Marc Iavaroni, We Hardly Knew Ye (Actually, We Knew Ye Too Well)

It was a typically slow Thursday in the NBA, but there was some news as the Memphis Grizzlies fired coach Marc Iavaroni for what they cited as a poor record and lack of player development.

In an unsual move, instead of just promoting an assistant coach, it seems they are going to hire Milwaukee Bucks assistant Lionel Hollins this weekend. Because of the situation, we won’t have any idea what, if any, changes will be made to the team’s rotation under the new coach. We’ll get a a better idea once Hollins is officially hired and gives some interviews.

But there are a couple of interesting players on the Grizzlies who may benefit from the switch. Although Memphis will still stink, clearly Iavaroni wasn’t getting the best from his talent.

Rudy Gay has clearly regressed this season and has gotten worse as the season as gone along. His month-by-month scoring averaged are as follows: 19.6, 18.6, 15.6; and his rebounding numbers have slumped in similar fashion.

Gay has been criticized for playing like he’s disinterested and the team doesn’t run all that many plays for him. Maybe a new coach will be just the thing to spark his emergence into the top 30 player we all hoped he would be.

I have Gay in a couple of leagues and I basically consider him untradeable over the next couple of weeks just to see how this pans out.

A second player to watch for his the perennially confounding case of Hakim Warrick.

Warrick is averaging 16.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, .9 steals and .8 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the line. Seems like a crappy team could use a guy like that to play major minutes.

However, Warrick played less than 26 minutes per game under Iavaroni and has never played more than 26.2 minutes per game in his career despite producing solid per minute numbers.

Iavaroni’s handling of Warrick has frustrated me numerous times over the past couple of seasons.

Although he has gotten much more consistent playing time of late (and produced), a quick look at his game log shows some maddening coaching patterns:

On December 8, Warrick had 18 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes. The next game on December 10, he was held to less than 16 minutes. He followed that with a 21-point game in 29 minutes on December 12. Two days later, he played less than 22 minutes.

Warrick is averaging 32 minutes per game in his last 10, averaging 15.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals. Hopefully the trend continues and Hollins realizes that Warrick is actually the team’s third or fourth best player.

The other situation Hollins will desperately try to clear up is the point guard mess with Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley. The duo has split time in the backcourt this season, each marginalizing the other’s value.

Maybe Hollins can do what Iavaroni never could: make a friggin’ decision so one of these guys can gain some significant value.

Here are the numbers for both guys per 36 minutes this season:

Conley: 10.9 points, 4.4 assists, 4.0 rebounds, .8 steals, .417 FG%, .821 FT%

Lowry: 12.1 points, 6.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals, .408 FG%, .820 F%

Looking at those numbers, Lowry seems like the clear cut favorite to come out on top, although it’s hardly a given that the point guard situation will change. It’s something to keep an eye on.

O.J. Mayo’s value as a stud rookie is safe as is Marc Gasol‘s as a steady source of boards, blocks and FG%.

You always have to keep in mind that when a new coach takes over, the immediate changes are not necessarily long term. If Hollins plays Darrell Arthur 36 minutes in his first game, don;’t rush to grab Arthur expecting him to play those minutes for the remainder of the season.

There is a certain honeymoon period following coaching changes and it’s important not to read to much into the subsequent games until enough time goes by that a definitive change in strategy can be assessed.

Memphis has nine games before the All-Star break and that stretch should give us a better indication of which Grizzlies will have the ost value for the rest of the season.


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