The Memphis Grizzlies are embarking on a new era this season with the departure of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, the final remnants of the Grit 'n Grind era. There are plenty of new faces, with a ton of attention being given to the development of the young core of second-year player Jaren Jackson Jr., and high-profile rookies Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, who come in with high expectations.
But the front office and coaching staff also have two promising rookies, in new Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Zach Kleiman and Head Coach Taylor Jenkins.
Kleiman and company, including the day-to-day staff of Tayshaun Prince and Chris Makris, have done exceptionally well heading into their first season as a new front office. Kleiman has been shrewd and forward thinking, taking a hard stance on the Andre Iguodola trade-versus-buyout situation, and he has made some promising moves toward setting the team up for success. Kleiman has placed emphasis on the team being as competitive as possible now, while still primarily focusing on team development for years to come.
“We are focused on development; we are focused on getting better every single day; and more than anything we are focused on fostering a competitive environment” said Kleiman, at the Grizzlies Media Day, Monday, when asked how he will measure success this season.
“We are going into a season where the expectations, from our perspective, as well as the coaching staff, is let’s just continually improve and really compete. Let’s put it all out every single practice and every single game. We are playing to win and we want to install that mentality in our guys,” Kleiman added.
Kleiman has received local and national praise for his forward thinking and for maximizing the Grizzlies assets, so far. This is a vast contrast from the typical perception of the Grizzlies front office under the now demoted Chris Wallace. Kleiman appears to have a clear plan, and all of his decisions and moves seem to align with it. Kleiman also realizes that even though their reception has been positive, there is still work to be done.
“We are excited to be giving Memphis — our fans — something to be excited about but our job, my job, is to keep my head down and continue to work and put in the time to instill the values that we are trying to be about,” said Kleiman. “From the front office, to the coaching staff to the players, we are excited about the unselfish, hungry group that we have and our focus is like Taylor [Jenkins] and I have talked about is on improving everyday.”
First-year head coach Jenkins echoed Kleiman at Media Day, saying that the team will be focused on becoming competitors, working together. and getting better every day. He said that his coaching style would focus on initiating the offense through the post early, and then moving the ball to create open opportunities from three. He also said that he would lean heavily on offensive and defense influences from his time at Atlanta and Milwaukee.
Jenkins also plans on letting Morant play without restraint during his rookie campaign. He wants the young guard to play fast and aggressive, and stated that he “would not pump the brakes on him.” Morant said that that is something that he values in his coach.
Kleiman and Jenkins are rookies in their own right, but the fact that they appear to be a unified front should be a welcome change for the organization going forward.