Trail Blazers 115, Grizzlies 96: Ten Thoughts

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LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Last night's game ended very late and I didn't have much time to do a full Next Day Notes treatment—and I'm not sure the Grizzlies' performance deserved one anyway—so instead, here are ten quick reactions to the Grizzlies' third loss of the season (and third by double digits, though 19 ain't so bad when compared to Monday's 50-piece).

1. If Marc Gasol sits Thursday's game out with his neck injury instead of trying to play, this is a different story. Gasol was clearly hampered all night long, could barely move—which greatly exacerbated his already-not-great conditioning so far this year, and he was clearly limited in what he was able to do on both ends. Everything he accomplished, he accomplished by sheer force of will and not by physical fluidity or comfort, and it probably would've been better if he'd just sat out.

2. So far this year, teams are not scared of the Grizzlies' physicality, and they shouldn't be, because the interior defense is garbage. I feel like the Iowa Energy could score 30 paint points on the Griz right now. Between Gasol looking rusty and then getting hurt, and Zach Randolph looking like he may have opened the Ark of the Covenant over the summer and now he's melting, the Griz can't stop anyone inside.

3. It's hard to tell what's wrong with Mike Conley—but whatever it is, the Grizzlies will not be any good until it's sorted.

4. JaMychal Green is a good basketball player and has made progress that no one expected him to make. He sometimes struggles with defensive decision-making once he's switched onto a smaller guy, but that will improve with experience. I can't speak highly enough of his game this season—it's been a bright spot in what might be shaping up to be an abyss of misery.

5. You know, if you're going to lose a bunch of games by a lot of points, it might be time to play your young guys. Jordan Adams, who is still hurt, apparently, is exempt from this somewhat because if he gets re-injured now he won't be able to play later, but is Beno Udrih really a better option than Russ Smith when you're down 20 and not coming back? You know what Beno brings. Russ needs NBA reps. Don't overthink it.

6. The Grizzlies aren't this bad (at least, I don't think they are) but the issues they've had this year have been brewing for a while, and all the smart people who have been watching this team have been saying it: age is an issue, the NBA is evolving rapidly away from a style of play that they can effectively defend and defeat, there's still not enough offensive production from the wings, and they haven't developed their young players very well (hence the gaggle of older trade pieces and free agents). These issues are not temporary, they're just amplified right now. If they go on a 10-game winning streak, these issues will still exist under it all. Don't forget that.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

7. The beginning of this season looks familiar:

Remember that? When the Grizzlies were inexplicably terrible for three weeks and then they went back to Lionel Hollins' playbook because they blamed the "new offense" for how badly they were playing, even though it was also in no small part because guys showed up out of shape and were still adjusting to having their assistant coach be the head coach?

This does look a lot like that, though I'm not sure what the issue would be. Maybe the players (Tony Allen led the charge in 2013-14, but some of what Mike Conley said last night may be starting it up this season) will blame the system soon, but Gasol was quick to point out after the first game that as soon as the new stuff wasn't working, they abandoned it, and still lost by 30. So I'm not so sure.

But there's clearly something going on here—a little too much smoke for there not to be a fire—and given the team's really .500 end to last season from the All Star break on, maybe this is really a continuation of something brewing that we don't yet know about.

8. Jeff Green is starting to look a little more comfortable as a bench scorer, but that doesn't mean the Grizzlies shouldn't trade him. Trick some other team into thinking Jeff Green will solve their problems. I don't think anyone will still give the Grizzlies a first round pick for him, but if they offer it and the Grizzlies don't take it, we should burn down FedExForum.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

9. Without an excellent defense, the Grizzlies are toast. Period. If the defense doesn't come back—and I think it will; it looks like an effort and conditioning issue on defense right now—the Grizzlies will never make it much farther than .500, and they might not manage that. The key to this team has always been defense, and winning games 95-90, and if they can't manage the "90" part, they're still not going to do much better than the "95" part, so they will lose. Often.

10. I don't think it's time to panic yet. The goal all along was to come out of the early part of the schedule a few games over .500, somewhere around Christmas time, and then put together a stretch of wins as the schedule gets easier. That's still very much in play, and I'm not going to truly panic until we get to December and the Grizzlies are still getting blown out on a regular basis. What's happening right now is bad, for sure, but... I just don't think it's time to scrap a 5-time playoff team based on six games. Call me crazy.

That said, if you feel like worrying about it, you're not unjustified in doing so. The Grizzlies look like garbage. They've gotten destroyed three times, one of which was by a team that wasn't supposed to be any good this year. The unease with the team is a valid one.


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