Marc Iavaroni, Opening Comments
I'm very much looking forward to our return to not only Spain but the city of Malaga. Spain was a country I played in, in the pros, and I played in the city of Malaga, and I have very fond memories of the town -- very warm people, wonderful geography and place on the Mediterranean. It was an enjoyable experience. My team in Malaga didn't do so well at the end, but I have fond memories of the people and also our officials on the team, and I'm proud to represent the Memphis Grizzlies. We'll be engaged in a training camp in a two-part phase. The first part will actually be in Memphis for four-and-a-half days and then we will depart for Malaga and continue our training camp experience. So I think this will be a wonderful experience for us to come together as a team in our home city of Memphis and also bond while we go on the road and enjoy the European experience as well as the European challenges. Spain has obviously become a hotbed of basketball in Europe.
Q: What type of team will the Grizzlies be?
A: I think that's a very good question. Number one, we have to establish an identity that takes into account what this team was good at and was not good at last year … reflecting their personnel. And I think if you're familiar with the status of this team, they scored more points after the change from Mike Fratello to Tony Barone, but their defense suffered greatly. It was just a lot of change and no one is held accountable for that but you know we were 29th in points allowed per game and 30th in field goal percentage allowed and that's last in the league. So number one, I think this team has to bond through the improvement of their defense and I think that's because defense is a weak thing, so we have to collectively come together and have pride in stopping other people and then using that type of mentality, that confidence, to attack the defense of our opponent in transition to create turnovers, to create blocked shots, missed shots and take those opportunities, and make sure we attack quickly. That's something I've become very comfortable with from my experiences in Phoenix and also as a player in the '80's … that's what we did. So I think, number one, we have to play better defense. Two, we have to have more toughness. Three, there has to be a feeling that we're all in this together and that we play with a lot of passion because that enabled me to play in the league for seven years. I had decent talent but not that type of talent that could afford to take every possession … anything that's for granted.
Q: Talk about Juan Carlos Navarro.
A: Navarro is someone who was highly recommended by Pau Gasol, we knew of him as a player who talked about playing in the NBA in the past but signed a new deal for FC Barcelona. His rights were still owned by the Washington Bullets, and I think through the efforts of Chris Wallace and Pau Gasol we've been able to get a very good player for our system. Obviously he's got championship experience on the world level. He's a fearless competitor. He's an extremely good shooter, which we need and watching the games and tapes I have of FC Barcelona as well as the recent Euro qualifying, it's quite apparent that he knows how to play the game and he loves up-tempo. I was happy to see Spain playing up-tempo and I think he will be a very good match for our system and a good teammate not only for Pau but for the others.
Q: How much of your philosophy as a coach was formed when you were playing over in Spain and Italy? Was there anything specific that shaped your thinking?
A: Well, it certainly shaped my thinking as a young player and also as an old player that you better be prepared because it's very competitive in Europe. Americans who have not competed on a world level, I think, have missed something. I think it's very passionate over there, which I really enjoyed. Every game was a big deal, there was quite a swing of emotions, and there was no ambivalence about outcomes or contests. In Italy we would say it was either tutto joyo or tutto crisi -- it was either all joy or all crises. It was reflected in the outcome and in the daily papers subsequently and I enjoyed it, it felt like you were alive. That each game had significance and that you weren't going to be bored that's for sure.
Q: What do you think the team will gain from doing a part of their training camp in Malaga?
A: Well I think its going to help our road preparation. We've discussed this with our summer league team, not all the players were there, but on the road there are a lot of things you have to adjust to, new locker room, new city, new travel agenda, new cultures and in this case new languages; and I believe these are all things that prepare your team to adjust and to deal with unknown factors and in this case they are going to prepare us to play with a couple of different rules that have been incorporated. Two major rules that they have to adjust t, so I think this will help the development of our team's togetherness.
Q: At the point guard spot there is a lot of competition this year. How are you going to handle playing time with the training camp?
A: There is competition at several spots, particularly the four spot, between Gasol, Hakim Warrick, Stromile Swift and Brian Cardinal; the two spot between Mike Miller, Tarence Kinsey and Juan Carlos; and also the point guard spot you mentioned. So the players have been advised during the summer through numerous phone calls and a letter that we do want to defend and run, and the guys who come in top shape are going to have an advantage. And this system is going to see who has been most serious about their preparation and I have always felt that the ones who are the most prepared are going to shine. No one is going to be handed the keys. Certain people will have more experience in Memphis and in the NBA, but there is certainly no given, expect maybe Pau should start. I think it's just a question of where he'll start. I think that Mike Miller has in the past started but you know he may feel more comfortable coming off the bench, but other than that I don't think we have many set in stone decisions that have already been made.
Q: Will you let Gasol and Navarro play heavy minutes during Europe Live to please their fans?
A: I think I'm going to involve them in discussions. Once they get here I'm going to get a feel for how they feel about training camp. They have obviously have spent a great deal of time and effort and heart playing for their countries, as well as Darko Milicic and Mike Miller. Maybe not in terms of the desires of Spanish fans, so I'm going to get a pulse of what they feel and also discuss with them my thoughts for the best thing for this team and we'll see if we can also please the fans.
Q: What is your impression of Pau's game in the last European Championships?
A: I thought it was obviously very worthy he was an MVP candidate. I think in semifinal game he and Navarro especially stood out with exemplary performances. I think it was a great game against Greece. Obviously it was not a good for them in the finals and I'm sure they were disappointed by that but there are many factors involved. I think that one of the key things that he would bemoan was the fact that they couldn't get him the ball down the stretch. I think several turnovers really hurt his chances and their chances for winning as well as him varnishing the MVP award. I think maybe the most disappointing thing for him was his free throws. I just want to make sure that he's coming in motivated, whether he won the gold or the silver, that he's willing to look at things and say, hey, I did well here but I need to improve at these other areas, and kind of look at it analytically. But overall I was very pleased and I was very happy for them. There were no huge disappointments for them on the way to the finals although they would probably say themselves it was a disappointment as they considered themselves the best team and frankly they should have.
Q: What do you think about your Spanish rivals, Unicaja Malaga and Estudiantes?
A: Well, I know that Unicaja was kind of a mid-level team during the ACB competition, but then did very well in the Euro Cup. Correct me if I'm wrong, I think they got to the quarter finals. And I know that they've added some talent. We're still going through the scouting for them. They've added talent and they will be improved and I know that they have at least one, maybe two or three, NBA-caliber players and so they are going to be quite formidable. I know that they will have been practicing longer than us and probably will have engaged in some competition before us. That will be our first preseason game and I think they are very well coached. So we're not taking anything for granted, especially on the road. And I think the same goes for Estudiantes. Again, they are a team that did kind of mid-level work in the ACB but in Madrid they will be very dangerous and we will have to be very well-prepared if we want to win both of those games.