Last season: 46-36, good enough for the eighth seed in the West, but then they pulled the shocking upset and beat San Antonio in the first round. They fell to Oklahoma City in a hard-fought second round.
It was the kind of playoff run that raises expectations for next season.
Head Coach: Lionel Hollins, who is entering his fourth year as head of the Grizzlies.
Key Departures: Shane Battier, who left via free agency to join the Miami Heat.
Key Additions: Not really an addition, but keeping Marc Gasol was key, as is getting Rudy Gay back from injury. They drafted Josh Selby.
Best case scenario: They take the next step after a promising playoff run and they start challenging the big boys in the West.
For that to happen: They need to learn to integrate Rudy Gay into what they did during the playoffs. Gay is one of the better perimeter players in the league, but when he went down with a shoulder injury the Grizzlies found a more focused offensive identity — they pounded it inside and played inside out. With Gay back that can’t get muddled, Gay needs to play off Gasol and Zach Randolph, not become the focus of the offense again. They need a balance they lacked before the injury.
They also need improvement from players because the Grizzlies will miss Shane Battier on the defensive end and as a shooter. The team won it first ever playoff game largely because of him, and they didn’t get a replacement. Guys have to improve.
More likely the Grizzlies will: Be good but not as good as advertised. They will be tough to beat for a lot of teams because the Gasol/Randolph front line is a force. If they get the right matchup in the playoffs like they did last year they could be a surprise. But I’m not convinced they can beat the Lakers, Mavericks, Thunder in a playoff series right now. They may be the fourth or fifth best team and be a squad on the rise, but they still have strides to take.
Prediction: 39-27 record, and they will be the team everyone wants to avoid in the first round. But getting out of the first round again will not be easy.
The Bulls suspended Rajon Rondo for tonight’s game against the Trail Blazers for conduct detrimental to the team.
But what does that really mean?
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Rondo had an emotional exchange with an assistant coach during and after Saturday’s loss to the Mavericks, according to a source. One source said Rondo threw a towel in the direction of associate head coach Jim Boylen during the game and the situation escalated postgame.
Rondo has already apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates, the source said. He met with coach Fred Hoiberg on Sunday and also attended a team function that day.
Rondo has long been notoriously difficult to coach. That reputation has only intensified in recent years as his play has declined, which is probably not a coincidence. Struggling on the court – Rondo had two points, two assists and five turnovers against Dallas – will only lead to frustration. Plus, tolerance for players acting out exists on a sliding scale with their ability.
But it’s also worth noting teammate Jimmy Butler and coach Fred Hoiberg continue to speak positively about Rondo:
Butler said following Monday’s shootaround that Rondo “has been great” during his stint with the Bulls.
“I think this is just another bump in the road,” Butler said. “He’s a phenomenal damn teammate and I back him on everything.
Hoiberg refused to get into details about the suspension but echoed Butler’s opinion on Rondo’s stint with the Bulls.
“Rajon, as we’ve all said, has been great,” Hoiberg said. “A great teammate. I’ve enjoyed the relationship that we developed, and … it’s not going to change moving forward.’’
This could explain why Rondo got a one-game suspension for throwing a towel at a coach when Markieff Morris, who was already feuding with the Suns, got two games just last year (as could the fact that Chicago is not Phoenix and can administer discipline differently).
Player-coach feuds happen over a long season. The reaction is often telling. Some get ignored. Some result in suspensions.
The Bulls are treating this like an isolated incident from an otherwise model player – but a situation serious enough to warrant a suspension. Rondo will eventually prove that approach right or wrong.
New York police reportedly want to question Kings forward Matt Barnes over a nightclub fight early this morning.
What happened between Barnes, teammate DeMarcus Cousins and other clubgoers?
A rep for the NBA star tells us … Barnes was having a good time at Avenue Nightclub with his teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, when he went to sit at his VIP booth and accidentally “butt bumped” a woman who was at the next booth over.
Barnes claims the woman reacted by slapping him in the face, hard — and that’s when all hell broke loose.
Barnes claims the woman’s crew — which included several men — jumped in and began to get violent. Barnes was knocked to the ground in the melee and one of the men began to choke him.
We’re told Barnes got physical in an effort to protect himself. Cousins also jumped in to defend Barnes.
We spoke with Barnes’ attorney Alex Spiro who tells us, “We do not believe a crime was committed and are hopeful no charges will be pressed.”
By this telling, it sounds as if a crime was committed – with Barnes as the victim. I have no idea whether this account is accurate – what else would Barnes’ representation say? – and it’s reasonable for Barnes not to desire charges even against the other side. But it’s a little strange to hear Barnes’ lawyer give the other side such a quick reprieve while Barnes’ camp circulates this story of Barnes as a clear victim.
Starting for an injured Rajon Rondo, Jerian Grant had 18 points and five steals in the Bulls’ 25-point win against the Trail Blazers last month.
Grant will likely get another crack to start against Portland tonight.
Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:
Chicago’s net rating with each starter on the court is lowest with Rondo:
But I doubt that’s the detrimental conduct the Bulls are referring to.
Chicago’s other starters have been dynamite with Grant instead of Rondo, outscoring opponents by 28 points per 100 possessions (relative to +10.6 with Rondo, still a robust mark). That’s a small sample with Grant, but we’ll get another opportunity to learn how this team meshes without Rondo.
Remember, though it started with a team-imposed one-game suspension, the Mavericks eventually told Rondo to stay away.
Joakim Noah kept his hands on DeMarcus Cousins after getting called for a foul, and that – and/or the Kings heading toward their third straight loss – agitated Cousins into pushing the Knicks center.
Remember, Cousins and Noah have a history.