Friday, April 21, 2017

Game 3: Grizzlies 105, Spurs 94: Grindhouse Forever

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 8:13 AM

Zach Randolph turned back the clock against the Spurs in Game 3. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph turned back the clock against the Spurs in Game 3.

For the first time in a long time, the Grindhouse was itself last night. The Grizzlies had no other option, and they delivered the goods. Last night they gave everything they had, continued to play they way they did in the second half of game 2, and beat the Spurs 104-94 in a contest that wasn’t actually as close as the final score suggests, on the backs of big nights from Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley. What year is it again?

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Z-Bo Gonna Z-Bo

The Spurs haven’t let Randolph score at will like that since 2011, when he bullied them into losing to the Griz in six games. Ever since then, the Spurs (and their coach, Gregg Popovich) have always game-planned for Randolph, keeping him from getting to his spot, doubling him from the baseline to take away his options, packing all five of their guys into the paint when necessary. Thursday night, none of that mattered much, because Randolph, moved back into the starting lineup just for the occasion, just went straight through them anyway.

What happened last night is probably the Spurs’ nightmare, because it’s the thing they’ve been avoiding against the Grizzlies for six whole years, and the thing for which this year’s San Antonio team is really pretty ill-prepared: turns out it’s a lot easier to guard Zach Randolph, even the 35-year-old version, when Tim Duncan is on the team.

David Lee bore the brunt of the assault, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol got in on the action, too. Randolph was determined to put the team on his back to the fullest extent possible, and he ended up doing it to the tune of 21 points and 8 rebounds in under 30 minutes. It was a vintage Z-Bo playoff game, with the crowd hanging on every jabstep, holding its breath as each high arcing shot hung there deciding whether to go in. After a whole season of coming off the bench, for one night, or maybe for the rest of the series, Z-Bo was in all of his splendor just like no time has passed, like four or five seasons just didn’t even happen.

Even if not a single thing more goes right for the Grizzlies for the rest of whatever time they have left in the postseason, last night can’t be taken away, not from Zach, not from we who watched it.

Gasol and Conley both had 20-point games. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Gasol and Conley both had 20-point games.

Two-Man Game

In other extremely detailed basketball #analysis, it turns out that when your two best players play very well, it becomes much easier to win a playoff game against a good opponent. This shocking new development comes from Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, who scored 24 and 21 points respectively last night. (And for those keeping track at home, that means that three of the Grizzlies’ starting five last night scored more than 20 points.)

Conley and Gasol have each had their individual moments in the series so far, but last night was the first time they’ve been able to (1) put together long stretches of their best play and (2) both manage to play well in the same game at the same time. It did seem like Z-Bo’s early outburst—the majority of his production came in the first half—relieved some pressure on Conley and Gasol and allowed them to work their way into a rhythm instead of getting frustrated early while trying to carry the team. The results were inarguable, and seeing the tandem working so well together was a glimpse of one possible Grizzlies future built around their pick and roll savvy (this is the part where we pretend they haven’t already tried to sign a playmaker on the wing to do exactly that).

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Gasol’s body language has been all wrong this series, for what it’s worth. He’s been visibly frustrated with his (younger) teammates at times, and he’s been much closer to “unhinged 2015 Marc” than “December 2016 MVP Marc” for weeks now. Whatever that’s about—and look, I’m a parent, and having a three-week-old at home is probably at least part of it—last night was the first sign of that fog’s clearing, as by the end of the game Marc was coaching up James Ennis instead of shooting eye-daggers at him. But it’s worth monitoring, and his mental state, his artist’s temperament about how he plays the game of basketball, is (as ever) one of the keys to whether the Grizzlies can actually make this a series now or whether last night’s win, no matter how convincing, was more about winning one for pride.

The Next Adjustment

…there’s not one, really, not for the Grizzlies. At least, not one that makes as much sense as the Ennis-and-Randolph swap Fizdale put in place for game 3. But that might be fine. There’s a scenario here which I won’t allow myself to talk about too much because I don’t want to get my own hopes up: the 2013 series against the Clippers. The Grizzlies lost the first game by 21 points, played better in the second game but still not enough better to win, and then, once the series shifted back to Memphis, they… won four in a row, with Game 6 still the most “Memphis” sporting event that could ever possibly take place.

