These past two games have me looking forward to the playoffs. As a die-hard fan, former point guard, all around student of the game, and writer, I have opinions and evaluations. While I am in no way on level with Stewart Scott, or our own analyst Brevin Knight, I have a decades old love affair with the game that provides insight.
Off the table are both Rudy Gay and Lionel Hollins. Those days are dead and gone; therefore, deserve to be left in their respective points of Grizz history. We have the here and the now. The here and the now does not include the past.
Dave Joerger is right now. He’s the fastest coach to get the franchise to 100 wins. Joerger has been active as a coach since 1997. Joerger earned his first championship in 2001 with the International Basketball Association. He’s a three time championship coach in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) earning titles in 2002, 2004, and 2005. In 2007, Joerger again won his league’s championship in the NBA Development league. He has paid his dues. Joerger then transitioned into the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies as an assistant under Marc Iavaroni. Now, here’s the pivotal point. Pay attention. In 2011, under Lionel Hollins, Dave Joergar was promoted to lead assistant specifically handling defensive specialties. The Grizz improved in defensive efficiency, and ranking as follows: 2010 ranked 24th overall, 9th in 2011, 7th in 2012, and 2nd 2013. From 2010-2011 the Grizz made a 15 point jump in defensive ranking. The defensive coordinator, and critical difference? Dave Joerger. The motto Grit and Grind was coined by the Grindfather Tony Allen. The master behind the defensive maneuver and Grizz signature defense? Dave Joerger.
That’s not to imply there are no issues with Joerger. Massive line-up changes in search of perfection are impacting the hustle and flow. Offensive issues plague the roster. The talent is there; coordinating that talent has proven difficult. Joerger needs to return to his defensive roots. Focusing on stops and the defensive end is crucial when offensive struggles arise. Assets must be used effectively. Return to the arsenal and deploy with confidence.
This brings us to the roster and the roles. Part of the struggle has been due to the constant rotation changes. Lines that stay together, play together. This is one of the strengths in Grizz core players of Randolph, Conley, Gasol and Tony Allen. The core four have natural rhythm, and therefore are able to coordinate ball movement. There is value in the general knowing the placement of his weapons. This is true in any long standing roster be it the Spurs, Mavs, Cavs. And it is that specific weapon that has dismantled the Grizz recently. Not only are we not using our arsenal properly, we cannot defend when others do. The line up issues have to be settled. Games are not practice. While other teams are refining and and sharpening their weapons, the Grizz are search and rescue. Return the motivation by returning to the proven formula. You have to give the weapons the tools to succeed.
Core four. Randoloh, Conley, Allen, Gasol. Let them live! Stop the pick and roll frustration by returning the confidence to leaders. Courtney Lee, while when healthy can be lethal, is not currently productive. We’ve rolled Nick Calathes onto the floor with Mike Conley as of late and I like the production. Adding Nick instead of Courtney adds two levels, defensively Nick was ahead of Tony in steals coming out of the All-Star Break. Calathes adds to Tony’s defensive assault, as well as providing offensive playmaking. In the second line up, I’d have Courtney and Jeff Green deployed with Kosta, Beno, and Vince Carter. The next several games rookie Jordan Adams should be rotated in the second unit, providing relief for Vince Carter. Adams needs the minutes to be comfortable and settle his nerves. Skill wise he’s ready to provide fresh legs. The advantage to having Jeff Green and Courtney Lee in the second unit is that the two are comfortable together. They play well together. Even if Lee remains unpredictable offensively, his perimeter defense is necessary. Kosta has been on point and being aggressive at both the offensive and defensive boards. Vince Carter post injury is a man renewed. He took the rehab time seriously. He refined his shot by watching old film and applying necessary changes. It has worked. We’ve also seen Carter hustling, and returning to the lane.
Jeff Green in the second unit is also where he prefers to be. He neither likes, nor responds well to the pressure. It would also mean that Randolph returns to the paint, instead of shooting jump shots in attempt to create offensive space. We have start collecting offensive boards and creating second chance points. We clear out after shooting in an attempt to return down the floor faster defensively. We have to return to our game. Slow it down. Focus. Execute.
Last of all Gasol. What I am about to say does not in any way indicate a lack of loyalty, but reality. Gasol is frustrated. He is about to become a free agent. While Memphis is home, basketball is a business. As much as I, and this city, love our center, does not mean he will stay. It’s all about theBenjamin’s and rings. No one enters the league and puts in this kind of work without looking for the ring. Gasol’s brother Pau is a prime example. He left the Grizz franchise, went to an established franchise and won the prize. Do not think for a moment that was not noticed by little brother. My prediction is that if this season does not end in a ring, Marc Gasol will depart. If I had to guess the franchise to welcome him, I’d bet on the Spurs. I love our team, and would love nothing more than for NBA to put a ring on it. Let’s stay together, and get it together. I believe in the Grit and Grind, and we are All Heart in Hoop City.