Over the years there has been a consistent accusation leveled against the coverage of the Memphis Grizzlies from their fans. It has been hard to determine if there was a negative bias as no one really ever tracked what the media personalities thought of the team to start.
In a strange attempt to give our readers a baseline to work off of I did a completely non-binding and non-scientific survey of the major sports media personalities in the area to gauge their opinions heading into the season. Most were surprisingly open and helpful in this endeavor. Some were rather slow in their responses but eventually did acquiesce to my request. Some flat out refused to even respond to my request with a comment. If you want to ask Ron Tillery, Jeff Weinberger and Rob Fisher why they refused to even reply to my email request on the air I am sure they will be most honest in their replies. (HINT!)
I must admit the overall tone of the local media who did respond were quite positive. The most obvious positive tone dealt mostly with the front office changes more than the on the court product. No one is expecting a return to the Fiasco at the Forum that last season was but also no one is expecting a Miracle in Memphis this season to use the media vernacular. What almost to a man these people did want is to be more connected with the team and everyone thinks Chris Wallace is doing a wonderful job of that. The general consensus is that Wallace has made it far easier to want to love the Grizzlies than Jerry West did and that will hopefully come across in their reporting.
So who is expecting what? Here is a quick rundown of our local media experts impression of the upcoming season. I promised each person who responded that I wouldn't hold them to this prediction (i.e. if the facts change they want the right to change their opinions) but heading into the season this is what they think.
Chris Herrington: (Film/Music Editor and Grizzlies Blogger for the Memphis Flyer and first responder by the way)
I EXPECT a 10-15 game improvement over last season, which would put the team at the 32-37 win level. But I PREDICT the Griz will be a little better than that, pushing into 38-40 win territory and landing 9th or 10th in the WestGotta love a man with shameless optimism there. A little gutless on the expectation but in his heart he knows the team will be better. No one can accuse him of being biased against the team. Cautious yes but biased no. If you want to read his entire comment then you can see his Beyond the Arc blog.
Peter Edmiston (Ron Tillery's partner on the WHBQ radio show Morning Rush:
Overall, I'll say the Grizzlies will win just under 40 games and will be in outside contention for a playoff spot all the way through the month of March. Eventually, they'll fade, but I think there will be a lot of room for optimism by the end of the season as people get accustomed to seeing the new Grizzlies play.While I truly appreciate Peter's fast response (he was second by less than one hour and his kind words about our blog, I wonder why he responded and Tillery didn't? Maybe it is a CA thing (or maybe Ron actually read the Memphis Grizzlies Webpage where I gave him such a hard time in the past and doesn't want to talk to me!).
George Lapides (Memphis Originator of Sports Talk Radio and current WHBQ host of Sportstime):
As for the team, I think it may be somewhat better than most people think -- remember I said somewhat better, not a whole lot better. My hunch is that we're looking at a team that could win something in the range of 32 to 38 games . . . 38 would be really good.For those interested George also mentioned he renewed his tickets. He didn't mention where he was sitting but you have to love a man standing up for his integrity and paying his own way instead of taking the media pass (in other words I will gladly take George's pass if it isn't going to use!).
Gary Robinson (Sports Editor at the Commercial Appeal and the man who asked me to also blog on the Memphis Edge site):
Of course, we're still weeks away from the first tipoff and that's when we'll truly find out, but I think the team will be fun to watch and enthusiastic about improving under Iavaroni. The division is tough. The conference is tough. And while I'm not predicting a return to the playoffs just yet, nobody was predicting it following a 28-win season four years ago. Who knows?Typical editor stuff here. Uses a lot of words but notice he doesn't actually say anything. Sorry Gary but I had to point that out. I hope you won't close me down on the Edge for doing that.
