Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Grizzlies 105, Hornets 90: Five in a Row

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 9:12 AM

They're fighting for post position, not preparing to hug. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • They're fighting for post position, not preparing to hug.

Last night the Grizzlies played their most impressive half of basketball all season, followed by a tough defensive half when that offense started to wane, and came away with their fifth straight win, this time on the road over the tough-to-beat Charlotte Hornets. The Grizzlies scored 69 points in the first half—more than the Mavericks were able to score against them in an entire game on Friday night—and never let up as Charlotte, one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference this year, tried to mount a comeback. It was a culmination of a trend that started in the Grizzlies' game at the Utah Jazz last week: clamping down on defense, moving the ball well on offense, getting good looks at the basket from long range and shooting well enough to capitalize on them.

The Grizzlies have now defeated the Jazz, Clippers, Mavericks, Timberwolves, and Hornets in consecutive games. Four of the five happened on the road. Chandler Parsons played in three of those games. Gasol and Conley, apparently operating without a minutes limit, carried the team in all of them. Here are some scattered thoughts about the game last night, about the win streak in general, and about where the Grizzlies are right now.

Five Notes for Five Wins

Tony Allen (shown here against Minnesota Saturday) finally looks healthy, and has made a difference. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tony Allen (shown here against Minnesota Saturday) finally looks healthy, and has made a difference.

With Tony Allen back and healthy, the Grizzlies' defense is much better. This seems obvious now, but the Grizzlies' defense was the source of much consternation up until about a week ago. The new defensive scheme clearly gave the Grizzlies some difficulty, and still does at times, but with Allen back—and he certainly looks back, when he pretty clearly wasn't right yet when he first took the floor this season—the issues that may still linger are much less apparent. Allen's return has also coincided with a defensive renaissance from Marc Gasol, who is playing much better defense right now than he did at any point last year, and maybe the year before. It's easy to forget that this is a guy who won Defensive Player of the Year. It's also easy to forget how hard it is for opposing wings to even get the ball with Tony Allen is playing at or close to his peak. Welcome back, Grizzlies defense. We missed you.

Andrew Harrison has won the backup PG battle for now. At the beginning of the season, that seemed like and impossible thing for me to say by late November, and yet: Harrison's defense has steadily ramped up, he's starting to figure out (1) what to do with the ball on offense and (2) how to get to the foul line if all else fails, and Wade Baldwin went from DNP-CD to garbage time to being dispatched to the Iowa Energy to get some minutes there. Harrison is a shining example of the Grizzlies' new-found focus on player development, even with all of the rough edges he still clearly has. Playing for the Energy last year, putting in the work with Fizdale all summer, being trusted to carry the workload when he clearly wasn't quite up to it yet at the beginning of the season... by January, Harrison may be even better and we'll put all of the "Grizzlies need a vet backup" talk to bed. At the very least, he's already earned the benefit of the doubt.

Mike Conley has stepped up his game to match his paycheck. In the last five games, Conley has scored 30 points twice (against the Clippers and Hornets), has defended tenaciously, moved the ball well even when his shot wasn't falling (let us never speak of that Mavericks game again), and done all of the things that Grizzlies fans hoped he would still be able to do when the team signed him to a max contract this summer. I'd still like to see Fizdale rest him a little more; his minutes have crept up as the winning streak has continued, as have Gasol's. But Conley's been great, and after the perpetually banged-up last couple of seasons he's had, it's good to see him in top form again.

Chandler Parsons can take his time getting right. The Grizzlies have shown they're capable of beating good teams whether Parsons is on the floor or not. Now, I say this with a big caveat: James Ennis left the floor with a calf injury last night and didn't come back, and if Ennis is down for any significant amount of time, Parsons becomes a lot more necessary. But with Parsons clearly not functioning at 100%, the Grizzlies have still been able to use him when he's playing and survive without him when he's not, and that's encouraging. I didn't even expect to have seen this much of Parsons yet, so I'm still treating any minutes he plays as a pleasant surprise, and the Grizzlies seem to be treating his situation the same way. Assuming he can play his way into form by Christmas or so, I don't really see any reason to worry about Parsons yet.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

David Fizdale knows what he's doing. That's not to say he hasn't made any mistakes, but for the most part, the Fizdale Era has brought a new focus, a new energy, and a new sense of unity and motivation to a Grizzlies team that was clearly (in hindsight) not firing on all cylinders for the last 18 months or so. That's not to say that all of the blame lies at the feet of Dave Joerger, or that Fizdale is the only reason things are turning around; health of key players, organizational philosophies, and changes to the roster itself have all played a major role in the transformation. But Fizdale certainly brought with him a new sense of togetherness, of relaxed intensity, and of authenticity in communication that has resonated with the Grizzlies' players in important ways. Moving Zach Randolph to the bench without starting a mutiny, moving Gasol behind the three point line, running an offense that generates great looks for guys who can shoot, trusting the young players to carry the team (whether that's Harrison for big minutes or Deyonta Davis for small minutes, or even starting James Ennis instead of Vince Carter)—all of these are coaching matters, and Fizdale has excelled at them. I was excited about the hire when it happened, and even more excited when I got to sit down and talk to the guy earlier in the preseason. But now... is it to early to call him a coach of the year candidate?

