Monday, September 30, 2013

Starting Points: The Grizzlies begin a season of New and Different.

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 7:27 AM

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I'd be lying if I said that the prospect of taking the reins of Beyond the Arc wasn't a little intimidating. I'm not Chris Herrington, and it'd be foolish for me to try to be. Beyond the Arc is an important voice in the Grizzlies world. I'm humbled to be the guy chosen to take the reins, and it's my intention to continue what I see as the tradition on Beyond the Arc: smart, level-headed writing about the Grizzlies, from the perspective of a guy who loves Memphis and loves NBA basketball.

A quick autobiographical blurb for everybody who isn't familiar with my work over the last two seasons at SB Nation's Grizzly Bear Blues: I'm a native Memphian, and I've been a Grizzlies fan since they came to town. My literary tendencies are a little more Lester Bangs than beat writer. I once sold Brian Cardinal an iPod when I worked at the Apple Store. I think the NBA is a fascinating self-contained universe full of characters and possibilities that no other sport can offer, and I think the NBA and the vibe—the soul—of Memphis do fascinating, original things to each other when they collide.

Besides the obvious purposes of self-introduction, I think there's an interesting parallel here: Beyond the Arc is filled with fresh faces, and so are the Grizzlies. New coach1. Almost completely new bench. An ownership group fresh off its first offseason in control of the team—and fresh on the heels of being ranked as the #1 franchise in all of pro sports by ESPN The Magazine. It's sort of a weird situation, isn't it? Last year was the most successful season in the history of the franchise, and yet now, four months later, everything is different and there are questions about all of it and everything is shrouded in mystery and uncertainty.

We're going to find out a lot of things about these Grizzlies (and probably some things about ourselves as fans) over the course of the 2013-2014 season, and that finding-out process begins today at Media Day as the team prepares for its training camp in Nashville2.

Of course, it's media day, not a Joni Mitchell record, so I'm not expecting any groundbreaking revelations. I'm expecting to hear that one player or another is "in the best shape of his career" and that each and every man on the roster "really worked hard this offseason to improve (some aspect of his game)." Maybe a player lost ten pounds of weight or added ten pounds of muscle. It's always the same going into training camp: everybody is ready, everybody likes each other, everybody believes in the new coach, everybody is ready to make some noise this year and try to bring an honest-to-God NBA championship home to the (We Don't) Bluff City for the first time.

Not to say that Media Day is pointless, but it's not going to answer any of the real questions that surround the Grizzlies this season:

  • Is Dave Joerger the right hire for the head coaching spot, and will he be able to manage the locker room as well as we know he can manage the X's and O's? When he says the Grizzlies are going to "pick up the pace" this year, what will that look like on the court?

  • Is this Zach Randolph's last season in a Grizzlies uniform, given the size of his contract and the shift of the offensive focus to the Mike Conley/Marc Gasol tandem? If so, will he be on the roster at the end of the season?

  • Is the addition of Mike Miller enough to remedy the Grizzlies' ongoing issues with outside shooting?

  • Is Nick Calathes a viable NBA backup point guard?

  • What, if anything, does Tayshaun Prince have left in the tank this season, and if it's less than the front office is expecting, will they be able to move him?

  • Is Ed Davis going to make the developmental leap the Grizzlies seem to be wanting him to make this year? He's clearly an outlandishly talented player, but there's a great deal of pressure on him this year to be the Grizzlies' Power Forward Of The Future. Will he step up to the challenge?

Those are just some of the questions floating around the Grizz as they head into training camp. Everyone expects them to be good again this year, but it remains to be seen how good. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we really start to get a picture of who this team is, and how they'll look on the floor. With a much-improved bench, they're clearly in a position to improve on last year's success, but the Western Conference has gotten better around them, and the race for the top spots is going to be tighter than ever.

In short, things are going to be different, both here at Beyond the Arc and down on Beale St. at the Grindhouse. No matter what the outcome, it's going to be an interesting season, no doubt about it. I hope you'll be along for the ride.

  1. I can't help but think that whatever nerves I have about taking over one of the best sources of Grizzlies coverage in all the land, they pale in comparison to what it must be like to be right on the cusp of one's very first training camp as an NBA head coach. I don't doubt that Joerger is well-equipped for his new gig with the Grizzlies, but I'd be willing to bet he wakes up with butterflies in his stomach Tuesday morning before camp starts. 

  2. Insert obligatory Neely's "What about Nash-veal?" joke. People are still making those jokes, right? 


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