2014 M Awards: Favorite Basketball Player

taSurprisingly no University of Memphis Tigers made the Favorite Basketball Player list. Does Hoop City really like the Grizzlies this much, or is this an indictment on how disappointed Memphians are in the performance of the Tigers men’s basketball program?

Tony Allen, First Place: 26%
Marc Gasol, Second Place (Tie): 18%
Zach Randolph, Second Place (Tie): 18%

 

Visit MemphiSport.com daily in the month of July for a new winner in MemphiSport’s annual M Awards presented by the 17th Annual Sports Ball Black-Tie Tennis Shoe Gala.

MORE WINNERS: VIEW ALL OF THE M AWARDS WINNERS ANNOUNCED SO FAR

LISTEN:  2014 M AWARDS NOMINATIONS SPECIAL

SPORTS BALL: BUY TIX TO THE SPORTS BALL BLACK-TIE TENNIS SHOE GALA BENEFITING BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS

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2014 M Awards: Best Game

tiger statueA win over your arch rival is a big deal, especially when they are the defending national champions.  A season sweep of said rival is every fan’s dream.  That is what the Tigers did this this year when they beat Louisville in both meetings in their only year as reunited conference rivals.  Go Tigers Go indeed!

Both Memphis basketball victories over Louisville, First Place:  24%
Game 3 of Grizzlies vs. Thunder, Second Place: 23%
Grizzlies’ 90-87 win against OKC in Gasol’s return from injury, Third Place: 14%

Visit MemphiSport.com daily in the month of July for a new winner in MemphiSport’s annual M Awards presented by the 17th Annual Sports Ball Black-Tie Tennis Shoe Gala.

MORE WINNERS: VIEW ALL OF THE M AWARDS WINNERS ANNOUNCED SO FAR

LISTEN:  2014 M AWARDS NOMINATIONS SPECIAL

SPORTS BALL: BUY TIX TO THE SPORTS BALL BLACK-TIE TENNIS SHOE GALA BENEFITING BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS

#MAwards2014

 

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Marc Gasol shines against Pacers despite ankle injury he suffered against Miami

HUGE CENTERPIECE --- Grizzlies center Marc Gasol gave Indiana Pacers big man Roy Hibbert all he could muster during Saturday night's game in FedExForum. Though he was a game-time decision due to an ankle injury he suffered Friday at Miami, Gasol played a pivotal role in Memphis' 82-71 win against the top team in the Eastern division. (Photos by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

HUGE CENTERPIECE — Grizzlies center Marc Gasol gave Indiana Pacers big man Roy Hibbert all he could muster during Saturday night’s game in FedExForum. Though he was a game-time decision due to an ankle injury he suffered Friday at Miami, Gasol played a pivotal role in Memphis’ 82-71 win against the top team in the Eastern division. (Photos by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

During his pregame media availability session Saturday night, Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger took all but 26 seconds to provide reporters with an update surrounding the latest injury to center Marc Gasol.

“He’s going to be a game-time decision, but we’re hoping he plays,” Joerger said. “But we’ll see how his warm-ups go and how comfortable he is.”

Though Gasol did not participate in pregame shoot around, the 7-foot-1 Spaniard underwent treatment for a Grade 1 left ankle sprain a source close to the team told MemphiSport before Saturday’s game versus the Indiana Pacers.

During pregame warm-ups, Gasol appeared unfazed by an ankle injury he suffered in the third quarter of Grizzlies’ 91-86 loss at Miami Friday. While it is unclear just how severe the injury was, the Grizzlies elected to hold Gasol out the entire fourth for precautionary reasons after he scored 14 points and managed six rebounds against the Heat.

However, the six-year veteran and reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year was in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game, wearing a protective brace around his knee.

Gasol finished with 10 points on 4–of-11 shooting in 38-plus minutes as the Grizzlies earned a gutsy win against the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers, 82-71, before an announced sellout crowd in FedExForum.

Late in the second quarter against Indiana, Gasol erased any doubts as to whether his ankle would be a concern for a Grizzlies team that entered Saturday’s contest eighth in the West and fighting for its playoffs lives.

With Memphis clinging to a nine point lead, Gasol fielded a backdoor pass from Zach Randolph, penetrated hard to the basket then converted a two-handed slam at the 2:44 mark. That play was followed by Gasol’s baseline jump hook over Indiana’s David West that increased the Grizzlies’ lead to 43-30 at the half.

