Friday, April 13, 2018

Grizzlies Look Forward at End-of-Season Presser

Posted By on Fri, Apr 13, 2018 at 2:22 PM

Mike Conley - SAMUEL X. CICCI
  • Samuel X. Cicci
  • Mike Conley

Ed. Note: Since I'm out on paternity leave, Beyond the Arc sent intrepid Hustle correspondent Sam Cicci to the Grizzlies' final media availability of the season. Here are his notes on who said what while the microphones were on Thursday afternoon. — KL

Following the Grizzlies this season essentially turned into a screening of Titanic. A voyage that started out with so much promise after an opening six wins against tough opposition slowly turned into dread as the ship headed toward its impending doom. The wooden door-turned-life raft wasn’t big enough for both Fizdale and Gasol, but enough about ships. Hope springs eternal, as they say, and the future looks just a little brighter for Memphis after this season.

Instead of an iceberg, the Grizzlies have a guaranteed top-five pick in a talented draft class. Majority owner Robert Pera stated he wouldn’t sell the franchise and was committed to keeping the team in Memphis. And, the players are fully behind interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, if the organization should decide to keep him on. Overall, encouraging signs came out of the season's final media availability.

Marc Gasol

The season was a tough spot for Gasol, who obviously doesn’t want to spend his prime years playing for an under-performing team. He couldn’t be drawn out on how the front office handled matters, but did reveal that he would soon be meeting with Robert Pera to talk about where the organization is headed. “It’s not just about the results,” said Gasol, “but whether the organization is doing everything in its power to achieve that. It’s easy to say Memphis wants to win a championship, but a lot of things have to go right to make that happen. The day-to-day stuff is huge, and I want to know what he has to say. I’m happy because I know he wants to keep the team in Memphis.”

On Bickerstaff: “He’s done a tremendous job with the tools he was given and what he was allowed to do. He’s held the guys accountable as much as he could, he’s been positive, he’s made the best of a bad situation, and he’s done a great job.”

A running theme throughout the afternoon, and one kick-started by Gasol, is that the players are ready to put in the hard work to get the Grizzlies back to where they were. Rather than just looking at the draft, he acknowledged the hard work that would be required for the team to rebuild its confidence. It’s crucial for a senior player to be setting that example, but it’s no surprise Gasol is looking to give his all.

Mike Conley

As if the season weren’t hard enough, things got worse when Conley became mired in injury limbo, and fans were frantic when the organization went silent on his status for long stretches of time. With a bleak prognosis for the season, GM Chris Wallace finally confirmed in January that Conley would miss the rest of the season due to a small bone protrusion in his left heel. With health as his personal priority over the off-season, Conley turned attention to some of the newcomers who had standout performances. “I was really excited about the improvements you saw from Dillon, and then Kobi down the stretch. Ivan Rabb got a lot of minutes, Deyonta Davis improved a lot. There were so many different moments, and then MarShon coming on late, and having somebody who can score the ball like he can was a really cool thing.”

Team health also emerged with Conley, who believes that the team will certainly make the playoffs if everyone is healthy. With a top draft pick as well, that goal should be even more achievable. Conley, like most of the other players, wouldn’t be drawn out on who he’d like to see drafted.

On Tyreke, “I haven’t spoken to him, really. A little earlier this season, I told him he better come back! But I know he’ll do what’s best for him and his family.”

On Dillon, “He was very very good. He did a lot of things very well, but he improved in a lot of areas throughout the season that we wanted him to improve in. He really cares about the preparation, and watching film, and things like that. He didn’t approach it like a rookie, so that was really cool to see, so hopefully he’ll keep building on that. I’m excited to play with him next season.” Conley wouldn’t confirm a return date from injury, but hoped to be in shape for the start of next season.

Bickerstaff’s Role

JB Bickerstaff - SAMUEL X. CICCI
  • Samuel X. Cicci
  • JB Bickerstaff

Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff was bullish about next season. “Injuries were a huge part of what happened to the team this year, and throughout the season, other veteran guys missed chunks of time.” With everyone back healthy, and a top five draft pick, Bickerstaff doesn’t believe Memphis will be out of the playoffs for long.

On his chances of landing the head role on a permanent basis, “I’m confident the staff executed the plan that we discussed with the front office. When the shift happened and injuries started piling up, we went into player-development mode, giving young guys experience and making them better basketball players. There’s not one of those guys that I look at who I don’t think is a better basketball player now than when we put our hands on him.” And those weren’t just empty words. As a collective, the players were enthused about Bickerstaff’s contribution.

“He made the best opportunity he could out of a situation he had no control over,” said JaMychal Green. “We could have gave up a long time ago, but he kept us going, never gave up on us, and kept pushing us at practice, and we fought hard. J.B. has that mentality, like coach Fiz, about playing hard and playing for each other. That’s a coach that you want to play for, a coach that will go down an alley with you and fight with you. I do definitely think he deserves it.”

Health

Chandler Parsons - SAMUEL X. CICCI
  • Samuel X. Cicci
  • Chandler Parsons

While there’s no question that injuries to key players crippled the Grizz this season, that in turn allowed for many of the younger players to get important minutes. Dillon Brooks was the only rookie to play 82 games in the NBA this season, but it wasn’t easy to tell it was his first season in the league with some standout performances. Some Hustle players, like Kobi Simmons (who dropped a career-high 20 points against the Pistons last Sunday) and Ivan Rabb, were able to join the senior players and continue to build playing time and experience. Dillon set a career high with 36 points in the final game, to personally end the season on a high note.

Chandler Parsons was happy that injury misfortunes at least allowed young guys to get minutes. “Guys like Dillon really benefited carrying a load for an NBA team. Ivan, Deyonta, Andrew, Kobi all gained valuable minutes which I think will improve their reps and help their future.” 

On a personal note, Parsons was confident about next season. “When I’m healthy, I can play at a high level and I can help this team win. There were some moments when I felt myself and did well, and other times when I had to shut it down. One positive is that this is the first time in three summers that I don’t need a surgery going into the summer. There’s no rehab, I’m already doing workouts, training for next season. I have a full five-six months to training camp, and the goal is to get as strong as I’ve ever been and not have to come in with a minutes restriction.”

On a potential improvement for next year, “it reminds me of the Spurs back in the day, when they had a bunch of injuries and then drafted Tim Duncan and won the championship the next year. It would be amazing if we can do that.”

The Main Rook

Dillon Brooks - SAMUEL X. CICCI
  • Samuel X. Cicci
  • Dillon Brooks

“I did kind of surprise myself, but it’s always been in there,” says Dillon Brooks. “There were so many opportunities that I had placed in my corner, with Mike going out and lots of players out with injuries. I never let it run away from me. In the NBA you only get a couple opportunities, and it’s always first impressions. You can’t let it go to waste.” 

