And so.... we come to a point where the blissful ignorance of those who maintain often and vociferously that "coaches don't matter" and "it's a player's league" is revealed for the display of ignorance of the game that it is.
It's the coach who is responsible for motivating the team when they come back from the Allstar break.
It's the coach who is responsible for having the deep bench players (Adams, Smith) ready at the end of the season when they may be needed.
Dave Yeager appears to be too affable to win a championship.
Look at the coaches who have won championships.
Look at the coach who drug the Grizzlies up out of the cellar and made them contenders.
Yeager has improved the offense of the Griz. Definitely. And it needed to be done.
But last year they floundered with emphasis on offense and only recovered when the players got together themselves and decided to refocus on defense (the team's identity).
We should be settled into the 2 seed and coasting, resting players and preparing mentally for a deep playoff run. Instead, we're over-taxing starters and scrabbling to hold onto something that has likely already slipped from our grasp.
I don't think there is Popovich/Riley/Hollins type accountability on this team.
And that's on the coach.
I think the leadership, desire and self motivation of Gasol, Conley, Randolph and Allen have masked the coaching problem. I think when those four got together last year and decided (as they said in interviews) to refocus on the things that they had learned climbing up from the cellar in the NBA, at that time, and since that time, I think Yeager has deferred to their leadership and self coaching and motivation. But I think they can only go so far on that flat tire. And I think we're seeing the limit right now on how far the Griz can go.
All the people who decried grit n grind have already been shown the folly of forsaking that identity. All the league has at one time or another envied the Griz for their focus, identity and viable game plan - including the Spurs who have a similar team mentality and were swept out in the first round one year.
I think Dave is too affable to take a grit n grind team to the promised land of a championship. Or, even to a conference championship for that matter.
I like the guy. He's done some good things for the team. He would probably do well with the Warriors or the Wizards. And he does well with the Griz. But I don't see him taking the team all the way.
Re: "I am an English major and I still don’t really know what the possessive form of “Jazz” is."
That would be Jazz'.
At least you care. The often practiced butchery of language by sports (cough) "writers" often leaves me wincing.
@KL: If you want some alternate opinions on some of the topics you raised.....
* On Z's contract:
1. It is a bargain. This is a year when there is too much money chasing too few players. It is the same environment that prompted Rudy Gay's 10 or 15 million premium over the amount at which he could reportedly have been signed had the Griz acted sooner. I think Z could easily command 42 mil or more (even up to 48 or 50) over 3 years instead of the 36/37 mil the Griz are paying.
2. It is a bargain. There are 3 players to whom the Griz can turn at crunch time with hope they can create a shot: Mark, Mike and Z. Because of Mark's personality he is prone to pass when he should shoot. That severely lessens his utility in those crunch moments. That leaves Mike and Z. The players who have the ability to do that with a steady hand (Mark is an example of an often unsteady hand) are few, far between, hoarded and expensive. The Griz do it by committee. We can not afford to lose a productive part of the committee.
3. It is a bargain. On top of the above, Z is apparently/reportedly an excellent team leader/mentor and embodiment of the Griz team culture.
4. It is a bargain. There is no viable replacement that I know of or that anyone has suggested for what Z provides to the team for any money short of Melo/James/Bosh. In other words, any available player that can equal or improve on Z is way more money.
5. It is a bargain. If you want to create a Spurs model organization that grows, morphs and replenishes itself, never falling into the depths of rebuilding like the 6ers, Celtics, Magic and so on - you have to have Z.
6. It is a bargain. It sets the stage and creates an example for Mark and Mike to be reasonable in their upcoming contracts.
* On the state of Griz future finances:
By all accounts league revenue and payroll limits are set to expand liberally in the near future. The Griz are set pretty well.
* The free agent ratrace foolishness:
The Rockets, Mavericks, Suns, Clippers, Lakers, and probably more, are all the time trying to hit a free agency home run. The Griz are as good as any of them, and better than most, with a lot less drama, far more consistency and arguably on average better results. Free agency is vastly over rated. (Man, I hope James dumps Miami and leaves them putting the worst team in the league on the floor next year.) If the Griz stay out of that action (like the Spurs) I am so good with that.
