The Grizzlies started the season very slowly going deep into their bench to use players that weren’t here or not involved in last season’s epic playoff run. That plan seemed to be ditched after the embarrassing loss to the Raptors and the Grizzlies went on a four game road trip with a new plan: play the starters more, shorten the rotation and go back to basics.
The result was four successive wins on the road including wins over the Warriors and Clippers. Things seemed to be working for the Grizzlies again and a return to the playoffs seemed assured. Then Marc Gasol got injured.
Now injuries happen to NBA teams. Everyone has to deal with them. What doesn’t have to happen is abandoning what made the team successful simply because one player is injured. So why did the Grizzlies revert back to the lineups that failed so miserably earlier in the season against the Rockets?
I’m waiting for an answer.
I realize that Gasol’ s injury had a lot to do with more players being in the game but does that also mean Randolph, Prince, Allen and Conley need to play fewer minutes? Does that mean Quincy Pondexter, who was part of the rotation during the four game winning streak doesn’t play anymore?
Put in Kosta Koufas and Ed Davis or Jon Leuer to cover the minutes but play the people who know how to win games. That seems self-evident.
Instead Joerger put a lineup of Nick Calathes (who didn’t see the court during the winning streak), Jerryd Bayless, Mike Miller, Jon Leuer and Ed Davis for a major stretch of the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies were outscored by 14 points with that lineup on the court, momentum was lost and the Grizzlies lost a game they were in command of after 3 quarters.
The Grizzlies coaches (and Front Office if Ric Bucher’s article is to be believed) need to recognize this statistic. The Grizzlies are 5-1 in games where at least one starter has logged 37 or more minutes. The team is 2-6 in games where no starter has played that long. The two wins were both home games. The first was against Detroit in OT. The second a nerve-racking close game against Boston.
I realize the team is supposedly deeper than last year. I understand that the idea is to use the bench more in the regular season so the starters are rested come the playoffs. I get that. However, if the bench can’t get it done then there won’t be any playoffs for the Grizzlies this year and the starters will get a lot more rest than anyone wants here Memphis.
It takes time to develop chemistry between players. It doesn’t come easily. It would appear to make much more sense for the Grizzlies to ease into playing newer players and mixing them in with experienced ones instead of sending out five new players as a group in the 4th quarter of games. That rotation (Calathes, Bayless, Miller, Leuer and Davis) had not had much real game experience on the court together. Maybe it wasn’t a bright idea to leave them on the court together for four minutes in the fourth quarter of a big game. The Grizzlies went from up 8 to down 4 before Joerger had seen enough against the Rockets. The momentum had changed and the starters, coming in cold against a red-hot Rockets bench couldn’t stem the tide fast enough.
The coaching staff is not doing a good job of convincing fans that Hollins didn’t need to return. Maybe it is front office interference but something has to change in the way the team’s substitutions are occurring before the season slips away before it begins. Now is not the time to juggle lineups and mess with player’s playing time. Now is the time to settle on a rotation that will get the Grizzlies some wins. If a player isn’t in the rotation then that is too bad. Work harder in practice and try to show the coaches when you are on the court that you aren’t the reason the team isn’t succeeding.
This team has a better bench than the fans have been seeing but you can’t keep throwing away games at home to see if that is translating on the court. With Gasol out of commission now is the time to batten down the hatches, retreat to what you know works and try to hold things together until he returns. It’s not like the season is lost because Gasol has a Grade 2 MCL tear. He’ll be back and possibly before January 1. If the Grizzlies can remain at .500 during that stretch they will still be able to make a run to the playoffs and once there anything is possible.
What the team can’t afford to do is lose home games with an 8 point lead in the 4th quarter, alienate the fans and basically give up on the season before it begins. That means the coaches have to stop forcing the bench to perform. Allow them opportunities early in the game but have a quick hook if they fail to perform. This isn’t a time for fairness. This is when the coach needs to be a dictator.