These Spurs are very good, and through the first six quarters of the series, they looked like they were operating on a totally different plane than the Grizzlies, but since halftime of Game 2, they’ve looked more mortal. Sure, they’ve still got the best player in the series in Kawhi Leonard. And the Grizzlies’ wing rotation and backup point guard mess are both still big reasons why the Spurs should win the series. But. But.

If Popovich keeps refusing to play Dwayne Dedmon, and Z-Bo can fit in with the starters more like he did in the second half of Game 3 than the awkward, “Hey guys, remember when we used to do this?” first half, and Andrew Harrison and Wayne Selden can somehow continue to play better than 2013 Keyon Dooling instead of worse than 2013 Keyon Dooling, I’m just saying, it’s not like there’s no precedent. A lot of things have to go the Grizzlies’ way in Game 4 for this to be more than wishful thinking, and because the Spurs are the Spurs, it’s entirely possible that the second half gave Popovich all the intel he needed to create The Ultimate Answer To The Z-Bo Problem Version 2.0. But these Spurs haven’t been playing as well as I expected them to. Manu Ginobili and David Lee are big weaknesses for them off the bench, etc. There are vulnerabilities there, but the question is whether the Spurs will continue to neglect to protect them. There’s not a lot of precedent for that.

Tweet of the Night

It’s Memphis, and it’s the playoffs, so Grizz’s nemesis Natch showed up last night for some wrasslin’. This looks like far and away the most dangerous chokeslam at a Grizzlies game since Zach Randolph did it to Blake Griffin and got called for a common foul. It also serves as a good encapsulation of what the Grizzlies did to the Spurs last night overall: winning by brute strength and a willing disregard for pain, the classic Griz formula.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Game 2 Recap: Spurs 96, Grizzlies 82

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 7:33 AM

Zach Randolph started the second half and almost made a miraculous comeback happen. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph started the second half and almost made a miraculous comeback happen.
We know by now that the Grizzlies are creatures of habit, and so in Game 2, they did what they’ve done for years now, time after time after time: they found themselves down 30, decided to start fighting at halftime, closed the gap to single digits, and then got so worn down that they couldn’t withstand the inevitable counterpunch. After their worst first half performance in months, two quarters so bad I was looking up animated GIFs of building implosions to use on Twitter: ...the Grizzlies came out in the second half with a different look. James Ennis III and Zach Randolph replaced Wayne Selden and JaMychal Green in the lineup, and from there, it was on. From down 26 points, the Griz closed the third frame trailing by only ten, and in the early part of the fourth quarter they’d cut the lead to 4. The problem, though was how much effort it had taken them to get to that point, and falling back on the bench to get some rest for Conley and Randolph only let the Spurs push the lead back out to double digits and keep it that way. I’m not sure it had to be this way.

In the first half, the Grizzlies got down and lost all sense of urgency. They were doing things like this:
JaMychal Green has struggled to guard LaMarcus Aldridge. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • JaMychal Green has struggled to guard LaMarcus Aldridge.
...and the game got so far away that it looked like the collapse of an entire era of Memphis basketball—and by transit Memphis history—was about to crumble and blow away in the wind. The comeback attempt was pure Grizzlies, with hounding defense and Zach Randolph running straight over LaMarcus Aldridge to score on the other end, and it showed that maybe the Griz do care about whether they win the series or not.

By the time they got the Spurs’ lead down to four, the self-dug hole was so deep they couldn't quite get out of it, and all it took was one Spurs run to put the game out of reach.

Can they get away with starting Ennis and Randolph in Game 3? I think they can. Ennis’ contributions have been uneven in the series but between he and Wayne Selden, Ennis is the much more obvious choice to try and slow Kawhi Leonard in Tony Allen’s absence. Randolph actually works against the Spurs’ starters, too, because he's always done a passable job guarding Aldridge and (going back to the one year they shared in Portland) seems to enjoy trying to truck him like a defensive tackle on the way to the rim. And now we’ve got to talk about last night’s Instant Classic, which happened after the game itself. I think it's fair to say David Fizdale was displeased with the way Game 2 was officiated:

“Take that for data” aside, those numbers certainly give the impression that the Spurs were getting calls that the Grizzlies weren't, and the eye test during the game backs that up. The counter, which is undeniable, is “don't go down by 30 points and the officiating won't matter so much,” but I think the disparity was more the issue than the raw numbers. It was not a game that was called the same way on both ends of the floor, and that lack of consistency is pretty damaging to the momentum of the team getting the short end of the stick.

