E-Mailing with the Enemy: Memphis Grizzlies

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Velasco, who is shaking his head in frustration after last night's blowout to the Houston Rockets, gathers himself to ask Chris Faukner of Grizzly Bear Blues several questions about the Memphis Grizzlies and what the Nets could expect to see tonight.

1) So, we may not even need to go further than this because this might be summed up in one sentence - The Brooklyn Nets stink right now, so the Memphis Grizzlies should win. However, since that's just too short and boring (because it's a well-known and universally-accepted fact), we keep going. So, first question, how happy are you with the Grizz's first-year head coach in David Joerger? He was actually the guy I wanted for the Nets because I dig numbers, but alas, the Nets went with the Kidd, whom, for the record, I still have faith in. Extremely blind faith, sure, but faith nonetheless.

If the Grizzlies record more closely resembled that of the Nets, I'd probably be describing my sentiments towards Dave Joerger as "blind faith" as well. I was a big fan of the hire, but me and a lot of other Memphians are still in a "wait and see" mode with the new coach. The Joergermeister obviously embraces analytics more than his predecessor, so we immediately have a better coach-to-front-office relationship, which is absolutely huge for a small market team. Joerger has also shown the ability to adapt his approach based on guidance and input from his core players. Really, the only criticism I can definitely give him right now is the fact that he can sometimes "forgot who he's playing" and leave in weak lineups that allows leads to dwindle or get built upon the Grizzlies.

2) I've always been a fan of Mike Conley, Jr. and this season, he seems like he's raising his game up a bit this season. What do you account for his improvement, particularly in scoring. Is it Joerger's system? The lack of Rudy Gay, the need for points with Marc Gasol out?

Mike Conley has turned into one of my favorite NBA players in the past couple of seasons. He is an ambidextrous point guard with Olympic Gold Medal DNA who has become a fitness/training geek more and more in each of his NBA seasons. Mike has always had a lot of the physical skills (and has bulked up his frame in recent seasons), but I believe it's the development on his mental game that's really turned things on for him. The Rudy Gay trade did a couple of things for him: A) it publicly and vocally announced that the Griz FO 100% endorses Mike Conley and Marc Gasol as their "franchise combo." They want to build around these two guys, and that vote of confidence immediately paid off last year as Conley became more aggressive on offense. As someone who has used sports psychology for much of his career, building the basketball ego of Conley has been a 5-6 year process that is just now culminating in the prime of his career. Now the Grizzlies can combine that investment with a head coaching relationship that allows for Conley to assume a leadership role, even with his calm, soft-spoken demeanor.

3) Speaking of Gasol, who is out indefinitely, how is the team dynamic changed with his sprained MCL sidelining him? Who needs to step up in his place? Could it be one of my favorite under-utilized players in Ed Davis? GO HEELS!

The Gasol injury was scary. Word coming out yesterday has it that Marc could return much sooner than anticipated (3-4 weeks rather than 8-10 weeks or indefinitely), so Memphis won't have to drastically change things to survive the entire season. But you've hit the nail on the head - it's time for Ed Davis get in the game and step up his performances. We've only seen a couple of games without Gasol, but the absence is oh-so-very-palpable. Thank all that is good that the Grizzlies traded for Kosta Koufos in the offseason, who will be able to play heavy minutes and take on part of the post-presence that Gasol anchored so well, but we're not going to see Koufos dishing out dimes in the high post like Marc. We'll most likely see a few different combos of replacing "Gasol by committee" with Koufos, Ed Davis and Jon Leuer. Davis has been ballyhooed since his acquisition in the Rudy trade, but Griz fans haven't really gotten to see the version of Ed that was thriving in Toronto. I think good things are on the horizon for Davis, though. In the last three games without Gasol, Ed is getting very solid production, shooting over 60% from the field and --- wait for it --- shot 5/6 from the free throw line against Boston on Wednesday!

4) I've read that Joerger is getting aggressive suggestions from ownership and the front office in regards to the line-up and how to play, which is to basically go against their Grit N' Grind persona. What are your feelings on this? Could it be true? If so, how must this be affecting the locker room and is Joerger already on the hot seat?

Joerger (whether under his own direction or from suggestions from the FO) made it known that he wanted to "play faster" this season. What we saw was an increased PACE factor over the first 6-8 games that left the Grizzlies confused, hesitant and extremely turnover-prone. Since their 3-5 start, we've seen the Grizzlies move back closer to their Grit n Grind approach, while gradually incorporating some faster movement in offensive sets and definitely emphasizing a push in transition. This change was apparently brought about by Mike Conley directly going to Joerger and discussing the reimplementation of the old sets. Even though the results have been mixed, Joerger is definitely more flexible than Lionel Hollins was, in terms of adapting to the feedback from his players. The biggest challenge for Joerger and the locker room will be maintaining the ferocity and passion that Hollins founded over his tenure with the Grizzlies. I believe that this team is now mature enough to self-motivate and keep each other focused without a task-mastering-spiritual-leader for a head coach.

5) What are a few other things that Nets fans should know about the Grizzlies... and give me a final score!

A few things that have developed this year: Zach Randolph is in some of the best shape of his career and can still be a 20/10 machine. Tony Allen is playing some of the best offensive ball of his career - averaging over 10 pts a game on 55% shooting with a PER of nearly 20 - all while averaging career highs in steals and assists per game. The body-formerly-known as Tayshaun Prince might have been resurrected. After Prince spent the preseason and start of the regular season recovering from an intense stomach virus that saw his already-gaunt frame shed another 30 lbs, he's found some new confidence in his role with the Grizzlies and has been much more aggressive in the past couple of weeks. Jerryd Bayless will most likely either shoot 1/8 or 8/10 from the field - there has been no in-between this season. The Grizzlies will need a lot of bench scoring to make it through the Gasol-less stretch of the season, so the rotations could play a huge role in the game tonight. If Brook Lopez is out, I think the Grizzlies pound the paint and wear down the Nets early - Prediction: Memphis 102 Brooklyn 91.

DV's Prediction: Brooklyn Nets 97, Memphis Grizzlies 103.

What do you all think the score will be? Is there any hope for the Nets to get this turned around tonight? Let us know below in the comments!

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