Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Grizzlies announce 2016 Summer League roster

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 2:25 PM

The Grizzlies have announced their roster for the 2016 Las Vegas Summer League, and it's a fairly exciting group, and one that surprisingly contains JaMychal Green, who played more games than any other Grizzly last year (while fouling at an extremely elevated rate):

grizzlies_announce_nba_summer_league_2016_roster_7-5-16.png

I'm particularly excited to see Wade Baldwin, Deyonta Davis, and Andrew Harrison in action (even Summer League level action, where Josh Selby can become a co-MVP). Memphis Tiger fans will no doubt be heartened by the inclusion of Shaq Goodwin and DJ Stephens. Alex Stepheson made some noise for the Iowa Energy last season, and put up some ungodly offensive rebounding numbers in that one game before his Grizzlies 10-day ran out last year. It's an exciting group, in the way Summer League is always exciting: a chance to see the raw materials that may one day be major pieces of the Grizzlies' rotation.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Stein: Mike Conley agrees to 5-year, $153mm deal with Grizzlies

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 6:15 PM

Mike Conley may be the most important player in this series for the Grizzlies. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Mike Conley may be the most important player in this series for the Grizzlies.

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, Mike Conley has agreed to return to the Grizzlies:

If those numbers hold true, it would make Conley's contract the highest in NBA history, a true reflection of the heights to which the NBA's salary cap has risen. Conley's five-year deal would be worth somewhere around $30mm more than the 5-year deal signed last summer by Marc Gasol.

It's not exactly a surprise that Conley is returning. Trades by Indiana and New York took the Pacers and Knicks out of the running to sign him, and once Dallas (1) missed on signing Hassan Whiteside and (2) lost Chandler Parsons (a noted friend of Conley's) to the Grizzlies thanks to recruitment by David Fizdale, JB Bickerstaff, Justin Timberlake, and maybe Conley himself in some way, they didn't seem like a likely landing place either. It was always a question of whether the Grizzlies would offer Conley a full five-year max, and even that never really seemed to be that much of a question.

To be sure, the Grizzlies still have major health concerns moving forward for Conley, Parsons, and Marc Gasol. But by re-signing Conley they've proven they're willing to spend to build a contender, and paid back Conley for years of service on a contract that made him one of the best values in the league. (You know, the one that Matt Moore called "franchise suicide" at the time.) (Sorry, Matt, I had to.)

Conley probably won't actually sign anything until after the Grizzlies have completed their free agent pursuits. The Grizzlies should still have somewhere in the vicinity of $8mm to $10mm in cap room assuming they've renounced their hold on Matt Barnes and/or waived Vince Carter via the stretch provision. My assumption is that they'd like to keep Carter around if possible, so Barnes is likely the one moving out of the way to make it possible for the Grizzlies to retain Conley and add Parsons. Either way, the Griz still need some kind of a shooting guard who can defend, as Tony Allen is currently the only guy on the roster who is a credible starter at the 2 spot. They should be able to take a gamble on a young guy with that money, or perhaps trade one of their burgeoning stockpile of young bigs for a wing player. Time will tell.

With Conley back in the fold and Parsons officially joining the team, the Grizzlies have radically changed the face of the franchise in the course of a few hours. In a summer when we knew everyone would be spending money, the Griz have taken a gamble on a future core that could take them very far.

Reports: Chandler Parsons agrees to four-year max deal with Grizzlies

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 2:54 PM

Chandler Parsons - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • Chandler Parsons

The Grizzlies have made a big splash on the first day of NBA free agency by landing wing Chandler Parsons, formerly of the Dallas Mavericks, on what appears to be a 4-year, $94mm deal. The move was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical and was quickly reported by others.

It's a big day for the Grizzlies. Even with the injury concerns surrounding Parsons—and make no mistake, there are certainly injury concerns—Parsons is the first big-name free agent (who wasn't already in Memphis) ever to choose the Grizzlies, unless you count Darko Milicic, which I do but no one else does. Parsons adds immediate offense to a wing rotation that has needed it desperately for years. I think my preference still would've been for Nic Batum, but I (along with the rest of Grizzlies media) didn't really have Parsons on my radar until the last couple of weeks, when we started to hear rumblings from the Griz that they planned on targeting Parsons.