Brooks credited Fizdale with initially believing in his ability, and said that extended to Bickerstaff as well, which helped him perform well during the season. “It was hard, since Fiz was the first guy I talked to when I was getting drafted, but J.B. continued it from there. He’s done well with the cards he was dealt, working with young guys. He’s a players' coach, and he knows how it goes for us. We all love him, and with everyone back and whoever we pick up, we’re gonna be fine.

On his position, “I can play a two, three, or four. You see Draymond Green, I’ve got the same type of heart, grit, and everything. And it’s a mismatch problem. You got a four man like Paul Millsap or one of those guys, it’s a mismatch. Just another way another coach has to figure out how to stop us.”

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Grim prospects for Gasol’s daughter in the dating field. The center came to media day sporting a D.A.D.D. (Dads Against Daughters Dating) T-shirt. Best of luck, Julia.
  • Gasol didn’t 100 percent confirm he would stay. However, he did reiterate his love for Memphis and that it was his home, so no need to press the panic button.
  • Chris Wallace wants the luckiest guy to represent the Grizz at the draft. Who might that be?
  • Chandler Parsons’ reaction when asked if he should represent Memphis at the draft, “Last two years, I think I’m the last person Memphis would want to send. I don’t think I’ll be representing the Grizzlies on the draft show! Maybe I’d pick Dillon, he’s healthy, played 82 games, good looking guy? Yeah, I won’t be there.”
  • Jamychal on who should attend the draft, “You probably need to take Jarell. He’s been doing real good on the spades table on the plane!”
  • Not much insight into Tyreke Evans’ situation, who was not at the event.


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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thunder 137, Grizzlies 123: Dillon Brooks and the Way Forward

Posted By on Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 10:48 AM

Dillon Brooks - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Dillon Brooks

Editor's Note: I'm out on paternity leave, so I was more worried about getting a newborn to sleep than watching the end of the Grizzlies' 2017-18 season. Fortunately, Andrew Ford was watching so I didn't have to. —KL

The last game of the season proved a fitting end to a regular season during which the Grizzlies were mostly an afterthought to the league.

Russell Westbrook solidifying his position in history as the first player to ever post a triple-double average over a two season period overshadowed what was arguably Dillon Brooks’ best game - certainly his most gunpowder-filled - of his promising rookie campaign.

The Grizzlies did just enough to play their part by providing a little bit of resistance in the second half to add a bit of suspense, but ultimately everyone who has watched this iteration of the Grizzlies knew how this one was going down.

Brooks was the lone bright spot amongst a sea of should-be, summer-league players doing their best to try to impress enough to get a camp invite from some team — any team — this summer. Ending the season with so many guys who won’t make it on an NBA court even during warm-ups next season is daunting but also a breath of fresh air.

Like a cocoon finally opening up and allowing a butterfly to soar, the Grizzlies are finally free from this season’s shackles. They can start over and become something new. Well, they can at least make significant progress in their tinkering to create an all new identity.

That new identity doesn’t start with veteran, team stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, or high-paid players like Chandler Parsons. It's the guy who entered the season as the runt of the litter who just wants to play every damn game — Brooks.

For bad teams, feel-good stories are always nice. Brooks is more than that, though. He’s a bonafide NBA player who has come a long way from game 1 to game 82.

He’s gone from being a really bad defender to more than passable now that he’s adjusted to modern gap schemes as well as the speed of the game. Offensively, he makes moves that almost always work out in his favor even when they shouldn’t. The kid is smooth, and he’s gritty, and he’s exactly the type of young player the city has been looking for.

Want someone to fight for the city long term? Gasol and Conley’s letters of recommendation might expire when their playing days do, which hopefully isn’t soon, but you never know once players hit the point at which both seem to be approaching given age. Don’t look desperately to a presumably, newly committed Robert Pera, or J.B. Bickerstaff, or anyone else for the support the Bluff City deserves. Rather, look to its youngest, talented chosen son who also happens to be the hardest working.

Brooks in one of his first games, against Golden State - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Brooks in one of his first games, against Golden State

Brooks likely won’t serve as the franchise’s savior, but he can be an advocate for the Grizzlies both on and off the court. He represents the best of what the franchise has offered to the city year after year since moving to Memphis from Vancouver in 2001.

That promise hasn’t always delivered winning, but the promise contains traits the city values such as hard work, dedication, reliability, scrappiness, nastiness, and a knack for making something of itself no matter what anyone else thinks.

Calling Brooks the beginning of a more modern version of grit and grind is fitting. He fits within the scope of today’s NBA physically and schematically while maintaining an old-school mentality.

As we are constantly looking back to catch a glimpse of better times that have passed us by, Brooks can serve as the comfort food allowing us to hold onto grit and grind whilst also possibly establishing a new future with a higher ceiling than the first iteration of grit and grind.

Possible is good enough in Memphis right now, as possibility is all fans have to hold onto after a long season.

No matter who the Grizzlies draft this summer, the guy is going to need to be surrounded by leaders or, at the very least, guys who can help light the way forward. Brooks will be the first one holding the torch when the new crew reports for duty.

Elegant but old-fashioned. Crafty but tough. Humble but never willing to accept a beating. Brooks is everything the franchise could want, and he’s a foundational piece of what it needs moving forward.

Last night, Brooks bobbed and weaved under the arena’s bright lights, overachieving for the last time this season. Here’s to the belief - and the promise - that this season’s overachievements will soon turn back into the expected. With Brooks helping lead the charge, I’d bet on it.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What Robert Pera Should Do Next

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 11:27 AM

Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera
  • Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera

The days of worrying about the Grizzlies' buy/sell clause are apparently behind us, as last night Robert Pera announced his intention to retain controlling interest in the franchise via an email to Grizzlies MVP season ticket holders. ESPN's Zach Lowe reports this morning that the highest bid came from Daniel Straus, though Straus and Steve Kaplan both triggered the clause, and that the valuation from the Straus group was between $1.3 and $1.4 billion.

Regardless of the valuation—which, if that number is correct, is much higher than what I expected, and higher than the $1 billion valuation reported previously by the Sports Business Journal—Pera's announcement settles months of speculation in Memphis and parts elsewhere about who would own the team heading into its most important NBA Draft in a decade.

Now. The question of "who will own the team?" appears to be settled. The questions that have been left hanging over the last 12 months now need to be addressed, some more urgently than others. What are they? What should Robert Pera do now that he's signaled that he'll be the owner going forward?

Set a Vision.

Michael Heisley had his Three Year Plan (which, somehow, actually worked). From there, the Grizzlies had years of "Grit and Grind" where they had an identity, a culture, a common set of goals, and success on the court and off. (Seems worth pointing out here that much of this culture was established under Lionel Hollins, who hasn't coached the team since they left the floor at the end of the 2013 Western Conference Finals.) Much of that identity came from the players on the team, rather than from the front office, from Chris Wallace to his exile under Jason Levien and back. No matter what created that culture, it all cohered... until it didn't.

