Friday, March 18, 2016

Bucks 96, Grizzlies 86: Altercation Blues

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

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

btapod001.jpg


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.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Grizzlies Injury Update: Conley out, McCallum and Stepheson in

Posted By on Sat, Mar 12, 2016 at 3:40 PM

memphis-grizzlies-need-mike-conley-to-play-through-pain.jpg

The Grizzlies have made two announcements today, one concerning injuries and one concerning the players brought in to mitigate them.

First up the bad news concerning Mike Conley and Chris Andersen, straight from the press release:

Conley has missed the last three games with left foot soreness and received an additional examination yesterday, which showed Achilles tendonitis. He will remain out and will be re-evaluated in 3 to 4 weeks.

Andersen experienced a left shoulder subluxation and left the game on March 6 vs. Phoenix with 7:59 remaining in the second quarter. Additional examination and an MRI confirmed the injury. He will be listed as out and will continue to be re-evaluated.

Three to four weeks puts Conley out for most of the remainder of the regular season, and that 3-4 weeks is just when he's going to be re-evaluated, at which point who knows whether he'll be ready to return or not. With Achilles tendonitis, the longer you can stay off of it, the better, so my bet would be that he won't be back until the playoffs, if then. Vince Carter was listed as "questionable" earlier (he left last night's game with a leg injury) and I haven't yet heard any updates on his condition.

The good news is that the Grizzlies were granted a hardship exception, allowing them to carry more than 15 players on the roster. As a result, they've signed Ray McCallum and Alex Stepheson to 10-day contracts. McCallum played for the Spurs in 31 games this season, and was pretty good, and Stepheson was on the camp roster this year, and has logged some time in Iowa, where averaged almost 16 points a game.

Will they be able to keep winning this way? Who knows. But at least they'll have enough players in uniform to avoid forfeiting—although at this point, that might not be the worst thing, considering how quickly the injuries are piling up.

McCallum and Stepheson are expected to be in uniform tonight.


Grizzlies 121, Pelicans 114: Quick Thoughts

Posted By on Sat, Mar 12, 2016 at 7:04 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Goon Squad was fun, but in the wake of another flood of injuries it has transformed into something else entirely: The Suicide Squad. I'll let the Wikipedia entry for the comic book series do the talking:

The modern Suicide Squad is an antihero "strike team" of incarcerated, death row supervillains. Acting as deniable, covert assets of the United States government, it undertakes high-risk, black-ops missions in exchange for commuted prison sentences.

Vince Carter left the game with an injury and didn't return. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Vince Carter left the game with an injury and didn't return.

The Goon Squad was a result of adding PJ Hairston, Lance Stephenson, and Chris Andersen (and removing Jeff Green and Courtney Lee) from a team that already featured Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, Matt Barnes, and Mario Chalmers. When you take away Randolph, take away Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, take away Brandan Wright, and take away Chalmers (and replace him with Briante Weber, from the D-League, thrown into a 40-minute starting appearance on the first game of his 10-day contract), and "strike team of death row supervillains" starts to fit like a glove.

About that "death row" thing. Tonight, on paper, wasn't supposed to be fun. The Pelicans aren't great, and they're one of the only other teams with as many injuries as the Grizzlies have, but they've given the Griz fits for years—Anthony Davis just causes problems for the way the Grizzlies play basketball. But tonight, without any of the usual players for whom the Pelicans are a problem, the eight Grizzlies who played all night went out, played hard, and got it done.

Vince Carter left before halftime and didn't come back. He's got a leg injury. The Grizzlies are dropping like flies, and now they're 2-1 in this stretch of games with fewer than 10 active players, and both wins have been gutty, all-effort, exhausting affairs, and the loss came at Boston after watching Chalmers go down for the season, and then having to defend ("defend" to the extent possible, anyway) Isaiah Thomas without any more point guards on the team.

Briante Weber started and played almost 40 minutes in his NBA debut. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Briante Weber started and played almost 40 minutes in his NBA debut.

Weber was good tonight. He was nervous at first, and not sure what to do with the real size and speed of the NBA—Anthony Davis was able to jump some of his passes early on. But he adjusted, and adapted, and never played scared—in the postgame presser Dave Joerger pointed out that the few times he got forced into over-dribbling, he was mostly erring on the side of not making a mistake and turning the ball over. In 39 minutes, he finished with 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, a steal, a block, and only two turnovers. Not bad. My suspicion is that Weber will at least get a second 10-day; We still don't know if/when Conley is returning, and Tony Allen, Matt Barnes, and Lance Stephenson can't play point guard by committee for every game that's left.

