The Daily Memphian Staff

Turn Four: Our writers survey the Grizzlies as training camp opens

By Published: September 25, 2018 1:45 PM CT

From time to time throughout this season, The Daily Memphian will convene a quartet of our writers, veteran Grizzlies watchers all, to bat around the questions of the moment. We’re calling it Turn Four, in tribute to the play call -- translation: get Z-Bo the bleeping ball -- that Lionel Hollins or Dave Joerger would call out whenever the Grizzlies needed to settle down and get a bucket.

In this first installment, we pause between Media Day and the start of training camp to reflect on what we witnessed Monday and what most interests us in the days and weeks ahead.

1. What was the most memorable or interesting moment from Media Day?

Chris Herrington: Geoff wrote beautifully about this yesterday, but it was the roster’s generation gap and the good feelings, rather than the tensions, that sprang from it. The comfort that Mike Conley and Marc Gasol displayed in accepting an elder statesman role in regard to some young players they seem to both like and respect, and the way that those young players in question, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr., spread their wings rhetorically. Jackson’s energy and good humor suggested a player who may be as compelling to watch develop off the floor as on it, and he provided my favorite specific moment of the day, in regard to the Marc Gasol’s offseason means of meditation: “Growing your own vegetables? C’mon dog.”

Geoff Calkins: It’s fashionable to disparage Media Day, but I find it more revealing than most. Remember the Media Day when Gasol shrugged off David Fizdale flying to see him in Spain? That was telling, certainly in retrospect. To that end, I wondered what Gasol meant when I asked him about his contract — he has an option at the end of the year — and he said he “makes no promises.” I expect Gasol to opt in, if only because he won’t get nearly as much on the open market, but I did note that comment, even though it was tucked into the usual sentences about Gasol’s (very real) commitment to Memphis. I also thought it was telling when Dillon Brooks said that the locker room is filled with “players who will listen.” As opposed to last year, is how I understood that. Having said all that, the most memorable part of Media Day? Jaren Jackson Jr., of course. Simply holding forth. He’s irresistible. And I sure hope the guy is as good as Chris Herrington says he’ll be because, if he is, he may turn out to be one of the most popular Grizzlies of all time.

Don Wade: Chandler Parsons is a Hollywood-type guy and maybe he was just playing a part, but he came across as sincere in his desire to atone for the underwhelming first two years of his four-year, $94 million contract. He says he feels the best he has in three years and also admits to mishandling criticism from fans, even saying it “changed me as a person, humbled me a bit.”

Kevin Lipe: Jaren Jackson Jr.’s youthful exuberance. He’ll probably tone that down as he gets into the season, either because he feels like he needs to or because he’s inside the grind of an NBA season instead of excited about starting his first one. But yesterday, his enthusiasm was contagious — he was all smiles, he was off topic (Young Thug and Ozark being the main distractions), and he couldn’t contain his excitement about being an NBA player. That enthusiasm will carry him well, provided it’s tempered with a willingness to buckle down when the time comes. But yesterday I remembered how young Jackson is, and it was exciting because of his energy but also exciting because of just how good he can be and how much potential he has for growth.

2. What’s the most important Grizzlies question for training camp/preseason?

Geoff Calkins: Can they stay healthy? This is obvious, but it’s also true. Can Gasol stay healthy? Can Conley stay healthy? If the answer is “Yes,” the Grizzlies won’t be a bad team. There’s a secondary question, which is, even if Gasol and Conley are healthy, will they retain their effectiveness? But let’s fret about the first one first.

Kevin Lipe: What version of Chandler Parsons do they have headed into this season? This is his first full summer of conditioning since joining the team (similar to the Vince Carter situation, as Chris Wallace pointed out yesterday). As Marc Gasol said, there’s no point in comparing Parsons to his contract; they need his skills, and they need him to be the best version of himself he can be for about 60 games. If he shows up to camp and can contribute at a high level, this might be a fringe playoff team.

Chris Herrington: Can Mike Conley make it all the way back? Conley talked yesterday about being fully ready to go and about feeling better than he did this time last fall, when he was coming off a career-best playoff series and before his heel started hurting in the season’s second game. But we need to see it. Given the way this roster is constructed, the Grizzlies don’t just need a healthy Conley, they need him to be the go-to scorer he was two seasons ago. Otherwise, they won’t have the juice to even hope to compete in the West.  