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace
  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace

The Grizzlies haven't drafted well in the first round since they picked Mike Conley. Coming into this summer, they're now guaranteed a pick no worse than 5th (though if it's outside the top 3, this year's combination of "tanking" and "terrible" will no doubt feel like a bit of a failure). Is Chris Wallace, who has been here forever, who has never once articulated that kind of a vision, that kind of "this is what we're trying to do" philosophy that can guide a front office through what promises to be an arduous rebuilding process, really the guy to do that?

Even if the Grizzlies bounce back next year—which, as always, is possible "if healthy"—will Pera put in place basketball leadership who see that as immaterial to the process that needs to be built, or will they continue with the Wallace-era reliance on bringing in just enough talent to keep things going? That pretty clearly failed this season.

There are also things for which Wallace, if he's really the sole decision maker like the Grizzlies will swear up and down he is, needs to be held accountable:

(left to right) J.B. Bickerstaff, Dave Fizdale, Keith Smart - JOE MURPHY (NBAE/GETTY IMAGES)
  • Joe Murphy (NBAE/Getty Images)
  • (left to right) J.B. Bickerstaff, Dave Fizdale, Keith Smart
  • The Chandler Parsons signing is still (somewhat) defensible, but there's no possible way to argue that it's been a success, or that his contract isn't one of the worst in the league for what he can actually produce on the court.
  • The lauded hiring of David Fizdale and then the decision to fire him less than 18 months after said hire, when he couldn't get along with the franchise's best player (or second best, if we're taking Conley's 2016-17 as an indicator of his level and not as his peak). If he's the one who made the hire, he's the one who needs to say "it wasn't working," and do it in a way that doesn't make Marc Gasol have to spend months explaining why the coach got fired.
  • The decision to throw a 2-year, $10M deal at Ben McLemore on the second day of 2017's free agency period, as though he were a hot commodity ready to be snapped up, rather than a long-term project at best. He fits Wallace's well known "great high school player who went to Kansas" profile, but so did Josh Selby. McLemore was clearly the worst player on a team that will be lucky if it wins 22 games, and the Grizzlies are paying him $5 million next year.

These are only the biggest decisions Wallace has been responsible for in the last two seasons. Despite the Grizzlies' long run of consecutive postseason appearances, one could argue that they peaked in the 2013 Western Conference Finals and have been steadily declining ever since, and that Wallace has been the one at the helm for a large portion of that gradual coast into the ravine that is this season.

The Grizzlies need someone running the basketball side of things with a clearly articulated vision for what kind of basketball the team will play, what kind of players they like and what kind of players they don't, what kinds of gambles they're willing to take, and what kind of coach they want on the sidelines. They need someone with whom the buck stops, and I remain unconvinced that it should be Chris Wallace. Pera's the owner of the team; he's the only one who can address this issue. Whether he maintains the jumbled status quo of the current front office, or moves to build a more coherent and considered management culture, will say a lot about what he thinks of the last three seasons of Grizzlies basketball.

Double Down on Memphis.

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It's hard to argue that Memphis makes sense long-term as an NBA market when Seattle sits out there ready to snatch up someone else's small market team and immediately turn a team that takes a cut of revenue sharing into a team that pays into revenue sharing. When a franchise costs more than a billion dollars, even if they're just mostly toys for rich people, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to lose millions of dollars on one.

So.

Seattle will always be out there until the owner of the Grizzlies takes them off the table for relocation. Pera's email to season ticket holders said that

It is with intent that I referred to the "Memphis Grizzlies" ... because I am committed to Memphis as an NBA market and as the home of the Grizziles.

Which is great to hear. The biggest fear rippling through the Grizzlies' fanbase about the buy/sell agreement in general was that Kaplan (who was always on the radar as the bigger threat for some reason, despite the fact that Straus apparently made the larger bid) would be eager to move the team to Seattle where it could make money immediately playing in their new $600 million facility. But Pera saying he's committed isn't the same thing as Pera showing he's committed.

Making an appearance in town every now and then would probably go a long way, but as Peter Edmiston pointed out this morning when I spoke to him on the radio, there's a lease out there that ends in 2027, now less than ten years out, and the provisions that allow the lease to be broken start sooner than that.

I'm not quite sure what I'm asking Pera to do here. Extending the lease is the most obvious thing, but probably doesn't make business sense at this time. At the same time, the Grizzlies have been rolling with the same look and feel, and essentially the same jerseys, since 2005. I think they're overdue for a bit of modernization, for a new color scheme (the black and gold thing, whether it was real or not way back when the internet went crazy over it, seems to be coming back in subtle ways, and I've always thought the white/black/teal color combo was more distinctive). A new court. Things that say "we are investing in this thing" but aren't really related to on-court product.

Pera's spent money on the basketball facilities and the staff, but who knows whether that's been out-of-pocket or through additional debt. Maybe, if he's not going to flat-out extend the lease keeping the team here, sprucing things up a bit would be a good start? The bottom line, though, is that if he means it, he'll extend the lease at some point (or negotiate a new one that still keeps the team here).

Communicate.

It's not so much that Pera doesn't speak to the press or the public. Lots of owners of pro teams don't really do that. But the ones who aren't immediately approachable in that way usually have figureheads. Who is Pera's figurehead? Who explains decisions to the public?

This year, too often, it was Chris Wallace, JB Bickerstaff, and Marc Gasol. Emails to season ticket holders are fine, but ultimately, as Chris Herrington said excellently this morning, a sports franchise—especially the only pro team in a small market like Memphis—is something more like a public trust than a private corporation, especially when that sports franchise plays in a building built and owned by the City of Memphis itself.

Between starting their own media company in Grind City Media and breaking news in emails to season ticket holders, the Grizzlies try to manage their PR by going direct, and while they seem to be building audiences for some of the Grind City stuff, it's hard to argue that sending emails to season ticket holders helps them disseminate their messaging more broadly. It makes them look cloistered, like they're hiding something.

I guess it's easy for someone who has to go to press conferences to say the answer is "hold press conferences," but I don't think it's that simple. In creating their own avenues to share their messaging, the Grizzlies are creating an atmosphere of secrecy and an information vacuum, inadvertently or not. Having someone who can face the public—and, again, by no means does it have to be Pera himself—would go a long way towards helping the Grizzlies seem more open, more transparent, like less of a black box out of which come little morsels of information about decisions that seem to have been pulled from thin air. The channels they've created for themselves—no matter how hard they fight this assertion and try to set them up so that this isn't the case—will always feel a little bit like state media.

Conclusions

I think it's hard to argue that this isn't a win for Memphis compared to the alternatives. Admittedly, the Straus group is a bit of an unknown, but it's clear that the Kaplan group, no matter what their intentions about keeping the team or moving it or anything else, would have implemented some pretty sweeping changes on the basketball and business sides of the organization, and that those changes would have been happening during a time in the history of the team when the leadership needs to be "on one accord" to use a phrase Mario Chalmers says all the time.