Up Next

The Grizzlies are busy over the Thanksgiving holiday, with a game in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, followed by a home-and-home back to back with Miami that sees them play in Memphis Friday night and Miami (for Fizdale's big homecoming against his mentors Spoelstra and Riley) Saturday night. Miami is really struggling this year, and despite their trust in Joel "The Process" Embiid, the Sixers are still very much a young team with little consistency from night to night, so this is a stretch of the schedule where the Grizzlies should do well and also maybe get some rest for Conley and Gasol. After all, there's still a great deal of basketball to be played.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast #60: Clipper Psychology, Vince and Zach, and Previews

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 6:29 AM

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

  • Is Kevin still being negative this season?
  • Are the Clippers really the best team in the NBA?
  • What's going on with the Grizzlies' defense?
  • Bench superstars: Vince Carter and Zach Randolph
  • Is Andrew Harrison actually... good?
  • Listener question: what's the difference between covering games live or at home?
  • Are we worried about Chandler Parsons yet? (Not really)
  • Previews: Mavericks, Wolves, Hornets, Sixers
  • There's Brandan Wright news and it ain't good

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, November 17, 2016

Grizzlies 111, Clippers 107: Road Retribution

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 7:53 AM

Grizzlies/Clippers made a comeback last night. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Grizzlies/Clippers made a comeback last night.

It was one for the ages, another chapter in a long rivalry between two teams who have a genuine distaste for each other that stretches back at least four years and two playoff series. Last night the Grizzlies and Clippers played in LA (after an uneventful and disappointing first matchup that the Clippers won handily) and played one of the most exciting regular season games I’ve seen in a while—and the Grizzlies came away with a win against what has so far been the best team in the NBA on their home turf.

Here are five unordered thoughts from my sleep-starved mind about last night’s 111-107 instant classic.

Five Thoughts

Andrew Harrison is starting to win me over. He’s gotten a lot better as the season has gotten underway, especially on the defensive end. He guarded Chris Paul with serious attitude last night, including this spectacular chasedown block:

(Not to mention his accidental wrestling takedown ot Luc Mbah a Moute.)

If he keeps this up and develops his offensive game to match is defense, Harrison is going (1) make me admit that I was wrong about him and (2) make Wade Baldwin look more like a project whose time might come next year instead of this year. Harrison’s slow start had me convinced that Fizdale saw something in him that wasn’t there, but he’s becoming more steady by the game.

Mike Conley shot extremely well. At one point Conley was 7/7 from the field and 5/5 from three-point range. He finished the game with 30 points… on 12 shots. It was an extremely efficient scoring outburst from Conley, and it happened against some extremely difficult defense from Chris Paul, who hounded Conley without mercy most of the night. The Clippers’ defense overall last night was good, but Conley was able to roast them pretty handily. At times he makes you believe what he said on Media Day: that this is the way he and Marc Gasol have always wanted to play.

Speaking of Marc Gasol, he hit his 4th three pointer of the night—he finished 4/5 from long range— and did this:

I don’t know what else to say about Marc Gasol other than what I said last night when it happened:

Chandler Parsons is still not ready for prime time, and I don’t care. Parsons clearly doesn’t trust his leg yet, and I don’t blame him. He’s not playing at the level anywhere approximating his peak ability yet… and I’m not really worried about it. It’s going to take time for him to get back in the swing of things physically, and even then let’s not forget he’s only actually played with these guys the last month or so. I’ll start paying attention to whether Parsons is looking like himself sometime in December.

I missed this. Game 6 of the 2013 playoff series against the Clippers was the most fun, profoundly “Memphis” sporting event I will ever experience. Someday, Chris Herrington and I should break down our top 5 or 10 favorite moments from that one game. When it’s played at the sort of violent frenzy that marked most of last night’s game, Grizzlies/Clippers is the best rivalry in professional basketball, and certainly the most fun to watch (though sometimes perhaps nauseating in its intensity). When the Clippers rolled into Memphis a couple of weeks ago and the Grizzlies didn’t even seem interested in the game, I thought maybe it was over. Everything ends at some point, right?

Wrong.

The Grizzlies still hate losing to the Clippers, and when it happens, they are set on a mission of retribution. Last night was the most physical game the Grizzlies have played all year, but it wasn’t the slow, methodical, plodding brutality of old, the kind that used to fluster the Clippers by never relenting even once. This new intensity came in waves, great spasms of defense as some of the young guys looked at the old guys like, “Wait, they’re gonna let me do that?”

They are going to let you do that, kid.

Throw that elbow into somebody’s gut while you’re trying to get position on the block. Slap Chris Paul’s hands away two feet in front of a ref while he pretends not to see you do it. This is the essence of Grizzlies/Clippers, and I missed it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Brandan Wright undergoes ankle surgery, no timetable for return

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 10:50 AM

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The Grizzlies have issued a medical update on Grizzlies.com about backup big man Brandan Wright, who has missed the entire regular season so far with an ankle injury. From the post on the Grizzlies.com site:

Wright underwent a successful arthroscopic debridement of his left ankle Tuesday afternoon after non-surgical interventions failed to eliminate his posterior tibialis tendinopathy.

There is not yet a timetable for Wright's return.

Wright's tenure in Memphis has been snakebit from the beginning. He missed a great deal of tome last season before having a knee surgery, and it was never clear why that surgery was so delayed. From there, he got back on the court only to have Ronnie Price run into his knee and sprain his MCL.

Wright played a very heavy minute load in preseason because of other injuries on the roster, and then hurt his ankle pretty immediately. One hopes he can get back to basketball in a matter of weeks rather than months, but the track record so far is not one that inspires a lot of optimism.


