Sunday, May 13, 2012

Immediate Grizzlies Series Ending Reaction

Not sure how Lionel Hollins and the Grizz crew continued to forget that their best offense was going through Gasol for inside-out looks or for Gasol to create his own shot. Clippers had no one inside that could handle him consistently.

Along with the hiding of Zach Randolph in the fourth quarter, Lionel is probably going to take some heat. And deservedly so. His lineup choices and rotations (particularly the fourth quarters… Tony Allen, anyone?) were questionable throughout the series.

Look, I know I’ve never been a Lionel Hollins fan, but whoever lead the charge for the Clippers going into the game (I have no big windfall for Vinny Del Negro, either), they got it right. Much more intense team from the jump, and Memphis struggled from that punch for the entire afternoon. Disappointing for Memphis to release the home court advantage like that.

Whether that’s a Hollins thing or not, I don’t know. I think it could be more of a result with Memphis having the wrong people presented as the team leaders - Rudy Gay and Mike Conley. Neither is what I would describe as ‘gutsy’. Both are very good ballplayers (as Conley has improved), but their personalities and demeanors don’t offer themselves as the best leaders for a basketball team.

I admit, I have not been to Memphis in almost a year, I don’t listen to the radio shows, and only catch the TNT/ESPN broadcasts. But from this perspective, Conley and Gay are presented as the ‘stars’ of the Grizzlies. Along with Gay’s contract $, they are the faces of the team.

I’m a big believer of culture. And, like last year, with Tony Allen’s “Grit ‘N Grind” campaign, Memphis became identified a ‘rough’ team. Scrappers. Underdogs and overachievers. Believe!

But what happens when your results affect the environment? This was a team that started winning. They were the 4 seed in the Western Conference. So, once you’re here, can you continue to play the underdog/scrapper card? Success leads to expectations, and I think in this series, Memphis got away from the formula that led them to the success.

Time and again, Memphis would play fourth quarters and end close games with Rudy Gay isos and Conley broken plays. As the promoted leaders of this team, they (and probably their teammates) accepted their roles and put it upon themselves to win these games with their play.

The success ‘softened’ the team, and the team leaders aren’t ‘hard’ enough personality-wise to get them back. They fell softly into those roles because that’s what they thought they were supposed to do.

What’s disappointing is that no one (Gasol, Randolph, Allen, or Hollins) made enough of a push against these leaders to correct them and get the team back to their winning formula. It’s these players who need to take over the locker room and get the team’s mentality back to where it needs to be.

It’s a good team (although without a A-list superstar) that can obviously win games. But I believe that there will need to be a change in the locker room for the team to reclaim that chip on their shoulder. It could be as extreme as a coaching change (the most immediate culture change tactic) or something as ‘simple’ as the coaching staff giving one of the ‘gritty’ players the go-ahead to be more vocal in the locker room. As it stands, this team is in desperate need of a coach on the floor that can get the attention of its young talent.

‘Til that happens, it’s going to continue to haunt this franchise.