Pera says he's committed to Memphis as an NBA market and as the home of the Grizzlies. I hope that's true, and I have no real reason to doubt it. But, now that he knows he's going to own the team, it's time for him to set a course for the organization. It's something that only a controlling owner can do, whether he wants to be seen doing it or not.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Robert Pera to retain controlling interest in Grizzlies franchise

Posted By on Mon, Apr 9, 2018 at 7:01 PM

Robert Pera
  • Robert Pera

Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera has decided to retain his controlling interest in the franchise, according to a statement released Monday evening.

From the press release:

The Memphis Grizzlies today announced that controlling owner Robert Pera has sent formal notice to the NBA that he will retain his controlling interest in the team in connection with the “buy-sell” process. This decision was shared earlier this evening in an open letter from Pera to Grizzlies MVP Season Ticket Members.

Some Twitter users posted that open letter:

This ends several months of speculation about whether Pera would retain his ownership stake in the team or sell it to minority owners Steve Kaplan or Daniel Straus (who each own separate minority stakes in the team). Recently, the word on the street has been that Pera would buy out whichever minority owner triggered the clause (it could have been either or both), and it's good to see that proven correct.

This opens up questions: What should Pera do next? What changes will he make in the face of the Grizzlies' mostly-disastrous season? Is this the best outcome for the city of Memphis? (Early take: probably.) More to come on this, but at least tonight, the first big question that's been hanging over the team since this summer has finally been settled. Presumably, now they can begin to tackle the rest.


Friday, April 6, 2018

BtA Back and Forth: Ejections, the Draft, and More

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 5:05 PM

bta_003.jpeg

Note: The Beyond the Arc podcast is on a bit of an unplanned hiatus due to some personal situations and some equipment failures, so co-host Phil Naessens and I decided to do an email back-and-forth about the topic(s) we would have discussed this week had fate not intervened. Enjoy.


Phil Naessens: We could begin with these ideas I have:

1). NBA players serve a one-game suspension for racking up 16 technical fouls. With the rash of ejections this season, should the NBA consider suspending players after a certain number of ejections? If so, how many and how many games?

2). Are we disappointed the Grizzlies have been on a "hot" streak (they won two games a week ago) and messed up the tank?

Kevin Lipe: I like the idea of treating ejections like red cards. You're tossed from the current game, and you can't play the next one. (I don't want to make teams play with 4 players after an ejection, though... 4 on 5 is a little different from 10 on 11.) Seems like a way to incentivize... not getting ejected. But that's also on the refs and the way they've called technicals this season, which I think has been a big problem. We talked about this on the show already but I think it's only going to get worse in the playoffs. Player/ref relations are at a very low ebb this season.

As for winning too much... we'll see. I know Orlando won last night, and Atlanta almost did... this Kings game on Friday night has become a "must lose" situation. I think they can manage it—after all, they have Ben McLemore available to play 48 minutes.

Ben McLemore (23) - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Ben McLemore (23)

PN: I would treat ejections by case; if it is for a Flagrant Two then they are banished for three games. If it is for mouthing off I would give them a pass after the first one; then I would suspend them for three games after the second ejection; five games for the third, ten games for the fourth, and the fifth one they are done for the rest of the season.

Winning too much? In a way it's a good thing as it still shows the players haven't quit. To me there isn't much of a difference between 1-5 anyway. They could all be really good or just average journeymen. Depends on need and opportunity I guess. McLemore needs to show folks he can play but he's done more than enough to show me he probably isn't going to help win games unless he is injured!

KL: I think that makes sense, but I also just like having a concrete rule rather than taking things case-by-case. When you do that, you generally end up with a system that suspends regular guys and keeps superstars out of trouble. That seems to be how things go.

Since Doncic is a European guy, I want your take on him, because I know you watch a lot of Euro ball still. What's the biggest hurdle for Euro guys coming to the NBA? Is it speed, like everybody says? Because that seems like a bit of a cop-out to me. What kinds of things make that transition difficult, and how worried about it should the Grizzlies be if they were going to draft him?

PN: Ok... you win but if you look at the amount of ejections and who's at the top superstars are the ones getting bounced the most this season.

Doncic is the real deal. The Spanish Pro League is no joke and for him to be doing what he has been doing at his age is truly remarkable. He's quick not fast. I guess you call it sneaky quick. The boy is a real playmaker and ain't afraid to mix it up down low and fight for a rebound. His high release reminds me of Klay Thompson and he is going to be a very good defender. Sometimes he tries to get too cute and turns the ball over, but Kevin, this kid is the real deal. Maybe not superstar franchise-changer real, but real in that he starts at the two guard for the Grizzlies on opening night and contributes immediately.

Just two random dudes who used to play in the Spanish league - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Just two random dudes who used to play in the Spanish league

Some European guys have told me the speed was much quicker than what they were used to, but the adjustment period wasn't that difficult. These are still world-class athletes and as we have witnessed in World Competition: the best hang with the best.

I think the most difficult adjustment is the playing time. These players for the most part are superstars in their leagues and get the full complement of minutes. In the NBA they are rookies and are usually treated as such; a mistake in Europe means the coach might yell at them. In the NBA a mistake, especially one that costs their team a game, might mean extended pine time. That messes with their confidence BIG TIME.

The other thing that I hear is hard to get used to: the travel. In Europe they might have maybe two long flights (four hours or more) and just one road game per week per season whereas in the NBA they could be subject to back-to-back flights of four hours or more, and five to seven game road trips.

They say the road trips are the worst for this; in most cases when player A comes over they bring a girlfriend or family member and lots of times both. These are the folks they can speak freely with, especially when they are struggling. Not having those people around to vent to — it makes things worse and lots of guys say adios to the NBA because of this.

If not Doncic, is there someone else you like?

KL: No, not really. I think he's perfect for what they need, both now and for the next few years. They've been desperate for playmaking and scoring at the perimeter for years, and he gives them that, even if there are some speed bumps along the way. I think even though they have to start preparing for life after Gasol, they probably aren't ready to move on from him yet (at least, not under the current ownership/management situation) and thus taking Ayton or Bagley complicates matters. My worst fear is that they'll take Porter because he's injured and he fits the mold for a player that Chris Wallace takes a chance on. But the first top-5 pick in almost a decade is not the time to take a chance; they basically have to get this one right or else they're totally screwed for years. The stakes are probably slightly higher than they were with the Thabeet pick, even.

I hope Doncic is who they pick, and I hope they get the #2 pick so the Suns can take Ayton and they can have Doncic all to themselves. But so often, the thing that I hope for with the Grizzlies is not what happens.

PN: So you are saying that it might be Wallace doing the drafting? Man, him being at the wheel is a scary thought. What are the chances this could actually be the case?

