Mike Fratello Interview
The 2005-06 NBA season starts soon. Here's what Memphis Grizzlies head coach Mike Fratello said about his team and the upcoming season on a recent conference call:
Q: Can you recap training camp, your preseason, and a look forward to the regular season?
Fratello: We have played three exhibition games thus far; weíve played Chicago, Miami, and Washington. We have had a really good training camp up until this point. We have changed our roster dramatically, brought in three veteran guys in Eddie Jones, Damon Stoudamire and Bobby Jackson, who have all been just terrific as far as their leadership, their willingness to take on responsibility, and help some of our younger players. Because at the other end of the spectrum besides the veteran guys, we have a talented young group in Hakim Warrick, Lawrence Roberts, Anthony Roberson, a couple young guys that have come in and shown us that they may have an opportunity to make it in this league and be productive. Our returning nucleus of Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, and Mike Miller it kind of balances out this team. We have the veteran guys at one end, that group in the middle that has been around four years five years in the NBA and then this new group breaking in. We have tried to put this thing together and after 14 or 15 practices and three exhibition games, Iím pleased with what they have done and very happy with their effort. I look forward to our next game, which comes up against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.
Q: How do you feel your team will be different with your point guards being Stoudamire and Bobby Jackson rather than Earl Watson and Jason Williams?
Fratello: In Earl and Jason I think people perceived them as two different types of guys completely. One, for what ever reason, got labeled as the defensive stopper, and he would come in and be the guy that could come in and shut down other point guards. Whereas, Jason was considered to be the more talented offensively. Thatís how people have cubby-holed those two guys and they would split games basically coming down to the stretch and whoever was playing best that particular night thatís who seemed to finish out the game. Both Bobby and Damon have been starters in this league at different times. Bobby obviously sixth man of the year in Sacramento and when he was called upon to start he put up some very impressive numbers. Both of these guards have the ability to score the ball as well as direct your offense and lead the fast break. I think we are blessed with the fact that we have two experienced guys that can get us into what we want and if we need a basket get us a big basket at any given time. Both work pretty hard at the defensive end of the floor.
Q: From a standpoint low post it seemed like last year when you needed a bucket late in close games you went to Miller as much as you went to Gasol. Is Gasol ready to become a guy you can just go to yet?
Fratello: I think he is. He is much fresher and more alive right now than he has been because this is the first time he has taken off from the international competition. He has had a chance to concentrate, get stronger, lifted, did his weight program and has come back reenergized. His battery is charged up right now. Heís been very, very good in training camp. We are hoping for and expecting a big year out of Pau.
Q: Could you talk about Eddie Jones and what you expect form him this season.
Fratello: Like every other player I know thatís come out of Templeís program under Don Cheney, they always are top-notch kids. They approach it in a professional manner, they work their butts off in practice, and they are all about team. Everything I heard about Eddie Jones, and they are a little bit fortunate that I had gotten to do some Miami Heat TV for about a year before I went back to coaching, but you follow Eddie around and you watch him play night in and night out and you understand exactly what you are getting: a guy thatís going to be a leader, a guy thatís going to do things the way they are suppose to be done, and a guy who is going to make big shots for you and get a big defensive stop when you need it.. Now having everyday up close in practice, heís exactly what I was seeing when I was broadcasting their games. This is a very special young man who has had a great NBA career up to this point and we are hoping that heís got a few good years left in him and heíll be our leader here and be very productive for us as well.
Q: You made a lot of off-season moves on youíre squad. How much of that was your input and how much was Jerry Westís input.
Fratello: Jerry West runs this program. This is Jerryís program, he is the president of basketball operations. My job was at the end of the season to sit down talk and wanted me to bring in my evaluations and my opinions on certain situations and on all the individuals that played here and anything that I would suggest for a direction that I might want to go in or change in style of play, or whatever it might be , Jerry was more than willing to listen. When the time came we had our meeting, I passed on my thoughts to him and he exchanged his thoughts with me sharing with me a lot of his observations. We set forth to put this team back together differently based on what we thought we wanted to do and try to get it done. But thatís only with Jerryís blessing, he runs the show here.
Q: How would you grade your off-season?
Fratello: I think we accomplished what we wanted to. I got a few more veterans in here that can lead us, that have been in the play offs and understand what it takes to win in the playoffs not just get there. Thatís the next step for this program is get back, but then win. We havenít won a playoff game yet in this franchises history. We want to get to the point where we can not only make the playoffs but then we would like to win when we get into the playoffs. We brought three guys in we feel have had that experience before and at the same time we think we have gotten overall with the addition of Warrick and Lawrence Roberts and a couple of guys I just mentioned to you. We have become more athletic which is one of the things we wanted to do, get a little more speed and quickness. I think our perimeter shooting as a team over all is a little better than it was a year ago. We still have the weakness that we are not an overpowering big team. We donít have the big wide bodies that some of the other teams have. We were last in the league in rebounding last year and thatís a big concern this year, rebounding the basketball.
Q: Can you go back to the young players Hakim Warrick and Lawrence Roberts and what skills they are ready to bring right now.
Fratello: With Hakim he has an ability to put points on the board. When he gets on the floor he seems to find the ball or the ball finds him and he has a knack for scoring the basketball. If you said is he a great shooter? No, but he makes shots. Heís active, he runs the floor, he will big up one or two at the end of a break, heíll get one or two on an offensive rebound, Heíll get fouled and go to the free throw line. He just has a knack for scoring. We have bounced him back and fourth between small forward and big forward, so the learning curve has been tough for him. We have out a lot on him this early on, but he has responded extremely well, we love him as a person and how he likes to play the game. I think he has a real up side in this league. A very big up side down the road. Lawrence Roberts we have had a terrific summer with him. Unfortunately, he has a head on collision and banged knees with John Thomas and Iíd say Lawrence probably got the worse of that one, but he has missed about the last 5 or 6 days of our training camp. He just came back today and started today. Iím hoping he will be able to give us some minutes in the Cleveland game so we can finally get a look at this young man against another team.
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