Report: Grizzlies among teams no longer staying in Trump hotels

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 10:22 AM

picture-grizzhead.png

Marc Stein and Zach Lowe of ESPN reported late last night that the Grizzlies are among three NBA teams—along with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Dallas Mavericks—who will no longer be staying in Trump hotels in New York City and Chicago.

From the report:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Milwaukee Bucks, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks have moved away from Trump hotels in New York City and Chicago, which bear Donald Trump's name through a licensing agreement.

The Grizzlies and Mavericks, sources say, have stayed at the Trump SoHo in the past but opted during the offseason to book new New York hotels for this season.

It's not hard to see why this change was made; in the run-up to the election several players were very outspoken in a Commercial Appeal tidbit about the election, and it's not hard to imagine that given the divisiveness of this campaign season, team officials recognized well in advance that players would be less than enthusiastic about staying in Trump-branded properties.

I reached out to several folks with the team for comment but did not get confirmation.

The original ESPN report is here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Grizzlies 102, Jazz 96: Finally, a Road Win

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 8:05 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Last night the Grizzlies got an important road win over a solid (if depleted) Utah Jazz team in Salt Lake City, 102-96. It certainly wasn’t the prettiest game they have played, when has that ever been the measure of Grizzly success? Several players made key contributions, both young and old. The defense was never quite right, but they were able to get stops when it mattered, and the long road towards our glorious shared Fizdale Future got a little bit shorter.

The win was much-needed, especially in light of the disappointing end to the game in Milwaukee Saturday night. Without winning last night, the Grizzlies ran a real risk of going 0-4 on their current road swing, with the LA Clippers resting up for Wednesday night and the always tougher-than-expected Mavericks slated for Friday. The victory over Utah keeps them right at .500, which is still about where I expect them to be for the next little while. The second tier of the West seems a bit more wide open than previously thought, and I don’t think any team with something resembling a winning record is going to be out of the playoff picture until very late in the season.

Now on with the recap.

In which Deyonta Davis is worth all that guaranteed money

It wasn’t clear when the Grizzlies traded the Clippers’ first round pick to Boston that they would do smart things with the two second-rounders they received in return, but given (1) Rade Zagorac’s nice play in the Adriatic League (which is a real league that exists, I discovered this year) and (2) the extreme promise that Deyonta Davis has shown in limited minutes, it’s clear that the fruits of the Second Jeff Green Trade (the good one) are going to pay off.

Davis is very raw, but it’s easy to see why he was projected to go in the lottery. On defense, it seems like he affects every single possession in some small way, without even trying that hard. He’s got a natural feel for the game, a basketball mind that lets him see what’s developing and be in the right place. He’s 19. He’s only going to get better. He might be a partial solution to Zach Randolph’s pitiful defense (which saw him sitting out in crunch time again last night in Utah), because his ability to protect the rim is unlike anything the Grizzlies have had in years.

There are going to be setbacks and bad nights, for sure, and he’s really only played heavy minutes two or three times, but Davis is surprisingly good, and certainly good enough that it makes sense for him to be paid like a first-round guy. Between Davis and Jarell Martin, you could be looking at the (bright) future of the Grizzlies’ frontcourt.

David Fizdale's new defense doesn't quite work yet. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • David Fizdale's new defense doesn't quite work yet.

In which the earth continues to rotate but the Grizzlies’ defense doesn't

Yeah. Well, I don’t know what else to say about this. Learning a totally new defensive scheme from the one that you’ve been playing to great success for several years in a row is not easy—in fact, it’s probably one of the hardest things for a team to change on the fly. Fizdale’s scheme is very different from the old Hollins/Joerger masterpieces dependent on overloading the strong side and never switching. Because there’s so much new, and because there are so many new and/or young players trying to play a defense that the veterans don’t even know that well yet, there are lots of problems once the defense is forced to rotate. No one is sure where to be when, or who is supposed to rotate to the ball, and the Grizzlies’ interior defense is suffering for it.

This is the underrated part of the coaching change, to me. The Grizzlies have depended on that defensive identity for years, and now they’re just firmly in the middle of the pack (they’ve got a defensive rating of 106.7 according to Basketball Reference, good for 13th in the league). Learning this stuff on the fly against good teams is challenging, especially from a motivational standpoint. It’s going to be hard to keep guys engaged with learning a new scheme when they’re getting beaten badly by solid offensive teams on a regular basis (this assumes the Wednesday night Clippers rematch goes as poorly as the first one did, which seems likely given how well LA is playing right now). That buy-in is essential. File “defense” under the “work in progress” category.

Vince Carter has had a remarkable season so far. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Vince Carter has had a remarkable season so far.

In which Vince Carter is Chandler Parsons while Chandler Parsons can't be

Vince Carter is playing the best basketball he’s playing in years, now that he’s officially the oldest player in the NBA. Right now, his FG%, 3P%, and offensive rating are literally higher than any other season in his career. Those numbers will inevitably return to something approximating his career averages, but still—he’s Vince Carter, so his career averages are still pretty dang good.

Carter’s finally fulfilling the promise of his signing, when he was brought in to replace a washed declining Mike Miller. Dallas was smart to let him go after the surgery, because it took two full years of recovery for him to be right again, but now he’s playing his best season since 2012-13. He might be ¾ Man, ¼ Amazing these days, but his defense, his shooting, his ability to move the ball around, and his steadying influence on the other guys on the floor have made him invaluable, especially since he’s doing all the things Chandler Parsons was brought in to do.