At any rate, Fizdale’s outburst is a classic coaching move. He's going to pay a fine big enough to hurt his feelings, for sure. But the officials in the next game will be thinking about it, and the Griz will go into Game 3 knowing their coach is willing to cut a five-figure check to defend them. In a series where finding five guys who will all play hard at the same time seems to be a problem, that may ultimately be worth more than the money Fizdale is about to lose. But he's totally going to get fined, and probably a lot.

Game 3 is on Thursday. This new wrinkle, these Grizzlies that can make a furious comeback on the back of Zach Randolph, Old Faithful himself, Mr. 20-10 Since 2010, promises to make it a do-or-die affair. As a playoff catchphrase, “They Not Gon' Rook Us” is probably an all-timer. The Grizzlies have to find a way to make it matter.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #77: Can the Grizzlies Adjust?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 2:38 PM

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

  • Our recap of the Grizzlies' lopsided Game 1 loss
  • What is the Grizzlies' counter to San Antonio's disruption of their offense?
  • Should the Spurs' pressure be affecting Conley as much as it is?
  • What adjustment can be made for Game 2? Does the roster limit what Fizdale can do?
  • A brief look at the West's other series

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, April 15, 2017

Game 1 Recap: Spurs 111, Grizzlies 82

Posted By on Sat, Apr 15, 2017 at 10:33 PM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but that’s really only because no important Grizzlies player was traded to the Lakers for Javaris Crittenton. The Grizzlies played a great first quarter in last night’s opening game of their first round series against the San Antonio Spurs, but after that point the wheels fell off and they slowly lost ground until head coach David Fizdale finally waved the white flag and cleared the bench with seven minutes to go.

Why? Kawhi Leonard, for one. Leonard finished with 32 points on 14 shots in only 32 minutes, and didn’t even play in the fourth quarter because the Spurs had already amassed such a lead. He was impossible to defend, and his defense–both of Mike Conley and others–caused problems for the Grizzlies all night.

Marc Gasol played with a lot of emotion, and his intensity carried him to a 32 point game of his own, but most of that scoring came in the first half, and down the stretch of the third quarter, when the game was really getting out of reach, he was the only Griz player able to do anything. That’s the whole story of Game 1, really: it has very little to do with the absence of Tony Allen and everything to do with the absence of any offense at all. No one could score (not even Conley, who had a quick 10 points in the Grizzlies’ improbable 30-25 first quarter, but then only scored three more points the rest of the game.

I’m having a really hard time coming up with some sort of intelligent analysis of this game. The 20 minutes of garbage time had a way of erasing the earlier portions from my mind, the way Spurs coach Gregg Popovich adjusted to what was happening early and erased every single thing the Grizzlies were doing that worked. Fizdale was not able to win the chess match coming out of halftime, and when the Grizzlies’ season-long struggle to do anything in the third quarter reared its head again–and now naive we were for imagining that it could be a thing of the past!–San Antonio did exactly what every Grizzlies fan feared they would do. It felt like last year’s playoff series, where the Griz were undermanned and overmatched at every position. They seemed every bit as overmatched tonight. And, with Chandler Parsons doing whatever he’s doing these days and Tony Allen watching in a suit, two of their best three wing players are out, so maybe they are.

I’m not sure that’s a legit analysis of how the series will go, even though it feels that way at the moment. Zach Randolph had a horrendous showing tonight, unable to make shots, defend, or even screen well enough to help the offense make plays. It seems unlikely that he’ll have another game that bad, but against the Spurs, he will always be made to pay for the 2011 playoffs. Conley was bad after the early start, but it seemed like if the Grizzlies had been able to limit turnovers by making smarter decisions he could’ve gotten the game to a more controlled place, where the Grizzlies weren’t constantly forced to make up for Spurs points off a turnover.

