Monday, November 7, 2016

Trail Blazers 100, Grizzlies 94: Rust Never Sleeps

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 7:54 AM

Marc Gasol had a much better game against Portland after struggling against the Clippers. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Marc Gasol had a much better game against Portland after struggling against the Clippers.

Capping off a disappointing weekend of Grizzlies basketball, the home team fell to the Portland Trail Blazers yesterday afternoon, 100-94. It was the first time Ninety-Four Million Dollar Man Chandler Parsons took the floor in Beale Street Blue, and he mostly played like a guy who hasn’t been on the court in months.

The good news out of this weekend’s games, other than the fact that Parsons’ legs work and he is actually able to use them to do basketball things (albeit stiffly), is that even with all of the teething troubles the Grizzlies are having, they’ve still been in competitive games with some of the best teams in the Western Conference. It’s easy to find small things that would’ve made big differences in the last two games. If Marc Gasol doesn’t go 1-10 in the first half against LA, the first half deficit is likely more manageable. In last night’s game, Chandler Parsons looked so rusty that at times I couldn't tell if it was Parsons on the court or the hulking underwater remnants of the Titanic. But if he goes 3-8 from the floor rather than 0-8, we’re more than likely breaking down a win and not a loss. Individual performances matter a great deal, and if those guys don’t have bad nights, the Griz are likely 5-2.

Which is not to say that’s an excuse, or that the Grizzlies don’t have real problems. Here, I made a list of those problems:

The Grizzlies’ Problems, In A Bulleted List

Zach Randolph (shown here against Washington) has regressed on defense this season. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph (shown here against Washington) has regressed on defense this season.

Continue reading »

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Clippers 99, Grizzlies 88: Fake Hustle, No Flow

Posted By on Sat, Nov 5, 2016 at 9:05 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

After the game, David Fizdale said it didn’t feel like a rivalry game. The Clippers, he said, came to play a rivalry game, but the Grizzlies didn’t bring that kind of energy. He was telling the truth. Last night, after a solid (if ugly) first quarter, the Grizzlies slumped into nothing, and they would’ve gotten mercilessly blown out if they hadn’t put together a frantic run of 3-pointers to close out the game. Nothing worked. Gasol shot terribly for most of the night, Conley was ineffective when his jumper wasn’t falling, Zach Randolph wasn’t able to do his normal damage, ending up with what counts as a quiet night by his standards. Wade Baldwin finally had a game where he looked like a confused rookie. The other confused rookies didn’t help much, either.

We came expecting another pitched battle in the long history of Grizzlies/Clippers animosity, and got a run-of-the-mill garbage regular season game. Continuing a trend from their games against the Wolves and Pelicans this week, shots weren’t falling. Movement on offense other than the Conley/Gasol pick and roll was minimal. The defense looked like work but accomplished little. (In fact, in his presser, Fizdale touched on the defense, saying the Griz were “gambling too much in the backcourt,” which he called “fake hustle. Insert eyeballs emoji here.)

There’s not really much more to it than that. Without focus on defense, without executing sets sharply on offense, this Grizzlies squad, still missing Chandler Parsons (until Tuesday, reportedly), just can’t get much done. The success they had in the first two wins came from effort and intensity, just like every other Grizzlies win of the last 7 years. When effort is there but intensity isn’t, they look like a middle-of-the-pack group of young players still learning how to win, rather than a team that’s been to the playoffs six straight times and intends to be there a seventh.

Tony Allen’s reinsertion into the starting lineup seems to have hurt things more than it’s helped. The promise coming into the season was that Allen would be used in new ways, featured as a cutter and maybe even a bit of a ball handler, but so far that hasn’t happened. Allen’s offensive role continues to be limited by the team’s overall struggles; when there’s no space on the floor because shots aren’t falling, there’s considerably less for him to do. But they continue to kick the ball out to an open Allen on the wing, and he continues to shoot it. His defense isn’t quite up to his normal standard either. Allen’s doing a good bit of the gambling Fizdale was talking about, and with so many young bigs, there’s not the solid interior backing Allen is used to playing with to catch whatever he lets past. It’s an adjustment to fit him into the “New Grizzlies Way,” and so far it’s been a rough start.

Overall, I’m not worried by much of this. The shooting guard situation is somewhat troublesome; when Parsons returns to action there’s still not much of a way forward there for the bulk of shooting guard minutes unless James Ennis plays out of position as an oversized two. Ennis showed some chops defending ball-handlers by guarding Chris Paul credibly in this one, so maybe there’s a future there. The Grizzlies continue to be a puzzle that’s about half put-together, and while it’s no fun to see them lay an egg against the hated Clippers, regaining Parsons and continuing to work through these execution issues is the name of the game at this point, trying to make sure they stay in contact with the top of the West standings.

Game Haiku

  • Larry Kuzniewski

I wrote these and haven’t posted them, so here’s a haiku dump:

Game Haiku #4 (Timberwolves)

“Let the young guys play!”
“That’s not what we meant!” they say.
“Let the old guys play!”

Game Haiku #5 (Pelicans)

Free basketball, yes
But at seventy-five points,
Get what you pay for.

Game Haiku #6 (Clippers)

Save the “Whoop That Trick”
Maybe next time there won’t be
Mostly garbage time.

Up Next

The Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday afternoon, and the Nuggets on Tuesday, and then a few days’ rest before playing the Bucks in Milwaukee. It’s been a tough-ish stretch to start off the season so far, but winning every other game is a good way to tread water at .500. I’m interested to see what the focus of the team looks like in a Sunday matinee game, given the issues they’ve had there recently (according to Fizdale, anyway).

Monday, October 31, 2016

Grizzlies 112, Wizards 103: The Marc Gasol Three Game

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 7:45 AM

Marc Gasol's minutes restriction didn't stop him from winning the game with 3-point shooting. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Marc Gasol's minutes restriction didn't stop him from winning the game with 3-point shooting.