Is there a chance that Parsons can't stay healthy? Sure. But there's also a chance Gasol and Conley can't stay healthy. Assuming—as ESPN's Marc Stein has reported—that Conley had a part to play in the Grizzlies' recruitment of Parsons, his return seems like a fait accompli at this point, but let's not count those chickens until they hatch.

For the first time ever, the Grizzlies had max cap space while they were also a playoff team, and they made it pay off. It also sounds like new head coach David Fizdale and his associate JB Bickerstaff also played a large role in the Parsons recruitment. Things are starting to trend upward for the Grizzlies in terms of (1) the caliber of player they're starting to be able to sign, starting with Vince Carter and (2) the reputation of their coaching staff among players around the league. As one Griz source pointed out to me, also, Parsons has spent a lot of his career in Houston and Dallas playing against (and finishing lower in the Southwest standings than) Grizzlies teams that went deeper into the playoffs.

Assuming Conley re-signs, the Grizzlies are now in a good position to retool for the future around a new rotation. Even if he doesn't, I guess, at least they finally got a wing who can score. According to reports, Conley is meeting with the Mavericks right now, so we'll see what happens there and report as news happens.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Grizzlies select Wade Baldwin in first round

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 8:42 PM

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The Grizzlies have selected point guard Wade Baldwin from Vanderbilt with the 17th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Baldwin has size, he has wingspan for days, he shot 40% from 3 in college, and he adds point guard depth to a roster that needed it even assuming Mike Conley isn't going anywhere.

After days of wondering who was telling the truth about whether or not the Grizzlies had promised to select Malachi Richardson, several more highly-regarded players fell to the Grizzlies (others included Timothe Luwawu and Skal Labissiere) and they went with Baldwin, whose upside may not be quite as high as some others, but who is a solid, proven player with an established skill set.

As the Grizzlies transition to the Fizdale era, player development is more important than it's ever been. This pick, like all of the ones before it, is meaningless if Baldwin doesn't get minutes on the floor in which to learn the ins and outs of the NBA game. Hopefully we can take the Grizzlies at their word that player development is a focus, because if so, the selection of Baldwin puts them in a position to have a very good backup to Conley (along with 2015 draftee Andrew Harrison) in the near future.


Deflections: The Draft, Mike Conley, and Depleted Narratives

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 11:44 AM

Now that the NBA season is actually, officially over, and the draft is upon us—like, tonight upon us—it's time to start what is intended to be a weekly update on the Grizzlies during the dog days of summer, using a name that Chris Herrington made up a long time ago: Deflections. Our first installment comes in three parts, about something happening tonight, something happening in the next week or two, and something that's going to have to evolve over the next year or two.

The Draft

Chris Wallace promises he doesn't make promises.
  • Chris Wallace promises he doesn't make promises.

It's tonight. I don't watch much college basketball, I don't scout these guys very far beyond their Draft Express videos (you know, the ones that make every prospect look like some kind of mutant Kareem/LeBron combo and like some kind of mutant Thabeet/Adam Morrison combo), and I'm not really sure what the Grizzlies are actually going to do tonight. With all of that said, I do think it's worth thinking about where the Grizzlies stand going into tonight.

The Grizzlies have the 17th pick tonight, since they made the playoffs and avoided conveying it to the Denver Nuggets. There are reports that they've promised to take Malachi Richardson from Syracuse if he's available, reports that sound similar to the promise they supposedly made to Jarell Martin before selecting him next year. Without parsing what a "soft promise" is and re-litigating the Twitter firestorm that broke out over the Martin promise last year, I will say two things: (1) I feel like these reports usually come from agents, and it's hard to parse what an agent considers to be a "promise" and whether such a thing is actually intended by the front office person supposedly making it. But also, (2) Chris Wallace has been followed by reports of making promises for a long time:

And even though Wallace denies having ever made a promise while in Memphis, who knows. Whether he did or not, sometimes perception is reality in these situations, and promising (or at least perpetually saying things that sound like promises to agents, who then tell the media) seems like a weird way to do business.

