So, do we even want to talk about Wednesday? I guess just a little bit, but in this week’s edition of the Friday Morning Five, the 3 Shades of Blue team took a look at a number of things including the play of Nick Calathes, Dave Joerger’s philosophy going forward, and what will shape the Western Conference playoff race.
1. My eyes are still burning. What went wrong Wednesday? Should we be concerned?
Anthony Sain: With Zbo being out, our other two go to players have to take their games to the next level. Marc’s pat on the back game was not nearly enough against the lack luster front line of the Nets, and Mike Conley’s effort was just completely unacceptable. Yes, it’s concerning because we had an opportunity to step into the 8th seed and totally laid an egg last night. That didn’t look like the effort of a team that is actually trying to make the playoffs.
Jonathan May: While the loss at Brooklyn was disappointing – and painful as it relates to our post-season push – I am not ready to push the panic button. I suspect that Zach wasn’t the only player on the roster struggling with flu-like symptoms last night and we will have to hope they successfully quarantined him so that it doesn’t continue to spread through the team. The only major concern I took away from the Brooklyn game is that the Grizzlies are continuing to get scorched from beyond the arc, something that cannot continue if they hope to make the playoffs or win a playoff series.
Matthew Noe: Could have been because they knew Brooklyn could go small after they found out ZBo wasn’t playing, but I’m inclined to say that Lee and Conley saw the beginning and hung their heads for whatever reason, allowing the snowball to roll. Don’t think we should be concerned-the team know that the margin grows ever slimmer.
Carl Chaplin: A cold night in NY. Unusual that tip ins weren’t going in. ZBo not being there to add some scoring, rebs, & tip ins to help keep the team close also hurt. Not to be concerned. Chicago game will see our good Grizzlies.
Zach Thomas: Mike Conley played awfully, again. Zach Randolph not on the block messed up the rotation. Tayshaun and Courtney were non existent offensively. The only thing I would be concerned with is Mike Conley. He has been off since his return from the ankle injury, with the exception of two halves. He has to figure it out for the Grizzlies to be a legitimate threat to make the playoffs.
2. Nick Calathes won Rookie of the Month honors, but he hasn’t hit a three in the last 7 games. Is his confidence fading?
Anthony: Nick is doing what rookies do. His confidence and performance will rise and fall. His jump shot is definitely still a work in progress so we just have to hope that he gets it back going when we need him most.
Jonathan: Small sample size. I’m not ready to declare a change in his trajectory based on a relatively quiet week. He has been effective and taken good care of the ball. He will have his moments where he shines and stinks. That’s just the nature of rookies and backup point guards and especially of rookie backup point guards.
Matthew: Don’t really think so, but he does need to be less afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes. He’s begun to prove his worth and should get his swagger going to help him continue to grow. He’s improved on the “passes to the front row” aspect, and Conley should be able to tell him all about how shrinking back into the shadows can be a real confidence-killer.
Carl: Don’t think so. It’s just his timid self. He passes on way too many shots. It seems his first thought is to pass to let others score.
Zach: Calathes has been really consistent, Clippers game being the exception. Opposing teams have been playing him tighter defensively and respecting his shot, therefore he hasn’t been getting many open looks. I wouldn’t say his confidence is fading but rather he’s taking what the defense gives him and many times, that is an assist to the paint or a drive in layup.
3. Is Coach Joerger doing the right thing by shortening the rotation?
Anthony: I’m fine with shortening the rotation but I think that the rotation should adapt more based on matchup. It made no sense to come back with Ed Davis after halftime when playing JJ, Tay or even Leuer would have made more sense against the line up that the Nets threw out. Matching up big against small only works when your big causes you to have an advantage on offense. Ed doesn’t provide that and he was being targeted on defense.
Jonathan: Yes, as long as it doesn’t get too short. This roster is deep and talented and there are 5-7 guys on the bench that bring different and useful skills to the table. I think you’ve got to get the regular rotation down to around 10 and then play 8-9 of those 10 per game, based on matchups, health and foul trouble. Remember, its a great problem to have a guy like Jon Leuer on the bench that can’t get minutes – that means we’re deep and talented.