It was the first “Instant Classic” game of the Grizzlies’ young season: the Grizzlies defeated the Washington Wizards in overtime last night, 112-103, mostly because of Marc Gasol’s three-point shooting (seriously! Gasol was 4 of 6 from long range, including 2 for 2 in overtime) and because a flagrant foul committed against Vince Carter shifted the momentum of a game that looked to be spiraling out of the Grizzlies’ grasp. But it wasn’t the only game the Grizzlies played this weekend; they lost to the Knicks 104-111 Saturday night. Let’s talk about that game first, because I owe the reader some poetry.

Game Haiku #2

The defense rested.
The offense froze, pillars of salt,
Looked back at the past.

There was a lot going on Saturday night: Mike Conley was on a minutes restriction and only played 23 minutes, and even with Conley limited, the game followed the same pattern as the home opener against Minnesota: the Grizzlies started slow, got behind early, and then spent the whole rest of the game trying to dig out of the hole they’d gotten themselves in. The problem is that’s much harder to do when you’re playing a team featuring Kristaps Porzingis and the interior defense could charitably be described as “porous.” The defensive problems were compounded by a lack of movement off the ball when the starters were on the floor. Nobody but Conley and Gasol tried to do anything other than stand at the 3-point line and watch what happening. The Grizzlies made it close, but that’s all it ever really was; they closed the gaps but couldn’t ever keep the Knicks from answering a run with a run of their own.

And then:

Continue reading »

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Game Notebook: Grizzlies 102, Timberwolves 98

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 8:18 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

For only the second time since moving to Memphis, the Grizzlies won their home opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves last night, 102-98. For the shorthanded Grizzlies, it was a good test against what looks to be a quality—if not quite together yet—opponent, as they took their new philosophies on offense and defense into the regular season, tested them in a tight game, and came away victorious. First up, something I have to follow through and actually do now because I told the internet I would: a haiku.

Game Haiku #1

ZBo off the bench:
Sixth Man of the Year in reach;
ZBo wants First Man

In which The Fizdale Plan is in full effect

Last night was the first regular season game of coach David Fizdale’s career, but it was already apparent that he’s put his stamp on this team, and on the way they play. It starts with who scored the most: among starters, Mike Conley had 24, Marc Gasol had 18, and James Ennis (presumably starting in place of the injured Chandler Parsons) had 15. Off the bench, Zach Randolph had 19 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. When things were working—which is to say, not in the first part of the first quarter, when the Grizzlies were running around like idiots on their way to a 20-3 deficit that took them most of the game to fully erase—you could see the offensive and defensive principles Fizdale has been preaching from day 1 in effect.

The most obvious signpost was the 3-point shooting. The Grizzlies were 6 of 9 from beyond the arc in the first quarter, and last year I’m guessing there were whole games where they neither shot nor made that many. Gasol got one. Z-Bo got one. By the end of the night they were 11/24 from long range, good for 45%. That’s exactly the kind of thing so many of us who watch this team night in and night out have wanted them to do—just take and make a league average number of threes. That average is increasing, and it’s refreshing to see the Grizzlies running offensive sets that acknowledge the evolution of the game.

Crunch time was also revelatory. On the floor: JaMychal Green and Andrew Harrison. Not on the floor: the aforementioned Zach Randolph. Randolph clearly wanted to be on the floor—he said as much after the game, and who could blame a professional basketball player for wanting to be, y’know, playing basketball—but Green was at the 4 instead, and made some effort plays that sealed the game, including a tip-in of a missed free throw and a vicious stuff of a Karl-Anthony Towns shot attempt. Randolph was in rare form Wednesday night, but it seems his second-unit role is not a joke, and that’s probably something to which Grizzlies fans are going to take a while to adjust.

All in all it wasn’t a perfect start to The Fizdale Era, but the bones of the thing, the structure around the rest of the season will be hung, are already starting to solidify.

  • Larry Kuzniewski

In which Andrew Harrison gets the start but Wade Baldwin makes the impression

More than likely, if Tony Allen starts last night, Andrew Harrison doesn’t play 38 minutes. The rookie is clearly not comfortable playing off the ball, and still struggles to make the right decision when it matters, and was in over his head last night trying to guard Andrew Wiggins.


As usual, Grizzlies Twitter decided about ten minutes into the game that Harrison doesn’t have what it takes to be an NBA player. Was he great? No. Does he need to get better to stay in the rotation? Yes. Am I ready to write a guy off based on one game, after years of killing Grizzlies coaches for having too short of a leash with rookies who just need time to play? Nope. Check back after a few games and I will have started to form a Harrison opinion.

In the meantime, Wade Baldwin left no doubt that he’s an NBA-level talent. Baldwin’s stat line in his first-ever NBA game was something special: in 25 minutes, he had 7 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks, and only one turnover. He didn’t shoot well (3 of 8) and probably had a few “turnovers” that weren’t counted as such (an airball on a fast break jumps out at me as an example) but for the most part, Baldwin’s first real game was like his first preseason game: he was poised, confident, made plays that rookies don’t normally have the presence of mind to make, and overall looked really good playing in two-PG lineups. I expect to see Baldwin and Conley on the floor together a lot as the season progresses, taking turns playing off the ball. That seems like the most natural spot for Baldwin (assuming Harrison or someone else can hold down the backup PG minutes and give Conley some rest, which might be a stretch at this point).

Fizdale has a lot of faith in these young guys. Whether it’s because he’s been with them the longest—he coached the Grizzlies’ Summer League team this summer, something head coaches don’t always do—or because he really sees potential in them that the rest of us aren’t yet hip to, it’s hard to say. But the way he talked after the game last night, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the starting lineup from last night (Conley, Harrison, Ennis, Green, and Gasol) hold for the next few games while Tony Allen is getting his knee right. Fizdale is convinced these guys can carry the load.

