Doing Some Research

urlI’m going to throw y’all a quick curveball.

Bears of Beale is Memphis Grizzlies all day, everyday, and Travis and I intend to keep it that way. But for just a minute I want to  reflect on recent discoveries and think about the future of sports blogging. Long before Bears of Beale was dreamt up, I thought blogging was for amateurs; a way for the average person to feel like their voice was being heard. While this is kind of true, blogs are more often hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Websites like Grantland and SB Nation have become the source of breaking news for sports fans, and now, you will be hard pressed to find a sports team or organization that does not operate some type of blog along with Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Social media reporters have become the insiders.

I recently read The Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer, an incredibly reputable source for social media news. The book was fascinating, and I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject, along with the rest of Mark Schaefer’s books. The Tao of Twitter guides the reader from the moment of registration to maintaining a successful account. As a blogger, I tried to apply his Twitter advice. One thing really stood out to me.

Posting Meaningful Content

It’s crucial for maintaining a successful blog. Bears of Beale was started for two main reasons: 1. To put our ridiculous love of the Memphis Grizzlies to good use. 2. To become better writers. As I reflect on the NBA season so far and the way the bog has progressed, I have to say I’m pretty proud.

Here’s to many more amateur blog posts, Grizz Nation. Thanks for sticking around!

(NBA.com)

(NBA.com)

 

-Casey Black

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Its About the Big Picture, Not the Specifics

Like my colleague, Travis, I often fall victim to the Atlanta Hawks.

I don’t reveal much about myself on this blog, but I’ll let you in my world for a moment. I attend the University of Tennessee (Travis holds down Tuscaloosa), and I rarely see the Grizz on the TV. Although proximity would suggest otherwise, there is no Hawks fan base in Knoxville (I’m still not convinced there’s much of a fan base in the Hotlanta either). Not that I have seen at least. The Grizzlies reign supreme here in Knox, and its just so wonderful. Yet, Atlanta will always own Fox Sports South in Knoxville and other, similar perimeter cities. Its an unfortunate reality that displaced Grizz fans face every season. If we’re not succumbing to the temptation of glitchy online streaming, our eyes are glued to Twitter.

And that’s exactly what happened tonight.

It’s hard coming off an emotional victory over the Clippers in the FedEx Forum from a distance. I needed a margarita (In celebration of National Marg Day, of course). Don’t you worry; I watched my boys via social media like any respectable member of Gen Y. I knew each and every detail without worry.

So, let’s touch on what happened tonight in Charlotte. Yeah, we lost. I’m not surprised one bit. We’re coming off a back to back, and it was an away game against a hot team (Charlotte’s won four in a row). Not to mention a little bus trouble on the trek there.

That’s not a recipe for a Griz win. We put ourselves in a position to win; we grit n’ grinded back but didn’t get it done. Every game matters at this point in the season, making it impossible to stay positive after a loss to a sub .500 team. But…

That’s where the headline comes in. Its all about the big picture.

We’ve won 75% of our games since Marc Gasol came back. Now, that’s a great stat. Its also a glimpse at the big picture as we chug (margaritas) toward our final playoff push. Any loss hurts, but getting down about a game like tonight’s just elevates the pain. So, let’s focus on next week. We’ve got the Lakers at home (Yeah they’re bad, but somehow fill the Forum with “fans”). Then, we’re headed off to Oklahoma City for a real showdown. I’m sure I’ll bring more thoughts about that later next week.

Until then…

Let’s stay healthy. Let’s stay positive. Let’s keep on being that terrifyingly cool kid in the class.

Don’t sweat the small stuff, Grizz Nation.

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty)

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty)

-Casey Black

LA Clippers, Meet James Johnson

Well, Comcast struck again.  The Hawks played last night, and many of us outside Memphis were screwed.  Normally, I would have improvised quickly, going straight to the computer in hopes of finding a janky feed to stream the game.  I didn’t.  It was Friday night, and I was clowning, hard.  My fanhood warranted questioning as the Hollywood caliber actors that are the LA Clippers were on the menu.  My mistake indeed.  Twitter users following the likes of Chris Vernon, Chris Herrington, Geoff Calkins and others saw their feeds effectively blow up as the Grizzlies took the fight to the Clippers, spearheaded by James Johnson on his night.  The Neck Tattoo giveaway was a great success.  Calkins put it well capping the victory:

Clippers coach Doc Rivers credited Tony Allen, James Johnson, and Mike Miller for changing the game with their energy.  The Grizzlies bench outscored the Clippers reserves 43-7, and that is the stat of the day…I don’t know if I have ever seen something like that in a Grizzlies box score.