Among those relieved to see Gasol return after he was limited to approximately 2 ½ quarters of action the previous night was Randolph.

“We need him,” Randolph said. “That’s our big fella. That’s our anchor. I was just praying he would be all right.”

Fortunately for the Grizzlies (41-28), who are seeking their fourth consecutive postseason berth, Gasol’s ankle injury didn’t cause him to miss a significant amount of time. For starters, Memphis got back into playoff contention, in large part because the 2012 All-Star returned to the lineup in mid-January after nearly a two-month absence. He had been efficient ever since.

Prior to suffering an MCL sprain in his left knee during a Nov. 22 loss to San Antonio, Gasol was the Grizzlies’ second-leading scoring, averaging 16 points per game. Since his return, his 13.8 points is third-best for Memphis, which went 8-2 in March with Gasol in the fold.

NO WORRIES --- Gasol erased all doubts as to whether the ankle injury he suffered in Friday's game at Miami would be a concern with this two-handed dunk late in the second quarter against Indiana.

NO WORRIES — Gasol erased all doubts as to whether the ankle injury he suffered in Friday’s game at Miami would be a concern with this two-handed dunk late in the second quarter against Indiana.

Indiana coach Frank Vogel, whose Pacers (51-19) entered Saturday’s game with a three-game lead over Miami for the top spot in the East, said having a player of Gasol’s caliber in good health is crucial at this stage in the season.

“Anytime a player like Gasol is out, it certainly weakens what they do,” Vogel said. “But certainly they’re capable of winning basketball games (without Gasol) as they’ve shown. They played a lot with him this year, so to me, there’s some familiarity there. In some ways, it’s rewarding for other guys to get a chance to step up. But anytime you have a key guy to go down, it challenges everything you’re doing.”

That Gasol’s ankle injury wasn’t serious enough to keep him out of the lineup Saturday caused the Grizzlies to breathe a collective sigh of relief with 13 regular-season games remaining.

With the Grizzlies well in command, 79-65, against the Pacers, Gasol left the game for good with 1:52 left in the fourth and was replaced by fellow big man Kosta Kufos, who started 22 games when Gasol went down in November.

“As the day went on, I was pretty confident I was going to be able to play,” Gasol told reporters afterward. “Everyone who got in the game contributed. Everybody played the right way. It was a really good win for us after a tough loss (Friday) night on the road. I thought we did a good job of coming in and playing our game.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Grizzlies sound off about point guard Mike Conley’s All-Star snub

Zach Randolph believes Mike Conley’s day will eventually come.

Never mind that his chances were better than ever this year.

SILENCING CRITICS --- The inconsistent play of Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley led to much criticism early in his NBA career. This year, Conley is staging All-Star-caliber numbers in what is shaping up to be his best season as a pro. (Photos by Chris Evans)

SILENCING CRITICS — The inconsistent play of Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley led to an array of criticism early in his NBA career. This year, Conley is staging All-Star-caliber numbers in what is shaping up to be his best season as a pro. (Photos by Chris Evans)

 

“He’s going to get there,” the Memphis Grizzlies power forward said after Wednesday’s shootaround when asked his reactions to Conley being snubbed as an All-Star for the West squad. “You know, a lot of players were snubbed. But Mike is going to get there. He’s getting better.”

The longest-tenured Grizzly, Conley has made considerable strides at the point guard position since he entered the NBA seven seasons ago, particularly in a season in which Memphis has battled an assortment of injuries to several marquee players. Even before he sustained an ankle injury last Friday at Minnesota, Conley played with much poise and resilience in helping Memphis re-emerge as a playoff contender.

Currently, Conley is Memphis’ leading scorer at 18 points and 6.3 assists per game for a Grizzlies team that is 25-18 with him in the lineup. And, although the possibility exists that he could be sidelined at  least through Memphis’ weekend road games at Atlanta and Cleveland, the Grizzlies appear to be a solid shape heading into next week’s All-Star break, largely because the 26-year-old Conley has played arguably the best basketball of his career.