In which we start to see who’s in the rotation and who’s not

Z-Bo telling Deyonta Davis which guy he's about to pummel - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Z-Bo telling Deyonta Davis which guy he's about to pummel

Quick thoughts on who was missing in action last night:

  • Deyonta Davis played 6 or 7 minutes and didn’t look like he was ready to go yet. He made some good plays, but just doesn’t seem physically ready yet. I don’t doubt that his plantar fasciitis issues have hampered his conditioning.
  • Troy Daniels didn’t play. He didn’t play much in the preseason, either. I’ve yet to see any evidence that Fizdale plans to play Troy Daniels at any point, or that he needs to. Having a hard time believing the Troy Daniels experiment is going to work out, at this point.
  • Troy Williams didn’t play, either. As an end-of-the-bench guy, I didn’t really have any expectations as to whether he would play or not, so I’m not surprised by this, but I do think he might have been able to make some positive contributions in some spots last night.

Up next

The Grizzlies now start the season with that most dreaded of beasts, the FOGAFINI: Four games in five nights. Saturday and Sunday they’re at the Knicks and home against Washington, and then Tuesday and Wednesday they’re at Minnesota and home against the New Orleans Pelicans. It’s a true test of the injury-riddled Grizzlies’ depth, and will also show us whether Fizdale feels like he can afford to stick to the minutes limits and rest ideas he has when he feels like he’s shorthanded. All of these games are against decent teams, and could go either way—none of them are a “gimme,” especially not since Anthony Davis, who has always caused problems for the Grizzlies in the past, dropped 50 on opening night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ten Questions About the Grizzlies on Opening Night

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 10:37 AM

How is this guy going to handle having his minutes restricted? - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • How is this guy going to handle having his minutes restricted?

Here’s a list of things to watch for as the Grizzlies take on the Timberwolves tonight at FedExForum, in the first regular season game of the 2016-17 NBA season.

  1. What sort of minutes limit will be applied to Marc Gasol, and will he actually allow himself to be subjected to a minutes limit?
  2. How effective will Zach Randolph be off the bench? How efficient will he be at a high usage rate against second units?
  3. No doubt the Grizzlies would like for everyone to forget why Rick Trotter isn’t the PA announcer anymore. How much does the PA announcer actually change the game? And, since Trotter’s delivery was similar to John Paul Stevenson’s, the previous PA announcer who has now returned on an interim basis, will casual fans even notice?
  4. What’s wrong with Tony Allen, and when will he actually be healthy?
  5. Are the Grizzlies going to be able to function at a high level without Chandler Parsons, who presumably won’t be seeing the court for a while? With James Ennis in the starting lineup, are they still going to be able to do the things they want to do offensively?
  6. Are the Timberwolves for real? Has their phalanx of extremely talented young players finally developed to a point where they’re a legitimate playoff threat?
  7. With Brandan Wright out, what’s the bench frontcourt rotation going to look like? Are we going to see Deyonta Davis and Troy Williams play significant minutes in the first game of the season?
  8. Has the backlash against the “Grind City” thing (the tagline, not the media operation, which has been discussed ad nauseum) spread beyond me, Herrington, and Kevin Cerrito, or are we all alone on Grumpy Island? Are we now forever doomed to only be able to name Memphis things “grind” or the danged area code? Was Bluff City not a perfectly good name, even though We Don't Bluff, etc.?
  9. Is Marc Gasol going to take the four three-pointers that David Fizdale wants him to take, or will he pass them up out of habit?
  10. Is this the year I finally stop pretending I like watching ugly basketball? Will I have to watch much of it?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Grizzlies finalize opening night roster, waive Jordan Adams

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 4:15 PM

Farewell, sweet prince. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Farewell, sweet prince.

The Grizzlies have (finally) announced their opening night 15-man roster, and it doesn't include their 2014 first round draft pick Jordan Adams. The team announced that Adams and Matt Costello were waived, and Troy Williams was signed over the weekend, so now the Grizzlies' roster looks like this:


Adams' release is a predictable end to a sad story. Vince Carter included Adams' Twitter handle in a reference to players who were cut over the weekend, but the tweet was later deleted, and it was only the latest in a long line of signals that Adams' future with the team was in doubt.

After only seeing 250 minutes of playing time as a rookie (far fewer than Rodney Hood, just for the record, so that comparison will forever be a "what if") and never having a chance to find his footing in the NBA game, Adams was then sidelined for almost all of last season with one injury after another, and as recently as media day (the last Monday in September) was hoping just to be able to get back on the floor this season. Now, if he does, it won't be in Memphis. With any luck, the new Grizzlies' training staff and new focus on player development will keep these sorts of things from happening in the future, but sometimes guys get injured. Keeping him on the roster as a sunk cost didn't make much sense given the strong showing Troy Williams had.

It remains to be seen if any other moves will be made, with the backup PG situation still a little questionable, but as it stands, these are the guys with whom the Grizzlies are rolling into the season.

Beyond the Arc Podcast #58: Official 2016-17 predictions

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 3:16 PM


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

★ The latest NBA GM survey says the Grizzlies will be the 7th seed in the West; Kevin agrees with that, and Phil thinks it's too low, so...

★ Official Beyond the Arc Pod Predictions:

  • Phil: 53-29, 4th seed
  • Kevin: 46-36, 7th seed

★ How excited Kevin is for the upcoming season even though that may seem like a pessimistic win total prediction.

★ Optimism about Fizdale vs. optimism about Joerger — Starting over after years of Hollins and Joerger influence, the seeming unity among the Grizzlies FO, coaching, and the roster

★ Zach Randolph in the bench: a stealth attack primed to demolish second units?

★ Troy Williams and Jordan Adams: who stays and who goes?

