Dave Joerger can coach. In his two seasons since taking over for Lionel Hollins, his Memphis Grizzlies have won 50 and 55 games, and last season reached the second round of the playoffs (and were up 2-1 on the eventual champion Warriors before falling). That’s impressive by any reasonable standard.
So he may be on the hot seat after six games. Welcome to life as an NBA coach.
The Grizzlies are 3-3 this young season and while their three losses are to quality teams (Golden State, Cleveland, and Portland) the fact that Memphis was blown out in a couple of those and struggled on national television Thursday had the NBA rumor mill churning. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, Joerger’s seat may be getting warm:
A mere 11 days into the season, I fear we’re forced to keep our eye on the Memphis Grizzlies and the status of coach Dave Joerger….
Yet it’s the manner of the three defeats, sources say, that has led to fears within the organization that owner Robert Pera won’t wait long to make a drastic change. The Grizzlies lost their home opener to the Cavs by 30, got blitzed soon thereafter by Cleveland’s conquerors in the NBA Finals by an unfathomable 50, then fell behind by 26 points in the Pacific Northwest before settling for a 19-point defeat to the Blazers.
To put it another way: Memphis has already trailed by 20 points or more for 62 minutes this season … compared to 88 minutes for the whole of 2014-15.
Joerger has said his team looks old, which they have. And they are. Point guard Mike Conley (who is a free agent next summer) said the team is not on the same page defensively. That’s not the kind of thing you want to hear, especially this early in the season.
While the rest of the NBA is going small, playing fast, and spacing the floor with shooting, the Grizzlies have gone against the grain and stayed big. They havejust-resigned Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph inside, they want to play slow, defend, and grind teams down. That has worked the past couple seasons, and there is no reason it couldn’t continue to work — but the Grizzlies have to execute that at a high level.
Gasol is shooting 41.2 percent this season, down from 49.4 percent last season. As a team Memphis is shooting 26.9 percent from three this season, down from 33 percent last season (and that was already a weakness). Defensively they are giving up almost eight more points per 100 possessions. They look old. They look like the game has passed them by a little
That said, with the roster handed him it’s not like Joerger can change styles — they have quality big men and a lack of shooting. It’s predictable, but you can’t shove square pegs into round holes.
The Grizzlies are playing poorly right now, however, how much of that is on Joerger is up for debate. Not that it matters — if an owner is impatient it is usually the coach who gets the walking papers. And that buzz has already started that this coach is in trouble.