Guest Post – Dan Gurley
We’re eight games into this still green NBA season and the Memphis Grizzlies find themselves staring at a 3-5 start, looking very average at the very best. While there’s little shame in losing at San Antonio in the season opener or falling to still undefeated Indiana, losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Toronto Raptors on your home court tend to raise the brow. Bad losses like these could be symptoms of a potentially bigger problem. Now, I’m not ready to climb aboard “the sky is falling” bus, but there are a few alarming signs that this team will need to address if they plan on ever making it back to the Western Conference Finals. And while the red flags are numerous, the Grizzlies problems in my estimation boil down to a simple question: Have they bought in to Dave Joerger and his system?
Fair or not, and he addressed this as much in the offseason, Joerger will be judged this year in comparison to the previous year which saw the Grizzlies advance further than they ever have. And oh yeah, that guy Lionel Hollins was roaming the sideline back then. Management made the decision they made in not retaining Hollins, a decision, whether I agree with it or not, that I can absolutely see the logic behind. However, much of this city didn’t see the logic back then and certainly doesn’t see it now. When you’re a franchise that’s fresh off the cusp of making it to the NBA Finals combined with a new ownership group that doesn’t replace the head man that got you there, it’s natural for the natives to be concerned about the direction of the franchise.
While it’s well known Hollins wasn’t always such an endearing person, whether to the media or to his own team, there’s one thing that cannot be denied: he got the most out of his players and they bought in. That’s where, ultimately, Joerger will be judged. That’s what he must figure out. After the latest loss to the Raptors he basically said that the team hasn’t bought in by saying he’s begging them to play harder.
Really? Not only is that something we never heard from Hollins, we very rarely saw it on the court a year ago, if ever. And dare I say that’s not something we heard much during Hollins’ tenure as coach at all. Toughness and effort were going to be present regardless of whether shots were falling. The grit and the grind weren’t just traits this team had, they were engrained into the team DNA, the Grizzlies calling card you could say. Or so we thought.
Hear me out. I’m not pointing the finger at Joerger for the treacherous start. I’m not pointing a finger at the players, either. Learning a new system, albeit not a completely different one, takes time for efficient chemistry to take effect. We can’t forget Joerger is brand new at this coaching thing on this high a level. But as of right now, it doesn’t appear as if this Grizzlies team, for whatever reason, is on the same page with the coach. They better get there soon, or this season may be a long one.