★ What to watch for in the Grizzlies' season opener against Minnesota, and the possibility of rest during the season's first back-to-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:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Grizzlies Player Previews: Anagram Edition

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 12:01 PM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Anagrams are fun. You rearrange the letters in somebody’s name to spell words with them. KEVIN LIPE, for example, can become EVE LINK PI or PIKE LIVEN. I decided to see what the letters in the names of Grizzlies players spell, and to my surprise, they all reveal various hidden secrets about how those players are going to do this year. I’m not claiming to be clairvoyant; I am, however, claiming that discovering the predictive qualities of anagrams makes me a genius, and more deserving of a Nobel Prize than Bob Dylan, whoever that is.

Journey with me now, as I reveal to you the 2016-17 Grizzlies season, as told by the players’ names.


Conley is a professional athlete so that covers JOCK. The Grizzlies will RELY on him in the 2016-17 season, just like always. As for ONCE JERKY MIL, people used to be jerks to Conley when he was a young player and wasn’t very good, but he’s signed a deal for more than a hundred million dollars.


Gasol’s on-the-mend right foot is precious CARGO, and he will deliver a record number of SLAM dunks this season. Also, he will LOG lots of shots from beyond the ARCS, and anagrams aren’t great at conjugating “to be.”


Tony Allen will ANNOY players he’s defending by TELLing them (reminding them, really) that he’s “First Team All-Defense”, and whenever he takes a shot, it will (pardon my French) ONLY find LA NET.

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Zach Randolph: RANCH ZAP HOLD

This was the only anagram I could find for “Zach Randolph” and I didn’t feel like expanding it to “Zachary” was fair. I have no idea what this means. If this were a Magic 8 Ball, this would be “Reply Hazy Try Again” except on every side of the little floating icosahedron.


Lot to work with here. Parsons is notoriously popular with the ladies so I don’t think I should expand on CARNAL NERD SHOPS in a family publication. PASCAL is famous for his wager about the existence of God, so maybe philosophical disagreements will REND the Grizzlies’ ability to properly run HORNS sets. Parsons last played for two teams in Texas (hence RANCHER) and he will SPAN the gap in talent now that the Grizzlies’ OLDS are taking a smaller role. All of this assumes he recovers from injury in time. The anagrams were unclear about that.

  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Wade Baldwin IV, A DAWN VIBE WILD


It’s the DAWN of Baldwin’s career, and while we’ve gotten good VIBEs he’s still a little WILD. WAIVED AWL BIND is an ominous portent, but maybe hints that he’ll tie up the backup PG spot with his sharp play and will force some other guards to the D-League. Could also mean he’s going to get cut from the team and take up leather-related arts and crafts.


Harrison’s play has ARENA DONS WHIRRing about whether he’ll make the Grizzlies’ final 15-man roster or not, because he’ll probably land on some other NBA team if he doesn’t. As for RWANDA SHINER OR, I have no idea. What is this, a Ouija board?


JaMychal Green’s insertion into the starting lineup is a CHANGE that will inspire some righteous JAMS on which the Grizzlies can RELY if he can stay out of foul trouble.

Jarell Martin: ARM RAN JET ILL

Martin’s second season should be an important time for his development. He’s got loads of raw talent that hasn’t quite congealed into something usable on a night-in, night-out basis yet. But if he can get it together his ILL hoops skills will JET him into the rotation where he can… I don’t know, RAN some ARMs. This is harder than I thought it would be.

Vince Carter: ACCENT RIVER

Memphis sits on the Mississippi RIVER and Vince Carter is a nice ACCENT piece to have in the wing rotation. Hopefully the Grizzlies’ situation is such that he only has to be an accent piece and not a major player, because at this point in his career he’s not a guy you want to play 35 minutes a night.


The Grizzlies’ change of their BRANDING to Grind City has drawn the WRATH of some who were perfectly fine with Bluff City thank you very much, and that has nothing to do with Brandan Wright at all, but maybe on game NIGHTs they’re hoping it will DRAW people to their BARN to watch basketball. Meanwhile, Wright’s NABbed a position in the backup frontcourt with Zach Randolph which will allow him to DRAWN (sic) the defensive assignment with the most GIRTH so that Randolph doesn’t have to defend the primary big. Playing those two as a unit makes a lot of sense. I could digress into a million GIRTH jokes but I don’t have time for that today.

  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • A CHANGE JAM the Grizzlies can RELY on.


Ennis had some JAMS that were SEEN IN Miami last year before he was traded to the Grizzlies and Dave Joerger didn’t let him play, but now that Fizdale is in charge Ennis SEEMS to have snuck into the starting lineup like a NINJA and, to be honest, looks like he’s definitely talented enough to be a rotation-quality NBA player, and a worthwhile pickup for the Grizzlies. Who knows where is ceiling is. He’s certainly got a pretty well-rounded skill set.


Fizdale said he hasn’t played Troy Daniels much in preseason because he already knows what kind of player he is, but it’s yet to be determined whether that’s a DENIAL STORY or the truth. If he plays to his peak, Daniels could be A TRENDY SILO of 3-point shooting. If he plays as well in real life as he does in the preseason, he could be another installment of the STALED IRONY of the Grizzlies’ search for outside shooting help.


First things first: if the letters in my name spelled MILITARY OWLS that’s what I would change my name to, no questions asked. Williams is a hard-working guy (WARMLY he TOILS) and has gotten the attention of a lot of Grizzlies observers, and is definitely in the discussion for “camp guy who might actually make the team this year.” Also OJ MAYO had an ILL WRIST which was why he could score so much as a rookie. Miss U, 2008 OJ.

Always assume there's a vast conspiracy. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Always assume there's a vast conspiracy.

DJ Stephens: (no anagrams found)

DJ Stephens might actually be from The Upside Down. Explains a lot when you think about it. #benghazi

Vince Hunter: CHIN VENTURE

The Grizzlies took one on the CHIN with injuries during camp so they VENTUREd to sign Hunter to soak up some minutes. He’s raw, and very undeveloped, but he’s got some real skill. He’ll stick somewhere, eventually.

