San Antionio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six

How good can the Memphis Grizzlies become?

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The Memphis Grizzlies provided one of the 2011 playoffs’ most endearing storylines for reasons that went beyond a mere appreciation for the underdog. They won their first-round series against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, sure, but it was the way the Grizzlies won — and the personnel with which they did so — that gave them their undeniable appeal. The Grizz were relentless, audacious, and thanks to Tony Allen, just a little bit insane. The playoff potency of that combination goes without saying at this point, but it should be interesting to see just how far the Grizzlies can climb without any true top-tier prospects in the pipeline. Memphis will be putting their own version of the one-star model to the test over the next few seasons, with their advancement dependent on the collective growth of a number of talented — but sub-elite — contributors.

The Grizzlies were good enough to usher the Spurs out of the postseason, but faltered slightly against an impressive Oklahoma City team. That’s an awesome showing for an eighth seed, but the Grizzlies will no longer be working within the expectations of an underdog club. Memphis has officially arrived, and while their ascent has brought the franchise its first ever playoff series win and an air of respectability, so too will come the weight of all they’ve earned. Wins only matter if a team can win consistently, and the season to come will serve as a referendum on all Memphis has accomplished thus far.

Zach Randolph and co. are certainly up to that challenge; their playoff success was no fluke, and virtually every aspect of their performance against the Spurs and Thunder should be replicable next season. That said, competitive teams do more than simply affirm their initial claims. The next few seasons in Memphis will be defined by the team’s ability to take the next step, a framework that would seem problematic for the Grizzlies on first glance. Memphis is essentially locked into their current roster (with the only exception being O.J. Mayo, who will likely be dealt as soon as possible) thanks to the team’s salary structure, and can’t count on any tremendous internal improvements.

Still, there’s reason to believe in the Grizzlies’ upward momentum. Their avenues toward improvement may not be as straightforward as those of younger, talent-laden clubs, but with a few minor tweaks, the Grizz could be ready to climb into the ranks of the West’s quasi-contenders. Such a climb is hardly a given, but whether or not Memphis can continue to thrive against such lofty expectations depends on a few crucial factors:

Incremental gains across the board

Memphis doesn’t have a star-in-waiting on the verge of a substantial leap, but the majority of the team’s rotation players are inching toward their respective primes. Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, and Darrell Arthur are all 26 years old or younger, and Xavier Henry — an intriguing long-term wing prospect — is just 20. All will see better production in their NBA careers if everything goes according to plan, and while a single player’s modest boost in field goal percentage or rebounding may not seem like much, collectively that group’s gains have the potential to propel the Grizz forward.

Memphis also benefits from the fact that the team’s vets — Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, et al — are still well within their most productive NBA years. If Zeebo keeps rolling, Allen continues to play some of the best perimeter defense in the league, and the rest of the crew develops on course, the Grizzlies could be ready to improve substantially even without a breakout star or a significant addition.

Shot redistribution

Rudy Gay’s shot selection isn’t quite worthy of an intervention, but he still needs to understand that a more conservative offensive role would be the best for both himself and the team. Randolph is the Memphis’ most dominant offensive player, but Gay plays in the most dominant offensive style. It’s all well and good that Gay posted career highs in field goal percentage and three-point percentage last season, but his shot creating ability still isn’t quite profound enough for him to function as an offensive star. Instead, he’s much better off deferring to Randolph and the team concept; Conley, Gasol, and Arthur are capable enough to be trusted with more shots, and only by working in concert with them can Gay maximize his own offensive efficiency.

Randolph is incredibly productive and Gay is an impressive player in his own right, but those two will have to lean more than ever on the cast around them for offensive buoyancy. The road to Memphis’ improvement comes in ramping up their middling offensive performance, and considering that Gay overstepped his bounds a bit in the way he controlled the ball early in the 2010-2011 season, striking a proper balance seems to be the most sensible way to reach that end.

