Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Deflections: The Roster, TV Angst, and The Buy/Sell Clause

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 4:08 PM

Grizzlies fans are talking about Robert Pera more than they're talking about the Grizzlies.
  • Grizzlies fans are talking about Robert Pera more than they're talking about the Grizzlies.

The season technically starts next week, kiddos, but we've got a lot to talk about already, and most of it only contributes to Grizzlies fans' long-running overuse of antacids. Let's dive in to what's been happening this week.

Ivan Rabb and the Roster Strategy

No, it's not an indie band, it's the current state of the Grizzlies' roster, with less than a week to go before Media Day and training camp. After weeks of radio silence, the Grizzlies signed second-round pick Ivan Rabb to a three-year contract. Rabb was present in Summer League but didn't play due to an injury, and then... vanished into the mist for a while, while the Grizzlies went on to sign several other guys to full and two-way deals. According to the Commercial Appeal only the first two years of Rabb's contract are fully guaranteed.

That means that, as of right now, this is the Grizzlies' roster:

  • Mike Conley
  • Chandler Parsons
  • Marc Gasol
  • Brandan Wright
  • Ben McLemore
  • Troy Daniels
  • Tyreke Evans
  • James Ennis III
  • Wade Baldwin IV
  • Mario Chalmers
  • Jarell Martin
  • Deyonta Davis
  • Andrew Harrison
  • Wayne Selden
  • Rade Zagorac
  • Dillon Brooks
  • Ivan Rabb
  • Kobi Simmons
JaMychal Green - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • JaMychal Green

Not listed on that list, of course, are the dearly departed Tony Allen an Zach Randolph, but the most conspicuous absence is big man JaMychal Green, who has now been "about to sign" or "making progress" since a couple days after the start of free agency.

At this point, whether the Grizzlies are trying to put the screws to Green or whether he drastically misjudged this summer's market is immaterial: he's got to sign some sort of deal even if it's just the qualifying offer and the Grizzlies need him to be in camp. But that it's dragged on as long as it has is not a good indicator for what that relationship will be like once he does, and it also looks bad for Griz management and for Green's representation.

This is the strangest Grizzlies roster a week before the season that I can remember seeing since I started covering the team. (Which, granted, was after the start of the now-deceased Grit & Grind era, so take that for what it's worth.) But the fact remains: there's got to be a trade coming somewhere, right? Add Green to this roster and it still has some deficiencies, especially in the frontcourt. We will see. There is depth on the roster, but once you start whittling the number back down to 15 players, either the depth or the youth has to be sacrificed.

The Grizzlies, who have been in the playoffs for seven straight seasons, are on national television three times in the 2017-18 season. They've never had the number of games it seems like they deserve, and it feels like the league's policy of promoting their popular teams over their good ones is a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which it doesn't matter how good you are because the Lakers are always going to be promoted more. Part of this is market size, but not all of it.

This year it makes a little more sense to me, even though I still think it's ultimately a shortsighted and bad strategy. Without Randolph and Allen, the Grizzlies are still very much an unknown quantity this season. They might be fine, they might not be, and if people already don't want to watch the Grizzlies, watch how quickly that national interest dries up once they're actually bad.

I was going to do a big, detailed breakdown of all the various giveaways this season, but at this point, it's already been content-farmed to death and outside of two exceptions there's not really anything extreme or notable going on:

  1. The headband giveaway on the night of Zach Randolph's return to Memphis as a Sacramento King is a good idea
  2. The "Grit Grind Forever" towel giveaway is OK by me since it's Tony Allen's first game back in Memphis as a New Orleans Pelican, but if Allen weren't on the Pelicans and it was already planned, that strikes me as a team a little too eager to cash in on nostalgia for a core that's only really been broken up for a couple weeks now.

Those are my small, broad thoughts on the topic.

The Pera/Kaplan Buy/Sell agreement

Most of the outright panic in Grizzlies fan circles right now centers around the buy/sell clause set up between controlling owner Robert Pera and minority owners Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus. From the original ESPN report on the agreement:

At that time, Kaplan and fellow minority owner Daniel Straus, an East Coast health care magnate and the team's vice chairman, have an option to make a bid for controlling interest in the team at a price of their choice, sources said. At that point, Pera would have two options: buy out Kaplan and Straus at that named price, or sell his shares to them based on the same valuation. Control of the decision ultimately would rest with Pera.