* Griz player contract problems:
It ain't Z's contract that's the problem. It's Lee's and to a greater degree, Prince's that are the problems. What is it? Combined 12 or 13 mil for a couple of decent defenders who are huge offensive liabilities - especially in the Griz system?
* Are the Griz getting better?
How in the world can we reasonably expect the Griz to be getting better? See here:
The Griz ascension was arrested. Stopped. Halted. Traded. Fired. Trashed.
They're doing great. Can we get another upswing started? I don't know. This stuff is not easy. And the players are only a part of what it takes. Ask Miami's "big three", the Nets star studded roster, the Knicks, the Clippers, the Rockets who landed last summer's prized "franchise" free agent..... and on and on and on. Success requires more than the sum of the parts.
Really, I think we should be thrilled the Griz haven't sunk further than they have. I am. Maybe we can bottom out at a high level and get another upswing started.
* There are a lot of good things that can happen:
Conley has improved every year. His injury this year limited his improvement, but he still improved. Every year people say he as peaked. I'm not saying that any more. Maybe he improves again. Maybe he improves his 3ball %. Maybe he improves his free throw %. Maybe he improves his play making. Maybe he improves his crunch time skills. I will not be surprised, I will be happy and proud.
Gasol has improved every year. Like Conley, but moreso, Gasol's improvement this year was inhibited by injury. But he seemed to improve his willingness to become an offensive aggressive player and a crunch time scorer. He did some really good aggressive work in game 7 first half. He also relapsed a few times to a pass first player, but there were some very good aggressive Mark offensive possessions. Also, maybe he lengthens his jumper range. He's only a few feet short of shooting 3's with a very pretty, accurate long mid range shot. If he pulled a Love transformation and became a stretch 5, that could really have a big impact on the Griz and the league. The fact that he plays for Spain instead of working on drills in the gym means that's unlikely. But if he'd concentrate on it, a la Love, I totally believe he could be an awesome stretch 5 3baller.
We're supposed to have a world class analytics guy who can, theoretically, find diamonds in the rough. I'm still hoping he finds us some shooters. But he's supposed to find those diamonds in the D League, among the undrafted, offshore, on other teams' benches and so on. We're supposed to trade Lee and get an unknown, unrecognized player who can be coached, taught the Griz system, values and philosophy and help the team improve. I hope we have a coach for that.
Free agents, schmee agents. It has not happened in Memphis. And it is unlikely to happen. All this seemingly never ending talk about free agents is just bs. We outbid the league for Allen. That was not choosing to come here, that was chasing the most money. Zbo was damaged goods when we got him. We made Allen and Zbo better through coaching and through a system that fit their talents.
That is what the Spurs do.
That is what we must do if we want to improve.
Our 2-guard who was supposed to be this great addition to the team, and looked like it for a couple months - wasn't. We need to improve his shot. Like the spurs improved Leonard's shot.
We have to draft smart and get bargain bin players who can be transitioned into a fit for the system. We have to coach them and motivate them and fit them into our system. Actually, we seem to be doing that with our backup center and our backup point guard. That is what we need to do.
And that is where analytics fail. It does not account for systems, player growth and team identity. Analytics would not have built the Spurs, or the Suns for that matter. Or Golden State. Analytics is a good tool as part of the mix. It is totally not a god.
Dammit, Pops has a vision. When he got bounced out of the first round, he kept his vision. When he blew game 6 last year, he kept his vision. Hollins had a vision. I'm still waiting for Jaeger to show me he has a vision of greatness. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm telling you that without it the Griz will never be great.
And the Griz will never be great by fools-gold-agent signings. If they ever climb back to their former heights and even exceed those heights it will be because they developed players - like they did Zbo. And Conley. And Gasol. And Allen.
This draft, we are in a good position to get a player we really do need and can develop. I hope we do.
And Ed Davis is not it. He does not fit the Griz system. He just does not.
The smartest thing in the OP is: If Z goes.... what do we do?
It's back to the freakin' drawing board.