Shore up their inexplicable shortcomings on the defensive glass

Memphis isn’t without their fair share of weaknesses: the Grizz could stand to contest shots a bit better, they could get to the free throw line a bit more, and they could exercise more patience in their half-court offense. Yet all of those limitations are understandable and explainable, while the team’s inability to secure defensive rebounds is a bit more baffling. Despite having a top-10 defensive rebounder (Randolph), another big with strong rebounding numbers (Gasol), and a group of pretty solid positional rebounders, the Grizzlies ranked 21st in the league last season in defensive rebounding rate. Randolph’s boards alone should be enough to vault Memphis toward rebounding respectability, but the team’s risky defensive style has apparently afforded opponents with a chance to dominate the glass. The Grizzlies need to strike that happy balance between generating turnovers and maintaining some semblance of a stable half-court defense, at least so much that solid individual rebounders don’t suffer as an aggregate.

Report: NBA restricts teams ads on jerseys; no alcohol, tobacco, politics, more

adidas-NBA All-Star West Jersey Front H
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The Los Angeles Lakers are not going to have a silhouette of a Patron bottle on their jerseys.

Despite the potential tie in with GM Vlade Divac, the Sacramento Kings are not going to be sponsored by Marlboro.

While NBA teams have been cleared to sell a small patch ad on jerseys for next season — to go on the left shoulder, where the KIA logo was on the All-Star uniforms this season (if you even noticed it) — there are limitations, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

In most cases this was not going to be an issue, but the league did not want to risk a local casino or whatever jumping in with a big bid.

Teams are expected to get several million dollars for the ad deals (larger markets will get more, smaller markets less). This is part of a three-year trial program approved by the owners, although once the money starts coming in it’s hard to imagine to owners deciding to scrap the idea.

Draymond Green’s fire drives Warriors in pursuit of title

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 16:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors warms up prior to playing the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 16, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Draymond Green
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry might be the face of the Warriors with the breathtaking long-range shots and ball-handling that makes Golden State so appealing to watch.

Draymond Green is the heart.

The loud, sometimes brash and amazingly versatile Green was the driving force behind the team’s commitment to chase a record 73 wins in the regular season, the key to the team’s dominant small-ball lineup and perhaps Golden State’s most indispensable player.

A knee injury to Curry has done little to slow down the Warriors’ run to a second straight title because fellow “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson has picked up the scoring load to help Golden State take a 2-0 series lead in the second round against Portland.

Making up for what Green does on the court would be almost impossible. In the past four games, Green is averaging 18.3 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and the Warriors have outscored the opponent by 109 points when he is on the court.

“Draymond is huge for us,” center Andrew Bogut said. “His playmaking ability, his defensive ability, he’s probably the best all-around player in the league at this point.”

It’s been quite a ride for a player so lightly regarded that he wasn’t drafted until 35th overall when he came out of Michigan State in 2012. But Green has improved each year, increasing his average in points, rebounds, assists, field-goal percentage and 3-point shooting in each of his four years capped by his stellar performance this year.

Green averaged 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game, becoming the first player to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocks in a single season since steals and blocks started being officially recorded in 1973-74.

He set a team record with 13 triple-doubles, was the only player to appear in all 73 wins for the Warriors and had the highest plus-minus margin ever on record with Golden State outscoring the opposition by 1,072 points when he was on the floor.

While Green has played the majority of his time with the presumptive MVP in Curry, it is telling that Golden State has outscored opponents by 13.8 points per 48 minutes with Green on the court and Curry off compared to 1.0 point per 48 minutes with Curry playing and Green resting.

But more than numbers, it’s Green’s defensive versatility that makes the Warriors what they are. He’s able to guard all five positions whether it’s battling with post players who have a decided size advantage or chasing quicker guards on the perimeter and that allows Golden State to employ its so-called “Death Lineup” of five perimeter players that opponents have been unable to neutralize.

“I think there’s a lot of great all-around players in the game,” Green said. “You’ll never hear me call myself that, but they are going to call me that, I’ll take it. I’m not going to shy away from it.”