The bad news is that if Richardson is chosen at 17 by the Grizzlies, we get to have the same dumb Internet arguments again. The other bad news is that if Richardson is chosen at 17 by the Grizzlies, there may be other players they should have taken—international mystery man Timothe Luwawu, Vanderbilt PG Wade Baldwin, and others are all projected to be drafted somewhere in the 14-20 range, and who knows. The draft is such a crapshoot it's hard to know who will be productive and who won't, and if the Grizzlies pull another "Jordan Adams over Rodney Hood" and take a guy who looks like the better player on paper but doesn't work out, it's going to be a setback in their attempts to get younger.

All this is to say: the NBA Draft is like a dark art where nothing is precise, sometimes the "right" pick is actually the wrong pick, the Grizzlies historically don't draft well, might be going about it the wrong way (making promises), and might even try to trade out of 17 (though I haven't heard anything specific in terms of intel along those lines). We will all sit down to watch it together, and make instant decisions about the entire process before the end of the night, and some of us will be disastrously wrong, and some of us will be right for the wrong reasons, and then we'll get to argue about it some more. Sports!

On Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague.

Mike Conley: 140 Million Dollar Man? - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • Mike Conley: 140 Million Dollar Man?

Mike Conley's free agency options are starting to dwindle. Or, maybe, teams who might have otherwise considered pursuing Conley in free agency this summer have decided to move on because they don't think he's attainable. Depending on your outlook, both are valid ways to read the trades made yesterday sending Jeff Teague to Indiana and Derrick Rose to the Knicks—both teams mentioned in connection with Conley's free agency as possible suitors.

Conley's almost certainly going to get a max contract from someone. Maybe Dallas will pitch him on it. The Spurs have been mentioned as a possible destination as they search for a Tony Parker replacement. But the two other teams in the race, including the one in his hometown, have decided to seek other options and trade for a point guard.

If the Grizzlies sign Mike Conley to a full five-year max deal, they'll almost certainly be overpaying for him. He's a good player, but he's approaching 30, has had trouble staying healthy for the last two or three seasons, has had to shoulder an unfairly heavy burden of minutes because if the Grizzlies' smoldering ash pit of backup point guards, and may already be starting to decline from his peak. That said, if they don't re-sign him, what's the point of keeping Marc Gasol? Of keeping Zach Randolph and Tony Allen? If the Grizzlies don't retain Conley, they'll almost certainly be headed down a path of teardown and rebuild, something they want to avoid by rebuilding a new supporting cast around Conley and Gasol as Randolph and Tony Allen begin to fade away.

I'm not sure whether yesterday's trades are good news or bad news for Grizzlies fans. The optimistic take is that these teams don't think they've got a shot at prying Conley away from the Grizzlies, so they've moved on to find a point guard through other means before free agency even starts. The pessimistic take is that these teams have decided that maxing Conley isn't worth it and are trying to fill their point guard need some other way. I wouldn't be surprised if the truth is in the middle; I still think Conley will be in a Grizzlies uniform in the fall, and I think it's going to take a max contract to make that happen, and I think that's too much money and also think it'll probably the right thing to do.

I believe the dictionary term is "ambivalent." That's how I feel about the whole thing, especially in light of the Pacers and Knicks essentially removing themselves from the Conley conversation before it starts.

Still Gritting, Still Grinding?

This was 2011. I still have no idea what a "Norma Rae moment" is.
  • This was 2011. I still have no idea what a "Norma Rae moment" is.

How are we going to talk about this team now that we've said everything there is to say about "Grit and Grind"? That's a conversation I've had recently with two or three different people who write about basketball. We can talk about Memphis as a pro wrestling town and the Grizzlies as a team that plays to that, but Herrington already did that a couple of years ago. We can talk about how the blue-collar team and the blue collar town complement each other, but we've been doing that since 2011. We can talk about toughness, about being overlooked, about being counted out and fighting back against overwhelming odds, but we've done all of that, too. Six consecutive playoff runs with (essentially) the same core personnel means we've explored this team, the Core Four version of it anyway (maybe it's the "Mt. Grizzmore" version?), in about as much depth as is possible.

