Down Goes Marc, Next Man Up (or men)

Marc Injury

The goals of any team are contingent on the one thing over which they have little to no control….injuries (Andrew Bynum’s bowling incident comes to mind). Yes, the ultimate X-factor reared its ugly head on a lazy Saturday afternoon, when an MRI on Marc Gasol’s left knee revealed a Grade II MCL sprain. For now, Gasol is listed as “Out Indefinitely”. This is not an unfamiliar injury for Grizzlies fans. Quincy Pondexter suffered the same mishap last year, and missed time from late December to mid February. We all remember two years ago, when OJ Mayo drove the lane in Chicago and fell into ZBo’s knee, sidelining Zach for 10 weeks. Players have different recovery periods, so it’s probably best to avoid a forecast. Hell, Marc was listed as “Out Indefinitely” last year with an abdominal injury, yet he only missed two games. Hope for the best, but this won’t heal over night.

(Photo: Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports)

The magnitude of this injury cannot be understated. Gasol is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and essentially plays the role of quarterback for the Grizzlies defense. Gasol communicates with the rest of the team from his vantage point down low. His Grizzly like roars from the paint help maintain an organized defensive set and direct players to assist on blown assignments. This is all in the rare event, of course, that Mike Conley or Tony Allen hasn’t stolen the ball already. Puppet Master act aside, Marc’s physical impact is felt when he contests shots at the rim and opens up the offense by facilitating from the foul line area.

Marc was in peak form during the “Cali Swing”, averaging 19.5 points, 9 rebounds, 7.25 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.75 blocks over the four game stretch. He was basically flirting with a triple double every night…because he’s Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies will feel Marc’s absence starting Monday night when the Rockets come to Memphis. Also, early December games against the Clippers, Warriors and Thunder loom, providing playoff level competition. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, all four of those games take place in the Grindhouse. If you missed it or care to see it again, here’s the injury. Basically non contact so it’s not hard to watch other than the impending pain it will inflict on the Grizz:

Next Man Up

It’s not all bad, however. The injury could have been more severe, in which case Marc would require surgery and miss the remainder of the year. Or, this could have happened later in the year, making him unavailable for a playoff run. He will return, with all his Spanish flair, and get back to blocking shots and playing the “classic” Point-Center position. Coach Joerger has said that Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis will fill in, noting it will require multiple players to take on Marc’s work load. Koufos and Davis now have the same opportunity that Marreese Speights had two years ago, when ZBo sprained his MCL.

Since taking over, the new brass in the Memphis front office has made two major trades. The not so much blockbuster of a deal sending Rudy Gay to Toronto did indeed return a player to the Grizzlies, Ed Davis. Davis played sparingly last year, and looked like a deer in headlights when he was on the court. The front office highly coveted Davis for his youth, athleticism, and potential. In the case of Rudy Gay, we know that potential may not always be maximized, but a change of scenery can work wonders for players. The more overlooked move was the trade of Darrell Arthur and a 2nd round draft pick for Kosta Koufos. Koufos started in 81 regular season games with the Denver Nuggets last year, and is more than capable of starting for many teams in the NBA. Side note, Koufos may now be known as 2K, because if ZBo called him that, it has to be cool:

With Gasol out for what could be 2 months, the judgment of these trades will become ever more critical. “2K” and Ed need to take advantage of this opportunity, both by helping the team win games and further defining how they can best contribute to the team. A successful run could spell major minutes for the two players, both now and in the long run to ease Marc back into the lineup. Also, Jon Leuer may see more time in an attempt to save ZBo from burning out too early.

The coming weeks will give the coaching staff (and fans) time to develop a better opinion of not only the trades but the Grizzlies’ chances at returning to the Western Conference Finals….Because that’s what this is really all about…right? Hoop City experienced a different echelon of basketball last year and anything less will be disappointing, because that was a series reserved for big boys. Only grown men allowed.  Z-Bo and TA belong at that table, and will have to lead the Grizzlies through this stretch. Grind on Grizz Nation. Memphis will be fine. ZBo and Tony are still hungry, and they want a seat at that table.

