Sports Files with Greg Gaston

Uploaded by WKNOPBS on 29.10.2012

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>> Gaston: Today on Sports Files
we dust off the round table and
breakdown the upcoming season
for the Memphis Grizzlies.
>> (instrumental music)
>> Gaston: The Grizzlies close
out their eight game preseason
schedule tonight as they host
the Toronto Raptors.
And while winning is always
nice, the goal for Coach Lionel
Hollins and his team this
preseason has been integrating
the team's newest members with
the core players, who have been
the major reason for the team's
success over the last several
The Grizzlies will open the
regular season next Thursday
night in Los Angeles, against
the team that eliminated them
from the post season last year,
the Clippers, in a disappointing
7th game loss at FedExForum.
The Grizzlies are in the midst
of changing ownership, but the
franchise has once again made a
considerable financial
commitment for this season and
the immediate future, by signing
Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, Marc
Gasol and Mike Conley to long
term deals.
They have also re-signed crucial
role players Darrell Arthur and
Marreese Speights, added free
agent guard Jerryd Bayless, and
traded for shooter Wayne
Will the Grizzlies be back in
the playoff mix?
If so, can they make a serious
run in the postseason?
And how improved are some of the
teams in the West, who failed to
make the playoffs last season?
I have assembled a media round
table with three guys whose jobs
center on covering the
They may not be able to
definitively answer those
questions today, but we'll
certainly get their best shot.
A Grizzlies season preview is
>> (instrumental music)
>> Gaston: Alright, let's meet
the panel.
Let's start with the Commercial
Appeal beat writer for the
Grizzlies and that is Ron
Tillery -- also moonlights a few
days a week as host of "Sports
Time" on Sports 56 and FM 87.7.
Welcome, Ron.
>> Tillery: Thank you -- good to
be here.
>> Gaston: Also, side line
reporter for the Grizzlies
Telecast, co-host of the "Fish
'n Stats" show on Sports 56 and
FM 87.7, Rob Fischer.
>> Fischer: Greg, good to see
>> Gaston: Good to see you, too,
And the co-owner and lead writer
of the Grizzlies blog, "3 Shades
of Blue," Chip Crain.
Hey, Chip.
>> Crain: Hey, Greg.
Thanks for having me.
>> Gaston: No, thank you guys
for being here today.
Obviously, there's big news
going on in New York as we tape
this show as we speak with the
NBA Board of Governors meeting
where it seems like it's going
to be a mere formality that the
Robert Pera group will become
the new owners of the Grizzlies
from Michael Heisley.
Let's assume that happens.
I think it's a good assumption.
What does the change in
ownership mean?
And again, this is a lot of
speculation, guys, because no
body here has met Robert Pera.
Ron, let me start with you.
What do you think new ownership
means for the Grizzlies?
>> Tillery: Well, you're right.
From a basketball standpoint, we
really just don't know.
It would be pure speculation
because we don't know Robert
Pera's style.
We're not exactly sure who he's
going to entrust to make
basketball decisions.
What it will mean immediately is
a better relationship with the
business community.
You saw it with reengaging local
guys like Staley Cates, and Pitt
Hyde, and a now some other
prominent business leaders.
And, you know, you got Penny and
Justin Timberlake -- a little
star power.
So I just think you're going to
see more of a warm and fuzzy
ownership relationship than
you've seen over the last decade
with Mike Heisley.
>> Gaston: Fish, I would imagine
that we're not going to see too
many changes, if any, the first
year but in time, I would guess
that Robert Pera and his
associates will decipher
everything about this
organization and make changes,
if needed.
>> Fischer: Well, when new
owners come in, they generally
want their own people.
With the timing of it being, you
know, a week before the season
getting underway and when it's
finally official, probably in
another week -- Yeah, it's going
to be tough to just step in.
I mean, you don't want to show
up at the arena on opening night
and say -- Where's the light
We don't know where that is.
So I would expect a transition
period for some.
Like Ron said, to me, I think
the positives are the deal got
When Michael Heisley made it
very clear he wanted to sell the
team and Robert Pera became a
potential buyer, I think that
was a positive.
