NBA AM: More Of The Same With The Grizzlies
Mike Conley Jr. - VIDEO OF THE DAY
Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley talks about his team, what has changed with the new coaching staff and how good he thinks the Grizzlies can be.Watch More Video Here
As Much As Things Change, They Stay The Same: The Memphis Grizzlies went to the Western Conference Finals last season, the deepest the team had ever gotten as a franchise, so when the Grizzlies opted not to re-sign head coach Lionel Hollins it was immediately assumed the team would go backwards under new head coach and former assistant coach Dave Joerger. However, the mindset behind the hiring of Joerger was to keep much of what worked, but focus on improving in areas where the Grizzlies were deficient and the biggest area of weakness was the pace of their offense.
A season ago the Grizzlies averaged 93.4 points per game, fourth worst in the NBA, tying them with the Charlotte Bobcats. It was Memphis’ defense that won them games, however in the postseason Memphis’ slowed-down pace cost them in the playoffs, as they were swept in the West Finals by the Spurs because they simply couldn’t score.
Increasing the pace of play has been a key emphasis for Joerger in his first year as the head coach of the Grizzlies.
“We need to be up the court faster,” Joerger told HOOPSWORLD. “We need to make our first pass faster so Zach (Randolph) and Marc (Gasol) can go to work without seeing so many bodies in front of them or see so many bodies in the paint. We start moving the ball around boom, boom, boom and they can start going to work without the clock being at three or four (seconds) and they have a chance to make a play at nine or ten (seconds), maybe they have an opportunity to kick it out to get it back. That’s kind of what’s driving that.”
Joerger also has the advantage of having been around the bulk of his squad, having been with the Grizzlies since 2007. He worked closely with the Memphis players on defense, so there is a trust level that comes with so much time and history together.
“It’s not like it’s a brand new relationship, we’ve been together for quite a while,” Joerger said. “It’s very positive. It’s a positive vibe and it’s very important that we keep our identity. An assistant coach getting promoted to the head coaching job for one reason or another, it’s important that we don’t go playing free and loose. Our identity of toughness, playing hard, playing together, defending the basketball, defending as a team, not checking out, being physical; those are all things we can’t just put on the shelf because we have some good times passing and shooting going on. That’s what we need to continue to be.”
The Memphis players understand what Joerger is trying to do and because of their history together there is a trust level that’s unusual for a first year coach.
“He’s been here, he’s been in the system,” Memphis forward Zach Randolph told HOOPSWORLD. “He knows us and we know him. He already has a relationship with a lot of the guys so it’s great.
“We’ve been down that road together, fought together. He understands us, he knows us and in some ways we know him. It’s definitely good.”
Memphis guard Mike Conley Jr. is tasked with making the new offensive go, and he understands what needed to change as well.
“We’re hoping to average a lot higher than 89-90 points a game,” Conley said. “Whatever we might have averaged. We were amongst the low end of the league. I think being somewhere in the middle; somewhere closer to the higher echelon teams. You can see the difference, especially down the stretch in the playoffs; you can’t just rely on defense. Hopefully we learned our lesson and we’ll be able to put up a few more points and be able to score in tough situations.”
So far through six pre-season games the Grizzlies have gotten their average per game up to 97 points a game while still holding teams to 90.5 points per game, which is right in the middle of the NBA so far in preseason.
“We have a good group of guys, we’ve got talented guys,” Joerger said of his team. “We’re hoping that we have a good year and we hope that if things go well, fall right for us that we have a great year. That’s ball going into the hole. Strength of schedule. Injuries. Playoffs. What kind of momentum we have if we get into the playoffs. Who you get in your match-ups. So, a lot of that stuff will determine the year that we have. My job is to give structure and to stay out of the way. We have good leadership in there and a good bunch of guys.”
As much as things may seem to have changed with Hollins no longer patrolling the sidelines, inside the lockerroom and around the team, not much has changed, except that the Grizzlies are playing faster and frankly that suits their strengths.
