The new coach walked into TD Garden anonymously, blending in before his team’s game last week against the Celtics as if he were a video coordinator or assistant strength coach.
Dave Joerger has been summoned by the newly minted ownership of the Memphis Grizzlies to elevate the organization to the next level, a difficult task considering Lionel Hollins took the Grizzlies to the Western Conference finals last season.
Hollins played hard ball on a contract and new owner Robert Pera decided he wanted a new coach. Joerger, who has been a head coach at Division 2 Moorhead State in Minnesota and in the NBADL, was handed the position last summer.
So far, the Grizzlies have won eight of their first 15 games, winning at the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State, but losing at home to New Orleans and Toronto. The Grizzlies have been inconsistent, but it’s part of the growth process under a neophyte coach, especially given reigning defensive player of the year Marc Gasol’s knee injury that will cost him at least two months.
“Sometimes it can get a little hectic but I really enjoy it. I enjoy our guys every day that we get to work together,” said Joerger.
“Some of the things that — even though I’ve been a head coach before — some of the stuff procedure-wise you don’t know what you don’t know. Different things on the plane or on the bus, so to go through it the first time, I don’t know what [first-year Celtics coach] Brad [Stevens] is going through, but in this league it’s different.”
The Grizzlies didn’t add much to the club that made its Western Conference playoff run. They acquired Kosta Koufos from the Denver Nuggets for Darrell Arthur and signed Mike Miller after he was amnestied by the Miami Heat. The core of the team is the same, while many of Memphis’s competitors ramped up their rosters.
The early inconsistency has been puzzling.
“There were a couple of games where we didn’t perform to our standard of work, playing as hard as we could have for longer stretches of time,” said Joerger.
“We feel like we have gotten that corrected. We went out and had a nice four-game road trip to California. We’re playing hard and we’re getting better. We’re going to try to get through this without Marc until he can get back.”
Joerger said he is still growing accustomed to having the final say after spending the last seven years as an assistant.
“I have been fortunate to be able to coach as an assistant as far as being on the floor and coaching guys, and it’s not a whole lot different — it’s not that I am making suggestions, I am making decisions,” he said. “Sometimes they like them and sometimes they don’t, but as we communicate, that’s the biggest thing.
“The players would rather hear bad news than no news and not know where they stand. We try to spend a lot of time with them. It’s all about players’ confidence, helping them feel good about themselves.”
The coaching change has encouraged point guard Mike Conley, one of the senior members of the team, to become more of a vocal leader.
“We knew coming in it was going to be different,” said Conley, the Grizzlies’ scoring leader. “It’s been a process. It’s been an ongoing journey for us to try to find our flow, our rhythm, and the guys who have been here, we try to take it upon ourselves to do more to implement everything quicker and hold people responsible for knowing what’s going on.
“We’ll have a couple of games where we’ll play our kind of basketball and then have a game where we don’t play like ourselves. It’s just an example of how tough it is to try to adjust and get back to that flow that we’ve had for the past three or four years.”
The Grizzlies entered this season with high expectations. They have emerged past the sleeper or underdog title, especially after beating the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western semifinals last season.
With all five starters returning, there has been talk of the Grizzlies unseating the Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers as the Western Conference team to beat this season.
“Obviously, not having expectations, you can just go out there and go after everybody — nobody gives you respect, nobody knows who you are, you can go out there and play and try and prove everything,” said Conley, the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft.
“With a little bit of respect, with a little bit of expectations, everybody plays you like you’re one of the best in the league, so you’ve got a target on your back as opposed to putting the target on somebody else’s.”
Conley’s responsibility has increased each season, and with Gasol out, he has been asked to initiate the offense more often and score off the dribble using his elite quickness. He is shooting a career-best 48.6 percent from the field in averaging 18.5 points, while his assist-to-turnover ratio is a sparkling 3.4-1.
“I think the transition [to scorer] is something that’s new for me because I’m more of a playmaker,” he said. “When they asked me to score more, I went and worked on my game and tried to get certain areas where I know I would have to be relied on. It’s fun and it’s something new for me.”