So what do we talk about next year? In David Fizdale, they've got a coach who represents a clean break with the past—Lionel coached under Hubie way back when, and Joerger coached under Lionel. On the flipside, Chris Wallace has apparently shored up his position as the lead basketball decision-maker, and he's been here for what seems like an eternity. Organizationally, there still doesn't seem to be a very clear picture of the hierarchy, of who makes what calls, of how anything works. Even though they seem to have made mostly good decisions in that time, the lack of clarity makes them hard to analyze, and I'm not sure that's an accident.

There will be new faces on the roster next year, no question. Whoever gets drafted this year will be expected to develop into a rotation player. The Grizzlies have to sign someone to start on the wing next year, and maybe even be the third-best player on the team. Tony Allen and Zach Randolph are still here (though both are in contract years), but what will their role be now? Will they accept the diminished reponsibility that almost certainly seems to be headed their way? What will this team look like? How will we talk about it?

We're right at the precipice of entering a new era of Memphis Grizzlies history, even as the team stresses its continuity. We're going to have to find new things to talk about. The old stories are exhausted by now, and Memphis is a town that clings to its old stories like they're a source of life. We venerate the past here, even as we tear it down and run roads through it. It's a trap, a collective weakness for former greatness. And yet, a basketball team is a fluid thing. Faces change over time. People will be talking about Zach Randolph and Tony Allen for the rest of time in this town, but now we're going to have to find a new story to tell, a new language to use, a narrative that isn't depleted of the vitality that made it so important in the first place.

Grit & Grind is dead. Long live Grit & Grind. Now, please, please, please come up with something else to put on a t-shirt.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast, #54: Offseason Preview

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 1:39 PM

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This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • David Fizdale is hiring his staff. Is his goal to get the Grizzlies to the playoffs? Is that within his control?
  • Can Gasol and Conley stay healthy for a full season next year?
  • Are we confident the Grizzlies can find talent with the 17th pick?
  • Will the Grizzlies bring Lance Stephenson back on his team option, and if not, will they try to bring him back at all?
  • Playing devil's advocate: who plays PG if Conley leaves?
  • A rundown of some free agents who the Grizzlies could look at.

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

The Beyond the Arc podcast will return next season. Thanks for listening.

You can download the show here or listen below:


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast, #53: Fizdale Quick Take

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 8:41 PM

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This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • Would David Fizdale be a good hire?
  • How much of a factor is player development if Mike Conley stays with the Grizzlies?
  • Is Fizdale hire a sign that Conley is leaving?
  • Woj breaks the Fizdale news while we are recording
  • Will Mike Brown be on Fizdale's staff?
  • What does a new coach mean for what the Grizzlies will do next year offensively? Is "Grit & Grind" dead?
  • Does a Fizdale hire mean Chalmers will be back?

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:


Reports: David Fizdale hired as Grizzlies head coach

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 12:31 PM

David Fizdale - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • David Fizdale

Adrian Wojarowski of The Vertical is reporting that Miami Heat assistant (and director of player development) David Fizdale has agreed to a four-year deal to become the next head coach of the Grizzlies.

Fizdale comes highly touted (as discussed by Chris Herrington earlier this morning) as a good communicator, a well-liked "player's coach", and he has a reputation as being a good coach for player development—something with which the Grizzlies have struggled for the past several seasons.

I'll have more on this news tomorrow, but my immediate, gut-level reaction is this: you never know what kind of head coach an assistant is going to be. My personal preference might have been for someone who is more of an "X's and O's" guru, someone to be the overall strategist, but communication is important, and player development is absolutely critical to the future success of the Grizzlies, whether Mike Conley returns this summer or not. I think this hire shows that they Grizzlies are thinking strategically about where they are and where they're going, at least at the coaching level.

As I wrote in my column in this week's Flyer, this is only one of three big things the Grizzlies need to get right this summer, and each one is important to being a competitive team next year. I think this is a step in the right direction, with the caveat that Fizdale is untested. As for the rest, and for what this hire means for the Grizzlies' long-term plans... more on that to come.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast, #52: Head Coach Hullabaloo

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2016 at 6:36 AM

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This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • Last week's Lost Episode
  • What was the Grizzlies' motivation for letting Dave Joerger go?
  • Are the Grizzlies really disorganized? What about the successful season of moves they just had?
  • This is a make or break summer for the Grizzlies' front office.
  • Will Joerger make it with the Sacramento Kings? Can he keep DeMarcus Cousins happy?
  • Will Scott Skiles be considered for the Grizzlies' head coaching job? Who else?
  • Would David Blatt be a bad hire?