Matthew: Yes, as it shows that he’s confident that the team’s ability to make the playoffs-players know that the rotation will be shorter in the postseason. On the other hand..when someone can’t get it done, the rotation should not be so rigid that Joerger won’t deviate from a set “pattern”.
Carl: A 9 man rotation seems to be what it will be, which is like many NBA teams. Can’t see TA, MM, KK, or NC staying on the bench long. They are all needed.
Zach: I do not believe he is. When you have 12 guys who can play at any moment, depending on the night and the matchups, I would play any of those 12 guys. We have a deep bench. It has been one of the best in the NBA in the past couple of months. Let’s not waste that. If someone is having a bad night, fine, go to the next guy at that position. We don’t need confidence building, we need wins. Play the guys who are having the best night and will produce when their number is called.
4. What’s the biggest internal obstacle that the Grizzlies must overcome to make the playoffs?
Anthony: Someone on our team, other than Zach Randolph, has to step up and be fine with being the man. Too many times Mike and Marc play the role of robin to a non existent batman. Zbo is the catalyst of this team but his talent and ability at this point in his career is no where near Marc and Mike’s. I love what Zbo brings but it makes no sense that he is our go to player. That won’t fly as the season progresses because it’s obvious that teams are game planning to stop him and refs are making bully ball obsolete.
Jonathan: Complacency. I think all along this team has assumed it would dig out of this hole and make the playoffs. As the season gets closer to ending, the time to make that move is now. They can’t let up against lesser teams if they have any hope of making the post-season.
Matthew: Perhaps having the vets/old-head Grizzlies take a more active role in kicking the “younger” Grizzlies up to a higher level to help the team achieve the postseason? There have been thoughts over the course of time that the “leadership by committee” has lacked a true alpha dog. The Grizzlies need ZBo/Gasol/TA to step it up and help steer the ship with a strong hand, especially in light of Joerger’s rookie status.
Carl: Hopefully the injury bug obstacles are behind the team. The biggest obstacle is outside shooting. Not just 3s, but also long 2s. The second would be not playing hard against weaker teams and losing games we must win to make the playoffs.
Zach: I would say it is mental focus. I’m a competitive guy. I understand this is a job and all the players in the league (for the most part) like each other. But when I’m out on the court and I see another guy, he isn’t my friend in that moment. I’m not laughing with him, chatting it up, or any of that. I’m focused on beating his tail and winning the game. We need that swagger. We need that chip on our shoulder.
5. Four teams battling for the bottom three seeds in the West. Who falls off?
Anthony: Earlier I would have said Golden St but all of the teams above have had highs and lows. If we don’t turn our game up to the next level it could very well be the home team.
Jonathan: Phoenix. I think their youth, health and reliance on jump shooting catches up with them down the stretch and they narrowly miss the playoffs.
Matthew: Dallas. The tank is showing signs of running low, and time grows short. PHX gets Bledsoe back (but does that damage anyone’s minute count and therefore ego?), GSW has gotten it back together. Just can’t bring myself to say “Grizzlies” here, and can you blame me?
Carl: If you look at my post about the west playoffs picture, you see Golden state has the easiest schedule left. Phoenix, Dallas, and Memphis have similar Strength-of-Schedules left, including the number of teams they play that have a +500 record or are current playoff teams. Since Memphis has the tie-breaker over Phoenix, I say the Suns don’t make it. Whatever happens it should be a interesting finish to the season.
Zach: I still believe Phoenix will drop off. They play 21 games, we play 22. As of Thursday night they are 1 game ahead of us and play the tougher schedule. It may indeed come down to that second to last game of the season when we face each other.
Have any questions for the 3 Shades of Blue staff to chew on? Send them our way via the comment section, calling into 3SOB Radio on Sports56 every Saturday morning, smoke signals, or reaching out to us on Twitter!