Monday, March 6, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #71: Losing, Parsons, and #FreeJamesEnnis

Posted By on Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 3:03 PM


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

  • Our email thread from last week about what makes the Grizzlies hard to talk about
  • What happened to the Grizzlies against Dallas and Houston? What is it about athletic centers and bad help defense?
  • Should the Grizzlies really have done nothing at the trade deadline?
  • A preview of this week: Brooklyn, the Clippers, and Atlanta
  • Why can't James Ennis get back into the rotation?
  • Everyone finally agrees: Chandler Parsons should have shut it down for the year a couple of weeks ago.

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 1, 2017

Grizzlies 130, Suns 112: Vincebus Ejectum

Posted By on Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 9:22 AM

Zach Randolph awaits his rebound. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph awaits his rebound.

Something about this year’s configuration of the Phoenix Suns just doesn’t agree with the Grizzlies—probably mostly Devin Booker—and after all of the “no, really, I do want to fight you but this much smaller person is inexplicably able to hold me back” of the last meeting between these two teams, the ersatz fisticuffs started early in last night’s rematch at FedExForum with this message in a bottle from Vince Carter:

Vince, post-scuffle and pre-ejection. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Vince, post-scuffle and pre-ejection.

Needless to say, Vince’s elbow (though it may not have connected as intended) was not well received by Booker and his Phoenix teammates, and in the ensuing scrum Carter did enough that Monty McCutchen later explained to David Fizdale that he had to toss Carter even though he didn’t want to.

It worked out for the Grizzlies, though, even though it seemed as though maybe they’d miss Carter’s contributions in what was at the time a close game. After a listless few minutes, the ejection sparked the Griz to be more aggressive on the offensive end—and, indeed, to match the intensity with which the Suns were playing—and by the time the second half rolled around, the defense caught up, too, and the Griz opened up a big lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. That’s the recap. What did we learn from this first home game in forever? Chandler Parsons could call it a season and it probably wouldn’t hurt the Grizzlies much.

Other than causing a minor commotion by having some 19-year-old Instagram model attracting attention sitting courtside in a purple wig and some kind of fishnet bodysuit thing under a Griz jersey Parsons didn’t do much last night. In 23 minutes, he attempted 4 shots and made one, a three pointer. He seems terrified to shoot the ball—he had several opportunities to take slightly contested but still decent looks from long range, and on almost all of them he held the ball too long and passed it up, or pump faked trying to draw contact instead of just shooting the ball. He’s still not moving well, he’s never been a good defender and the Grizzlies just aren’t consistent enough on that end to always cover for him. If you watch closely, Marc Gasol only passes Parsons the ball when he’s doubled and Parsons is extremely open. He’s just not ready yet.

I know the minutes thing is a mandate, and that it’s part of his rehab process. I know that it’s entirely possible that in another couple weeks he’ll start to show more signs of life and at least return to being a slightly-above-average player. But right now, he’s not, and his 20 minutes a night are soaking up time that could be better used by James Ennis (who, let’s face it, has been better than Parsons all season long) and a shift in the rotation.

Two things stick out to me here. First, the Grizzlies should have learned after signing Vince Carter and Brandan Wright that signing guys Dallas let walk means they’re going to miss a whole year. Carter’s playing great now. Wright is a big deal for what the Grizzlies can do on offense. But neither of them was worth anything in the first years of their deals, and Parsons is continuing that tradition. Stop signing guys Dallas decides they don’t want anymore. This is the same as Chris Wallace’s “well this guy went to Kansas so he's gotta be good!” thing. Just quit.

