Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast, #49: Trying To Find The Positives

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 9:55 AM


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

  • What happened to the Grizzlies in Game 1? Why was it so lopsided?
  • Chris Herrington on whether this Griz roster is worse than the 2001-02 Grizzlies
  • Where would the Grizzlies have been seeded if no one got injured?
  • Finding the positives in this playoff series
  • The Minnesota rumor mill
  • A look around the rest of the league—what series are exciting? What about Kobe?
  • Is Dave Joerger going to be back next year?

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 18, 2016

Five Thoughts on Game 1: Spurs 106, Grizzlies 74

Posted By on Mon, Apr 18, 2016 at 7:34 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Last night, the Grizzlies played the Spurs in the first game of their first round playoff series. Pretty much any other year in the history of the NBA, the Spurs would've been the top seed in the Western conference (they won 67 games, only six fewer than the record-setting Warriors) but instead, they flew a little bit under the radar. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, hung on to make the playoffs by the skin of their teeth and very likely wouldn't have if Chicago hadn't given up by the time they played.

The first half of the game was very different from the second half. The Grizzlies started Jordan Farmar, Vince Carter, Matt Barnes, Zach Randolph, and Chris Andersen (we'll pause here for a moment so you can stop weeping uncontrollably) and hung in with the Spurs pretty well, except for two big runs at the end of the first two quarters—and a complete inability to score in the first, which left them in a 22-13 hole after 12 minutes. The second quarter was much closer—the Griz were only outscored 26-24, thanks in part to very poor shooting from the Spurs, but also because of the Grizzlies' defensive effort. Again, though, the Griz gave up a big run at the end o fthe quarter and went into the locker room trailing by double digits.

From there, the third quarter was kind of like this:

The third quarter is when the carriage carrying the Grizzlies turned back into a pumpkin and deposited them on the side of the road before being run over by all the king's scary-looking horsemen. (Can you tell which Disney movie my daughter is currently binge-watching?) The same lineup that started the game started the second half (as per usual) and they got absolutely demolished for six straight minutes until Xavier Munford was subbed in for Farmar. Unfortunately, the substitutions didn't do much to stop the bleeding, and by the end of the 33-14 third quarter (that's two quarters in the teens, for those of you keeping track at home), the Griz were down 30 and the goal became to avoid losing as badly as the Dallas Mavericks did (which was a 38-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in their Game 1 on Saturday night).

They did avoid that, by the hardest, and can probably take a little bit of pride in not having the worst loss of the first weekend of the playoffs, I guess. But if they can't find more scoring firepower than that, the next three games of this series promise to follow the same script.

Five Thoughts

This is going to be a long series. Not really—at this point it looks like it's probably only going to be four games—but watching Game 1 was like watching a Cutlass Brougham on its third transmission meet the car crusher in slow motion. There's something about watching the Spurs pick apart a team until there's nothing left that slows down the passage of time, and I sure hope the Grizzlies' draft pick is worth whatever we've got to endure as the people watching these things. I can't imagine it's much more fun for the players.

The Grizzlies don't have enough scoring firepower to hang in this series. The defense really wasn't bad most of the game, but the Spurs' defense is historically good, and they shut down Zach Randolph (as they always do) so the Griz had no other real scoring threats. Vince did what he could, trying to single-handedly win the game, finishing with 16 points on 7 shots (but resting once the game was out of hand). Lance Stephenson, still playing for his NBA career on some level, had some great baskets. He took some bad shots, but overall I thought Lance played a pretty good game. But there's just not enough. Randolph went 3-13. Matt Barnes was 1-7. JaMychal Green did better (7 points, 3-7) than he did against the Warriors in game #82, but still struggled. There just aren't enough basketball players on this team to score. It's the classic Grizzlies problem, amplified by the absence of Conley, Gasol, Wright, and Chalmers.

Hey, remember these guys? - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Hey, remember these guys?

The goal now should be to get the young guys postseason experience. It's pretty clear that this isn't going to be a very competitive series. Best case scenario, to me, is that the Grizzlies somehow win one of the home games and force a Gentlemen's Sweep instead of being eliminated at FedExForum. That being the case, I think getting JaMychal Green, Jarell Martin, and Xavier Munford all of the time they can get in real postseason play will pay dividends down the road. The only way to be acclimated to playoff basketball is to play playoff basketball, and here's a golden opportunity to play these guys. And not just in garbage time, either—play them when the game is still within reach. They'll learn. This is valuable time. I'd hate to see the Grizzlies waste it on guys who are (1) old and (2) not going to be here next year, like Farmar and Andersen and most likely Barnes.

It would probably be wise to spend these games looking at draft scouting reports on guys in the 15-20 range. I guess this isn't really a thought about this series, but in a way, it's related: because the Grizzlies made the playoffs this year, they get to keep their pick in this summer's draft. The Grizzlies have the 17th pick. It's the lowest/best pick they've had since the Xavier Henry year, and it promises to be an important one; if you find yourself staring glassy-eyed at the screen while the Spurs start another one of their Finely Honed Death Machine runs while the Grizzlies struggle in vain to stop it, just go look up highlights of guys like Denzel Valentine and Timothe Luwawu and Domantas Sabonis (yes, that Sabonis) and hope that the Grizzlies can find a guy who develops into a quality NBA player sooner rather than later.

This series is going to be hard to talk about. The playoffs are a chess match, a game of adjustments and counter-nadjustments, played over the course of a whole series, with each team tweaking what it does to meet the challenge of the opponent. That's what makes playoff basketball so fascinating, and what makes it so much easier to analyze and discuss: you have to think about what adjustments the coaches will make, and how the other team will adjust to those adjustments. There's not a lot of that here. The Grizzlies are mostly depleted, and the Spurs just have to go out and play something resembling Spurs basketball and that should be enough. There just aren't that many adjustments for the Grizzlies to make, really—and that's going to make this one harder to reason about and pick apart. There's just not much "there" there.

Tweet of the Night

Well, this about sums up last night's game:

Up Next

Game 2 is Tuesday night in San Antonio at 8:30.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Warriors 125, Grizzlies 104: Next Day Notes, Game 82 Edition

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 7:50 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

It came and went, poorly, much like the regular season to which it belonged, only with fewer injuries and less existential dread. The 2015–16 regular season finally came to an end last night in Oakland, with the Grizzlies unable to stop the Golden State Warriors from winning 73 games in a single NBA season. After only losing to the Warriors by a single point in Memphis on Saturday, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that they’d have a harder time of it at Oracle Arena, and that proved to be true.