Conley wasn’t available to the media after shootaround in preparation for Memphis’ game Wednesday night at 7 CST against the Dallas Mavericks in FedExForum, although team officials said he was in the facility and receiving treatment for his injured ankle. Having won 11 of their last 13, the Grizzlies are one game back of Dallas for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Among Conley’s notable highlights was his 27 point, 10 assists outburst at upstart Sacramento on January 29, an inspiring performance that prompted various media pundits to debate whether he is worthy of making his All-Star debut. However, even during a season in which Conley is producing All-Star-caliber numbers, the former Ohio State star was left off the roster when the reserves were announced last week.

The 63rd All-Star Game is Feb. 16 at New Orleans Arena.

TAKING CHARGE --- Through 43 starts, Conley, the longest-tenured Grizzly, leads the team with 18 points and 6.3 assists per contests as Memphis has re-emerged as a playoff-contender.

TAKING CHARGE — Through 43 starts, Conley, the longest-tenured Grizzly, leads the team with 18 points and 6.3 assists per contests as Memphis has re-emerged as a playoff-contender.

Four other point guards were named All-Star reserves ahead of Conley, including Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul, who has missed the past 16 games with a separated right shoulder he injured in a Jan. 3 game at Dallas. Portland’s Damian Lillard was named one of seven reserves for the West squad (his first All-Star selection), despite being outplayed by Conley in Memphis’ resounding 99-81 win at the Trial Blazers during the Grizzlies’ recent three-game road trip. San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Golden State Stephen Curry were also named to the West roster.

“It happens,” Grizz center Marc Gasol, a 2011 All-Star, said of Conley being left off this year’s All-Star team. “It happens every year that a lot of players who should of made the All-Star team don’t make it. But at the end day, we have bigger goals and I’m sure Mike knows that. And hopefully that’s the NBA’s Finals.”

Roughly one month into the season, the Grizzlies looked nothing like a team that was destined to secure a playoff for a fourth consecutive year, in large part because of the injuries to reserve shooting guard Quincy Pondexter and Gasol coupled with the inconsistent play of their bench.

Credit Conley for Memphis’ resurgence as the All-Star break looms.

A once unproven player who garnered much criticism for his inconsistency and lethargic play in the pick and roll offense in the early stages of his career, Conley has steadfastly silence his critics in recent years, demonstrating among other things that he’s as good as advertised for a lottery player who was selected with the fourth overall pick by Memphis in 2007.

Grizz coach Dave Joerger on Wednesday didn’t shy away from the notion that his starting point was an All-Star snub.

“Mike Conley has been absolutely tremendous for us,” Joerger said. “He would go stretches where he would 44 assists through four games and three turnovers and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I want you to have the ball the whole time.’ The West has a lot of guards, a lot of good guards. He’s valuable and if it’s an All-Star Game where guys are valuable, I think he gets in and I feel he should have been an All-Star.”

At this stage in his career, it’s not a matter of if Conley will make his All-Star debut, but rather a matter of when.

“He’s going to be an All-Star,” Randolph, a two-time All-Star, said. “He has an All-Star mind.

Which, of course, is among the reasons his day will eventually come.

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Marc Gasol resumes conditioning, return to lineup still uncertain Joerger says

Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said his players are excited to see center Marc Gasol back in the gym.

However, when asked Saturday afternoon if there is a timetable on when Gasol would be cleared to return to action for the injury-plague Grizzlies, Joerger simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know when he’ll play.”

BIG MISSING PIECE --- Although Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has been cleared to participate in non-contact drills, coach Dave Joerger on Saturday said he isn't sure when the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year will return to action. Memphis has lost 13 of 22 games since Gasol's knee injury in late November. (Photo by Chris Evans)

BIG MISSING PIECE — Although Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has been cleared to participate in non-contact drills, coach Dave Joerger on Saturday said he isn’t sure when the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year will return to action. Memphis has lost 13 of 22 games since Gasol’s knee injury in late November. (Photo by Chris Evans)

Memphis, which posted its highest winning percentage and advanced to the Western Conference Finals last year, has struggled immensely since Gasol, the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, went down with a sprain MCL he sustained early in the second quarter of a Nov. 22 game against the San Antonio Spurs in FedExForum.

An MRI the next day revealed that Gasol had suffered a Grade 2 sprain to the MCL in his left knee and that he would not require surgery, although the team announced a couple of days after his injury that it was uncertain about his return.

However, after Gasol was cleared recently to participate in light non-contact drills, Joerger said seeing the 7-foot-1 Spaniard slowly working his way back into playing shape has been inspiring for a team he believes can make up much ground in terms of securing a playoff spot for a fourth consecutive year.