Wayne Selden: LAWN SEND EYE

They have lots of LAWNs in Des Moines where the Grizzlies will probably try to SEND Selden so they can keep an EYE on his development.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast #57: Preseason broadcast blues, Troy Williams, and Parsons-as-LeBron

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 4:17 PM


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

  • Why can’t we watch any of these preseason game? Fans want to see them… in 2016, why is it still possible for the NBA preseason to be completely off TV?
  • Marc Gasol got a bone bruise in his right foot during Saturday night’s game against the Houston Rockets
  • Zach Lowe (in his Crazy Predictions piece) predicted that the Grizzlies won’t make the playoffs. Are guys getting “content fatigue” with all of these previews and taking the easy way out on the Grizzlies?
  • Does it really serve the NBA to keep good teams off of national television over time?
  • Has Troy Williams played well enough for the Grizzlies to keep him?
  • Phil doesn’t like Wade Baldwin IV. Is it just because he saw the Atlanta game where Schröder took him to town?
  • Is David Fizdale crazy to say he’s going to use Chandler Parsons the same way he used LeBron? And why isn’t Parsons back on the floor yet?
  • The new-look Z-Bo (17 shots in 23 minutes against OKC) and the new-look Gasol (who has been told he should shoot 4 3-pointers a game).

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, October 11, 2016

Grizzlies 121, Sixers 91: Preseason Notebook

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 10:58 PM

Look out Steph Curry. There's a slightly larger challenger to your 3-point crown this season. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Look out Steph Curry. There's a slightly larger challenger to your 3-point crown this season.

Game Haiku #0C

Zach Randolph for three
Four of six times, ring it up!
No long-range bluffing.

In which the Grizzlies play the Sixers and for two of four quarters look very good

Not really a whole lot to say about this one. The Sixers aren’t the basketball equivalent of radioactive waste anymore, not really. They’re just not quite ready for normal habitation by actual NBA basketball yet. But they’ve got some pieces, enough pieces (mainly Joel Embiid, who looked really good in spurts against the Grizzlies Tuesday night) that they’re a real team now, become real boys like Pinocchio before that weird detour into the amusement park and the belly of a blue whale and wait why did my parents let me watch Pinocchio? Did they know what it would do to my malleable young brain?

Anyway speaking of malleable young brains Embiid struggled against Marc Gasol and did pretty well against Zach Randolph because Gasol’s malleable young brain hasn’t yet learned Randolph’s trick of not really playing defense during preseason[1]. Beyond that, the Sixers didn’t have much of a threat that the Grizzlies couldn’t handle, beyond their own poor defense and reliance on outside shooting, which bit them in the second quarter.

Because of those lapses, the game was tied 53-53 at halftime, but the Grizzlies came out in the third quarter and absolutely hammered the Sixers, with the claw end of the hammer. A 37-13 quarter isn’t something that happens without a little bit of malice involved, and I was happy to see the Grizzlies find that edge even when they all knew the game didn’t matter. Bodes well (as well as preseason can, anyway) for those Tuesday nights in February in Detroit when they need to get a win against a .500 team and still find themselves trailing. Maybe they’ll keep it together during those rough patches, which (under the old regime, obvs.) were as predictable as Daylight Savings Time and Beno Udrih getting slightly out of shape over the All-Star Break.

I don’t have a lot else to say about this game in itself. The rest I’ll save for its own special section because it’s a harbinger of the season to come.

In which Zach Randolph is now a 3-point-shooting center?

Read ‘em and weep. The Grizzlies bully-ball power forward of the last seven seasons has transformed before our eyes and emerged from his cocoon as a beautiful butterfly. His jumpers from 20-ish feet have always been money, so it’s not really that surprising that in a different offense that’s actually designed to give him good long-range looks Zach Randolph can consistently hit 3-pointers.

I mean, it’s not like this is what was happening:

No, this Randolph is a credible shooting threat, and demands that defenses treat him as such. And at the same time, he’s not even really playing power forward anymore. Most of the time against Philadelphia, Randolph was subbed directly for Marc Gasol, and the two of them hardly played together. Sure, Brandan Wright had the game off to rest up, so there wasn’t really a credible backup center to be found other than Randolph (not with Jarell Martin still out, anyway, which just makes me too anxious to even talk about, and he’s even less of a center than Randolph is, really). But it seems like Randolph is going to be the 5 in smaller bench unit lineups this season and that’s going to be his role. Rebounding when he can, posting up when he can, but also running actual real plays to get him open for threes from the wings so he can rattle them in. What a world.

It’s a change for Randolph, to be sure. From 4 to 5. From starter to bench. From inside to outside. But the tools have always been there with Randolph; it’s just a matter of getting him to harness it differently in a way that (1) helps this new Grizzlies team play the way they want/need to play and (2) extends his career by showing he can adapt to the evolution of the NBA, which is a very different place than it was when he first took the court in 2001. That he seems to be on board to it so far is a testament to David Fizdale’s ability to clearly communicate his expectations for Randolph, and to Randolph’s adaptability

Yeah, Zach. Just like an iguana. Just like an iguana.

  1. Back when I was in Boy Scouts (I’m an Eagle Scout) we invented a verb for this: “to cantaloupe.” (We were extremely stupid, but we had fun.) To “cantaloupe” is to give the appearance of working on something while actually standing around talking about cars or girls or, let’s be more honest, arguing about who was better at building campfires. (Answer: me.) Zach Randolph's defense of Embiid in Tuesday night's game? Textbook cantalouping. ↩︎

Monday, October 10, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast #56: Farewell, T-Wrote; and Zach Lowe's League Pass rankings

Posted By on Mon, Oct 10, 2016 at 5:00 PM


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

★ The Grizzlies waived Tony Wroten and signed Vince Hunter, because Brandan Wright had to play 23 minutes against the Hawks.

