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Grizzlies expert previews tonight's Spurs-Grizzlies Game

As San Antonio and Memphis get ready for their Friday night rematch, PtR's SpursFanTN caught up with Kevin Lipe of the Memphis Flyer to learn a little more about the Spurs' furry foe.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies

FedExForum, Memphis, TN
November 22, 2013, 7:00 PM Spurs Time

The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies face off for the second time this season on Friday after San Antonio won the first matchup at home, 101-94. With a West-best record of 10-1, the Spurs are rolling right now. Memphis meanwhile started slow, but has won four in a row themselves.

SpursFanTN from Pounding the Rock:

Last time we saw you guys (last season) was the Western Conference Finals. It was a sweep, yes, but it was four tough games between two very tough, determined and talented teams. For the most part, both teams remained intact over the summer with no big player moves. The Spurs seem to be off to a good start (we can't ever seem to beat Portland), but the Grizzlies kind of stumbled out of the gate. They seem to be doing better now, with Gasol, Randolph, and Conley playing well. Has the ship been righted? And any clue as to way they struggled so much to start?

Kevin Lipe from Grizzly Bear Blues:

I don't know that the ship has been "righted," so to speak, but it does look like the team is finally playing with the intensity and effort for which they've been known for the past three or four seasons. They started off the year looking confused and lethargic on both sides of the ball - Marc Gasol was the worst culprit, just kind of stumbling around disengaged with the basketball happening around him - but it does seem like ever since the victory over the Lakers last Friday the team has slowly started to come together.

I'm not really sure why it happened, and I don't think anybody who's not on the team does. It could have been a sense that they made the Western Conference Finals last year, so they could afford to take it a little easier during the season. Marc Gasol played in Eurobasket all summer long, so he could have been fatigued from that. I think some of it was a lack of buy-in and a lack of complete confidence that Dave Joerger knows what he's doing. But whatever it is, it looks like the leaders on the team-by that I mean Conley, Gasol, Randolph, and Tony Allen-have bought in, and the rest of the team has followed suit.


Tell us about Dave Joerger. Where did he come from, why was he picked, what does he bring to the table, and how are the players responding to him? Was he the right choice? And how in the world do you pronounce his name?

Kevin Lipe:

Dave Joerger (pronounced "yayger" like the famous pilot and the liquor) was the head assistant under Lionel Hollins for the last two or three years. Before that, he was a coach in the CBA and the D-League, where he won something like five championships - which is more than George Karl or Phil Jackson had at that level. It was widely believed last season (and even the season before) that Joerger was going to be a head coach somewhere in the near future. He interviewed for the Bobcats' opening a couple of seasons ago.

The front office believed that they had someone in Joerger who was going to be a little more, well, Spurs-like, in that he's willing to play young players the minutes they need to develop (which is something that Lionel Hollins clearly wouldn't do-his philosophy was that the front office supplied him with players, and he played the ones who he thought he could win with, paying no attention to rookies and young guys who needed minutes to grow but were mistake-prone).

Joerger is also probably not going to speak out publicly against the front office (as Hollins did) or speak critically of the usefulness of statistics (as Hollins did) or shove Jerryd Bayless in a Conference Finals game (as Hollins did). Don't get me wrong: I think Lionel Hollins is an excellent coach. I think he will have another head coaching gig soon, and I think he will be successful in that new gig. But I think Joerger is probably a better fit for this franchise right now.

That is to say, the players were familiar with him already, and generally liked him. My suspicion is that several players (probably the four I mentioned already: Randolph, Allen, Gasol, and Conley) were consulted about the coaching change before it actually took place. Conley and Gasol loved Hollins, and had never really played for anybody else for a real amount of time, but Allen and Randolph didn't (and Hollins didn't much like them either, from what I understood. There's a reason Hollins started Xavier Henry over Tony Allen in 2010-2011 until he didn't have a choice), and so I think there was a general consensus that they were (1) okay with the change and (2) okay with the front office's choice of coach.


So, it seems like Tony Allen took the opportunity of being in LA, with all of those Hollywood types in the audience, to audition for a role in an upcoming martial arts flick. Not sure if kicking the fan favorite in the face was the best move there. But seriously, what was up with that? Does it fall under the category of a "natural basketball move".

