I was listening to one of the talking heads on ESPN talk about the NBA the other day.
They were talking about Mike Brown, the head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The talking head said that the one thing Brown did was to bring a culture of defense and rebounding to the franchise.
That phrase struck a cord with me. I immediately thought about the 1-6 Memphis Grizzlies, the second-worst team in the Western Conference.
What is the culture of the Grizzlies?
For the first seven games of this season, it is clear that the team is more concerned with scoring than defense.
The team wants scoring: They got Zach Randolph, a 20-10 power forward who is having a great season. They bring back young players such as O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol, each can average 20 points a game. All four players have produced points for the team.
Here are a few examples from the first seven games of the season.
- Memphis had a 51-49 halftime lead against the Lakers. Los Angeles shoots 67 percent from the field in the third quarter and cruised to an easy win.
- Rudy Gay scored a game-high 33 points against the Los Angeles Clippers. Memphis goes ahead by as many as 11 points in the first half. They lose the game 113-110.
- In three of their first seven games, the Grizzlies allowed an opposing player to score 40 or more points.
There are halves when Memphis plays great defense and halves when they disappear. There are games when the Grizzlies get a double-digit lead, but you know they can never hold the lead.
There are games when the opponent's best player has a huge game and sinks Memphis.
"Hopefully, once we get through this tough stretch," Hollins said to the Commercial Appeal, "we can get back to where we have a couple of hours of practice time to work on things."
Tough stretch? Golden State, Sacramento, the Clippers?
Yes, they had Denver and the Lakers. But there is little excuse to go winless when three of the five teams in this "tough stretch" have losing records.
"What can I say?" Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said to the L.A. Times about Kobe Bryant following their game against Memphis. "This is a guy that sees a weakness in a team and exploits it, and tonight [the Grizzlies] didn't seem to want to put the finger in the dike. They just let the leak continue. It was a killer instinct out there [by Bryant]."
Translation: Defense is "want-to". Memphis does not want to play defense.
Is the Allen Iverson situation a distraction? Yes. Is it the reason they are 1-6? No.
They are 1-6 because the team's lack of defense costs them games.
That is not something two practices and an off day can solve. They can play decent defense for moments.
But the game in-game out "want-to" is not there. We have 75 games to determine if this team can find it.