Secondly, I just don’t think losing Parsons for the rest of the year makes the Grizzlies worse. How much better is he going to get by the playoffs if this is how slowly he’s progressing? Is Fizdale really going to roll into a playoff series starting Conley, Allen, Parsons, Green, and Gasol, which is essentially 3-on-5 on offense and 4-on-5 on defense? That seems like a great way to get served a Gentlemen’s Sweep (being bounced in five games) if they finish in 7th place. Or, they could shut him down, do something else, let him keep working out, lock him in some sort of fitness dungeon this summer where you can make sure he’s actually doing his conditioning work (which he clearly didn’t last summer, bum knee or no), and try again in 2017-18. That’s what I’d do at this point. Maybe he’ll work out so much he gets the summertime blues and makes my too-clever-by-half title pay off:

That was my main takeaway from last night. Seeing it in person after a long break melted away the optimism that was clouding my vision on Parsons. I still totally believe he can get healthy and be an above-average player for the Grizzlies. For the Grizzlies’ sake, I hope that’s the outcome. But it ain’t happening this year, and at this point in the season, coming down the stretch trying to solidify a solid playoff seed, I think they have to play their best players this year, not the guys with the biggest contracts.

The Grizzlies hung 130 points on Phoenix even given those limitations, but I think that’s more about how bad Phoenix is defensively than anything else. Without the Carter ejection it’s easy to see how this game could’ve evolved into another low-energy loss to a bad team through a lack of focus.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Why are the Grizzlies hard to talk about this year?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 1:48 PM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies, for all of their seeming success, have been difficult to pin down this year. It's hard to find a narrative through-line to the whole season in a way that makes it easy to frame what's currently happening in the context of the 2016-17 season as a whole.

But why is that? What could be the causes of that? Instead of doing a Beyond the Arc podcast this week, I thought Phil Naessens and I could have a running conversation about it:

Continue reading »

Monday, February 20, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #70: Grading the Grizzlies

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 2:28 PM


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

  • The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, which means Boogie and Anthony Davis are both on a team in the Southwest Division.
  • We grade the Grizzlies at the All-Star Break, including what we think of:
    • Griz Twitter
    • The Grizzlies front office
    • David Fizdale
    • Brandan Wright (hint: it's an incomplete)
    • JaMychal Green
    • James Ennis
    • The Grizzlies as a team

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, February 13, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #69: Have a Nice All-Star Break

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 4:06 PM


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

  • Heading into the All Star break, are the Grizzlies overperforming or underperforming our preseason expectations? Can they do both?
  • The Grizzlies' big win over the Spurs and not-a-big-deal loss to the Golden State Warriors.
  • How consistently good the Grizzlies' broadcast crews are on both TV and radio.
  • Phil thinks the Grizzlies will end up with the 5th seed; Kevin says 5th or 6th.
  • What would a Grizzlies/Jazz playoff series look like?
  • Zach Randolph's great year coming off the bench, and what it says about David Fizdale as a coach.

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, February 11, 2017

Warriors 122, Grizzlies 107: Third Time’s Less Charming

Posted By on Sat, Feb 11, 2017 at 9:08 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski
The Warriors rolled into town on Friday night fully mindful of the fact that the Grizzlies were the team to hand them two of their eight (!) losses on the season. Even with Kevin Durant making his first return to Oklahoma City the following night, Golden State took to the floor with a focus not yet seen in the two previous matchups between these two—to me, the improvement in the way they defended the Grizzlies was even more impressive than the way they moved the ball and created good looks at the basket—and once the second half started, there was little chance the hometown team would be able to pull out a win.

As it stands, fans should probably be OK with that. The Grizzlies weren’t “supposed” to beat them either time, much less wipe the floor with them (as in the first matchup) or come back from down 24 to steal one in Oracle Arena (as in the second). There’s a sense in which Friday night’s game was the Grizzlies playing with house money. But that’s not really an excuse for the lack of focus we saw.

This year’s Griz seem to be more dependent on focus than any other factor. Everything they do is determined by whether they’re mentally engaged in the game at hand (and this is maybe more true of Marc Gasol than it is the rest of the team, but it applies to all of them). Last night, there was no focus on defense. The game started with the Griz losing Klay Thompson in transition several possessions in a row, getting him in a rhythm he wouldn’t lose (he finished with 36 points on 13/23 shooting, including 8/15 from 3). On the other end, the Grizzlies turned the ball over 18 times in the game, but 12 of those were in the first half. Some of this was Draymond Green’s ridiculous performance—Green had a triple-double despite only scoring 4 points: 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 steals. The rest of it was carelessness with the ball, 
  • Larry Kuzniewski
and a lack of execution. Because the Warriors were playing well defensively, the first option on a given set the Griz were running often didn’t work out, and when it didn’t, everything fell apart. The ball stopped moving, the play broke down, and often someone forced a shot or tried to take on three Warriors in the restricted area.