Chris Vernon (Memphis Flyer's Favorite Radio Personality and ESPN Radio Talk Show Host):
I expect the Grizzlies to be a surprise team and make the playoffs this year. They have upgraded the roster significantly and a structured fast style of play will account for more wins over the course of an 82 game season where teams do not show up for every game (esp. against perceived "bad teams"). Mike Miller will be the leading scorer on the team and have a chance at being an all-star. Kyle Lowry will be the fan favorite. Navarro will be surprisingly good in his first season. Iavaroni will get incredibly frustrated with Gasol's defense. Conley will struggle this year and people will wonder if it was the best pick the Grizzlies could have made. Rudy Gay will be labeled as a breakout player in the league and will fill out stat sheets. I will put the record at 44-38.This actually is a radical change from earlier comments from Verno when he said "just put me down as saying the opposite of whatever Chris Herrington wrote!" You knew I wasn't going to let that slide didn't you Chris?
Gary Parrish (CBS Sportsline College Basketball Reporter and occasional sidekick to Chris Vernon...okay frequent sidekick):
Number of wins: 36.Gary wasn't asked to provide an explanation for his prediction, but I think the few words he did type tell the whole story.
Why: They're just not very good.
Geoff Calkins (CA award winning editorial writer):
The Grizzlies will win between 35-40 games. The team will be better than last year – on the fringe of the playoff hunt -- because Lowry and Pau are healthy, because Navarro will be a spark and because the basketball side is no longer a mess. Having said that, we’ll still wonder if there’s enough high-end talent. And we’ll still wonder if the Grizzlies should have traded Miller and/or Pau. Speaking of which, Stoudamire will be traded by the end of the year.You can see that Harvard educated mind at work in this prediction. All comments quantified with factual statements. Gotta love the style of Calkins. Memphis is lucky to have him.
Eli Savoie (Late addition but he was kind enough to respond so I added him in):
I expect the Grizzlies to be better this year, but I don't expect the huge improvement in wins that a lot of people are predicting. I am looking for the young guys to get a lot of experience and this team to start working towards being competitive in the playoffs two or three years from now. I think 33-35 wins is a realistic goal for this year as far as wins go, but more important to me is the development of the younger players such as Conley, Lowry, Milicic, Gay and Warrick. Barring any major injuries, I look for the Grizzlies to win around 35 games.Eli comes in late and low but that is still great that he responded at all.
And yes that is another sucker punch at Ron Tillery, Jeff Weinberger and Rob Fisher.
Most of the responses actually went a bit beyond what the scope of my blog was about. I edited some of them down so this wouldn't be as long as the roundtable discussion. However, there were some very interesting comments made that I feel should be pointed out.
From Chris Herrington:
If you judge a team’s personnel moves relative to the available opportunities, which seems fair, then I think this is the best, most thoughtful, most forward-thinking offseason the team has had during its Memphis tenure.He went on to talk about how Mike Conley and Darko were excellent moves. You are on record now Chris. Don't start questioning Chris Wallace in Mid-Season about them!
Until I get more exposure to him in an NBA setting, I’m more skeptical about Juan Carlos Navarro’s potential impact, largely because recent history suggests international guards making the move to the NBA in mid-career tend to struggle with that adjustment. But, because expense (a future pick that can never be Top 10) is minimal and because of the probable benefit in terms of smoothing the team’s relationship with Pau Gasol, I’m on board with this move as well.I just put this here because this is an example of predictions that may be changed later. JCN has looked great in Spain since Herrington wrote this but he hasn't played a regular season game in this country yet.
From Geoff Calkins:
Ticket sales will be a crisis.I sure hope that is wrong but if it isn't wrong and everything else Calkins says is correct and attendance is still a problem how will that reflect on the city? Would poor attendance with an exciting team look worse than poor attendance with a terrible team?
From Gary Robinson:
I think the Grizzlies fly under the national radar -- and even did so when they were winning 50 games -- so I don't pay much attention to what the national media thinks about the local club.While very true it does make you wonder what effect national media has on the perception locally of the team and how that plays into attendance.
There was a lot more said but I think the basic information is there to be seen. Vernon is the most optimistic but most media types peg the Grizzlies between 30 and 40 wins with a small chance to reach the playoffs. Time will tell if they know anything more than the rest of us Grizzlies fans except of course for the Harvard educated Calkins.