Lance Stephenson set a new career scoring mark wtih 33 points. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Lance Stephenson set a new career scoring mark wtih 33 points.

JaMychal Green had another career scoring high tonight (20 points) and played excellently. Jarell Martin played well, too, and made a really athletic play to block an inbounds pass and save the game for the Grizzlies at the end of regulation. Tony Allen was (predictably) good on defense and showed up in some key spots on offense. Matt Barnes didn't have a great shooting night overall, but finished 4 of 8 from 3-point range, and his calming influence on the rest of the team down the stretch was a definite factor in the Grizzlies' ability to hang on in regulation. (Wonder how many times Matt Barnes has been called a "calming influence"?)

We know what we're going to get from this group from here on out: effort. Confusion about the plays, weird turnovers, and missed layups, sure, but effort. Whether that's enough to carry them to maintain their current seed, and carry them into the first round of the playoffs without getting blown out and swept, we'll see, but for you, it's hard not to root for a team missing 4 of its 5 best players, and who knows how many of its best 10. (Although certainly JaMychal Green is climbing those rankings, and rookie Martin is starting to look like he's worth the draft pick he was or wasn't promised depending on who you ask.)

That's what was so exciting on Friday night: a team of guys with no real reason to expect to win a basketball game doing everything they could to do just that. Whether they have anything left in the tank Saturday night at Atlanta (hint: probably not unless they're all already asleep on the team plane as I write this, resting up) is almost immaterial at this point.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Grizzlies 106, Cavaliers 103: Next Day Notes

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 9:23 AM

Lance Stephenson - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Lance Stephenson

The Grizzlies had eight players in uniform as they rolled into Cleveland on Monday night to take on the defending Eastern Conference champions. Not among those eight players:

  • Mike Conley, out at least 3-5 days with foot soreness.
  • Zach Randolph, resting a sore knee.
  • Matt Barnes, resting a tweaked hamstring.
  • Chris Andersen, out at least 3-5 days with a shoulder injury suffered Sunday against Phoenix.
  • Marc Gasol, out for the rest of the year.
  • Brandan Wright, out for a while with an MCL sprain.
  • Jordan Adams, yet to return from a knee surgery.

So with a starting lineup of Mario Chalmers, PJ Hairston, Tony Allen, JaMychal Green, and Ryan Hollins, and a bench of Vince Carter, Lance Stephenson, and Jarell Martin, the Grizzlies tipped off in Cleveland with no real reason to expect to be able to win, and then proceeded to do exactly that—and not only win, but lead most of the game, get tired, lose the lead, and claw back again to seal it in the final minute.

We've seen this kind of game before, when the under-manned Grizzlies hold their own against a tough opponent, but usually the script goes the other way: the Griz have to play so hard to win against good teams even when they're not missing almost all of their best players; usually they start to run out of steam down the stretch and they first lose the lead and then lose contact with their opponent, falling apart because their legs are dead. Not last night, though. Tony Allen missed eight games, and came back ready to roll. The young bigs—JaMychal Green and Jarell Martin—both played a lot. Mario Chalmers was a warrior. Vince iced the game with free throws late, because—sometimes we forget—he's Vince Carter.

It was a game to be proud of. The Goon Squad Grizzlies are a team of castoffs, players no one else wants thrown together to make the meanest stretch run possible out of expiring contracts. They're the pro basketball version of the Dirty Dozen. And yet last night, their constant swarming of the ball, their refusal to give an inch to a Cavs team who clearly expected them to fold and was bewildered when they didn't, carried them over the best team in the Eastern Conference, when the Grizzlies have spent all year getting clobbered by "elite" teams. I would say maybe they should've had this group of players on the floor back in October, but even I don't believe this group would actually hold it together for 82 games.