(Except the part where Vince Carter is a way better defender than Chandler Parsons even though he’s almost 40. There is that part.)

I’m not sure whether Carter’s early start is sustainable, but I don’t really care much. For one thing, it’s been amazing to get to watch Vince Carter do Vince Carter things after a couple of seasons of wondering how soon he was going to announce his retirement because he didn’t look like he could play anymore. For another thing, in theory, by the time the law of averages catches up with Carter, Parsons should be in better game shape and able to carry a more appropriate workload. (This is certainly wishful thinking, and I will probably be made to regret saying it.) At any rate, age is nothing but a number, and at almost-40, Carter’s got about eight years before his age catches up to his 3-point shooting percentage so far this year. Not bad, old man.

Game Haiku #10

I quit doing these for a while (OK, really just for the Nuggets game and the Bucks game) because, well, I put all of my hopes into a campaign to elect Juan Carlos Navarro President and I really think we could’ve won some electoral votes if it hadn’t been for those attack ads pointing out that he was neither an American citizen nor very effective for the one year he spent in the NBA. (That one glorious year when Memphians got to see La Bomba in the flesh! Ah, Juan Carlos! Ah, humanity!) When it all fell apart I was crushed, and fell into a deep depression, from which I was only rescued by YouTube clips like this one:

Anyway, it’s been a long week. Let’s get back on the haiku train.

Jazz in Utah? No,
The music is in Vince Carter,
Aged like a folk song.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Beyond the Arc Podcast #59: November Surprises and Optimism

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 2:54 PM

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

  • What's the most surprising thing about the Grizzlies' season so far?
    • Z-Bo's usage rate and bad defense
    • Chandler Parsons' earlier-than-expected return
  • Has James Ennis been the Grizzlies' most surprising player so far?
  • What has JaMychal Green done to become a starter-quality player?
  • The potential of the Conley - Ennis - Parsons - Green - Gasol lineup to space the floor
  • The rookies and young guys and their various rates of development
  • The non-young guy doing the best: the very impressive Vince Carter
  • Where will the Grizzlies finish in the West standings? Which teams are playing above their heads right now?

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, November 7, 2016

Trail Blazers 100, Grizzlies 94: Rust Never Sleeps

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 7:54 AM

Marc Gasol had a much better game against Portland after struggling against the Clippers. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Marc Gasol had a much better game against Portland after struggling against the Clippers.

Capping off a disappointing weekend of Grizzlies basketball, the home team fell to the Portland Trail Blazers yesterday afternoon, 100-94. It was the first time Ninety-Four Million Dollar Man Chandler Parsons took the floor in Beale Street Blue, and he mostly played like a guy who hasn’t been on the court in months.

The good news out of this weekend’s games, other than the fact that Parsons’ legs work and he is actually able to use them to do basketball things (albeit stiffly), is that even with all of the teething troubles the Grizzlies are having, they’ve still been in competitive games with some of the best teams in the Western Conference. It’s easy to find small things that would’ve made big differences in the last two games. If Marc Gasol doesn’t go 1-10 in the first half against LA, the first half deficit is likely more manageable. In last night’s game, Chandler Parsons looked so rusty that at times I couldn't tell if it was Parsons on the court or the hulking underwater remnants of the Titanic. But if he goes 3-8 from the floor rather than 0-8, we’re more than likely breaking down a win and not a loss. Individual performances matter a great deal, and if those guys don’t have bad nights, the Griz are likely 5-2.

Which is not to say that’s an excuse, or that the Grizzlies don’t have real problems. Here, I made a list of those problems:

The Grizzlies’ Problems, In A Bulleted List

Zach Randolph (shown here against Washington) has regressed on defense this season. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph (shown here against Washington) has regressed on defense this season.

Continue reading »

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Clippers 99, Grizzlies 88: Fake Hustle, No Flow

Posted By on Sat, Nov 5, 2016 at 9:05 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

After the game, David Fizdale said it didn’t feel like a rivalry game. The Clippers, he said, came to play a rivalry game, but the Grizzlies didn’t bring that kind of energy. He was telling the truth. Last night, after a solid (if ugly) first quarter, the Grizzlies slumped into nothing, and they would’ve gotten mercilessly blown out if they hadn’t put together a frantic run of 3-pointers to close out the game. Nothing worked. Gasol shot terribly for most of the night, Conley was ineffective when his jumper wasn’t falling, Zach Randolph wasn’t able to do his normal damage, ending up with what counts as a quiet night by his standards. Wade Baldwin finally had a game where he looked like a confused rookie. The other confused rookies didn’t help much, either.

We came expecting another pitched battle in the long history of Grizzlies/Clippers animosity, and got a run-of-the-mill garbage regular season game. Continuing a trend from their games against the Wolves and Pelicans this week, shots weren’t falling. Movement on offense other than the Conley/Gasol pick and roll was minimal. The defense looked like work but accomplished little. (In fact, in his presser, Fizdale touched on the defense, saying the Griz were “gambling too much in the backcourt,” which he called “fake hustle. Insert eyeballs emoji here.)

There’s not really much more to it than that. Without focus on defense, without executing sets sharply on offense, this Grizzlies squad, still missing Chandler Parsons (until Tuesday, reportedly), just can’t get much done. The success they had in the first two wins came from effort and intensity, just like every other Grizzlies win of the last 7 years. When effort is there but intensity isn’t, they look like a middle-of-the-pack group of young players still learning how to win, rather than a team that’s been to the playoffs six straight times and intends to be there a seventh.