Now, back to James Johnson:

Block on Green, 2 Dunks by Johnson

Alley oop off the backboard

Twitter traffic mounted when Tony Allen returned to a standing ovation and, paired with Johnson, proceeded to wreak havoc on the perimeter.  The bench manhandled their counterparts, then came the highlight plays and commentary to go with it:

David Stern was smiling somewhere, as Adam Silver continues his predecessor’s bidding of eternally dooming Memphis with horrible officiating. And we noticed:

In the end, there was just too much Grizz:

Highlights and social media aside, the Grizzlies have come out of the All-Star Break strong with two solid wins at the Forum. Now that Tony Allen has returned, the roster is near full strength (minus Quincy Pondexter), and continued health will be key to rising up the West standings.  The Grizz are currently 1 game behind the Mavericks who hold the 8th seed.  Tonight, Memphis travels to Charlotte for a quick 1 game road trip before returning home to play the Lakers on Wednesday.  Dallas plays at Detroit tonight, so by the end of the day the Grizzlies could leapfrog the Mavericks and claim the final spot.

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

AP Photo/Lance Murphey

AP Photo/Lance Murphey

Tip off tonight:

7:00 ET / 6:00 CT

Time Warner Cable Arena

Charlotte, NC

-Travis Nauert

Grizzlies front office reaffirms faith in the roster

In the final minutes before the official trade deadline, Grizzlies fans could breathe again. It was safe to assume that no moves would be made that late, meaning Tony Allen would sit tight in Memphis right where he wants to be. All is good in the Bluff City. Although, I think the uneventful day meant so much more than just keeping our favorite SG. It restored a little faith in our Front Office and in the future of our team.

As a Grizzlies fan who’s seen the highs and will never forget the lows, there is nothing more satisfying than hearing deals like the one Minnesota proposed aren’t worth our money (JJ Barea and Chase Budinger for our Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince) . Like I’ve said over and over, this team has absurd potential. Just wait until we’re healthier. Things are going to get good.

Also, fans are still wishy-washy about ditching Lionel Hollins, especially after the uneasiness surrounding Hollins’ recent interview with Mearl Purvis of Fox 13. Basically any fanbase in the NBA, small market especially, goes up in arms when the cord is cut with any seemingly successful part of the team (Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol and Shane Battier to name a few). It just takes time to regain the faith in the guys in suits. It was common knowledge that they wanted relief from Prince’s $7.2 million/year contract and a facelift at the small forward position. It’s good to hear that it would take a little more to get rid of our beloved Grindfather.

We’ll never be that team out to grab the big stars despite who’s running the show or what Cali boy owns the team.

(Mike Brown/Commercial Appeal)

(Mike Brown/Commercial Appeal)

As we enter tonight’s game against the Clippers, Grizz Nation is full of good feelings. Tony is back, Marc’s re-injury scare was a false alarm, and we still scare the crap out of the rest of the NBA. No one wants to play us as we near the playoffs because we do grit n’ grind better than anyone out there.

Sure, Blake Griffin is playing his best basketball ever, but they don’t have a big guy to contest Marc Gasol. DeAndre Jordan has also been spectacular lately, but let me be frank; Marc would win that matchup any day. I’m skeptical of Nick Calathes up against Chris Paul, but we shall see. I love a good Friday night with the Grizz.

0423_MASP_griz_tue7_t607

(Nikki Boertman/Commercial Appeal)

Grizzlies vs. Clippers
Tipoff 8 PM (ET)
FedEx Forum

-Casey Black

State of the Grizz – All Star Special

Priming for Playoff Push

The Grizzlies have reached the unofficial halfway point of the season.  52 of 82 games have been played, so my college level-ish math skills tell me 30 games remain.  The break comes with opportune timing.  Marc Gasol aggravated his left knee sprain last Wednesday at Orlando in an 86-81 win over the magic.  Mike Conley continues to nurse a sprained ankle, and Tony Allen nears his return from a nebulous wrist injury that has sidelined him for 20 consecutive games.

