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.
And now Joerger has the job — he has been promoted to head coach in Memphis, reports Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.
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.
The NBA has unveiled its top 100 plays of the 2015-16 season, and there’s no mystery as to what were the top two.
No. 2: Stephen Curry‘s halfcourt buzzer-beater in overtime against the Thunder in Oklahoma City during the season.
No. 1: “The Block” by LeBron James on Andre Iguodala in the final stretch of Game 7 of the Finals.
There’s plenty more, too, and if you have 25 minutes to kill, you can and should watch all of them above.
Tyler Zeller is one of the few restricted free agents left on the market who could make an actual impact next season, and on Saturday morning, he’s come off the board. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports that the fourth-year big man has agreed to a deal to stay with the Celtics. It’s for two years and $16 million, with the second season being a team option.
Zeller isn’t a starter, but he’s a nice rotation big man, especially at that price. He can play minutes off the bench for Boston, and his contract is also very movable with the second season being unguaranteed. He played just 11.8 minutes per game last season, but averaged 18.5 points and 9 rebounds per 36 minutes.
The Toronto Raptors were good last season, second best team in the East. That means the guys on Inside the NBA on TNT had to talk about them.
Which means Charles Barkley had to say “Jonas Valanciunas” a lot. Which is high comedy. While a lot of people struggle to say his name the guy is a solid NBA center who, with a little practice, you can say (and spell) his name pretty easily.
This comes from a YouTube user, via Reddit, with a hat tip to Eye on Basketball.
Argentina isn’t considered a medal contender heading into the Rio Olympics. Their golden generation — led by Manu Ginobili — has picked up a lot of speed on the downhill side of their careers at this point.
They didn’t provide much of a challenge for Team USA in an exhibition game Friday night in Las Vegas, one won by the USA 111-74. Kevin Durant impressed playing with his new teammates in dropping 23 points, Paul George had 18, and the Americans had their way in the game.
Which is what we’re going to see a lot of in Rio — the USA’s talent level is just steps above any other team in the tournament.