Grizzlies’ GM says better offense is key to team’s goals

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The Memphis Grizzlies were a defensive force last season — they had the second best defense in the NBA during the regular season (giving up 97.4 points per 100 possessions) and a still strong 101.4 in the playoffs, which helped propel them to the Western Conference Finals.

However, their offense was pedestrian. The Grizzlies slowed it down, pounded it inside and for the season scored 101.7 points per 100 possessions, 18th best in the league. That improved some after the All-Star break — essentially after the team traded away Rudy Gay and ran the offense more efficiently through Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph — up to 103.5 points per 100, but that was still just 16th in the NBA for the final stretch of the season. If you have a strange avoidance of advanced stats, know that for the season the Grizzlies were 21st in field goal percentage.

If a team’s goal is a title, it needs a Top 10 offense and defense (the Heat and Spurs did that last season). Finding a way to do that in Memphis falls to new coach Dave Joerger, who will have largely the same roster as last season to work with (Memphis added Kosta Kufos for depth up front and Mike Miller for shooting… if he can stay healthy). Joerger has talked about playing more up-tempo.

Memphis GM Chris Wallace told the Boston Globe don’t expect big changes, but the offense has to come around.

“I think an awful lot will look the same, there will be a tremendous emphasis on the defensive end,” Wallace said. “If we can get the offense to rise up to the statistical rankings in the league, the way we have the defensive side of the ball, we’re going to be a hell of a team. That’s the final piece, an offense that is a top-10 offense. If you look at a team that has a chance to make a run at a title, you usually have a top-10 offense and top-10 defense.”

Speeding up the Grizzlies tempo (they were second slowest in the league last season) might help some — they are not going to a D’Antoni-style team but if they can get in their sets earlier they can run through more offensive progressions and get better looks. Outside shooting will be another key — teams packed it in against Memphis and didn’t pay a price, can Miller really change that?

The West is going to be tough this year with the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Warriors, Rockets and Grizzlies likely all playoff locks. Those are all teams that see themselves as contenders if things break right. Memphis is going to have to find some more offense to break out of that pack and repeat or improve upon last season’s results.

PBT Extra: What coaches are on hot seat? Alvin Gentry at front of list.

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This season, for the first time in 46 years, no NBA coach will be fired during the season (nobody is getting canned at this point).

However, once the off-season starts, there will be a few changes.

Alvin Gentry in New Orleans and Fred Hoiberg in Chicago are the names most mentioned, but there will be an unexpected firing somewhere around the league. Some GMs are on the hot seat also (Rob Hennigan in Orlando leads that parade).

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

Raptors’ Serge Ibaka, Bulls’ Robin Lopez each suspended one game for thrown punches

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It was obvious this was coming. Get in a shoving match “fight” in the NBA and you get a fine. However, actually throw punches and…

Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Robin Lopez each have been suspended for one game by the NBA “for throwing punches at one another during an altercation,” the league announced. What that works out to is a $120,715 hit for Lopez and a $111,364 ding for Ibaka.

Also, Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire earned a $15,000 fine shoving the Bulls Nikola Mirotic and “acting as other than a peacemaker as part of the same altercation.”

This all came out of what seemed a rather innocuous play. Ibaka and Lopez were battling for rebounding positioning, it went on for a second after the ball went through the hoop, Ibaka caught Lopez with a little chicken wing elbow in the back, Lopez spun, and, boy, that escalated quickly. Lopez’s punch missed, while Ibaka’s caught Lopez in the hair more than the body.

Both men got technicals and were ejected.

Report: Sixers Joel Embiid “very likely” to undergo off-season surgery on knee

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When the Philadelphia 76ers formally announced they were shutting down Joel Embiid for the season, the team’s chief medical director Dr. Jonathan Glashow said:

“The assessment of Monday’s follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid’s left knee appears to reveal that the area affected by the bone bruise has improved significantly, while the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan.”

That meniscus may require off-season surgery, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

As described, this would be a minor surgery that likely has a 4-6 week recovery period. That said, you know the Sixers will bring him along slowly after this. Also, that’s just time Embiid is not on a practice court or in a pick-up game with Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and the rest of the team’s young core. That’s the time the foundations of chemistry on a team are built.

Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game despite a minutes restriction all season. He was incredibly efficient in getting his numbers — he had an All-Star level PER of 24.2 — and when he was on the court the Sixers outscored their opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions. He’s still likely a top three finisher in Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing in just 31 games.

Hopefully getting his knee cleaned up now means Embiid will be able to play in more games next season.

Report: Kevin Durant’s recovery going well, could return before end of season

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Back on Feb. 28, the Warriors’ leading scorer Kevin Durant suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise, an injury that happened when Zaza Pachulia fell into his knee. They planned to evaluate him at the end of the month, but this injury is often a 6-8 week issue, which would have him back around the start of the playoffs or in the first round.

The Warriors are optimistic it will be earlier than that, probably by the end of the season, reports Marc Stein and Chris Haynes of ESPN.

The Golden State Warriors aren’t scheduled to formally update the status of Kevin Durant’s left knee until next week, but there is cautious optimism within the organization that Durant — should he maintain his current recovery arc — will indeed be able to return to the court before the end of the regular season, according to league sources.

While noting that Durant is roughly at the halfway stage of his recovery journey, sources told ESPN.com that the Warriors are encouraged by the progress Durant has made in the 22 days since he suffered a sprained MCL and tibial bone bruise in his left knee on Feb. 28.

Durant was getting in some on-court work before the Warriors took on the Mavericks Tuesday.

The Warriors lost Durant at the start of their toughest schedule stretch of the season, and they stumbled some through that. However, after getting home (and playing some lesser teams in that stretch) the Warriors have gotten right, Stephen Curry is shooting well again, Matt Barnes and Patrick McCaw are playing well enough, and the Warriors have won five in a row. They are in the driver’s seat to be the No. 1 seed in the West (the biggest challenge to that is a road back-to-back in Houston and San Antonio next week, get a split there and the Warriors become tough to catch).

Between the end of the season and an easy first round — neither Denver nor Portland play enough good defense to slow the Warriors — the Warriors will have time to blend Durant back into the fold. If the Warriors can find their stride again with him, they are the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.