Analysis: Breakdowns putting Grizzlies at the bottom of defensive rankings
By Ronald Tillery
Posted November 6, 2009 at 12:05 a.m.
LOS ANGELES -- From the moment the Grizzlies finalized their roster, there were a couple of inherent weaknesses.
Memphis assembled the NBA's youngest and least-experienced team, with an average age of 25.35 years and 3.13 years of experience. That doesn't bode well for minimizing mistakes and winning close games.
However, watching to see if several top-flight scorers would share the basketball and adequately defend figured to maintain the most interest.
The retooled Grizzlies don't seem to have a problem sharing the ball. Concentrating without the basketball enough to avoid making the Grizzlies an embarrassment on defense? That's another story ...
That's the story behind the Grizzlies' 1-4 start to the regular season.
Memphis ranks no better than 28th out 30 NBA teams in five key defensive categories. The Griz are dead last in two areas: points allowed (115.2) and opponents' field goal percentage (.505).
If the Grizzlies' dismal defensive showing is even worse than you might have expected, you're not alone.
Coach Lionel Hollins is in that club, too.
"It's difficult," he said of dealing with the results.
The Grizzlies' challenge gets tougher tonight when they face the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in Staples Center.
Coming off losses to Sacramento and Golden State -- a pair of weak teams -- it's no wonder Hollins used Thursday to practice nothing but defense. The Griz spent more than an hour going over one-on-one principles, sliding drills and re-emphasizing schemes.
"We need repetition," Hollins said. "We need more practice time to get back to basic principles."
Hollins pointed toward the schedule, which has the Griz in the midst of a five-game road trip. They will have played six games in nine days, including a pair of back-to-back games, before returning to Memphis on Sunday.
Practice could only help, but observers can't expect that to be the absolute cure. There are other issues contributing to the Grizzlies' porous defense:
LACK OF PHYSICALITY AND EFFORT
Not since their Toronto victory Oct. 30 in FedExForum have the Griz displayed focus, intensity and an unwavering drive to defend. Too often the team's perimeter players allow the opposition to run and cut and execute without contact.
The Griz don't get back on defense every game, and they don't challenge every shot.
LACK OF FAMILIARITY
The Griz don't have great individual defenders. That's understood. What's also well known is that any team is at its best defensively when it's operating on the same page as one unit. For as much chemistry as the Griz seem to have offensively, it's not there on defense. There's not enough trust between teammates to know where one another will be.
More time on the floor with one another could help the Griz shore up what seems to be nonexistent help defense.
LITTLE IN RESERVE
Last season, the Grizzlies started three rookies. Now the team's three rookies are supposed to be key contributors off the bench. But the adjustment to the NBA has been tough for No.2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet and Sam Young. Hollins said both players aren't ready to play significant minutes because they're often lost.
DeMarre Carroll receives quality playing time, but he struggles with his consistency, as most rookies do.
"We drafted those guys to shore up our defensive shortcomings," Hollins said. "But it takes time."
The Griz don't have a defensive stopper on the wing because small forward Rudy Gay is a defensive liability most nights. That puts the onus on Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo and Allen Iverson -- each of whom is struggling to keep his man in front of him.
Iverson gambles too much. Mayo and Conley aren't showing enough discipline. Breakdowns on the perimeter put added pressure on a not-so-intimidating frontline given Zach Randolph's known defensive deficiencies and Marc Gasol's lack of shot-blocking.
LITTLE COMMUNICATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Playing solid team defense is the only way the Griz can restore respectability. Players agree that they don't call out defensive orders and help one another by talking enough. Success on team defense comes with consistent, coordinated decisions as a group.
Perhaps Hollins has to make an example out of those who are bringing down the group with lazy defense.
"Hopefully, once we get through this tough stretch," Hollins said, "we can get back to where we have a couple of hours of practice time to work on things."
-- Ronald Tillery: 529-2353
The only guys that defend well, or even try to defend on their roster are: DeMarre Carroll, Thabeet and OJ Mayo. Two of them are rookies, who will make rookie mistakes and aren't good at all offensively. Mayo is a great defender to me, esp. on the ball but he can be shot over. Now I'm a guy that loves to make predictions and fall in love with teams, but I do not ever like teams that don't defend to be threats to make the playoffs. And even if they do, they must have outstanding offensive numbers ala the Suns teams from about 3 or 4 years back. And even those teams don't make much noise in the playoffs. So, I expect the Grizz to suck once again until they defend.
yeah there defense is pretty bad..
I just want Q to understand that TEAM defense is major. Each player has to do their job as an individual AND as a team. If the perimeter defense gets broken down consistently, that puts more pressure on the bigs. I don't care how great of a big you are. The defense eventually collapses. You don't need a big man who's already foul prone picking up even more fouls from shaky perimeter defense. He may block 2 or 3 of the shots, but he's eventually going to pick up 2 or 3 fouls.
Great Post..I personally love how their players have shared the ball...but their defense is another story..in all 5 games this season they've had double digit leads in the 1st half...but allow teams to get back in the game..the toronto win is the only 1 that they've held on for the win...look for them to surprise the lakers 2nite...yes i said it
OJ's in LA this weekend, I heard he may be at the HAX
its where all the NBA players train.
I heard there's gonna be a celebrity game but IDk if i can go :(
Thats the Zach Randolph effect
who ever said team defense isnt important?...has nothing to do with being foul prone and picking up fouls..you can play defense with out getting in foul trouble even if youre teammates arent that good on defense
no not the zach randolph effect..if another man can cause you to lower youre intensity on defenense or even offense then you have more of a problem then they do if they are natural bad at defense but you can be good
and newyork is only one point better with golden state being not to far behind with 3