With wins against Washington and Orlando to round out the first portion of the season, the Grizzlies find themselves at 29-23; just a shade outside of playoff contention. Now, without any All-Star weekend participants, it’s time for the bears to undergo a much needed hibernation, to gear up for a big run. But the 3 Shades of Blue staff never sleeps, so we took the time out to look at a few matters heading into the break.
1. Grizzlies MVP for first half of February is…
Josh Coleman: Nick Calathes. *faints* Seriously, though — who would have expected Nicky C to not only not make a mess of things with Conley out for extended time, but to actually become the Grizzlies’ second best player on a nightly basis behind Zach Randolph? He’s shot almost 52% from the floor, over 40% from beyond the arc, and has tallied 4.9 apg, 4.7 rpg, and 2.6 spg as a starter in the seven games this month. That’s practically ridiculous considering the prevailing opinion of him two months ago.
Chip Crain: Nick Calathes. Randolph and Lee were good most nights but Nick was like a Phoenix, rising from the home crowd boos to cheers was amazing. The question now is can he maintain this level off the bench.
Jonathan May: Nick Calathes? He has come up huge when we absolutely had to have him. I’ve been as hard as anyone on Nick over the first half of the season – and I stand by my criticism of his play before mid-January – so it is only fair that I give credit where credit is due.
Carl Chaplin: Obviously four players are to be considered for this: Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Nick Calathes and Courtney Lee. Each has made significant contributions as the Grizzlies went 4-3. Zac has the best stats scoring 18.3ppg and 8.7 reb. Nick is second with averages of 14.7 and 4.7 dishing out 4.9 assist, only 2.9 TO and 2.6 steals. Courtney has contributed well with 13.6, 3.9, 2.9 as, 1.1to and 1.4 steals. Meanwhile a not completely healthy Marc has contributed 11.7, 6.0, 3.4 as, 2.1 to, 1.1 steals.
The biggest deciding factor for MVP is who has stepped up when he needed to. So Nick Calathes gets my vote for MVP the first 7 games in February because he replaced Mike Conley when many thought he couldn’t. He has shown his ability and came through in clutch ways when the Grizzlies needed him.
Phillip Dean: Nick Calathes no question. I’ve been the biggest Calathes supporter since I met him at media days this year and this answer shocks me. If you had told me that he would help this Grizzlies team to a 4-3 record after Conley gets hurt I wouldn’t have believed you. Every keeps asking about his confidence, its been fine since he got booed it’s now more of he can play his style of play and not worry about the offensive sets. Who knew that giving him more playing minutes would help him improve his game. #ImANickCalathesGuy
2. On a scale of one to “AAAAH,” how concerned are you with Gasol’s knee right now?
Josh: I’m at a 7. Since it is the same knee, that ratchets it up from what would have likely been a 4 or 5 otherwise. I’m glad he’ll get some time off to rest and work on continuing his rehab and strengthening of it. This team won’t go very far beyond mid-April without him in better health.
Chip: 9 but that can drop fast if we hear that the MRI was just cautionary. The speed with which he recognized the problem and asked to be taken out makes me think he remembers what that feeling means. Hopefully I am overstating the problem but all Grizz fNs need to be very concerned.
Jonathan: As I said on Twitter after the Orlando game, it is time (yet again) for #GrizzNation to light their 2013-2014 Memphis Grizzlies injury vigil candle. I will be holding my breath and listening to angry 90’s alternative rock until I hear he is playing against the Knicks on Tuesday.
Carl: It has to be at least a 7. Tweaking the same knee will mentally affect Marc’s play and will slow his becoming fully engaged in the game. He just won’t be his best, and the Grizzlies need him to make the playoffs and to play well if (I mean when) they get to the playoffs.
Phillip: I’m at a moment of gasp and repeatedly saying in my head “Please let it be ok, Please let it be ok, Please let it be ok”. This team has gone through so many injuries and this upcoming MRI could hang in the balance of the 2013-2014 Grizzlies season.
3. Aside from health, what will it take for the Grizzlies to edge into the playoffs?
Josh: Consistency in effort and focus. They cannot afford to let teams like Cleveland beat them, no matter what excuses people might come up with. They have to regain that Grit and Grind mentality that takes every play seriously, much less every game. Without that, they could easily find themselves on the outside looking in when the postseason arrives.
Chip: The schedule. The Grizzlies have a murderous schedule with numerous back to back games with travel including at Miami followed by the Pacers in Memphis.
Jonathan: Beating bad teams. We still have a lot of games left against the Eastern Conference and bottom-half of the Western Conference. We cannot afford to slip up against bad teams because we are going to need cushion in case we don’t beat the good ones.