It’s hard to find much to say about it other than “turns out it’s hard to beat the best team of all time without all of your good players.” Tony Allen sat out with hamstring tightness, denying us one last burst of “first team All Defense”-shouting insanity to cap the Grizzlies’ 82 game run, adding to the already-long list of players not available for last night’s game. If the Griz had been able to pull off the victory, it would’ve been one of the biggest regular season upsets in the history of the NBA, if not the biggest. But it’s curious to me that the Grizzlies lost a game at Oracle by fifty points earlier in the year, when everyone was ostensibly healthy. This season has never stopped being strange and snake-bit.

Here are some thoughts on last night’s game and what these last few regular season games have told us about the Grizzlies in the playoffs.

Five Thoughts

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Xavier Munford got burnt to a crisp and I’m fine with it. The rookie, one of the Grizzlies’ many 10-day guys this year, had the challenge of guarding Steph Curry in a game where (1) 73 wins and (2) a mind-numbing 400 made 3-pointers in a season were on the line. It didn’t really go that well for him; Munford did a lot of chasing and a lot of closing out just a bit too late to stop Curry from getting a shot off. Such is life. Better to have Munford getting torched and learning valuable lessons about defense at the NBA level than to have Jordan Farmar getting torched and learning valuable lessons about what he can and can’t do anymore.

This is what happens when you play young guys: sometimes they get turned into BBQ chicken and that just has to be the way it is. If the Grizzlies had more on the line last night, maybe I’d be more upset about this, but I doubt it.

Lance Stephenson had a good game. Lance scored 22 points on 8–14 shooting, including 3–3 from long range. He had some really nifty assists. He made things happen. It was a pretty good performance from him, and he provided scoring that the Grizzlies needed desperately because they weren’t really getting it from anybody else not named Zach Randolph. I don’t know what the future holds for Stephenson and the Grizzlies. If he’s back next year, I strongly doubt it will be because the Grizzlies picked up his team option, but would more likely be on a cheaper, longer deal. But I do know that having a guy like Lance who can create scoring opportunities for himself is really valuable, and with a Grizzlies team that has Gasol, Conley, and Wright all playing, there’s a possibility that Lance could grow into a really important role player. We’ll see.

The Spurs. Again. Always crashing in the same car.

  • Larry Kuzniewski

I still wish they’d kept Ray McCallum over Jordan Farmar. Farmar has hit some threes at important moments. Other than that, he’s had some horrible blown layups, he’s been burned like Centralia, Pennsylvania on defense, and he always seems to be arguing with somebody who’s been on the team longer while walking back to the bench. I’m not saying I think McCallum would be playing a lot better in the same role, but at least he’s a younger guy with more potential, and more NBA experience this season. The Grizzlies’ Retread Point Guard Collection is one of my least favorite things about the franchise.

The defense has to get better for the playoffs. Part of this is personnel, part of it is playing younger guys with less experience, and part of this is just focus. They can’t really do anything about the first two, but they can help the third. There have been countless baskets made by the Grizzlies’ opponents down the stretch of this brutal slog of a season where the Grizzlies just haven’t been paying attention on defense and let somebody get a wide open look. Last night PJ Hairston stood in the restricted area and watched his man shoot a three more than once. The communication has to get better, and the mental acuity has to get better. They’re never going to be as good at it as a full-strength Griz squad, and even that full-strength squad has been starting to show signs of a decline on the defensive end, but they can be better than they are, and they have to be, or the Spurs are going to cut them into little pieces like a band saw. Given that they might do that anyway, the Griz need to find that extra bit of focus and communication on defense.

Tweet of the Night

So much this. He’s like the control rod in a nuclear reactor.

Up Next

  • Larry Kuzniewski

A playoff series against a Spurs team that is way better than most people noticed because they were overshadowed by the 73-win Warriors, which will probably be over pretty quickly.

Then, probably a few weeks of rumors like the ones that broke last night that the Timberwolves want Dave Joerger to be their coach even though he’s got another year on his contract with the Grizzlies. You know. I’d like for the Grizzlies to sign Russell Westbrook this summer, too, but he’s got another year on his contract with the Thunder, so publicly announcing that doesn’t do a lot of good.

I’m not sure if the “Wolves want Joerger” rumors are origiating with Joerger/his agent (who understandably want to use whatever leverage they have to get more money/a longer deal; that’s kind of the whole job of an agent) or from the Timberwolves (who would need to trade something back to the Grizzlies to acquire Joerger at this point, something they were unwilling to do the last time Joerger wanted the Minnesota job), but either way, before the playoffs have even started, the timing is pretty stupid.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Grizzlies have any plans to fire Joerger this summer. It may have seemed headed that way earlier this season, with Dave being openly critical of the front office and the way the team is constructed, but as trades and injuries happened, everyone seemed to start pulling together towards one goal, and it felt (from my vantage point, anyway) like a lot of those tensions dissipated, or were at least subsumed in the frantic playoff push. He’s got another year on his contract, a year that was guaranteed in an extension the last time he talked to the Timberwolves about taking their head coaching gig. We’ll see. I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear of this or talk about it, because the fact that the rumor mill has already started, before the regular season is even done, means it’s on somebody’s agenda to keep it in the public eye.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast, #48: The Grizzlies vs. 73

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 9:24 AM


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

  • Neither of us expected the Grizzlies to beat the Bulls as soundly as they did.
  • The Grizzlies have clinched a playoff berth and can't finish any worse than 7th place.
  • The Warriors, selling tickets to a historic game, comparing great teams of different eras, and did people forget about LeBron?
  • How important is it for the Grizzlies to re-sign Mike Conley? How much does his health matter?
  • Kevin's interview with Jarell Martin from last week.

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:

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Warriors 100, Grizzlies 99: Next Day Notes

Posted By on Sun, Apr 10, 2016 at 7:43 AM

Xavier Munford had a good night against Golden State. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Xavier Munford had a good night against Golden State.

That was the kind of game the Grizzlies haven't had in a while: a home game in which the Grizzlies opened up a big(ish) lead on one of the top teams in the league, and held it for a while, only to have their opponent find another gear down the stretch of the fourth quarter and come back and win. Actually, it was a lot like the Grizzlies' recent loss to the Toronto Raptors, except with more Steph Curry jerseys in the crowd and more of a chance by the Grizzlies to actually win the game.