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:


Monday, May 9, 2016

What Now? The Grizzlies After Dave Joerger

Posted By on Mon, May 9, 2016 at 11:03 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The dust has settled a little bit after Saturday morning’s dismissal of Dave Joerger as the Grizzlies’ head coach, but I’m not sure we know much more than we did in those first few frantic hours on Saturday after the news started breaking. This morning, Adrian Wojnarowski has some news about the Grizzlies’ candidate list, though Woj’s list is conspicuously missing Mark Jackson, whose name was reported other places.

Here's what I think about the whole thing, after another day and a half to sit and think about it.

Who’s Running The Show?

One thing this weekend taught us is that the Grizzlies, rightly or wrongly, still haven’t managed to put the past behind them. The PR barrage the Griz took when Jason Levien and Stu Lash were sent packing after the 2013–14 still sticks with them, locally and nationally, as there was a great deal of Internet Speculation about the internal workings of the Grizzlies organization and a great deal of hand-wringing about whether the Grizzlies were such a disaster internally that they wouldn’t be able to find a quality replacement for Joerger.

The truth of the matter is complex. The Grizzlies’ party line is still that Chris Wallace is running the show, that he makes the decisions and presents them to ownership, and that there’s a very clear hierarchy in the basketball ops side of the franchise. The Basketball Twitter Rumor Mill dark timeline (which has even been promulgated by folks like Marc Stein at times) is that Grizzlies “Director” Joe Abadi makes the decisions, and that everyone else jockeys for position like in the Heisley days, when there were different factions in basketball management pushing different strategies and Heisley would decide. Or, sometimes, he’d just pick Hasheem Thabeet because he wanted to, no matter what anyone else wanted to do.

Honestly, I don’t know what the truth is. Most people in the organization seem to support the “official position,” but then, isn’t that in their best interests? Are the voices that say otherwise disgruntled, or telling the truth? I don’t know. And I don’t have enough evidence one way or another to make some kind of definitive statement about How Grizzlies Basketball Ops Really Works. I think that’s the way most NBA teams are, really. Each person in an organization has his or her own mental model of how that organization functions, and they can be vastly different from one another.

What is becoming apparent as the coaching search kicks into gear is that Wallace (and Ed Stefanski) seem to be in the driver’s seat. The lists of candidates we’ve seen—from Wojnarowski, from Ron Tillery at the Commercial Appeal, and from other places—seem to be “Wallace” lists. They fit with the kinds of guys I think Wallace would be interested in hiring.



Continue reading »

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Dave Joerger out as Grizzlies head coach

Posted By on Sat, May 7, 2016 at 10:02 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

As first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Dave Joerger was fired as the Grizzlies' head coach on Saturday morning after seeking permission to interview for the head coaching vacancy in Sacramento.

To those of you who have been paying attention all year long, this probably isn't much of a surprise.

For starters, it marks the second time in three seasons that Joerger sought permission to interview for another vacancy—the first being the Minnesota Timberwolves' opening after the 2013-14 season. Given that this is an extremely critical summer for the Grizzlies—Mike Conley's free agency looms large, for one thing, but there are also several other roster spots that will need to be filled, and a real need to develop a new generation of young players to fill in around (presumably returning) Conley and Marc Gasol—it's not hard to understand that a guy who wants to be somewhere else probably isn't the guy to move forward with.

That's not to say that Joerger isn't a good coach, or that he didn't do a good job with the Grizzlies. To me, this is all about the relationship he's had with the front office—starting the season calling the roster bad, and "making himself hard to work with" (the words of one Grizzlies staffer earlier in the season) behind closed doors. As the roster started to be torn apart by injuries to Gasol, Conley, Brandan Wright, and others, the tension seemed to fade, and everyone seemed to be pulling in the same direction, relentlessly positive in the face of overwhelming adversity.

That was all undone at the Grizzlies' final media availability after they were eliminated by the Spurs. Less than 24 hours after shedding tears about how hard his players fought, Joerger was back to making comments about "the management" choosing the roster, and even said he'd be taking a vacation until July 1 and wouldn't have any input into the drafting process.