Make no mistake: Game 2 is going to be a referendum on the season, and on this team. Can they show up, adjust, compete, and maybe even win? Or will they lose by 30 again and look like they don’t even belong in the playoffs? If it’s the former, and especially if they win, the way they lost tonight will barely matter and the Grindhouse will be electric for Game 3. If they lose badly again, and look aimless in the same way, things are going to be decidedly deflated.

The path is there. Find a bench contributor who can give more than Zach Randolph did with his 6 points and blisteringly bad -39 +/-. Limit turnovers. Play a third quarter with the same level of intensity that they play the rest of the game. These are all things that are doable, if difficult. If they can’t figure that out, it’s going to be a short, miserable series. If they can, they can make a series out of what appears to be a train wreck after its first night.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tony Allen out indefinitely, "Doubtful" for first round

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 4:46 PM

Tony Allen was injured in the Grizzlies' final regular season game. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tony Allen was injured in the Grizzlies' final regular season game.

According to Michael Wallace of Grind City Media, the Grizzlies' media arm, the injury Tony Allen suffered early in last night's game against the Dallas Mavericks has proven to be something of a worst-case scenario for the Grizzlies as they prepare to face the Spurs in the first round:

Allen's injury leaves a big hole in the Grizzlies' perimeter defense, and also hampers the offensive rebounding of the Grizzlies' starting unit. Not much of a good way to spin this one for the boys in Beale Street Blue.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #76: Gasol Brothers Three-Point Contest

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 4:10 PM

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

  • Phil won some money off of Wade Baldwin's crazy last-second shot against the Knicks.
  • The Grizzlies are about to make their seventh straight postseason appearance.
  • We detour into gushing over how good young Arvydas Sabonis was...
  • A breakdown of the Grizzlies' first-round matchup against the Spurs
  • The Gasol brothers' three-point shooting
  • Is this season a disappointment, or not? Is there a path for the Grizzlies to get to the Finals?

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, April 6, 2017

Thunder 103, Grizzlies 100: Next Day Notes

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 9:46 AM

Andrew Harrison started at point guard in Mike Conley's absence. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Andrew Harrison started at point guard in Mike Conley's absence.

The Grizzlies were able to prevent human wrecking ball Russell Westbrook from breaking the record for most triple-doubles in a season, but only by one rebound. Westbrook finished with 45 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds in a game that seemed out of hand in the third quarter (when the Grizzlies were trailing by 10, their largest defecit of the night) but ended up coming down to the wire.

Here are some scattered thoughts on last night's game, which pretty much locked the Grizzlies into a 7th seed and a likely first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs.

Game Notes

Wayne Selden deserves the look he's getting. I was not convinced Selden was the answer to any of the Grizzlies' problems, though he made an impression in training camp and preseason. I still don't expect him to be a big difference-maker in a playoff game. But I will say this: he's starting to look like an NBA player, and has already become a better defender than Toney Douglas. If you're looking for a 14th or 15th guy to carry into the playoffs, you could do worse than Selden.

Zach Randolph is ready. Z-Bo played very well last night, esecially in the second half. In the postgame, Fizdale said he was trying to wait until the 4-minute mark to put Randolph back in the game, but that he checked himself in with 4:30 to go and said "Can't wait, coach" as he walked past Fizdale on the way to the scorer's table. He was right. His scoring down the stretch was Vintage Z-Bo, and kept the Grizzlies in the game until the last minute when Westbrook dropped some bombs of his own. Randolph continues to make his case for Sixth Man of the Year, and continues to prove that coming off the bench, he's got years left to play.

Z-Bo was rounding into postseason form last night. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Z-Bo was rounding into postseason form last night.

We haven't talked enough about Tony Allen's rebounding this year. Allen finished last night with 7 rebounds, continuing his elevated rebound rate for the season. He may still struggle to finish around the rim, and he definitely shouldn't be the backup point guard, but Allen's rebounding has allowed him to remain relevant on offense even as he's struggling a little bit in other areas. His 70% shooting night last night certainly didn't hurt, either, but it's the offensive rebounding—the ability to create more possessions for a team that's starving for them—that is the most impressive new wrinkle in Allen's game.