With the game on the line, trailing by one point with 8 seconds in the game, the Griz got a stop and got the ball back, with time to draw up one final play. Dave Joerger usually excels at drawing up ATO (after time-out) plays, so there was no doubt he'd come up with something great for this one, too. Instead, the Grizzlies ran an isolation play for Lance Stephenson, who went up a little too soft and missed, got his own rebound, and had to chuck another shot over three defenders with all four other Grizzlies still on the other side of the floor. You can always second-guess these things—if Stephenson had made hit first layup, we're not having this conversation because the Grizzlies probably win—but it was a frustrating end to a great night of basketball from the Grizzlies, one that renewed hope that the upcoming playoffs might not be a total bloodbath for the depleted Beale St. Bears.

The Griz have two games left—a road back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday at the Clippers and at Golden State—and then the playoffs start on Saturday, and there are several scenarios that get the Grizzlies the 6, 7, and 8 seed, which all depend on what happens to Dallas and Utah as well as whether the Grizzlies win. It's probably not worth trying to play the matchup game—the Griz will be playing the Thunder, the Spurs, or the Warriors in the first round. We probably won't know which until late Wednesday night.

Five Thoughts

Xavier Munford had himself a night. Fresh on the heels of getting signed to a "multi-year" deal (which I'm told is a minimum deal for this year and next with a team option this summer) Xavier Munford tried to put the Grizzlies on his back against what might be the best NBA team of all time, and it almost worked. Munford finished with 8 points on 10 shots—not the most efficient performance offensively—but what made his game so great wasn't his scoring, it was everything else. He facilitated, he got 3 steals, he was in the right place at the right time, and the buckets he did make all felt important, keeping the Grizzlies' momentum going. It was a great night for a guy who is probably the best 10-day guy the Grizzlies brought in (with the possible exception of Briante Weber, who is now on a 3-year deal with the Heat). It's going to be interesting to see whether he's on the roster on opening night next year given the fact that Andrew Harrison will also be in camp, but that could be a good rookie backcourt.

Z-Bo apparently didn't get fouled. In the two games that the Grizzlies played on Friday and Saturday night, Zach Randolph attempted 39 field goals and attempted one free throw. Now, I usually don't like to complain about officiating, but anyone and everyone who has ever seen Randolph play knows there's just no way he didn't get fouled at all during the course of either game. Especially last night, with Golden State collapsing on him, hacking and swiping every time he caught the ball with his back to the basket. In a one point game, that stuff matters. Granted, the refs last night didn't call many fouls at all on either end of the floor. But again, maybe even one trip to the line for Randolph puts the Grizzlies winning 101-100 instead of losing 100-99.

Marc Gasol was on the bench. He can walk now, kinda. I'm not sure he should have been on the bench, cramped and uncomfortable, and walking around on crutches during timeouts. The team box has more leg room, and he can remain comfortably seated the whole time. But you try telling Marc Gasol he can be at the games but not on the bench, and let me know how that goes.

Vince Carter started his first game of the season. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Vince Carter started his first game of the season.

Vince Carter started and played well. It was Carter's first start of the season, and he almost carried the team to victory, making shots over defenders, defending well (especially against Harrison Barnes early on), getting thrown to the floor by Draymond Green (which might qualify as elder abuse, I'm not sure—we'll check the Tennessee statutes and get back to you). It was a reminder of (1) the fact that Vince Carter: Grizzly is still a pretty cool thing even at this late phase of his career and (2) just how much better Vince has been this year than last year, when summer ankle surgery made him look like he was past his sell-by date. This year's Carter may not be able to play 30 minutes a night on a regular basis—last night, Tony Allen was out, so he didn't have much of a choice—but he can still make plays when it matters.

JaMychal Green vanished. He's played really well for the Grizzlies this year, but last night, matched up against the Warriors' swarming, long defenders, JaMychal Green finished 1-8 from the floor for 7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers. It was an odd disappearing act for a guy whose effort has been one of the few consistent positives for the Grizzlies all season long, but understandable given his size and the way the Warriors defended him. With any luck, it's just an anomaly, and not the start of a bigger slump headed into the postseason.

JaMychal Green struggled to find his offense. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • JaMychal Green struggled to find his offense.

Tweet of the Night

While watching Xavier Munford ball, a little fun at the Clippers' expense is always called for:

Up Next

The Grizzlies are in LA to face the Clippers Tuesday night, and then in Oakland to take on the Warriors in what could be their 73rd win on Wednesday night. And then, they rest, until time to play the first round. I wouldn't be upset in the least if Tony Allen and Zach Randolph sit out both of these games to rest before the first round. They both have such a history of playing better after a week of rest. But I also doubt strongly that Randolph will allow himself to be rested for these two. We'll see.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Q&A: Jarell Martin on Z-Bo, the D-League, and coming to hoops late

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2016 at 7:13 AM

  • NBA

The Grizzlies have a track record of not playing rookies. And when they picked Jarell Martin in this year's draft, I didn't like it. Well, Jarell Martin is playing a big role off the bench for the Grizzlies, and I was dead wrong about the draft pick. He and JaMychal Green are quickly forming chemistry as a frontcourt duo, and though he's still rough around the edges, it's been a joy to watch Martin start to get comfortable on the floor during an NBA game.

But. Nobody's really talked to him that much. I decided to change that, and caught up with Jarell before the Grizzlies' practice on Thursday. We talked about the D-League, about playing with Vince Carter and Zach Randolph, and about his late discovery of basketball.

KL: So first off, did you think you'd be playing this many minutes this year? Or did you think you were going to be more in the D-League?

JM: I knew that coming in I wasn't going to be able to play that many minutes, because I did my research and... they don't play many rookies a lot of playing time usually. It's just great being out there, being able to be with the team and contribute, and just going out there and playing. It feels great.

KL: This team has a lot of—I won't say old guys—veteran guys who have been around a long time, like Vince... I know he sees a lot of his role as being a mentor. How has that been, having him around?

JM: Oh, It's been great. You know, Vince is always coming to me, talking to me during the games, telling me things that I can do. You know, just teaching me the ropes of the game at the NBA level. So it's great having him around and him being able to show me to do the right thing the right way.

KL: Does the veteran guys help you as much off the court as they do on? You guys live a unique life, being an NBA player. Have the older guys helped you make that transition, too?

JM: Oh yeah. They all guide me, things to do off the court and stuff. Doing the right things, working hard, staying in the gym, and they do a great job of that, giving back.

KL: And stuff like 'I know this good restaurant to go to in Phoenix.'

JM: Yeah, they show me the ropes. You know, don't do all the club scene and stuff, just when you're out on the road, go to a nice restaurant, maybe go see a movie, stuff like that.

KL: So you came to basketball late. When did you start playing? Junior year?