Hawks’ Kyle Korver closing in on Barros’s record
Atlanta’s Kyle Korver has hit at least one 3-pointer in 88 consecutive games, one shy of the NBA record set by ex-Boston College star Dana Barros, who started the streak with the 76ers and saw the streak end with the Celtics. Korver sat out his second straight game Friday night against Dallas with bruised ribs.
It was on Jan. 12, 1996, in a Celtics home game against the Knicks, that Barros was unable to drain a 3-pointer. He was 2 for 12 from the field, 0 for 9 from the 3-point line, and freely admitted the last few minutes of the 105-92 loss were spent trying to extend the streak.
“I remember it coming down to the last six minutes and not having [a 3-pointer],” Barros said. “New York, I think, got about six or seven illegal defenses. They were literally playing five people outside [the 3-point line]. It became kind of comical basketball. I didn’t enjoy making a mockery of the game but it was a little crazy while it was going on.”
Barros said his father and son have kept up with the progress of Korver’s streak and have reminded him that Korver is getting close. Korver is shooting 46 percent from the 3-point line during the streak and has hit 38 of 76 3-pointers through his first 15 games this season.
“I tell my son it’s good publicity for your dad now, not many people know about it until they started talking about it [recently],” Barros said. “More power to him. It shows his consistency. It’s not a fluke thing where one guy could get hot for one game and make 11 or 12 threes and now he holds the record. It’s something a real shooter has to do, in my opinion.”
Barros converted at least 100 3-pointers in four seasons, including a career-best 197 in 1994-95 with the 76ers. He finished a career 41.1 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
“[It’s about] being prepared to shoot,” he said. “When I was going through the streak, I would only get one 3-[point attempt] and I would go 1 for 1. You have to have that shooter’s mentality. I’ve won 3-point percentage championships where I didn’t even need to take a shot on the last day [of the season] and I went 4 for 6. You just have to have that let-it-fly mentality, so more power to [Korver]. I give him a lot of credit, and hopefully he ties it and goes for the record.”
Barros was considered one of the game’s top 3-point shooters during his prime but felt as if he brought more than just long-range shooting.
“I look at my game as more than a shooter. I was a great 3-point shooter but I made an All-Star team [in 1994-95],” he said. “So, I’m not in the box of being a 3-point shooter, I think a lot of people [feel that way] toward me. But I think if you ask players that played against me every day, I guarantee you couldn’t just get up on me and stop me from shooting threes because I was the fastest dude in the league.”
Derrick Williams symbolic of misfires in 2011 draft
The Timberwolves finally gave up on disappointing small forward Derrick Williams, moving him to the Sacramento Kings for well-traveled Luc Mbah a Moute. Williams was drafted second overall in 2011, essentially because of his amazing NCAA Tournament performance with Arizona. But Williams wasn’t athletic enough to defend small forwards and was too undersized to play power forward for Minnesota, and he may have the same issue in Sacramento.
The 2011 draft is turning out to be a nightmare for those teams who banked on prospects. If teams had to pick over again, and of course this would be the case with every draft, the No. 2 overall pick likely would be Klay Thompson, who was picked 11th overall by Golden State, followed by Kemba Walker (ninth by Charlotte), Kawhi Leonard (15th by Indiana), ChandlerParsons (38th by Houston), Nikola Vucevic (16th by Philadelphia), Kenneth Faried (22d by Denver), and finally Isaiah Thomas (60th by Sacramento). Players such as Williams, Jan Vesely, Jimmer Fredette, and Chris Singleton are still trying to find their way.
Gerald Wallace’s star shined brightest in Charlotte
The Charlotte Bobcats are about to become the Hornets again next season, which will end the 10-year stint of the often-troubled team while they were known as the Bobcats.
Current Celtic Gerald Wallace was the first Bobcat, taken in the 2004 expansion draft, and he is the team’s all-time leader in games, minutes, points, and steals.
He was given a hearty round of applause by the sparse crowd at Time Warner Cable Arena when he entered the game in the first quarter Monday, and proceeded to score a season-high 17 points.
The trade this past offseason that sent Wallace to Boston from Brooklyn was not the first time Wallace has been devastated by a deal.
The Bobcats sent Wallace to the Portland Trail Blazers in February 2011 for Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, and two first-round picks.
With those picks, Charlotte ended up taking Tobias Harris, whom it traded to Milwaukee, and it still has a conditional pick from the Blazers.
Wallace believed the Bobcats were done with their rebuilding days and was disappointed in the deal. He carried some ill feelings toward Charlotte management.
“I would love it, I mean, it’s something I can’t turn down,” Wallace said when asked if he would approve his number being retired in Charlotte. “I was here for 6½, seven years, and just the fact they decided to go in a different direction without me even knowing anything frustrates you.
“I enjoyed the organization, the fans, the people that I worked with, the players that came in and played for us, the playoff run, the coaches that were here, everything here was a great experience.”
Wallace said the finality of leaving Charlotte was hurtful considering he had established himself after three lost seasons in Sacramento.
While his body has been riddled with nagging injuries over the past few years, robbing him of his once-premium athleticism, Wallace said he’s proud of his “Crash” persona that was built during his early years with the Bobcats.
“When I first came to Charlotte, the first year here my head coach was Bernie Bickerstaff,” he said. “The most important thing that he told me that I have always taken with me is, ‘You’re an OK basketball player when you’re thinking about what to do but you’re a heck of a ballplayer when you just go out there and play.’ My athleticism isn’t what it used to be but I still think I play better when I don’t worry about what’s going on and go out there and play basketball.”
How did Wallace react to Bickerstaff’s assessment. “I was 21, I was looking at him like, ‘Are you serious?’ ” Wallace said. “I was kind of feeling myself a little bit, but he was right. When you’re thinking, your reaction time isn’t better, and when I was younger I played off my athleticism and my quickness. It made it a lot easier for me in the game and it made it a lot easier when he yelled at me because he asked me, ‘What in the world were you doing?’ and I said ‘I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking about that.’ ”
Wallace said the name change won’t make much of a difference in fan reception.
“With any organization or any city, if you’re winning, your fan base depends on how your team is doing,” he said. “They always said they wanted the name of their team back and I’m pretty sure they’re going to accept that and that’s going to be a big thing for them. I kind of like the Bobcats, though.”
The Wizards are being very careful with coveted second-year guard Bradley Beal, who was recently complaining of leg pain and was diagnosed with a stress injury to his right fibula. Beal will miss at least two weeks and then will be reevaluated. The Wizards are still waiting for rookie OttoPorter to make his season debut after a hip injury . . . The Bobcats are trying to decide what to do with former lottery pick Bismack Biyombo, who has played 16 minutes in the last four games and has had his playing time taken by Brookline High product Jeff Adrien. The Bobcats have come to the conclusion that Biyombo won’t be an offensive impact player because of his poor instincts, and Adrien averages 12.7 rebounds per 36 minutes . . . The NBA announced this past week it will start releasing video box scores following each game, the first professional sports league to blend video with box scores and make them accessible to fans . . . There appears to be no hope for the Knicks. Even if Carmelo Anthony opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent next summer, the club still owes a combined $49 million to Amar’e Stoudemire, TysonChandler, and Andrea Bargnani. Take Anthony’s $23 million off the books, and the Knicks still have $68 million committed to salaries for the 2014-15 season. The plan was for Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler to fuel an NBA Finals run, but Stoudemire is a shell of the player he was because of bad knees, Chandler can’t stay healthy, and Anthony is on an island with mercurial J.R. Smith as his second option . . . The Jazz are so far winning the Andrew Wiggins-Jabari Parker-Julius Randle draft sweepstakes with a 2-15 record, but that may change with the return of rookie point guard Trey Burke. Burke is back from a broken right thumb and contributed 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in the Jazz’s win over the Bulls last week.
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @gwashNBAGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.