The Grizzlies are going into the All-Star Break at 33–18, good enough for 4th place in the Western Conference standings (thanks to Rudy Gay’s game-winner to put Toronto on top over the Denver Nuggets last night). Are we happy with that?
Let’s think back to the beginning of the season, before the November 5th home opener against the Utah Jazz. What did we want from this year’s Grizzlies team? Are they meeting or exceeding those expectations?
The pinnacle of the season so far for the Grizzlies has been the much-vaunted November run that saw them go 12–2 against some of the best teams in the league: the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the New York Knicks — who were undefeated at the time — and others. The ball movement was crisp, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were eating opponents alive under both baskets, Tony Allen’s hounding defense was causing chaos all over the floor, and the Grizzlies were getting into other teams’ heads with their physical play.
And then there was that one game where Wayne Ellington heated up and dropped 7 three-pointers on the Heat, but that didn’t happen again for months.
Since then, things have been a bit of a struggle. After that 12–2 November, the Grizzlies have been 21–16, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t good, either. At one point, they had the best record in the league, and now they’re fighting off challenges in the standings from the Golden State Warriors and the aforementioned Denver Nuggets. But what’s been even more surprising is the off the court stuff.
First they hired John Hollinger away from ESPN to be a VP of Basketball Ops in the front office. Trade rumors leaked like crazy about Rudy Gay. Lionel Hollins took to the media to campaign against "breaking up the team" and trading Gay away. Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby were traded to Cleveland for Jon Leuer. Lionel Hollins continued his campaign against any further roster moves…
…but the hammer eventually dropped on something the Grizzlies probably should have done after the 2011 season, and Rudy Gay was dealt to Toronto for Ed Davis and Jose Calderon, and Calderon was flipped to the Detroit Pistons for Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye.
The New Look Grizzlies are an assist machine, swinging the ball around like it’s going out of style — a marked contrast from the Old Look Grizzlies who (to quote Chris Vernon) had three plays: 1) Mike Conley and Marc Gasol high pick-and-roll, 2) Z-Bo or Rudy iso set, 3) shot clock violation.
It seems like the team has started to gel around the new roster as of late. Austin Daye seems to be developing into the spot-up shooter the Grizzlies needed off the bench. Ed Davis, if he can get more minutes, can be the Grizzlies big man of the future once Z-Bo rides off into the sunset (which, hopefully, will be a long time from now). Tayshaun Prince makes this team better even when he’s not shooting 100% from the field, but he can do that too, as he proved against the Timberwolves.
So what do we think, Griz fans? Are we satisfied with where the Grizzlies are at right now? Did we hope for better, or are they exceeding expectations? Who would’ve thought this much would be different, and yet the team would keep right on trucking?
Latest victim of the Lionel Hollins Super Unescapable Doghouse, it would seem: Selby played only 59 minutes spread across 10 games even though two years ago he was widely regarded as a steal in the draft. He put up huge numbers in the D-League, but it never seemed to translate to the NBA game. Then again, it’s hard to get acclimated to the NBA game when you’re playing 5 minutes a night. ↩
Speaking of no minutes, Leuer has played 8 minutes spread across 4 games. ↩