There’s something to be said for zigging when the league zags, to not following every trend. Everyone talks about playing more like the Warriors, but unless you have Stephen Curry to set the offensive tone and the insane versatility of Draymond Green on defense, it doesn’t work quite the same way. Coaches need to play to the talent on the roster.
“We’ve been preaching playing a unique style of basketball. Obviously, not reinventing the wheel but playing a game where size, physicality and toughness prevails. I think we’re fortunate that we have some big guys, some long guys, that are very skilled as well, so that they can do both. You can be physical. You can defend. You can protect the paint. You can challenge shots.”
The Grizzlies’ owner Robert Pera thinks this could be a 50-win team, which nobody else sees, but they can be a potential playoff team if everything breaks their way. That means staying healthy, for one, so that their added depth — Kyle Anderson, Garrett Temple, just drafted Jaren Jackson — can play smaller roles to their strengths rather than having to stretch out. Bickerstaff sees the team’s other big strength is a lot of smart veterans on the roster who play a high IQ game.
“We got a bunch of guys that know how to think the game and if you can think the game, you can make up for some of the things that we lack,” Bickerstaff added. “If you look at our team, and I hope this doesn’t offend any of our guys, we’re not the fastest of teams. But we have to be able to use our brains to put us in spots so that we can defend well and score the ball because we’re always one or two steps ahead of our opponent.”
Is that going to work with the rest of the league shooting threes over the top of them? If it doesn’t, will the rebuild finally begin? We’re going to learn a lot about these Grizzlies in the first couple months of the season.
Bulls’ Denzel Valentine likely to miss entire season
A lottery pick two years ago, battled ankle injuries during his rookie year and underwent ankle surgery after the season. He stayed mostly healthy last year, but his season still ended early for knee surgery. Then, over the summer, he got torched in the Drew League by Frank “Nitty” Session, who questioned how Valentine was in the NBA:
Denzel Valentine was originally expected to miss one to two weeks after suffering a sprained ankle on the second day of training camp. One setback led to another, and on Monday the Bulls announced that the third year guard will undergo surgical reconstruction on that left ankle. He’ll miss four to six months, the team announced, effectively ending his season.
The long end of that timeline will keep Valentine sidelined the entire season. The short end would allow him to return late in the year, but with Chicago so dismal, there’s little incentive to rush him back.
Valentine is under contract next season, the final year of his rookie-scale deal. He might need to prove himself to make Nitty’s question still relevant.
Report: J.R. Smith and Cavaliers separating as they seek trade
“I can’t do that to the city and the fans,” Smith said. “A lot of people have been backing me since I’ve been here. I feel like it’s been a new start since I came here. The way the fans embraced me, the way that I’ve embraced the city, my teammates, I can’t do that to them.”
But Smith also said Cleveland is tanking and reaffirmed his desire to be traded. That probably set wheels in motion.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic:
JR Smith will no longer be actively with the Cavs, a league source tells me. He is working with the team to trade him, and in the meantime will work out on his own
Smith – who’s guaranteed $18.59 million on a contract that will surely end after this season – carries negative trade value. The Cavs shouldn’t attach the sweetener necessary to dump him. They’re better off just paying him for now.
Because just $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed, Smith’s contract could prove useful in a trade.
If Smith would reduce his guarantee with a buyout, let him go. But Smith probably shouldn’t do that without a new job lined up.
So, the stalemate continues.
If everyone is happier apart, all the better. Smith wasn’t making a difference on the court for a team he correctly identified as tanking.
Report: ‘At the direction of his attorney,’ 76ers G Markelle Fultz to stop playing and practicing, see specialist
The 76ers guard finally appears to be acknowledging it.
David Aldridge of The Athletic:
At the direction of his attorney, Raymond Brothers, @MarkelleF is scheduled to see a shoulder specialist early next week. Per Brothers, Fultz will not participate in team practices or games until after the the specialist has had a chance to evaluate him.
“I don’t think the goal is to win. The goal isn’t to go out there and try to get as many wins as you can,” Smith said. “I think the goal is to develop and lose to get lottery picks. I think that was always the plan.”
And as long as the Cavs are operating this way, Smith is not interested in being part of it.
“Not if the goal isn’t to compete, to win,” he said.
If that’s what the Cavaliers are doing, that’s smart. They need premier young talent, and a high draft pick is the best way to acquire it. Because they owe the Hawks a top-10-protected first-rounder, the Cavs need to tank hard rather taking half-measures.
But I also understand why Smith wants no part of it. He’s 33 years old, and he doesn’t have time to wait around for a rebuild. He wants to win now.
Smith should shame the Cavaliers for tanking. That should be a consequence of their plan, even if it’s the right one. He is a casualty of it. If he shames Cleveland into trading or buying him out, all the better.