Marc Gasol: Grizzlies will speed it up
Gasol, currently heading Spain's challenge at EuroBasket, says he's had discussions with new head coach Dave Joerger about a fresh direction for the Grizzlies after a summer overhaul that began with the exit of Lionel Hollins and the addition of seven players to the roster, including Mike Miller from Miami and Kosta Koufos from Denver.
It's a gamble for a team coming off a trip to the Western Conference finals and a season in which Gasol was named the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year. Joerger had specific oversight of a unit that allowed a league-low 89.3 points per game during the regular season.
Now, it's the offense that's a prime source of attention for the rookie coach, and he's got his starting center bought in to a running game.
"Coach Joerger has been there for six years," Gasol told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "He knows us pretty well. He knows how we play. He knows us personally, how we like to play basketball. He, of course, wants to push the tempo, which has been a problem for us, getting up and down the floor to score easy buckets. Because when you always go inside, everybody collapses on you in the paint and it's hard to operate down there.
"He's going to push the tempo and have a lot of plays from his pocket that he's told me [about]. And I'm excited about next season."
Although Joerger has been on the Grizzlies' staff since Gasol began his NBA career in 2008, one of his immediate challenges will be to gain the respect of his players that Hollins held. Hollins, the Spanish star said, would expect the core group of returning Grizzlies to give his former assistant the same level of support.
"Lionel, we had a lot of ties with him," Gasol said. "It's been an emotional process. But one thing Lionel taught us was never to make excuses, and we're not going to do that now."
One of the Grizzlies' lower-key additions has been Greek international Nick Calathes, who joined as a free agent this summer from Russian team Lokomotiv Kuban. The 24-year-old guard, who attended the University of Florida, has been a standout in Europe for the past four seasons and figures to give Mike Conley some additional help in the backcourt. Gasol has faced Calathes on numerous occasions during international competition.
"We'll see what he can bring," he said, "but that's a position we've been trying to figure out for a while now, the backup point guard."
Spain opens second-round play at EuroBasket on Thursday against Greece in Ljubljana, having lost only one of five games so far behind the championship's meanest defense.
"I'm happy with where we're at right now," Gasol said. "I think we can be a little better. But there's still a long way to go."