Tony Allen’s reinsertion into the starting lineup seems to have hurt things more than it’s helped. The promise coming into the season was that Allen would be used in new ways, featured as a cutter and maybe even a bit of a ball handler, but so far that hasn’t happened. Allen’s offensive role continues to be limited by the team’s overall struggles; when there’s no space on the floor because shots aren’t falling, there’s considerably less for him to do. But they continue to kick the ball out to an open Allen on the wing, and he continues to shoot it. His defense isn’t quite up to his normal standard either. Allen’s doing a good bit of the gambling Fizdale was talking about, and with so many young bigs, there’s not the solid interior backing Allen is used to playing with to catch whatever he lets past. It’s an adjustment to fit him into the “New Grizzlies Way,” and so far it’s been a rough start.

Overall, I’m not worried by much of this. The shooting guard situation is somewhat troublesome; when Parsons returns to action there’s still not much of a way forward there for the bulk of shooting guard minutes unless James Ennis plays out of position as an oversized two. Ennis showed some chops defending ball-handlers by guarding Chris Paul credibly in this one, so maybe there’s a future there. The Grizzlies continue to be a puzzle that’s about half put-together, and while it’s no fun to see them lay an egg against the hated Clippers, regaining Parsons and continuing to work through these execution issues is the name of the game at this point, trying to make sure they stay in contact with the top of the West standings.

Game Haiku

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

I wrote these and haven’t posted them, so here’s a haiku dump:

Game Haiku #4 (Timberwolves)

“Let the young guys play!”
“That’s not what we meant!” they say.
“Let the old guys play!”

Game Haiku #5 (Pelicans)

Free basketball, yes
But at seventy-five points,
Get what you pay for.

Game Haiku #6 (Clippers)

Save the “Whoop That Trick”
Maybe next time there won’t be
Mostly garbage time.

Up Next

The Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday afternoon, and the Nuggets on Tuesday, and then a few days’ rest before playing the Bucks in Milwaukee. It’s been a tough-ish stretch to start off the season so far, but winning every other game is a good way to tread water at .500. I’m interested to see what the focus of the team looks like in a Sunday matinee game, given the issues they’ve had there recently (according to Fizdale, anyway).


Monday, October 31, 2016

Grizzlies 112, Wizards 103: The Marc Gasol Three Game

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 7:45 AM

Marc Gasol's minutes restriction didn't stop him from winning the game with 3-point shooting. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Marc Gasol's minutes restriction didn't stop him from winning the game with 3-point shooting.

It was the first “Instant Classic” game of the Grizzlies’ young season: the Grizzlies defeated the Washington Wizards in overtime last night, 112-103, mostly because of Marc Gasol’s three-point shooting (seriously! Gasol was 4 of 6 from long range, including 2 for 2 in overtime) and because a flagrant foul committed against Vince Carter shifted the momentum of a game that looked to be spiraling out of the Grizzlies’ grasp. But it wasn’t the only game the Grizzlies played this weekend; they lost to the Knicks 104-111 Saturday night. Let’s talk about that game first, because I owe the reader some poetry.

Game Haiku #2

The defense rested.
The offense froze, pillars of salt,
Looked back at the past.

There was a lot going on Saturday night: Mike Conley was on a minutes restriction and only played 23 minutes, and even with Conley limited, the game followed the same pattern as the home opener against Minnesota: the Grizzlies started slow, got behind early, and then spent the whole rest of the game trying to dig out of the hole they’d gotten themselves in. The problem is that’s much harder to do when you’re playing a team featuring Kristaps Porzingis and the interior defense could charitably be described as “porous.” The defensive problems were compounded by a lack of movement off the ball when the starters were on the floor. Nobody but Conley and Gasol tried to do anything other than stand at the 3-point line and watch what happening. The Grizzlies made it close, but that’s all it ever really was; they closed the gaps but couldn’t ever keep the Knicks from answering a run with a run of their own.

And then:

Continue reading »

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Game Notebook: Grizzlies 102, Timberwolves 98

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 8:18 AM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

For only the second time since moving to Memphis, the Grizzlies won their home opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves last night, 102-98. For the shorthanded Grizzlies, it was a good test against what looks to be a quality—if not quite together yet—opponent, as they took their new philosophies on offense and defense into the regular season, tested them in a tight game, and came away victorious. First up, something I have to follow through and actually do now because I told the internet I would: a haiku.

Game Haiku #1

ZBo off the bench:
Sixth Man of the Year in reach;
ZBo wants First Man

In which The Fizdale Plan is in full effect

Last night was the first regular season game of coach David Fizdale’s career, but it was already apparent that he’s put his stamp on this team, and on the way they play. It starts with who scored the most: among starters, Mike Conley had 24, Marc Gasol had 18, and James Ennis (presumably starting in place of the injured Chandler Parsons) had 15. Off the bench, Zach Randolph had 19 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. When things were working—which is to say, not in the first part of the first quarter, when the Grizzlies were running around like idiots on their way to a 20-3 deficit that took them most of the game to fully erase—you could see the offensive and defensive principles Fizdale has been preaching from day 1 in effect.