It is entirely possible that Z can play a lot more years than people are talking about.
Also... Z is not the reason the offense is slow. Gasol is most often the last man up the court. That creates a slow start. Every time. You want a different system? You're talking dumping Gasol. Pretty foolhardy in my view.
Z passes more now, he gets into his move a lot quicker. I think those things were coached. I think he is very coachable. I think his lifespan as a player is very dependent on the system and coaching. I think he can likely play a lot more years. I think the Griz have to find someone to develop behind Z who fits the system. And it's not Ed Davis.
Other than Calathes and what's his name the center, all the "great acquisitions" of the past Griz administration have been a bust. Thus far.
I don't think the Griz can over pay for Zbo. If he opts in... shrug... it's just part of the cost of the WCF. If some other team bids up his price.... they're just recognizing his talent.
A good draft, good coaching and a few shrewd moves will have the Griz right up at the top again.
I'm far more concerned about the "good draft" and the "few shrewd moves" and the "good coaching" than I am about Zbo.
I don't think the Pistons/Prince were a necessary part of the deal that dumped Rudy. We traded Rudy for Calderon, then Calderon for Prince and somebody else. I think Calderon's money was actually less than Prince's. I think Levien *chose* to trade for Prince to shore up a hole he created in the lineup when he dumped Rudy. Basically, so he could say to Hollins, shut up we're giving you a good SF. The initial trade could have stopped with Calderon on the Griz roster. I don't follow that stuff that closely but I think that is accurate. The Pistons part was so Levien could get a SF after dumping Rudy. Horrible acquisition.
And because he was just so *wrong* for the team. His strength is supposedly his defense but we have a better defensive specialist and everyone else plays good D. The Griz need(ed) what Prince was/is not. So all the cost is not in the dollars that are on the team payroll. Heck, that's probably the least of it.
That's just like Thabeet. (Which I notice you don't dispute.) Thabeet's big cost was, like with Prince, opportunity cost. What we could have had instead of Thabeet. His direct dollar cost was the least of it.
But that Prince acquisition..... That was a pivotal moment when the team had clearly recognizable needs. Horrible acquisition.
Don't get me wrong. I really, really like Prince. I think he's probably a cool guy. I think he was an awesome player. I think the reports that he has turned into a kind of informal playing coach speak to his worth as a person and provide evidence of more valuable intangibles that he brings to the Griz.
But is that what the Griz needed? Is that what they needed to sign and buy? Is that the SF they need to be putting on the court? To start? For all those minutes?
Horrible acquisition. Textbook horrible.
@GroveReb84: You said the same things back in Feb., except you also said the Griz couldn't beat the Thunder if the Thunder had Westbrook. I said the same things back in Feb. I'm not gonna argue with you. Hecker said the same things I said and he's a lot more qualified than either of us. The Griz almost and could have beaten the Thunder this year. (You say it's basically the same team.) The team has gone a whole summer and season without Levien putting in shooters and slashers. Did I say the Griz need(ed) shooters? Yes. (And slashers too for that matter.) (But the slashers gotta have somebody outside to dish to sometimes.)
Anyway, I'm not gonna argue with you. One reason I'm not gonna argue is that I can't abide the Memphis mania for negativism. That's why I haven't written here over and over. Time tends to tell the tale in a clear and understandable way to anyone who is open to it.
No one knows what Pera is or was thinking. And probably never will. But there's a very good chance he saw more sideways "progress" and even backward regression in the future that Levien painted for him. That's what I saw. So Pera dumped Levien. Smart move. Judge Pera and Wallace and whoever builds the roster by whether they can preserve that is in place and build on it constructively. The proof is always in the pudding.
I said back in Feb., the shooter misses the shot, he's responsible, the defense doesn't stop anyone, the coach is responsible.... and so on, right down the line. The team doesn't get the personnel it needs (and it didn't - it still needs the exact same thing), Levien is responsible.
@Kevin Lipe: Did Crittenton clang more open 3's than Prince? I must have missed that streak. Thankfully. ;)
Seriously though, one of the reasons Prince was such a horrible acquisition is because of the minutes he got devoted to him.
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