Just yesterday we were watching Lionel Hollins sub in Gilbert Arenas and Hamed Haddadi in the fourth quarter of Game 7, destroying all chances to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
Now? We're 11 games into the David Joerger-era.
And it's been a bumpy ride. It's too early to judge Joerger as a whole due to the size of his body of work. But after 11 games and a 6-5 record, we've decided to come together for a roundtable to speak on his less-than-a-full-month tenure as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies:
1. Right now Joerger is 6-5. Grade his performance as a head coach based on what you've seen so far?
Joe Mullinax: I would give him a C+. Considering the uproar that came with the Hollins non-renewal and the fact you could rationally argue the Grizzlies went further than they should have last postseason, Joerger was stepping into a hornet's nest. The struggles defensively have been concerning, but the offense has done some good things ball movement wise, especially the last few games. Mike Conley is more aggressive so far this season and appears to have taken an early big step forward. Hell, even Tony Allen has had some success offensively at times this season, a nod to the offense fitting both of their skill sets.
Matt Hrdlicka: C. I think reasonable Grizz fan expected some bumps, and the rocky start has made it easy to blame Joerger. I didn't expect it to be this bumpy, but I don't have any doubts about the long term track of this team, provided Marc Gasol returns to form. And if he doesn't... it doesn't really matter who the coach is.
Chris Faulkner: I've have to give him a C+. It's been a rough start to the Joerger Era, but I think we've yet to see the best that Dave Joerger has to offer as a head coach. He's not cluess, he's just having some horrible luck to start the season.
Kevin Yeung: I was planning to give Joerger a C- before the game tonight, but the feel-good performance tonight has led me to irrationally bump that grade to a C. I can't help but feel like, with three wins in a row now, we're finally turning the corner. Things were tough enough early in the season that I have to mark Joerger down for that, but if we can maintain the good we've been seeing while continuing to cut down on the bad, things could continue to be really fun. The defense is regrouping itself, and guys are starting to execute the offense as it was designed. Yes, optimism.
2. What has Joerger done best in his first 11 games as a head coach?
Mullinax: Joerger has done well taking all of the early season issues in stride. Whether it was making light jokes about gum offered to him possibly being laced with something after the Pelicans loss or continuing to experiment with line-ups even when people were asking why, Joerger is doing his best to put his imprints on this team. This is important going forward. An issue for new head coaches is how getting questioned early can impact them. Joerger needs to stand firm to his vision for the team. That doesn't mean not making adjustments, but he cannot change who he is as a coach because of early growing pains.
Hrdlicka: He's implemented some structural changes in the in-flow game play -- letting rebounders bring the ball up-court under no pressure; cross-matching in semi-transition; a slightly higher emphasis on guarding corner 3's on defense -- that are all probably positive long-run. Also, some of his play calls out of timeouts have been awesome.
Faulkner: This ties in to the next question. Joerger has been unafraid to experiment with lineup options and rotations, so he should have a really solid idea of what he has to work with this season (until an inevitable trade occurs).
Yeung: Maybe this isn't the "best" thing he's done in terms of what's been successful (this would probably be his implementations to the offense), but I've really enjoyed Joerger's creativity with his lineups. It didn't seem too popular with some of the others, but I liked it personally. He's got possibly the deepest Grizzlies roster ever, and I'm enjoying his experimenting. We've seen various three guard lineups including Tony Allen, Mike Conley, Jerryd Bayless and Nick Calathes. We've seen Marc Gasol and Kosta Koufos twin towers lineups. We even saw all-bench lineups (which should probably go). They haven't all been killer lineups, clearly, but they've been really interesting to explore with upside remaining to be found. So, props for that.
3. What has Joerger done worst in his first 11 games as a head coach?
Mullinax: The focus on the offense appears to have had a direct impact on defensive prowess. The Grizzlies should be at worst in the top-10 defensively, considering the personnel on the roster. Tony Allen appears to have regressed the most at times, allowing players such as Lance Stephenson, DeMar DeRozan and Jodie Meeks to have impressive outings on his watch. Is this because TA responded well to Lionel's style, his attention was taken up by the offensive adjustments or because he has lost a step or interest due to his new long-term contract? Time will tell. This concerns me more than anything going forward.
Hrdlicka: I think fans have fixated too heavily on his choice of lineups (and if lineup direction is coming from his bosses, is Coach Joerger really to blame), so I'll go with this.
Faulkner: He's experimented a bit too much with the lineups. He's found some combinations that work, and I think it's only recently that Joerger has whittled down the options to something that has winning potential.
Yeung: The early season execution (on both ends) was awful, though just how much of that was on Joerger is unknown and it's starting to turn around anyway. Maybe what I'm least fond of is that we haven't used our bench enough. Joerger's been using a lot of different combinations with our bench, which is fun, but I'm not satisfied with the amount of court time guys like Koufos, Bayless and QPon (of course, he's been injured a bit) have seen. While their minutes are generally trending up, I'd still like to see them used more often. It's probably safe to slash the minutes of Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen and even Z-Bo when he's not shooting the lights out in exchange for using the guys on our bench some more. They're really good, and the Grizz would benefit from playing certain guys more than they're playing now.
4. If you could sit down and suggest to Joerger one thing he can change or fix in his coaching philosophies what could it be?
Mullinax: What do you think Ed Davis has to do to get better so he can earn more playing time? Obviously Ed has not seen as much time lately, and rightfully so; Kosta Koufos is better right now. The Grizzlies would benefit greatly from a developing Ed Davis however, whether it is for getting Zach more rest as the season goes along or to get more value in a possible trade involving him, possibly Jerryd Bayless and Tayshaun for an upgraded Small Forward. The question isn't why Ed isn't playing, it is what he feels needs to be done by Ed to get back on the court consistently.
Hrdlicka: Coach Joerger has forgotten more about basketball than I will ever know, so I would just say that, as a coach, you will spend more time motivating players than you probably thought.
Faulkner: I know you want to play fast, but before you do that, play smart. Don't be afraid to ride hot players and don't be afraid to pull cold ones.
Yeung: Put Quincy Pondexter in the starting lineup. He doesn't guard bigger small forwards as well as Tayshaun Prince, but that's about the only flaw I can think of in replacing Prince with Pondexter. The Grizzlies need that three-point shooting in their starting lineup, and I think it'd work wonders for their offense.
BONUS: Let's be honest. These first 11 games have been ROUGH. At any point did you ever wish the front office had kept Lionel Hollins instead of Joerger?
Mullinax: Absolutely not. I thought Lionel Hollins was a pig-headed bully who removed himself from a job because he refused to treat his bosses with decency and respect their views for the future. Dave Joerger embraces analytics, is a student of the game and understands what his players are capable of and is learning how to keep them in successful situations. Joerger is the future of this team coaching wise; the roster will change before the coach does.
Hrdlicka: I'll answer your question with a question. In these first 11 games, did you ever want to bring Keyon Dooling back to stabilize the backup point guard spot?
Faulkner: Honestly, at no point, thus far, have I said to myself, "Hollins would be doing better right now." I know Lionel was a master motivator, but Joerger has more upside as a coach (can you have upside as a coach?).
Yeung: Sure, I thought about it. Not seriously, just as a depressed "the-Grizzlies-are-so-bad" thought. Wow, how long ago was that?!