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Making The Most Of The Opportunity: The Orlando Magic gave Solomon Jones the start at power forward last night versus the Detroit Pistons, his first start of the preseason. The Magic have started resting some of their core players, especially those that will see a lot of minutes this season, so it opened an opportunity for Jones, a journeyman camp invite and he made the most of his opportunity.
“It’s basketball, it’s something that I love to do” Jones said to HOOPSWORLD. “I just try to make the most out of the opportunity I get whether I start or come off the bench. Whether I play two minutes or 48 minutes, just try to make the best out of it here. That’s what I tried to do … bring energy and do the best I could to help my team and get a W.”
Jones logged 26 minutes for the Magic and scores 9 points on 2-for-3 shooting from the field and 5-for-6 from the foul line. He chipped in four rebounds, two assists and three steals. He played with a lot of energy and effort, especially on the defensive end where he and Magic rookie Victor Oladipo started trapping the Piston guards almost full court.
“Any opportunity I get I’m going to try to go out there and play hard,” Jones said. “You never know who’s watching. At the end of the day I’m here in training camp. I’m not guaranteed or anything so I got to make the best of every opportunity because you never know who’s looking, so play hard and play with energy.”
The full court defense was somewhat of a new wrinkle for the Magic, but it’s something Jones says is a focus in practice.
“Coach (Jacque Vaughn) talks about it in practice that he wants us to pick up and I try to get the young guys to just, ‘We got some work to do, let’s go to work.’,” Jones said. “We started out in practice the other day and had a really good practice, so we’re trying to carry it over to a game.”
The 29-year old Jones was drafted was the 33rd pick in the 2006 NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks and played three seasons in Atlanta. Jones spent the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 with the Indiana Pacers and then signing ten day deals with the Clippers and Hornets in 2011-2013. Jones played in China last season for the Liaoning Hengye Jaguars and finished the NBA season with the Knicks.
Jones has no illusions about his situation in Orlando. He knows he’s likely not in their plans because of his age and where the Magic seem to be headed as an organization. Jones just wants to make the most of his opportunity to remind teams he can play, and he did a good job of that last night in Orlando.
McGrady Admits He Considered PED’s: There were clearly some dark days for Tracy McGrady, especially as his career unraveled in Houston due to chronic knee issues.
His mind was willing but his body just wouldn’t take the pounding. Some will say it’s because he never worked hard in the offseason to prepare himself for the rigors of the NBA and when his youth and athleticism faded, his work ethic lead to injuries.
McGrady, who is now retired and has joined TNT’s Open Court broadcast, admitted recently that he openly considered using Performance Enhancing Drugs to get himself right and as an avid baseball fan, knew that there were things available to him.
“I’ve never said this to nobody,” McGrady said to the Open Court panel. “Because I was playing at such a high level for so many years, and when I had my knee injury, I was doing everything in my will power to get back to that level. Naturally, I couldn’t do it. Because I just didn’t have the strength, I didn’t have the confidence, and I just didn’t believe that I was going to get there doing it naturally.
“I actually considered — I considered — getting an advantage. And whatever that was, doing it illegally. I considered that, to get back.”
Panel moderator Ernie Johnson asked McGrady if someone came to him offering to help him with PEDs, which McGrady denied.
“No, it was because of the era we were in,” McGrady said. “Especially baseball with a lot of guys doing it. Obviously they are doing it to stay healthy, to stay on the field or to stay at that level they are playing. I considered doing that. I never crossed that line because I read up on it and seen the side effects and everything that could happen.”
McGrady finished his time in Houston in 2010 after being traded to the New York Knicks. McGrady then signed a series of one year deals trying to stick around the NBA including stints with the Pistons in 2010-2011, the Hawks in 2011-2012. McGrady couldn’t find a guaranteed deal in 2013-2013 so he went to China and played for the Qingdao Eagles and then caught on with the San Antonio Spurs for the playoffs last year.
McGrady says he is finished with the NBA, but has left the door open for the return to China, although he is looking at TV work fairly seriously.
The Orlando Magic is expected to honor McGrady during their home opener on November 1 versus the New Orleans Pelicans.
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