Grizzlies expert discusses the "athletic athlete" question

Stephen Dunn

This is part of an ongoing conversation with PtR's own SpursFanTN, and Kevin Lipe, who runs SBNation's Grizzlies Blog, Grizzly Bear Blues. If you haven't read any of the previous posts, go here for the first part that posted on PtR yesterday. Also go here for the second part that posted on GBB today.

Continued from GBB, here.

Kevin Lipe:

My take on Bonner is really a commentary on how much Darrell Arthur’s play has dropped off as of late. In 2011, Arthur was Spurs Kryptonite, blowing up pick and rolls, making athletic plays to seal wins for the Grizzlies—he was a dynamic player. Now, after missing all of the lockout season and the first part of this season, he’s just not the same guy. He’s still pretty good defensively…

…but he wasn’t on Sunday in Game 1. If Arthur can’t stay on Matt Bonner and Bonner ends up wide open, that’s a problem. I’m not convinced that Bonner is some ginger-haired basketball supergod, but if the dude is wide open, well, let’s just say that’s a position in which he likes to find himself. He can’t be ignored for that reason. I’m not sure he’s more of a challenge than Manu Ginobili, though. Maybe Hollins forgot Manu comes off the bench.

SpursFanTN:

Talk to me about Quincy Pondexter. I don’t watch a lot of games. It is all I can do to catch a few quarters of Spurs games, even in the playoffs. But I read a lot. I never hear anybody talking about Pondexter though. Looking at the numbers, he’s your best outside shooter, a pretty good one in the regular season, and even better in this playoff run. I watched him score 8 points in about 60 seconds in Game 1 and I thought he might single-handedly turn the game around and lead the Griz to victory. How good is he, and what are his strengths and weaknesses?

Kevin Lipe:

Pondexter is absolutely the Grizzlies’ best threat from long range. He’s a really good player who never quits, and who plays really good defense too. Quincy had a great start this year and then went down with a pretty severe MCL sprain that knocked him out of commission for a couple of months. During his rehab time he did things like go watch Griz road games with fans at Buffalo Wild Wings. He also has an adorable husky puppy (he went to Washington) named Buckets who comes to Grizzlies practice. QPon is, to my mind, probably the closest thing the Grizzlies have to a Shane Battier replacement "3 & D" type player, except he also is able to attack the rim and draw contact and/or make a tough layup if he needs to. Griz fans love Q, and Q loves Griz fans.

SpursFanTN:

The rhetoric surrounding the Grizzlies is all about Randolph and Gasol, and I guess rightly so as they are arguably the best front court in the league. But, they are not the most athletic guys, at not least in the Westbrook/Griffin sort of way. So the Grizzlies are not usually considered an "athletic" team. The same thing is true of the Spurs. In fact it’s worse for the Spurs, because they are considered unathletic AND old. I mean the team is stocked with guys like Bonner, who has about two inches of vertical on his 3 point jump shot. Because of that I think the athleticism of guys like Tony Parker (and even Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green) is overlooked. In fact, the other day as I was watching TrueHoop TV, where Henry Abbot said that Leonard was athletic. Ethan Sherwood Strauss interrupted and emphatically stated that Leonard was long, but he wasn’t athletic.

Not that the perception of commentators matters when it comes to how the games are played out, but it can color how fans view the game - including me. So when I watch the Griz, I’m always looking for the Z-Bo/Gasol 1–2 punch. But I’m also reminded of how the rhetoric misses the mark. You seem to have some really athletic guys. Jerryd Bayless in particular always impresses me. Is this just my impression from seeing them play my "unathletic" Spurs, or is there something to this?

Kevin Lipe:

Mike Conley is freakishly fast. His dad (Mike Conley, Sr.) won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics, so he’s definitely got the speed gene. Darrell Arthur was incredibly athletic pre-injury (well, in between season-long injuries) and Ed Davis is, too. The problem is that Gasol and Randolph aren’t "athletic", they’re just strong and very skilled. Athletic frontcourts, like the Clippers, can give them problems by being able to essentially clamp down on them from the top, blocking shots and keeping them from getting near the rim.

In the end, that didn’t work out well for the Clippers because they weren’t athletic and skilled, just athletic, and the Thunder played Kendrick Perkins, who had a PER somewhat equivalent to what you'd get if Scott Brooks had just planted an oak tree at the free throw line. Only an oak tree would’ve been harder to shoot over.

Bayless gets by almost totally on his athleticism. It’s definitely not his decision-making. He’s a guy who makes plays based on what he’s able to do, rather than basketball IQ. He’s young, though, so the hope there is that he’s going to develop the knowledge and skill set and decision making to go with his abilities and mature into a great bench scorer. He’s already good. But he could be better.

To be continued...

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