I'm not saying that's why he got fired—I think he got fired because he made it clear he didn't want to coach the Grizzlies anymore, and was trying to find another gig, and there are few things worse than a lame duck coach on the last year of his contract who doesn't want to return. It was in the best interests of the Grizzlies' 2016-17 season that Joerger be let go now.

There are good coaches available now. Frank Vogel, for one, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear some names we've heard before in connection with Grizzlies coaching in the Pera era. (That's me being vague on purpose.) It was already going to be an interesting summer, and now it got even more interesting.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast, #50: Playoff Reflections

Posted By on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 at 6:22 AM

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This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • The end of the Grizzlies' season, as they got eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs (again).
  • Dave Joerger got emotional in his presser after the game, and good on him.
  • The West playoffs would've been much different with a healthy Grizzlies.
  • A look at the other series still going on.
  • And much more, as we get ready to record our final episodes of the 2015-16 season.

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:


Monday, April 25, 2016

The End of the Road: Spurs 116, Grizzlies 95

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2016 at 8:06 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies fell to the San Antonio Spurs 116-95 yesterday afternoon, completing an 0-4 sweep at the hands of the Western Conference's 2nd-seeded team—the third time the Spurs have eliminated the Grizzlies from playoff contention, all of them sweeps. The short-handed Grizzlies won the second quarter of the game—a rare feat in this series—and went into the locker room at halftime trailing by only two points, but in the third quarter, the Spurs realized what was up, knew they only had to play their basketball for one quarter to put the game out of reach, and did exactly that, outscoring the Grizzlies 37-21 in the 3rd. From there on, the final frame was mostly a formality.

I'm not sure what sort of in-depth analysis of these games or this series can even be done. The Grizzlies were missing several of their best players, barely led at all in the series (though they did, especially in the games at FedExForum). They never really had much of a chance to even win a game, and yet... they came out and fought for it. Against impossible odds that turned out to actually be impossible. It was a long-time-coming end to one of the most fraught and frustrating seasons the Grizzlies have had in a long time, maybe going back to the year before the Pau Gasol trade. And yet, that team had ten fewer players see game action through the course of the year.

I'll have more to say about the year as a whole, what it meant, and what the Grizzlies have to do going forward—there's a lot to be said about that—but for now, let's give the Spurs series a proper sendoff.

Five Thoughts

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Knowing something is inevitable doesn't mean it's fine when it comes. I knew in my heart of hearts that the Grizzlies probably wouldn't win a game in the series—but they almost pulled it off in Game 3, and in Game 4, they were playing well in the first half by following the same template: hitting shots when they could, forcing the Spurs into hasty decision-making, hounding them on defense, keeping them on their heels. The Spurs were winning, but not by much, and it seemed like if the Grizzlies could just keep them discombobulated enough that they couldn't make their big run, the Griz had a chance to steal a home game and make it a Gentlemen's Sweep.

That didn't happen. Instead the Spurs came out and did some Biblical "the Grizzlies will strike your heel and you will crush their heads" stuff, putting the Grizzlies in a blender and turning them into a pulp in the third quarter. It was the first time and only time in the whole series that the Spurs looked like the efficient basketball dream destroyers that they are, fully engaged and playing like they meant it, and the Grizzlies just had no answer for it. And how could they? Their hopes rested on Zach Randolph (who was limping around by that point) and Vince Carter and Matt Barnes—who are great role players, but the two of them aren't going to beat the Spurs by themselves.

I was taken aback by the quickness with which the Spurs punted the Grizzlies into the offseason in that quarter. I had a suspicion it was coming, but when it did, I was still deflated by it—no mean feat in a season full of such deflations at the hands of decent-to-good teams.

Lance Stephenson set a new career playoff high. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Lance Stephenson set a new career playoff high.

Lance Stephenson is a warrior. And I don't mean the Golden State kind. Stephenson set a new career playoff scoring high with 26 points on 11 of 19 shooting. He was the only guy on the floor who could make the Spurs' defense react to him instead of going through the same pre-schemed motions of denial and double teaming (like they've been doing to Zach Randolph for years. "Oh, yeah, you're going to your left hand? We know"). Lance was everywhere, trying to put the team on his back, and in the first half, he almost did it.

