The Grizzlies Have Their Eyes on a Playoff Spot in the Western Conference

January 21, 2010 – 9:20 am by Chris Fedor

What a story we have brewing in Memphis this season in the NBA. At the beginning of the year, the Grizzlies started off 1-8 and it looked like it was going to be another disappointing season in Memphis. Last year the Grizzlies won just 24 games and after getting off to such a slow start (1-8) this season it looked like the Grizz would once again be one of the worst teams in the NBA. However, Memphis has won 21 of their last 32 games and they are right in the middle of the conversation as a playoff team in the brutally tough Western Conference. The 22 wins puts them just two wins shy of their season total from a year ago and we have just reached the halfway point in the NBA. There are a number of surprising teams this year in the NBA, but I can’t imagine too many people that expected this from the Grizzlies. What a story it is for a franchise that has been awful for the past three seasons. Lionel Hollins is a front runner for coach of the year, O.J. Mayo is having an excellent sophomore season, their arena has become one of the tougher places to play for opposing teams and Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph are both playing like All Stars and make a very dangerous one-two combination.

Lionel Hollins joined WHBQ in Memphis to talk about the success of the team this year, what Zach Randolph has meant to his team, and when he started talking playoffs with his team

On whether he thought his team would be at this point right now through the halfway point:

“Well that’s what one of our goals was to come in this season and be competitive and be in the mix. I didn’t know where we could be, but I’m excited and proud of our group. Happy for our organization and all the coaches and players and the hard work that we’ve put in thus far. Where we started and where we are now, it’s a good thing.”

On when he started talking playoffs with his team:

“I haven’t really talked playoffs. I’ve talked about what it takes to be a playoff contender and what it takes to be a championship contender. The process that you have to go through to be as good as you want to. Those are the things that I’ve talked about. We went to the five game set focus. We went to bringing a standings board in so they can see where they are everyday when they come into the locker room, but I still really haven’t talked playoffs specific. I think I’ve talked more about what we have to do to be as good as we want to be and get to the level that we want to be on which is to be a contending team. I’ve never said we’re a game out of the playoffs and we have a chance to be in the playoffs. I don’t think that’s the focus that we need. We need to focus on playing well, playing hard, being competitive, and being physically and mentally tough and all those things. Those are the focuses that we need to keep.”

On the impact that Zach Randolph has had:

“It’s been a huge impact. The guy is a huge reason we’re where we are. We have a core group; basically the same group and we needed to add to that group. Mr. Heisley and Chris Wallace went out and got Zach and he’s been a difference maker. He scores in the post, he rebounds, really offensive rebounds, he’s been a leader, he’s matured, the team has rallied around him and from day one they’ve accepted him. He’s really a big teddy bear type of guy. He and Marc (Gasol) have a great chemistry going and it’s great to see a young player who has gone through a lot of phases finally get to a mature level where the professionalism, the leadership all meshes with the talent. Maturity is a huge part of that.”

On playing his starters a lot of minutes:

“It’s about roles and going in and doing your job and holding the fort. There’s very few teams that come off the bench and have guys that play 25 or 30 minutes. There’s some teams that have that. (Manu) Ginobili gets to do that with San Antonio and Jamal Crawford down in Atlanta. There’s a few teams that have guys like that, but we don’t have one of those guys. We have a bunch of young guys on our bench. But with that being said, the job of our bench players is to go in and hold the fort. It’s never been for them to go in and get twenty points. If you look through the history of the league, there have been players that have done it but that’s not everybody’s role. If you look at Jason Terry, that’s his role, but the rest of the guys that come off the bench, they’re not asked to score a lot of points. As teams develop depth through adding good players which is harder and harder with the salary cap and what have you, but the teams that have that, they get some of that scoring. I just want our guys to go in, play well, play consistent and understand and know where their supposed to be and do the job that they’re supposed to do. We have enough scoring when they go in the game unless we put four or five of them in the game at the same time which we don’t do often. Would I like to have one of those guys that’s able to score 20 points a night? Of course, but I’m also knowing that our starters need to play. You keep your best players on the court as long as possible and you go around the league and most teams are playing their starters a lot of minutes. That’s what this league has always been about. The best players play.”

Listen to Lionel Hollins on WHBQ in Memphis here

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