In advance of today’s matchup versus the Memphis Grizzlies, Joe Mullinax, Site Manager of SB Nation’s Grizzly Bear Blues, answered five of our questions regarding the Canada/Memphis connection, common enemies and more:
As you know, the Grizzlies used to be the only other Canadian franchise in the NBA aside from the Raptors. As a result, many fans above the border have adopted the Grizz as their second favourite team, especially considering there are multiple Canadians and former Raptors on the roster (Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas). Based on our shared history, is there a sense of connection to the country of Canada in Memphis?
In a word? No. We do shoutout to Canada from time to time, and folks are aware of the Clarke and Brooks Canada connection. Of course we remember the Jonas/Marc deal, and there are even connections beyond that — Grizzlies media host Kelcey Jordan Wright Johnson is from Toronto, and front office member Glen Grunwald is also from Toronto. But I think beyond that and the awesome throwback uniforms that we will see in action today, the connectivity ends.
We also kind of share Vince Carter... kind of.
Between his clutch shot in last year’s Finals and this year’s refusal to play, the Raptors and Grizzlies share a common enemy — Andre Iguodala. Is there still bad blood in Memphis towards him, and if so, how long do you expect it to last?
Andre Iguodala didn’t want to be a part of what the Grizzlies were building. In fairness to him, few saw the Grizzlies being a possible playoff team coming. But even then, for him to go out and do national media tours about leaving Memphis before actually leaving Memphis was a kick in the pants. I think Iggy will join the ranks of the Blake Griffins of the world — universally disliked; but time will heal the wound — somewhat. Memphis will always want to beat up on Iggy.
Jaren Jackson Jr. was playing some of his best basketball to date before tearing his meniscus against the Pelicans last week. How do you expect the Grizzlies will replace his production moving forward?
In the aggregate. One does not simply replace a unicorn. He’s 6’11” at this point, able to shoot threes at a clip similar to Klay Thompson while defending the rim at a high level and being able to stay with opposing perimeter players on switches. You’ll see Anthony Tolliver and Grayson Allen launching threes, De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson helping defend in the paint, and increased shot attempts for Dillon Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas. It’ll be a team effort if they hope to have any success today and beyond in the bubble.
Before arriving in Memphis, many considered Josh Jackson to be a lost cause. In March, however, Jackson was beginning to turn it on, averaging 16.6 points on 47.5% from the field. What differences did you see in his game during that stretch versus what you saw in January and February?
He’s elite in transition. Per Cleaning The Glass, he’s in the 90th percentile or better in all but two transition categories. That fits with what Memphis wants to do at their best — run. But it’s in those times that the Grizzlies can’t push the pace that Jackson falls out of favor with Coach Taylor Jenkins. He’s not good in the half court — he gambles defensively and can be reckless offensively. He likely will not play today.
From the start of the season, Ja Morant quickly turned into one of my favourite players in the league. How long did it take before you were convinced the Grizzlies had found their point guard of the future?
What night was the NBA Draft last year? In all seriousness, there was a brief “should RJ Barrett be the pick?” moment for me. Memphis has needed — and still needs — a very good scoring wing. But the question was fleeting — once I learned the story of Morant’s rise I realized he and Memphis are kindred spirits. He’s everything you’ve heard he is on the floor — athletic, audacious, explosive. He already has elite vision and a leadership quality that’s rare in players that can’t legally drink in America yet.
But his toughness — his rags to riches tale and rejection of the “silver spoon” mentality — makes him a perfect fit for the Grizzlies. Memphis has fallen hard and fast for their city’s newest sports hero. The best part is he’s earned every bit of it, both on and off the court.
Thanks again to Joe for kindly imparting his insight ahead of today’s game. To hear the opposite end of our exchange, make sure to check out SB Nation’s Grizzly Bear Blues.