The most obvious signpost was the 3-point shooting. The Grizzlies were 6 of 9 from beyond the arc in the first quarter, and last year I’m guessing there were whole games where they neither shot nor made that many. Gasol got one. Z-Bo got one. By the end of the night they were 11/24 from long range, good for 45%. That’s exactly the kind of thing so many of us who watch this team night in and night out have wanted them to do—just take and make a league average number of threes. That average is increasing, and it’s refreshing to see the Grizzlies running offensive sets that acknowledge the evolution of the game.

Crunch time was also revelatory. On the floor: JaMychal Green and Andrew Harrison. Not on the floor: the aforementioned Zach Randolph. Randolph clearly wanted to be on the floor—he said as much after the game, and who could blame a professional basketball player for wanting to be, y’know, playing basketball—but Green was at the 4 instead, and made some effort plays that sealed the game, including a tip-in of a missed free throw and a vicious stuff of a Karl-Anthony Towns shot attempt. Randolph was in rare form Wednesday night, but it seems his second-unit role is not a joke, and that’s probably something to which Grizzlies fans are going to take a while to adjust.

All in all it wasn’t a perfect start to The Fizdale Era, but the bones of the thing, the structure around the rest of the season will be hung, are already starting to solidify.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

In which Andrew Harrison gets the start but Wade Baldwin makes the impression

More than likely, if Tony Allen starts last night, Andrew Harrison doesn’t play 38 minutes. The rookie is clearly not comfortable playing off the ball, and still struggles to make the right decision when it matters, and was in over his head last night trying to guard Andrew Wiggins.

But.

As usual, Grizzlies Twitter decided about ten minutes into the game that Harrison doesn’t have what it takes to be an NBA player. Was he great? No. Does he need to get better to stay in the rotation? Yes. Am I ready to write a guy off based on one game, after years of killing Grizzlies coaches for having too short of a leash with rookies who just need time to play? Nope. Check back after a few games and I will have started to form a Harrison opinion.

In the meantime, Wade Baldwin left no doubt that he’s an NBA-level talent. Baldwin’s stat line in his first-ever NBA game was something special: in 25 minutes, he had 7 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks, and only one turnover. He didn’t shoot well (3 of 8) and probably had a few “turnovers” that weren’t counted as such (an airball on a fast break jumps out at me as an example) but for the most part, Baldwin’s first real game was like his first preseason game: he was poised, confident, made plays that rookies don’t normally have the presence of mind to make, and overall looked really good playing in two-PG lineups. I expect to see Baldwin and Conley on the floor together a lot as the season progresses, taking turns playing off the ball. That seems like the most natural spot for Baldwin (assuming Harrison or someone else can hold down the backup PG minutes and give Conley some rest, which might be a stretch at this point).

Fizdale has a lot of faith in these young guys. Whether it’s because he’s been with them the longest—he coached the Grizzlies’ Summer League team this summer, something head coaches don’t always do—or because he really sees potential in them that the rest of us aren’t yet hip to, it’s hard to say. But the way he talked after the game last night, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the starting lineup from last night (Conley, Harrison, Ennis, Green, and Gasol) hold for the next few games while Tony Allen is getting his knee right. Fizdale is convinced these guys can carry the load.

In which we start to see who’s in the rotation and who’s not

Z-Bo telling Deyonta Davis which guy he's about to pummel - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Z-Bo telling Deyonta Davis which guy he's about to pummel

Quick thoughts on who was missing in action last night:

  • Deyonta Davis played 6 or 7 minutes and didn’t look like he was ready to go yet. He made some good plays, but just doesn’t seem physically ready yet. I don’t doubt that his plantar fasciitis issues have hampered his conditioning.
  • Troy Daniels didn’t play. He didn’t play much in the preseason, either. I’ve yet to see any evidence that Fizdale plans to play Troy Daniels at any point, or that he needs to. Having a hard time believing the Troy Daniels experiment is going to work out, at this point.
  • Troy Williams didn’t play, either. As an end-of-the-bench guy, I didn’t really have any expectations as to whether he would play or not, so I’m not surprised by this, but I do think he might have been able to make some positive contributions in some spots last night.

Up next

The Grizzlies now start the season with that most dreaded of beasts, the FOGAFINI: Four games in five nights. Saturday and Sunday they’re at the Knicks and home against Washington, and then Tuesday and Wednesday they’re at Minnesota and home against the New Orleans Pelicans. It’s a true test of the injury-riddled Grizzlies’ depth, and will also show us whether Fizdale feels like he can afford to stick to the minutes limits and rest ideas he has when he feels like he’s shorthanded. All of these games are against decent teams, and could go either way—none of them are a “gimme,” especially not since Anthony Davis, who has always caused problems for the Grizzlies in the past, dropped 50 on opening night.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ten Questions About the Grizzlies on Opening Night

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 10:37 AM

How is this guy going to handle having his minutes restricted? - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • How is this guy going to handle having his minutes restricted?

Here’s a list of things to watch for as the Grizzlies take on the Timberwolves tonight at FedExForum, in the first regular season game of the 2016-17 NBA season.

