The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Everyone is familiar with that old cliché. It’s one the Grizzlies understand well after the 2012-13 season. Over the past year, there has been a complete changing of the guard in the Bluff City. An ownership swap was the first domino to fall when Michael Heisley officially completed the sale of the team to tech mogul Robert Pera right before the regular season began.
From there, the rest of the hierarchy was dismantled systematically. John Hollinger was hired away from ESPN to become vice president of basketball operations. The first roster change under the new ownership came when Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a future first-round pick were traded to Cleveland for Jon Leuer. Hardly a week later, Rudy Gay, the face of the franchise, was shipped north of the border midway through the season.
Despite a multitude of momentous changes, the Grizzlies continued to obliterate opponents with nasty defense and grind-it-out offense just like in years past. With that said, the Grizzlies didn’t simply stay on track. They ascended into the NBA’s elite. The team finished with its best record in franchise history and played better than ever, post-Rudy. In the playoffs, the Grizz made an impressive run to the Western Conference finals before being picked apart by the San Antonio Spurs.
On a day that was fairly ho-hum as it relates to NBA news, Twitter saw a large influx of “LeBron shaved his head!” stories.
Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports expresses the general sentiment about the Miami Heat star’s hair (or lack-thereof).
All it takes is one guy saying something stupid to take all the spotlight off of a big game. The latest example was last night, when Roy Hibbert made some remarks that he really should not have, almost overshadowing the fact that the Pacers have done what almost nobody expected them to do and pushed their series with the Heat to Game 7. That game is tomorrow night, so get ready everyone.
Should the Heat lose, it’ll be another case of the Championship Formula letting us all down again, which is just what Danny Schayes wrote about in his latest column. Also on Sheridan Hoops, we’ve got Jeremy Bauman taking a look at three projected first-round picks who should be good players… if they just end up on the right team.
Now let’s take a look at all the latest NBA news:
- If you haven’t heard by now, Roy Hibbert made some homophobic remarks last night regarding his defense on LeBron James. Here’s a statement from Hudson Taylor of anti-homophobia advocacy organization Athlete Ally on the situation: “We are disappointed by Hibbert’s comments, as that kind of language is disrespectful, has no place in sports and is antithetical to the NBA’s policies. As an official partner of the NBA and NBPA, Athlete Ally works closely with the league on delivering trainings and workshops to educate players about LGBT inclusion and respect. The league is undoubtedly a leader in this area, and Roy’s statement of apology clearly recognizes the harms of his comments. We are confident that NBA will do its part to rectify the issue to the extent it can, comprehensively educate Hibbert, who seems genuinely apologetic, and make sure that these kinds of comments are soon a thing of the past.” Brendon Ayanbadejo added: “Hibbert’s comments show his lack of awareness on this issue. He often talks about love and seems to be a positive and caring person. I think he has potential to be an ally and I hope he takes this moment and learns from it.” Brian Ellner, a leading LGBT advocate and Athlete Ally Board Member said, “Far too many young people look up to our sports stars, especially when on a stage as big as the playoffs. We can’t emphasize enough the need for education, because instances like this are harmful to youth. At the same time, we applaud the NBA’s swift action and strong rebuke on this.” “
- That “swift action and strong rebuke” came in the form of a not-insignificant fine, as Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes: “The NBA fined Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert $75,000 on Sunday for his homophobic and vulgar comments following Saturday night’s 91-77 victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals that forced a Game 7 series finale against the Miami Heat for Monday. “While Roy has issued an apology, which is no doubt sincere, a fine is necessary to reinforce that such offensive comments will not be tolerated by the NBA,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement. Hibbert realized his mistake Sunday morning and reached out on Twitter to Jason Collins, who recently became the first active NBA player to publicly state he is gay.”
The Memphis Grizzlies undoubtedly had a successful season, but a sweep at the hands of the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals leaves at least several questions that need to be answered and addressed.
Should Memphis do anything with Zach Randolph?
