There’s a saying that winning cures all things.
There’s also a saying that winning covers up a lot of crap.
That’s where we are with the Memphis Grizzlies at this stage. A tremendous start led us to believe that the move forward from the most successful era in Grizzlies history may actually be seamless. A 5-1 run to begin the season was actually fool’s gold, of course, and we all bought in. We believed the power rankings with Memphis at #1. We wanted it to be true.
All along, it wasn’t.
We all knew, deep down, that this wasn’t sustainable. Because they don’t have the personnel. They have limited healthy players who are NBA ready, and they have too many players with too many red flags, too many question marks that needed to have home run answers. We said that here, others said it elsewhere, and after six games we actually thought it had actually worked!
We were suckered in, because we’ve been suckered in before.
We bought in to the idea that we could have our cake and eat it too, but life in the NBA does not work that way. To win, you need talent. Memphis does not have that for a variety of reasons - health, for one. When you’re without your best player in Mike Conley for essentially all of the year to this point, you’re going to struggle. He cannot lead from the bench.
Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Brandan Wright, and Wayne Selden, Jr. are all players who figured to be key cogs who for whatever reason but have not been able to compete the way they need to. Those that are left behind - Mario Chalmers, Deyonta Davis, Jarell Martin, Ben McLemore, and Andrew Harrison- are not good enough right now. That much is crystal clear.
This team was not prepared for the end of Grit and Grind like someone who was not prepared for retirement. The trades for Jeff Green and other failed pieces trying to extend that era didn’t just empty the cupboard - they tore it down. It’s showing now in the rosters that are being implemented.
To win, you also need cohesion - not just between players, but between another great player on your roster and your head coach, and that is also clearly not there right now.
Marc Gasol post game part 3 pic.twitter.com/2FbI9Ot0zn— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) November 27, 2017
Marc Gasol isn’t giving up on David Fizdale. But he is clearly frustrated...and the feeling is mutual, with Marc not playing the entire fourth quarter of their most recent loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Marc has been struggling on the court with all the weight of carrying the team (shooting 39.4% overall the last 10 games), but he is still the best Memphis has to offer right now. Not playing at all was, from this perspective, quite intentional. Whether Marc is what Fizdale wants in a leader has been written about in this space before, and that stance is opinion-based, not based off of a source or stat but my eyes and following this team.
That doesn’t mean Marc isn’t a leader - he is, in a variety of ways, and he means a damn good bit to Memphis and this organization. He says a lot of the right things in that postgame press availability (watch the whole thing on our Twitter page for full context), talking about leading by example for the young guys. But is he what Fizdale wants? The actions of the Nets game open that up a little bit more...
And that cohesion goes both ways. Fizdale has struggled mightily during this stretch of losses, being out-coached especially to start second halves. That usually points to opposing coaches being able to make adjustments and the struggling team not being able to respond or counter. This is true of the Grizzlies of late, especially offensively-
Apropos of what we're watching -— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) November 27, 2017
Grizzlies Offensive Ratings During 7 Game Losing Streak:
Sure, you need horses to run races. But it isn’t like the Grizzlies are the only team to run in to issues with healthy players. The Nets just beat Memphis without arguably their best two players, D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin. Good coaches find ways to adapt to personnel and compete. Good coaches find ways to mesh and find common ground with personalities that don’t totally mix with theirs. Good coaches find a way to plant their foot in the ground and redirect their team.
Whether or not David Fizdale is a good NBA coach is being tested right now. And he isn’t passing the test at the moment.
The good news? This can all be rectified. It is only November. They still have time to go on a run and get back in the mix of a muddled Western Conference. But it will only get harder as the competition gets tougher, and the trade rumors surely begin to creep back up after the Nets game with Gasol, and there is no savior walking through the door making the Grizzlies roster deeper. Conley makes them competitive. Conley makes them a potential playoff team. He does not make them a contender.
Winning would only cover the issues again, not fix them. And what if Mike doesn’t help as a band-aid? What if he comes back and Memphis is still 8-10 games below .500 in a month, or...heaven forbid...Conley’s ankle/Achilles issue is worse than suspected and he misses even more time? Or is shut down? What if Chandler Parsons misses an extended period again, even though the team said they sat him as a precautionary move?
When does “tanking”, and the all-but-certain Marc Gasol move that would accompany that decision, come into play?
We aren’t there yet. David Fizdale has shown flashes of leadership and coaching savvy. Marc Gasol has been a force of nature and a force for good for years now. This team has been counted out time and again, and belief has carried this fan base through. There is still time to save this season. But make no mistake, under the pressure of inflated expectations and historical runs, these Grizzlies are bending.
It is time to really worry that these most recent losses both on and off the court may finally break Memphis for good.