JM: Yeah, junior year of high school I started playing organized ball.

KL: What took you so long to find basketball?

JM: I was into other sports. You know, I ran track, and I played football as well. And my high school coach grabbed me and wanted me to play so I did, and I really fell in love with the game.

KL: Do you feel like you've had more to learn than other rookies because of that? There are so many guys who grow up playing AAU ball and stuff, and you don't have that. Do you feel like that's a disadvantage for you?

JM: No, I'm a guy that picks up on things really fast. I definitely think I've caught up with the other guys. I'm like a sponge, I just soak everything up.

  • Larry Kuzniewski

KL: Obviously Zach is one of the great big men in the game. What's that been like? How much have you learned from him?

JM: Man. I love Zach's game. I really watch his game and study it and try to take pointers from him. And really work on my face up and learn from him, and the way he takes his time and uses his jab to perfection.

KL: He's so patient with it.

JM: Yeah, he is. He's really patient. That's something I'm trying to add in to my game, being real patient, see what the defense gives me before going, and, you know, that's one thing that I've definitely taken from him. It's been great to be on this team with Z-Bo, being able to learn from him, and being able to guard him, it's a great feeling.

KL: You've also been playing a lot of minutes with JaMychal Green. You guys have got a little bit of chemistry going lately. What makes him easy to play with for you?

JM: When there's two guys out there who work their butts off, the chemistry will be there. We both just run the floor hard, and we're young guys who want to show this organization what we can do. We want to be those energy guys coming off the bench. It's great when me and JaMychal are in the game. We just battle real hard.

KL: So you were hurt the first part of the year, but then you played in Iowa, and now you're playing real NBA minutes. So... what's the biggest difference in playing in a D-League game and then playing in an NBA game? It's different, right?

JM: Yeah, it's real different. In the D-League, it's really kind of like pickup ball, like you're playing a pickup game in a gym somewhere. It's really fast. Everybody's just getting up and down the floor. In the NBA, guys take their time, they don't rush, they move the ball a lot. It's really different. In the NBA you have to play a team defense, but in the D-League it's really more like man to man.

KL: I watched when Russ [Smith] had that 65 point game, and there just wasn't anybody protecting the rim, and I wondered whether the whole league is like that or if it was just that game.

JM: It's really all like that. I don't see how somebody can always be getting the rim—because that's a team thing, that's not really a man thing.

KL: I wondered how that translates. Because teams are using the D-League to get guys some minutes and some experience, and get their feet wet playing ball, but if it doesn't translate that well...

JM: Yeah. But it was great for me, you know, coming off of injury, just to go down there and get my feet wet and just get some minutes, get back comfortable and confident with my game. It was still really good for me.

KL: So what's the big thing you want to work on this summer? What's the number one thing you know you want to work on this summer?

JM: Man. That's a tough thing, because I'm a guy... I want to be the best player I can be, so I'm trying to work on everything. My defense, my offense, being able to play facing up to the basket, being able to back down and play on the block... I just want to work on everything. My body, getting healthy, all of it.

KL: So I heard from somebody you like to hunt.

JM: Yeah. You know, I grew up in the country, in different parts of Louisiana.

KL: My friend from Baton Rouge [Author's note: this friend is Matt Hrdlicka] wanted me to ask you if you ever caught a nutria.

JM: (Laughs) Nah. No.

KL: One last question. This is kind of more about Grizzlies lineups. You're usually a power forward, but if you're going to play out of position in some of these three-big lineups, would you rather play bigger against a 5 or as more of a perimeter guy?

JM: I've never really thought about it, but one time coach had me in one of those lineups that was me, JMyke, and Ryan Hollins, and he put me out on the perimeter. I'm more of a face-up guy like that, so I'd probably say the three spot.

KL: So does that mean you're shooting three-pointers next year?

JM: (Laughs) Oh yeah. Whenever I'm wide open.

KL: You'll start right after Marc does.

JM: Yep.

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Grizzlies 108, Bulls 92: Next Day (Win) Notes

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 9:30 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Last night the Grizzlies stopped a six game losing streak by steamrolling the hapless Chicago Bulls, 108-92. However bad the Grizzlies may be right now—however hard it is for them to generate offense and pull the same direction in this depleted state—they didn't have any trouble dispatching the Bulls, who weren't communicating well, who weren't making effort plays, and who just generally seemed disinterested in the game. The Bulls looked like a team who finally realized they don't have anything left to fight for this year, while the Grizzlies faced a must-win scenario after failing to capitalize on "winnable" games against Denver and Orlando and blowing a lead against Toronto.

With the win, the Grizzlies' hopes of making the playoffs and keeping their draft pick are still alive. A loss last night would've made things pretty dire headed into the last four games of the regular season, and the situation is still serious. But at 42 wins, and Utah losing to the Spurs, the Griz are still in fifth place, three games up on the 8th-place Jazz and 3.5 up on the 9th-place Rockets. Portland beat the Kings last night, so loss would've dropped the Grizzlies to 6th.

It's worth paying attention to the standings every night from here on out. The Grizzlies' upcoming game at Dallas is now really important, and if Houston starts winning games, could serve as an elimination game for the Mavericks by the time the Griz get there. Can the discombobulated Grizzlies take out Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki when it matters? I guess we'll save that for Friday.

Maybe the canonical Z-Bo Mean Mug. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Maybe the canonical Z-Bo Mean Mug.

The real story on the court last was that Zach Randolph demolished everything in his path. With so much on the line, Z-Bo went to work last night, finishing the game with 27 points and 10 rebounds on 10 of 19 shooting. He started off well with rookie Bobby Portis guarding ("guarding") him—he said after the game that being matched up against the rookie got him going, and it was apparent to everyone in the arena that Randolph was relishing the opportunity to welcome another young man to a life of pain. After that, Randolph systematically picked apart Pau Gasol the rest of the night. Marc Gasol was in the building last night—he sat in the team's box for most of the game, and was shown on the big screen at one point. One has to think that Marc took no small amount of pleasure in watching his older brother get demolished by his Other Brother.

With everything on the line last night, and a win desperately needed (Dave Joerger would say later in the postgame presser that he didn't know how long the losing streak was, just that they neded a win, but Z-Bo was very upfront about the fact that a six game losing streak bothered him), Randolph put the team on his back and carried the scoring load against a Bulls defense that, even when they doubled him, wasn't really doing much to slow him up. Each one of these little Z-Bo games is a pearl, and we've been stringing them together this season, even in the midst of all the garbage.