It was a glorious thing, last night. After a season of uncertainty—of frustration and of blowout losses and a team that was clearly struggling to find motivation—the last few days have been pretty great, if you pretend they didn't lose to the Suns in Memphis on Sunday afternoon. Friday night against the Jazz, the arena PA went out and Grizzlies fans responded by yelling like it was Game 7 of the Finals. Last night, after more medical updates with re-evaluation timetables, the Grizzlies took 8 guys on the road and beat the Cavs at home, something no other West team has done but the Warriors. They've only lost six home games all year.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Goon Squad vs. The Robots; or, Mary D. Martinez's Heart of Darkness

Posted By on Tue, Mar 1, 2016 at 7:51 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Avid tv aficionado. Hipster-friendly food nerd. Devoted beer trailblazer. Student. Alcohol fanatic. Friendly coffee evangelist.

That’s the Twitter bio of one Mary D. Martinez, or @marymartinezd_d. She’s tweeted 32,958 times as of this writing. She’s followed by thirty-six people (or “people”) She follows no one. She’s also not real. That’s a machine-generated bio, similar to the bios of the other 29 team-spam retweet bots that popped up earlier this season. Amin Vafa pointed out the (clearly automated) bios yesterday on Twitter:

Continue reading »

Monday, February 29, 2016

Brandan Wright out indefinitely with MCL sprain

Posted By on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 1:14 PM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies' Lost Weekend of a stretch run is getting a little lost-er. The Grizzlies announced today that Brandan Wright is out indefinitely after suffering a sprained MCL in his right knee.

Wright had been back from knee surgery and playing pretty well—though obviously still getting his bearings on the court—when Saturday night against Phoenix, Ronnie Price collided knees with Wright while Wright set a screen. Wright was down on the floor for a while before being helped to the locker room.

Of course, Wright just had surgery on that knee, so it's good that his new injury won't require surgery to repair. If you're looking for positives, it's also good that it was just a freak basketball "that happens sometimes" injury, rather than a non-contact thing, or something that could have been a result of a previous injury. Sometimes guys bang knees. It's one of the hazards of the sport.

What this does to the Grizzlies' rotation is anybody's guess—with Marc Gasol out and three newly-arrived players still working their way into the scheme of things, this is certainly a blow to whatever stability the Grizzlies are staggering towards. Maybe someone will have to be waived to bring back Joerger favorite and team yo-yo Ryan Hollins for more frontcourt help.

At any rate, this is not good news, for Wright (who was just now starting to find his fit with the team after missing most of the season) or for the Grizzlies (who are already without their starting center and best player), who are in Denver playing the Nuggets tonight.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast, #45: Gasol Surgery and the Stretch Run

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 9:23 AM

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

  • The Grizzlies' announcement that Marc Gasol had successful surgery on his foot and what his recovery might look like.
  • Whether the Grizzlies can make the playoffs without Gasol and without time to integrate their new additions
  • A farewell to Jeff Green, who is a good dude even though we're glad we don't have to watch him anymore.
  • What does Lance Stephenson bring to the Grizzlies?
  • The Grizzlies at the trade deadline—what moves did they make, and why did they work?
  • Is PJ Hairston going to be a legit NBA player? Will he get enough minutes on the Grizzlies for it to matter?
  • Kobe's last game at FedExForum on Wednesday—is Tony Allen going to play and guard him?

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, February 23, 2016

Grizzlies announce Marc Gasol had successful surgery on foot fracture

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 11:47 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies have announced that Marc Gasol has undergone a successful surgery on his right mid-foot fracture:

Marc Gasol underwent successful surgery on Saturday, Feb. 20 to repair a non-displaced Type II fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot. Although Marc will not return to the court this season, he is expected to make a full recovery. The surgery was performed by foot and ankle specialists Dr. Robert Anderson of OrthoCarolina and Dr. Drew Murphy of Campbell Clinic.

Team sources I talked to explained that they're pretty optimistic about Gasol's recovery from this injury—that as long as he takes the rehab seriously and takes care of himself, it shouldn't have any impact on the length of his career. A Type II fracture without displacement is a much better diagnosis than a Type III fracture, for instance, which means the navicular bone breaks all the way through. These sorts of injuries have afflicted other players who didn't recover successfully from them, to be sure, but the Grizzlies are optimistic that the specifics of Marc's injury mean he has a much higher likelihood of recovery than others.