Forum WCF

-Travis Nauert

Advertisements

November 18, 2013.

Memphians will forever know this date as “JT Day.”

OH, and the day Kosta Koufos SHOWED UP in LA and Tony Allen roundhoused CP3. Of course Z-Bo continued his Clipper-killing streak with 26 points and 15 rebounds. This was so worth the wait.

To celebrate the fabulousness I’m feeling, I compiled my favorite tweets, pictures, etc. from last night.

grizz-106447676-630

 

I feel like this, by the way. –>

 

 

Yeah, Tony kicked Chris Paul in the face. 

KOSTA KOUFOS WHAT?

Z-Bo just knows he’s killing it in Cali.

(NBA on ESPN)

(NBA on ESPN)

Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake made Memphians sob joyfully with his falsetto love letter to the Bluff City.

BZafZjfCAAAZExf.jpg-large

 

And he closed the show wearing his Grizz best.

 

 

 

 

And just like that, it’s full circle. Grizz and JT together at last. My goodness. I couldn’t love Memphis more. Here’s a little Chris Herrington gold.

BYqZkcaCEAAGXX1.jpg-large

(Choose901)

 

Go grab one of these, Grizz Nation.

 

 

You deserve it.

 

-Casey Black

Whoop that Clipp

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Clippers

(thesportspin.com)

Z-Bo, we all know what you’re going through.

This thing you’ve got with Blake Griffin is a classic rivalry. The old school, hard knocks, grit and grind ball player versus the pompous, athletic new-age kid. It’s just too good. And Grizz Nation has always had your back. We love you, and we love to hate on Blake Griffin. Sure, he can dunk. Whatever.

This video is proof that you’ve always had his number.

Randolph has had an amazing streak over the past two games in Cali [versus the Lakers and Kings], scoring a combined 50 points and 21 rebounds. He shot 20 of 30 just to make it that much sweeter. Much thanks to the recent performances from Zach, the Grizzlies are on their longest winning streak of the season. 2 games. It’s a disheartening statistic, but it shows how vital Z-Bo’s success is for this Grizzlies lineup. Looking back to the playoffs, Randolph averaged 24.8 against the Clipps. The way Z-Bo has been playing, he’s on pace to match that average tonight.

So, Grizz Nation, brace yourselves for the flop and complain act. It’s inevitable. But according to history (and these past few games), Z-Bo could be setting the stage for another critically acclaimed performance against the Clippers. I’ll be on the edge of my seat.

20120502_ajw_ad8_141_extra_large_medium

Tipoff in Los Angeles:

7:30 PM (10:30 ET)

Staples Center

-Casey Black

The Return of Rudy Gay, Recent Grizz Reminiscing, and Lakers round-up

Rudy’s Return 

Grizzlies fans looked forward to November 13th, last Wednesday, with great anticipation. It was Wednesday, middle of the week, hump day.  The Grizzlies were playing.  The Hawks were televised by ESPN, so Comcast failed to deprive fans of their beloved Grizz in local markets, such as Knoxville and Tuscaloosa.  A new establishment, Club Fly, would be unveiled inside FedEx Forum. Yes, it was a Wednesday that broke the great malaise as we count down the days to Thanksgiving and the tryptophan coma that will undoubtedly ensue. Oh, and it was Rudy Gay’s return to Memphis. How would he perform as he visited the Forum for the first time in a jersey that read something other than Grizzlies across the front?

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Surely his motivation would be high, given the nature of his departure, although that characteristic was in question much of his time with the franchise. Sour feelings aside, it was a home game against a supposedly inferior opponent, and the home team needed a win. Well, I doubt I’m spoiling anything here…the Grizz lost. Toronto outscored Memphis in every quarter but the 3rd, and despite Mike Conley’s 29 point outburst, Rudy did what he hoped to do. Gay went Stat Sheet Stuffer Supreme, as Clark Kellogg would say, and filled out the box score to the tune of 23 points (4 of 6 on 3 pointers), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals, and 2 blocks. I’ll mention the 4 turnovers for good measure.