Following Friday night’s 104-99 win against the Phoenix Suns, the Grizzlies are currently four games back for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Once Gasol, a six-year veteran and 2011 All-Star, returns, Joerger said his presence will only add more resilience and assertiveness to a Grizzlies team that has earned a reputation as one of the NBA’s best defensive units in recent years.

“It’s different because you play and everyone’s reliant upon playing off of Marc,” Joerger said before Saturday’s workout at  team’s practice facility. “He’s a facilitator and when you don’t have that, you feel as if you’ve got to make more plays on your own.”

Joerger was referring primarily to Grizz big men Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos, both of whom he said have filled in nicely in Gasol’s absence. Koufos, signed by the Grizzlies in the offseason after making 81 of 82 starts for Denver last year, has started 21 games since Gasol went down, averaging 7.7 points and 24-plus minutes. Davis, meanwhile, has made three starts, but is averaging better than 29 minutes while having appeared in 29 games this year.

“Both of these guys have stayed within themselves, with what they do offensively and defensively and rebounding and doing their work in the paint,” Joerger said. “What they’re doing defensively is blocking shots and rebounding well and starting our break and then getting down (the court) quickly and trying to spring Mike Conley free into a pick and roll. It’s been different, because you don’t see that a lot.”

Since Gasol, who was the team’s second-leading scorer at the time of his injury, has been sidelined, Joerger has switched to an assortment of rotations in hopes of atoning for the absence of arguably the league’s best young center. To no avail, however, the Grizzlies have struggled considerably without Gasol, having dropped 13 of 22 outings since his knee injury.

Joerger said Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen is recouping comfortably from a hand injury he sustained last week at Denver and that the nine-year veteran is listed as day-to-day.

Joerger said Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen is recouping comfortably from a hand injury he sustained last week at Denver and that the nine-year veteran is listed as day-to-day.

On Saturday, Gasol — who isn’t required to speak with the media — jogged out onto the practice court, wearing a protective brace around his left knee and took part in his customary conditioning drills while he continues to recuperate from his injury.

Like his players, Joerger appears optimistic that once Gasol is cleared to resume full contact drills, the Grizzlies can make a strong case for vying for a playoff spot.

“He’s been cleared for light contact,” Joerger said. “Part of it is continuing to heal his knee. He’s working hard to get back and certainly his teammates love to have him in the gym. He brings such tremendous energy and guys will be excited to get him back. But I don’t know when it’ll be.”

Also on Saturday, Joerger said isn’t sure when starting shooting guard Tony Allen will return after the nine-year veteran sustained ligament damage to his left (non-shooting) hand during a Jan. 3 loss at Denver, although team officials have listed Allen as “day-to-day.”

Prior to his injury, Allen was the Grizzlies’ third-leading scorer, averaging 10.2 points.

“He continues to get rehab on his hand,” Joerger said. “And as I know more as concrete or a timetable, whether it’s six days or six weeks, I’ll let everybody know, because everybody wants to know because it’s an obtuse kind of injury. The swelling is down which is good. You just go from there where his comfort level is.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

Lakers center Pau Gasol says conflict with D’Antoni is a ‘dead issue’

Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said before Tuesday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies that Pau Gasol’s recent public comments in which the veteran center expressed his displeasure with his role in the Lakers’ offense have been “blown out of proportion.”

So much, in fact, that D’Antoni jokingly took a jab at reporters when asked if the latest issues surrounding his star center are fixable.

MAKING UP --- Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol (left) appears to be finding his offensive rhythm in coach Mike D'Antoni's system. Gasol scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting in Tuesday night's 96-92 win at Memphis and said his recent conflict with his coach is now a dead issue. (Getty Images Photo)

MAKING UP — Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol (left) appears to be finding his offensive rhythm in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. Gasol scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting in Tuesday night’s 96-92 win at Memphis and said his recent conflict with his coach is now a dead issue. (Getty Images Photo)

“Not that any of you guys will make anything up, which is good,” D’Antoni said with a grin. “But a lot of times, things get blown out of proportion. It’s a little bit blown out of proportion, but he’s fine.”

That certainly hasn’t appeared to be the case in recent weeks.

