Next up, a Grizzlies team that’s again being underrated in the West.
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Last season’s Memphis Grizzlies team was down 2-0 to the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs when people started saying their season was over. Some will claim there was a balanced, impartial response to the Grizzlies 0-2 deficit, but the vast majority of analysts were already looking ahead to who the Clippers might face in the second round.
Obviously we know the Grizz went on to win four-straight before taking the Westbrook-less Thunder down in round two to make their first Conference Championship in franchise history. We also know that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich squeezed an already tight Grizzlies half-court by ignoring their wing shooters (they just left Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince and others alone on the perimeter) in order to focus on the behemoths on the block. This led to a Spurs sweep, but a sweep that was closer than many remember.
Now, with the Rockets getting Dwight Howard, the Spurs still around, the Warriors picking up Iggy and the Clippers getting a new coach and two new wings (even if their owner almost blew it), the Grizzlies are considered â€” once again â€” to be long shots to come out of the West. When will people learn that underestimatiing the Grizzlies is exactly what they want?
Here are five reasons to watch the Grizz this season. If you’re not a fan of bruising basketball, then avert your eyes.
Faster Offense Under New Coach Dave Joerger
Center Marc Gasol has detailed this onus on playing faster briefly during the offseason, but it’s hard to imagine Zach Randolph and Gasol lumbering down the court at a breakneck pace. There’s a reason they played at the second slowest pace in the league last season. Maybe former coach Lionel Hollins encouraged them to mosey on up the court, or their big bodies demanded it. But there’s something alluring about a team that’s willing to waste 10 seconds before setting up their offense.
Maybe Joerger has a system in place that will ignite a ponderous team, but the personnel almost favors a slower gait. Gasol and Z-Bo aren’t getting any younger and maybe it’s helpful they take their time getting up the court on the offensive end.
That being said, if the Grizzlies can somehow figure out how to get the full 24 seconds of the shot clock to set up various offensive sets â€” instead of just one offensive set, followed by a hurried Mike Conley iso attempt â€” they’ll add a new dimension to a team that’s constantly being underrated in the national press. It’s either that, or another season of clunkers as the Grizz D is the only thing keeping them from a return to the lottery. Regardless, it’s gonna be a ton of fun watching them try and figure how to get some easy buckets if they’re not forcing turnovers.
Zach Randolph’s Vertical
Randolph doesn’t really jump. He’s not allergic to gravity, so much as stunted by it’s usually innocuous power. When Z-Bo drives hard into the lane, his best attempts are half-leans that bamboozle NBA defenders used to working in the in a stratosphere Z-Bo no longer inhabits â€” if he even did in the first place. But it’s that same wily game of Randolph’s that’s helped him become one of the toughest defensive assignments in the league. That is, unless you’re JaVale McGee.
But Zach’s earth-bound game is predicated on a series of stutters, head-fakes, dekes and jukes that would make even the most talented playground legend marvel at his ingenuity with so little natural talent. Maybe Z-Bo is the clearest case that the NBA GM’s annual survey has a white guy award because he should be winning that vote every year. He does a lot with a body you can spot in most YMCA locker-rooms.
While the rest of the league supports the high-flying theatrics of the youngsters, Randolph is content to rely on his mundane repertoire that remains on the court. And once he does have to get in the air, the sliver of space between his sneakers and the hardwood is almost as narrow a margin as the one separating this team’s defensive juggernaut from possibly lapsing into a pre-2011 abyss.