Spruce Durden – USATODAY Sports
Marc no like injury

The injuries have been a nuisance, and fans wonder where a healthy Grizz team could be in the playoff race versus where it currently stands.  At 29-23, Memphis trails both 8th seed Golden State and 7th seed Phoenix by 1½ games, and 6th place Dallas by 2 games. Furthermore, the Rockets, Clippers, and Trailblazers claim the 3, 4, and 5 seeds respectively, with all three holding a 6½ game cushion over the Grizzlies.  This means Memphis is well within striking distance of a number of playoff scenarios and match-ups, all contingent on performance and of course good health.

Standings from espn.com

Standings from espn.com

A Note on Tiebreakers

If a tie were to occur between the Grizzlies and any Southwest division foe (most likely Dallas and Houston at this point), the Grizzlies will ultimately lose said tie based on NBA tie breaking rules, which state that a tie between two divisional opponents is first decided by head to head results, and, in the case of a season series tie, record against divisional opponents determines the higher seed.  At 2-11 in the division, and with only 3 Southwest games remaining (New Orleans, San Antonio, and Dallas), Memphis has dug too deep of a hole should that scenario emerge.  Thus, even the season series split with Houston would prove futile when comparing overall divisional records.  Despite the shortcomings against regional rivals, the fact that people such as 5 time NBA Champion Steve Kerr are already dubbing Memphis as “the team nobody wants to play” is a further testament to the competitiveness and quality of the Southwest division.

Steve Kerr

Injuries Have Made Team Stronger

While many people wonder where the Grizz “could be”, I look at where the team is now, and where they began the season. The additions of Courtney Lee and James Johnson improved the roster on both sides of the floor.  In Tony Allen’s absence, Courtney Lee has provided solid defense and reliable, timely three point shooting.  James Johnson appeared out of nowhere, showing an uncanny ability to get to the rim, guard the perimeter, and block shots at will.  Marc Gasol’s early exit provided invaluable experience for Ed Davis, Kosta Koufos, and Jon Leuer.  

Then there is the polarizing topic of Nick Calathes.  Say what you will about the Greek-American and former Florida Gator, but most if not all NBA rookies require an adjustment period, and while there may be too little time left in the playoff race to endure an “adjustment period”, signs point towards Calathes turning the corner.  Since we flipped the calendar to February, Calathes has scored double digits in 6 of 7 games, showing to be more capable from 3 than originally thought.  He is 9 of 22 from beyond the arc in these seven games for a .409 3P%.  His deceptive size (listed at 6’6″ in your programs) can create matchup problems as well.  Again, in February, Calathes has one game with 1 steal, one game with 2 steals, and two games with 3 and 4 steals each. Do the arithmetic, carry the one, and that’s 18 steals in 6 games. Not too shabby. 

Nelson Chenault /USAToday Sports

Nelson Chenault /USAToday Sports

Still, turnovers remain an issue.  6 against Cleveland in a loss, 6 against Dallas in a loss, and 4 against Atlanta in a tight win on the road.  Let’s be real for a second, no one is arguing that Calathes is a starting point guard for this team.  He has been thrust into a starting role for an indefinite but brief period. Mike Conley will return after the All Star Break, so it’s not like the team is counting on Calathes to lead the Grizz into the playoff hunt.  Even then, the transfer window remains open until the trade deadline passes next Thursday, February 20th at 2PM Central time.  So, time remains for possible upgrades if the front office desires to do so.  However, history can be linked between the front office and Calathes.  A Memphis Flyer article from June 2013 noted what would have happened “If Holliner Had Made The Picks”

The Remaining Hurdles – A Look at the Schedule Down the Stretch

Only 13 home games remain in the regular season, and 17 on the road.  The standings graphic above shows the Grizzlies have actually produced results away from home, with a 15-9 record outside of FedExForum.  On the other hand, a 14-14 record in Memphis has left something to be desired.  Home headliners include the second game out of the break, February 21st against the Clippers, where the first 5,000 fans receive the highly anticipated GRIZZLIES fake neck tattoo.  In March, games against the Trailblazers and East leading Pacers loom, in what should be a defensive clinic.  Finally, the season winds down in April with ESPN broadcasted games against Denver and Miami, and the season finale against Dallas which could turn into a 1 game series “play in” scenario.