Now, no one involved in this will actually talk to me about it so far due to the confidentiality requirements involved, but it seems useless to fret over whether this clause will be triggered. Why wouldn't it? Especially given the contentious history between the two parties (cf. Levien, Jason), it seems obvious to me that it's a win-win for Kaplan to trigger the clause, because no matter what happens after that point, either Pera has to buy him out for hundreds of millions of dollars (more now after the Rockets' sale, though the Grizzlies' valuation can't be anywhere close to $2 billion) or Kaplan and Straus become the controlling owners of the franchise.

Given an opportunity to choose to force someone else, with whom you already don't have a good history, to either pay you that much money or sell you a controlling share in an NBA team, why wouldn't you take the opportunity?

The more interesting situations play out after the clause is triggered. What valuation would Kaplan/Straus place on the franchise? If they go too high, Pera can force them to pay him a lot of money for his share. If they go too low, they get bought out without hesitation because their valuation was lower than Pera's. If Pera's stock-based wealth is in a down ebb because of all those weird fraud allegations bouncing around last week, does he sell anyway? Given how often he talks about being "obsessed" with product development and how little time he actually spends around his team on and off the court, does he decide he doesn't actually have the time and energy to be an owner after all?

The hypotheticals are all fascinating. It's hard to imagine what would happen after a Kaplan/Straus takeover. The panic du jour seems to be that they'd immediately move the team. The Grizzlies' lease runs through 2029 and can't be broken until 2021, with all sorts of stipulations and penalties baked in. While Memphis is a tough market for them to operate in, with any luck the league's revenue sharing model will get more socialist, which I like NFL-like and help small market teams more (since there's no way they can create the local broadcast revenue of teams like the Lakers and Knicks) before the lease runs out, mitigating some of those difficulties. At the same time, it's impossible to predict what Pera will do or say, mostly because he stays hidden on purpose. We don't have enough of a record of him as a public figure to know what to anticipate at this level of decision-making.

At any rate, I think the most reasonable thing to do is expect the clause to be triggered, wait for the usual suspects to start talking about it (the ESPN guys seem well-sourced on this topic for whatever reason), read between the lines to the extent possible, and brace for the unexpected.

Correction: The Grizzlies' lease runs through 2029, not 2021 as originally stated. 2021 is the date before which the lease cannot be broken.


Friday, September 8, 2017

2017-18: Into the Unknown

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 9:43 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Everything dies, baby, that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back

Bruce Springsteen, "Atlantic City"

It's time to start talking about the 2017-18 Memphis Grizzlies.

If 2017 has taught us anything, it's that empires don't last forever, not even the ones in which we've lived our whole lives. It shouldn't have been a surprise, but eventually the only way to carry the cognitive load of what feels like a total collapse is to tell yourself it'll all end well, that there's no new calamity bearing down on the old order of things. When you've talked yourself into it, you can be surprised by anything. "I had no idea racism was still a problem in America." "I had no idea so much of our infrastructure was so vulnerable to a major hurricane." "I had no idea our entire system of government actually relied on norms that don't have to be upheld." The list goes on.

At times it felt like the old order of things would last forever, to the point that it was impossible to imagine a new state of affairs. And yet, here we are, days after Labor Day, and Zach Randolph and Tony Allen aren't on the roster. The Core Four vanished in about a week (though technically Allen is still a free agent, but his return is extremely unlikely), taking six years of marketing campaigns with it. Vince Carter left for higher-paying pastures, too. The Grizzlies have made the playoffs the last seven years, and it seemed like they'd keep going another seven with the same players playing the same way, with the same strengths and flaws, the same marketing pitch about how hard they play, the same relationship with a certain image of the city of Memphis, the same promotional giveaways and in-game entertainment, the same scoreboard, the same everything.

And yet. What do we know about the 2017-18 Grizzlies right now?

We know about Mike Conley; the Grizzlies are his team now. We know about Marc Gasol, because for all of his uneven output on the court and his underreported difficulty from a coaching perspective, he'll be the same he's always been: flashes of brilliance, flashes of petulance, playing basketball with the temperament of an artist, which demands that the conditions be just so before he can execute to the best of his fearsome abilities. Also he'll probably shoot even more threes.

We know a little bit more about David Fizdale, too. This summer he's been outspoken about the fight to remove Memphis' Confederate monuments, which is only a public-facing glimpse of his outspoken nature in general (as if "Take That For Data" weren't evidence enough). But as a first year coach last year, maybe Fizdale was a bit too blunt, telling Zach Randolph "you're not a starter in this league anymore," or insisting (on Media Day) that Marc Gasol needed to step up and become the leader of the team. Randolph was a professional and went to the bench, but he wasn't happy about it. Gasol chafed against the "alpha" tag and by the end of the year Mike Conley had taken it with gusto. With the young guys, Fizdale will have to prove his reputation as a "player development" coach is deserved, and still finesse Conley, Gasol, and Chandler Parsons (assuming his legs still function, because I'm not ready to go down that dark alley yet) into functioning as a high-level offensive unit at the same time, rebuilding in place while managing three egos who have yet to play together in any meaningful sense. It won't be an easy task, but Fizdale seems up to the challenge, even if he's maybe a little too willing to rub his players the wrong way in pursuit of excellence.

That's it for the knowns. Will Chandler Parsons really be healthy on opening night? Will he ever be healthy again? We don't know. If not, it surely lowers the ceiling of what this group (such as it is) can accomplish. Will the free agents signed this summer be able to contribute enough to fill the gaps left by some of the departed? We don't know. Ben McLemore won't for months, if ever. Evans might if he stays on the court—something he hasn't been able to do in a while. Will the rookies and young guys step up? We don't know. Maybe they will. Wayne Selden looks up to the task, but the rest of them are question marks at best, and not the Mysterian kind. Deyonta Davis didn't look as good as he should have over the summer, and Wade Baldwin and Jarell Martin still look totally out of place on an NBA court—even a Summer League one. At least Tayshaun's back. The Grizzlies could make the playoffs for the eighth straight year, or they could finish well outside of them, and while they have depth, none of it is proven (the roster isn't even close to set, though, which is either fine or not fine, depending on your estimation of the deal-making ability of this front office), and it seems to me that 39 wins is more likely than 49.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Everything dies. We knew the Grit & Grind era would end, of course. Every passing playoff series gave us a million eulogies, fillers in the content void, a race to have the last say on something bygone that I'm not sure we really yet know how to miss. You can only run it back so many times before it stops working, whether through age, the evolution of the game out from under the "GNG" teams' very firmly planted pivot feet, free agency attrition, or all of the above. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back, right? Will the Grizzlies make the playoffs this year, and keep the streak alive? They might, but right now (assuming JaMychal Green is returning, as the reports would seem to indicate), it's far from a sure thing. And what happens if they don't? What happens if they're 10 games under .500 in January and the Trade Rumor Mill starts up fast and furious? What happens if the buy-sell clause gets triggered and we get another round of the "Robert Pera's a crazy person" news cycles from 2014, while the team is bad—or worse?

The catastrophe is not coming, it is here—or at least it might be. If it is, it would fit the trend. 2017 is shaping up to be a year of storms and fires, both literal and not. It's hard to see how the Grizzlies escape the same fate as the rest of us in 2017, watching things we didn't think would happen to us manifest. But, at the same time, in the NBA the storm comes every year; it's just a matter of magnitude. They've over-performed against bad odds before, but what if they end up closer to their floor than their ceiling? Are they doomed to aim for the playoffs and land in the lottery (in which case, at least they'd have their pick) or are they going to defy their projections again?

No matter what happens between now and the start of the season, we know that the Grit & Grind Era is over, and that now we're on our own out here, and things don't look good or bad—right now, they're mostly illegible. Maybe everything that dies someday comes back. We'll find out together.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Grizzlies Announce 2017 Preseason Schedule

Posted By on Tue, Aug 8, 2017 at 2:43 PM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies have announced their preseason schedule for 2017:

  • Monday 10/2 vs. Orlando
  • Wednesday 10/4 at Philadelphia
  • Monday 10/9 at Atlanta
  • Wednesday 10/11 vs. Houston
  • Friday 10/13 vs. New Orleans

It will be interesting to see whether Orlando resembles a professional basketball team (I have a guess) but the marquee matchups here are obviously against the Rockets, now featuring Chris Paul, and the Pelicans, who are still trying to assemble some sort of wing rotation to surround their fearsome Anthony Davis/Demarcus Cousins frontcourt.

I'm a little disappointed we won't get a chance to see preseason stalwarts like Flamengo or Maccabi Haifa, but it's hard to argue with the lightened preseason load.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Grizzlies sign Tyreke Evans to 1 year deal

Posted By on Fri, Jul 7, 2017 at 1:37 PM

The best photo I could find of Tyreke in a Memphis jersey. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI/MEMPHIS FLYER
  • Larry Kuzniewski/Memphis Flyer
  • The best photo I could find of Tyreke in a Memphis jersey.