His playoff numbers declined pretty dramatic over Memphis’ three postseason rounds, leaving the team with an incredibly sour taste about ZBo going into the future.
|Randolph||Min||FG %||Points||Rebounds||FTA||FT %|
|1st Round vs LAC||33.7||56.8||20.8||8||5.7||73.5|
|2nd Round vs OKC||39.6||44.6||18.4||10.8||7.2||72.2|
|Conf. Finals vs SA||38.5||30.2||11||12||6||50|
How can a shooting slump like that be reconciled? Injury? Fantastic San Antonio defense by Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter? Or is it a more pressing problem that the statistically savvy Grizzlies front office needs to address?
“We just never could gain control of the paint,” Memphis Head Coach (for the time being) Lionel Hollins said. “They controlled the paint.” For a team that prides itself on, and thrives at, dominating on both sides of the floor on the interior, they were absolutely manhandled by the Spurs.
Marc Gasol had his problems offensively as well, shooting 39.7 percent from the floor and averaging five fewer points per game than he did against Oklahoma City in the second round despite taking virtually the same number of shots per game. Do the Grizzlies need to break up its interior duo to address other team needs to improve going forward, or did Randolph and Gasol just have a bad series?
Can Mike Conley keep up with the West’s elite point guards?
Think about the amazing point guards in the Western Conference: Memphis got the best of Chris Paul and the Clippers in a long series, but avoided facing the injured Russell Westbrook in its series win over Oklahoma City. Then came the San Antonio Spurs, and Tony Parker ran roughshod over Conley, highlighted by his 37-point effort on 15-for-21 shooting in the Spurs’ Game 4 closeout win on Monday night.
In the four games, Parker averages 24.5 points per game on 53.2 percent shooting to go with 9.5 assists per game. For a team that was so good defensively all season, how can a performance like that be explained?
“He was outstanding the whole series, and he controlled the series with his penetration,” Hollins said of Parker. “He made shots, made plays. One game he has 18 assists, today he has 37 points. He was huge. But their team played well. You’ve got to give them credit.”
Conley was given a lot of credit this postseason for evolving into a better player, but his efficiency as a shooter leaves a lot to be desired:
|Conley||Min||FG %||3 FG %||Points||Assists||FTA|
|1st Round vs LAC||36.2||40.5||28.6||17.3||8.3||8.8|
|2nd Round vs OKC||41.2||36.5||28.6||18||6.5||4.6|
|Conf. Finals vs SA||38||38.3||26.7||15.3||5.8||4.3|
Conley is usually a very good defender, but he needs to be more economical in his scoring for player and team to make that next step. Paul, Westbrook and Parker are likely going to be on Western Conference contenders for a while, so Conley will have to improve even more for Memphis to get to The Finals.
What will Memphis do at small forward?
There’s no doubt that the Grizzlies are a better franchise going forward without Rudy Gay, but the team’s long-term future at the 3 needs to be addressed. San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard shot nearly 60 percent from the field, 53.8 percent from deep, and averaged seven boards per game.
We know Tayshaun Prince is not the long-term option, but perhaps Quincy Pondexter is. In just 23.8 minutes per game in the postseason, he averaged nearly nine points per game on 48.9 percent shooting and 45.3 percent from three. But his numbers shot up to 32 minutes per game against San Antonio, and Pondexter rewarded the team by scoring 15.3 points per game on 53.7 percent shooting (48 percent from three).
“We learned that winning isn’t easy and winning championships is one of the hardest things you can possibly do,” Pondexter said. “I think our guys really dug deep to get as far as we did, and San Antonio’s a tremendous team. We’re going to take a couple pages out of their book.”
One of those pages could be using Pondexter as its long-term starter at the position.
Should Memphis keep Tony Allen?
The defensive stalwart is a free agent this summer, and the team has to decide whether he’s worth a lucrative long-term deal. His offensive numbers also got progressively worse as the postseason went on, down to eight points per game on 37.5 percent shooting against the Spurs, so there is a lot of potential for the team to make key moves that would change the overall fabric of the team.
Will Memphis hold on to Lionel Hollins?
The team undoubtedly improved under his watch, so much so that the Clippers and Nets will probably pursue him in the near future to fill their respective head coaching vacancies. What commitment will the franchise give to Hollins going forward, especially after he criticized analytics earlier this season even though Memphis hired statistical wonk John Hollinger earlier as the front office changed direction? Defensive wiz Dave Joerger could be waiting in the wings if Hollins departs.
Shlomo Sprung loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter.