A new coach always desires to leave his mark on his new team as soon as possible after taking over the reins. Through only a couple handfuls of games under new head coach David Fizdale have been played, things are already noticeably different from his predecessor Dave Joerger’s tenure.
Early offense is being emphasized (and embraced), guys are moving with purpose on the weak side off the ball more often, and some new offensive wrinkles for the team’s best players have already been added. At no other point during the young season has Fizdale’s ability to put his best players in situations to succeed been more apparent than during a particular play against the Utah Jazz.
Much like Joerger did during his stint in Memphis, Fizdale has been utilizing a lot of flex action in his designed sets (think screen the screener, if that helps). However, unlike Joerger’s flex sets, Fizdale’s flex actions are a little sneakier and possess significantly more pizzazz.
In the second quarter against the Jazz, Fizdale showed us something we rarely saw under Joerger. After Mike Conley brings the ball up the court, he hands the ball off to Zach Randolph at the top of the key. This actions sets the play in motion.
Once Conley has handed the ball off, he utilizes a back screen from Marc Gasol on the right elbow. If Conley happens to cut hard here and the back screen frees him at the rim, Zach Randolph is free to make that pass from the perimeter for an easy shot attempt. On this occasion, the back screen seems innocent enough as it isn’t really meant to free Conley at that moment. However, it does create some space for Conley to move into his next action.
As Conley curls in to the paint around Gasol’s screen, he heads to the opposite corner to set an apparent back screen on JaMychal Green’s man in the corner. While Conley is heading across the floor, Randolph swings the ball to Gasol at the right elbow.
Just as Conley meets Green’s man, Randolph comes down from his position at the top of the key to set a down screen for Conley to curl off of. This catches the Jazz off guard, as they were expecting Conley’s back screen to be the action intended to free up a scorer at the rim. Conley sprints off of Randolph’s hip, which frees him to receive the pass from Gasol with his man on his back.
Because of the quality screen Randolph set and the quick-flowing execution, Shelvin Mack is now on Conley’s back. That forces Trey Lyles to step up and meet Conley at the point of attack so he doesn’t have a free run to the rim on the curl. While Lyles had to do what he did, this leaves the Jazz woefully overexposed on the slip to the rim by Randolph. With Green cutting through the paint all the way to the other wing, his man is forced to follow him. That takes him away as a potential help defender.
With Mack and Lyles both converging on Conley, he delivers a beautiful pocket pass to Randolph who scores his easiest bucket of the game.
This smooth play provides the Grizzlies with a very advantageous two-on-two short roll situation with two of their best scorers leading the attack. That’s what Fizdale has brought to this team so far, and you have to think the offensive playbook will only expand as key players round back into form.