Green is fueled by doubters and skeptics, using the snub of being a second-round pick or critics who called the Warriors lucky for avoiding some top teams or players on the way to the championship last year as fuel for his raging fire.

That fire sometimes gets too hot and led to the 12 technical fouls Green got during the regular season and the locker room shouting match he had with coach Steve Kerr at halftime of a game in Oklahoma City in February.

“We yell at each other all the time,” Kerr said. “He’s a guy that I know I can get on who won’t shy away but will actually do the opposite. If I yell at him he’s going to play better. Sometimes I yell at Draymond just to get the team to play better. Draymond understands that. When you have a relationship like that, every once in a while it’s going to blow over, which it did in Oklahoma City as everybody knows about but that didn’t mean anything.”

Kerr calls Green one of his favorite players he’s ever been around and credits his vocal desire to pursue 73 wins for the decision to go for the record.

Kerr is not the first coach to have run-ins with Green that did little to diminish his appreciation for his style of play. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he had plenty of yelling matches with Green in college but has only praise for Green.

“He had basketball IQ, it’s off the charts,” Izzo said. “It’s as good as anybody. He can see the floor and do some things like no player I’ve had. He has incredible toughness. He’d fight Godzilla. It doesn’t matter who it is, where it is or what it is. He has an incredible will to win. Everybody wants to win but he would sacrifice to win.”

AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

Miami Heat, Chris Bosh issue joint statement saying he is out for playoffs

FILE - In this April 17, 2016 file photo, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, center, claps during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Charlotte Hornets, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Hornets 123-91. Bosh was a cheerleader for Miami's win in Toronto on Tuesday night. He'll be back in that role for Game 2 on Thursday and the question becomes if he'll be back at all this season. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
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Chris Bosh was putting videos on Instagram of himself out shooting on the court. His wife had taken to social media using the hashtag #letBoshplay. Bosh had reached out and gotten the players’ union involved. Bosh wanted to play, the Heat and their team doctors were not about to let him after he went back on blood thinners due to a clotting issue that can be life threatening.

It was becoming a distraction to a team up 1-0 in the second round of the playoffs.

Wednesday afternoon the two sides put this to rest.

This was never Bosh’s decision to make alone, it had to be him and the organization on the same page. And the Heat organization was not changing its mind.

Miami had to go small and change their style of play without Bosh, but it has worked — Goran Dragic found room to operate, the Heat offense took off, and the emergence of Hassan Whiteside as a rim protector has kept the defense from slipping much.

The Heat needed seven games to vanquish the Hornets in the first round. While technically underdogs in the second round against Toronto, the Heat have real matchup advantages that could see them advance to the conference finals — likely against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

It is unfortunate that is happening without Bosh, but there are things more important than basketball. Bosh’s long-term health has to be on that list.

Report: Stephen Curry had platelet-rich plasma therapy on right knee

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, center left, sits on the bench during the first half in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series between the Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Associated Press
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Not that they need him yet, but Stephen Curry has been doing everything he can to get back on the court for the Golden State Warriors by Game 3 on Saturday.

That includes getting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy on his sprained right knee, reports Diamond Leung of the Mercury News.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry said Tuesday he received platelet-rich plasma treatment as part of his treatment on his sprained right knee.

PRP, which is said to promote healing, was given to Curry on the second day of his recovery process, he said.

While thought to be exotic when Kobe Bryant used to go to Germany for this treatment on his knees a few years back, now this treatment is relatively common among professional athletes.

The question remains (and likely will until game day) whether the Warriors will bring back Curry for Game 3. On one hand, they aren’t pressured to do so up 2-0 on the Trail Blazers and with some matchup advantages Portland is not going to be able to solve. The Warriors don’t need to rush him back to make sure they win this series.

On the other hand, between the ankle and now knee injuries Curry has missed a lot of time and there is a rust factor — the Warriors want to shake that rust off against Portland, not in Game 1 of the conference finals against a much tougher opponent. Meaning even if you don’t see Curry in Game 3, you will see him in Game 4 (unless something is more wrong with him than is being let on).