It would appear that Rudy is doing well since his move to Toronto, scoring almost 20 points per game this season. A select few still believe Memphis lost out on the Rudy trade, focusing on the Grizzlies’ unattractive perimeter play. The paucity of offensive explosion is a legitimate issue at times, but I still believe that most fans interpreted the trade as mutually beneficial. In all fairness to those select few, Memphis does always seem to give more than they receive when it comes to trades, just call it southern hospitality. No one questions Rudy’s athleticism, it’s his decision making and inefficiency. Against Houston earlier this year, Gay went a whopping 11 of 37 from the field, attempting more field goals than points scored, and he had 29.

But, there are nights like Wednesday, when things click and Gay finds his groove. The Memphis offense has much better flow when a variety of players are scoring in double figures and taking attempts, versus when Rudy wants to play NBA 2K, but in real life. It’s fitting, in the end, that Rudy has been paired with Toronto. The Raptors are the one team he always played well against…this Toronto fan must be ecstatic with Rudy now on his side. The Canadian has a dirty mouth, viewer discretion advised:

Or perhaps he has developed a new opinion?…For now, he is probably happy, at least when they play the Grizzlies.

Recent Grizzlies

Rudy’s return made me reminisce of recent Grizzlies and ponder how they are performing with their new teams. Shortly after the loss to Toronto, I saw what looked like some impressive stats scrolling across the bottom line…Good Lord…Tony Wroten had dropped a triple double on Houston…in his first career start. 18 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds for the 6’6” 2nd year player out of Washington.

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Granted, Houston’s “Defense” has been listed as questionable for the remainder of the season.

Wroten seems to be developing nicely in an expanded role with Philadelphia. He has played in every game for the 76ers this year, scoring double figures in all but two of those contests. The backup point guard role has been a chronic issue for Memphis over the years. Once Mike Conley assumed the role of starter under Lionel Hollins, there has been habitual turnover at the position. Chucky Atkins, Keyon Dooling, Lester Hudson, and Ish Smith to name a couple, and now Wroten too.

On this same Wednesday night, another exported Grizz back-up PG surfaced. One Greivis Vasquez appeared with his first double-double of the season, in a 107-86 win over Brooklyn. Vasquez scored 17 points and assisted on 12 of his teammates’ scores. Apparently General Greivis (Star Wars reference anyone?) has landed in Sacramento, unbeknownst to me before hearing his stat line for the night.

I was fortunate enough as a sports fan and a Grizzlies fan to attend the bedlam that was the 3OT Loss to OKC in Round 2 of the 2011 Playoffs. If I had to remember Greivis for all of his moxy and confidence in one play, surely it would be his game tying shot at the end of the first overtime…a classic “NO! NO!…..YES!!!” moment (Click for Video). Vasquez is getting a chance in Sacramento, starting in all of the Kings’ games this year, along side Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. Greivis is averaging just over 10 points and 5 assists per game, all while shooting close to 50% from the field.

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Now, I will give another shout out to Marresse Speights. Mo was one of my personal favorites in his short tenure with the Grizz. Yes, he was a loose cannon. However, he brought the kind of intensity that defines the team. He loved to get chippy. Not to mention, he actually looks like a Florida Gator. Who doesn’t remember his full court baseball passes, jump starting fast breaks when the numbers were absolutely not in the Grizzlies’ favor?…He played well when Z-bo went down with a knee injury, providing spacing with his midrange jumper. Now, he plays sparing minutes behind David Lee for Golden State, backing up another high caliber power forward as he did for Memphis. He has sniffed a double-double twice this season, going for 7 points and 8 rebounds in the season opener against the Lakers, and also against Minnesota going for 8 and 8. Good luck to you, Mo, you were a good Grizz.