  1. What sort of minutes limit will be applied to Marc Gasol, and will he actually allow himself to be subjected to a minutes limit?
  2. How effective will Zach Randolph be off the bench? How efficient will he be at a high usage rate against second units?
  3. No doubt the Grizzlies would like for everyone to forget why Rick Trotter isn’t the PA announcer anymore. How much does the PA announcer actually change the game? And, since Trotter’s delivery was similar to John Paul Stevenson’s, the previous PA announcer who has now returned on an interim basis, will casual fans even notice?
  4. What’s wrong with Tony Allen, and when will he actually be healthy?
  5. Are the Grizzlies going to be able to function at a high level without Chandler Parsons, who presumably won’t be seeing the court for a while? With James Ennis in the starting lineup, are they still going to be able to do the things they want to do offensively?
  6. Are the Timberwolves for real? Has their phalanx of extremely talented young players finally developed to a point where they’re a legitimate playoff threat?
  7. With Brandan Wright out, what’s the bench frontcourt rotation going to look like? Are we going to see Deyonta Davis and Troy Williams play significant minutes in the first game of the season?
  8. Has the backlash against the “Grind City” thing (the tagline, not the media operation, which has been discussed ad nauseum) spread beyond me, Herrington, and Kevin Cerrito, or are we all alone on Grumpy Island? Are we now forever doomed to only be able to name Memphis things “grind” or the danged area code? Was Bluff City not a perfectly good name, even though We Don't Bluff, etc.?
  9. Is Marc Gasol going to take the four three-pointers that David Fizdale wants him to take, or will he pass them up out of habit?
  10. Is this the year I finally stop pretending I like watching ugly basketball? Will I have to watch much of it?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Grizzlies finalize opening night roster, waive Jordan Adams

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 4:15 PM

Farewell, sweet prince. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Farewell, sweet prince.

The Grizzlies have (finally) announced their opening night 15-man roster, and it doesn't include their 2014 first round draft pick Jordan Adams. The team announced that Adams and Matt Costello were waived, and Troy Williams was signed over the weekend, so now the Grizzlies' roster looks like this:

memphis_grizzlies_finalize_2016-17_regular_season_roster_-_k.png

Adams' release is a predictable end to a sad story. Vince Carter included Adams' Twitter handle in a reference to players who were cut over the weekend, but the tweet was later deleted, and it was only the latest in a long line of signals that Adams' future with the team was in doubt.

After only seeing 250 minutes of playing time as a rookie (far fewer than Rodney Hood, just for the record, so that comparison will forever be a "what if") and never having a chance to find his footing in the NBA game, Adams was then sidelined for almost all of last season with one injury after another, and as recently as media day (the last Monday in September) was hoping just to be able to get back on the floor this season. Now, if he does, it won't be in Memphis. With any luck, the new Grizzlies' training staff and new focus on player development will keep these sorts of things from happening in the future, but sometimes guys get injured. Keeping him on the roster as a sunk cost didn't make much sense given the strong showing Troy Williams had.

It remains to be seen if any other moves will be made, with the backup PG situation still a little questionable, but as it stands, these are the guys with whom the Grizzlies are rolling into the season.


Beyond the Arc Podcast #58: Official 2016-17 predictions

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 3:16 PM

bta_003.jpeg

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

★ The latest NBA GM survey says the Grizzlies will be the 7th seed in the West; Kevin agrees with that, and Phil thinks it's too low, so...

★ Official Beyond the Arc Pod Predictions:

  • Phil: 53-29, 4th seed
  • Kevin: 46-36, 7th seed

★ How excited Kevin is for the upcoming season even though that may seem like a pessimistic win total prediction.

★ Optimism about Fizdale vs. optimism about Joerger — Starting over after years of Hollins and Joerger influence, the seeming unity among the Grizzlies FO, coaching, and the roster

★ Zach Randolph in the bench: a stealth attack primed to demolish second units?

★ Troy Williams and Jordan Adams: who stays and who goes?

★ What to watch for in the Grizzlies' season opener against Minnesota, and the possibility of rest during the season's first back-to-back.

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, October 19, 2016

Grizzlies Player Previews: Anagram Edition

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 12:01 PM

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Anagrams are fun. You rearrange the letters in somebody’s name to spell words with them. KEVIN LIPE, for example, can become EVE LINK PI or PIKE LIVEN. I decided to see what the letters in the names of Grizzlies players spell, and to my surprise, they all reveal various hidden secrets about how those players are going to do this year. I’m not claiming to be clairvoyant; I am, however, claiming that discovering the predictive qualities of anagrams makes me a genius, and more deserving of a Nobel Prize than Bob Dylan, whoever that is.

Journey with me now, as I reveal to you the 2016-17 Grizzlies season, as told by the players’ names.

Mike Conley, Jr.: JOCK MINE RELY, ONCE JERKY MIL

Conley is a professional athlete so that covers JOCK. The Grizzlies will RELY on him in the 2016-17 season, just like always. As for ONCE JERKY MIL, people used to be jerks to Conley when he was a young player and wasn’t very good, but he’s signed a deal for more than a hundred million dollars.

Marc Gasol: CARGO SLAM, ARCS AM LOG

Gasol’s on-the-mend right foot is precious CARGO, and he will deliver a record number of SLAM dunks this season. Also, he will LOG lots of shots from beyond the ARCS, and anagrams aren’t great at conjugating “to be.”

Tony Allen: ANNOY TELL, LA NET ONLY

Tony Allen will ANNOY players he’s defending by TELLing them (reminding them, really) that he’s “First Team All-Defense”, and whenever he takes a shot, it will (pardon my French) ONLY find LA NET.

RANCH ZAP HOLD - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • RANCH ZAP HOLD

Zach Randolph: RANCH ZAP HOLD

This was the only anagram I could find for “Zach Randolph” and I didn’t feel like expanding it to “Zachary” was fair. I have no idea what this means. If this were a Magic 8 Ball, this would be “Reply Hazy Try Again” except on every side of the little floating icosahedron.

