KFC Finger Lickin' Good Deal
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 28: Desmond Bane #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies goes up for a shot on Damion Lee #1 of the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

MikeCheck: Constructive communication key as Grizzlies set early season standards

by Michael Wallace | Grind City Media

MEMPHIS – The Grizzlies didn’t wait until returning home from a successful four-game road trip to take inventory of their biggest area of growth so far this season.

That process started in the heat of battle, in the heart of San Francisco the other night.

Trailing by 19 points to a proud and unbeaten Warriors team on the second night of a back-to-back set, the Grizzlies could have easily settled, accepted defeat for a second night in a row and retreated to Memphis and regrouped for their own homestand.

Ja Morant interviewing with Rob Fischer
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 28: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies interviews after the game against the Golden State Warriors. Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images.

But that would hardly be what these Grizzlies are at their core.

So, they assessed the situation midway through that game, committed to having some hard conversations about accountability and rededicated themselves to salvage the task at hand.

“I told our coaches before the game that this was going to be a great test for our guys early in the season,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said of facing his team’s first dose of adversity on the way to capping the trip with Thursday’s 104-101 overtime victory against the Warriors. “Obviously, you’ve got to give our guys a lot of credit.”

That credit rating is building by the game as the Grizzlies (3-2) return home after bracketing wins over the Clippers and Warriors around a close loss to the Lakers and a lopsided setback to the Blazers. One key that connected Memphis throughout its early-season journey was a commitment to meaningful and constructive communication.

We lost a close game against the Lakers, a tough one in Portland, and (it’s) definitely been a long road trip. We bounced back and played hard all the way throughout. My teammates and I were talking after we were down 19 at one point, so it is good to get a win like that for sure.

Desmond Bane

From franchise catalyst Ja Morant to 19-year-old rookie lottery pick Ziaire Williams, every player on the roster is empowered to speak up amid challenging times. To that end, no player is above reproach when mistakes are made and adjustments are needed.

Those levels of trust and credibility are at the foundation of what the Grizzlies are building in hopes of making a second straight run to the playoffs as one of the league’s youngest teams. Jenkins and several players credited the open communication they’re showing as the essential element that allowed them to rally from an early 19-point deficit against Golden State. That strong finish came a night after the Grizzlies fell flat in a blowout loss in Portland.



The challenge now is to settle in and find consistency at home. Saturday’s game against the Heat opens a stretch in which the Grizzlies play eight of 10 at FedExForum entering the Thanksgiving holiday. Consider it another growth opportunity for a team eager to stretch itself as many of the talented pieces come together around Morant and a retooled rotation.

“Hopefully, Grizz nation shows up, and I’m sure that they will – it’ll be fun,” swingman Desmond Bane said of carrying momentum from the trip into Saturday’s game. “We lost a close game against the Lakers, a tough one in Portland, and (it’s) definitely been a long road trip. We bounced back and played hard all the way throughout. My teammates and I were talking after we were down 19 at one point, so it is good to get a win like that for sure.”

Communication keeps the Grizzlies focused on playing to their strengths.

A lot of this experience is going to help us going forward. We just want to make sure we repeat that for any close games.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Against the Warriors, a defensive turnaround was needed. And the Grizzlies provided that spark by generating deflections and steals to stifle Golden State defensively and get into transition offensively. Memphis generated a combined 26 steals and blocked shots that led to scoring 23 points off Golden State turnovers.

Through five games this season, the Grizzlies are performing among the NBA’s best teams on both sides of the ball. They are fourth in the league in rebounding (50.2) and fourth in steals (10.4), while also third in total three-pointers made (71) and fourth in assists (26.2).

That level of success is an early indicator of continuity, chemistry and clear communication.

We can get better in certain areas late in games. I put a lot of pressure and blame on me for being that point guard, because I have to get us in better actions to score and win.

Ja Morant

“We talked a lot better, and I just think we responded very well,” forward Jaren Jackson Jr. said of the connection his team is establishing on the fly this season. “A lot of this experience is going to help us going forward. We just want to make sure we repeat that for any close games.”

Solid habits are still forming for the Grizzlies. And they’re being pushed by Morant’s leadership and execution on the court in the third-year guard’s breakout start to the season.

Morant is the NBA’s second-leading scorer at 30.4 points a game and is also averaging 7.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 54.4 percent from the field and 40.6 percent on three-pointers. Entering the weekend, Morant was featured on NBA.com as one of the top-five early favorites for league MVP.

From here, the goal is sustainability.

“I feel like we’ve been good, came a long way and we’re continuing to learn,” Morant said. “We can get better in certain areas late in games. I put a lot of pressure and blame on me for being that point guard, because I have to get us in better actions to score and win.”

Morant then addressed the Grizzlies’ biggest area of growth and improvement.

“Communication is the biggest thing – we have to get better at it,” Morant said.

Fortunately, these Grizzlies don’t bite their tongues talking their way through it.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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