Carl: 1. Beating the weaker teams, 2. Winning all home games, 3. Winning the remaining games against the contenders: Dallas, Golden State and Phoenix. Since Phoenix and Dallas are the Grizzlies last two games in the regular season, those will probably very crucial games for positioning.
Phillip: Being a better offensive team. Playing better in the 3rd Quarter and by that I mean not letting bad teams get confidence and make it a close game in the 4th Quarter. They cannot afford losing to teams like Utah, Philadelphis, Lakers (shocking I had to use them), Minnesota, and Charlotte. They need these wins badly cause you really don’t know if Phoenix, Dallas, and Golden State will drop.
4. What has been your biggest surprise of the season, so far?
Josh: Aside from the fact that some people think that Lionel Hollins is not only a better coach than Dave Joerger, but also a better trainer than Drew Graham since he was apparently what allowed us to have remarkable health all of last season? (Seriously, people — Joerger’s coaching might have cost this team 3 or 4 wins this year…which is about how many Hollins cost us at this point last year, too.) I’d have to go with the fact that the front office has proven that they know what they’re doing to a point that only a fool would still claim they’re in over their heads. Jon Leuer, Ed Davis, Courtney Lee, Kosta Koufos, James Johnson, Nick Calathes. The results speak for themselves.
Chip: The injuries. I expected a rough start. I expected more losses than last year. I didn’t expect 100 player games lost to injury. Especially not following the 43 games lost all of last year.
Jonathan: How awful Tayshaun Prince has been. I know, I know. We didn’t expect much from him to begin with, and yet he has somehow under-performed those modest expectations. Sure, there are nights when he plays like a perfectly average NBA rotation player and has made a few really big plays for us in the first 52 games. Unfortunately, he has more often been invisible and left no mark on games.
Carl: The FO getting Courtney Lee and James Johnson and then their great contributions. Injuries are to be expected as most teams deal with that, so that isn’t a surprise, just that 3 of our starters have been hit with injuries that caused them to miss several games.
Phillip: How big of an impact James Johnson has made on this team. This guy brings so much energy into games. He is a shot-block machine and is not afraid whatsoever to drive down the lane and make a impact. He has already become a fan favorite to Grizz Nation and it shows next week when they will have Grizz Neck Tattoo night in honor of Dr JJ., Bloodsport, or whatever you wanna call him.
5. Will you be watching the New Orleans All-Star festivities?
Josh: I’m not the huge fan of All-Star weekend that I was as recently as a few years ago, but I will still check out the events in passing at least. I hate that they canned the idea of H-O-R-S-E that they had a few years back. That was something that I thought would remain fresh, unlike the dunk contest (we’ve seen them all) or the skills challenge (nobody really tries all that hard). The Shooting Stars competition is watchable if only for the commentary and the laughs, while we know that the Rookie/Sophomore game and the ASG itself are just glorified pickup scrimmages. I’d love it if they stole the NFL’s idea and had captains pick teams. I think that would add some motivation to it for some of these guys to do more than just saunter up and down the court.
Chip: I doubt I will watch much but I don’t watch much when the Grizzlies were participating either. Made for TV events don’t impress me much. I’m most excited to see the 3 point shooting contest I suppose because the Slam Dunk contest is boring, the skills challenge drab and the Rising Stars game is worse than the All-Star game if that can be believe.
Jonathan: Honestly, even when the Grizzlies have players at All-Star weekend, I just don’t care. In fact, those years are worse because I spend the entire time praying that they get pulled out of the game before they get hurt. It’s not just an NBA issue, I don’t really care for All-Star games in any sport. They are silly, particularly mid-season. With regard to what I am most excited for? The All-Star break to be over and the real basketball to resume on Tuesday.
Carl: No, or very little. “I don’t have a horse in that race!”, which means I don’t have anyone to root for or that I care to watch show-off. (Note that I didn’t say play, because it not as much of a game as a Harlem Globetrotters type show.)
Phillip: Yes I will but not for a good amount of time. I like watching the All-Star celebrity game and I wish Kristen Ledlow, from NBA Inside Stuff and a guest on 3 Shades of Blue Radio, good luck. No matter who is in the dunk contest I will watch it. I really hope it comes down to Paul George and Damien Lillard. I will watch the game on Sunday for a few minutes and that’s about it. I’m not looking forward to seeing the sleeve uniforms.
Have any questions for the 3 Shades of Blue staff to chew on? Feel free to send them our way via the comment section, e-mail, calling into 3SOB Radio on Sports56 every Saturday morning, sending smoke signals, or reaching out on Twitter with the hashtag #FridayMorningFive!