Before star Kobe Bryant returned nine days ago from a torn Achilles tendon injury he sustained in early April, Gasol struggled immensely, most notably on the offensive end of the floor, where the 7-foot Spaniard and former Grizzly is averaging 14.5 points and shooting a career-worst 42.6 percent from the field.

Gasol’s subpar performance of late seemingly has given way to much frustration off the court. Last week, for instance, Gasol pinned blame on D’Antoni for being “misused” in his system, remarks that subsequently forced his coach to publicly criticize his player’s effort on the court.

However, on Tuesday, D’Antoni reiterated that his public verbal sparring with Gasol is now a “dead issue” and that the Lakers are devising ways to get the 13-year-veteran more involved offensively.

Gasol and Bryant scored 21 points each for the Lakers, who dealt the Grizzlies their fourth consecutive loss, 96-92, Tuesday in FedExForum.

“I think they’re already fixed,” D’Antoni said of the conflict between him and Gasol. “He’s played well the last couple of games. You know, Pau is one of the best players in the league and we’re going through a transitional period where we don’t have point guards out there. We had that same problem last year, and sometimes the big guys get missed. It’s a different system, but we want him to get the ball close to the basket as much as he can get it.”

Gasol’s recent criticism of D’Antoni coupled with his inconsistent play have prompted the Lakers to consider making the four-time All-Star available prior to the NBA trade deadline, according to various media reports. However, when asked after the game if he believes he will remain with the team through season’s end, the 33-year-old Gasol said his future with the organization lies solely with the Lakers’ front office.

Traded by Memphis to the Lakers in February 2008 for younger brother (Grizzlies center) Marc Gasol after spending seven seasons with the Grizzlies, Pau is in the final year of a three-year deal and is owed $19.3 million.

“If I’m still here, I’m here,” Pau said after managing 9-of-12 field goals in 32-plus minutes. “I can’t keep pace with what the team wants to do. If they come up with a good deal or good offer, I’m sure they’ll think about it. I know that for a fact. But I can’t control that.”

As for his recent issues with his coach, Pau was in agreement with D’Antoni that cooler heads will ultimately prevail.

“It’s a dead issue,” Pau said. “There’s nothing going on, no tension or nothing. So many people made a big deal out of it the last couple of games. I took advantage of it by stirring the pot a little bit. That’s what happens in a big market. A franchise like the Lakers, you’re going to always have stuff like that, someone creating stories. So it sells papers and people will talk about it.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

Grizzlies hope to atone for home struggles during six-game stretch in FedExForum

For the Memphis Grizzlies, there has been nothing sweet about playing at home in recent weeks.

HOMEWRECKERS ---Playing in FedExForum hasn't been pleasant for veteran Tayshaun Prince and the Grizzlies in recent weeks. Memphis, which opens a five-game homestand Saturday starting with Brooklyn, has dropped three straight and four of its last five at home. (Photo by Christopher Davis/MemphiSport)

HOME WRECKERS —Playing in FedExForum hasn’t been pleasant for veteran Tayshaun Prince and the Grizzlies in recent weeks. Memphis, which opens a six-game homestand Saturday starting with Brooklyn, has dropped three straight and four of its last five at home. (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSport)

Given the Grizzlies’ lethargic play of late in FedExForum, what veteran shooting guard Tony Allen labeled the “Grindhouse” two years ago has become virtually an establishment that has brought about much criticism among spectators, given Memphis has found it difficult to protect its home court in what has become one of the toughest places for opponents in recent years.

The Grizzlies (8-7) have been dealt three consecutive defeats at home and have dropped four of their last five outings in FedExForum, this after managing a 32-9 home record last year.

“You know, we caught some boos early in the season,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said before practice Friday morning at the team’s practice facility. “That doesn’t feel very good. And I think there’s extra pressure playing at home and we want to do well at home. And our guys have played their hearts out the last three or four years or whatever and laid it on the line, so I’m sure that hurt them a little.”

Fortunately for the Grizzlies, they will have a golden opportunity to erase the memory of their recent home court struggles beginning Saturday when they host the Brooklyn Nets at 7 p.m. CST to start a six-game homestand, their longest home stretch this season. While playing in their building proved to be an enormous advantage, of sorts, last year for the Grizzlies, which enabled them to generate their best winning percentage (.683) in franchise history by posting a 56-26 mark, Memphis surprisingly has enjoyed more success on the road, having won five of eight games away from FedExForum.