A more unexpected turn was Lance Stephenson, who didn't play at all. He's been struggling lately. Defenses know well enough by now that he's going to try to drive to the rim, and when he gets the ball early in the shot clock sometimes he gets tunnel vision, knowing he's the primary option to score, and he just doesn't do anything but drive into the teeth of the defense and turn the ball over. It's been a tough couple of games for Lance. So last night, when the Grizzlies were in a rhythm without him, Joerger rode the matchups that were working and left Lance on the bench.

I can't imagine Stephenson was too happy about getting a DNP-CD in a critical game, but I also don't get a sense that it caused a problem. Lance has been really professional his whole time in Memphis so far, has already guaranteed that he'll get a contract from somebody this summer, if not the Grizzlies, and will get a chance to be Playoff Lance soon enough if things go the Grizzlies' way.

There's one four man group I need to call attention to, though. Xavier Munford, Vince Carter, JaMychal Green, and Jarell Martin have been killing opponents lately. In the Toronto game, with Lance at small forward, they were responsible for building the Grizzlies' big lead more than once (the lead that disappeared as soon as they were all subbed out of the game). Last night, they were big, too, with Matt Barnes as the 5th guy. Something about the playmaking of Munford and Carter coupled with the bouncy high-energy athleticism of Green and Martin makes this a really compelling group to watch—especially when Green and Martin pull off an unexpected dunk and rev the motorcycle as they run back down the court. Vince looks at them like a proud uncle. It's great.

Overall, it was a good night in a stretch of season that has had almost no good nights. The Grizzlies came out on their home court and smashed somebody they needed to smash. It was finally a game where the Grizzlies' sheer effort was enough to get it done, and that's the kind of game they needed to get the win.

  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Xavier Munford

Tweet of the Night

March 2 feels like a lifetime ago.

Up Next

Friday night the Grizzlies are in Dallas to play the Mavericks. Saturday night they're at home against the Giant Spinning Buzzsaw Of Basketball Death Golden State Warriors. After that, they're on the road Tuesday night at the Clippers and Wednesday night at Golden State again, and that's all she wrote on the regular season.

The Dallas game is critical. They can make the playoffs if they lose, but they really need to win it to be safe. Beyond that, any potential win is a pipe dream bonus. It's going to be an important week of score-watching to see what everyone else in the bottom half of the West playoffs is doing, too. Portland, Utah, Dallas, and Houston all have big games.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Nuggets 109, Grizzlies 105: Next Day Notes

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 9:19 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski
Last night the Grizzlies lost to the Nuggets, dropping a game that they almost had to win to be safe in their grip on the Western Conference's 5th seed. Herewith, some thoughts:

Game Notes


Up Next

The Grizzlies play the Toronto Raptors at the Forum on Friday, and then they have two more winnable ("winnable") games: Sunday at Orlando, and Tuesday night at home against the Chicago Bulls. Whether these games are really winnable really seems like it's going to come down to pure chance at this point; if the Grizzlies can catch their opponent flat-footed and grind one out, or if Zach Randolph can put up another triple double, or if Lance Stephenson can get back to the peak form he was in just a week and a half ago, the Grizzlies will be fine. If not, well, we've seen it enough times by now to know it might get ugly.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast, #47: The Jordan Farmar Era

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 9:31 AM


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

  • The Matt Barnes/John henson fracas in Milwaukee.
  • Kevin says the Chalmers injury was the moment the joy left the season for him.
  • Jordan Farmar is on the Grizzlies now. Will they keep him? Will they keep Ray McCallum?
  • Zach Randolph got his first ever triple double against LA.
  • A rundown of the injury situation as it currently stands.
  • Are the Grizzlies going to bring Lance Stephenson back after this season?
  • Who do the Grizzlies want to play in the playoffs?

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:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spurs 101, Grizzlies 87: Five Thoughts

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 9:49 AM

Lance Stephenson had a long night. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Lance Stephenson had a long night.

The Grizzlies lost to the Spurs last night at home, 101-87, putting to rest the dreams of many that after their strong showing in San Antonio on Friday night, the Griz might be able to come out on their home court and steal one from the usual suspects in black and silver. Except it wasn't all of the usual suspects: the Spurs were without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and David West—which was fine, because we all know by now the list of Grizzlies who are out (definitely or indefinitely) and it's a nice gesture for visitors to play without five of their best players, too, to make it a fair contest.

The grind of the post-Goon-Squad era has really started to get to me. These games are fun when they win, and mostly unwatchable when they don't—they're sloppy, poorly-executed, maximum effort and low efficiency, and those are the good games. The Grizzlies' chances are so dependent on focus and execution right now that they can't afford to come out even the slightest bit off-kilter, which they did last night, lacking focus even from the first tip. And it caught up to them.

Here are five thoughts on last night's game, and What It All Means:

Five Thoughts

JaMychal Green, who has played more games (70 of 74) for the Grizzlies than anybody this year. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • JaMychal Green, who has played more games (70 of 74) for the Grizzlies than anybody this year.

Playing hard isn't good enough against the Spurs, even when they're resting some of their best players. Dave Joerger said it in his postgame presser last night: the Grizzlies just didn't look like they were very focused, and made mistakes (turnovers, especially) all night long. The Grizzlies, in the Core Four era, have always won by playing harder than their opponents, but there's an efficiency there, the inevitability of wearing down an opponent through the middle. They can't do that right now—they just don't have the personnel—so they have to keep mistakes to a minimum. At least some of the new guys should at least know a subset of the plays by now, or at least have a general idea of how they want the ball to find the basket. That has to be executed against good teams. Effort alone won't get them there.

There was no one to stop LaMarcus Aldridge. Zach Randolph usually makes it a point to have a big night against his former Trail Blazers teammate, but he was gone last night. He usually can defend Aldridge OK, too, and if he can't, Marc Gasol can try. Neither of those guys were available last night, leaving it to JaMychal Green, Jarell Martin (a rookie) and Ryan Hollins (my thoughts on whom are very well documented). As a result, Aldridge had 31 points in 31 minutes on 11 of 16 shooting, and pulled down 13 rebounds. Without anyone to guard him well, and without some of his best teammates, turns out Aldridge can put a serious hurting on the Grizzlies all by himself.

Live By The Lance, Die By The Lance. He's had some really good games lately, but last night was probably the worst game Lance Stephenson has had yet in a Grizzlies uniform. He couldn't hit anything, and was trying to freelance and get to the rim, but the entire Spurs roster knew that's what he was going to do, so every time he started to isolate, they were sending guys at him before he even stepped inside the arc. As a result, his decision-making, probably his biggest weakness even when he's playing at his absolute best, suffered mightily. It was not good. It was very bad. Hopefully it was a regression to the mean after some very good play by Stephenson and not a sign of future problems as the strain of playing 30 minutes a night against strong competition starts to become an issue.

  • Larry Kuzniewski

I was told there would be fun. Post-Goon Squad, and I say we're Post Goon Squad because that team was supposed to have Conley, Chalmers, Z-Bo, Brandan Wright, and even PJ Hairston on it, the operative theory has been that the Grizzlies are fun to watch because they're playing without any expectations. That's really only half true, though. They're fun to watch when they're the scrappy underdog pulling off improbably victories. When they get down 15 or so and stay there no matter how hard (but sloppy) they play, the product is considerably harder to take. Last night was an example of that—one of the ugliest games I've ever watched in person. It isn't as much fun as maybe I thought it was going to be. It's a little hard for me not to see Chalmers' exit as the moment all the joy was sucked out of the room, even though there have been some good games since.

Watch the standings. The playoff race hasn't become a thing yet—the Grizzlies are still 2.5 games up on the 6th place Blazers and 5 games up on the 8th place Rockets and 9th place Mavericks. But they're going to have to win some more to be guaranteed a playoff spot—Wednesday's game against Denver (who just lost to Dallas) and Sunday's game against Orlando stick out as two particularly winnable contests. If they start to put together a losing streak, the playoff battle will become A Real Thing more quickly than Grizzlies fans would like to admit.

Tweet of the Night

This about summed up last night:

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Up Next

Denver at home Wednesday, Toronto at home Friday, on the road to Orlando on Sunday, and a home game Tuesday against the faltering Bulls. The Griz really need to win at least two games out of these four, and beyond that, that Friday (4/8) game in Dallas has the potential to turn into an elimination game for the Mavs. After that, the Warriors, and, well, I don't want to think about that yet.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Grizzlies 113, Clippers 102: Next Day Z-Bo Notes

Posted By on Sun, Mar 20, 2016 at 7:55 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

It was probably the greatest home game of the season, if not one of the greatest the Grizzlies have ever played during the regular season, and I was home watching from the couch, the lingering tail-end of a migraine rattling around in my head. But even though I was consigned to the couch, I could tell it was going to be special early on.

  • Larry Kuzniewski

In the first three minutes of the game, Zach Randolph had 8 points on 4/4 shooting. By the end of the first half, that was 14, and he had 4 rebounds and 6 assists. At halftime, Tony Allen had 13 points and hadn't missed a shot yet. The story of the second half isn't much different from the first, except the contributions were more even: JaMychal Green made some great hustle plays. Ray McCallum guarded Chris Paul without fear, did a good job of it, and hit a couple of big jumpers right on the Clippers' heads.

Turns out all it takes for greatness to erupt from these Grizzlies is for the hated Los Angeles Clippers to roll into town. Even without Blake Griffin, the Clippers are still objectively better than the Grizzlies (well, at least their starters are) when the Griz are missing so many players. As soon as I knew that Zach Randolph and Vince Carter were returning, though, I knew it would actually be a game, not the exercise in frustration the last two contests (vs. Minnesota and at Milwaukee, both losses) have been. The Grizzlies were headed towards a 5-game losing streak, and needed to win one or two more games this year to make sure they stayed in the playoffs.

Zach Randolph's game was special. We've had a lot of Z-Bo Moments over the years (and a disproportionate number of them seem to come against the Clippers), but he put on a clinic last night—roasting DeAndre Jordan, continuing the trend of playing even smarter against the kind of extra-athletic defenders who used to be able to clamp a lid over Randolph's ground-bound game, and dishing the ball out to whoever was behind him when the Clippers brought their double team at exactly the same point in every post-up. Dave Joerger on those assists:

It was a great night. A further chapter in The Zach Randolph Legend, which citizens of The Memphis Radiation Zone will someday still tell each other after the nuclear apocalypse. But it wasn't just Z-Bo who showed out (although a first-ever triple double for a guy who's 34 and probably headed for the Hall of Fame isn't exactly a minor deal). Of the guys new to town on 10-day contracts, all three who played (Alex Stepheson got a DNP-CD) acquitted themselves well last night, but Ray McCallum and newest arrival Xavier Munford had the biggest impact last night.

I think this is the only photo I have of Xavier Munford and he's knocking the ball away from Jamal Crawford. Welcome to Memphis, Xavier. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • I think this is the only photo I have of Xavier Munford and he's knocking the ball away from Jamal Crawford. Welcome to Memphis, Xavier.

McCallum held the game together and hit some big shots while playing better defense than I've seen him play yet in his time with the Grizzlies. He's got clear weaknesses to his game—he's not the quickest guy out there—but he showed poise last night, and a Chalmers-esque ability to hit a big shot at the most annoying possible time for the Clippers. Xavier Munford had a good all-around game, too. He was presumably brought in because he can shoot, but he had some timely rebounds last night, and got up for a big dunk I'm not sure anyone who hasn't been watching the Bakersfield Jam expected.

It was a game that restored a sense of joy that was rapidly draining from this season, and there wasn't much to go around in the first place. The ugly incident in Milwaukee that resulted in Matt Barnes' suspension against his old team was just an exclamation point on a week-long slide, a descent into chaos that the Grizzlies couldn't really do anything about until they got some of their stalwart veteran players back. That's what happened on Saturday night, and that's what made the difference, and it was a good time for #50 to put the team on his back and carry them through to a victory.

Someday they're going to put a big #50 in the rafters at FedExForum, and when they do, this is going to be one of the games that people are murmuring to each other about. One in a long litany of them, sure, but it will be one of them. And the fact that that last night's game may have also salvaged the Grizzlies' hopes of remaining in the playoffs and keeping their draft pick makes it that much sweeter. By my math, they really only need to win 1 or 2 more games to make that happen—the 7th-place Rockets are 5 games back, the 8th-place Mavericks are 5.5 back, and the 9th-place Jazz are 6.5 back. We'll see how all of that plays out in the next two weeks, but one thing is for sure:

Zach Randolph against the Clippers is still one of the best things in basketball, and probably will continue to be so as long as he's playing.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Bucks 96, Grizzlies 86: Altercation Blues

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 7:40 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Last night in Milwaukee, the Grizzlies lost their fourth game in a row after a close-fought game in which their effort just couldn't make up for their lack of offense, and then probably lost one of their two or three best remaining players for at least a game. It was... not great.

After three quarters, the Griz led the Bucks 73-68, but that's where it all fell apart; the Grizzlies were able to score only 2 points in the first six minutes of the final frame, and finished with only 13 in the quarter, while Milwaukee's bench unit defended them well and kept them from running even the simplified, basic sets they've been getting into lately. All the Grizzlies could do was take contested shots and contested layups, and it didn't work out.

And then, we got to The End Of The Game.

The Tunnel Affair

With 5.5 seconds left in the game, this happened:

And look, let's just be honest about this: it was pretty dumb.

Henson had been jawing all night, and the seeds for this particular insanity were planted earlier on in the evening when he took Lance Stephenson to the floor and then taunted him, earning a flagrant foul and a technical in the process. Lance looked like he wanted to fight, but Barnes did, too, and so a Barnes/Henson incident was brewing. They continued to have a friendly conversation for most of the rest of the game.

And then, you see what happened. The Grizzlies weren't fouling, Barnes goes for the layup but it's not going to keep the Bucks from winning—they just have to get the ball back and dribble out the clock, but instead, Henson blocks it, taunts Barnes (but turns away when Barnes starts talking back) and flexes for the crowd for blocking what was supposed to be an easy layup in a game that was already over.

Both were assessed technicals, which meant that Henson was ejected. Barnes then ran off the court—down the Bucks' tunnel but, as you can see on the video, past the door to the Bucks' locker room—and it's unclear whether (1) he was subbed out and then took off or (2) he just took off and the Grizzlies had to sub somebody in so they could run the clock out and get out of Milwaukee before anything else dumb happened. The official box score says no Griz players were ejected, and the official play-by-play says "Barnes ejection: No ejection," so it's pretty clear that Barnes left the court without being tossed.

The rest is pieced together from Twitter:

So, whatever. The coolest part of this whole episode is this: Now Matt Barnes is almost certainly going to be suspended for at least a game, at a point in the season where he and Tony Allen are the only starters who have, y'know, been starters on and off all year long. Barnes recently got a triple double, scored 20 points in this Bucks game, and has generally been a steadying veteran influence on the Grizzlies as they try desperately to hold things together down the stretch. Last night, he undid most of that, and without him, the Grizzlies almost certainly can't win a game (and really, it was starting to look like they might only win one or two more anyway).

I'm reminded of the Z-Bo/Perkins "I'll Beat Your Ass" incident:

In which Randolph got tossed and went looking for Perkins in the locker room after the game. The difference here, of course, is that Randolph was already tossed from the game and off the court when all of this happened—he didn't go charging down the opposite tunnel after a player who had already been ejected. Randolph was fined for the incident (and it also gave us such quotes as "I'm a jackin' dude" and also gave birth to "We Don't Bluff"). What's different here, the thing that I think will get Barnes suspended, is the fact that he ran off the court and down the tunnel after Henson.

That was, honestly, the really stupid part. Basketball is a tough game, and a physical one, and the Grizzlies are clearly frustrated by their inability to win some of these games they know they have to win. I get that. And I get being mad. And, in any sport, there are going to be fights and near-fights. Guys take the game seriously, and sometimes that means their emotions get the best of them. But I have to think if Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are in Barnes' ear last night, he doesn't take off after Henson. The lack of a steadying presence on the team right now is what makes them so interesting, and it also can have consequences.

As for Barnes and his reputation, of course, Jason Concepcion (now of the Ringer) gets to the heart of the matter:

I'm sure the league will review whatever happened and hand out punishments as they see fit. I'm not expecting Barnes to be available for Saturday night's game against the Clippers, but we'll see.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wolves 114, Grizzlies 108: Obligatory Recap Content

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 9:24 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

My guess is that it's no secret to you that the Sports Internet Content Industry is a big machine that continues to roll on, and that every game needs a preview, and a quick reaction, and a recap, and two or three good pieces of Extremely Viral Social Media, and a graded report card of how each player did, and as many other additional "pieces of content" as can be prepared in the wake of a basketball contest.

The dirty secret—that's probably not even that much of a secret—is that sometimes there just isn't that much to talk about. Sometimes there's a whole game without the little moments of transcendence that make live basketball such a great thing. And maybe that's a cynical approach to last night's loss to the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, but that's the approach I've got to take, given that the Grizzlies are carrying a roster of 18 guys and 8 or 9 of them are still injured and not playing.

The Grizzlies played hard. Really hard. On defense, especially, they closed out on shooters with a ferocity not often seen. On offense, they were clearly improvising from a limited, scaled-back playbook, with everything happening off curls, lots of Horns sets, all designed to ease the mental workload for the new guys just called up from the D-League so they can play instead of overthinking.

Really, they did better than they had any right to after the first quarter, in which the Wolves outscored the Grizzlies 42-25, allowing Minnesota to shoot 66.7% from the field (and a blistering 5 of 6 from 3-point range). The Wolves continued to shoot well all night, while the Grizzlies didn't; the Griz had to work harder than the Wolves in every phase of the game to make up for (1) the Wolves' hot shooting and (2) said first quarter deficit. By the end of the night, Minnesota attempted 71 field goals to Memphis' 100, meaning the Griz needed 29 more attempts to score 114 fewer points.

It's an exaggerated version of the same problem the Grizzlies always have, though, as a team that can't consistently hit 3-pointers and can't really score easily in any phase of the game. Even when fully healthy, the Grizzlies have to work harder than their opponent to win. Without 5 of their 6 best players, they have to work proportionally harder, and there are two things about that:

  1. It's not really sustainable for a full 48 minutes, as evidenced by the Grizzlies' scoring drought to start the third quarter.

  2. It's not really sustainable for the entire rest of the regular season, because a big reason the injuries cascaded on the Grizzlies in the manner they did was guys went from playing 15-20 minutes to playing 30-40. The increase in stress, and the need to be conditioned for that kind of workload, meant that of course the guys thrust into that role were going to get hurt—their bodies were unprepared for it even if their minds were.

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Lance Stephenson played last night for the first time since tweaking his wrist at Atlanta on Saturday. He finished with 24 points on 8 of 18 shooting. I don't really put any stock in single-game +/-, but I do think it's illustrative that he was the only Grizzly with a positive +/- rating at +11. The Grizzlies couldn't do anything on offense without Stephenson on the floor. After the second half, the Wolves switched Tayshaun Prince (no Tayshaun rhapsodies from me at this point, folks, sorry) on to him, and Prince was able to use his length to contain Lance's drives to the basket, either wrapping him up with those long pterodactyl-wing arms or funneling him away from the rim. From there on, everything got that much harder for the Grizzlies.