And he wanted it to get done
because Michael wants to sell
the team.
And if this deal didn't go
through, well, what's next?
What does he resort to?
Where's the price go?
Does he just throw it away?
You don't know what the future
would have held.
So, I like that that happened.
I like that the local ownership
is involved.
I like that the fan base now is
kind of calm down a little bit
as far as the team's leaving and
panicking about that.
That's not going to happen.
But everything in the future, we
don't know.
How hands on will he be?
How visible will he be at the
We don't know those things
because he's got a pretty big
business to take care of
alongside the Memphis Grizzlies.
So you hope that it's great.
You hope it's a great
relationship and I think you at
least are positive about it
because of the local inclusion
with this ownership group.
>> Gaston: And, Chip, it's very
understandable when someone
takes over a company whether it
be a basketball team or any
business that they're going to
want to being their people in.
They're going to want to make
But certainly, a lot of people
now around the Memphis community
are worried because Chris
Wallace has done such a nice job
as the General Manager.
Does not mean he's out.
Does not mean it'll be
reassigned but that could
possible happen.
>> Crain: Well, definitely.
If I was soon to spend 350
million dollars, I'd like to
have somebody I trusted on top
of that making sure that day-to-
day is being watched.
There are a lot of people in
this ownership group that do
know a lot about basketball.
So I think it's obviously a
concern but at the same time,
Pera's a good business man.
And you're not going to get rid
of somebody who's been so vital
to this community just because
you don't know him well.
He'll make the attempt to get to
know Chris.
They'll see where they agree and
where they disagree.
And if it's possible, I think
he'll want to keep a person like
Chris in place.
But money talks and it's your
You want to have a little better
>> Gaston: Well, speaking of
money and money talks, the
Grizzlies went out during the
off season.
They made sure the core players
were here and they're going to
be here for quite some time.
They went out.
They filled some holes that were
very obvious for this team.
With that said, Ron, is this the
best assembled Grizzlies talent
in the history of this
>> Tillery: Well, we've heard
that from outgoing on of Michael
Heisley and Chris Wallace spoke
to that.
And that this was the best
roster they've had to start a
It certainly gives you the most
optimism for what's possible in
terms of making some real noise
in the Western Conference.
They're deep and I think they're
balanced in every position.
But the real issue here for this
team is health.
When the Grizzlies are healthy,
they are a pretty good
basketball team.
And you have to be encouraged by
And then you also look at the
roster and how it's made up of
young guys in their prime.
You know, Zach and Tony are 30 -
But you looking at Rudy, Marc,
Mike Conley -- These guys are in
their prime and they're playing
the best basketball of their
>> Gaston: Fish, do you think it
was a smart move to retain
Gasol, Conley, Gay, and Z-Bo
long term?
>> Fischer: Absolutely -- I
think continuity is important in
any sport and having the same
coaching staff, as well.
Lionel now being around for
another season -- I think all
that's important on building a
franchise, especially when you
don't have the star power -- the
Kevin Durant or the Kobe Bryant.
You have to create a niche.
The Grizzlies certainly have
created a niche with their play
And while that was good for a
couple of years and got them far
for a couple of years, we saw
that there were a couple of
holes and I think they've
addressed them.
Back a point guard situation was
awful a year ago.
They've greatly improved in that
Getting in some shooting I think
was, you know, good in Wayne
And also, you know, what's Josh
Selby going to do with -- and
essentially, what's his rookie
season, you know, after last
year being out of position and
coming off the lock out.
But Ron's right.
I mean, it comes down to health
because this team has had two of
their biggest stars go down the
last two years and they've been
able to overcome it.
They stay healthy with the depth
that they have.
They not only have that niche
now that sets them apart from a
lot of other teams but the other
thing they have is when teams
want to go small, teams want to
go big -- They can match that
now at every position and that's
something they haven't had in
the past.
>> Gaston: Let me step back for
a second and go back to last
Chip, let me start with you.
Was it a success?
Was it a disappointment?
Was it somewhere in the middle
-- the end result for the
Grizzlies last season.
>> Crain: The end result was a
The season was a success.
You had probably the best,
statistically-wise, winning year
we've ever had.
And to take a team to game seven
in the playoffs just two or
three years ago was unthinkable.
We would never do that.
We had never won a game.
So in the big picture -- Yeah,
it was a success.
But you lose game seven at home
and it's not even that close of
a competitive game.
That's going to put a bad taste
in your mouth and I think that's
what most people still feel.
>> Gaston: Do you feel, Ron,
that they did enough in the off
season filling those holes --
that they could take another
step forward like they did two
seasons ago when they went seven
games and nearly made the
Western Conference Finals?
Can they get back to that point?
>> Tillery: Oh, absolutely.
I think they did enough because
the first thing you do is not
And this roster didn't need an
It just needed a couple tweaks
and as Fish said, fill some
Jerryd Bayless is going to be an
upgrade over O.J. Mayo simply
because he can handle the
He's got a scoring mentality and
he understands his role.
He's been coming off the bench
his entire NBA career.
So that's not going to be a
mental block for him.
Wayne Ellington -- Sometimes a
change of scenery helps and
sometimes you get a guy at the
right time.
And we've seen that here time
and time again.
So I don't think it's
unreasonable to think that a guy
like Ellington could break out.
We've seen it with Mo Speights.
We've seen it with Tony Allen.
We've seen it with, you know,
Zach becoming an all-star here,
Marc becoming an all-star here.
And, you know, you can't say
enough about Mike Conley.
So I absolutely think they did
enough and again, you're looking
at a very deep team and a very
versatile team.
I think that was a great point
by Fish because not only can
they beat you up inside, but
they can play fast, they can
play small.
Lionel Hollins is very happy.
I can tell you that.
>> Gaston: He has a lot of
>> Tillery: Oh, yeah -- yeah, a
lot of options.
>> Gaston: You mentioned
injuries and certainly, that's
the key for every team and every
sport -- is injury, staying
With that said, Rob, let me ask
you about Z-Bo.
We've seen him in a couple of
preseason games -- looks to be
pretty solid, looks to be back
to his old self.
Do you expect Z-Bo to be back to
where he was or will he ever be
back to that Z-Bo we saw a
couple of years ago -- the all-
star Z-Bo.
>> Fischer: Well, that was a
great Z-Bo.
Yeah, I guess so.
I mean, he says he's healthy.
He looks great.
The things that I've noticed so
far in practice and in each
preseason games -- that quick
release when he gets the rebound
,and getting the ball back in
the basket, and being around the
You know, with a normal schedule
now, not having to rush
anything, I think it will help
And yeah, I do expect that.
With the team around him better
-- Yeah, I think he can get back
to that form.
He might not put up the same
numbers but I think it's because
you have other guys now that
will be able to contribute, as
But I think he'll play in that
same way.
The thing about this team this
year that we haven't seen before
-- Chip, you mentioned the
When has this team gone in to a
season disappointed how the
previous season ended?
I mean, now you're losing in the
playoffs and now it's hungry.
It's hungry to get back.
They're ticked off about how it
finished last year.
And let's say we tasted it.
And then last year we made a
step up.
But we blew it in the
Now we got to beat that.
I mean, there's a chip on this
team's shoulder this year and
it's not because nobody respects
them anymore which it used to
Now it's because we let
ourselves down and now we get to
get back.
>> Tillery: And the expectations
have absolutely changed when you
consider last year.
The Grizzlies integrated new
players -- Dante Cunningham and
Mo Speights.
They lost their heart and soul
and their beast in Zach
And people still expected them
to finish the way they finished
in the playoff standings.
I mean, it was a remarkable job
by the coaching staff but the
expectations are very high now.
>> Gaston: Going in to last
season, there was the question
that everybody brought up,
especially the fans.
Can Z-Bo and Rudy Gay coexist?
They were coming off the year
where Gay went down and Z-Bo did
his thing.
And then Z-Bo starts last year
and he gets hurt.
Is there enough sample size to
say definitively -- These two
work together very well and it's
a success?
Chip, let me start with you.
>> Crain: Well, I think if you
look at when this starting five
went together, they started off.
They won ten of eleven games
before Rudy got hurt against
So the sample size is small but
you can see the results.
They were playing the best
basketball I've ever seen
Memphis put on the court when
they had everyone together.
When Rudy went down, they
switched in style and they moved
to a more power game.
When Zach went down, they went
more back to perimeter and in
and out game.
What are we going to have this
I think we have options in any
respect, like Rob said, that we
can actually blossom together.
But chemistry is always an issue
even when you bring back teams.
Chemistry's going to be an
And how well this team matches
this year is going to go a long
way to determining how far the
team can go.
And it's going to come down to
Rudy and Zach and how they play
>> Gaston: Well, Z-Bo was an
all-star two years ago as you
Last year, Marc Gasol -- Can
Rudy ever be at that level?
>> Tillery: Well, obviously,
he's an extremely gifted guy and
there are a lot of superstars at
that position.
So it's going to be tough to
break though but that's not to
say that he could never get
And back to the Rudy-Zach thing
-- I just thought that whole
argument was ridiculous because
where was the sample size to
prove that they could play
>> Gaston: Exactly.
>> Tillery: You know, that's the
first thing I thought about.
And we have the fortune of being
in practice and you see these
guys work.
They're professionals.
They want to win.
They don't have to hang out with
each other on the court but
they're trying very hard to make
it work.
I'm sorry -- They don't have to
hang out with each other off the
court but they're trying very
hard to make it work on the
And I think the chemistry is
>> Gaston: Alright, before we
get in to predictions and what
you guys expect to see from the
team on the court this season,
let's just talk about the west.
Fish, there's been some teams
that certainly improved their
The Lakers were already good --
go out and get Dwight Howard and
Steve Nash.
Other teams getting older by the
minute -- How do you see the
Give us a couple of teams maybe
you think are going forward that
will be competing for the
postseason and a couple that
maybe took a step backward.
>> Fischer: There are questions
with every team but, you know,
health, as we mentioned with the
Grizzlies, was always a huge
concern going in to this year
and that's the case with
If the Lakers -- One of their
three big players or four big
players, I guess, goes down --
Well, their depth is terrible.
You know, and they might slide.
The Clippers have added a lot of
Will all those pieces work
And they've had a couple of guys
that have been banged up.
Billups still not back.
Chris Paul's been banged up a
Blake Griffin's been banged up a
Lamar Odom's not in shape.
Can they work together?
Vinny Del Negro -- Getting them
togethers going to be
interesting to watch as the
season goes on.
You'd think they've improved.
Oklahoma Citys still young.
They're still going to be there
near the top if not at the top.
San Antonio -- One of these
year's they're going to get old.
I'm not counting on it until it
happens but one of these years,
it's going to happen.
But they've remained healthy and
they continue to win games.
So I think of the top -- It's
still fine.
Everything after that will be
What does George Karl do now
with the Denver team -- a Denver
team that he really likes.
How much better can they be?
They're a team, I think, to
watch out for.
But Portland -- not so sure
about Portland.
Minnesota, the golden state -- I
think you put Dallas in that
mix, as well.
I think there are a lot of teams
in the west that are going to be
in that race for the six, seven,
eight, nine, ten spot.
It's going to be pretty close
throughout the year.
I think the first five are
pretty set and that includes the
>> Gaston: Chip, what do you
think about the west?
>> Crain: I'd agree.
The top five I don't expect to
see any changes.
The order may change but their
top five teams are going to be
the same top five teams.
So I think Denver is solidly the
favorite to be six.
And then seven through twelve is
anybody's guess.
You can have any number of teams
really make a run up.
I think as I talked about
earlier off camera, the
southwest divisions in play for
the first time since we've been
here where the Grizzlies are
actually a chance to win a
And I think instead of looking
at playoff situations, we should
be looking at division
situations for this year and see
if we can win a division for
this first time.
That in itself can be a great
And that's what I'm looking for
is how do we stack up in our own
For the first time, I think it's
in play.
>> Gaston: Ron, of the Clippers,
Lakers, Spurs, Thunder --
separated themselves a little
more from the rest of the west
or has it come together and
there's more parody?
>> Tillery: Well, as Fish
pointed out, I think there are
tiers but I just think it's
clear the Lakers and the Thunder
-- okay?
That's the top tier.
And the Spurs because they're
going to win 55 to 60 games.
I mean, they always do somehow.
From there, I think you have to
bunch Denver, Memphis, Clippers.
I don't understand where people
get this whole thing of Dallas
is okay.
No, they're not okay.
They did a poor job of trying to
get a star to go next to Dirk.
>> Gaston: Hard to believe with
It's very hard to believe.
>> Tillery: I look at the roster
and I just don't see much help
for Dirk.
And so I think Dallas is going
to be one of those teams that
fall off.
But these guys are right.
You're going to see a real
cluster down at the bottom and
one team no bodys really talking
about but coaches are probably
talking about is Sacramento.
Coaches really like their roster
and how hard they play every
night and so that might be a
dark horse team, especially with
Houston fading out.
You know, Houston the last
couple of years was that team
that was always there one or two
games out of the eight spot.
That could very well be
Sacramento this year.
>> Gaston: Alright, let's go
around the horn.
Give me your speculation on the
Grizzlies season -- maybe where
you think they'll finish.
And then a couple of other
things and we'll wrap it up.
Rob, let me start with you.
>> Fischer: Well, I think -- I
mean, I think you start at 50.
It's a 50 win team.
If healthy, they have the best
team that they've had on paper.
Lionel Hollins has done a great
job getting chemistry together
-- rebuilding that every year
and finding their identity.
And if they stay healthy,
they'll be able to have an
identity throughout an entire
season -- something they haven't
had the last two years.
So I think 50 plus.
It used to be 50 wins was the
number to get in the playoffs
and I think right now 50 puts
you right in the middle of the
playoff race.
You know, anything above that I
think is great.
Fall blow that -- might be a
little disappointing,
But I think at least 50.
>> Gaston: Alright, Chip, your
>> Crain: I have to agree.
50's a disappointment.
If we don't hit 50 wins, it's a
disappointing season.
I really can see us pushing 55.
I think we're going to be right
there with San Antonio until the
very end.
Their age helps us maybe get a
few extra games where they're
going to have some guys sitting
down for a while.
I can see us winning the
division, 55 wins.
>> Gaston: Alright, Ron?
>> Tillery: Oh, I agree with
these guys.
I think this is a 50 win team.
How many they hit exactly, you
know, who's to say?
But what I disagree is I don't
think the division matters.
I think what matters is they get
home court.
>> Gaston: It didn't matter last
season though.
>> Tillery: Yeah, that's true.
If you get home court, you would
like win game seven at home.
But I think, you know, whether
they have 50 wins or not, if
they can get home court again I
think that will make it a pretty
successful regular season.
>> Gaston: Who is the most
important player on this team
for this upcoming season --
>> Fischer: Hmm -- I think Zach
You know, we talked about him.
Is he going to be the guy that
was two years ago?
I don't know if he needs to be
that guy strictly by numbers but
he does need to be that guy.
He needs to get in that presence
because when Z-Bo is Z-Bo, it
makes life a lot easier for Marc
It makes life a lot easier for
Wayne Ellington outside.
It makes life easier for Mike
I think when Z-Bo is on his game
and is playing at the caliber we
know he can play, I think it
makes everything around him so
much better.
>> Gaston: Same question, Chip.
>> Crain: Marc Gasol -- I think
Marc opens up the middle for Z-
Bo to be as effective as he can
be as a 6-7, 6-8 power forward
guy who plays big but below the
You need to have that big body
and behind Z-Bo, we still have
Mo Speights.
We still have Darrell Arthur.
Behind Marc, we go to Hamed
Haddadi and possibly Jordan.
It's a bigger drop off behind
He's the guy that's got to get a
big for us.
>> Gaston: Alright, and Ron?
>> Tillery: I'm a go Rudy Gay
for some of the reasons he said.
You want to talk about drop off
-- You know, Rudy, if he
continues to get better
defensively, if he can
consistently make plays for
other people which I think he's
done a great job this preseason.
And also scored a basketball
like no one else on this team
can in terms of getting his own
shot from the three point line
all the way down into the paint.
I think Rudy Gay having a break
out year is going to mean a lot.
>> Gaston: Three different names
-- That's interesting.
Z-Bo, Gasol -- I was just going
to do that.
And Conley -- Boy, oh, boy.
Here's a guy who I've been
critical of -- other people have
been critical of around the city
in his first few years in the
He had such a break out year
last year, Fish.
It was a great -- and already,
just looking in the preseason,
the leadership.
He feels so confident out there
running the show.
I would say he may be the most
important guy.
>> Fischer: And having someone
behind him is only going to make
him better because he'll get
rest when he does need that
That's the thing about this
It's not one guy.
We just mentioned four different
guys and they're all an integral
part of this team and it truly
is a team.
Hey, they know their identity.
They know their roles.
>> Tillery: I'll throw another
name out there -- Tony Allen.
This is a contract year for him.
They need Tony to be Tony and
not worry about that trying to
do more than he needs to do.
He needs to be the guy that
we've seen over the last couple
of years.
>> Gaston: Alright, final
question for a quick answer
If the Grizzlies lose in the
first round again, that is a
major disappointment -- Fish?
Fischer: Well, I think you have
to look at certain -- I mean,
that's your goal and that's what
you expect this year.
I mean, heck -- You lose a
couple of players to injury and
then you get bounced in the
first round.
Well, then you have to
reevaluate it.
But I think going in and if you
just say were going to be a
healthy team and, you know --
Yeah, first round.
You need to win a first round.
>> Gaston: Boring and the
unforeseen misfortunes.
>> Crain: This would go back to
something we talked about
If we're not out of the first
round, Chris Wallace's job's in
trouble again.
>> Gaston: Ron?
>> Tillery: Well, Yeah -- I
think the expectation should be
winning a first round series but
you're right.
You've got to look at match ups.
You might get a bad draw.
But I think one of the things
that Mike Heisley has done along
with Chris Wallace and Lionel
Hollins -- because you mentioned
Mike Conley.
You know, Mike Conley would be
out of here if not for Lionel
And my point is, you know,
there's nothing wrong with
staying the course.
And you're going to have some
set backs along the way.
But this team has a window.
That's my final point.
And don't close it prematurely.
>> Gaston: Ron, Chip, Fish --
fantastic having you.
Thanks so much for being with
We'll take a break and come back
with Overtime right after this.
>> (instrumental music)
>> Gaston: A few weeks ago when
Grizzlies General Manager Chris
Wallace joined me here on Sports
Files I made my prediction of a
48-34 record for the team.
With that said, where would that
place the Grizzlies in the
Western Division?
Well, here's how I see it.
The Lakers, even with an early
chemistry issue or two, simply
are stacked with the additions
of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
The Lakers win the west,
followed by Oklahoma City, San
Antonio, the Clippers and
The Grizzlies finish in the 6th
spot and will begin the playoffs
on the road.
Portland takes 7th and Golden
State edges out Dallas for the
final playoff spot.
In the East, the defending
league champion Miami Heat will
cruise to the top spot, the rest
of the division is anyone's
I'll take a stab with "stable"
Indiana for second, the aging
Boston Celtics 3rd, and the
Bulls 4th, which will likely
fluctuate depending on when
Derrick Rose returns.
New York 5th, Philly 6th,
Brooklyn 7th and Milwaukee 8th.
And that will do it for this
week's show.
Remember you can drop us a line
with an idea for a show topic at
WKNO-dot-org and to see any of
our previous Sports Files shows,
head to the website and click on
KNO tonite.
We'll see you next time.
>> (instrumental music)