NBA AM: Grizzlies Taking Calculated Risk
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The Memphis Grizzlies have reached the playoffs for three consecutive campaigns and the expectation heading into training camp is that a fourth straight appearance should be on the horizon in 2014. The Grizzlies are coming off a season where they set a record for wins (56) and reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. But the team will be under new leadership on the sidelines this season with lead assistant David Joerger taking over the reins from the departed Lionel Hollins.
Hollins compiled a 183-129 (.587) mark in his second stint coaching the team but the club’s revamped front office opted to go with the younger Joerger and believes he can get them over the hump.
Chemistry becomes a concern in situations like this and while Joerger has been on Grizzlies’ bench the past six seasons, the transition from assistant to head man can get tricky.
However, Joerger confidently says he won’t go away from the things which made the club successful but plans to add a few new wrinkles into the mix.
“You want some continuity and we have a lot of continuity on our roster,” Joerger said earlier in the offseason. “I think it would be silly for me to come in and change a lot of terminology for example. But we’re going to change enough things and hopefully keep some things that have been successful so we can keep our identity. Our DNA is to play inside-out, to play physical and to defend. Those things won’t change.”
The team is led at the top of the rotation by Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley, while veteran forward Tony Allen serves as one of the lead dogs in the locker room. But for the team to take the next step, Joerger believes the growth will need to come from the team’s younger role players.
“For us to grow from within Jerryd Bayless needs to have a nice season for us,” Joerger says. “Quincy Pondexter needs to have a nice season for us. Those guys need to make shots from the perimeter and for that to happen they’re going to have to be on the floor and be consistent.”
Joerger served as an assistant with Memphis for the past six seasons and spent the last two in the lead role. He has helped the Grizzlies turn into one of the league’s better defensive units. Last season Memphis led the league in points allowed (89.3) and finished second overall in defensive rating.
Memphis has $69 million in guaranteed salaries for the 2013-14 campaign. Randolph holds a $16.9 million player option for 2015, while Bayless and Mike Miller will be unrestricted free agent.
Will the Cavs’ Anderson Varejao Be Ready? For the first time since league MVP LeBron James departed Cleveland via free agency in 2010 the Cavaliers are entering a season with an expectation to be in the middle of a playoff hunt.
The Cavaliers are, on paper at least, heading in the right direction.
All-Star guard Kyrie Irving sits at the top of the rotation. The addition of free agents Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark will strengthen the reserve core, while second year players Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller continue to show promise. Cleveland will also welcome the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, Anthony Bennett, into the fold next season.
But perhaps one of the Cavaliers’ most important pieces is center Anderson Varejao. Specifically, the health of the veteran who has missed a total of 150 games over the past three seasons. Varejao missed 56 games in 2013 nursing a quad injury and then developing a blood clot. At the time of injury Varejao was averaging 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds per game in 25 appearances.
Varejao remains excited about the upcoming season and once he returns to the lineup says his goal is to stay injury free for the first time in years.
“I’m ready to get to work,” Varejao told Mary Schmitt of The Plain Dealer. “I’m excited and I’m ready for the season. I can’t wait. My goal this season is just to stay healthy. Everything else will come.
“I need to get rhythm back but it feels good. I’m very happy. I’ve been testing my quad in those pick-up games, setting a lot of screens, going up for offensive rebounds — that’s my game. It feels good. It feels, actually, great. I don’t even think about it anymore, which is good.”
The presence of Bynum, a former All-Star, assuming he’s healthy may mean a total change of role for Varejao in the nightly rotation.
Varejao says he isn’t viewing the addition of Bynum in an unfavorable light and maintains he has full confidence in head coach Mike Brown to help make the pairing work
“That’s the bottom line. I don’t care. I’m going to work the same way, doing what do what I have to do to help the team. Whatever Mike Brown wants to do, it’s his decision and I’m here to help.
“Coach Brown was good to me when we went to The Finals and for all of those years we were together here in Cleveland. I learned a lot from him — on defense and offense. He’s going to be good for this team, this young team.”
The Cavaliers finished 24-58 last season, missing the playoffs. You can find their 2013-14 season preview by following this LINK