You can talk about this being a prelude to next year, but Zach, Vince and Marc will all be a year older during a short "window" to go after a championship. This year needs to be a deep run, especially as it impacts Marc's desire to return. I would not trade Qpon. His 4 year contract makes any return minimal and unless he starts at small forward, we are a man short at that position. I would trade/release Franklin if we could get a young small forward like Quincy Miller with a lot of upside. Or I would trade Tony or CLee if we could get a quality starting small forward. Beyond that, I think Adams will get a good look, along with Stokes. Overall, even without a designated starting small forward, this is the deepest roster the Grizz have had.
I agree with all of you on Randolph's contract stance but I think the keys to ultimate success lie elsewhere:
1) We need to find a way to see how soon the young players we have targeted as the future starters can contribute (Franklin as Tony's successor, Adams as Lee's successor, and Stokes as the next Z-Bo). It'll be tricky managing minutes but if these players are up to speed by playoff time that will really help the regulars stay fresh.
2) We have doubled-down on Grit and Grind with the addition of Stokes and release of Davis. As with Rudy, this one will be good addition by subtraction. To be able to rely on solid rebounding and toughness even when ZBo or Marc are out is essential to maintaining Grit and Grind.
3) When we have the outside shooting to soften up the middle, we are as good as anyone. But nobody could have foreseen the implosion of Qpon last year. He was no help at either SG or SF and there is no guarantee how good he'll be next season. And his four year deal makes him practically untradeable. The hope is that QPon can play small forward if we can't find anyone else. And as much as I am nervous about signing Miller to an extended contract, we do need his shooting.
4) It looks as if we have only the MLE to use on free agents and I think we can use our Bird Rights on Miller to exceed the cap. Rather than going after 1 player with the full amount, like Greivous, I'd look for a cheaper option in Brian Roberts, who is a good scorer and a younger, cheaper SF. Or I'd see about a sign-and-trade with the Clippers (Ed Davis for Jared Dudley), and sign Beno back for the minimum.
I am not quite as pessimistic as the rest of you today. I see us as strengthening our resolve to our core style and trying to tinker around the edges to provide a buffer to the starters.
I love Zach Randolph and I wish I could have been in that hotel room after the game, telling him "It's not your fault." He gets beat up more than any big in the league with the fewest fouls being called and I can understand his reaction against Adams, the biggest goon in the NBA. For the league to suspend him for the 7th game was as criminal as suspending Calathes for using Rogaine! As it turned out, there is a limit to how much even the Grizzlies can take and still triumph. But with all its highs and lows, it was a fantastic season. That five game win streak at the end of the season to clinch 7th place will be an all-time memory. The major step forward by Mike Conley was breath-taking. And the moves by the front instilled a confidence that we never had under Heisley. So it's back to the drawing board looking for a wing that can create his own shot, be it Harrison Barnes, Thaddeus Young, or Eric Gordon, or whomever. My hope like many others is that Zach comes back on a cheaper multi-year contract that frees up the money to chase that wing. I think it will be an exciting summer and an even better Fall next time around.
I have been impressed with Joerger's overall game management the past few games. Both his substitutions and his timeouts have been well planned. Knowing when to yank a player as well as who to sub in has been a work in progress for Joerger, but he seems to feel comfortable enough now with everyone's playing abilities to trust his instincts to keep the game going without any significant "dead" spots. When the opponents score 4-6 straighht points, BOOM-a timeout is called. It keeps us from getting into a rut and gives him a chance to point out exactly what needs to be changed at that moment. I've been a Joerger basher, but he has grown along with the players in this recent winning stretch.
When Calathes first started playing for the Grizz, we were all marveling about his incredible passing, floor generalship, etc. Then he started to nosedive to where he is today. What happened? Is it his skills or his self-confidence? Now that Bayless is gone, Calathes will play more and we'll see if Joerger can get him back to his former prowess. With a team that is struggling for wins while believing that the season will ultimately end in the playoffs, you cannot have such a dramatic drop off in production between the starting and the backup point guard. That is not only encouraging to our opponents but deflating to our squad, and momentum is not easy to regain in the NBA. We'll see if more trades are in the offing, but for now Calathes' development has become more important than ever.
The players respond to the coaching, period. They have the skills but he has the overall strategy. You cannot divorce one from the other. If the players do not feel comfortable with the plan or the coaching style or the coaching method, they will not be inspired to "leave it all out on the court." If they are not sure of where to be, who to guard, when to shoot, or who will have their back if they take a chance, they will not play freely or to their best advantage. As one radio listener said today, "If you have a team built around two mastodons, and then bring in a new coach who says we're going to speed things up, what do you expect?" It sounded good at first--keep everything that was good about last year, add some outside shooters to keep opponents from clogging up the middle, and pick up the pace so the bigs can get shots off before the defense sags in. But they didn't factor in that this is not Phil Jackson trying to tweak things, it is a rookie coach with no NBA head coaching experience. It appears the players are not giving him the benefit of the doubt and trying to do too much on their own. Yet Joerger is paid to see the bigger picture and put in a plan to get everyone playing together. Now, neither the players nor the coach have a clue. Where is Golden State when we need them?
The Griz starters have a bad case of Hollins Hangover. They clearly haven't learned, or bought into, Joerger's "new" style of quickening the pace. All that has done is highlight their weaknesses while negating their strengths. They were comfortable at the kind of pace that allowed them to control the tempo of the game, focus on their defense, and take their time setting up the familiar patterns of the offense. Now they look like they don't know what to do with themselves. Joerger's system stresses players being more independent and playing more spontaneously to get open looks. But these players are coming out of a rigid system with well defined roles. It is a classic case of forcing players to change to adapt to a system, rather than tailoring the system to fit the skills and tendencies of the players. It reminds me a lot of Mike D'Antoni's disastrous experiment with the Lakers last season. The front office saw in Joerger the perfect guy to implement their vision of the future, but the radical shift forward has left the current players behind. They are a step slow to react on both sides of the ball and not sure when and where to shoot. The casual passes that worked in Hollins' keep-away style are getting picked off now. The spacing is not there to give the outside shooters enough time to make a higher % of their shots. Ed Davis has been weak and ineffective, and QPon's new strategy of driving in lieu of shooting 3's has been a dud. Joerger needs to either tweak the offense to make it more in sync with the player's abilities, or start shuffling the starting lineup to those that can make his system work.
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By MIcaela Watts, Josh Cannon, & Toby Sells
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