According to reports, the Grizzlies have signed Kings/Pelicans/Kings guard Tyreke Evans to a 1-year, $3.3M contract. Evans' Memphis homecoming was first reported, as far as I can tell, by Geoff Calkins of the Commercial Appeal before ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported it as well.

Evans at $3.3M is a "gamble on a guy with talent" deal I can get behind. Evans brings bench scoring, some ball handling, and size to the roster, and he can play with Conley as a guard or maybe also as a small forward in small lineups (though I don't think that's his strength). Plus, in Hoop City USA, there's no real consolation for the end of the "Grit and Grind" era, but bringing back a Memphis Tiger from the most recent set of glory days can't hurt.

The Grizzlies' free agency period is not over yet. Decisions still need to be made about JaMychal Green, which are largely dependent on what other offers he's able to get from other teams. Tony Allen is unlikely to return, but after a brief round of Clippers sign & trade rumors nothing has happened since. With Evans on the roster, it appears there are some further moves that will have to be made to get down to 15. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Grizzlies Retire Zach Randolph's #50

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 1:31 PM

The Grizzlies moved quickly to retire Randolph's number. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • The Grizzlies moved quickly to retire Randolph's number.

Now that the NBA's free agency moratorium has lifted and they're able to address the departure of Zach Randolph, the team posted an Open Letter to Z-Bo and Grizz Nation penned by GM Chris Wallace and President of Business Operations Jason Wexler.

The letter is a heartfelt expression of thanks from a team that very much knows that Zach Randolph is in no small part responsible for putting them on the NBA map:

The eight years Zach spent in the mud, in Memphis, are special. They are filled with franchise-defining basketball success, but they are so clearly about more than that. Every Memphian felt it and all of us believe it.

Zach helped establish what it means to play for the Grizzlies on the court and in the community, and in doing so helped forge an identity for our City.

Grizzlies owner Robert Pera also announced that Randolph's #50 will be retired:

The immediate retirement seems like the only thing to do in this situation. Given Randolph's relationship with the city of Memphis, and things he's meant to the Grizzlies franchise both on and off the court, this is the only right course of action.

With Randolph gone and Tony Allen's future still an open question (though it seems exceedingly likely that he will not be retained) it's clear that an era of Memphis Grizzlies history has come to an end, and a new one is beginning. There was never any question of whether the Grizzlies would retire Randolph's jersey; it was only a question of whether he'd play out the rest of his career in Memphis. Since he isn't, the time to start commemorating the "Grit & Grind" era is now.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Woj: Zach Randolph signs two-year deal with Kings

Posted By on Tue, Jul 4, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Zach Randolph is no longer a Memphis Grizzly. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph is no longer a Memphis Grizzly.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that free agent power forward and Memphis Mt. Rushmore candidate Zach Randolph has signed a two-year, $24M contract with the Sacramento Kings.

In terms of this summer, this deal makes it more likely than ever that the Grizzlies will also not be returning Tony Allen, and it also makes it much more likely that they match whatever offers JaMychal Green is able to drum up.

In terms of the upcoming season, this much seems certain: nothing will be the same. Even if somehow Allen returns, the Grizzlies will be a totally different group of basketball players without Zach Randolph in that locker room. And it just makes all the more evident the Grizzlies' shift towards youth and player development since David Fizdale was hired as head coach.

Off the court, I can't even begin to have a reaction to this yet. My brain understands that it's a done deal, but the relationship this athlete had with this town operates in a different place, and I'm going to have to reflect on it a little. I will say I'm going to miss getting to write about games like this one.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Grizzlies Still Have Big Questions to Answer in Free Agency

Posted By on Mon, Jul 3, 2017 at 9:05 AM

Tony Allen is one of the Griz veterans whose future has yet to be decided. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tony Allen is one of the Griz veterans whose future has yet to be decided.

As expected by most, the Grizzlies started the NBA's free agency period by making a couple of moves to shore up their wing rotation with younger talent, but the big names—JaMychal Green, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Vince Carter—are all still uncommitted to any team for 2017-18.

On Saturday, the Grizzlies signed Wayne Selden, who played very well for them in an impossible situation in the playoffs, to a two-year minimum deal, a great way to place a low-risk bet on his future development.

On Sunday, the Grizzlies used a portion of the mid-level exception to sign former Kings shooting guard Ben McLemore to a two year, $10.7M deal (with no options, fully guaranteed), taking a sizable bet on a player whose time in Sacramento saw him struggle to develop past his initial skill set. By giving him that big of a deal, the Grizzlies' assumption appears to be that playing in a more stable situation than the turbulent Kings franchise will allow McLemore to shine, but the size of his deal and the lack of a partial guarantee makes it feel like more of a reach than I thought they would make for that kind of a player.