I don't know whether Lance will be on the Grizzlies next year. But whether he is or not, despite all of the questions about his head and his heart when the Grizzlies traded for him, he turned out to be a very polarizing and sometimes breathtaking player who also sometimes does the dumbest possible thing at the worst possible moment, but who never did anything but try to win basketball games for a team that desperately needed his help.

Whether he stays in Memphis or not, I'll never question whether Stephenson can make it in the league again. In the right situation, properly motivated and kept in check by an established locker room culture, I think he can still be great. I enjoyed watching him this year—he's always entertaining, even when he's not making good decisions, but in the Spurs series he seemed like the only guy whose natural abilities made them work for it.

I was surprised by Joerger's emotional postgame presser. Here's the video, for those of you who haven't seen it yet:

In a season where Joerger has sometimes seemed at odds with how his team was contructed (especially early on), to see him at the end of a long, brutal slog through this season, overcome by emotion when thinking about his team and their refusal to quit even when it seemed like there was no way they'd hang in to make the playoffs is something I won't soon forget.

A Visit from the Spoon Squad - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • A Visit from the Spoon Squad

This season was emotionally draining for me, and I was just watching and writing about these guys. I wasn't with them in all of the practices and meetings, all the meals on the road, all the shootarounds, halftime speeches after watching somebody else leave with something broken, flights back to Memphis with somebody else in a walking boot. If it was hard for me to watch, I can't imagine how much harder it must have been for the guys who were going through it (and still are, now that Jarell Martin's foot thing has flared back up). Joerger's reaction to the end seems to reflect the same pride and determination that the team has carried itself with ever since the trade deadline, when the "Goon Squad" started as a conscious decision to be positive about trades that shook up the rotation pretty majorly on a team that had only recently started to find its footing.

You can only carry on for so long in the face of crushing odds and inevitable decline. Once the Grizzlies got to the Spurs series, there was no way forward. To have that be over, and to know that most of the guys on this team will never play in a Grizzlies uniform again—Barnes, Andersen, and Farmar almost certainly won't, Lance Stephenson has a team option that probably won't get picked up (though that doesn't mean he won't be back), Hairston definitely won't (though he got a DNP-CD in Game 4, so who'll notice?), and the team has a decision to make about Vince Carter, too—has to be tough for a guy who has worked extremely hard to keep them together.

I don't know that Joerger deserves as much credit as people are saying for the way the Grizzlies played down the stretch—I think a lot of that came from the players on the team, the way they carry themselves, and who they are—but I do think he's done a good job in impossible circumstances, and I can't imagine how bittersweet it must be to know that (1) your team didn't get it done and there was nothing you could do about it and yet also (2) it's finally over.

This was really two seasons. One before the trade deadline, and one after. More to come on that, but the stretch run injury-pit Grizzlies were qualitatively and quantitatively different from the Jeff Green/Courtney Lee/Marc Gasol team. Just wanted to put that thought out there so I can talk more about it later.

The Spurs never really played well. Except for spurts at the end of quarters, the Spurs never really looked like the world-beaters they were in the regular season. I'm not sure how much of that is actually because they played badly, and how much of that is because they knew they could sweep the Grizzlies mostly on autopilot, but either way, they've got to straighten that out if they're going to advance. It was hard to tell whether Tim Duncan is finally showing his age or just coasting at 65% because he knew he didn't need to work any harder than that. I guess we'll find out.

Tweet of the Night Afternoon

Joerger cut his press conference short after he got so emotional, because he didn't feel like he had anything else to say. As folks started milling about after Joerger left:

Up Next

Exit interviews and the draft, I guess. It's going to take a while to digest this whole season, but that process starts today with the final media availability.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Game 3 Next Day Notes: Spurs 96, Grizzlies 87

Posted By on Sat, Apr 23, 2016 at 7:40 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Last night, the Grizzlies played a much better game than in the first two games of their first round matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, but they still struggled to execute down the stretch of the fourth quarter, and lost at home to go down 0-3 for the series.

