Opening Statements: Grizzlies vs Wizards, Game 60 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Grizzlies vs Wizards, Game 60

Updated: March 3, 2014


Washington hosts the Memphis Grizzlies tonight in the nation’s capital. The Wizards are riding a season-high six-game winning streak and NBATV recognized them on Sunday as their “team of the week.” Even with the absence of Nene, the Wizards’ offense has been rolling, sparked by John Wall (who today was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the second time this season). Over the past three games, the All-Star point guard is averaging 25 points on 59 percent shooting and 10.7 assists per game. Trevor Ariza, coming off his career-high 40-point outing in Philly, has been scorching the nets. In his past four games, Ariza is 18-for-28 on 3-pointers (64%).

Memphis is playing solid ball as of late (7-3 record in their last 10 games), and pounded Cleveland on Friday night, 110-96. Both the Grizzlies and the Wizards possess almost identical offense and defense ratings. Washington’s defensive efficiency is 102.5 and offensive efficiency is 102.1, compared to Memphis’ 102.5 on defense and 102.6 on offense.

The last two meetings for Wall against the Grizz were showcases of extremes. Last season, Wall dropped his career-high 47 points in a win over Memphis at the Verizon Center. In their previous matchup in February, Wall was awful and got schooled by Memphis reserve guard Nick Calathes in a Wizards three-point loss.

A Monday snow storm has shut down D.C., but the Wizards public relations team confirmed that the game is still scheduled to be played at 7 p.m. Washington is the current holder of the NBA championship belt, so there is important, if not imaginary, bling on the line as well.

Zachary Thomas (@zacharytthomas), from the Memphis blog 3 Shades of Blue, joins me today to discuss the Grizzlies.

The Wiz and the Grizz in the Blizz…… Let it snow and LEGGGGOOOOO.

Teams: Wizards vs Grizzlies
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN, SportsSouth
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/The Fan, WMFS
Spread: Memphis fav’d by 1.5 points.

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Q #1: The Grizzlies are 20-8 in 2014. To what do you attribute their success in this calendar year?

@ZacharytThomasThe Grizzlies were met with a perfect storm of complications early on this season. One guy after another went down to injury, so the rotations lacked cohesiveness, and on top of that, the Grizzlies new head coach, Dave Joerger, struggled to implement his offensive philosophy. The season outlook looked bleak. The front office then made some moves to get James Johnson and Courtney Lee, and those guys immediately injected life onto the court. Were it not for the injuries, I don’t think the Grizzlies would be in the 9th spot in the West, but I also don’t think they would have the complexion of the team they do now. The silver lining of the injuries is that it forced players who you wouldn’t expect to get big minutes for a playoff caliber team to see the court, giving those guys time to develop. Once Marc Gasol came back from injury, and now Tony Allen, the Grizzlies turned a corner. The success so far in 2014 can be directly attributed to a healthy roster, cohesive rotations, and the additions of James Johnson, Courtney Lee and Nick Calathes.

Q #2:  I thought Lionel Hollins got a raw deal last season. How did the fan base take his firing? Recently, Hollins acknowledged that there was an altercation with John Hollinger. What did you think about this interview?

@ZacharytThomas I have been a Grizzlies fan since they moved to Memphis. In my entire time of following the team, no two decisions made by the front office were (and still are today) more polarizing than the trading of Rudy Gay and not re-signing Lionel Hollins. While technically Lionel didn’t get “fired” because his contract had expired, most who were fans of Hollins looked at it as a firing. Every week, on some local Memphis radio show or blog post, you can still find people who will blame a loss on Hollins or Gay not being on the team. As for the recent interview, Hollins did himself no favors. I understand his frustrations. At times I may even sympathize with them. However, what’s done is done. The attitude displayed in the interview towards the front office was the exact same one that caused him not to be re-signed. Hollins is a great basketball coach. He commands respect as a coach and former player. However, for his future success, he needs to recognize that the game is changing, and he must be willing to work with people who are responsible for his hiring or firing even if he doesn’t see eye to eye.

