Memphis built a roster that went all the way to the Western Conference Finals based on consistency and growth — they kept their core together (save for Rudy Gay) and built with those guys improving and growing together.
Which is why letting Lionel Hollins walk as a coach is a risk — he and his systems were part of that continuity.
It was also why assistant coach and defensive coordinator Dave Joerger was always the likely guy to take over as head coach — he isn’t a dramatic change for the team in terms of style. The guys know him.
What is the key difference for management between Hollins and Joerger? Willingness to listen to and work with the analytics-based front office that analytics-based teach billionaire owner Robert Pera put together. There was tension between Hollins old-school ways and the team heading into that.
That was most evident around the Rudy Gay trade — Hollins publicly ripped the move. But the Grizzlies were a clearly and measurably better offensive team after the trade (and the defense didn’t suffer) — instead of his inefficient 25 possessions a game the Grizzlies ran their offense through Marc Gasol at the elbow, more Mike Conley (who stepped up) and they used Zach Randolph more efficiently. It worked. They were better.
That tension never really went away despite the deep playoff run. The Grizzlies won 56 games and had their best season to date but it wasn’t enough for Hollins to keep his job (and he said on multiple occasions he wanted to stay).
Joerger was long the favorite for the job, but making this change is a risk. And in the West, with Russell Westbrook coming back to the Thunder and the Clippers improving their coaching, the Grizzlies have to get better, they have no margin for error. So there is a lot of pressure on Joerger and the front office now.
Joel Embiid upgrades himself from 69% to 81%: ‘Shoutout to Jalen Rose’
The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.
However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.
“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”
This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.
Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.
Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s
He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.
The San Antonio coach has seen everything.
Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.
“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”
“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”
The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.
Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.
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