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

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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

bta_004.jpeg

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

bta_003.jpeg

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.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Game 5: Spurs 116, Grizzlies 103: Home Cooking

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 8:02 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The home team hasn’t lost a game in this series yet. On Tuesday night the role players for the Spurs who didn’t play well in Memphis finally snapped out of it, and the Grizzlies got nothing from players not names Mike Conley or Marc Gasol (and even the latter had another tough outing).

Simply put, given how poorly the Grizzlies guarded the perimeter, and how well the Spurs shot even when they defended flawlessly, the Griz should’ve gone down 20 in the third quarter and stayed that way. That they didn’t is a signal of just how close this series really is, and just how much success or failure for either team will depend on whose role players are able to show up in a road game. So far, it hasn’t happened either way.

As discussed after games 3 and 4, this has been Mike Conley’s series, and that continued in Game 5 even though the results didn’t go Memphis’ way. Conley was 10/17 for 26 points, including 2/4 from 3-point range, and he made things happen with his passing and rebounding, just as he has all series (and all season) long. The problem for the Griz in Game 5 was that nobody else did much of anything, while Spurs reserves who had been having a quietly bad series all sprung back to life. Zach Randolph didn’t get much going. Gasol was pestered by double teams and not moving quickly enough to get his best shot. Andrew Harrison and Wayne Selden shot well but mostly played like rookies in a road playoff game (imagine that). Vince Carter still didn’t contribute much. Ultimately, the things said after Game 2 still stand in some ways: the Grizzlies don’t have the roster to beat anybody in the playoffs if they don’t get bench production.

Manu Ginobili sprung to life in Game 5 after struggling all series. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Manu Ginobili sprung to life in Game 5 after struggling all series.

Coming back home for Game 6, that will be the primary determining factor in whether the Griz can force a Game 7. Can the reserves step up? Will the Spurs—like Manu Ginobili, who had 10 points after having not made a shot the entire series yet, or like Patty Mills, who hit some devastating threes and got to the rim at the worst possible times, or like Davis Bertans, who hit some big shots from long-range that he hadn’t been able to make yet.

Listen: this is a game that is very easy to over-analyze. “What if Troy Daniels had played more?” (Patty Mills would’ve had 30 instead of 20, probably.) “What if Zach Randolph had played more?” (He probably would’ve been 5/14 instead of 4/10.) I’m a big fan of Occam’s Razor in basketball analysis: the Spurs shot better and their role players finally showed up. Usually the dumbest explanation is the correct one.

Games 3 and 4 allowed Grizzlies fans (and to a large extent the Grizzlies Internet Commentariat) to forget and/or ignore some of the larger issues that loomed behind the first two games—issues that made the Grizzlies the underdogs in the series in the first place. Andrew Harrison is not a battle-tested backup point guard (and last year’s Chalmers injury still haunts this team). The wing rotation is ostensibly missing its two best players in Chandler Parsons and Tony Allen. Marc Gasol is not consistent. JaMychal Green is an excellent player but not quite big enough to defend well against this San Antonio team. The Spurs defend Zach Randolph well by the way they send the double team. None of those factors have gone away; at home, the Griz got an unexpected boost from their role players and showed the Spurs to be more vulnerable than they seemed. That’s still true. Game 5 was close for much longer than it was a fait accompli. Game 6 is still very winnable for the Grizzlies, and maybe even Game 7 should they force one. But Game 5 showed why that was unlikely in the first place, and why Grizzlies fans should treat every minute of Game 6 like the miracle that it is, because it wasn’t “supposed” to happen.

Tweet of the Night

Last night was a rough one out here on the Griz Twitter streets, but it wasn’t without its moments:


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #78: Take That For Grizzlies/Spurs Data

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 7:31 AM

bta_003.jpeg

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

  • David Fizdale's epic "Take That for Data" rant and whether it was an effective motivational tool
  • The unevenness of playoff officiating, and should the Grizzlies foul harder?
  • A rundown of what worked for the Griz in games 3 & 4
  • The Grizzlies don't miss Tony Allen as much as we thought they would
  • Can the Grizzlies' young guys play well on the road? Troy Daniels' big Game 4 minutes, Wayne Selden, etc.
  • A small L2M report rant and Phil goes "NYC sports radio" on Adam Silver

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:


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Game 4: Grizzlies 110, Spurs 108: One For The Ages

Posted By on Sun, Apr 23, 2017 at 9:40 AM

Mike Conley asserted his dominance last night. - LARRY KUZNIEWKI
  • Larry Kuzniewki
  • Mike Conley asserted his dominance last night.

I had no idea what to expect last night before the game. No outcome would have surprised me, from a Spurs blowout win to a 20-point Grizzlies beatdown like the one they tried to pull off in Game 3. There wasn’t a vibe in the building other than that, having finally lost a game, the Spurs weren’t going to be playing around anymore in Game 4. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, needed to have a strong showing and get a win to avoid taking the series back to San Antonio trailing 3-1. Both teams were desperate to win it.

What happened was one of the most exciting playoff games I’ve ever witnessed, and probably one of the most stressful for the Griz faithful in attendance: a down-to-the-wire win in which Kawhi Leonard put on one of the most masterful performances anyone has ever seen and still lost on a last-second Marc Gasol shot after Mike Conley had controlled 52:59 of the game’s 53 minutes. Last night’s game will forever be remembered as a heart-stopper in which the home team came through.