Q #3: How would you evaluate the job of the new coach, David Joerger? (I’m a terrible NBA writer, because I actually had to search his name for the correct spelling; then again, few people in Washington D.C. could correctly spell the name of Wizards coach Randy Wittman.)

@ZacharytThomas: Coach Joerger has done a respectable job this year. Due to the injury plague, there has been some leniency on his job grade. However, he, just as Lionel Hollins did, frustrates fans with rotation and lineup decisions in game. Joerger is super knowledgeable, has the respect of the locker room, and is a really likable guy. The jury is still out on his job performance, and a verdict will be contingent upon his management of these next seven weeks of basketball as the Grizzlies make a push to make the playoffs. Up to this point, though, Joerger seems to have done a good enough job to keep a wounded team relevant.

Q #4: What is the realistic outlook for this team? Can they upset a top team in the playoffs?

@ZacharytThomas: Realistically, they can make it to the playoffs and grab the 7 seed, provided Phoenix, Dallas, or Golden State falls off. However, once they get there, it will be a very difficult matchup with either OKC or San Antonio. Both of those teams are very dangerous and can matchup inside with the Grizzlies big men. With Marc Gasol not 100 percent, it seems that it would be very difficult to take a seven-game series from either team without home court advantage. However, the Memphis Grizzlies have been known to play better when they are backed into a corner, so I wouldn’t count them out. 

Q #5: Memphis toppled Washington in their previous matchup. How do you see this game playing out? Who wins, by how much and why?

@ZacharytThomasYea, this game is interesting. Last time out a couple of weeks ago at the FedEx Forum, I was expecting a larger win for the Grizzlies. However, Bradley Beal had a career night, Nene bothered Zach Randolph, and the Grizzlies needed a defensive stop to keep John Wall from sending it to overtime. However, now Mike Conley is back, Tony Allen is back, Nene is out, and Memphis is coming off a game where they held Cleveland to 31 points in the second half. Washington has won six straight. Memphis needs wins to make the playoffs.

Last year, John Wall had a career night against the Grizzlies. If the Grizzlies have found their defensive identity, and Saturday night’s second half was truly a “turning point of the season,” then Washington will end up losing. This is a dangerous game for Memphis. Most in Memphis expect to win this game. A loss could put them even further behind in their race for a playoff spot. I do think Memphis ends up victorious and wins by 8-to-10 points, because our perimeter defenders will thrive on the challenge of keeping Wall, Beal, and Ariza limited.

Bonus Qs.

Mike Conley seems impossible to dislike. What is up with that?

@ZacharytThomasHe really is a super nice guy. He isn’t flashy on the court, doesn’t really complain and whine about calls, and plays better than you expect him to play. With Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol getting most of the attention, Conley quietly goes about his game, improving and creeping up on those who sleep on him. However, he is not quiet on the court. Conley is a leader, and the players trust him.

Are there actually Grizzly Bears in the Memphis area? Related note, I have yet to meet a Wizard in the District of Columbia.

@ZacharytThomasI have never seen a Grizzly bear outside of the Memphis Zoo, though I have seen black bears.

Any random funny things about the Memphis players that we should know about? For example, Kevin Seraphin lost his pet snake and is addicted to social media. He even created his own hashtag, #KSLife. Also, Martell Webster likes to photobomb and Trevor Ariza enjoys impersonating R.Kelly.

@ZacharytThomas  Tony Allen is hilarious. In the locker room, on the sidelines, on the court, and off the court. He also has a really big heart. If you haven’t seen this from last year, you need to see it. He was a guest at a fundraiser for a local non-profit. He attempted to karaoke.


John Wall Dancing.


Wall’s 47-point outing versus Memphis.


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Adam McGinnis
Reporter / Writer / Media at TAI
Adam is a bro from the Midwest who's been bopping around the District of Columbia for years. He's down with a range of sports, etc. and has covered the Washington Wizards for TAI since 2010.