Seeing as how I think all of us in Grizz Nation figured we had at least another week (maybe two) before the end of the season, the guys at 3SOB had to recover from our site-wide Game 7 hangover. That took a couple of days. But now that we’ve had time to catch our breath, exhale, and replace the things we broke after the Grizz lost an ugly Game 7 to the Clippers, we’re rolling out the first of a series of posts that will take a look back at the Memphis Grizzlies 2012 season — the players, the highs & lows, the future. Three bloggers, three questions each day for five days. Let’s get to it!
Mike Conley’s 2012 season was . . .
Chip Crain: Another step in the right direction. Mike continues to improve his leadership on the court and his ability to run the offense more effectively. He took a small step back in distance shooting but has shown the ability to hit them under pressure more than in the past.
John Hugar: Thoroughly impressive. He’s basically gotten better every year he’s been with the team, and this season with no exception. I already wrote a piece describing his value to the team, and why I think he’s underrated, but suffice it say, there are numerous times when he’s the guy holding the team together. Let’s just hope they get him a quality backup.
Lee Eric Smith: Probably underrated. For all the talk of Mike Conley not being an elite level point guard, we seem to ignore that he is a very good point guard in a league that is flat out packed with excellent point guards. Number 2 in steals, behind only Chris Paul — whom he quietly went toe-to-toe with statistically for much of the Round 1 series. I recently wrote that Mike should be willing to take over games with his own scoring. If Mike can find his inner Alpha dog, he might find himself in that elite conversation after all.
Lionel Hollins 2012 season was . . .
Chip: Tough. He dealt with a young team facing a lot of adversity and finished the regular season tied with the Lakers for the 3rd best record in the West. However, his reliance on Z-Bo in the playoffs and overwork of Gasol in the regular season doomed the franchise to an early exit.
John: Extremely encouraging. Plenty of teams would have collapsed after the Z-Bo injury, and the 3-6 start. Hollins kept the team intact and guided them to the playoffs when it looked like they might be in for a brutal collapse. He also got career years out of Conley, Allen, and Gasol, and he got more out of Marreese Speights than the Sixers ever could. Maybe he made a few questionable choices in the playoffs (why was Z-Bo on the bench for so long in Game 7?), but he’s still the only person I would want coaching this team.
Lee: Impressive. Adversity happens. I just LOVE how Coach Hollins deals with it, and how he gets his players to deal with it. To incorporate that many new players into a system with NO training camp, lose your All-Star forward at the beginning of the season, and to get guys to play that hard every night of a wild 66-game schedule? Oh yeah, and he led them to their best winning percentage season in history, their highest playoff seeding and became the winningest coach in franchise history. Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty impressive.
The Grizz Regular season was . . .
Chip: A complete success. No team outside of the Clippers made as big an improvement and the Clippers were fortunate enough to be given an elite player by the commissioner. Memphis did it without their best player for the majority of the season.
John: A lot of fun, and very encouraging. They overcame a fair amount of adversity to produce their best regular season ever (at least in terms of winning percentage). Basing things on the regular season, I’m confident that the Grizzlies will be a contender in the West for years to come, and will have many more entertaining playoff matchups.
Lee: Excellent.* Note the asterisk. The Grizzlies accomplished a great many things this season. Aaand . . . they did it with Zach Randolph sidelined. Meaning we STILL haven’t seen what this team can do at full strength for a full season. We haven’t really seen if Rudy & Zach can coexist. We didn’t even get a real look at Zach after that freaky “chameleon training” that had him in ridiculous shape last fall. We haven’t seen what this team can do over a regular schedule with things like . . . y’know . . . days off, practice time and a full training camp. Great season. GREAT, GREAT season.*