If the Grizzlies somehow get the top pick, would Wallace (if he is still driving the bus) pass over the person that fits an immediate need like Doncic does and chase after Ayton?

KL: We don't know, is the answer. It seems like a bad idea to let a guy who might be on the way out do the picking, but at the same time, if nobody knows who's going to own the team, they have to act like everything is going to continue the way it is indefinitely. I think it's possible that they could go for Ayton, but to me, I think it's so blindingly obvious that Doncic fits better with what they've been lacking for years that it's unlikely they'd pass over him. Plus, I think the Suns want Ayton anyway, and they'll probably end up with the #1 pick. Maybe not, though. It just seems so straightforward to me that I feel like anything else would be a huge mistake.

PN: Straightforward and the Suns seems like an oxymoron to me lol... that organization would be relegated if they were a soccer club in Europe.

So... MarShon Brooks got himself a contract. What do you think of this?

KL: He's played well, but I don't know why they needed to go on and sign him to a guaranteed deal for next year. I don't understand why this team, the past two years, rolls through the summer with all 15 roster spots already full, knowing guys are going to have to be cut. They know they've got a first and second round pick coming in this year, too, so that's two more roster spots (or at least one; theoretically the second rounder could be a guy they stash in Europe or a guy who doesn't make the cut). It took until the last day of the preseason for the Griz to cut Wade Baldwin and Rade Zagorac, and they're just setting themselves up for the same scenario this year.

I think Brooks has been fine. He's a bench gunner; we all know that. Can he do it on a good team? We'll have to see, or, at least, we'll see if the Grizzlies are a good team next year. I'd have been fine with signing him for the rest of the year (all four games left) but... the next-year part just doesn't make any sense to me. Invite him to camp and see what happens from there.

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace
  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace

PN: This is one of the reasons I think Chris Wallace has to go. Very few teams go to camp with all 15 spots on the roster filled. Wallace reminds me more of a Fantasy Basketball General Manager than a real NBA GM. What I mean is he seems to fall in love with players having a hot couple of weeks rather than just developing a crush and moving on after a couple of dates. It's why Fantasy Owners lose and why the Grizzlies luck has run out.

All that being said I like Brooks. I liked him when he played briefly for the Nets. I really thought good things were ahead for him. Maybe they still are and maybe just maybe he is next season's Tyreke Evans. So you bring him to camp next season and you wait and see. But signing him to a two-year deal, three games into a ten-day contract, makes ZERO sense.

Zbo is back again......are you excited to see our old friend? Do you think he will play?

KL: Who knows. The Grizzlies aren't playing anybody, and normally I'd say that means Zach isn't playing, but in this season... anything is possible. I certainly don't think the Kings want to win the game, but I don't know what that means—will they play the vets so they can lose, or play the young guys so they can lose? Which Kings roster grouping is more likely to lose to the back half of the back half of the Grizzlies' rotation?

I like Zach. I like watching him play. Watching him languish on a terrible team has been a bummer, but the reality is that if he'd been on the Grizzlies this year they wouldn't have been much better than they were anyway, so it's not like the situation would have been much different if he were here. Fewer minutes for some of the young bigs, I guess.

There are only four games left. We can do this.


The Beyond the Arc Podcast will return at some point. In the meantime, stay tuned for another one of these conversations. —KL


Friday, March 30, 2018

2018 NBA Draft: Who Should the Grizzlies Pick?

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2018 at 11:16 AM

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace
  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace

Editor's Note: I've always been a fan of Andrew Ford's work scouting players, even all the way back to my Straight Outta Vancouver SB Nation days. He's got a great basketball mind—he's been on college staffs before—and he's a good writer, and I wanted to give him an opportunity to talk about who the Grizzlies should draft after this horror-show of a season ends. He did not disappoint.

Assuming the Memphis Grizzlies don’t blow a serious tank job with barely more than a handful of games left to play, they will end the season as one of the worst three teams in the league. With any blessing at all from the lottery gods, a poor finish will translate into a top three draft pick in June. That would leave the Grizzlies with their pick of the draft litter.

All the draft options the Grizzlies will be presented with might seem a little overwhelming, but the great thing about the current state of the roster is that it’s extremely moldable. I would posit that the Grizzlies are closer to gaining an all new identity than they are to regaining their long-standing, beloved Grit and Grind identity. That might fire up those who love Grit and Grind a little, but the Grizzlies have clearly been trying to move away from playing in the mud ever since they allowed Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Vince Carter to walk in order to develop younger guys for the future. Lack of identity is generally seen as a bad thing in the NBA, but a roster containing very few pieces positioned to play a long-term role places the Grizzlies in an ideal position to be able to choose any number of players in this year’s draft without having to be extremely concerned about how the player fits with current roster pieces.

Continue reading »

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Grizzlies 108, Trail Blazers 103: They Won Again

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 9:02 AM

Last night needed more of this. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Last night needed more of this.

The Grizzlies can't stop beating Western Conference playoff teams who seem to be sleepwalking through the last couple weeks of the regular season. First it was Minnesota on Monday night, their first road win of the calendar year 2018. They continued the trend—creating an honest-to-God winning streak, something they haven't seen in weeks—on Wednesday at home against a Portland team missing Damian Lillard.

It's just like the Denver game from earlier in the month: team somewhere in the bottom half of the West playoffs bracket (this is before the Nuggets found themselves in 10th place) comes up against a Grizzlies team that, while bad, plays hard, and manages to play with so little intensity of execution that the Grizzlies, with whichever good player happens to show up on that given night, sneak up on them and steal a win out of the jaws of their sojourn in the wilderness.

Look, last night was a fun, exciting basketball game, but we're way too late in the season for this to start being fun. Up until Monday, the Griz were neck-and-neck with the Suns for the league's worst record, but now, two wins later, they're tied for third-worst with Atlanta, and barely hanging on to an edge over Orlando and Sacramento. The Grizzlies were absolute garbage for so long they were practically guaranteed a top-3 pick, but if they keep on winning, it's entirely possible that they'll have spent an entire season in the depths of misery only to fail to reap the (Ayton/Bagley/Doncic-sized) reward.

But, fear not. There's a solution to this mess, he's already under contract (no, not MarShon Brooks, who came in on a 10-day straight from China and scored 21 off the bench, including 14 in the 4th quarter alone), and he's guaranteed to be making $10M of the Grizzlies' money through the end of next year: play Ben McLemore 40 minutes in every remaining game.

This is not the McLemore the Grizzlies need in order to lose their remaining games. It is, however, a Memphis classic, in the same way a top 3 Grizzlies pick would be.
  • This is not the McLemore the Grizzlies need in order to lose their remaining games. It is, however, a Memphis classic, in the same way a top 3 Grizzlies pick would be.

I can't believe I'm actually putting forth a solution like this; one doesn't normally choose to subject oneself to the basketball equivalent of waterboarding (apologies to the 2012 Bobcats, whom I may have also called "basketball waterboarding"), but McLemore has been uniquely well-suited to torpedoing any chance the Grizzlies have at winning this year.