Chandler Parsons: CARNAL NERD SHOPS, PASCAL REND HORNS, RANCHER SPAN OLDS

Lot to work with here. Parsons is notoriously popular with the ladies so I don’t think I should expand on CARNAL NERD SHOPS in a family publication. PASCAL is famous for his wager about the existence of God, so maybe philosophical disagreements will REND the Grizzlies’ ability to properly run HORNS sets. Parsons last played for two teams in Texas (hence RANCHER) and he will SPAN the gap in talent now that the Grizzlies’ OLDS are taking a smaller role. All of this assumes he recovers from injury in time. The anagrams were unclear about that.

Wade Baldwin IV, A DAWN VIBE WILD - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Wade Baldwin IV, A DAWN VIBE WILD

Wade Baldwin IV: A DAWN VIBE WILD, WAIVED AWL BIND

It’s the DAWN of Baldwin’s career, and while we’ve gotten good VIBEs he’s still a little WILD. WAIVED AWL BIND is an ominous portent, but maybe hints that he’ll tie up the backup PG spot with his sharp play and will force some other guards to the D-League. Could also mean he’s going to get cut from the team and take up leather-related arts and crafts.

Andrew Harrison: ARENA DONS WHIRR, RWANDA SHINER OR

Harrison’s play has ARENA DONS WHIRRing about whether he’ll make the Grizzlies’ final 15-man roster or not, because he’ll probably land on some other NBA team if he doesn’t. As for RWANDA SHINER OR, I have no idea. What is this, a Ouija board?

JaMychal Green: CHANGE JAM RELY

JaMychal Green’s insertion into the starting lineup is a CHANGE that will inspire some righteous JAMS on which the Grizzlies can RELY if he can stay out of foul trouble.

Jarell Martin: ARM RAN JET ILL

Martin’s second season should be an important time for his development. He’s got loads of raw talent that hasn’t quite congealed into something usable on a night-in, night-out basis yet. But if he can get it together his ILL hoops skills will JET him into the rotation where he can… I don’t know, RAN some ARMs. This is harder than I thought it would be.

Vince Carter: ACCENT RIVER

Memphis sits on the Mississippi RIVER and Vince Carter is a nice ACCENT piece to have in the wing rotation. Hopefully the Grizzlies’ situation is such that he only has to be an accent piece and not a major player, because at this point in his career he’s not a guy you want to play 35 minutes a night.

Brandan Wright: BRANDING WRATH, BARN DRAW NIGHT, NAB DRAWN GIRTH

The Grizzlies’ change of their BRANDING to Grind City has drawn the WRATH of some who were perfectly fine with Bluff City thank you very much, and that has nothing to do with Brandan Wright at all, but maybe on game NIGHTs they’re hoping it will DRAW people to their BARN to watch basketball. Meanwhile, Wright’s NABbed a position in the backup frontcourt with Zach Randolph which will allow him to DRAWN (sic) the defensive assignment with the most GIRTH so that Randolph doesn’t have to defend the primary big. Playing those two as a unit makes a lot of sense. I could digress into a million GIRTH jokes but I don’t have time for that today.

A CHANGE JAM the Grizzlies can RELY on. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • A CHANGE JAM the Grizzlies can RELY on.

James Ennis: NINJA SEEMS, JAMS SEEN IN

Ennis had some JAMS that were SEEN IN Miami last year before he was traded to the Grizzlies and Dave Joerger didn’t let him play, but now that Fizdale is in charge Ennis SEEMS to have snuck into the starting lineup like a NINJA and, to be honest, looks like he’s definitely talented enough to be a rotation-quality NBA player, and a worthwhile pickup for the Grizzlies. Who knows where is ceiling is. He’s certainly got a pretty well-rounded skill set.

Troy Daniels: DENIAL STORY, A TRENDY SILO, STALED IRONY

Fizdale said he hasn’t played Troy Daniels much in preseason because he already knows what kind of player he is, but it’s yet to be determined whether that’s a DENIAL STORY or the truth. If he plays to his peak, Daniels could be A TRENDY SILO of 3-point shooting. If he plays as well in real life as he does in the preseason, he could be another installment of the STALED IRONY of the Grizzlies’ search for outside shooting help.

Troy Williams: MILITARY OWLS, WARMLY I TOILS, MAYO ILL WRIST

First things first: if the letters in my name spelled MILITARY OWLS that’s what I would change my name to, no questions asked. Williams is a hard-working guy (WARMLY he TOILS) and has gotten the attention of a lot of Grizzlies observers, and is definitely in the discussion for “camp guy who might actually make the team this year.” Also OJ MAYO had an ILL WRIST which was why he could score so much as a rookie. Miss U, 2008 OJ.

Always assume there's a vast conspiracy. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Always assume there's a vast conspiracy.

DJ Stephens: (no anagrams found)

DJ Stephens might actually be from The Upside Down. Explains a lot when you think about it. #benghazi

Vince Hunter: CHIN VENTURE

The Grizzlies took one on the CHIN with injuries during camp so they VENTUREd to sign Hunter to soak up some minutes. He’s raw, and very undeveloped, but he’s got some real skill. He’ll stick somewhere, eventually.

Wayne Selden: LAWN SEND EYE

They have lots of LAWNs in Des Moines where the Grizzlies will probably try to SEND Selden so they can keep an EYE on his development.


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