Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Watanabe, Conley, Gasol, Jackson Speak Out at Grizzlies Media Day

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2018 at 4:13 PM

Memphis inched closer to the return of Grizzlies basketball with media day on Monday. There were a couple of themes that ran throughout, including youth meshing with veteran leadership in the locker room, and the international media's infatuation with Japanese basketball star and two-way signee Yuta Watanabe. Here are some major takeaways (both basketball-related and not) from some key players.

Dillon Brooks seemed relaxed and focused. He cracked a couple good jokes while saying everything you'd want to hear from a dynamic young guard looking to take the next step as a player.
Asked about Marc and Mike getting older, Dillon Brooks said the Grizzlies have a lot of youth. "It's like when grandma and grandpa get a new grandbaby: it gives them new life." Despite literally calling them grandparents, Brooks expressed gratitude for Conley and Gasol. From Gasol getting drafted by the Lakers and traded to Memphis, and how he's changed his bod, to Mike Conley getting drafted 4th overall and experiencing a slow start to his career (where often he'd only play in home games), Dillon said they've been like mentors, sharing the wisdom they've gained from their adversities.

Jaren Jackson Jr. opened his inaugural media day appearance by saying he's excited for the new Young Thug album, and that casual ebullience characterized much of his interview and presence. When asked about his first post-contract luxury purchase, Jaren answered without hesitation: "Scorpion," by Drake. He followed that up by saying he's actually going to take it easy on luxury purchases.
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  • Matt Preston
One thing that frequently bothers me in the NBA world is the lack of representation for Memphis in the league's TV promos, League Pass commercials, etc. I know Memphis is a small market, but the Grizzlies just drafted a theoretical unicorn with the fourth pick, and he had an amazing Summer League outing. So why is Jaren Jackson conspicuously absent from promos that tease the incoming rookie class? When I asked Jaren about this, he was at a loss for words, and said he doesn't pay much attention to sports on TV, lauding Netflix instead.
I asked Jackson what he's currently into on Netflix, and that kick started a lengthy aside about Ozark, and trying to remember a particular episode with another reporter. In some small way, I feel partly responsible for 40 percent of JJJ's appearance being Ozark-related, but it was a fun glimpse into Jackson's easygoing and easy-to-talk-to personality. But don't let Jackson's amiable spirit mislead you.

Leading up to training camp, Jackson says he's focused on conditioning, improving his shot, and being aggressive and explosive. While he amicably interrupted a couple other player interviews to bust chops or crack a joke, you get the sense that he's an open, positive, and constructive communicator, and the Grizzlies hope to see that translate into being a vocal leader and defender on the court. For what it's worth, Conley said Jackson's already a pretty good leader in his appearance. Speaking of...

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  • Matt Preston
Conley appeared to be in good spirits, and there's plenty of positive buzz about his health. Responding to questions about the Grizzlies' dismal year last season, Conley said "last year was an anomaly," remarking on the all the consecutive playoff appearances in years prior. Conley also talked about helping younger players in the locker room, giving them advice on staying out of trouble, and the importance of nutrition and adequate sleep

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Gasol spent a decent amount of his time fielding questions about saving lives and helping refugees stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. He said his love for his young daughter motivated him to get involved with helping refugee children in the off-season, and truly seems to have experienced something that was bigger than basketball and bigger than himself. Gasol said he wants to sit down with someone in the media and have a longer conversation about the issue.
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  • Matt Preston
Gasol also mentioned he's heard the criticism that he's too harsh on his teammates when they make mistakes, and plans to adjust his leadership to be more supportive in that regard. Just don't ask him to be even slightly okay with lapses on defense.

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  • Matt Preston
Kyle Anderson said he's ready to take on more pressure and responsibility in Memphis, and showed the old grit-n-grind Grizzlies a lot of love and respect (having played against Memphis as a San Antonio Spur). He believes that playing with Pau taught him how to move off the ball, and prepared him to play with Marc. Maybe they'll have quick chemistry?

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  • Matt Preston
On an unsurprising note, Garrett Temple confirmed that he found out about his move to Memphis from NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski, with his agent calling to confirm minutes afterward. Temple said he's excited to join a team that wants to win now, and expects the Grizzlies to make the playoffs. Temple came across every bit the well-composed veteran, which is interesting, because his locker borders Jackson's. "Most of the time he's smiling and laughing and telling us about rappers he likes," Temple said of Jackson.

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  • Matt Preston
Monday was JB Bickerstaff's first Grizzlies media day as head coach, and he was dialed-in heading into his first training camp. He pushed back harder than anyone at notions of Gasol and Conley beginning their decline. It'll be interesting to see how this team looks out of the gate and into the mid-season, especially if the Grizzlies manage to avoid the Injury Vortex.

And finally, the one, the only, Yuta Watanabe. His presence was felt long before he even entered the room. It felt like half the media present at media day were reporters from Japan, solely there because of the 6'9" international sensation. His name bled into almost every player interview, as the international reporters asked everyone on the team about their thoughts on Watanabe.
Watanabe went out of his way to thank his family and friends for their support. One of his favorite players to watch growing up was Shaq, he said, and while he hasn't had any BBQ in Memphis, he has been to Sekisui.

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