I bring this solution up—really, the solution the Griz have deployed all season long when trying to lose on purpose—because McLemore didn't play at all against Portland and only played 8 minutes against the Wolves. He's so bad, so bad, that he's got to be on the court for the rest of the season.

A top-3 pick, which, let's be honest, is the only acceptable outcome of a season this craptacular if you're a Grizzlies fan, is well within the Grizzlies' reach, even now, after these wins. But they can't win again. The stakes are too high. To avert their eyes from the utter darkness of the Tank at the last second would be to undo the one thing bringing hope to so many the whole time they're been going on multiple double-digit losing streaks: the chance that the Grizzlies might actually get the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. The later the pick, the bigger the chance that the Grizzlies will pick badly. This is what they've been losing for all season long. The young kids are good, or at least better than they have any right to be—this much we know.

Now keep losing. Time is tight.

Tweet of the Night

Up Next

Road games in Utah, Portland, and New Orleans, and then the last two home games of the season on Friday and Sunday against Sacramento (a must-lose if I ever saw one) and the Pistons.

They need to lose out. Whether that's actually what happens, we will see. I’ve got an interesting guest post lined up that will tackle what the Grizzlies should do with whichever pick they actually end up with (feels destined to be, like, fifth, doesn't it?) so stay tuned.


Friday, March 23, 2018

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 19

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2018 at 4:57 PM

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The Hustle ride a winning wave as the season winds down

There have been long stretches of trouble during this inaugural season in the G-League, but the Hustle’s past few performances have given fans hope that the team can push on stronger for next year. With two wins in the bag from gameweek 19, the Hustle can look to make it five on the bounce to close out the season against the South Bay Lakers and Texas Legends. Before that, though, Memphis had to blow past the Windy City Bulls and then square up to the number one seed in the West, the Austin Spurs.

Another day, another Marquis Teague clutch play to seal a victory. The contest wasn’t always tight, however. The Bulls secured the first quarter with a 30-20 lead, but the Hustle didn’t let that faze it. The game stayed close until the third quarter when, at 62-60 in favor of Windy City, the Bulls embarked on a 19-0 run to put clear daylight between the two teams. Memphis refused to lie down and steadily chipped away at the lead, with Myke Henry coming up with some key baskets, including a three-pointer to take the lead at 103-102. Henry’s layup also tied the score at the end of regulation, sending the game into what would be a double overtime.

In a series of personal escalating contributions, Henry pulled out another key layup at the buzzer for the first overtime period, tying the game at 117-117. The Bulls took the lead again in double overtime, but after Windy City’s C.J. fair missed a free throw with 8.9 seconds left, the Hustle refused to call time out. Teague attempted a 21-foot jump shot and drained it as time ran out, giving Memphis its first overtime win.

Throughout the game, the Hustle had the edge in the paint, with Memphis out rebounding the Bulls 52-37 and winning the second-chance points matchup 17-7. In the fourth quarter, Memphis also took better advantage of possession changes, turning four Bulls turnovers into 10 points, while Windy City failed to capitalize on Memphis’ mistakes.

Four of the Hustle starters scored in double digits, with Marquis Teague leading the team with 28 on 13-26 shooting, all while adding eight assists. Chance Comanche scored 24 on 11-14 shooting, while Dusty Hannahs nailed four three’s and made three free throws to snag 15. Omari Johnson added 18 points with nine rebounds.

Victory over the Bulls was impressive, but the Austin Spurs would provide a much sterner test. Austin towered over the Western conference with a 31-17 record, but Memphis came out guns blazing, erecting a defensive wall that held Austin to just 18 points in the first quarter while Memphis put up 29.

The Spurs, however, showed their high-profile pedigree and eased their way back into the game, closing the deficit over the course of the second quarter and built up to a healthy lead at 75-66 in the third. Not to be outdone, the Hustle strung together a 20-3 run to garner an eight point lead, but Austin again made a comeback attempt. With the Hustle’s lead cut to one, Marquis Teague stepped up yet again with an and1 that ultimately put the game out of reach for the Spurs. Memphis’ win meant they took the season series against the West’s best team 2-1.

The Hustle was good value for its win. While many of the points were spread around the team, Omari Johnson led with 25 points, while Myke Henry and Marquis Teague provided 21 and 17 points, respectively.

The win against Austin made it three wins in a row for the Hustle, who have a chance to end the season on a five-game win streak. That would make their final record more respectable, as well as give a sense of accomplishment to the young franchise. Next up, the Hustle play their final home game against the South Bay Lakers before closing the season in Frisco, TX, against the Texas Legends.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Grizzlies 101, Nuggets 94: Finally, a Win!

Posted By on Sun, Mar 18, 2018 at 8:23 AM

JaMychal Green dunks it on his *own* head for a change. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • JaMychal Green dunks it on his *own* head for a change.

The Grizzlies’ unrelenting torrent of misery finally, well, relented on Saturday night, as they won (seriously!) (like, I’m not making this up—according to the official National Basketball Association scorer’s report they finished with more points than their opponent) (seriously!) for the first time since January 29th. Denver is a playoff team, or at least they would be if they didn’t keep losing to teams like the Grizzlies, but then that’s why they play the games.

The Grizzlies came out swinging in this one, but one facet of the game stuck out to me above others, and it was something we haven’t seen from this Griz team in quite a while: offensive rebounding. The Griz didn’t even get more ORebs than Denver (they had 14 to the Nuggets’ 17) but when they did, they made them count. These weren’t just tips off something missed under the basket (looking at you, Zach Randolph’s career rebounding numbers); on multiple occasions the Grizzlies used offensive rebounds to bring the ball back out, settle in, set up a new play, and try again. They made the most of the possession, and then when they got an opportunity to set up for another one, they took it.

That’s not something the Grizzlies have been doing, not even back in January when they were still occasionally winning games. It was a new look for them, and one that signals that maybe in all this losing, little things are starting to improve. Things are being learned on some level.The other uncomfortable truth about Saturday night’s win? $30 million worth of salary got a DNP-CD and spent then night watching from the bench. Ben McLemore didn’t play, and neither did Chandler Parsons. McLemore has been playing heavy minutes through this stretch of losses (even though they’re ostensibly trying to win and trying to develop players). Parsons has been trying to shake some rust off while still on a heavy minutes restriction.

Wayne Selden soaked up a lot of minutes last night, and shot well. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Wayne Selden soaked up a lot of minutes last night, and shot well.


Neither has been good. In fact, Parsons has been at best neutral, and McLemore has been the worst player on the team by a pretty wide margin. That’s not a great sign, even in a season as bad as this one. McLemore was signed really early in the free agency window for more money than it seemed was necessary to get a player of his caliber, and Parsons, well, let’s not even go there right now. But when these guys sit and Tyreke Evans doesn’t, the Grizzlies can win. When they play, and especially when they play and Evans doesn’t, the Grizzlies are (apparently) the worst team in the league.