LAKERS ROUND UP

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Toronto loss stung, but the Grizzlies responded with an encouraging win Friday night in “La Lucha de Gasol”. This game was different than the first 8. Joerger stuck with the starters deep into the first quarter, and continued to play them big minutes. Marc and Zach logged 42 and 36 minutes, respectively. Also, players avoided foul trouble. Mike Conley and TA had one each, and no starter committed more than Zach’s 3. The bench contributed a modest 14 points. Mike Miller took good looking shots that simply did not fall, otherwise the bench scoring could have been well into the twenties. He will hit them more often than not. But seriously, does it not seem like Miller grabs every rebound when he’s in the game? He snagged 6 against the Lakers, putting his 6’9” frame to good use on the defensive end.

This was a much needed win on the first extended road trip of the season. Zach finally showed good form as he worked hard on the blocks and found his midrange stroke. That baseline fader late in the fourth quarter was absurd. He finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and hit all 6 of his free throws. And for those of you who missed it, he had the ultimate Z-bound!

Not just the win, but the way the team played had to be satisfying for everyone. It was by no means perfect, but a lot more satisfying than Wednesday night, when Rudy popped back into town. Sunday, Memphis takes on Sacramento as the Grizz look to win consecutive games for the first time this season. The Kings are a young and ambitious team, not unlike the Pelicans and Raptors who have already shown such teams are to be respected. Then again, this is the NBA, no one should be underestimated, especially this early in the season. Having said that, the Grizzlies should be and are favored. Controlling the paint is key, as always, and the defense must contain DeMarcus Cousins. With a back-to-back on the horizon, look for Joerger to give bench players extra minutes. A Monday night renewal of Grizzlies-Clippers awaits. I’m going to make a completely uncourageous prediction and say at least 2 technical fouls will be called…. and also an ejection. Until then, however, the Sacramento game presents a great opportunity for a road win and the Grizz need to take advantage of it.

Tipoff         6:00 Eastern / 5:00 Central / 3:00 Pacific / 1:00 Hawaiin

Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento California

Travis Nauert

What’s the deal?

Again, where’s the D? Grizz opponents are getting are too many uncontested shots. Especially for a team with Marc Gasol, the 2012-2013 Defensive Player of the Year, and Tony Allen, arguably the greatest defender out there right now.

(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Let’s not forget Mike Conley who was a member of the 2012-2013 NBA All-Defensive Second Team. All three at the top of their class. All three are still with the Grizzlies. Joerger was supposed to be the mind behind our defensive scheme. One game, our defense looks formidable, the next it looks straight up shoddy. One quarter will show flashes of last season, and the next we’re handing out rebounds like candy. But it’s not just the defense that’s giving me wrinkles. Every aspect of our scheme on both ends of the court is rough.

I’m searching and searching, and I can’t seem to find the holes.

So, Grizz Nation, want to give me a hand? What do you think is the issue here?

Southwest Divison Thoughts plus Grizz/Warriors Primer

Wednesday night saw the Grizzlies fall in a rather disheartening fashion to the new look New Orleans Pelicans…still getting used to that name.  It was as if when Zach left to see the birth of Z-bo Jr. (surely heir to the throne of Memphis basketball), so too did the rest of the team check out. New Orleans’ squad does have talent, however, with 2012 #1 overall pick Anthony Davis, plus the addition of Memphis favorite Tyreke Evans.  Adding insult to injury, or perhaps the other way around, Mike Conley sustained a gash under his right eye late in the game when the result was seemingly not in question, although he is not expected to miss any time.

Also, Jerryd Bayless sprained a knee and is listed as day-to-day. Granted, we made another late push thanks to Mike Miller and the Zoo Crew 2.0….shout out to Mo Speights. The Grizz now stand at 2-3, with all three losses coming against Southwest Division foes (San Antonio, Dallas, New Orleans). Let us not forget, the Southwest Division can and maybe even should be likened to the strength of the SEC in college football, and we’ll say the West for good measure. Sure, the Miami Heat are reigning champions over the last two years, but since the 1999 NBA Finals, a current Southwest Division team has represented the Western Conference in the Finals 7 times (San Antonio 5x, Dallas 2x). The Southwest Division came to be in the ’04-’05 season, thanks to the Charlotte Bobcats forcing realignment when the Association expanded from 29-30 teams. Ok, that seems a little top heavy, but also consider that last year the Southwest was the only division to boast a whopping 4 out of 5 teams with a .500 record or better (Dallas squeaked out a 41-41 record), and, of those, three reached the Playoffs (Houston, Memphis, San Antonio).

