Grizzlies coach Sidney Lowe was in Memphis this past weekend to meet the press, check out the Pyramid, and get his first look at Memphis. Below are his comments.
How has Memphis treated you so far?
: Its been great. Got off the airplane and had a few fans there who were excited and came up to talk to us for a while. I actually got a good luck pen from a lady. She gave me an ink pen and said it was good luck for me. I had the opportunity to go to the [Redbirds] baseball game last night. Its just great. Its just tremendous. Theres a lot of energy.
Just to introduce everybody to the way you coach basketball, what is a Sidney Lowe basketball team?
: We try to put special emphasis on our defense. Hopefully, youll see a team that will get out there and put some pressure on the ball, guard the ball. Play good, aggressive defense. Early last year we tried to keep ourselves in the top field-goal percentage against. At one point we were right there at number 2, then we went to number 4 for a long time. Then we went down to 10 or 12. Thats just an area we try to concentrate on.
This year, offensively we are going to be a little different in that we are running the floor. Last year we ran more often on picking off misses. This year, we are going to concentrate on just running. Getting the ball out and pushing it down the floor. With the new rules coming in, zones and things like that, I think its important that we get the ball out and not allow other teams to set up their zones, if that is what they chose to do.
With the zones coming in, it seems that would favor a rebounding team, catching misses that come off the board. So far, rebounding has been a challenge for this team. What sort of things are you going to change to get better rebounding?
: Well, obviously we have to get bigger. We have to get bigger bodies in there. We are looking to get more athletic. Teams today are going to the lean, athletic, long, high-jumping guys as opposed to the physical players, especially at that power forward spot. Theyre not big like Karl Malone. Theyre more athletic. We have to get a little athleticism as well.
I think the other thing is that in playing a zone, you might allow yourself to be better on the boards. Now you have your big guys down there. When you are playing a man-to-man, youre trapping a lot in the post. When you are guarding Shaq [L.A. Lakers Center Shaquille ONeal], say, you cant guard him one on one. Now, when you trap and they shoot, youre at a disadvantage on the boards. Maybe, playing in a zone at times, it will help us to rebound a little better.
So you see the Grizzlies going to a zone?
I can see that. Absolutely. Absolutely. Any time you can change your defense to keep the other team off balance, I think its better. The players are too good, the coaches are too good. If you keep doing the same things over and over, theyll make the adjustments. Now, being able to make that change from man-to-man where you are trapping a certain guy to all types of zones, and hopefully that will keep the other team off balance.
How is that going to change the outlook of the Western Conference?
: I dont know. I dont know how many teams will actually play zone. I dont know how it will change the Western Conference. We had a team this year win 47 games, and it got the eighth spot. I dont know. In the Eastern Conference that might put you at number 4 or 5 somewhere. Its a tough conference. Maybe with the zone, it will neutralize things a little bit and give you an opportunity.
Will the zone affect the way youre going into this draft.
No. I dont think so. I cant answer for sure. I dont think it will. The draft pick is tomorrow and its more of [Grizzlies GM] Billy Knights area. Hes doing the draft thing. I do the coaching.
Do you even know what direction hes going in? Does he want another big body in the paint or is he going for a guard? All the top picks seem to be power forwards and centers.
: I think some of that depends on our activity over the summer. On our own team that we have, we have some guys that are free agents. Some guys might opt out. Could be that someone might cause a great trade situation. I think from that, then, we will see where we are and I think we will see where we need to go.
Your top player, power forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim, has requested a trade. Has there been any word on that?
: I havent heard anything.
When you are talking about changes in the off-season, what are the strengths you want to keep emphasizing and what are the areas do you want to change for the better next season?
: I think first thing is that we want to stay constant with our defense. Whoever we bring in, we want him to be able to defend. Not just individually but also understanding team defense and helping, things like that. That means he needs to be able to learn different schemes.
I think the area I would like to improve is on the offensive end. We didnt shoot the ball as well as I would have liked as a team. That probably hurt us more than anything because coming down to that last 3-4 minutes of the ballgame, when you get that open shot you have to knock it down. I think we can do that a little better than we did last year.
Youll be playing at The Pyramid if this whole NBA deal goes through. What do you think of the facility?
: I think its going to be good. I had the chance to go over there this morning. I had a chance to speak with coach Cal [University of Memphis basketball coach, John Calipari] and theyve been great over there, very supportive. They want to do everything they can to make us comfortable. I think its going to be great.
And youll be using the Finch training facility on the University of Memphis campus?
: Thats where we are looking right now. No decisions have been made but were looking at it. I didnt chance to go over there. Billy saw it though and was very pleased with it. Hes been in the business for a long time so I trust him.