The Sixers will host the tanking Memphis Grizzlies tonight at 7:00 pm. Joe Mullinax (@joemullinax) covers the Grizz for Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies). Joe took the time out of his day to have a chat with me about the Grizzlies and tonight’s game.
Kevin F. Love: How have the Grizzlies played lately?
Joe Mullinax: Not well. They’ve lost 20 of their last 21 games, with their best players taking the floor intermittently. They’re a a team made up of almost exclusively former 2nd round and undrafted talent, and the 1st round picks that are healthy are either awful (Ben McLemore) or being played outside their ideal roles (Jarell Martin as a small forward, no bueno.)
KFL: Is there any way the Grizzlies win this game? If the Grizzlies win, what will people be able to point to as to why?
JM: Sure, it’s possible. If Tyreke Evans and Marc Gasol both play and play well, if Dillon Brooks makes multiple threes, if JaMychal Green cleans the glass and defends well, if the team as a whole moves the ball well on offense and rotates well without fouling on defense...there’s a lot that has to go right for this to end “well”. But it’s possible.
KFL: Any specific weakness of this Grizzlies team that you expect the Sixers to attack?
JM: How much time do you got? In all seriousness, they have no one to defend Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid...and I mean that as if Marc and Reke are indeed playing. Embiid is just as big if not bigger than Gasol, and is that much better moving and defending. Simmons is a unicorn. If Memphis helps off on these two, Philly has shooters like Covington and Redick on the perimeter. These Grizzlies are just too banged up, and without their captain Mike Conley they’re rudderless. Anything is possible, but the Grizzlies as a whole are a weakness right now.
KFL: It’s a lot of fun to see Joel Embiid go head to head with another talented big man. Is Marc Gasol still plugged in? I know he’s disgruntled, but is he playing at his highest level? Is he even guaranteed to play?
JM: He isn’t playing back to backs anymore, so he will either sit this one or tomorrow night. All indications are he will try to go tonight, and he seems to be still trying hard overall. He is just starting to regress as a player overall, which is magnifying his problems. He isn’t able to carry this, or any, team for prolonged stretches anymore. His basketball mortality is on full display, and there’s no one (outside of Evans) who can help him.
KFL: Are Grizz fans embracing the tank? If the Grizz get the #1 pick, who are fans clamoring for the team to draft?
JM: For the most part but it’s been a...process...see what I did there? I’d say a majority of fans get that it’s the best thing long-term for the franchise, but it’s a lot of bad basketball to watch. If it all pays off and #1 is ours, the consensus is...not a consensus. Deandre Ayton may be the best prospect potential wise, but Luka Doncic fits the “best fit” model and is an excellent projected player himself. Give me Doncic #1 overall for now...but that may change tomorrow.
KFL: Sixers fans have been in the position Grizzlies fans currently are in. Are you guys enjoying 10-day contracts and D-Leauge player exposure? It was actually a pretty fun aspect of the Sixers tanking, because you got to see these guys who may have never gotten a chance otherwise, albeit having to often watch bad basketball.
JM: Dillon Brooks is the best example of this. When DB was drafted, most of us assumed he’d be an end of the bench to G-League guy. Now? He’s a full-blown key piece of future success. Watching him grow in to the role has been really fun, and his future development these last 12 games will be the best thing about having to watch a dozen bad basketball contests. Others like Kobi Simmons and Andrew Harrison have taken advantage of opportunity as well. As y’all know, you take all the hope you can get.
Thanks again for joining me, Joe! Really appreciate your time. You can follow Joe on Twitter @JoeMullinax as well as Grizzly Bear Blues @sbnGrizzlies for all your Memphis Grizzlies news and coverage. You can check out Grizzly Bear Blues’ game preview here.