Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Emptying Zack's Notebook

I thought I should empty out some stuff from my Grizzlies Notebook since I am officially on suicide watch after my beloved Titans have fallen completely apart.

The Titans have been absolutely pathetic for 3 straight weeks now. After starting 6-2 on the back of a stout defense and putting themselves in the driver's seat for a wild card spot, they now sit at 6-5, need help to make the playoffs, and the defense all of a sudden is in shambles. This would be like the Grizzlies being 31-10 in January, sitting pretty in the playoff picture, and having the #1 defense in the NBA while holding opponents to under 80 points per game and 35% shooting. Then going on a 15 game losing streak where the average score is 60-140 (and the mainstream media then wrongly concludes that the sole reason is because Darko is hurt). Could you imagine the Grizzlies Messageboard if the Griz lost 15 in a row and look completely pathetic for all 15 games? So here are some random things out of my Grizzlies Notebook, posted either for therapeutic reasons, or to give one last Grizzlies-related post before I jump off the I-40 Bridge if the Titans manage to get their butts handed to them by the Texans on Sunday.

Wrong about Being Wrong

In our prediction post, I predicted Navarro would be #2 in Rookie of the Year voting and be the 6th Man of the Year (apparently forgetting about Manu the Argentinian Flopper). Then after the Seattle game and only 3 games into the season, I rambled on about if I was wrong saying Navarro would make a big impact in the NBA this year. Well, it seems I was premature in questioning my initial opinion. Navarro is going to do just fine this year in the NBA. Starting with JC's 28 point breakout performance against the Hornets (including 8-9 from downtown), La Bomba has recorded 4 double-digit scoring performances in the last 6 games. JC has even started 3 games with Darko sidelined.

Navarro has shown off more than his deadly 3-point touch too. He is finally getting his patented running floater to fall. He is making great passes off the screen and roll (highlighted by a sweet between the legs bounce pass to Hakim against the Sonics). He is playing pesky defense (more on that in a minute). He has shown ball handling and distribution skills that has caused a sizable group of Griz fans on the message board to clamor for JC to be the starting PG.

Obviously the biggest difference between the Navarro at the beginning of the season and the Navarro we see now is that his shot is falling. Some might say that is due to getting acclimated to the speed of the NBA game or whatever. I see it as a good reminder that the ability to make shots is the primary characteristic used when judging not only NBA players, but anyone playing basketball. I don't care if you are 4'6, 300 lbs and have a 1 inch vertical, if you can consistently make your shots, you will get picked to play in the local pick-up basketball game (which is why I made Chris Vernon my first pick a few weeks ago, causing the other players to question my sanity). This principle is also the reason why most Griz fans are against Casey Jacobsen seeing much playing time right now, he just can't seem to make a shot.

On Lowry and Navarro Giving up Outside Shots

Alot has been made about the Grizzlies poor defense (allowing 107 ppg and league worst 47% shooting percentage). One factor in that poor performance is having taller players simply shoot over Lowry and Navarro. I have noticed something else besides height being the reason why it seems a guard is always shooting over Kyle or JC.

When Kyle or JC's man does not have the ball, both players are concentrating more on help side defense than staying with their man. In Kyle case, not only is he looking to get his hand in on dribble drives and in the passing lanes, but he is making a conceded effort to help out on the defensive glass. Many times this year I have seen Kyle anticipate a shot and start to block out someone else's man. Then all of a sudden, there is an extra pass and his man has a wide open 3 point attempt. Kyle has great recover speed, but here is where the height plays a disadvantage. But in reality, he could be 6'8 and his man would still have had an open look because Kyle was busy thinking more about rebounding than staying close to his man.

In JC's case, he is mostly looking to get a sneaky steal. One of JC's more under-rated aspects of his game is craftiness on defense, particularly helpside defense. JC is quick to help out anyone and will not shy away from leaving his man in an attempt to get a steal. Remember that bogus foul called on Navarro in the opening Spurs game when he was standing still against Duncan? That play was the result of Navarro free-lancing in the man-to-man set and he ended up picking up Duncan after TD picked up the loose ball JC knocked loose when free-lancing. The next time you see a drive and kick or skip pass end up in the hands of someone being guarded by Kyle or JC, watch and see if either of them was free-lancing off of their man looking to get a steal or rebound.