Kevin Lipe:

Chris Paul is a "fan favorite" if you're a Clippers fan, and most other fans would probably vote him "NBA All-Star You'd Most Like To See Get Kicked In The Face."

That said, it clearly wasn't a "natural basketball move," but I think Tony is telling the truth when he says it was an accident. Paul faked a pass to an open Jamal Crawford, and Allen jumped to intercept the pass. Instead of passing, Paul drove to the basket, and Allen, who had stuck his leg out to kick the pass (which is something he does all the time-give up the kick-ball violation instead of giving up an open shot) tried to stick his leg out and foul Paul to keep him from getting by him for a layup.

He stuck his leg out... directly into Paul's face. I think he was trying to foul him, but not kick him, and especially not kick him in the face. That's why I said I thought it should've been a flagrant-1 and not flagrant-2. But. I completely understand why the refs called it a flagrant-2. You can't kick people in the face and not get in trouble, whether it was intentional or not.


You picked up a couple of new guys over the summer. Mike Miller we know. We saw him in the .playoffs. You guys desperately needed outside shooting and obviously he brings that. But frankly, I was hoping for a couple of young gunners. It seems like Gary Neal would have been a good pickup. But tell us about the guys that you did get.

Kevin Lipe:

The most important player the Grizzlies picked up this summer was Kosta Koufos. In what now appears to have been some sort of daylight robbery, the Grizzlies were able to get Koufos-who started 81 games last year-away from Denver for Darrell Arthur. Having a legitimate backup center off the bench means Marc Gasol no longer has to play 40 minutes a game just to keep the offense intact, and it means he and Randolph both can be fresher for the playoffs.

Having Koufos, who is a very good rebounder and a very good post player on offense, means the Grizzlies are able to keep their punishing front court in the game that much longer. We've seen the first fruits of this acquisition in the victory over the Clippers Monday night when Randolph, Gasol, and Koufos combined for 59 points, 33 rebounds, 12 assists, 6 steals, and 4 blocks. To me, he's the most important guy the Griz picked up this summer.

The others... haven't really played enough to make judgments about. Jamaal Franklin is going to be a very good player, especially if he can get some more playing time in the NBA instead of the D-League. Nick Calathes is a brilliant passer and facilitator who's pretty bad on defense and occasionally plants a no-look pass somewhere in the first six rows of seats. Those are growth things, things that can be addressed. But they're not really contributing much this early in the season the way that Koufos is.


What have you seen in the guys returning from last year that is new this year? What should we look for?

Kevin Lipe:

(Not sure I have a good answer for this one - it's kind of the same old, same old so far.)


Do you sense a mid-season trade coming? If so, what are potential moves that you see?

Kevin Lipe:

If there is a mid-season trade, it's going to be for a small forward (again). The Grizzlies are getting very little production out of that roster spot right now. Tayshaun Prince is still returning from an illness that kept him from practicing or playing in most of the preseason, and Mike Miller is a sieve defensively who hasn't been shooting all that well, either, because Joerger has been playing him too many minutes to start the season. Quincy Pondexter is better as a 2-guard, and so is Jamaal Franklin. The 3 spot is sort of a disaster for the Grizzlies right now, and it's going to be a problem.

The Rudy Gay trade was a good one -- I still firmly believe that -- but it created a hole at small forward that, while it's opened up the offense to allow more of the inside-out play that lets the Grizzlies win, needs to be filled by someone who can (1) shoot and (2) defend and (3) at least be a threat to create off the dribble, in that order. Somebody like Andre Igoudala would do very well in that spot, and I've coveted him for the Grizzlies for years. But if there's a trade, look for the Grizzlies to try to move Tayshaun Prince's contract, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Jerryd Bayless or maybe even Ed Davis involved, because that's what it will take to get somebody to take Prince's deal.


PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Tiago Splitter
C: Tim Duncan

Key Bench Players
Manu Ginobili
Marco Belinelli
Boris Diaw

Head Coach
Gregg Popovich


PG: Mike Conley
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Tayshaun Prince
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Marc Gasol

Key Bench Players
Quincy Pondexter
Jerryd Bayless
Kosta Koufos

Head Coach

David Joerger

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