Monday, March 19, 2007

This Year's Team is Different

This year's team looks much different from last year's. Analysts predicted the Grizzlies would tank this year because of the loss of Battier and Gasol. I thought these predictions were ridiculous. The Grizzlies had promising young rookie Rudy Gay and a healthy Stoudemire. Lorenzen Wright's play had been bad. Surely, Swift could replace him. Bobby Jackson was frequently injured and didn't play much anyway.

I was wrong. Several changes transformed the Grizzlies from a first round loser to the worst team in the league.

1. The Grizzlies had no All Star. Although Gasol continued to produce All Star numbers, he missed 21 games this season. That absence was enough to prevent another All Star appearance, and establish a losing mentality.

2. The veterans didn't age well. Stoudemire has slowly but surely regained some form, but it took a month or two, and he's not as good as he was. Eddie Jones was injured, and looked like he didn't care. Stromile has been consistently inconsistent.

3. The young players weren't able to contribute immediately. Rudy Gay has been improving throughout the year, but my enthusiasm clouded my optimism. Gay wasn't destined to be an All Star his rookie year or even Rookie of the year. Kyle Lowry could have helped at point guard but was hampered by injury. Lawrence Roberts and Alexander Johnson have a lot of energy and can be solid role players, but they don't possess the experience or the talent to win ball games alone.

4. Mike Fratello lost the support of his players. Once the slide began, Fratello wasn't able to adapt his style to fit his players. He wouldn't accept the fact that the Grizzlies weren't a playoff team so he continued to coach them like they were. As I've written before, his style may have masked the fact that the Grizzlies weren't a playoff team to begin with. The reason they made the playoffs last year is Fratello slowed the tempo to the point that they had a chance to win games. (Don't mistake this for good defense.) Last year, they had just enough talent to win those games. This year, they're just short of that talent, and when the tempo speeds up, only the margin of victory increases.

5. This may be the most significant difference between last year's squad and this years: The ownership changed it's strategy. First, Michael Heisley decided that the Grizzlies couldn't be successful as a business by investing significant money in basketball costs. Second, he contributed to a public and poorly executed attempt at selling the team to Brian Davis and Dream Team Star Christian Laettner. This not only served as a distraction to fans, players, and other personnel, but also prevented Jerry West from taking risks that could have turned the team around. This strategy may help the Grizzlies in the long term, but it certainly hurt them this season.

6. Players have been asked to perform above their current abilities. Mike Miller, Chucky Atkins, and Hakim Warrick have all had career years. Resigning Atkins seemed like an afterthought last summer. I was skeptical of his ability to perform for more than 10-15 minutes per game. I was wrong. Atkins has proved me and probably others wrong. He's a solid contributor. However, he's still not a star point guard, and he's been asked to be that this season. In order for the Grizzlies to make up for the loss of Gasol they needed other players to step up and lead. Miller, though not the one-dimensional player he was earlier in the season, is not quite a star. Warrick has impressive offensive skills but gets beat up on defense. He shares Gasol's weaknesses: he's not a strong rebounder or help defender.

These characteristics that distinguish this year's team from last year's have resulted in strikingly different results. Instead of finishing with one of the best records in the league, the Grizzlies have the worst. Hopefully, this will allow the Grizzlies to make the necessary changes in the offseason that will make next year's team look strikingly different from this year's.


Brian said...

You know I have to comment on your words about Chucky. Yes, he has had a career year, but it should be noted that the reason Chucky has had a career year is the increase in playing time.

No one ever doubted his talent (his speed and offensive ability are pretty impressive). The problem was that he is not the prototypical PG. If I were GM for an NBA team, I would definitely not want Chucky to be my floor general. He's selfish, takes too many shots and he turns the ball over way too much, especially in key situations.

That being said, he did have a tough role to fill with being the starting PG and he did a decent job.

Chester said...

At least you will have Durant next year.. Oden will look damn good in a celts uniform though....

Jouissance said...

Where is the love?

Anonymous said...

Don't hate the players, hate the game.


John said...

So now that West is officially done after the draft. The team looks like it will be in Heisley's hands for the forseeable future and he is committed to spending less than 60 million a year I am ready to see your look into the future Mr. Jones. I have a couple scenarios in mind. 1) The dream scenario: we get the first or second overall pick and take Oden or Durant giving us a new face of the ranchise to work with Gasol and to a leser extent Gay. In the mean time we manage to hire the Sun's assistant and pick up a couple of role players in free agency (i.e. Darco or D-Mason or players along those lines, not too pricey with an upside). Now we have two All-Stars a new exciting coach and a chance to compete maybe not next year but for years to come. 2) The nightmare scenario: we get the third or fourth pick and end up with the ugliest man east of sam cassell or somebody like mike conley. We don't get one of the top coaches and we end up mired in mediocroty like the hawks praying for a lucky break at every draft. Heisley manages to sell the team before May first and the new owners won't pay enough to get free agents or keep the decent players we have. What are your thoughts.

David Jones said...

I'm sorry for the inactivity. I will try to put something together before the week's end. There's definitely a lot to consider. I'm less worried about the coach and more worried about not getting pick one or two.

I see us taking Oden, especially in light of West's latest quote:

"We need a big, tough rebounder and there is a kid in this draft that's a big, tough rebounder that's played on a great team."

He has been my slight preference for a while, partly because I never saw Durant play, and partly because you can't teach size.

Curt said...

three game win streak. we have finally turned the corner

Dave said...

Sorry Davey, Oden is going to the Celtics.. you can have Durant though...