I’m not reading too much into one loss. It was a bad night for the Grizzlies, a night on which they might have been able to beat the Suns (as they did again on Wednesday) but not a Warriors team playing at or close to the peak of their abilities. The Grizzlies’ current state, in which they’re still integrating “new” pieces into the rotation (a Chandler Parsons who was out with a “planned recovery day,” Brandan Wright, Toney Douglas, who is apparently going to get all of Andrew Harrison’s minutes as long as he’s on the roster, et al.) and not really sure what to do on a night-in, night-out basis, is not conducive to playing the league’s top teams. They were better at that when they only had nine players available.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Slideshow Recap: Grizzlies 110, Suns 91

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 9:23 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski
The Grizzlies beat the Suns badly last night—so badly, in fact, that the young guys on the end of the Suns bench almost started a fight in the last minute when Troy Daniels hit one too many extremely awesome long bombs right in their faces.

Let's be clear, though: The Grizzlies were barely paying attention, listless and half-hearted, able to keep the Suns at a double-digit distance but not playing hard enough to really blow them out until garbage time. Brandan Wright looked good, a promising recent development. Vince Carter was out resting (he's been doing a lot of impressive things on those 40-year-old legs lately, so it was a well-deserved night off). Chandler Parsons played 24 minutes, so he's got that going for him. It was a lopsided game against a team that clearly has no idea what they're supposed to be doing on defense. Here's a slideshow.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Grizzlies 89, Spurs 74: Vince Carter’s Block Party

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2017 at 8:22 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

You may not have been awake, but last night 17,000 of your friends and neighbors stayed out late at FedExForum to watch the Grizzlies beat the Spurs 89-74, one of the few such times that’s actually happened since the Griz eliminated the top-seeded Spurs in the 2011 postseason. Kawhi Leonard was a late scratch with a quad contusion, and the Griz made sure to capitalize on the opportunity presented them by his absence. It was a low-scoring affair (obviously) and at times it seemed impossibly so; the score after the first quarter was 17-14 Grizzlies. But despite the poor shooting (the home team shot 39.5% on the night, but at times that number reached as low as 33%) the Grizzlies managed to generate just enough offense to stay afloat while the defense did the dirty work. How’d they do that? Well.

In Which Vince Carter Is No Longer Half Amazing, He’s Full Amazing

Vince Carter is 40 years old and blocked four shots in last night’s game, and I’m a decade younger and sometimes my back hurts if I stand up too quickly. A lot has been made of Vince’s age lately, and his overall career transformation from superstar (temperamental one, at that) to rock-solid role player, but it needs to be said again: this guy is a treasure, and every minute that he is on the floor for the Grizzlies (even the ones I said earlier in the season should go to Troy Williams, which I don’t regret saying) is something to be appreciated. This stat from last night blew my mind:

Continue reading »

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #68: Requiem for a Troy

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 1:55 PM


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

  • The hilarious Chandler Parsons/CJ McCollum Twitter beef
  • Why did the Grizzlies lose to the Blazers?
  • Zach Randolph's stellar play on the first half of this road trip
  • Conley's new career high Monday against the Suns
  • Arguing about the All Star reserves (not much arguing, though)
  • Comparing and contrasting Marc Gasol and Boogie Cousins
  • A preview of the games coming up this week
  • Beyond the Arc remembers our brief fling with Troy Williams

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, January 28, 2017

Trail Blazers 112, Grizzlies 109: Sonnet Recap

Posted By on Sat, Jan 28, 2017 at 8:52 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies mounted a comeback in Portland last night but fell apart down the stretch. In honor of the three-point loss, a sonnet in the Petrarchan form.

