MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Memphis Grizzlies might have one of their most diverse rosters in franchise history this year.
There are gray beards, guys like point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol, who have played their entire careers in Memphis, and then there are players who are wet behind the ears, guys like rookie forward Jaren Jackson Jr and guard Jevon Carter who have never bounced a basketball at FedExForum.
When Jackson Jr. made his entrance at Grizzlies media day on Monday, he immediately made a comment about rapper Young Thug’s new album, “On The Run.” His interview with the media was filled with laughter as Jackson Jr. displayed his exuberant personality.
At one point, the Grizzlies fourth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft started talking to reporters about his favorite Netflix show, “Ozark," and even pulled up an episode on his phone.
Grizz head coach J.B. Bickerstaff likes his young forward’s personality, and the impact it can have in the locker room.
“If you’ve got guys who are negative energy or energy vampires it makes the job difficult,” Bickerstaff said. “When you’ve got guys like Jaren, who I’ve yet to see have a bad day, he makes everybody come to the gym and he lightens the mood. Not in a silly way or an immature way, but just a positive energy that guys can feed off of.”
Second year forward Dillon Brooks is another player on the younger end of the Grizzlies spectrum.
“Some older people as a grandma or grandpa with a young baby, it gives them life," Brooks said. "That’s what we do for our grandpas and grandmas. Mike and Marc. We just give them life.”
Conley laughed later when he heard Brooks' remark.
“Oh Dillon. Oh Dillon. Somebody save him," Conley said.
At 33 years old, Gasol is the team’s oldest player. The three time NBA All-Star represents the veteran leadership of the team.
This past summer, just days after rescuing a refugee in the Mediterranean Sea, as a part of an NGO, Gasol organized a team mini-camp flying from Spain to Los Angeles to practice with his new team. A squad that added forwards Kyle Anderson, Omri Casspi, and Jackson Jr., along with guards Shelvin Mack, Garrett Temple and Carter.
“We needed it as a team,” Gasol said. “We needed to see each other in the middle of the summer. I talked to Mike and said, ‘look I need you to call a couple of guys,’ and he did it. We all met in LA. Everyone showed up. It was a few days that we had good runs. Everybody got to know each other in a different atmosphere without the grind of the season. It was a good time.”
The team as a whole agrees that veteran leadership and youthful athleticism combined is an asset for the Grizz as they eye a return to the NBA playoffs.
“A breath of fresh air," Gasol said. "New swag they call it, and it’s fun. I love it. We need it.”
“We do pride ourselves in being older vets on a younger team in a sense,” Conley said. “We’ve got a lot of youth. A lot of guys who look up to us, and a lot of guys who will basically do anything for us on that basketball court. We’ve built something here, and they’re just trying to come in and add to that. We’re trying to do our best to usher them in and teach them as much as we know, and make sure that they’re the best players that they can be.”
At 19 years old, Jackson Jr. is one of the youngest players in the NBA, but Gasol says the rookie, along with the team’s other young stars have “tools” he may have never had.
“Their ceiling is higher than mine has ever been,” Gasol said. “To be able to reach it, we’ve got to help them reach that ceiling."
“When they talk about Grit and Grind I see Zach (Randolph) and Tony (Allen). It’s what we as a team created, and it’s our responsibility to pass it on, and to make it grow. Without those two guys Grit and Grind doesn’t make sense. For me to show it on the floor in every practice is really important.”
Gasol and Conley are stalwarts of Grit and Grind, and solid anchors in the Grizzlies franchise. Together they hope to take advantage of youth, experience, and a roster filled with high basketball IQ and defensive skill to bring success back to FedExForum in the 2018-19 season.