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 second round was supposed to be when things got exciting. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic at home, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 124-92 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Just about everything went in for San Antonio, particularly for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 63 points. How dominant were they?
Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.
It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.
ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.
Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.
Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.
The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.
Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.