Paint the town blue. Memphis is back in the second season.
The Grizzlies clinched a playoff spot on Friday night with a win over the Kings. It wasn’t easy, with the Kings continuing their plucky play of late led by Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans. Those two on the break together is a terrifying combination. But the night belonged to the Grizzlies’ unlikely heroes, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, as it has since Rudy Gay was lost to a shoulder injury before the All-Star break.
Memphis is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, since the days when Pau Gasol led a team that was slaughtered in the first round. Memphis’ chances of a second-round appearance aren’t any better this time around. But they are likely to push for a few wins, and that’s a step in the right direction. The Grizzlies banked a lot of assets on making the playoffs, and now they’re in, as a dangerous team that relies on defense and speed.
The question will be if owner Michael Heisley will stick to his word regarding keeping the core of the team together. Mike Conley and Rudy Gay are locked in for $120 million over five years. Heisley made a combination of vague threats and veiled promises that he would keep the team together, if they made the playoffs. Now Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and O.J. Mayo need extensions. That’s a lot of money for a small market. Playoff turnout and the team’s success there will likely be the next factor considered.
But that’s for the future. For now, Memphis has made the playoffs, and is the team no one wants to run into. No one wants to deal with Zach Randolph slipping in-between post-defenders, no one wants to try and keep the ball out of Tony Allen’s hands, no one wants to deal with the physical gambling the Grizzlies employ. They’re probably not going far. But they’re going to go down fighting.
Part of the reason Oklahoma City was able to push Golden State so far in the Western Conference Finals was Kevin Durant on defense. He could switch out on the perimeter and use his length to bother Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, and take away their driving lanes. Multiple times in that series he was the guy rotating into the paint to protect the rim and he gave Draymond Green trouble in the paint. Durant is listed as 6’9″ but look at him from this summer standing next to DeMarcus Cousins or DeAndre Jordan, and you can see he’s more like 7-foot — the most mobile seven-footer in the league.
Which is why the Warriors — who already had a top-five defense the past two seasons — think they have another guy that fits right in with their switching-heavy style and can make them better on that end.
Here is what Warriors’ assistant coach and defensive guru Ron Adams told Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.
“His versatility is outstanding,” Ron Adams says of Durant. “He’s a terrific defender, who played with great defensive consistency in our playoff series. We will expect a lot out of him in that regard….
“He can, if necessary, guard all five positions – and do it effectively,” Adams says of Durant, who spent most of the conference finals smothering Warriors forward Draymond Green.
“He’s a really good rim protector, in a non-traditional way,” Kerr says. “When he played the ‘four’ against us in the playoffs, he was brilliant. He blocked some shots and he scored a bunch of times. So he’ll play a lot of ‘four’ for us, for sure.”
You don’t need me to tell you the Warriors are going to be good this season. Hate them and KD if you want, but know they will be a force.
Just remember they are not a team looking just to get in a shootout — the Warriors get stops, too. And that’s not changing.
Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are just like the rest of us.
The Thunder players sit around and belt out the Backstreet Boys’ “I want it that way.”
John Salley has said becoming a vegan sooner would’ve enhanced his NBA career.
Now, the former Piston has another idea for improving player health.
Salley, via TMZ:
I am a proponent and I believe in the advocacy of medical marijuana. We see football players in Alabama getting busted. We see – we need to get it out. We need to move it and realize that is something that can help the human body.
It helps athletes. I didn’t start smoking until my last two months before I was a pro. And I believe if I would’ve smoked while I was playing, I probably still would be playing.
Marijuana is already legal in Colorado (where the Nuggets play), Oregon (where the Trail Blazers play), Washington and Alaska. Medical marijuana is legal in numerous other states. The nation is definitely trending toward legalization.
If that continues, why shouldn’t NBA players be permitted to use the drug? It can be an effective method for treating pain – which is quite common in a profession that requires such intensive physical labor.
The 52-year-old Salley is obviously exaggerating about still played today if he smoked weed, but maybe his career would’ve lasted longer. Shouldn’t players determine for themselves what legal methods they can follow to manage injuries?
Perhaps, they’re already taking Salley’s advice.
John Wall and Bradley Beal admitted they clash on the court.
That caused controversy as the outside world expressed dismay at the Wizards guards’ attitudes.
Paul Shirley – who played for the Hawks, Bulls and Suns from 2003-05 – shrugged.
Paul Shirley on NBA.com:
What I learned, when I got to the NBA, was that my dreams of fraternity were naïve ones. I sat in locker rooms where players barely spoke to one another. I endured team plane rides where one guy stared daggers at the next because of a contract dispute.
Consequently, I barely batted an eye at the recent “revelation” that Bradley Beal and John Wall don’t much like one another.
Of course they don’t like each other, I thought. That’s just the way it is.
This is a secret of the NBA: Not all teammates get along. Some are friends, but many are just coworkers – and consider your relationship with your coworkers. Frequent travel for work and the closed-off nature of locker rooms can push players toward forging bonds – but those conditions can also magnify any rifts.
In theory, Wall (a slashing passer) and Beal (an outside shooter) should complement each other well. But it’d be hard to find a team where each of the top two scorers doesn’t believe he should get more shots.
The successful teams manage that tension productively. They can convince each player to accept a role, sacrifice and contain his displeasures.
Maybe the Wizards can get there.
But that – not a fantasy friendship between Wall and Beal – should be the goal.