mayo that we need to make up for. Being a terrible 3-point shooting team to begin with, when you lose your best outside shooter you're in trouble. The Grizzlies are trying to make up for that loss with the addition of Bayless and Wayne Ellington, but it probably isn't enough to make us a serious 3-point shooting threat.
6. How confident are you that the Grizzlies can take the next step this year after last season's regular season success?
TL: I'm fairly confident that the Grizzlies can take the next step. I think the key this season is that we have a healthy Zach Randolph and a healthy Rudy Gay. For the past two seasons we haven't really been able to get them into a rhythm, due in large part to injuries. Now, we're optimistic that if they can stay healthy we can take this team to the next level. Add to that the continued improvement by Marc Gasol, as one of the league's top big men, and Mike Conley's development in his outside shooting and larger physical frame, and I think we're a better team than we were last season. We just need it all to mesh and, of course, to stay healthy.
7. Steve Perrin mentioned in his preview of the opener that the Clippers and Grizzlies were mirror opposites of one another: "The Clippers won with a terrific offense and middling defense, the Grizzlies won with good defense despite a mediocre offense." Given how familiar you are with the Clippers, which of those two teams do you think matches up better with the Warriors?
TL: I think the Clippers match up better with the Warriors, if only because the Grizzlies could easily get shot out of the arena by the Warriors and they wouldn't have a way to respond. The Clippers, at least, have the offensive manpower to keep up with the Warriors. I do think that the Grizzlies have the defensive presence to shutdown the Warriors, but if you guys are "on," and I mean really "ON," the Grizzlies would have a tough time clawing back by amping up their offense.
Steve is spot-on in his assessment. The Grizzlies can't go shot-for-shot with the Warriors, so they'll have to rely on their defense, but I do think the Clippers can hang offensively, yet I don't see them "shutting down" the Warriors on the defensive side of the ball.