It's still a serious injury, and Gasol's recovery will have to be taken just as seriously to make sure it doesn't turn into some sort of inexorable slide into perpetual foot injuries. Clearly Gasol is out for the year, and my assumption would be that he isn't playing for Spain in this summer's Olympics, either, though that's still just an assumption on my part. It sounds like their goal for a return is training camp, but clearly that's not set in stone, and if he's not ready by then, it's in everyone's best interests to wait as long as it takes.

On the court this season, how does it matter? In a way, this isn't the worst thing that could happen for this season—as we've seen from the first two games of the Goon Squad era so far, playing without pressure but with a chip on their collective shoulder has always been good for these Grizzlies. Either way, we now have official confirmation that Gasol won't be re-joining them until after this season is over, and that Gasol has a long road of rehab and recovery ahead of him before he gets back in a Grizzlies uniform.

You can read the full Grizzlies release—including a quote from Gasol—here at grizzlies.com.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Visit from the Goon Squad: Two Games with the New-Look Grizzlies

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 9:55 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

At the trade deadline, the Grizzlies made a bet that they could move players on expiring contracts who were unlikely to be re-signed this summer—namely Courtney Lee and Jeff Green—in exchange for draft picks and other players on expiring deals and still make the postseason, even without an injured Marc Gasol. In doing so, they assembled a team with even more castoffs from other franchises, even more guys with a reputation for being tough while also being a little bit nuts, and upgraded themselves from "The Island of Misfit Toys" to something you'd expect to run into on a stoop about halfway through The Warriors.

They've only played two games so far with this new lineup, featuring a returned-from-injury Brandan Wright and the newly-acquired Lance Stephenson, PJ Hairston, and Chris "Birdman" Andersen. It's too early to make any sort of judgment about how successful these moves will be (in the short term, anyway—long term the collection of one first and four second round picks for no additional salary beyond this season is an unqualified success), but here are some early observations about this group, followed by a little bit of premature prognostication:

The Good

★ Lance Stephenson's shot creation, for better or for worse, could be a big boost to the Grizzlies if he can figure out how to function in these personnel groups. He's got every incentive to play at the highest level he knows how—if he doesn't, he might end up playing in China next year—and though he's had a couple of bad seasons, he was well-liked in LA and put up great numbers for the Pacers before that team self-destructed. Tapping Lance's offensive capabilities could go a long way towards helping the Grizzlies find some scoring punch the rest of the season, which they'll need without Lee and Green, two players whose benefits were mostly on offense (though Lee is also a very tough defender).

★ The new guys have already increased the Grizzlies' defensive effort on the perimeter. Stephenson and Hairston are both known to be active on that end, and though Hairston has struggled, he's had good stretches of play on defense so far. Jeff Green was always better guarding smaller guys than guarding other players at his position, so replacing him with guys who can defend out on the perimeter was a good move to shore up a defense with a long reputation for toughness.

★ The new players and the absence of Gasol force the Grizzlies to play smaller, which means they're using more of Conley and Chalmers together, and I think that's a really dangerous offensive lineup. Joerger has always seemed to do well with two-PG lineups, starting with the legendary ("legendary") Conley/Calathes duo a couple years ago, and Chalmers is far and away the best second PG the Grizzlies have had to put next to Conley in recent memory.

The Bad

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

★ PJ Hairston is clearly pretty lost on the floor, to the point that Joerger is (rightfully) hesitant to play him for more than a few minutes at a time. The problem there—given Joerger's reluctance to play mistake-prone young players, especially in situations like this one where the Grizzlies need every possible win if they're going to make the playoffs—is that without minutes, Hairston will probably never find his way. If he continues to play poorly, and gets his minutes cut as a result, that means he'll probably just end up being dead weight on the roster, especially if/when Jordan Adams returns from injury.

★ Brandan Wright missed a lot of time with his knee injury, and before that, he only played about 100 regular season minutes as a Grizzly. So not only has he not had a lot of on-court time with his teammates, he's been out of action long enough that his timing—especially on jumps for rebounds and putbacks—and his stamina are out of whack. That will come with time, of course, and it's not a permanent thing, but it is an issue that's worth monitoring in the short term.