The Grizzlies need Mike Conley right. We've seen how the playoffs go with no Conley (2016) and a 50% Conley with a broken face (2015) and with a hobbled Gasol (2014). You have to go back to the Conference Finals year, 2013, to find a postseason where neither guy was coming into the postseason with some sort of long-term malady. Gasol's foot seems to be fine—he said last night that it's a little weak from the lack of activity but not sore—so... with any luck at all, this may be a stronger Grizzlies team heading into the "real" basketball than we've seen in the past.

Up Next

Three games are left, all at home: the Knicks, the Pistons, and the Mavericks. I can't imagine that all of the important players will play in all of these games, but at the same time, the Griz are still searching for their rhythm lately, so we may see them rest less than expected (especially since Gasol and Conley have both missed time recently). I think we'll see them try some weird lineups to see what works, while perfecting the rough edges they're still showing execution-wise.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #75: Grit and Grind and Sports Media, Redux

Posted By on Mon, Apr 3, 2017 at 4:25 PM

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

  • Kevin's big post from last week about Grit and Grind, sports media, what it all means, etc.
  • Has the Internet hurt sports coverage? Sports fandom?
  • Being able to predict when the Grizzlies aren’t going to play hard
  • The slow winding down of an era of Grizzlies basketball
  • The Grizzlies are going to play the Spurs again, probably
  • How will the grizzlies handle the end of the regular season?

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, March 29, 2017

Notes on “Grit and Grind: Burned in a Pale Fire”

Posted By on Wed, Mar 29, 2017 at 3:29 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

"Dead is the mandible, alive the song."
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire


Author's Note: This is a weird one. It probably won't make much sense unless you first go read Grit and Grind: Burned in a Pale Fire, a great piece my friend Matt Hrdlicka wrote, and to which this piece is mostly a set of responses and annotations.


Let's start with the first sentence.

Before the season, I wrote that Grit ‘n Grind was a tired term in need of retirement.

We've all said it, and yet it's still with us. I think Chris Herrington's recent distinction is a good one to think about here: there are two things we mean when we say "Grit and Grind"; the first describes an era of Grizzlies basketball, and the second describes an overarching ethos, a way in which Memphis as a community expects our basketball team to reflect us, or at least the outlaw part of ourselves that we keep mostly under wraps.

While the latter is just as "Memphis" as Isaac Hayes' Eldorado, the former is no longer an adequate framework for discussing what's going on with the team. It is bankrupt. It has been thoroughly strip-mined of new ways to discuss what happens on the court, as you'd expect from any other metaphor about a core team that's been together since 2009. It's come to mean more than it should, and to imply an embrace of ugliness, when what it really was, say, when the Grizzlies beat the Clippers in a Game 6 and we poured all of our collective bloodlust—Memphis is a city that loves to see just how close we can come to being totally out of control—it was only ever an exhortation to do what you do, how you do it. To play hard, and fight anybody who tries to swing on you first. It was never about pace or offensive rating. It was a cri de cœur.



Continue reading »

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Grizzlies' Bad Springtime Trip

Posted By on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 9:06 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

I thought it was the Jeff Green trade.

I figured it was because his total space-cadet lack of awareness on the court and his aloofness off of it had fatally disrupted the chemistry of the Grizzlies and that was the whole problem—that was the reason Marc Gasol looked like he was having a Ritchie Tenenbaum-style breakdown, ripping his jersey like shedding layers of signature Fila gear. My thesis in those days, well-documented on the back pages of this blog, was that once the Jeff Green Problem was sent to Siberia (or the Clippers, whichever is worse) the Grizzlies would get it together and play better basketball.

There's no Jeff Green to blame this year. There was for a while, when Chandler Parsons briefly occupied the same "Marc Gasol hates playing with this guy" niche, but he was removed from the equation, things improved, and then things rapidly went right back to where they were.

Where they are is this: the Grizzlies are either not good enough to win without Marc Gasol expending superhuman amounts of energy, or they've realized that they're going to lose in the first or second round and have decided not to care about their seeding situation. My fear, the thing that makes me question why I'm even still paying attention (other than the fact that I have to) is that it's both.