When I talked to Hubie Brown on Thursday, he told me the Grizzlies would have to play a perfect game on Friday to win, and that's almost what they did. Tony Allen was moved to the starting unit in place of Chris Andersen, giving the Grizzlies a much smaller look than they'd gone with in games 1 and 2, and that contributed to a solid start (which, in this series, means they were only down 8 after the first frame).

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Led by scoring outbursts from Lance Stephenson and Xavier Munford, though really seven different guys scored points in the frame, the Grizzlies' second quarter was easily the best they've played in the whole series. They outscored the Spurs 25-18 in the second quarter to make it a one point game at halftime. The Spurs never really got their offense clicking last night, and Tony Parker (to pick the most obvious one) really didn't have a very good game. The Grizzlies defense hounded the Spurs relentlessly in a way they hadn't in the first two games, and at times, you could tell the crowd started to believe the Grizzlies could win—the energy changed in the building, and it started to feel like a real playoff game instead of a polite appearance to support the team.

The third quarter started a little rough, but the Griz quickly got their feet back under them, and an under-the-weather JaMychal Green made an appearance. Green was listed as probably with the dreaded "flu-like symptoms" before the game, but he fought through it, finishing with 10 points in 13 minutes, a perfect 5 for 5 from the field. Between Green and Matt Barnes making big buckets at crucial points, the Grizzlies finished the third with a 71-70 lead.

Speaking of the third quarter, failed mascot sidekick Natch the Black Bear showed up and ruined the birthday party of Grizz, so Grizz did this to him (and yes, I left out a "from" in this sentence, but I didn't feel like re-uploading the video):

  • Thursday, April 21, 2016

    Q&A: Hubie Brown on Grizzlies/Spurs, Memphis, and whether the Grizzlies are outdated

    Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 9:33 AM

    This weekend, ESPN Analyst Hubie Brown is calling Game 3 and 4 of the Grizzlies' playoff series against the Spurs on ESPN and ABC. But in Memphis, Brown is best known as the Grizzlies' head coach from 2002-2004, when he took them to the franchise's first 50-win season and first-ever playoff appearance, winning an NBA Coach of the Year award in the process. (It was the second time he'd won the award; the first was in 1977-78 with the Atlanta Hawks.)

    Because of his legendary coaching career and his encyclopedic knowledge of the game of basketball, and his unique ties to the city of Memphis and the Grizzlies franchise, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk to Hubie about Grizzlies/Spurs, about the season the Grizzlies have had, how basketball has evolved, and how Memphis has evolved as an NBA city. He did not disappoint. You can see from the way that Hubie answered these questions that his love of the game runs deep, and he's always teaching. It's what makes him one of the best analysts on TV, and what made him such a great interview.

    Hubie Brown
    • Hubie Brown

    Beyond the Arc: You're calling the Grizzlies/Spurs game this weekend, and the Grizzlies are kind of in dire straits. What do you do as a coach when you're in a situation where it doesn't look like there's any way you can win a series? What's it like when the odds are that against you? As a coach, how do you motivate your guys in that situation?

    Hubie Brown: Well, this is professional sports. Back in the older days of the league, if you went down 0-2 in the playoffs, you would come back and be positive about your preparation, talking to your team, that you were going to win the next two games.

    It doesn't make a difference what they beat you by in San Antonio. The key now is for you to play a perfect game on Friday night. And you say, "Well..." Well, no. Forget about the guys who were injured, forget about the guys who were traded. You're playing with the guys that you have. And they, just a week ago, ten days ago, played a perfect game against Golden State, and unfortunately for them, they didn't get the call at the end of the game. So that should be encouragement enough that they could come home and play in front of the home crowd, with the enthusiasm of the people, and then hopefully play a perfect game once again. And then hopefully win the game.

    But coaches in the NBA feel that you prepare to win every game. If they don't have that feeling, then they shouldn't be in the coaching profession. We're dealing with professional players, who can turn things around quickly even when the odds are greatly against them. All they have to do is just look at Dallas beating Oklahoma City in Oklahoma City after getting beat by close to 40 points. They came right back, and even though they were missing their key guys, and then Barea couldn't play, and then Williams who had a good first half couldn't play after that—so they were without their key guards. So look, that's how I feel.

    Continue reading »

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