Which is fine. The Grizzlies sit at 19 wins now, and I would be shocked if they make it to 22. The season is almost over—13 games left, luckily enough—and there’s absolutely no incentive for them to go on a win streak this late in the game. If they play McLemore enough, apparently it won’t be possible at any rate.

Even if they don’t win another game this season (watch for Parsons to get shut down first, if he’s liable to start drawing DNP’s anyway), this win over the Nuggets, tank or not, was probably a necessary breather for the hapless hometown team. They were clearly distraught after the Chicago game, having come so close to finally breaking the losing streak and yet fallen so short at the end. That stuff matters. There’s bad, and then there’s “bad and cranky,” and they were trending that direction. One can only hope they can now manage to scrape the bottom of the barrel with smiles on their faces.

Gasol had his way with whichever Plumlee this is. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Gasol had his way with whichever Plumlee this is.

Tweet of the Night

Not really related to the win, but maybe not necessarily so unrelated, given how important St. Jude is to both of the Gasol brothers:

Up Next

Road games against the Nets, 76ers, and Hornets, each of them winnable in their own way. But. The Grizzlies have yet to win a road game in the calendar year 2018, and they’re abysmal against Eastern Conference teams this year, so unless this Denver win sparks a newfound confidence and a shortened rotation from JB Bickerstaff (though, let’s be honest, he knows better than to do that the whole rest of the season, right?), the trip eastward will probably be less than rewarding.

The next home game is in a week, against the Lakers.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bucks 121, Grizzlies 103: Game Notes

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Ben McLemore actually had a good game against Milwaukee, but it wasn't enough for a win. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Ben McLemore actually had a good game against Milwaukee, but it wasn't enough for a win.

The Memphis Grizzlies fell 121-103 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night, extending their losing streak to 18 games. The Griz last won a basketball game on January 29 at home against Phoenix, and since that point, everything has come completely unglued for them. Some of this is by design—they're very nearly bad enough to actually get the #1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft—and some of it is because they've suffered a lot of injuries and weren't that good in the first place. No matter how much of the misery is self-inflicted, it's still miserable

What, then, can one say about a game like the one last night? The Grizzlies actually had a decent first quarter against the Bucks (currently sitting in the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot) in which they led by as many as eight points, but before the end of the quarter, lineups changed and so did the tenor of the game. This wasn't a blowout, not for most of its 48 minutes. The Grizzlies made runs, and the Bucks responded, and the Grizzlies never seemed to push over the edge and make it a competitive game. (Which, let's be honest, is not exactly a surprising development.)

"Coach, clearly the better Fleetwood Mac album is 'Tusk.' You're only saying 'Mirage' because you keep playing 'Gypsy' in the weight room." - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • "Coach, clearly the better Fleetwood Mac album is 'Tusk.' You're only saying 'Mirage' because you keep playing 'Gypsy' in the weight room."

I'm not really sure what else to say about this game. The upside of tanking is supposed to be player development, but playing these players in these situations with these personnel groupings isn't helping them develop, not really. As Matt Hrdlicka wrote about recently on his Patreon-backed blog, that's one way the Grizzlies are tanking that is not actually helping them get better for some hypothetical brighter future (beyond just getting minutes for some of these guys).

This season has been taxing to watch, taxing to talk about, taxing to consider in the larger context and, most certainly, taxing for the players stuck on a team that can't seem to put together a win to save its life. There's not much of it left, but what remains promises to be a slog. How do they win a game from here? Where do they find the execution to actually carry some of these runs over into a lead, and then keep it? Can it be done?

We'll find out. In the meantime, the plummet continues.

Tweet of the Night

Speaking of Hrdlicka, Jarell Martin started at small forward last night, and while it wasn't a total disaster, he was clearly playing out of position and struggling to keep up. For all of Martin's nascent skill, recently starting to blossom into "real NBA player" potential, he is still much worse at one end of the floor than he is the other:

Up Next

JaMychal Green is having a great stretch run, one of the Grizzlies' only bright spots. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • JaMychal Green is having a great stretch run, one of the Grizzlies' only bright spots.

Thursday night, the Grizzlies play the Bulls, who were recently scolded by the league powers-that-be for resting too many healthy players. (This is why Tyreke Evans is still "injured" and why Chandler Parsons had such a long, lingering "illness" and if you don't believe that I have a couple bridges to sell you, one vaguely shaped like an "M".) It will be vaguely interesting to see which team can try harder to lose, but the novelty has worn off of that like the basketball version of a Radio Shack Super Armatron, and if the weekend's Mavs game is any indication, the Grizzlies are the best team in the league at trying to lose.

Saturday brings the Nuggets, that almost-suitor for Tyreke Evans (though given what they offered, I'm glad that deal didn't go down). The most that can be said for the rest of the season is that they will (technically) be basketball contests held between two professional teams. So it goes.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Beyond the Arc Podcast #95: Three Things We've Learned

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 9:18 AM

bta_004.jpeg

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

  • The Grizzlies have lost fifteen (15!) games in a row.
  • The pro-tanking and anti-tanking factions of Grizzlies fandom keep fighting for no reason
  • Three things Kevin and Phil have learned about the Grizzlies this year (yes, it's still possible).
  • Who should coach the Grizzlies next year? Steve Clifford? Becky Hammon? What about JB Bickerstaff?
  • Should Chris Wallace go? Should Gasol and Conley?
  • Three things Kevin and Phil have learned about the NBA this year (content warning: scorching hot takes)

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:


Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 16

Posted By on Sat, Mar 3, 2018 at 6:59 PM

memphis_hustle.png

Only two matchups this gameweek as the Hustle splits results.

Reno came to town at the perfect time. Not to be outdone by their NBA counterparts, the Memphis Hustle were mired in the midst of a five game losing streak when The Bighorns came to Southaven. The newest episode of The Late Show with Marquis Teague aired on Saturday with two big free throws to give Memphis the win. While the subsequent loss against the South Bay Lakers brought any hint of momentum to a stop, the madcap, crazy, and chaotic bout against the Bighorns showed the fight this team still has in it.

Throughout the course of the game, the Hustle and the Bighorns ceded no ground to each other. When the dust settled, there had been 20 lead changes and 16 ties, while neither team ever led by more than seven points. With the Reno frontcourt duo of Jack Cooley and Jakarr Sampson putting out mammoth performances, the Hustle needed to put on a team clinic to stay competitive, and that’s exactly what they did. Each member of the starting lineup scored at least 14 points, allowing Memphis to fight through Reno’s domination in the paint and keep pace with Cooley and Sampson’s offensive efficiency.

