For the latest biggest game of the year, this one against the Memphis Grizzlies, Tom Lorenzo from SBNation's Grizzlies blog Straight Outta Vancouver agreed to answer your questions about the Grizz. So you guys left questions for him, and he responded -- in fact, I believe he responded to every last one of them. Wow. That's dedication.
I really love these 'crowd sourced' Q&As. You citizens always do a great job of asking questions -- better than me. And it seems to bring out the best in our guests as well.
So enjoy Tom's answers after the jump, and be sure to head over to Straight Outta Vancouver to check out my answers to their questions as well. Lots of good questions, and frankly, I knocked the answers out of the damn park.
Citizen PV Mike: While both Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph are outstanding players, do you feel they have the chemistry to build the franchise around or should one of them be moved to get other pieces to reach the next steps for success. There seems to be more fluidity when one of them is injured and not playing.
Citizen muckduck: Do you think Rudy Gay is anything more than (or will be) a borderline All-Star/really good but overpaid player?
Tom: This is a great question, and it seems to come up a lot. I think there are a few things to consider here. First, yes it's true, we have two players with All-Star abilities who are simply playing like, well, "stars." On paper it would seem as if Randolph and Gay don't have great chemistry on the basketball court, but I think that perception has a lot to do with the fact that both aren't scoring at their career clips or putting up gaudy individual numbers. Some would argue that when you consider that last season Rudy missed the last two-ish months of the regular season and the entire playoffs and this season it was Randolph who missed about two months, they really haven't had a chance to work in a rhythm. But that's a pretty weak argument, right? So we move on.
I think what gets lost sometimes are the priorities. What really does matter, though, is the end result. The wins and losses, right? And while there's plenty to complain about in terms of what Gay and Randolph have and haven't done of the basketball court together, here's something to think about: Over the last two weeks we've won seven of nine games, including road games against the Lakers, Thunder and Heat and a home game against the Mavericks. Those are results, and, as you know, more important than stuffing the stat sheet. But this is where the money comes into play, right? And where we talk about whether or not Gay is playing up to his ability. This is where we talk about perception.
I won't argue that Gay is anything but a borderline All-Star. His contract may say otherwise, but such is the nature of the game. I wrote on the site earlier in the week that I don't believe Gay is an elite player. I think he's a very good player, a borderline All-Star, and I mean it as no slight, but I just don't think he's on the same level as Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, etc. Those are elite players, and I won't be the one to put Gay on that level.
I know there's a lot there, and it doesn't really explain the numbers and whether or not they are co-existing, but I urge you to do two things: look at the end results and accept the fact that Rudy Gay is a somewhat overpaid star while Zach Randolph is turning a lower usage rate and a newfound leadership qualities into W's. As long as we continue to win and play title-contending basketball, it's tough for the detractors to ask such questions.
Citizen banandy: Who would you rather? Lakers or Clippers?
Tom: This is by no means a slight on the Clippers, but I think I would rather face the Clippers in the playoffs than the Lakers. Well, let me say this off the top. There are only four teams in the NBA that scare me. They are the Thunder, Heat, Lakers and Clippers. That's it. If you told me the Grizzlies had to play a 7-game series against any other team in the NBA, I'd confidently accept your challenge. So, it's tough to say that I'd rather face the Clippers than the Lakers, but in that "old school" line of thinking you have to look at it this way. The Lakers have championship pedigree, obviously starting with Kobe Bryant, who as we know can do wonders in the playoffs. They also have the size the counter our bigs, with Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and, yes, Metta World Peace hounding Rudy. Look, I know the Clippers have size too and they have great talent, and admittedly this is an old line of thinking, but in the same way the Grizzlies were discounted last season for never having won a playoff series, it comes down to "show me first" with the Clippers. Probably ignorant on my part, but we've seen what the Lakers can do in the playoffs. Now, Clippers, show me.
Citizen Hengtime81: Which Gasol brother do you feel bad for the most?
a) CP3's amazing cross-over on Marc Gasol:
b) Blake posterizing Pau Gasol?
Tom: Man, I feel bad for Adria Gasol, the third Gasol brother. Not because he can't be a better basketball player than his two older brothers, but because he's got high standards to live up to. Imagine, you're not trying to live up to being Luke Walton's younger brother here. You have two All-Star older brothers. Lots of pressure on Adria. (Wait, maybe I feel worse for their mother. I imagine those Gasols were all giant babies. Good on her...)