★ Is Wade Baldwin IV going to be the answer at backup point guard? What about Fizdale's two-PG lineups?

★ Where does Brandan Wright fit into the second unit? Kevin wrote about it after Thursday night's game.

★ How much will Marc Gasol's three-pointers open up the paint for the Grizzlies? Does he have to be Ray Allen to make a difference?

★ How many minutes is Zach Randolph going to end up playing coming off the bench? Probably more than it seems like.

★ Phil was not happy about the Grizzlies' 17th place spot on Zach Lowe's League Pass Power Rankings. Is he right?

★ Is anybody in the West actually going to beat the Warriors this 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:

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hawks 104, Grizzlies 83: Preseason Notebook

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 9:50 AM

Zach Randolph, now the primary scorer on the Grizzlies' second unit. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph, now the primary scorer on the Grizzlies' second unit.

The first half was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. The second half, well… you know… sometimes the preseason happens when you least expect it. The Grizzlies played the Hawks last night, but since it wasn’t broadcast anywhere, it might be better if we just all agree not to talk about it anymore, especially since they lost 104-83. Problem with that is this: I have to talk about it. It’s my job. So, here are three things we can discuss this morning.

In Which The Grizzlies Play One Half Of Basketball And One Half Of Some Sort Of Activity That Only Just Resembles It

Last night, the Grizzlies were without Mike Conley and Jarell Martin in addition to the guys who haven’t yet made an appearance this preseason (Tony Allen, Deyonta Davis, Chandler Parsons, and, yes, Jordan Adams). Nothing was wrong with Conley, but Jarell Martin was spotted in a walking boot on his right foot—which, if there’s good news there, isn’t the one he had so many issues with last year. Because of that, Wade Baldwin got the start and had a hard time conducting the offense with any sort of a rhythm.

Baldwin was matched up against Dennis Schröder, which is probably the caliber of player he’ll have to be ready to face off against if/when he’s the Grizzlies’ “real” backup PG, and it didn’t go well for him. He kept his turnovers down, but was 1-6 from the floor. Good things: 4 assists and 1 turnover, taking 8 free throws in 23 minutes. Bad things: getting flummoxed by Schröder. Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.

David Fizdale put it best in his postgame presser: in the first half, the Grizzlies played cohesive basketball, made plays and got stops, and while they certainly weren’t in a rhythm, they at least hung together and looked like they knew what they were doing. In the second half, once Fizdale decided to play the “training camp roster” guys to let them get some reps, that all fell apart, and everybody was trying to make their own highlight reel. Understandable, given that these sorts of training camp deals are really an audition for all 30 teams, not just the one to which the players are signed, but… at the end of the day, it made for an entire half of basketball that was incoherent, and the Hawks were there to take advantage of it.

The second half was just short of a travesty, a callback to the end-of-the-season games last year when the Grizzlies were mostly playing D-League guys. Sometimes shambolic basketball can be fun, like a Velvet Underground song, just barely hanging together in all the noise. Other times, it can be Metal Machine Music, and you just want to turn it off because it sounds like the bleats of dying appliances. That was last night. There weren’t many great lessons to be learned. On to the next one.

In Which Zach Randolph Comes Off The Bench Again Except This Time No One Is Surprised By It

The big story from Wednesday’s Grizzlies practice is that Zach Randolph is officially coming off the bench this season. He’d been practicing with the second unit all training camp, and apparently no one had made that connection yet, but when he didn’t start Monday’s game against Orlando it got people talking. This, more than anything, is a signpost of a passing era: a combination of Randolph’s slow but inexorable decline due to age, and the evolution of the NBA offense teams mercilessly attack his inability to cover all the way out to the three point line. It seemed inevitable last year, but Grizzlies fans love Zach Randolph more than they love most of their own family, so nobody (including me) wanted to cross that bridge yet.

Fizdale crossed it for us. Instead of waiting for the team to struggle and then benching Randolph for He Who Shall Not Be Named (rhymes with “Shmeff Mreen”) in what might have been one of the least popular coaching moves in Grizzlies history, he tackled it head on, telling Zach what he wanted to do before training camp even started, getting Randolph on board—to the extent that Randolph is ever going to be on board with coming off the bench, which is probably minimal—and moving ahead with the plan.

It makes a lot of sense. The apparent second-unit frontcourt pairing of Randolph and Brandan Wright leaves each able to play his own game to an extent (more on that later), provides a real scoring threat to the second unit—can you imagine what Randolph is going to do to some of the scrubbier backup 4’s and 5’s of the league?—and lets him play the “center with the bench unit” role he’s been playing very effectively in spots over the last two years. It saves him from having to defend starting stretch 4’s and getting ripped apart in pick and roll defense by uptempo spread teams.

There was no way Randolph was going to be able to start NBA games until he’s 40. He was going to have to start coming off the bench at some point. Right now, during this transition to Fizdale’s overall offensive and defensive system, makes a lot of sense.

I hope it works. Check back later.

Brandan Wright. Yes, this picture is from last year. #preseason - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Brandan Wright. Yes, this picture is from last year. #preseason

In Which Brandan Wright Becomes An Important And Yet Sort Of Ill-Defined Part Of This Year’s Grizzlies Team

Randolph’s fellow second unit big man Brandan Wright missed so much of last season that he’s basically an additional free agent signing that was already under contract. (And yes, he’s aware of what team Ronnie Price is on now, and will be watching out for Price’s kneecaps this time.) The question of where he fits in the overall scheme of what the Grizzlies are trying to do was echoing around Grizzlies Twitter the last couple of days; without a clear picture of where Wright would land in the rotation, it seemed counterintuitive that he’d be a big role player, and maybe his extremely valuable contract meant he should be traded for wing help.

