The Memphis Grizzlies had the worst season in franchise history last season and the absence of point guard Mike Conley was a big reason why.
Conely only played in 12 games last season due to a left heel injury which required surgery in January. The Grizzlies went 22-60, finishing with the second worst record in the Western Conference.
With Conley back in the mix this year, the Grizzlies look like a completely different team. Memphis enters Friday with a record of 12-5, first place in the rugged Western Conference. The team has reverted back to their old days of grit and grind defense, something Conley wasn't too sure about when head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the club was going to play that style of basketball again.
“It's very similar,” Conley told David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “Very similar. When coach J.B. came in during training camp and was talking about, ‘We want to play like those teams of the past, that grit and grind defense,' I kind of looked at him and I said, ‘You know that's a lot of work and there's a lot of guys not built for that.' I was questioning myself. I was like, ‘Shoot I don't know if I'm ready for that again. I'm ready for the new NBA.'
But he was adamant on coming in and being that team. Guys have bought into it. It's been a lot of work, a lot of hours in this building trying to figure it out and just committing to it.”
The Grizzlies have the best defense in NBA right now. Memphis is only giving up 100.2 points per game. They are last in the league in pace, another staple of the old Grizzlies teams. Pace factor is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team.