On The Grizzlies’ Disjointed But Hard-Fought Loss To The Trail Blazers of Portland on the Twenty-Seventh of January, AD 2017.

Last night the Grizzlies could not quite come back;
From op’ning tip they dug themselves a hole.
With Tony Brothers’ calls out of control,
In crunch time our Bears mounted no attack.
The Grindfather’s decisions showed a lack
Of care for things like stopping pick and roll,
And though he is the Grizzlies’ heart and soul,
He’s got to score when going to the rack.

With Conley clearly not in his top form,
And defense failing to communicate,
The wonder is they made a game at all.
The danger if this game becomes the norm
Is that by only playing second-rate,
From seventh place the Griz will surely fall.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Grizzlies 101, Raptors 99: Three Thoughts

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Marc Gasol scored a career-high 42 points. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Marc Gasol scored a career-high 42 points.

The Grizzlies won a two-point game without scoring a single field goal in the final six and a half minutes against the Toronto Raptors last night, and this morning that feels like the miracle of miracles. A winnable game turned into another trademark Grizzlies nail-biter as Toronto made it a close game and the Griz offense collapsed in a heap of ashes, but the home team prevailed on a night which saw James Ennis and Zach Randolph (!) in the starting lineup against a Toronto team that’s currently sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference.

  • Larry Kuzniewski

In Which Marc Gasol Transcends The Boundaries Of Space, Time, And Bad Offense

Marc Gasol set a new career high last night with 42 points scored. Gasol was 14 of 25 from the floor, including 5 of 10 from long range (that’s 50%, for those of you who slept through math class), and 16 of those points came in the first three minutes of the game, during which Gasol cus through the Raptors’ interior defense (a loose application of that term) like a Sawzall when he wasn’t busy bombing threes over a bewildered Jonas Valanciunas. Gasol attacked the Raptors with a ferocity rarely seen from him in a game Mike Conley actually played in, and when he finally forced Toronto to call a timeout it seemed like all things were possible.

The lead didn’t hold, of course, because these are the 2016-17 Grizzlies, who are allergic to leads, but it was interesting that in a starting lineup featuring James Ennis and Zach Randolph in place of Chandler Parsons and JaMychal Green, Gasol sensed that he needed to activate his ability to take over a game right from the opening tip, and set a tone for what was to follow.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #67: Is it time to worry yet?

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 9:42 AM


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

  • ESPN's Zach Lowe loves JaMychal Green and so do we
  • With the Grizzlies' bad loss to the Rockets, is it time to start worrying?
  • The Wizards game, and how real is a "schedule loss," anyway?
  • Bigger All-Star starting snub: Marc Gasol or Russell Westbrook?
  • The week coming up: Toronto is banged up, the Blazers aren't as good as we thought, and Utah plays tough and slow just like the Grizzlies.

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, January 23, 2017

Grizzlies to bring expansion D-League franchise to Southaven

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 2:42 PM


The Grizzlies (via Grind City Media) have announced that they'll be bringing an expansion franchise of the NBA Development League to Southaven's Landers Center next season. From the report:

The yet-to-be-named affiliate is scheduled to launch for the 2017-18 season and will play its 24-game home schedule at the Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, located about 20 miles south of the Grizzlies’ franchise base at FedExForum in downtown Memphis. The team is expected to make a formal announcement on Tuesday.

The news that the Minnesota Timberwolves were taking over current Griz affiliate the Iowa Energy broke first, which led to some confusion. Iowa will be operated solely by the Wolves next season.

This move makes a lot of sense on many levels. First, it brings the D-League operations to the same metro area as the Grizzlies, which makes it easier to send down and recall players, makes it easier for the coaching and development staffs to collaborate, and fits much better with the Grizzlies' efforts to market themselves to the whole region. It's not a "regional" play the way putting a team in Nashville or Jackson or Little Rock would be, but putting the team in one of those cities would take away the benefit of having everybody under one roof.