Continue reading »

Monday, March 27, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #74: Good Gasol/Bad Gasol

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 4:32 PM

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

  • The Grizzlies' bummer of a road trip
  • The difference in Good Gasol and Bad Gasol and why they show up when they do
  • Whether the mileage on Marc Gasol is finally starting to get to him
  • What rock band would the Grizzlies be?
  • The sacrifices the Grizzlies will have to make to keep JaMychal Green
  • How many more years can Vince Carter play?
  • What's the Grizzlies' plan for the future?

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:


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #73: Z-Bo: Sixth Man of the Year?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 9:15 AM

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

  • Zach Randolph's candidacy for Sixth Man of the Year, and who some of the challengers might be.
  • How can the Grizzlies win four straight games right after losing five straight? How much of that is tied to Marc Gasol's engagement level?
  • Is Chandler Parsons ever going to play again?
  • The effect of Gasol's three-point shooting on the Grizzlies
  • Bench numbers after the All-Star Break, and a requiem for Toney Douglas
  • A preview of the weekend's Griz/Warriors matchup.

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:


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #72: Torn Knees, Mended Lineups

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 1:40 PM

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

  • The big news of last night: Chandler Parsons is out indefinitely with a partial meniscus tear. What does that mean for the Grizzlies this year? What about the years after that?
  • How much better does it make the Grizzlies (this season, anyway) not to have Parsons taking up 20 minutes of rotation time?
  • Vince Carter's incredible night in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks
  • Are the Grizzlies the West's Atlanta Hawks? Are the fans OK with that?
  • Is Mike Conley mediocre? (Spoiler: no)
  • With the Grizzlies rest Gasol on one of the East road games this week?

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, March 13, 2017

Chandler Parsons out indefinitely with partial meniscus tear

Posted By on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 at 6:40 PM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
The Grizzlies sent out a press release moments ago (just before the team came out to warm up for tonight's game against the Milwaukee Bucks) announcing bad news for their big free agent signing of last summer:

Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons has been diagnosed with a partial tear of the meniscus in his left knee. Parsons will be out indefinitely as the team fully evaluates the appropriate course of action.

“To suffer a setback like this after working so diligently to rebound from the injury to his right knee is obviously tough. That said, we know he will continue to work tirelessly to return to the court with his teammates and contribute,” General Manager Chris Wallace said. “Chandler has the full support of myself, Coach Fizz and the entire team and we are all focused on getting him healthy.”
There had been speculation that Parsons could be shut down for the year, but not based on a new injury. The left knee is not the one on which Parsons had offseason surgery, but rather the other one, which caused him to miss several games earlier this season with a bone bruise.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Clippers 114, Grizzlies 98: The Pinto and the Guardrail

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 11:06 AM

The Grizzlies played like nothing was at stake last night, and they weren't wrong. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • The Grizzlies played like nothing was at stake last night, and they weren't wrong.

It wasn’t even that they lost by 16 points, or that they trailed by 20 most of the 4th quarter. It wasn’t that Mike Conley played a heavy minute load again and shot 3–14 from the field. It wasn’t that Toney Douglas ended up –12 in 12 minutes, further cementing my opinion that hanging on to him as the permanent backup point guard was a huge miscalculation. The most frustrating thing about last night was the inevitability of it all, the lack of any doubt from about 15 minutes in that the Grizzlies were going to lose. From there on out, it was all theater, going through the motions and even finding a way to do that poorly.

The fans are getting restless, as they usually do this time of year, with the Grizzlies limping home like a battered race car—except this year there’s no wreck, no slide of catastrophic injuries (barring the one to Chandler Parsons a year ago).

I grew up watching NASCAR. I loved Richard Petty, and Dale Earnhardt, and Davey Allison, and knew the names of every last driver on the Winston Cup series. I had NASCAR sheets and a NASCAR bedspread and a NASCAR lunchbox. I’ve been to all kinds of races—stock cars, drag races, sprint cars, even our next door neighbor racing his Pinto mini-stock on the dirt track in Millington. It strikes me, now that I’ve made that metaphor, that the Grizzlies are missing something that gives auto racing its tinge of fear: in a race car, you can win, but you can also die. It’s even conceivable that you could win and still die. There’s a real penalty for a lack of focus, because even if don't get killed, you still might run your Pinto into a guardrail doing fifty miles an hour. But what happens if the Grizzlies don’t pay attention, or don’t stay focused? They lose a game? They lose some leverage in the race for playoff seeding?