The Mike Conley Game

Conley played the MVP-level basketball he was playing to start the season, back before he got hurt and played NBA basketball with a broken back for several weeks. He was absolutely unstoppable on the offensive end, no matter which Spur was guarding him. Even when covered by the fearsome Leonard, Conley managed to use his speed to get into the lane and find ways to create scoring. Conley’s stat line was a near triple-double: 35 points (56% shooting, including 50% from three), 9 rebounds (all defensive) and 8 assists.

Conley was everywhere, carrying the team on his back through rough stretches, scoring, defending well—Game 4 was Mike Conley’s game, the one in which the aggressiveness that David Fizdale has been cultivating in him all year finally paid off in a big way on the biggest stage. For all of the talk about how this is Marc Gasol’s team, and how Gasol was made the team’s sole captain in training camp, it’s been Conley who has grown the most under Fizdale, finally embracing his ability to be the team’s top scoring option in addition to running the offense. That paid dividends last night, because the Spurs still don’t have a guard who can defend him well, and if they put Leonard on him all the time the Grizzlies have just enough shooting to make that a bad idea.

Conley’s blossoming this year has been amazing to watch, and might be an even bigger accomplishment for Fizdale than convincing Zach Randolph to come off the bench. We always suspected the talent was there, and saw it in little flashes here and there (especially in the playoffs) but I think it’s fair to say, after Game 4 in particularly, that this is Mike Conley’s world and we’re all living in it.

LARRY KUXNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuxniewski

The Chess Match

The question everybody had going into Game 4 was “What will the Spurs do to adjust?”, and right away there was immediate intrigue: Dewayne Dedmon was a late scratch with an illness, and Gregg Popovich announced in pregame availability that David Lee was starting in his place. Lee was thoroughly roasted by Z-Bo in Game 3, so it was a curious substitution (Pau Gasol seemed the more obvious fit to me) but it seemed to signal that the Spurs’ strategy would be to double-team Randolph whenever he caught the ball in the post. That’s what they started out doing, and it majorly hampered Randolph’s production early (he was scoreless in the first quarter and only had 4 at halftime).

For the Grizzlies, there weren’t that many adjustments left to make after moving Randolph and Ennis to the starting lineup for Game 3. The minutes shifted around, and there was certainly a renewed intensity on defense once they started to figure out the Spurs’ extremely high pick and rolls, but for the most part, the lineup questions were about “what will the Spurs do to counter” rather than what the Grizzlies were going to change. Fizdale said as much in the postgame, saying he wanted to make sure they Griz were maximizing the potential of their gameplan before making changes out of impatience.

I’m not sure what the Spurs’ next move is, lineup-wise. Davis Bertans played some very good minutes for them in Game 4, so I would expect to see more of him in the upcoming games, but beyond that, Popovich seems pretty committed to the gameplan the Spurs brought into the series. As long as it involves a spot in the rotation for Manu Ginobili and big minutes and production from Tony Parker, I think the Grizzlies are happy with it.

Ginobili’s presence in the game is what allowed the Griz to get more run for Troy Daniels than they have in previous games, because Daniels is still not really good enough on defense to play in these situations unless he’s hidden on someone he literally doesn’t have to guard. Ginobili went 0-5 from the floor, and it felt like all of those were open 3’s that Daniels was letting him take. On the other end, Daniels was able to hit a couple of big 3-pointers and shift the momentum of the game in a non-negligible way (including one listed as 26’ on the play-by-play that felt like it was shot from somewhere in Foote Homes a couple blocks away). Look for Fizdale to press that advantage to the fullest extent possible, because Daniels can be a devastating weapon when he starts to get going.

Up Next

Andrew Harrison made some big plays last night. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Andrew Harrison made some big plays last night.

Game 5 on Tuesday in San Antonio will be interesting. It’s not a series until a home team loses, etc. But if the Grizzlies, who have been mostly outplaying the Spurs since the second half of Game 2, can now go back down to San Antonio with the confidence they’ve built in these two games—especially the rookies like Harrison and Selden and Ennis, who looked overwhelmed in the first two games but found their sea legs at home—I see no reason to think the Grizzlies can’t continue winning.

On the other hand, if the Spurs figure things out in a meaningful way, the Grizzlies could be in trouble, because as I said they don’t have any more tricks up their sleeves. To stretch the metaphor, I think all of the Grizzlies’ cards are on the table, and what they’ve got it what they’ve got. The problem for the Spurs is that none of the “answers” to what the Grizzlies have got are clean enough; they all create matchup issues at other positions. It’s also unlikely that Marc Gasol will have another game as poor as he did in Game 4 (right up to the point that he hit the hard shot that won the game). In all, I don’t really know what to predict here. I thought the Grizzlies would have a lot more trouble coping with Tony Allen’s absence than they are, and a lot of that credit goes to James Ennis and Wayne Selden for doing just enough to keep Kawhi Leonard from being able to win games by himself.

These next two games will probably induce just as much anxiety as Game 4. Bring on the Tums.

Tweet of the Night

After Kawhi Leonard’s breathtaking performance last night, this one seemed apropos:

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