Well, it was all up…and thena big fat down to close the holiday weekend’s games for the Grizzlies.
Over the course of three games, there were several things illustrated about the current iteration of the Grizzlies on both sides of the ball…
Item first: please, Marc Gasol, find a way to get a week off to heal that ankle. Yes, this is a larger issue than the OJ non-demotion. Having Marc Gasol as the weak link on the floor from a physical standpoint is not only a totally foreign feeling for the Griz, it’s also a feeling of “who do we get to fill his shoes”. The effect on the team on both ends of the floor when Gasol is not 100% cannot be overestimated. His inability to run a decent lane-dive on offense makes it much tougher to get any team to respect the already-not-very-respectable Grizzlies pick-and-roll. It also makes it tougher for Gasol to do his most important duty on the team-rebound at both ends. However, it doesn’t stop with Gasol-when he’s unable to keep a defense honest, no one sags off the wings, making it even tougher for Conley/Gay/Mayo/Henry et. al. to get a good look. However, offensively, the lack of the second post threat (i.e. Marc) makes it MUCH harder for ZBo to operate at an optimum level.Yep, more of his points last few games have come off the glass and off the super-quick entry pass and just-as-quick move to the hoop. Andris Biedrins’ stellar game against the Griz was largely made possible by the gimpy ankle of Gasol-it was interesting that Thabeet was not given the chance to combat the tall and long Biedrins, even understanding that most GSW players would just make a dervish move around Hasheem and make him confused. It’s not hard to think that Thabeet is residing in the casa del canines of Hollins, with Tony Allen and various other Grizzlies as sometime roommates.
Item second: OJ as sixth, or seventh, or maybe ninth man. There’s just a ton to say about it, but all I’ll say is that I’m ok with it. Ok, I’ve got a bit more mouth to run about it than that simple statement. Yay. If it works, it works. The mismatch caused by opponents’ larger shooting guards is a constant issue (although Conley is not exactly tall or large for his position) and should be somewhat relieved by this switch. It’s easy to understand why Hollins has chosen Henry over Tony Allen-Hollins said at the beginning of preseason that he saw TA as a fifteen-minute defensive specialist, and as the season has developed, TA has tried to overstep his bounds in terms of offensive contribution. Henry is likely more willing to listen to and heed Hollins’ instructions, for better or for worse. It’s likely that we’ll continue to see OJ seemingly break out of his funk, and it’s also likely we’ll still see him on the court at the end of games (something that wasn’t always the case early in the season), but will OJ lift the bench from the doldrums? A few games isn’t enough to make a case for or against, particularly in light of the fact that in the GSW game, OJ was taking and making a couple big shots while on court with the starters.
Item third: This goes back to point one. Seems that Hollins’ vision can’t quite discern the line between “sticking with the gameplan” and “so hardheaded that adjustment seems like an unknown term”. It would seem that moving OJ to the bench is only going to encourage Hollins to follow the Frat-style dumpdown first option, and Gasol is injured….so not only is ZBo going to figure even more prominently in the offense (see the number of fadeaways he took during the CLE game), but it’s only a matter of time before ZBo gets run down or, heaven forbid, takes another fall and exacerbates his own injury.
All these points lead to one place: it’s Gay time. Yes, he has been leading the NBA in minutes played…but he’s nowhere near the top in FGA’s. We all loved seeing him hit that shot against Miami-he needs to get that silly platitude “impose his will on the game” to the forefront of his mind every time he steps on the court. In the CLE game, he was woefully inconsistent. He has to demand the ball. Will Conley obey Hollins’ ZBo-centric offensive plan, or will he break rank with his biggest cheerleader in the organization and give the ball to the guy who is the franchise player for the foreseeable future?
The upcoming stretch of the schedule just gets tougher-Lakers, Hawks, Nuggets…time for the Griz to man up or shut up, put up or forget the playoffs.