Saturday, May 3, 2008

Iavaroni Stays - There is Still Hope

So Memphis owner Michael Heisley chose stability (and a lower cost to the team) over more change and confusion. Good decision Mr. Heisley. You made the right call in keeping a bright basketball mind and allow him to develop and show what he has learned after one season as an NBA coach. The decision was lauded by George Karl and Mike D'Antoni as being a smart move so don't just think this is my opinion. After a season of roster shake ups and basically being dealt a roster of extremely inexperienced players it is only right that Iavaroni be given a second chance to turn things around in the Forum. Besides he is one of the best communicators in the NBA today and that is great for Grizzlies fans.

I do have one drawback from the story filed by Ron Tillery.

Apparently Mr. Heisley told Coach Iavaroni that he needed to improve the team's defense dramatically from last season. I had flashbacks of Mr. Heisley's meeting with Mike Fratello two years ago when he retained him as coach despite wide spread rumors to the contrary. At that time Heisley told Fratello he needed to play the young guns more and to be more uptempo. That wasn't what made Fratello successful as a coach. He was good at coaching veterans with a defensive mentality. With Mike Miller, Jason Williams/Damon Stoudamire, Pau Gasol and no true center that was difficult to achieve in Memphis but he did a good job by slowing down the game and minimizing possessions. To demand he move away from his strengths as a coach was a disaster.

The Grizzlies hired Marc Iavaroni to play uptempo and push the ball. The team improved their pace from the Fratello days finishing 7th in the league in that regard. Their effective field goal percentage was 50.0 which put them 13th in the league despite a lineup loaded with young players. So judging from what Iavaroni had and what he was asked to do coming in the season wasn't a total disaster.

Now, like Fratello before him, he is being given another chance with the team but only with the mandate to change what he is comfortable doing. That seems to be a recipe for disaster to me unless massive changes are made to the personnel on the team. Two starters are terrible defenders (Miller and Warrick) and would be far more effective players coming off the bench. The problem is that their backups (Crittenton, Navarro and Cardinal) are either too inexperienced or too weak physically to be starters and if the Grizzlies execute their plan of building threw the draft that isn't likely to change this season.

If there is a bright spot in this dark cloud that has become the Grizzlies it is that Iavaroni was known as a defensive player as a pro and was tutored under the defensive minds of Mike Fratello in Cleveland and Pat Riley in Miami. Of course both of those coaches had dominating centers in the post. Alonzo Mourning and Brad Daughtery allowed their coaches to pressure the perimeter and allow the interior to be attacked because their interior presence could prevent shots from being made. That wasn't the case in Memphis last season. Darko did well defending his man but he didn't show the quickness to impede opponents shots in the lane. Iavaroni's defensive approach was what he had learned. Iavaroni played with Moses Malone and Mark Eaton, coached Mourning and Daugherty and assumed the defensive strategies that worked with those players would work with Darko.

It didn't and it won't unless Darko comes back next season a changed man.

There is little hope of finding a dominating interior defender in this year's draft either. So with an inexperienced but improving back court, a gaping hole in the shot blocking category and a sieve defensively at PF how exactly is Iavaroni supposed to improve the team defensively? DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Love, Randolph and even god forbid Michael Beasley isn't going to provide that for the Grizzlies.

I hope I am wrong. I hope Chris Wallace finds a great defensive player to help out the interior for Memphis. I hope the younger players show a dramatic increase in their ability to stop people on the perimeter. I hope Iavaroni finds a way to combine a slowdown effect to limit teams opportunity to score with an offense that is enjoyable to watch. Mostly I hope Grizz comes back healthy next season from his bout with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

So I guess what I am saying is all I have left is hope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is still hope?