So how to explain Grizzlies’ constant woes in what had become an unfriendly environment for opposing teams in years past?

“We get out there and feel like it’s just us,” Joerger said. “We’re not worried about winning or losing. On the road, it’s just you. But you have that expectation on the road, to just go compete and we need to carry that into the homestand. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing an Eastern Conference team or a Western Conference team. It doesn’t matter. We’ve just got to keep plugging away and getting better. By and large, we’ve improved over the last couple of weeks, but we’ve just got to continue to get better.”

Before Jeorger switched to a tighter rotation during the Grizzlies’ recent West coast road trip that resulted in four consecutive wins, among Memphis’ notable issues was its inability to close out games and, most importantly, acquire the essential defensive stops that allowed the Grizzlies to blossom into one of the NBA’s most efficient defensive teams last year.

Also, before producing a season-best four-game undefeated streak, the Grizzlies’ struggles surfaced, in large part

Dwight Howard (far left) and the Rockets overcame a 14-point deficit Monday night to hand the Grizzlies their lastest home defeat, which was Memphis' third in as many games in FedExForum. (Photo by Christopher Davis/MemphiSport)

Dwight Howard (far left) and the Houston Rockets erased a 14-point deficit Monday night to hand the Grizzlies their latest home defeat, which was Memphis’ third in as many games in FedExForum. (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSport)

because veteran big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the team’s top two scorers, were ineffective offensively, averaging a combine 26.6 points and 14.9 rebounds per game. Additionally, Memphis surrendered 99.4 points to the opposition while committing 16.9 turnovers. However, during the team’s recent road trip, Gasol and Randolph returned to form, averaging a combined 43.8 points and 21 rebounds for a Grizzlies team that suddenly mirrored the proverbial “grit grind” squad that advanced to the Western Conference Finals last year.

“I think consistent effort,” said Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, explaining Memphis’ recent home struggles. “I think we’ll play great in a half, three quarters, and then one of those quarters, we let down and we don’t come with the same focus and consistency. We let team back in games. We let teams play harder than us and that’s not in our nature. And we can’t do that at home.”

The good news for a Grizzlies team Joerger contends is trying to find its identity with the key loss of Gasol — who is sidelined indefinitely with an MCL sprain to his left knee — is that there is still much basketball to play in a season that is only 15 games old, one in which the Grizzlies have an ample amount of time to atone for the scattered boos that have been heard throughout their building in recent weeks. After Saturday’s contest against the Nets, the Grizzlies then welcome Phoenix, the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, Orlando, and Oklahoma City to FedExForum.

Of those six teams, four advanced to the postseason last year with Memphis eliminating the Clippers and Thunder in the playoffs’ opening two rounds before falling to the Spurs in the conference finals.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Joerger said of the unfavorable reactions from Grizzlies fans of late. “It was a small percentage of people, so it’s not something to go on and on about. It was what it was. We’re going to play as hard as we can. We certainly enjoy playing at home. We’ve had a nice advantage at home in the past. But we’ve caught some teams that had been playing very well. New Orleans came in and played a must-win game. Rudy Gay kind of had his revenge game, which is what most NBA guys will do, so hopefully he got that out of his system. And we played some good teams in San Antonio and Houston. Like I said, it doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve just got to keep getting better.”

Not to mention help re-establish the Grindhouse as a hostile environment for the opposition.

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

Marc Gasol’s first comments following his MRI diagnosis

On Friday, Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol injured his knee in a game against the San Antonio Spurs.

On Saturday, Gasol underwent an MRI which revealed a “MCL sprain in his left knee.”

On Sunday, he got on Twitter to make his first public comments since his injury and to quote The Terminator:Gasol will be backSEE ALSO: Grizzlies reserve center Kosta Koufos is ‘ready’ to replace the injured Marc Gasol

Twitter: @cerrito
Email: kevin@memphisport.com

MSL: 11.23.13 ‘MRI Results Show’


MSL presser
HOUR 1:

(Segment 1) MRI Trivia. Plus. a recap of the week’s big stories during the Starting 5.
(Segment 2) Maria Garay calls in with her weekly College Football Gossip Report.
(Segment 3) Stephanie Bada talks Operation Tucci.