Citizen ClipperBEAST: Who is the Grizzlies most valuable player?
Tom: Honestly, this is a tough question. And I imagine that the answer(s) might surprise a few people, but the three most valuable players on this team, in terms of what they've meant to our success, are Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Tony Allen. All three have really stepped up their games this season, with Conley being a legitimate point guard talent and no longer a punchline, Tony Allen being the heart and soul of this team (and I mean that in the most sincere way possible), and Gaosl being an actual All-Star -- a deserved one, at that. If I had to pick one, it would be Gasol. He's developed into one of the top bigs in the game and really played the most significant role in keeping this team above water while Randolph was out.
Citizen Valdeezy: Grizz fans, which diss record was better? Jay-Z's "Takeover" or Nas' "Ether"?
Tom: Nas. Jay-Z is overrated... Welp, I think I deserve whatever hate is about to befall on me!
Citizen ReignMan: How far are the Grizz willing to go to retain O.J. Mayo?
Citizen Osamu: I'm curious about that too. What kind of offer do you think he'll get? and what numbers do you think they'll match. Is he worth like 4-30mil? more/less? I'll say I would take him on the clips for like the full midlevel, assuming that's all they can offer him (if mo opts in, or they don't amnesty).
Tom: Ah, O.J. Mayo. How do we love-hate you, let us fans count the ways. Since Year 2 of the Mayo experience, he's been "on the block." I mean, seriously, he was actually traded to the Pacers last season for Josh McRoberts (yup!) in a deal that would have gone through if the teams weren't "too late" in submitting the paperwork. I think that deal not happening was one of the best things to happen to us, since Mayo's talents are more of a need on this team, as currently constructed, than McRoberts'. I still think he's fairly valuable to this team, meaning they will make an attempt to keep him. But, at the "right price." I think if someone were to swoop in and offer him in the range of $50 million -- which as we know is a possibility, even in this "new" financially conscious post-lockout NBA -- the Grizzlies will let him walk.
Something to think about too, even though Michael Heisley is known for his tight wallet, he has been willing to go above and beyond to make this team a title contender (see: Conley contract and Gasol contract), but he's also looking to unload the team. So they're not going to get into paying luxury tax. He need to make this team look as appealing as possible. So, that's going to be something to keep in mind as the Mayo contract talks unfold.
Citizen Rob Lo: Got a couple of questions:
1. What do you think is the ceiling of the current Grizzlies team?
2. When watching the Grizz, I feel like most teams try to clog up the paint and try to make the Grizz a jumpshot team. Is the Grizz one deadly shooter away from becoming an elite team? Could that player be OJ Mayo? And if so, do you think the team would be better with OJ starting in lieu of Tony Allen?
Tom: I think we're a title contender. I really do. Look, we can't go crazy over a week's worth of basketball, but we've beat the Lakers (road), Thunder (road), Heat (road) and Mavericks (home) over the past week-plus. One game in a "series," yes, I know, but we're there. I mean, we brought the Thunder to 7 games last year and that was without Rudy Gay and a strong bench. Do I think we're a favorite to win the NBA Championship? No. Do I think we're one of the Top 4 teams in the league? No. But do I think we can make some noise in the playoffs and at least make a run to the NBA Finals? Yes.
On the second question, shooting jumpers (namely, threes) is our biggest deficiency. We're just awful at 3-point shooting. And that was a big reason why they decided to take on Gilbert Arenas. In the worst way we needed a shooter who could play backup point guard, and Arenas was the best fit in that sense, so we signed him. Look, we won't win many games by shooting the lights out or scoring 120 points in a given game. We typically win in the most ugly, Grizzly way possible -- with defense, forced turnovers and a complete grind. So, do I think we'd be better off with Mayo starting over Allen? No. I think Lionel Hollins has found the right formula. For us to think that we can win games by taking jumpers and getting Mayo more active around the 3-point line would go against our strengths. Anytime Mayo or Conley or Gil or Gay hit a three they become an instant trending topic on Twitter in the Memphis area. That says a lot, doesn't it? "Holy, Mayo hit a three from the right wing! #Seriously!"