I think last night’s game cleared that up a little, with Wright taking the floor mostly with Randolph in the first half, taking the toughest defensive assignment (aka the 9-foot-tall Atlanta center Walter “Edy” Tavares) and building up some rhythm with his around-the-basket touches. I asked Fizdale in the postgame presser where he sees Wright fitting into the Grizzlies’ scheme and he gushed about Wright’s speed, his ability to guard all the way out to the perimeter, and his scoring. I picked Wright’s brain about it in the locker room and got a similar answer–that on defense, Wright is out there to keep Randolph from being the offense’s point of attack, and I expect to see the Randolph/Wright tandem deployed a lot this season.

It’s maybe the only good injury news yet this season, that Wright is back. There were times last year when it seemed like he was bound to disappear into the Jordan Adams Memorial Memory Hole and never be heard from again, and when Adams, Parsons, and now Deyonta Davis are all hanging out there with no projected return time, seeing Wright back and ready to go inspires hope that maybe guys will get healthy again. He played 23 minutes last night—according to him, probably the most he’s ever had to play in a preseason game—because there weren’t enough active bigs to put a young guy in during the free jazz (in a bad way) second half, and also because he wanted the reps.

If the Grizzlies can really figure out how to use Wright, and really take advantage of the things they signed him for (and maybe, since Fizdale claims to be borrowing so many principles from Rick Carlisle, unlock that seldom-seen Wright/Vince Carter two man game), they’re going to be in much better shape with their second unit this year, and with Randolph and Wright steadying that frontcourt, some of the worst fears about depth are at least partially alleviated.

Game Haiku #0B

The people have spoken, and now I have to do one of these for every game.

Tavares, giraffe,
The Space Needle, a redwood:
All too tall to guard.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Grizzlies 102, Magic 97: Preseason Notebook

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 7:34 AM

Marc Gasol looked good in his first game action since last year's foot injury. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Marc Gasol looked good in his first game action since last year's foot injury.

I’m excited that NBA basketball is back. So excited that I took a lot of notes at last night’s preseason game in which the Grizzlies beat the Orlando Magic, 102-97. And, you know, the Grizzlies aren’t the only ones who are throwing out a bunch of weird stuff to see if any of it works in the preseason; it’s my chance to do that to. So, this is an experiment in conveying my observations from the game without having to form each of them into a totally fleshed-out thought, lest I write 4,000 words about a game that didn’t count. A “Game Notebook” in the tradition of weird nonfiction and a bunch of stuff I read for philosophy classes in college: no particular point, just thoughts.

Game Notebook

The first starting lineup (albeit in a preseason game without Tony Allen and Chandler Parsons) of the David Fizdale era: Mike Conley, Troy Daniels, James Ennis, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol. How’s that for different? The rotation in the first half was a ten man unit, with Wade Baldwin, Andrew Harrison, Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, and Brandan Wright as the “backups”. There were all kinds of interesting lineups happening in there: two-PG looks with Conley and Baldwin, Baldwin at the point with Harrison off the ball, Wright and Gasol together, etc. There was not a five-man unit that played together in the first half that wasn’t at least interesting.

More than “interesting” was rookie Wade Baldwin IV. Coach David Fizdale warned in the postgame presser that there would still be games where he looked like a rookie, but last night wasn’t one of them. Baldwin looked comfortable on the court, and confident in himself, and for the most part played very well. He turned the ball over too much, and wasn’t always in the right place at the right time, but he seemed to do well both alongside Conley and running backup point.

Andrew Harrison had a rougher night, but he also spent most of the time in the first half off the ball, and had to try to guard Evan Fournier (whom I wish the Grizzlies had signed). Fizdale said after the game that he was intentionally putting Harrison in uncomfortable situations against Orlando to see how he would do, but just the same, Harrison’s discomfort was apparent at times. The Grizzlies Rookie Backup Point Guard Wars continue.

Another “new” guy who was on the team last year even though you wouldn’t know it because the previous coach never played him under any circumstances: James Ennis. Ennis started last night, and showed some flashes. Fizdale coached Ennis at Miami, so there’s a familiarity there, and from what I saw last night Ennis seems like a legit rotation player, anyway. Of course, he seemed that way to me last year before he got waived so Ryan Hollins could come back, but what do I know?

The second half gave way to preseason silliness. DJ Stephens proved he could dunk harder than anyone else, including this bit of ridiculousness:

And, honestly, he played just well enough to look like he belonged on the court. I think the odds he makes the final roster are still vanishingly small, but at least he’s already proven he wasn’t just a token signing. The crowd at FedExForum (such as it was–announced attendance was around 12,500) loved every minute of his game last night.

Perhaps most importantly, two guys seemed comfortable, and calmly determined: Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Gasol moved well and fired away from beyond the arc (he took two 3’s, and Fizdale later said he wanted Gasol to take four), and seemed to be telling the truth when he said he felt better than he has in a long time. Conley was ever the floor general, and Fizdale even turned over the reins and let him coach for a stretch in the third. It may have seemed like a joke, but Fizdale insisted it wasn’t: he wanted Conley to become comfortable as a vocal leader of the team. This kind of coaching, this relaxed emphasis on communication and on growth, feels qualitatively different from the Hollins/Joerger coaching tree, and it’s going to be fascinating to see this team gel over the course of the next five preseason games.

Game Haiku #0A

Clearing the pipes and debating whether to do one of these for every single game this year:

Things that bring all joy:
Jeff Green is on the Magic
Not on the Grizzlies

Monday, October 3, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast: Injuries, Free Agents, Fizdale and The Future

Posted By on Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 11:16 PM


The Beyond the Arc podcast is back for a third season! This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • Mike Conley's five-year deal: was it the right thing to do given his injury history? Would he really have walked to Dallas?
  • The Chandler Parsons signing: was it too big of a gamble given his history? How does he make the Grizzlies better?
  • Who is Chandler Parsons going to kick the ball out to?
  • When the going gets tough, are the Grizzlies going to stick to Fizdale's system or are they going to bail out?
  • Is it still Zach Randolph's team? Are Mike and Marc the go-to guys now?
  • Is JaMychal Green going to make the roster?
  • What are the Grizzlies going to do if their rookies can't reliably play the backup point guard spot?
  • Are injuries the only thing that can keep the Grizzlies from making 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:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

How Many Games Are the Grizzlies Going to Win?