★ The Grizzlies' interior defense is a bit of a train wreck at the moment. This isn't a surprise, since Gasol has long been the anchor of the Grizzlies' defense, even in this, the worst overall season of his career. But the fact that it's not a surprising problem doesn't mean it's a not a problem. Last night against Toronto, the Raptors were able to get to the rim at will

The Ugly

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

★ Tony Allen suffered a knee injury in the Grizzlies' win over Minnesota on Friday night. With Gasol already out, an Allen injury doesn't bode well for the Griz over the long haul. They were fine to beat the Wolves based pretty much totally on energy and effort, but against a much better team like the Raptors the limitations of the current Gasol- and Allen-less roster shone through pretty clearly. Some of that will change as guys get more time playing together, but Allen's absence also shortens the rotation by one more player.

★ The ugliest thing is the Grizzlies' schedule the rest of the way. They've got a stretch of very winnable games for the next two weeks, and then names like "Cavaliers" and "Celtics" and "Spurs" start popping up, and they don't go away, until finally the regular season ends with two games against the Warriors with a road game against the Clippers in the middle. It's not going to be pretty, especially for a team that already hasn't beaten an "elite" team this year, and now lacks their best player and has three new rotation pieces.

The Prognosis

Even with all of this stuff in play, I still think the Grizzlies make the playoffs. In the weakened Western Conference and with a 4.5 game lead on the 8th-place Rockets, I figure they need to get to 43 wins to make it (which means 11 more wins this season). That's reasonable, if optimistic, even with the difficult schedule remaining.

The question is, of course, whether things go south in the locker room, given that this year's Grizzlies was already a pretty intense group that has now added several more intense personalities. I don't see issues coming, but at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised. You can only press your luck by adding crazies for so long before one of them finally blows up in your face, and if it's going to happen, it's going to happen with this group of players once they're playing great teams on a nightly basis at the end of the year.

That's one possible outcome, but I still think it's more likely that they hang on by the skin of their teeth and make the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed.

The Grizzlies were reported nationally to be tanking the season in order to collect draft picks when they traded Lee and Green. I disagree with that assessment—they players they got back, though flawed, are all going to be rotation players from here on out, especially if Allen's knee causes him to miss a lot of time. There's an elevated risk that the Grizzlies' long-running chemistry experiment goes horribly wrong, the basketball equivalent of DeLillo's Airborne Toxic Event, but this is the risk taken to get those draft picks. And besides, even if that's how it goes down, all of the guys acquired at the deadline are gone at the end of the year anyway. We'll see whether they can patch up some of these early issues, get used to playing together, and bully their way into the playoffs, or if the foundation was eroded just enough to make the Grizzlies' house fall in on itself this season.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Grizzlies trade Jeff Green for Clippers 1st rounder, Lance Stephenson

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 3:12 PM

Alas, Jeff Green's tenure as a Grizzly never really worked out, but they got a protected first round pick for him. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Alas, Jeff Green's tenure as a Grizzly never really worked out, but they got a protected first round pick for him.

The Grizzlies have traded Jeff Green to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for a lottery-protected 2019 first round pick and guard Lance Stephenson. In doing so right at Thursday's trade deadline, they turned an OK trade period—yesterday they turned Courtney Lee into PJ Hairston, Chris Andersen, and four second-round picks—into an unqualified success.

In turning two players who were playing well but underperforming into a first round pick (which might actually convey, assuming the Clippers make the playoffs that year), four seconds (though one is so protected it probably won't ever make it to Memphis), a young guy who hasn't lived up to his promise, a big to replace Ryan Hollins at the end of the Gasol-less frontcourt rotation, and whatever you want to call Lance Stephenson (a.k.a. "Born Ready" a.k.a. "This Guy Will Be Gone In A Couple Months")... the Grizzlies really did well.

This is the kind of smart deadline those who watch the team were hoping they'd have: moving guys on expiring deals to teams willing to give up assets in exchange. The players the Grizzlies got back are pretty much all certifiably insane—and now they're on a team that already had Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Matt Barnes—but the bet here is that (1) these guys are all going to be gone at the end of the year anyway, but those draft picks won't and (2) the Griz may or may not make the playoffs anyway, so why not shore up their position for the future?

It's going to be interesting to see how this works out on the court. Lee's usage was pretty easily replaceable but the bulk of Green's minutes now will probably be split between Matt Barnes and, well, Vince Carter? I'm not sure who's going to be the bench 3 now. It could be James Ennis, recently recalled from the Iowa Energy. Maybe Stephenson will play backup 2 and Carter will slide over to small forward.