Chris Herrington is Good

We might as well just have a stickied post at the top of this blog directing all Griz fans to Beyond the Arc. Herrington - the inspiration behind the obviously inferior Shades of Blue - is a must read after each Griz game, espicially after home games. His latest postgame entry is particularly good (and the word of the post was "modulated", which to a seismologist like myself describes the result of two sine waves of different frequency being superimposed...but I digress). Chris talks about the up and down play of Lowry and Gay against the Wizards, then relays the postgame "conversation" he and Kevin Cerritto had with Coach Iavaroni during the postgame press conference. It was a fascinating read. Seriously, go read it if you haven't already. The audio, via Wes at 730ESPN, is here if you would like to listen to it for yourself. Herrington also relays other interesting game tidbits, like the expletive shouted by Lowry after a pass to the front row, or the first unofficial banter between Iavaroni and someone in the crowd.

Lowry's Turnovers are Not a Big Deal Right Now

Herrington talked about Lowry's turnovers in his Wizards post game entry and if you read the game threads on the Grizzlies Messageboard, you'll notice fans are very concerned about Lowry's turnover rate. In fact, many vocal posters think Lowry's turnovers should dictate Iavaroni limiting the minutes he plays.

I want to talk a bit about why I think Griz fans should not focus so much on Lowry's turnovers right now.

Does Lowry need to work on decreasing his turnover rate? Sure, as does every other PG in the league. Lowry is averaging 2.6 turnovers per game. Kidd is averaging 4.2, Nash 4.1, Deron Williams 3.7, Paul 3.2, Baron Davis 2.75, Jameer Nelson 2.6, Devin Harris 2.6. You get my point, there is nothing alarming about his turnover rate.

And most people like to balance turnovers with assists when it comes to evaluating PG's. That is a valid approach, but usually the gripe about a turnover is that it gives the ball away without getting a shot attempt up. For that reason, I like to see how many steals and offensive rebounds a player has also, since those 2 statistical categories reflect times that a player took a possession away from the opponent. In that light, Lowry's turnover rate is minimized since he is one of the best offensive rebounding PG's in the NBA and at the very least is average when it comes to stealing the ball.

Most of Kyle's turnovers result from him trying to make something happen. Being the aggressor. Surely that is preferred over the turnovers being the result of being passive, being lost, or being outplayed by the other player.

Should we be expecting less turnovers from him? Probably not. Kyle has now played in only 23 NBA games. I doubt most fans usually expect rookie point guards to be mistake free. Especially considering Kyle's full-speed style. By the looks of things, Kyle is still learning how to play the game with different speeds. Most of the time he is stuck in 6th gear with the peddle shoved to the ground. A much more devastating consequence due to this all-out style is the increased risk of injury, not the occasional turnover.

One last point on this subject. Lowry has found consistent playing time (last few minutes of the 1st, all of the 2nd, last few minutes of the 3rd, and all of the 4th), but he has hardly found consistency when it comes to who is on the court with him. Lowry has played with at least 14 different lineup combinations for more than 5 minutes this season. Compare that to Damon, who has seen 95% of his playing time alongside Pau, Miller and Gay and has seen only 4 barely different lineup combinations span his playing time. It seems logical to me that a PG would have more turnovers when his time is spent playing with a dynamic set of teammates being subbed in and out, as opposed to a point guard playing exclusively with the starters and no one else (like Damon is).

The Grizzlies Miss Darko

I'm not for sure if this is a good or bad thing. But during every game that Darko has missed, I have written in my Grizzlies Notebook, "we miss Darko down low". Being serious, this is a testament to how much Darko has grown and evolved as a NBA player. But there is still a comedic value in discussing how much the Grizzlies miss Darko at center. A year ago, who would have ever guessed that in 07-08, some fan would turn to his buddy and say "we might make the playoffs if only Darko wasn't hurt". Get well soon Darko.

Which brings me back full circle. Even though the Grizzlies greatly miss Darko's defensive and rebounding presence down low, any losses suffered while he has been hurt is not because Darko didn't play. Just like the Titans misery is far from only being due to Fat Albert missing the last 3 games. And with or without Fat Albert, if the Titans don't get it together soon, I'm going to completely lose my mind.


ChipC3 said...

Damn Zack, you need to empty your notebook more often!

That was really great reading. Interesting viewpoints. I am not sure that I agree 100% with all of your comments but I love the way you got me to think about things differently.

MemphisX said...

Hey Big Al was headed toward Defensive player of the year and they do miss him.

I agree with your point on Lowry. I am satisfied with his play. He is very young and inexperienced.

Darko's abscence shows that we need to trade for another low post defender. It would be nice to be able to trade for Anderson Verajao.

zack said...

Free Sideshow Bob!!!!!