It was built to be the State of the Franchise but, with only Dave Joerger making an appearance, it looked like the State of the Franchise was to throw Joerger to the wolves.
In many ways that was exactly what happened. Like Daniel in the Lions den, Joerger came away from the experience looking calm, cool and definitely in control as he had the 300-400 fans at the FedEx Forum held at bay with his charming personality and decisive answers.
Sharing the stage with Rob Fisher, this state of the franchise was very different from previous versions. Robert Pera was not in attendance unlike the days of old when Mike Heisley was front and center. Also absent were Jason Levien, John Hollinger, Stu Lash. Even Chris Wallace, who has been a regular in previous state of the franchise meetings, and is actually still employed by the Grizzlies, was absent as well. This was clearly an introduction to Dave Joerger for season ticket holders.
If the crowd reaction says anything, Joerger clearly won this battle. Former Head Coach Lionel Hollins was mentioned a few times but no one seemed upset he wasn’t sitting on the stage. In fact, it seemed whenever Joerger mentioned doing something differently than in previous seasons the general response was positive.
For instance, it is Joerger’s intention of crossing mid-court with at least 20 seconds left on the shot clock, something that rarely if ever happened last season. To accomplish this Conley may be used more as a decoy allowing other players to quickly bring the ball up the court. When informed he would have greater responsibility bringing the ball up the court, Tony Allen was reportedly happy. How this translates onto the court is another question. The thought of Tony Allen bringing up the ball may sound shocking but that idea of getting the ball up quicker was clearly the correct thing to say to the fans.
Joerger also mentioned spreading the court more with perimeter shooters such as Prince, Miller, QPon and Bayless being given a green light more. However, it is not to go away from the interior game but to open things up inside for Randolph, Gasol and Conley to have more room to operate. One particular idea espoused was to use Miller as a screener on the perimeter to allow Conley to roll off the screen and leaving Miller alone or guarded by a smaller defender on the arc. Joerger also mentioned bringing Randolph to the high post at times to give Gasol more opportunities inside.
Joerger also discussed how he is expecting more development from Quincy Pondexter, Jerryd Bayless and Tayshaun Prince, who he clearly stated is the starting SF heading into the season. Ed Davis needed to prove he deserved to play more. Nick Calathes was going to be a surprise at PG and Jamaal Franklin, who Joerger jokingly said was going to be called Jamal Tinsley a lot early on, was going to be a real fan favorite as well. It seemed clear from today that Joerger was going to use the bench far more than in recent years and was counting on the bench to help take the team further than in previous seasons.
The message was clear that the offense was going to be different under Joerger than Hollins and this was very well received from the crowd. The defense won’t be changed that much. Joerger also mentioned his staff is nearly complete and expected the rest to be named this week. Meetings begin Monday in planning for camp and the season. So for the coaches at least the summer recess is over.