MemphiSport Live

HOUR 2:
(Segment 1) An update on Marc Gasol’s MRI. Plus, Hang Up & Listen.
(Segment 2) Director Craig Brewer joins Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter to talk about the re-release of his first film The Poor & Hungry, Memphis murals, the best black and white film he has seen recently, Justin Timberlake’s love, etc. Plus, Woohoos and Boos.

MemphiSport Live

Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter host MemphiSport Live (MSL) on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll.

Follow the MSL hosts on Twitter @cerrito & @MHunter_GAMME

5 Reasons Grizzlies Fans Should Not Panic

Photo by Michael Cardwell

Photo by Michael Cardwell

The Memphis Grizzlies have started this year much slower than everyone expected.  They are 3-3 with two of their losses coming against teams that failed to make the playoffs last year.

With the exception of their victory over the Warriors, the Grizzlies looked unimpressive in their wins.  They needed overtime in their first home game of the year to knock off the Pistons and a stellar fourth quarter performance from Jerryd Bayless to hold off the Celtics.

Thanks to their sluggish start, a sense of uneasiness is emanating from Grizz Nation, and it is justifiable.

After all, this is the same team that had the best defense in the NBA a year ago, made it to the Western Conference Finals, returns essentially all of the same players, and last season lost only one game the entire month of November.   They should not be performing this poor right?

Right, but it is too soon to hit the proverbial panic button.

Here are five reasons why it is too soon for the Grizzlies to panic…

Mike Conley’s continued improvement:
During the Grizzlies less than inspiring start Conley has continued his rise to the top of the NBA’s best point guards list.  He is emerging as a serious threat for the Grizzlies on the perimeter, averaging just over 20 points and close to six assists per contest.  Conley is doing a better job of finishing around the rim, and continues to be a disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball averaging 1.6 steals so far on the year.    The evolution of Conley’s game will take significant pressure off of the big men in the post, and cause significant matchup problems for opposing teams.

Memphis has managed to make the playoffs in past seasons despite slow starts:
Last year’s start for the Grizzlies was more of an anomaly than the norm for the franchise.  During the 2011-2012 campaign, Memphis was 14-14 with a little more than half of the schedule left to play (there were only 66 games that year due to the lockout) before going on a 27-11 tear to close out the year.  In fact the last month of the season saw the Grizzlies go 13-3 to secure the fourth seed in the West.  The year before that the Grizzlies started 2-1 before losing three straight games to fall under the .500 mark on November 5th.  Memphis did not reach .500 again until January 29th (nearly three months later) after their win over the Wizards, and they never looked back.  After that game Memphis went 22-12 in route to securing the number eight seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.  While this season’s slow start is not ideal, it is nothing that this group of Grizzlies players are not accustomed to and can overcome.

There are enough tradable assets for the Grizzlies to make a move and fill a need if necessary:
Some fans might not like thinking about the possibility of a trade, but it may be necessary to fill some of the Grizzlies needs.  Sure it may be hard to trade a fan favorite like Quincy Pondexter, or players with potential like Ed Davis or Nick Calathes, but people will not mind as much if it makes the team better.  Moving some of the young and talented players on the roster to get more consistent shooting is always an option before the trade deadline, and you never know what happens if you add the right piece.

It is going to take time for the players to get use to a new coach:
Even though he was hired to keep some continuity in the franchise, Coach Joeger is still a new coach.  Several of the players on the team are used to former coach Lionel Hollins style of coaching and way of playing, especially since Coach Hollins has coached core players like Conley and Marc Gasol for most of their careers.  It is going to take some time for the players to get used to the expectations and style of a new coach.    

They have over 70 games left to play:
Sure if the season ended today the Grizzlies would be  a half game out of the final playoff spot, but the season is not ending today and they have over 70 games left on the schedule.  If the season ended today the Suns and the Trail Blazers would be in the playoffs.  Not only would Phoenix and Portland be in the playoffs, but they would be the fourth and fifth seeds in the West ahead of the Clippers, Rockets, Warriors, and Grizzlies (four teams that made the playoffs last year).   Let that sink in for a minute.  Not that there is anything wrong with either one of those teams, but seriously does anybody think either will be in the playoffs at the end of the year?  The NBA schedule is not a 16 game sprint like the NFL’s, or a 12 game dash like college football.  It is an 82 game marathon, so everyone should relax and let the season play itself out until the end.

CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him @Conradicalness on twitter and @churtj09 on instagram for live tweets and behind the scenes footage  from games.

 

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