Don Wade: Beyond the usual health questions about Parsons and Conley, I’m intrigued to see how many people will fit into J.B. Bickerstaff’s rotation. Some coaches prefer to keep rotations tight, but this team could have a dozen guys legitimately vying for time. For those on the fringe, that should make even opportunities in the preseason matter. So, who wants to prove they want it?

3. Which player are you most intrigued to watch in the preseason?

Don Wade: We’re all going to be Jaren Jackson Jr. watchers, aren’t we? I mean, he’s the “talent” with the most potential to lift Memphis and in turn help the Grizzlies surprise the league.

Chris Herrington: Confirmation of Conley’s recovery is most important in the short-term. Jackson Jr.’s career arc is by far the most momentous long-term storyline. But I might be most intrigued to start getting a deeper sense of Kyle Anderson’s odd game, the kind of unconventional skillset you probably need to see up close more than a few times to fully grasp. What is he, what can he be, and how can he fit?

Kevin Lipe: Mike Conley. Partly just because it’s been a while, but the real truth of the matter is that Conley is now (ostensibly, anyway) free of an injury that bothered him for several years. He mentioned yesterday that he used to limp around after every game, and now he doesn’t. How much will that improve his ability to recover between games? Has he retained all of his speed and skill, or has his decline started? I’m not sure that’s a question that can be answered until December or so (which is why this wasn’t my answer to the previous question) but I’m genuinely intrigued to see him on the court again.

Geoff Calkins: Jaren Jackson Jr. When is the last time Grizzlies fans could be legitimately excited about a rookie? Not counting Brooks, because he was a pleasant, overachieving surprise. Not counting Hasheem Thabeet, because he was, well, Hasheem Thabeet. So I’ll go with O.J. Mayo. That was 2008. That’s a long time to wait for a potential young star. And Jackson is so much more exuberant, so much more athletic, and so much less manufactured than Mayo. It should be fun.

4. Scoring guard seems to be the team’s most unsettled position. Who should get first crack at the starting job?

Kevin Lipe: This may just be me upholding a status quo for no reason, but going into this training camp I assume it’s Dillon Brooks’ job to lose. They’ve got a lot of talent in the rotation, in the form of young guys and veterans, but last year Brooks proved he could contribute at the NBA level as a rookie, and he battled hard for a team that didn’t have much to fight for. I’d let him start until someone else proves they deserve it more.

Don Wade: MarShon Brooks injected some fun into the end of last season with his white-hot scoring (20.1 points over seven games). But he was playing in China for a reason. Wayne Selden is a better fit on the first unit with Conley and Gasol. Selden is a thick 6-foot-5 and has the body, and the will, to provide some backcourt muscle alongside Conley.

Geoff Calkins: I’m going to assume MarShon Brooks is in the Tyreke Evans sixth-man role. I’m actually going to assume he’ll be good at it, though Brooks himself said that he was surprised at his production last year and isn’t sure if he’ll be able to match it this time around. So that would seem to put Kyle Anderson at the three and Dillon Brooks at the two. The challenge is that whoever doesn’t start could be pushed into a very minor role, especially if MarShon Brooks is what I think he is. So that argues for giving Wayne Selden a crack at the starting gig, as well, to see if he can tap into his substantial promise. Garrett Temple will be there as the ultimate stopgap and pro.

Chris Herrington: Spoiler alert: I’ll have a column on this question in the near future, but I’ll allow Turn Four readers to skip ahead to the conclusion. The team’s organizational investment in Dillon Brooks is transparent, and with Kyle Anderson in town, shifting down from small forward to scoring guard is Brooks’ only chance to start. Garrett Temple is the kind of security blanket sure to be well-used. Both are better bets to get the nod than Wayne Selden. But Selden might have the most upside, and I think the team should give him every opportunity to claim a job that would have been his last season if not for his preseason quad injury.


Memphis Grizzlies Jaren Jackson Jr. Mike Conley Chandler Parsons Marc Gasol

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