image courtesy of 30 Home Games

image courtesy of 30 Home Games

Furthermore, two reached the conference finals, the Grizz and Spurs, of course. Ok, so it’s not like the dominance of 8 consecutive BCS Championships, but I guess my likening the Southwest with the SEC lies in the depth of quality teams, meaning that on any given night, home or away, you can and will go down to a divisional opponent. It certainly does not appear that this strength will diminish any time soon.  Everyone knows what Houston did in the offseason by acquiring Dwight Howard, pairing him with James Harden. San Antonio is even keel as usual. Dallas signed Monte Ellis in the offseason, providing some extra firepower on the offensive end. Finally, Wednesday night showed that New Orleans refuses to be the runt of the group. A season ago, Memphis finished second in the division, falling short of San Antonio by only two games.  It will be extremely difficult to reproduce those results, much less surmount the 6 time division champion San Antonio Spurs.

On Saturday night, the Grizz will face a high powered offense in the form of the Golden State Warriors.  The Warriors are the NBA’s sexiest team right now. Young and hungry, love to shoot the three, and an array of young rising stars with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, plus the addition of athletic and Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Iguodala. That core is improving greatly under the leadership of second year head coach

Noah Graham/Getty Images

Noah Graham/Getty Images

Mark Jackson. Curry was listed as day-to-day for their Friday night matchup at San Antonio, however he registered a DNP in the box score after Mark Jackson held him out of the lineup. He is still listed as day-to-day, and expected to be a game time decision. The Warriors fell by 2 to San Antonio, losing 76-74. Curry suffered what is being called a bone bruise against Minnesota, and although he returned, he eventually left that game for good. This is the same left ankle which he hurt against the Spurs during the second round of the Playoffs last year. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have been licking their wounds since the Wednesday night no show, and they need to have a strong performance before too many fans begin to have serious doubts. The season is still young, but many analysts project the Warriors to finish ahead of the Grizz, not that their opinion matters (except for Charles Barkley, because let’s be honest, he loves Memphis). The Rockets and the Clippers too seem to be favored over Memphis in many peoples’ eyes.  Even more alarming are the strong showings by the Lakers and other teams such as the Timberwolves (although time will tell).  The Lakers are still waiting on the services of Kobe Bryant, but it appears he has eyed a date for his return….against the Grizz no less.

The #blackout referring to the Lakers’ new Hollywood Nights uniforms they will be donning during select games this year. We can only speculate that the #bearhunt refers to Friday, November 15th, when the Grizz clash with the Lakers in Staples Center.

If the Grizz hope to make another deep postseason run, they need to show good form sooner rather than later, because no games can be wasted in this packed Western Conference. How we perform Saturday night against the darlings of the NBA should provide Grizz Nation with a more realistic outlook down the road. I believe two key factors play into Memphis’ favor. First, the Warriors will be playing their second game in as many nights against two tough proud opponents. Second, this will be a Saturday night in FedEx Forum. It will be the biggest show in town thus far, so the attendance and decibel level will be high. Moreover, the Grizz will have had two full days of rest since their last game, so the legs will be fresh. Recent history is also on Memphis’ side, with the Grizz prevailing in 9 straight meetings with the Warriors. Look for Memphis to start fast, absorb some Golden State runs, and make this a close Grit & Grind game into the fourth quarter.

Tip off in Memphis

7:00 PM Grizz Time

FedEx Forum

-Travis Nauert

Proof, The FedEx Forum is a magical place

This perfectly encapsulates everything Grizz Nation loves about the Grindhouse. Best venue, best fans, best players. Thank you for the beautiful words, Rembert Browne.

http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/81276/a-night-with-future-z-bo-tony-allen-and-the-memphis-grizzlies

(JOE MURPHY/NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGES)

(JOE MURPHY/NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGES)