VOL. 132 | NO. 56 | Monday, March 20, 2017
Grizzlies Can Never Have Too Much Forceful Big Spain
By Don Wade
The Grizzlies left behind a five-game losing streak by beating Milwaukee at home and then Chicago and Atlanta on the road in back-to-back nights. San Antonio was to play the Grizzlies at FedExForum on Saturday, March 18.
Center Marc Gasol recorded his third career triple-double and the 11th in franchise history as the Grizzlies won at Atlanta on Thursday, March 16. Gasol looked for his shot early, something Memphis coach David Fizdale wants Gasol to do on a nightly basis.
(AP Photo/Branden Camp)
Marc Gasol’s triple-double against the Hawks – 18 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists – was historic as just the 11th in franchise history and the third of the center’s career.
But more telling in regards to the state of Big Spain, whose on-court demeanor can still shift like the wind, was the forceful way he started the game at Atlanta. He knocked down a 3-pointer and two short jump shots in the early going.
The most impressive thing about that: He took a 3-pointer and two short jumpers in the early moments of the game instead of deferring.
As Memphis coach David Fizdale said afterward: “You can see it. Can’t you tell with Marc? It’s like, ‘I’m going after this one.’ You could tell with his aggression about scoring and making plays. I just saw it right away. He didn’t pass up shots. He took those shots.”
Going forward, this may be the clearest indication of how the Grizzlies are going to play on a given night or, once the playoffs arrive, in a series. The dream of a “higher ceiling” raised by the addition of free agent Chandler Parsons is gone for this season. But with Parsons’ season over after suffering a partial meniscus tear in his left knee (his previous two seasons in Dallas ended with right knee surgeries), the Grizzlies have found freedom in not having to cover for a teammate not able to play up to his previous ability or even able to move like an NBA player.
It gets rid of excuses, too. It puts more back on All-Star and team captain Gasol and running buddy and point guard Mike Conley.
“Just a different vibe,” Vince Carter told nba.com after the win in Atlanta. “We’re just playing for each other, playing unselfish basketball.”
And the NBA MVP is …
Up for debate, every day, every hour, and every minute. The leading candidates, in alphabetical order: Steph Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston), LeBron James (Cleveland), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City).
Over at espn.com there is what’s billed as the “most analytically correct MVP debate of all time.”
So Curry gets consideration for having the highest +/- per 48 minutes at 17.8 and the point is made, not unfairly, that just because he hasn’t been as good this season as last it’s not right to penalize him for matching standards he set.
Another valid point from the article is that based on team efficiency without its MVP candidate, “the Thunder are a really strong D-League team when Westbrook is off the court, while the Warriors and Spurs are pretty good teams.”
Interesting counterpoint that was made: The Thunder were built for Westbrook. The Spurs, on the other hand, were “built for everyone” and thus fare much better when Leonard is off the floor than OKC does without Westbrook.
The pros for Harden include the ridiculous way he gets to the foul line, the fact he has raised expectations for the Rockets in the postseason almost single-handedly, and at least anecdotal evidence that he has tried his hand at playing defense – from time to time.
James, like Curry, suffers from comparisons to his former self with his turnovers up, his blocks down, and a general fatigue factor with the masses. Plus, his team won it all last season so as great as he was and can still be, it’s not like he doesn’t have capable teammates (despite his occasional whining for more help).
To take the full deep dive, hit this link http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18869287/wonky-tonkiest-nitty-grittiest-most-analytically-correct-mvp-debate-all.
Meantime, we have to agree with Rajiv Maheswaran, CEO of Second Spectrum, a firm that espn.com says “applies machine learning to player-tracking data.” We’re not sure what that means, but we like what Maheswaran said about Boston’s point guard: “For those of us under 6 feet, we’re gonna have to add Isaiah (Thomas) to the list.”
Ricky Rubio Breaks Out
In Minnesota’s first nine games after the All-Star break the Timberwolves went 6-3 and point guard Ricky Rubio was doing something he has never done in his NBA career: hitting shots.
Rubio was averaging 14 points, 11 assists and five rebounds per game. And he was shooting 45 percent from the floor and 39 percent from long range.
At 26 – yes, he’s only 26 and not 33 – Rubio has found a gear to his game no one believed existed. And yes, he was from that 2009 NBA Draft, the infamous draft in which the Grizzlies took Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall pick. It was bad enough that after Blake Griffin went first overall and the Grizzlies swung and whiffed on Thabeet, that Harden went third, former Memphis Tiger Tyreke Evans went fourth, Curry went seventh, and DeMar DeRozan ninth. And that’s just the Top 10.
But Rubio was in there, too, went fifth overall and was someone discussed as a possibility for the Grizzlies. The idea of him and Conley playing some minutes side by side now, well, it hurts more than ever.