Citizen zac4president: Out of the current top 4 seeds of Western Conference who do you think would be the best and worst match up for Memphis to face? And why?
Tom: This goes back to an earlier question, but I think the best matchup would, without a doubt, be the San Antonio Spurs. This is no slight on the Spurs and what they've done this season, but we had their number in the playoffs last season. I know, different year, different player personnel, but I think we're a much better team this year than we were last year, when we beat the Spurs in 6 games. In terms of size, style of play, I think we just match up better against them.
The worst matchup is tough, but I think it's the Thunder. Like I said, the three teams in the West that scare me are the Thunder, Lakers and Clippers. But I think the Thunder matchup would give us the most fits.
Citizen Buddahfan: Here Is My Compound Question: Is it true that they play Elvis songs and serve some of the world's best barbecue in the Grizz locker room?
Tom: There's nothing like Memphis barbecue. Is it the best? I suppose that depends on your personal taste. But I'll cast my vote for Memphis BBQ.
Citizen mTumi: I haven't watched many Grizzlies games so I'm not familiar with Tony Allen's defense. I hear he's one of the best in the league. How does he typically play against Kobe, Durant, James, Tony Parker (I'm assuming). Is there any player you think he wont lock down come playoff time, in terms of matchup?
Tom: Yes, Tony Allen is among the best defenders in the game. What's key about Allen is that he actually loves to play the role as lockdown defender. He doesn't require touches on the offensive side of the ball, and he knows that he best serves the team's needs on defense. The key to being a top-notch defender is embracing the role, right? (Which is part of why I have beef with Rudy Gay, he doesn't recognize his skills on defense, but that's another story...). The other thing that makes Allen so good at what he does is he's absolutely fearless. Really, he's not afraid of getting tough with anyone, teammates included (see: O.J. Mayo, Boo-Ray). That said, no one "shuts down" Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. Right? I mean, Allen gives them more fits than your average defender, but they're naturally tough to defend. He's also had his struggles with Manu Ginobili, essentially because his basketball IQ is through the roof and we know that Ginobili can goad players into picking up "dumb" fouls.
Citizen TPan: The Grizzlies surprised the league by bouncing the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs last year, in your opinion this season have the Grizzlies progressed since then?
Tom: Absolutely. I've mentioned this already, but Marc Gasol is much better this season (on both ends of the court) than he was last year. Mike Conley has truly developed into a fantastic player, especially on defense. Our bench is much better this year, with Marreese Speights, Dante Cunningham, Quincey Pondexter, and even Gilbert Arenas. We have Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay healthy. Lionel Hollins is coaching his butt off. There are just plenty of reasons to think that we're a better team this year than we were last year.
Citizen osamu: Any regrets with the Kevin Love trade? Funny going back. If Memphis keeps Kevin Love, then they don't trade for Zbo, in which case, the Clippers might've been stuck with Zbo (who was considered at the time, kind of an albatross contract).
I guess that was the summer the Clips ended up with Blake, who subsequently missed that whole season, so we definitely could've used Zbo, and maybe MDSr. would still have his job....
Tom: Great question. One we don't get asked often enough, which I assume is because some people have forgotten that we made that trade on draft night or that most people just don't typically "go back" and wonder "what if..." I don't think we can regret a deal like that. I mean, if we were wallowing at the bottom of the Western Conference for the past 4 seasons, then, yeah, it would definitely hurt. But since we've actually had success and continue to have success, it's hard to play the "what if..." game. I would love to have Kevin Love on our team, but, again, what would we look like had we kept him? That's a question we can't really answer. So, I guess, no? (Hey, don't be so hard on Randy Foye! He's playing ball right now!)
Citizen agolden: In the next ten years who is more likely to be an all star: Rudy Gay or OJ Mayo?
Do you think Blake Griffin is a tool?
Who would you rather face in the playoffs: Lakers or Clippers?
Who do you think we should get as head coach!
Tom: In the next ten years Rudy Mayo, the terminator-like cyborg I'm currently constructing in my basement, has a better shot at being in the All-Star game.
I think a hammer is a tool. I think Blake Griffin is pretty alright.
I answered this one, but in an attempt to win over Clippers fans, let's change it up and say that I would rather face the Lakers!
... Thanks for all the great questions!