I’m not saying the Grizzlies should play like their lives are on the line—they’re not. Basketball’s a different animal, one that doesn’t depend in part on all of its participants having a little bit of a death wish. But what’s really at stake for these guys? Haven’t they been here before, and don’t they know how it goes? They can give a 75% effort and be the 6 or the 7 seed, or they can give 100% of their bodies every night and be… fifth. They still don’t have the offensive weapon they needed to get over “the edge” (which is a nebulous concept at best) because it’s March and he still can’t move. That hope for this year is mostly gone, but for the thinnest strands of optimism stretched almost to their limits. The wing rotation is mediocre at best. They decided to keep Toney Douglas for the year even though he wasn’t really better than Andrew Harrison (not to say that Harrison was a suitable backup either) and now Mike Conley has to play 40 minutes a night. The starting lineup has changed late in the season again.

Tony Allen has not been the fearsome lockdown defender he used to be. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tony Allen has not been the fearsome lockdown defender he used to be.

They’ve done all of this before, and still made it to the first or second round of the playoffs, and still gotten to say the season was a success but not really, and wonder what they’re going to do next year. They’ve done this every single year since their 2011 miracle run. Every year. Only now they can’t just do what they’ve always done, which is reluctantly double down on “Core Four” and bang everything through the post while Tony Allen stalks the perimeter like an uncontrollable chaos magician.

The simple truth is that there is no Core Four anymore. There’s a Core Two: Conley and Gasol, or maybe more accurately Gasol and Conley. Everything else is peripheral, even Zach Randolph, even as essential as he’s been to the Grizzlies’ scoring this year. The league figured out the Core Four Grizzlies two years ago, even as they challenged the eventual champions more than any other opponent. A quick skip pass to the weak side for a wide open three is all it took (something the Spurs figured out in 2013, but no one else thought to copy until a couple years later), and doubling Randolph from the baseline so he couldn’t score meant a team without any shooters had no other option.


All of this is to explain the jam the Grizzlies are in. They bought into Fizdale’s offensive and defensive changes at the beginning of the year, almost immediately. They bought in to Chandler Parsons as the third best player on the team, a dynamic playmaker who could open up the floor for Conley and Gasol like no one before. Randolph, though he protested publicly and privately, decided to just come off the bench and put up 20–10’s, and they seemed like they’d be able to cover for his defense.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies have finally realized that none of that actually improved their situation. They never seemed totally comfortable with the defense. The offense can only thrive so long on Conley/Gasol pick and roll before Parsons’ diminished state and the various limitations of all of the other wing options put it right back in the Tony/Tayshaun days, unable to generate enough scoring to justify its existence. They’re headed towards two home playoff games, or maybe five. They clearly don’t expect themselves to go farther than that—even as their coach harangues them in the media for lowering their expectations.

Beyond that, Fizdale has made it to March without having a solid grip on who his ten best players are. The lineups are in constant flux, and after a flirtation with youth he’s relying on veterans just like his predecessor. Not to say that the young guys have earned the right to play more (other than James Ennis, who played terribly in his start last night, his shot to prove that he was unfairly benched).

None of it is going anywhere. It’ll be exciting, sure, and if the catch the right breaks—say, a first-round series against Utah or the Clippers and a second-round series against a Warriors team without a functional Durant—they very well could make the Conference Finals again. But they’re still dependent on breaks, still unable to say anything other than “we tried our best” even if they get swept by an obviously superior team in the first round.

And so what? Are they supposed to go out every night and drive like they might die if they don’t watch every turn, every bumper, every foot of dirt passing under them? You can hardly blame them for not playing like their lives depend on it, but the inevitability of the whole thing doesn’t make it go down easier. You could tell fifteen minutes into last night’s game that the Grizzlies weren’t going to win—and so could they. The guardrail still hurts when you hit it.


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