An ideal rotation might look a little something like (UPDATE — Now that it's confirmed that the Grizzlies aren't going to waive Stephenson, this is a better guess):

  • Conley / Allen / Barnes / Randolph / Wright
  • Chalmers / (Stephenson / Carter / Ennis wing bench wings) / Green (there's only one now!) / Andersen

...at least, until Jordan Adams returns from his knee surgery, which will hopefully happen before the end of the season. I don't expect Stephenson to play much, but if he can tamp down his insanity, he might be a nice addition off the bench. That's a pretty big "if" though.

There's something to be said for the comments that in adding Hairston, Andersen, and Stephenson, all guys with histories of off-court issues (well, and on court ones too), the Grizzlies may have added too much "crazy" to a locker room that already has some pretty outsized personalities, but I'm not sure I buy it. These guys are crazy, but they're not stupid. The Grizzlies' locker room has very solid leaders, who will keep guys in line (especially Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, in terms of keeping personalities in check).

The on-court fit is secondary to the haul of draft picks, of course. Once it comes time to sign free agents, the Grizzlies' basic position is the same, except now they have a few more little pieces to work with if they'd like to facilitate a trade into their cap space instead of a signing. It's a bet on the future, a recognition that they need to prepare for the road ahead, even if it costs them games in the short term—which, let's be honest, might happen, especially at first with so many new guys to fill what had been established roles in the rotation (and I count the returning Brandan Wright in that, too).

This is exactly the kind of trade deadline the Griz needed to have if they were going to prove to the world that they recognized the importance of the future over the "now" (and even over next season). Plus they stuck the Clippers with Jeff Green, who—though he's had some great games this season—caused more chemistry problems on the floor that he was worth.

We'll see these guys in action tomorrow—Hairston and Andersen both practiced with the team today. More on this as it develops.


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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Report: Grizzlies trade Courtney Lee to Charlotte

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 at 3:09 PM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Grizzlies have traded Courtney Lee in a three-team deal with the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat.

Charlotte gets Courtney Lee, the Miami Heat get Brian Roberts from Charlotte, and the Grizzlies get PJ Hairston, Chris Andersen, and four second-round picks (two from Charlotte, two from Miami), one of which is "heavily protected." (Protected heavily enough that the Grizzlies essentially get three picks, even if the fourth one is technically part of the deal.)

It's no secret that the Grizzlies have been trying to find some sort of future-oriented return on their expiring deals for a while now, and while I just speculated on this morning's Beyond the Arc podcast that the Grizzlies probably wouldn't be able to get much. This is the "not much" I was talking about, but they opted to go for it.

In Hairston, the Griz get a look at a young shooter (whose option wasn't picked up, so he's a free agent after this season) who they may want to keep if he can prove himself in the games remaining. In Andersen, the Griz have a big man they can package in another deal, or keep for the year, but either way he's gone after the season. Second round picks are, of course, good to have if you don't have any first round picks.

Really, if the Grizzlies don't do anything else, this is still an OK deal by me—they'll miss Lee, for sure, and I'd hate to think that this means Tony Allen and Jeff Green are going to start at the 2 and 3 for the rest of the year, but that's probably where we're headed barring another move—but now they have a little bit more flexibility (and certainly more assets, in the form of second-rounders) to work with between now and the deadline on Thursday.

We'll see. I'm not sure how much this moves the needle for the Grizzlies this year. It probably makes them a little bit worse. But it also doesn't gain them a single cent more salary in the offseason, and I didn't think they were going to bring Lee back anyway, so... no harm no foul.

Hairston and Andersen are certainly characters, though, and Lee is good friends with Jeff Green and Mike Conley, so the chemistry shock might take a little bit to get over. Hold on your your hats until Thursday, folks.


Beyond the Arc Podcast, #44: Put Down the Trade Machine

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 at 9:13 AM

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

  • What to make of Bill Simmons' Trade Machine flights of fancy, including his assertion that the Grizzlies should trade Mike Conley.
  • Are the Knicks going to offer Conley a lot of money, or do they like Jeff Teague more? Is Langston Galloway going to keep them from trying to sign Conley?
  • What are the Grizzlies going to do at the trade deadline? Can they make a deal for their expiring contracts?
  • What approach should the Grizzlies take for the stretch run now that Gasol is out?
  • Is this going to force Dave Joerger to play young guys?

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:


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