McLemore's deal is probably the size of the taxpayer mid-level exception, which makes sense, because with his contract on the books the Grizzlies are around $98M of guaranteed salary for next year. The roster spots are filling up fast, though:

The Selden and McLemore signings indicate to me that the Grizzlies are unlikely to offer Tony Allen a contract around what he is probably expecting; they may offer the veteran minimum or at this rate they may not offer him a contract at all. Allen's services will certainly be desired by other contending teams—teams where he's probably more likely to accept a diminished role and place of importance.

As for Green and Randolph, the front court rotation is already crowded, and especially so if the Grizzlies are bringing in Rade Zagorac and signing Ivan Rabb to anything other than a two-way deal with the Hustle. If they're not planning on trading away any of the other bigs they've amassed—Brandan Wright and Jarell Martin seem like the obvious candidates there—bringing back Green and Randolph seems like it would only clog up playing time the Grizzlies seem to need for their younger players.

Atlanta's loss of Paul Millsap to Denver last night leaves them with a pretty neat JaMychal Green-shaped hole in their roster, and a lot of money to throw at him if they so desire. There were rumors that the Cavaliers are interested in Zach Randolph, and that Z-Bo might share that interest. The future paths of those two players are very much in the air right now.

Vince Carter is reportedly taking a meeting with the Kings, which makes sense given his preference to play for a team where he can contribute, and his well-documented good relationship with Dave Joerger. At anything but the minimum, it also seems unlikely that Carter will return, and even at the minimum he would seemingly just become another roadblock to opening up playing time for the younger guys on the roster.

A culture change is in progress right under our noses. Whether any of the veteran guys will be back is still very much undecided, but as time goes on it becomes very likely that they could all be gone for somewhere else. These are no longer the "veterans over 35 only" teams of 2 and 3 seasons ago, even if Z-Bo or Allen return. Stay tuned as we find out exactly how young these Grizzlies will be next year.


Friday, June 23, 2017

NBA Draft: Grizzlies turn nothing into something in 2nd round

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 10:09 AM

Chris Wallace, GM of the Grizzlies.
  • Chris Wallace, GM of the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies didn’t have any picks heading into last night’s NBA draft, but the consensus was that they’d be active in trying to move into the second round to take some chances on players they thought could develop into NBA assets. That’s exactly what they did, swapping Brooklyn’s 2019 second-rounder to Orlando to draft Ivan Rabb 35th and and trading one of their 2018 seconds (they had three before last night) to Houston to draft Dillon Brooks 45th.

It’s the classic Grizzlies move in the Chris Wallace era: grabbing guys who were highly-rated prospects in high school who have somehow fallen out of the first round. Rabb is a forward who really struggled to prove his NBA bona fides after returning to Cal for another season, and it seems like DraftExpress isn’t really sure what to make of him. As for Brooks, he’s a good wing scorer, though mostly in isolation situations, and decent young wings are exactly what the Grizzlies need to be cultivating down in Southaven.

To be honest, I’m not convinced either of these guys will be a good NBA player for the Grizzlies, but I’m not sure they gave up anything valuable enough to get worked up about to acquire them. The Brooklyn pick could be valuable in the future, but it’s unlikely that it would be much more than “#35 in a deep draft,” which is what the Griz front office turned it into last night. The decision to draft Rabb over Jordan Bell may come back to haunt the Grizzlies (the Warriors paid $3.5M for the ability to draft him), but it’s hard to lose much sleep over anything that happens in the second round.

Marc Gasol was drafted in the second round. I don't have pictures of the new guys yet.
  • Marc Gasol was drafted in the second round. I don't have pictures of the new guys yet.

By the same token, though, last night mostly just reminded me of how the Grizzlies got in a situation of having no picks in the first place: a 2013 salary dump sent out this year’s first, and the 2019 first round pick is still owed to Boston from the deal that brought Jeff Green to Memphis. Grabbing value guys in the second round is great, but it’s no substitute for having your own picks and drafting well.

The Grizzlies have shown in The Second Chris Wallace Epoch (2014-present) that they are great at creating positive moves on the margins. These guys may turn out great. The real things that matter this summer—free agency, where they’ll have to make decisions about JaMychal Green, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen—haven’t happened yet, and I’d argue that things have to go rather badly in that period for these second round guys to matter much for the Grizzlies in the upcoming 2017–18 season.

For the Hustle, of course, it’s a different story. These guys will be the first crop of young players brought in to the Hustle team with the opportunity to practice and work out around the Grizzlies, and to benefit from the cross-pollination afforded by having both teams in the same place. One gets the feeling that if they turn out to be as good as Andrew Harrison, playing meaningful minutes in a playoff series and not being bad, that’s a success. In that light, last night was a success. Whether it matters for the Big Bears and not the Little Bears, we’ll see.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Grizzlies draft Ivan Rabb 35th Overall

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 10:45 PM

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace.
  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace.

The Grizzlies went into the 2017 NBA Draft without any picks, having traded them both away, but the general consensus was that they’d find a way to get into the second round. The Grizzlies had amassed a small stockpile of other teams’ future 2nds, and with the launch of the Memphis Hustle this fall, they have plenty of places to stash guys who aren’t signed to NBA contracts after training camp. It only makes sense that they’d try to get into the second round of a deep draft and find some gems that had fallen through from other teams.

They traded Brooklyn’s 2019 second round pick to the Orlando Magic for the 35th pick in last night’s draft, and then used that pick to draft Ivan Rabb, a sophomore forward from Cal. Rabb was projected to be a lottery pick in last year’s draft, but opted to stay at Cal another year. He struggled, and thus his draft stock was much lower this year, even as his upside stayed the same. According to his DraftExpress profile, Rabb has NBA potential but also has a long way to go to prove it. While the Grizzlies’ GM Chris Wallace is always a guy willing to take a chance on a player who was highly ranked coming out of high school, it seems like there are enough questions around Rabb to wonder if there weren’t better players available to take this kind of a flyer on.

Overall it’s definitely a classic “Chris Wallace” pick:

But the Grizzlies also grabbed a second rounder who was supposed to go in the lottery last year, and it turned out to be Deyonta Davis, who is very possibly the future of the franchise at the center position (it’s early, but his instincts are already impeccable). Why not try to capture that same magic twice? At the very least, he’s roster fodder for the Hustle.

I have a hard time feeling like Rabb was the best player available, but I also know nothing about scouting these guys once we get into second round territory. I would maybe have preferred some kind of guard, or a Euro-stash prospect to use as an asset, but Ivan Rabb it is. It's certainly a smart move if, as it appears, the Grizzlies had him high on their draft board.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #82: Is JaMychal Green the key to the summer?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 11:21 AM

bta_001.jpeg

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

  • Is JaMychal Green the key to the offseason, or is it what they do with the veterans? Can they replace Zach and Tony? Should they?
  • The launch of the Memphis Hustle D-League team
  • Why it's worth watching the draft even though the Grizzlies don't have a pick
  • The whole Lonzo/LaVar Ball... thing.
  • how Zach Randolph should've been 6th Man of the Year
  • The NBA Finals so far, and how boring it's been to watch blowouts.

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, June 1, 2017

Grizzlies Announce Name for D-League Team: Memphis Hustle

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 3:38 PM

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
  • Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have finally announced the name of their new affiliate team in the NBA Development League based in Southaven: the Memphis Hustle.

The Griz have recently announced Chris Makris as the Hustle GM and Glynn Cyprien as the Hustle's head coach (in continuity with the staff they had in place last year with Iowa Energy, now the Timberwolves-affiliated Iowa Wolves).

Here's the obligatory press release pull quote from Grizzlies President of Business Operations Jason Wexler:

“Our philosophy from the outset with our D-League expansion team is that it should in all ways be and feel intrinsic to our Grizzlies organization and not adjunct to it,” ... “Our goal is for the team to be woven into the fabric of our basketball operations and our business operations, our culture and our identity. We wanted to achieve a name and character for our D-League squad that both seamlessly fits into and uplifts the Memphis Grizzlies culture and identity, so that from day one it is part and parcel of our team and organization.”

Sources close to the situation say there was strong internal support for calling the team the "Mississippi Hollinger Statistical Analysis Spreadsheets" but ultimately the much better "Hustle" moniker won out in the end.

You can read more about the name and the launch of the Hustle affiliate at the original news post:


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #81: Chandler Parsons, Year One

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 9:30 AM

bta_002.jpeg

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

  • Did we expect Spurs/Rockets to end the way it did?
  • Would the Grizzlies have beaten the Rockets if they'd risen to the 6 seed?
  • Mullinax's piece about the failure of Parsons' first year.
  • What was the internal estimate of Parsons' health before the signing? How much of Parsons' PR thing is his fault?
  • What Vince Carter told Chandler Parsons about his rehab process
  • Who's the most disliked player in the history of the Grizzlies?
  • The Porzingis/Gasol trade rumor, which just makes Phil sad about the Knicks

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:


Monday, May 8, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #80: Should the Grizzlies Trade Marc Gasol?

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 2:50 PM

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

  • What would we do this summer if we were the GM?
  • Phil would explore a Marc Gasol trade this summer! Why?
  • Can the Griz trade away Gasol and still make the playoffs?
  • Can they afford to buy out Chandler Parsons, and what would that get them?
  • Is it time to move on from Zach Randolph and Tony Allen?
  • Can the Grizzlies build around Mike Conley for the next 3-4 years?
  • The young guys: DD, Harrison, Baldwin, Selden, Daniels—how will they know what they have unless these guys get minutes?

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:


Monday, May 1, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #79: 2016-17 Bests and Worsts

Posted By on Mon, May 1, 2017 at 3:58 PM

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

  • The best part of the season for Kevin, which was the Spurs series.
  • The best part of the season for Phil: the two 6-game win streaks, and Vince Carter's season.
  • The playoffs were Mike Conley's national coming out party.
  • The worst part of the season for Phil: Lackadaisical Marc Gasol, and also losing to the Spurs because of lackadaisical Marc Gasol.
  • What to make of Gasol playing Eurobasket again
  • The worst part of the season for Kevin: Chandler Parsons' 20-minute rehab starts.
  • Will Parsons ever play in a Grizzlies uniform?
  • A shoutout to Vince Carter's age-defying 40th 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, April 28, 2017

Game 6: Spurs 103, Grizzlies 96: The End

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 8:25 AM

Zach Randolph's return to the starting lineup is going to leave David Lee with some bruises for a couple weeks. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph's return to the starting lineup is going to leave David Lee with some bruises for a couple weeks.

The Grizzlies’ 2016-17 season really ended on one San Antonio run with five minutes left in the game. One stretch where they couldn’t stop Kawhi Leonard and the rest of the Spurs’ shooters from hitting shots they’d been making in Games 5 and 6, and then they were done until September. But that was par for the course in this series, which many (myself included) thought would be much less of a contest once Tony Allen went down for good in the last game of the regular season.

But now, the Grizzlies are in a familiar place: they gave a better team all they could handle in the first or second round while missing one (or more, if you count Chandler Parsons, which I do) of their best players, and now their season is over. This was a quietly weird year, even as it followed the familiar contours of the Grit & Grind era: the offseason dedication to modernizing the way the team plays (except this time, under David Fizdale, the team actually bought into this and it mostly happened); the streak of wins against the best teams in the league; the “injury” stretch where the team is down to a single-digit number of players and still wins; the mysterious lack of effort from the opening tip in winnable games down the stretch; the absence of Marc Gasol from games in which he should be a factor; the presence of Marc Gasol as an MVP-level basketball player when he well and truly feels unguardable.

This was a new year, with new faces, and was supposed to be the start of a new era, but in a lot of ways it was more like a transitional phase, a bridge from one thing to the other. That came through in the playoffs when Mike Conley was going toe to toe with Kawhi Leonard and the Grizzlies were making more 3’s than San Antonio and winning through tough defense with TA in a suit. At the same time, it felt more familiar than ever, yet another variation on the myth as it passes down through the generations: Zach Randolph in the starting lineup bullying the Spurs to win a couple of playoff games. Growl Towels waving furiously as the home team attempts to withstand a furious takeover by the other team’s star player. The mascot choke-slamming people through tables. There are resonances, echoes, rhymes. This year is just like all the others.

Maybe that’s why, right now, none of it resonates emotionally on the same register as past years. It’s simply happened one or two too many times the same way. But what to make of that?

Marc Gasol had a mostly quiet series, but hit some big shots. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Marc Gasol had a mostly quiet series, but hit some big shots.

The Series

I thought it was going to be over in four games, maybe five. I thought without Tony Allen to slow Kawhi Leonard on the perimeter, the Grizzlies didn’t stand much of a chance. I was wrong about that, and I’m glad, because even though it didn’t go the Grizzlies’ way in the end, this was yet another in the incredible run of cardiac playoff battles this team has been through. Game 4 was very probably the best playoff game I’ve ever been to, from a basketball-only perspective.

Ultimately the Grizzlies just never had the weapons to break the series open, especially on the wing. Missing the two best players in that rotation (and I’m not even ready to think about how good this team would’ve been with Parsons—certainly good enough to avoid the 7-seed altogether), they never got the production from those spots necessary to supplement the inexorable Spurs shutdown of the paint. They’re like kudzu, these Spurs. Eventually they choke out everything tall, everything trying to come up in the restricted area. When James Ennis, Wayne Selden, and Vince Carter couldn’t reliably produce 20-25 points between the three of them, the uphill climb became that much steeper.

That’s nothing new for these Grizzlies, but that doesn’t matter, not against the Spurs. After the game Marc Gasol said something about how tough the playoffs are, because by the end of the series the team you’re playing is specifically attacking the things you’re bad at. “It’s like the final test,” he said, “and either you know it or you don’t.” The Grizzlies moved the ball and shot the ball better this year than they ever have, and it still wasn’t enough. One can only hope that wing rotation is the team’s main focus this summer (again) while Parsons rehabs, so that next time, they’re able to rely on scoring at those positions when they need it.

The Star

It was great to see Zach Randolph starting and playing aggressive basketball this series, but there was really only one star of the series for the Griz, and that was Mike Conley. He’s been good for a long time, but under Fizdale (and assistant Nick Van Exel, to whom Fizdale gave a great deal of credit for Conley’s growth), he’s been unleashed. Coming into the season, Marc Gasol was the sole captain and it was his team. That doesn’t seem to fit with reality anymore, as Conley hit big shot after big shot and played the best basketball of his career to keep the Grizzlies in the series.

This is the series in which Mike Conley became the Grizzlies' undisputed star. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • This is the series in which Mike Conley became the Grizzlies' undisputed star.

This is his team now, no question about it. This series, on the national stage, is where he proved why he got such a big contract this summer: because that’s the kind of money you pay to keep the best player on your team. What that takeover means for the Grizzlies, and their pecking order, and their plans for the future (Conley is 30, after all, and age is usually not kind to smaller guards), remains anyone’s guess. But in this series, Mike Conley became the Grizzlies’ undisputed alpha, in a way that we always thought maybe he could, but were never quite ready to believe.

The Season

Obviously, the dissection of the 2016-17 Grizzlies has only just begun. I won’t write another 4000-word rant about the Communist Manifesto about how Sports Content leads to more Sports Content; you can read the last one and get back to me. But I do think there are a few little things to say right now:

★ It sounds cliche, but if they’d played hard in a few of the dumb losses, they’d have played the Rockets in the first round. I don’t know that that’s a better matchup, but it wouldn’t have been the Spurs.

★ I’m amazed that rookie players played so much this year. During the ill-advised Toney Douglas days, that seemed like a myth, a brief phase passing in the night, but Fizdale but his money where his mouth is and played Andrew Harrison and Wayne Selden as critical pieces of a playoff rotation, and didn’t get swept because of it. That’s a great sign for the future development of the Grizzlies, because players only get better by playing NBA basketball.

★ I’m not sure where they go from here. “Blow it up,” the grumpy fan’s refrain all year long, seems to be off the table given the way they conducted themselves in the postseason, but one never knows. It seems like there are multiple paths forward without tearing the team to the ground, and to me it’s much more likely that they avoid that route if possible.

★ It’s a shame that Tony Allen wasn’t on the floor for what might have been the last Core Four playoff run. That will never not be a shame. It’s sad that this era (Allen and Randolph are both free agents this summer) might have ended without an insane series-saving defensive stop, but rather with a limp to the locker room early in a dumb game. No way around that.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

A Closing Note

No matter what happens, and no matter how frustrating this year has been, and how much it sometimes feels like the Grizzlies are on a Hawks West trajectory that leaves them in the first round on a treadmill every year, this is still a special time for this team, and for Memphis as a whole.

There were reasons to doubt this season, maybe more than there ever have been: The Western Conference was not very good at the bottom this year, and that might be the only reason they even made the playoffs. Sometimes you need luck to keep an improbable streak going. But no matter what, this is a special team and a special run of seasons, and if the faces are different next year, it may have just passed us by without our knowledge. How’s the Rush song go? “Experience slips away.”

Even still, there is a pride around this team, and around this series, that is undeniable. As stunned as they were by their own elimination last night, every Grizzly player interviewed said they left everything on the court—that there wasn’t any more effort they could have given. And ultimately, isn’t that what we mean by Grit & Grind? Knowing the task is impossible but charging into the breach anyway? This season has been one of reflection, but let’s not get carried away eulogizing it. This was a great playoff series, and the Grizzlies did the best they could with what they had on hand, imperfect as it was—and they decided to make it as physically punishing for the other guys as they could on the way out the door. If that’s not “Memphis,” I don’t know what is.


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