Pete's Perspective: Grizzlies 2011 Training Camp opens
The Grizzlies opened up their training camp a much more mature and confident group than in previous years. “There was a little bit of calmness around the team,” observed head coach Lionel Hollins, “because guys have matured and they’ve been through the wars and they’ve got a feel for what they need to do.”
Hollins was direct in his to-do list before the first practice session. Offensively, he wants the Grizzlies to be better working through a play’s secondary options rather than breaking a play and hoisting an ill-advised shot. He also preached ball security and the need to attack the rim and earn free throw attempts.
Defensively, Hollins challenged his team to take more charges this season and to be better in the department of defensive communication.
With the NBA calendar jammed to the hilt with 66 games between Christmas and the end of April, down time for players will be at a premium and Hollins stressed the necessity of personal sacrifice for team success in the face of the daunting docket.
The practice stretched to almost three hours in length as the Grizzlies covered everything from some basic play sets to transition offense and defense and rebounding tactics.
“They survived,” deadpanned Hollins when asked how the team looked. Fatigue was expected, but the exuberance of the Grizzlies’ core was on display for much of the session, led by the irrepressible Tony Allen.
Allen delivered one of the more memorable quotes of the day during the team’s media session, telling the gathered reporters that getting restricted free agent Marc Gasol signed would make him, “as happy as a kid at McDonald’s with a Happy Meal.”
Gasol is in Los Angeles with his older brother. There’s been no word on contract negotiations. No team has tendered Gasol an offer that the Grizzlies would then have three days to match. There was no sense of panic on the part of anyone associated with the Grizzlies regarding the negotiations, but the feeling was unanimous that Marc Gasol would be an integral part of the Grizzlies’ championship push.
Yes, you read that right. The word “championship” slipped from the mouths of Mike Conley, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. “The sky’s the limit,” they all agreed. They also spoke glowingly of Memphis as “the best city in which to play NBA basketball,” and the fans who crowded the Wilson Air Center when the team arrived from Oklahoma City after Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Watch the Media Day Q-and-A.
- In addition to Marc Gasol’s absence, Hamed Haddadi was also not with the team. As an Iranian citizen, his ability to get to the U.S. is always a challenge. The Grizzlies had veteran big men Mikki Moore and Brian Skinner in camp along with Josh Davis, who was one of the final cuts in last year’s camp.
- Rookie second-round pick Josh Selby didn’t participate in practice. All rookie contracts must be reviewed by the NBA’s legal department, and since the league just opened for business, Selby’s pact was part of the backlog. Once the contract is approved by the league, Selby can sign and take the floor.
- Zach Randolph looks to be noticeably thinner than previous years. Normally weighing in the 260-pound range, Randolph is looking to be at the very least, ten pounds lighter than that. Responding to a query about him snagged an alley-oop in a pickup game, Randolph boasted that he exceeded Rudy Gay’s expectations for dunks last season with 11. Randolph predicted he’d stuff it 30 times this season.
- One of the more enlightening moments during the media session came when Gay was asked, “who’s going to take the last shot?” – a query designed to see if there was some rift, however slight, between Gay and Randolph. Randolph immediately jumped in and told the story of how good he felt screening for a Rudy three-pointer in Phoenix that sent the game to overtime. Rudy then stated, “Me and Z-Bo are brothers and nothing comes between us.”