Griz minority owner and Energy Managing Partner Jed Kaplan will stay in both roles in Iowa, with Energy GM Chris Makris joining the new Memphis team along with current Energy interim coach Glynn Cyprien.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Grizzlies 107, Kings 91: Game Notes

Posted By on Sat, Jan 21, 2017 at 10:12 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski
The first time the Grizzlies welcomed former head coach Dave Joerger back to Beale Street manning the sidelines for a different franchise, they were greeted with a swift kick in the butt by an amorphous Kings squad. The second time around, things went much better for the men in blue.

As is the Grizzlies pattern this season, they began the game at a snail’s pace, falling behind 9-0 before getting on the board. The Grizzlies followed the Kings hot start with a run of their own to put them briefly on top before eventually petering out near the end of an offensively unremarkable first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Grizzlies first tried to energize the offense by inserting Troy Daniels into the mix in the hope that his flame-throwing shooting arm would at the very least help spread the Kings out. His presence did lead to some solid play in the two-man game between Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.

  • Larry Kuzniewski
Fizdale understands that Daniels’ presence on the weakside prevents teams from bringing more help into the paint to prevent Conley and Gasol from ganging up on their own defenders. However, Joerger had a nice plan in place for Daniels. Every time he touched the ball, the Kings blitzed him and forced a turnover or the ball out of his hands at the least.

More shots went down for the Grizzlies in the second quarter, particularly a notable one-legged fadeaway in the middle of the paint by Vince Carter (what’s up with old men mastering one-legged shots?). When the initial shots weren’t falling, the Grizzlies were able to crash the offensive glass and create easy offense that way that allowed the offense to slowly work its way into rhythm.

Things began to feel more like good theater than a basketball game on the offensive in the third quarter on the back of a frisky Gasol. Big Spain had fifteen points in the quarter, and he nailed three triples including two on back to back possessions. The second one was akin to one you’d take in NBA 2K in MyPlayer mode because nobody has time to pass in a video game. Gasol’s perimeter ability isn’t new at this juncture, but it’s still a breath of fresh air every time he splashes a long bomb through the net.

Defensively, the Grizzlies were locked in all night. They rebounded the ball exceptionally well, limiting the Kings to five offensive rebounds all night. The rotations continue to be sharp on the defensive end, with guys talking on screens, shifting quickly to help on drives, and closing out aggressively. The Kings didn’t get too many easy looks, and that was ultimately something they couldn’t overcome once the Grizzlies’ offense found the hot hand of Gasol.

Not a single Grizzly who played significant minutes had a poor game, and that team effort allowed the Grizzlies to sink the Kings with ease 107-91. Now 2-1 against the ex this season, the Grizzlies have one more meeting with Joerger’s squad in March.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How David Fizdale's Successes Cast A Different Light on Dave Joerger

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 10:50 AM

Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale
Editor's Note: I am at a conference this week out of town, so I asked my old friend and brilliant basketball mind Andrew Ford to chip in with a couple of guest posts. You can find Andrew on Twitter, and you can read his work at places like Upside & Motor and probably all kinds of other places I'm not remembering.

What does an NBA franchise typically do when searching to replace its head coach? It often finds a candidate who turns out to be the polar opposite of the previous coach. While this swing of the pendulum is not always entirely rational, a drastic change such as this was just what the Memphis Grizzlies needed when handing over Dave Joerger’s reins to David Fizdale.

While Joerger was in Memphis, he was generally seen as a good coach. He faced a lot of adversity, particularly in terms of roster instability due to injuries, which he managed well. Joerger also took some strides to bring the Grizzlies into the modern era of offensive basketball by implementing more horns sets, high pick-and-rolls, flex action, and off-ball screening. It would be impossible and unfair to look back on Joerger’s tenure in Memphis and say he didn’t accomplish anything positive that could have a lasting impact on the franchise.

However, now that enough games have been played during Fizdale’s first season in charge to decently assess the job he’s doing on Beale Street, the things Joerger did not – or rather chose not to – do stick out even more.

Continue reading »

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