It's a little exhausting for each of these games to have to be instructive about something. This roster is barely a functioning NBA team. Early in the game last night, I said they weren't, but they hung in the game and proved me wrong. They may not be a good NBA roster, but at least they're competitive with a decent up-and-coming young team. I still think they need to win 41-42 games to make the playoffs, and right now they've won 39. If they can't beat Minnesota at home, and no one comes back from injury, it's going to be impressive if they can pull off the requisite two wins. The schedule only gets worse. We'll see.

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Up Next

  • Tonight the Grizzlies take on the Bucks in Milwaukee. This is a winnable game, for sure, but the Bucks are pretty good at home and Giannis Antetokounmpo has been playing really well lately. I expect the Griz to have trouble with Milwaukee, and this might be a tough game (especially as a road SEGABABA) even if they weren't falling down the injury well faster than an anvil tied to Wile E. Coyote's ankle.
  • Saturday night the Grizzlies are at home against the Clippers, the first time they've played the Clippers since November and the only time they're playing in Memphis this year. Grizzlies/Clippers is usually a war, and with Lance Stephenson and Matt Barnes both on the Grizzlies now, it would be even more interesting, but my fear is that the Grizzlies are too depleted to make it the blood feud it deserves to be.

Then again, against the Clippers, there's always the chance that Zach Randolph will return from injury by dropping from the rafters like this:

A video posted by @mrbrandonstroud on

  • Monday and Tuesday are a west coast road back-to-back against the Phoenix Suns (who beat the Grizzlies twice before they were completely injured, so now maybe the Grizzlies will win) and the Lakers (who are terrible, but somehow beat the Warriors). These might be the two most important games left on the schedule—games that are legitimately winnable for a team that really only needs two or three more wins to make sure they stay in the postseason picture. We'll talk about that more once next week rolls around.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast, #46: Everything is Injured

Posted By on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 9:07 AM


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

  • What's wrong with basketball Twitter, and Grizzlies Twitter this season in particular? (A delayed meditation on this piece.)
  • The Grizzlies are not very good right now, and it's because they don't have any players
  • Jarell Martin has looked non-bad, which is good for a rookie.
  • The overall injury rundown
  • Should the Grizzlies keep Lance Stephenson after this year?
  • What does the schedule look like going forward, and can they win some of these games?

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:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rockets 130, Grizzlies 81: Next Day Whatever

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 9:07 AM

Nobody in this picture played for the Grizzlies last night. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Nobody in this picture played for the Grizzlies last night.

The Grizzlies, such as they are, lost on the road to the Houston Rockets last night. They were absolutely overmatched on offense, and absolutely overmatched on defense. Without Vince Carter and Lance Stephenson, the Grizzlies had nine active players, three of whom are on 10-contracts as call-ups from the D-League.

They're barely an NBA team right now. With Stephenson and Carter and Chalmers out of the picture, even the "Hateful 8" crew that wrecked the Cleveland Cavaliers just over a week ago has been decimated by injuries, leaving Tony Allen, Matt Barnes, and JaMychal Green to hold down the fort with a bunch of rookies and end-of-the-bench guys.

Last night, it didn't work. Against good teams who take them seriously, it probably won't. They need to at least get Carter and Stephenson back to field a credible NBA team—relying on Allen and Barnes for every bit of offensive production seems like a fool's errand.

It's not all hopeless, though. Alex Stepheson pulled down 13 offensive rebounds last night in a Herculean feat, tying Zach Randolph's Grizzlies record for offensive boards in a single game. For a team that has struggled to rebound all year, sometimes you have to take the faintest bright spot you can find.

What It All Means

Last night's game wasn't a fun one to watch. It was just a mismatch, plain and simple. If this is really who the Griz are right now—essentially a combination of role players and D-League Showcasers—this is how it's going to go some nights. It can't always be the Cleveland game, or even the Pelicans game.

With luck, Carter and Stephenson will be back soon. If the Griz are going to win anything the rest of the season, even against bad teams, they're going to need Stephenson's scoring and Carter's all around ability to, well, know what he's doing in an NBA game. It's been said by other people in other places, but I do appreciate that the Grizzlies' approach to filling the gaping holes in the rotation has been to take chances on D-League guys who might turn out to be good future assets, rather than signing the Usual Suspects (a.k.a. Gilbert Arenas, or Keyon Dooling) off the couch scrap heap to bring in Veteran Leadership or whatever. Veteran leadership isn't the Grizzlies' problem; keeping those veterans on the floor is.

I don't know what else to even say about last night's game. Against a Houston team that is actually, finally playing as well as they should've been all year long, the back end of the Grizzlies' rotation + 3 new guys from the D-League just couldn't get it done. There's no shame in that. But it's not like there was much else to be gleaned from last night's outright beatdown. Sometimes that happens in the NBA.

Nobody in this picture played for the Grizzlies last night, either. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Nobody in this picture played for the Grizzlies last night, either.

About That ESPN Article

The Griz are home tomorrow night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, source of recent reports of turmoil within the Memphis ownership group. I have my own theories about why this is when this story is breaking, and my hunch is that it's more related to whether the Wolves deal is going to work out for Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan than to any sort of real instability within the ownership group at the moment.

It's interesting that Jason Levien's name isn't in that article anywhere. Levien was a big part of putting together the Grizzlies' ownership group in the first place. He was originally rumored to be involved in Kaplan's purchase of part of the Wolves, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside, and even in that article's (weirdly cash-focused—as though that deal was a pure salary dump, and frankly I think Zach Lowe knows better than that) discussion of the Rudy Gay deal, Levien's name is nowhere to be found. I don't think Levien is some ghostly figure haunting the periphery of every report like this, manipulating ESPN into making every concerning report about the Grizzlies' internal dynamics that they've made, but one does wonder if Pera's ownership is always going to be marked by these sorts of rumor leaks and insinuations, if only because Pera himself prefers to keep quiet and stay out of the public eye. At this point in the season, if Pera started showing up at every home game, the reports would be that he was meddling with the team, and if he stays away, the reports will be that he's distant, so it's kind of a lose-lose for the Grizzlies in terms of how the "narrative" will play out in the national media.

For what it's worth, I do think the buy/sell option clause stuff (which is a real thing, multiple people have confirmed its accuracy to me) could turn out to be a big story once it's time for that decision to be made, but until that time comes—which isn't for another year and a half, almost—I don't think this report is much for Grizzlies fans to be worried about. But, given the broad spectrum of reactions to the report on Sunday, I'm sure other people will talk more about the situation in the near future.

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