February 28th will be the first big road test against the familiar Thunder in OKC.  A jam packed March gives way to 17 Grizz games, with 11 coming on the road.  An ESPN game in Chicago comes March 7th.  March 21st brings the first matchup of the year against reigning champ Miami.  Then, another ESPN game in Utah on March 26th kicks off a 5 game road trip that extends into April.  Opponents include Golden State, Portland, and Denver.  Furthermore, games in San Antonio (on NBATV), Los Angeles (Lakers), and Phoenix await.

First 15

courtesy ESPN.com

courtesy ESPN.com

Bottom Line: It’s going to be a long tough road to the finish. 17 of the 30 games remaining come against playoff teams by my count (East and West), and more games on the road than at home as already noted (which could be good if the first 52 games indicate anything).  In my opinion, the Grizzlies boast way too much experience compared to Golden State and Phoenix, teams Memphis has performed well against this year.  With the team looking for its 4th consecutive playoff birth led by an incumbent core, it seems unthinkable that this team would not reach the playoffs.  A stellar stretch run could see the Grizz fighting for home court advantage.  If injuries continue to impose their will, then Memphis in May will seem a little empty this year.

To be honest, I am not concerned about the playoff race.  It will play out, and the best teams will earn their place.  It will be a heated race right up until the spot has been clinched, but confidence is key.  The only thing I am really worried about is what the new growl towels will look like.

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

-Travis Nauert

Hibernation Thoughts

Breathe easy, Grizz Nation. Everything will be alright because Marc Gasol is going to be alright.

 

(Justin Ford/USA Today)

(Justin Ford/USA Today)

Now we wait, and this time everything is up in the air. We’re clawing at the eighth spot in the West with a banged up but terrific team. Mike Conley won’t be 100%, yet he’s still one of the best tools in our belt. He’s the guy that, as long as he’s on the court, will give us a winning edge even with a slight injury. Marc Gasol will likely take a minute to get back in the groove after a second scare with his left knee, but like Mike, his 50% is better than anyone else’s out there.

Tony Allen is a big question mark. He’s day-to-day, and that’s about all I’ve heard. Gasol and Conley’s injuries have been highly publicized and in turn have overshadowed Allen’s

(Photo by Nikki Boertman)

(Photo by Nikki Boertman)

hand injury. Tony’s a play-maker, but it seems like he flies under the radar until he comes up with some killer, clutch play. He’s a destructive, defensive force that we’ve been missing since January 3rd, so here’s to hoping for an update shortly.

This Tuesday the Grizz reemerge from their All-Star nap to play the dismal New York Knicks at home. Its a safe bet for a win. We’re at home, and the Knicks are rolling on a solid .385 for the season (Yeah, I’m chuckling too). Oh boy, would I love to be at that game, but I’ll be watching patiently in Knoxville as always.

Enjoy the break, Grizz Nation. We’ll be back on the edge of our couches before you know it.

-Casey Black

Marc Gasol’s left knee: the saga continues

Two nights ago, the unthinkable happened. Again.

Marc Gasol left the game in the fourth quarter with an injured left knee. With 7 minutes remaining in the game in Orlando, it was announced that Marc would not return due to a re-aggravated knee. Thankfully, the Big Fella has the All Star Break to get all this sorted out. That doesn’t mean Grizz Nation isn’t still waiting anxiously for some news.

Marc Gasol is one of the three most important keys to the Grizzlies success (along with Mike Conley and Zach Randolph). Without one of the three, the team has struggled immensely. With all three, the Grizz are virtually unstoppable. Gasol returned to the Grizz lineup January 14, almost two months after his MCL sprain, to help Memphis go on a 13-3 run. So, yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.  

The Grizz are two games behind the Golden State Warriors in a race for the 8th spot in the West. Coach Joerger is “optimistic,” so let’s hope for the best, Grizz Nation! For now, I guess we’ll have to focus our attention on the always thrilling All Star festivities. Fingers crossed.

-Casey Black