Teague led the Hustle again with 24 points on 11-19 shooting, with the final two go-ahead buckets coming with just 3.1 seconds remaining in the game. Omari Johnson nabbed his 5th double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Dusty Hannahs had an all-around performance with 14 points, four assists, and four rebounds. Austin Nichols pulled eight rebounds to go with his 17 points, and Jeremy Morgan had an efficient shooting game with 19 points from eight of his 12 shots. Off the bench, J.J. Frazier had his best performance in a Hustle uniform with 10 points and five rebounds. This game was a throwback to the early Hustle season, where the team would consistently churn out incredibly close, nail-biting results.

Against the South Bay Lakers, regular Hustle shortcomings reemerged. Throughout the season, Memphis hasn’t really quite been able to manage a game when taking a large lead, and that’s exactly what happened here. The Hustle blazed out of the blocks, building a 15-point lead and ending the first quarter at 34-21. Chance Comanche led the charge early, scoring nine points off the bench in the first frame. However, offensive production fell in the second quarter. South Bay consistently hit its shots, ending the quarter at 62-55. From there, the Lakers really got into their stride, pulling away in the third quarter to seize a 101-85 lead. In the final frame, the Lakers hit several threes to ultimately put the game out of reach for the Hustle at 125-116.
For the second game in a row, Marquis Teague did his best to keep the Hustle competitive by claiming a double-double with 28 points and 10 assists. Omari Johnson also gave a stellar performance with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Chance Comanche ended up with 17 points off the bench, while Jeremy Morgan scored 13. Beyond that, however, there wasn’t enough depth to make a dent in the Lakers’ lead.

At 16-26, the Hustle will end the season with a losing record. There are only eight games left, so now's a good time to end on a high and provide some building blocks for next year, when the players and the organization will have more experience under their belts. In terms of roster news, the Hustle recently signed Kuran Iverson, who played two seasons of college basketball at University of Memphis, via waiver claim. Kuran's most recent G-League experience came earlier this season with the Raptors 905. Next up for Memphis is an away game in Prescott Valley, Arizona, against the Northern Arizona Suns.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Beyond the Arc Podcast #94: Why Keep Watching the Grizzlies?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 10:28 AM

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

  • Phil wants to trade Marc Gasol, but Kevin has a better idea
  • Do the Grizzlies think they'll make the playoffs next year?
  • Kevin's Memphis Flyer cover story about reasons to keep watching the Grizzlies
  • Phil's work on the DFS portion of the Lenny Melnick fantasy baseball draft guide
  • David Fizdale's ESPN gig—will he ever coach again?
  • How should the league handle dirty plays and players like Zaza Pachulia?
  • Can the Thunder actually beat the Warriors in a playoff series? (Spoiler: probably not)
  • The Grizzlies and Suns' Wednesday night game with both teams coming off double-digit losing streaks

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

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

You can download the show here or listen below:


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Beyond the Arc Podcast #93: Rising Stars, Raging Refs

Posted By on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 at 9:32 AM

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

  • Dillon Brooks on Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge
  • Was the Grizzlies' decision to keep Tyreke Evans the right one?
  • How bad will the Grizzlies be for the rest of the year?
  • Andrew Harrison's big night and big dumb ejection
  • The problems with the refs this season
  • Should the Griz bring back TA and Z-Bo since the Heat brought back Wade?

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, February 9, 2018

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 14

Posted By on Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 4:40 PM

hustle.jpg

To start, let’s say goodbye to a Hustle player that’s served the team well over the course of the season so far. Yesterday, the Hustle waived forward Trahson Burrell, who had averaged 13.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. On the other side, Memphis acquired JJ Frazier all the way from JDA Dijon Basket in the French LNB Pro A, where he averaged 8.2 points, 2.6 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game. Frazier started his basketball career with four years playing collegiate basketball at Georgia.

In terms of game news, the week started off strong with the Hustle riding their momentum from last weekend’s Marquis Teague-led win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Up next after Rio was the Austin Spurs, a game which on paper looked like a challenge with Austin sitting pretty atop the Western Conference standings. The game, however, wasn’t easy coasting. The Hustle struggled to contain the Spurs early on, with the Texans shooting 57.4 percent from the field in the first half. However, Memphis’ 19-8 run with the clock winding down to halftime closed the gap to a 70-61 scoreline in favor of Austin. The Hustle slowly gained ground over the course of the third quarter until pulling ahead at the very end at 90-89.

The Hustle maintained the lead for most of the fourth quarter until Austin pulled ahead at 111-110. Memphis, not to be deterred, went on a 10-0 run sponsored by two quick Jeremy Morgan three’s to restamp their authority on the game, closing out the score at 120-115. The victory was the result of a total team effort; eight Hustle players scored in double digits, with Burrell leading the charge with 21 points accompanied by nine rebounds and five assists. Chance Comanche pulled a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Morgan, Shaquille Thomas, Durand Scott, and Dusty Hannahs all combined for 43 points. The collaborative scoring helped the team overcome what was as large as a 22-point gap.

Having turned the tables on the leading Western team, surely the Hustle would kick on and come out of the blocks quickly in the following matchup? Instead, the Hustle dug another hole, this one even deeper with a deficit standing at 24 points against the Wisconsin Herd. More remarkably, the Hustle went on to win the game by 19 points. That’s an incredible 43 point turnaround, one not hinted at by the 26.7% Hustle shooting from the first quarter. The second quarter didn’t fare much better, but the second half was where the Hustle finally came alive. This matchup saw the return of Memphis’ paint domination, with the team pulling down 16 offensive rebounds, and outscoring the Herd 26-10 in second chance points and 60-42 in the paint.

Marquis Teague scored 25 points and added five assists and five rebounds to his all-around performance, while Austin Nichols got a double-double off the bench with 20 points and ten rebounds. Burrell snagged his tenth double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The victory against the Herd meant that Memphis earned its third straight victory, each having seen the team come from at least 16 points down at one point. That right there is fighting spirit, and with the end of the season looming, it’s a great way to end on a high.

It’s probably too much of an ask to keep asking for huge comebacks, and thus the Hustle couldn’t pull out another one after falling to an early lead against the Iowa Wolves. This lead was the largest the Hustle faced in this stretch, standing at a whopping 26 points. Warning signs flashed early. With the Hustle trailing by one midway through the first quarter, the Wolves hunted down efficient scoring opportunities and rampaged through an 18-0 run. The Hustle did claw its way back to just a six-point deficit during the fourth, but that was as good as it got. The Wolves took this contest 108-98.

On his last game for the team, Burrell put up a meager six points on 2-8 shooting. Omari Johnson and Thomas did their best to buck up the Hustle, scoring 25 and 22 points respectively (a career high for Thomas). Two wins out of three, though, is a darn good return for the tough teams the Hustle had to play against. The fighting spirit is still there, so some more top teams might struggle when coming up against Memphis. For now, the Hustle have returned home to play Agua Caliente Clippers tonight in Southaven.


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