The Thunder face the Memphis Grizzlies tonight, a team whom OKC battled through seven intense games (including one memorable 3-overtime marathon) in last season's playoffs. The Grizzlies seemed prime to make the next step this season when they suffered their own catastrophic injury, losing Zach Randolph for what will be a good portion of the season. We caught up with the guys at SB Nation's Grizzlies site, Straight Outta Vancouver, to get a better sense on how the Grizzlies are handling the setback and where they see the team heading.
Here are my three questions for them, followed by their respective answers.
(Head on over to their site to take a look at the questions they posed to me and my respective answers for each)
1) How has the team's psyche been effected by the loss of Zach Randolph, and how do you think the team will reconfigure itself over the next two months to stay in the playoff hunt?
Before the start of the season we looked at the Grizzlies as a team that could make a serious run, at the very least, at winning the Western Conference. Now, with the loss of Randolph, we continue to say things like, "I'd be happy getting into the playoffs, at this point." The tune has completely changed. And rightfully so. We lost our best player. Picking up Marreese Speights was a nice move, but it's the kind of trade you applaud when he's coming off the bench behind Randolph, not when he's being used as his replacement. I think we go forward and hope that Speights continues to keep us afloat, but the tune has definitely changed in Memphis. Now, we're just hoping to get into the playoffs, let along make some noise.
2) Right now, from a playoff perspective, the Grizzlies are going to be chasing teams like the Mavericks, Nuggets, and Jazz for playoff seeds. Are there any trades worth pursuing that would help Memphis stay in the hunt?
Any player we can get who will help spread the floor would be a huge help. Right now we're last in the league in 3-point shooting, hitting just two per game and making only 20% of our attempts. I can't say for certain who that player is, but when O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley are your best perimeter shooters, you've got a serious problem. We need a deep threat who can keep defenses honest, if only so that we can unclog the paint.
3) What do you think a reasonable record would be for the Grizzlies to aim for in order to secure a playoff spot, and what do you think their chances are of hitting that mark?
I hate to say it, as someone who thought the Grizzlies were a Top 4 team in the West heading into the season, but I think right now we're shooting for a .500 record. We just need to stay above water until we get Randolph back. I think we have a "shot" at reaching that not-so-lofty goal, but it's not going to be easy.
Many thanks to the guys at Straight Outta Vancouver, and be sure to stop by their great site tonight as the Thunder and Grizzlies prepare to knuckle up.