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 7:43 AM

What should we expect from these Grizzlies in the wins column? What's realistic and what's not? - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • What should we expect from these Grizzlies in the wins column? What's realistic and what's not?

I’ve been extremely reticent to give any sort of prediction about how many games the Grizzlies are going to win this year, and usually by training camp I’ve at least got a pretty clear range in my head. Several people have asked me this question in the last week, and I’ve mostly blown it off, but I think a better approach might be to give a few answers and explanations. I’m going to give three scenarios (best-case, decent, and This Is Bad) and a range of wins for each scenario.

Everything Is Awesome: 50


In this scenario, Chandler Parsons misses the regular season opener but he’s ready to go by the end of November. In the meantime, the team is totally bought in to Fizdale’s principles and trust that the new way of playing is actually an improvement over the old way (rather than, say, insisting that he reinstall plays from the Lionel Hollins era when things get tough). The defense struggles a bit (outside of Allen/Gasol/Conley, defense is probably going to be the struggle this year in this scenario, because offensively this could be the most versatile Griz squad we’ve seen), but not so much that they get killed by spread pick-and-roll teams like they did early last year. Meanwhile the Spurs and Mavs struggle out of the gate, the Pelicans do whatever it is the Pelicans do, and the Rockets, now led by Mike D’Antoni and James Harden, Point Guard, score 130 points a night.

In this scenario, which is the best case for the first year of a new coach and adjusting to playing with a mostly-new roster in a mostly-new way, I’d put the Grizzlies at 50 wins. They’re going to have some growing pains even if things are going well—that’s just part of the evolutionary process. Depth is a factor at the guard positions, and defense is a question in the frontcourt (other than Marc Gasol, obviously). If everyone’s healthy and getting comfortable with Fizdale’s principles, I think that’s about where they’ll end up.

Things Are Decent: 44


There’s a middle-path scenario here that takes into account the inevitable stumbling blocks facing a team undergoing this much of a change in direction. This is a group that, in two out of Dave Joerger’s three seasons, failed to actually implement the changes put in place in training camp, and two weeks into the season after a rough start reverted to the Lionel Hollins-era playbook. What happens when they hit a rough patch? Will they be able to stick with The Fizdale Doctrine, or will they seek a return to what’s comfortable?

I’m not even sure that’s what it would take for them to slightly underperform–I think it’ll just take a two-week injury to Mike Conley, maybe a lower minute limit than expected for Marc Gasol, and/or a Chandler Parsons outage that lingers too long into November. They’ve got a lot of work to do in figuring out who does what, and all three of those guys are coming off of injuries–career-threatening ones in the case of Gasol, and Parsons’ sounds like maybe a more major rehab process than anyone expected back in June or July.

This is a win total for a team that’s good but not quite reaching its potential; a winning season while figuring out all of this change and integrating all of these new pieces should still be considered a success, but I’m not sure the average Grizzlies fan agrees, and I know the guys on the team probably don’t see it that way.

This Is Not Great: 39


In years past this would have been the “Can we put a headset on the coach?” scenario. Maybe Fizdale struggles out of the gate to get the team on board with what he’s trying to get them to do. Maybe Chandler Parsons doesn’t come back until Christmas. Maybe Chandler Parsons doesn’t come back until Christmas and Marc Gasol misses three weeks in December and Zach Randolph takes his annual “sit for two weeks to rest because I tweaked my knee” break earlier than expected. Maybe the rookie backup point guards are a disaster, Conley has to play 38 minutes a night, and he starts accumulating weird injuries in February again. Maybe the defense is terrible because the young guys haven’t figured it out yet and some of the guys (Parsons, mostly) aren’t that great at defense anyway.

Point is, there are a lot of things that can go wrong, and if they start going wrong, it’s not tough to envision the wheels coming off of the Grizzlies’ season if they catch as many bad breaks as they did last year. But, here’s the other point: it’s possible for things to go this way and for it to still be a successful season. The Fizdale hire was definitely not just about this year. Signing Parsons, Conley, and Gasol to long-term deals wasn’t either. Everything that’s been talked about so far this year–instilling a new culture in the team, overhauling the principles of the offense and of the defense–is not realistically going to happen in one training camp or preseason. The Grizzlies will probably be a work in progress most of this year, and if things are tougher than expected, it’s still a success if by the end of it they’ve made progress towards becoming the team they want to be.

So which one will it be?

This is a tough year to talk about so far because there are so many unknowns, but those unknowns affect the team just as much as they do those who cover it. Is it likely that the Grizzlies won’t make it to 40 wins? I don’t think so. Is it likely that they make it to 50? More so, to be sure.

If injuries weren’t a concern and the Grizzlies were rolling into camp with Parsons and Gasol in peak form without any health concerns (and, to be clear, Gasol seems to have made a remarkable recovery), I’d feel more comfortable calling this team probably 4th or 5th in the West. But I’m just not sure that’s realistic. I think there will be bumps along the road because so much is new. I see them in the playoffs, but that’s about all I’ll commit to at this point.

That being said, if you’re only watching this team to see whether they win or lose on any given night, you’re going to miss out on what’s really interesting. How quickly can a group that’s been together a long time change their culture? How do they integrate a versatile talent the likes of which they’ve never played with? Does Fizdale–one of the most highly-touted assistants to become a head coach lately–have what it takes to be a head coach? Every season is about wins and losses, but this one also isn’t, and that’s what I’m excited to explore over the next however many months.

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