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Sorry to say, another year of Grizzlies basketball has come to a close, but the 3 Shades of Blue team never slows it’s train! Join us for 3 Shades of summer, as we rally to put a proper bow on the 2013-14 season, cover all the bases of off-season analysis, and transition into the 2014-15 chapter of Grizzlies basketball. Over the course of this week, we’re putting our heads together for the first phase of “Unwinding the Grind,” which consists of a collection of “Friday Morning Five”-inspired roundtables, looking back at the year that was.

In the third edition of “Unwinding the Grind,” the 3 Shades of Blue team takes a look at a handful of elements of Coach Dave Joerger’s first year on the job. Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments section below, and of course on Twitter!

Before we move forward with the responses, a disclaimer from Chip Crain regarding his take: “You should know that I don’t believe coaches make nearly as big a difference on teams as people give them credit for. Joerger is average, above average as a rookie head coach but I expected that because he’s been with the team for so long before stepping up as head coach. Saying he gets a C means he is average not that he’s doing poorly.”

1. Rotations

Chip Crain: C – He was average in my opinion but the trend was headed down. Early in the season he experimented with the lineup to disastrous result but as the season progressed he got better. However down the stretch, when the pressure to win was highest, he seemed to rely more on experience than on court performance to his detriment.

Zach ThomasC-. I can’t really give him an F because what he may have considered his regular rotations early on were severely hindered by injuries. However, his lineups were absolutely horrendous at times, even once injuries were no longer a factor. I’ll chalk most of this up to being a rookie NBA head coach, but unfortunately for fans, it’s just him.

Jonathan May(B-) They were infuriating at times and we never really got into a comfortable rhythm (though admittedly injuries made that difficult). Still, an acceptable but not especially good job by Joerger. 

Steve Danziger: D+. Between juggling depth, weathering the injury storm, and simply trying out all his new toys, it’s hard to get on Joerger about the inconsistency of his rotations, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think the uncertainty hurt some of the guys’ productivity. It’s valuable for players to be able to get into a rhythm in terms of when they get into the flow of games. This was the only sector of his coaching that really had me scratching my head at times.

2. The X’s and O’s

Photo: Justin Ford / USA Today Sports

Chip: C – He tried different looks, settled on what he felt the team did best and ran those players to death. I didn’t get the feeling the team came out of timeouts to get an easy basket often enough and at times the team was too predictable but that is average for the NBA.

ZachB+. The playcalling started off horrendous. Joerger was trying to implement a style that didn’t fit the roster. However, he made adjustments (or reverted?) back to more post dominant sets and with the right players on the court the offense rolled along swimmingly and I saw several set plays, even out of timeouts, that worked in securing the Grizzlies a high percentage shot.

Jonathan(A-) The Grizzlies were effective out of time-outs and once CDJ backed off some of his early-season installations, the team found a way to add some quickness to the existing scheme in a productive manner. 

Steve: B+. I was always confident in the Grizzlies coming out of timeouts, and I think that Joerger’s ability to make adjustments over prolonged game breaks (halftime, and between games) has been really promising. I also thought he did a great job of getting Mike Miller open shots — a tall task when everyone in the world knows exactly what the guy is out there to do.

3. Leadership

Chip: B+ – He did a good job of maintaining the team’s focus during tough times and showed composure for the most part. He set a good example for the team during the season and didn’t have emotional issues with the players on the team. It didn’t appear that he played favorites outside of the minutes Tayshaun Prince received but at the same time I never got the impression he ignored players or that players were greatly surprised by his substitution patterns. That was a huge improvement over Hollins.

ZachB-. Joerger is stubborn, which pit some players against him. This season, I believe we saw his lack of ability to manage attitudes effect his lineups and rotations. James Johnson & Ed Davis being two of those who seemingly didn’t “buy-in” thus effecting their playing time on the court. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be stubborn and focused so long as you understand not everyone will see eye to eye with you. As for his leadership, I think leadership starts with servanthood. To be a good leader, you need to serve well. I know from off the court accounts I’ve heard and the small times I saw him around the team, he has a servant’s heart and for that, I believe he is a good leader.

Jonathan(A) Joerger was immediately challenged by Quincy Pondexter and handled the situation very well, quietly suspending him for a game. Afterwards, everyone seemed ready to move past it before Quincy’s foot injury ended his season. On a larger level, it would have been very easy for this team to feel sorry for itself and fold when they were 10-15 in mid-December. Instead, the team stayed together and fought to achieve as much as they could under the circumstances and Joerger deserves a lot of praise for that. 

Steve: A. Don’t see how he can’t get an ‘A’ here, after getting this team to turn things around after a 10-15 start, and stay focused through essentially a month of playoff games to close out the season.

4. Game Management

Chip: C- – Once again I didn’t see anything exceptional out of Joerger in game management. He made some changes that worked at times but not consistently enough to say it was that different than most coaches around the league. If anything he stuck with lineups that he trusted too long despite their clearly not working well on that night.

ZachB+. I think this is where I will call him a rookie NBA head coach and actually believe it. He won Western Coach of the Month twice in the season. He knows basketball. He knows how to manage a game. At times, his rookie experience came into play in a few situational decisions, especially sub patterns. I’m not too concerned about those things though, because I believe it will get better each year.

Jonathan(B+) while the rotations were odd, Joerger did a good job getting his key guys good looks in late-game situations (except the last 13 seconds of regulation in the Dallas game on April 16). I also was a big fan of his timeout decisions, often getting a timeout before the opponents run caught full steam and my favorite: taking a timeout when you’ve just completed a strong run and your guys need a second to regroup to avoid giving back those points. He did frustrate me a little bit with some late-in-the-shot-clock timeouts though.

Steve: B-. Not any knock on Joerger’s game management whatsoever, but there wasn’t much to pull from that really stood out to me in this sense.

5. Future Outlook

Photo: Nelson Chenault / USA Today Sports

Photo: Nelson Chenault / USA Today Sports

Chip: B – For a rookie head coach Joerger showed a lot of ability to run a team and not lose the players. He was as tested as any rookie head coach this season with the myriad of roster moves and injuries but held the team together despite these issues and still managed to have the best record of any rookie head coach in the league. He was forced to coach a style that wasn’t his favorite due to roster issues but kept the team together and showed the knowledge to make it work anyway.

ZachA. I believe Joerger has his pulse on his team and is very tuned in to what the front office and management wants to do with this franchise. He proved that he is capable of coaching in the NBA this year. In the NBA coaching means, managing egos and setting your players up to succeed. He will continue to grow as a coach and once he has “his guys” that fit “his system” I think you’ll see a franchise that may look different on the court, but will remain tough minded and defensively oriented, but offensively powerful.

Jonathan: (A) The Grizzlies took a lot of heat when they decided not to retain Lionel Hollins (can’t believe I made it this far without mentioning him) but Joerger did a good job with a veteran team in his first year. I expect that as the personnel morphs into a more athletic group you will see more and more of Joerger’s finger prints on the offense. I also think you’ll see the team remain committed to the defensive side of the ball, which is obviously a point of pride for Joerger. If he handled a season as tumultuous as this as a rookie, I am confident he will do a great job in years to come. 

Steve: A-. Whenever I listen to this guy interview, I just hear someone that “gets it.” He’s very grounded in that he knows what this team is, and has me believing that he knows what direction he wants to take it. And I know the Prince thing rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but leaning on your vets is something you have to do when trying to establish yourself in the league. Rock on, Dave.

Don’t forget to check back in with us tomorrow as we take a look at the performance of the roster.

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