Grizzlies practice: Adjustment disagreements; whither the press?
The Grizzlies have some internal contradictions about the adjustments they need to make and might be applying a full-court press on Tony Parker in Game 3 on Saturday.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- You've disagreed with people you work with before, right? Someone you had to work on a project with in school, the co-worker you always go to lunch with but you have different visions for a project, the boss you respect but sometimes you don't see eye to eye with?
None of the players are going to admit that, the coach isn't going to admit that, no front-office members have told me that on or off the record. And I don't consider it to be the kind of thing that indicates drama or that the Grizzlies are "cracking." Sometimes you just disagree with your co-workers. And there were indications on Thursday that there are some disagreements with Memphis about how to adjust headed into Saturday's Game 3, an absolute must-win for the Grizzlies.
To sum up:
Coach Lionel Hollins said the team talked about how Marc Gasol has to look for his own shot more; Gasol disagreed to the point he said he didn't understand what that phrase even meant.
Tony Allen said he should have been studying film on Tony Parker a lot more earlier than on Manu Ginobili and Danny Green. Allen also said he might have to take the initiative and guard Parker and, if that doesn't work out, "risk getting subbed."
Hollins even disagreed with himself. First, he said he had considered changing the starting lineup to try to give the team a way to jolt out of its early-game funks. He later said -- in the same answer, mind you -- there was no reason to change the lineup. So if there's no reason to change the lineup ... why was he considering it in the first place?
So, yeah. A little bit of disagreement.
Hollins was asked if Gasol looked for his shot enough in the first two games.
"No, he didn't, and we talked about that," he said. "We talked about picking up the pace, things to help us get better."
Gasol has averaged 12.1 shots per 36 minutes in playoff wins this postseason. He also averaged 12.1 shots per 36 minutes in playoff losses this postseason. He has literally shot at the same rate in wins as in losses. But the bigger issue, and Gasol has always maintained this, is that he's not the type of player to hoist a lot of shots just to hoist them.
"I'm not the kind of player to look for his own shot," Gasol said. "Look for his shot? I don't understand what that means. Be more aggressive, keep attacking the paint and go to the post more? Sure. But just taking shots? That doesn't sound right."
Gasol will always opt for making what he feels is the right play. But at some point, someone's got to put the ball in the basket for Memphis. And if all else fails, a less efficient Gasol might be better than a miserably inefficient play from one of the countless Grizzlies players to struggle offensively in this series.
Allen said that in the Grizzlies' mind, everything for San Antonio starts with Parker, who had 18 assists in Game 2 but none in the fourth quarter that featured a Grizzlies comeback.
"Instead of me watching film on Ginobili and Green, I should have started watching it on Parker earlier," Allen said.
When asked by a reporter if he had been tasked with guarding Parker more, Allen's answer revealed what he thinks of the situation.
"I haven't been told that, but I might have to take the initiative," he said. "If it's wrong, I take the risk of being subbed, though.
"As a wing player, every time I turn around, it's forcing me to help, it's forcing other guys to help, it's forcing the bigs to help. That's a big reason they're up."
Again, it genuinely didn't seem like any of the players were angry or upset with their coach or each other. You can often tell when that's the case. It seemed like the normal frustrations of a team down 2-0, trying to find answers on how to beat what is likely the most disciplined team in the league when it comes to execution. But with two days until Game 3, they had better figure out where they are and get in line, or they'll be arguing over where to vacation next.
The full-court press is rarely ever used in the pros unlike in college, where it's used extensively. One, point guards in the NBA are so good with their handle and control, you're almost never going to force a turnover, which is almost always the reason that you employ a press. Two, after you fail to secure a turnover and the guard turns on the afternburners, you now have a five-on-four mini-break. There's just no discernible reason to do it.
But, very sneakily, teams have used a version of it in key situations in the past few years. The Mavericks did it in the 2011 Finals against the Miami Heat, particularly when LeBron James was running point. Miami turned around and used it some last year vs. the Thunder in the Finals.
And, in the Grizzlies' fourth quarter comeback vs. the Spurs to force overtime, where they eventually lost, Memphis brought it out a little bit.
The key with the NBA press is that you're not trapping; it's usually just one player, and you're not trying to steal the ball. All you're doing is annoying him. It's just making him work, just a little bit more. The real objective isn't about what it does to the other player, though. It's that it changes how long it takes for the offensive point guard to get the team into its sets.
Parker has been an absolute speed demon in the first two games. It's not transition, fast-break buckets just attacking the rim. It's that he's getting the ball up the floor and constantly into the Spurs' sets with 17-20 seconds on the clock. This means: a) the Grizzlies' defense isn't set; and b) the Spurs' high-execution offense is able to work for its second, sometimes third and fourth options in a set. That plays right into San Antonio's hands.
In Game 2, the Grizzlies began applying more and more pressure on Parker, and it wore him down, just due to the exhaustion of the game. It comes with risks, namely picking up fouls and the possibility of the aforementioned defensive breakdowns in 5-on-4 play. But on Thursday, the Grizzlies' guards were open to the idea of employing it more.
"We'd like to put a little more pressure on him," Mike Conley said after practice, "when he's bringing the ball up the court so he's not getting a head of steam. Because he's so good full speed."
"Parker is amazing in transition," Allen said, marveling at the All-Star's play. "His speed, his speed, his speed puts a lot of pressure on the defense. We gotta get to it fast."
So, what about the pressure that the Grizzlies brought in Game 2?
"We was desperate at that time. Down 18, you'll try it. You'll try everything."
So, does Memphis need to go to it more in Game 3?
"We need to bring it early on at Game 3. We need to bring that desperation at tipoff."
Parker has been downright surgical in this series, a phrase that, oddly enough, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich used to describe Conley before Game 1. The risk is obvious if Parker slips past the pressure. But at some point, the Grizzlies have to throw the kitchen sink to try to slow Parker. Because the slow bleed has only lead them to a 2-0 deficit.
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