Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Links: Speed, Rookies, Surprises, Beards

Ron Tillery has a good piece up today on the Commercial Appeal that focuses on the Grizzlies committment to speed. There are a lot of good quotes from head coach Marc Iavaroni, as well as some interesting comments:

Acknowledging the difference in personnel, Iavaroni cautioned against the notion that he's going to simply unpack the Phoenix Suns' system in Memphis.
But Iavaroni will guarantee this: He definitely plans to implement more than a thing or two that he learned while working with the NBA's deadliest offense.
"We're not going to be Phoenix. We have our strengths. They have their strengths," Iavaroni said. "But I do believe the league has moved in that direction already. We're not going to sit and mope when somebody scores on us."

David Thorpe lists the players who might beat out Kevin Durant for Rookie of the Year on ESPN Insider (which is free for the moment, so take advantage). He has Juan Carlos Navarro at #3 and Mike Conley Jr. at #9.

3. Juan Carlos Navarro, G, Memphis Grizzlies
NBA coaches are typically loathe to give rookies big minutes, but new coach Marc Iavaroni is likely to buck that tendency with Navarro, a 27-year-old sharpshooter who was the MVP of the second-best professional league in the world. Navarro plays a lot like J.J. Redick did in college -- he feels he can make any jumper.
Like most of the rookies on this list below him, he does have some good competition for playing time, namely another sharpshooter in Mike Miller (who's a lot taller) and the surprising Tarence Kinsey. But Navarro, with loads of Euroleague and international competition under his belt, projects to be the first wing off the bench on a team that plays with some serious pace, so his numbers should be solid.

9. Mike Conley Jr. , G, Memphis Grizzlies
Despite his immense talents, Conley has a few things working against him in this race. One, he is playing the toughest position to play as a rookie: the point.
Two, second-year point guard Kyle Lowry is going to be a very good pro and needs time to develop (either towards a better Grizzlies' future or as trade bait). Additionally, Damon Stoudamire and Navarro, as noted above, will get minutes for the Grizzlies.Still, Conley's ultra-quickness, superior handle and his strong hoops IQ will help him navigate the challenges of playing the lead guard in a fast-paced system, and I see a solid first year for him.

Martin Johnson of the New York Sun says the Memphis Grizzlies are poised to be the surprise team of the NBA this season.
I like both the Hawks' and the Bobcats' chances to move up a bit, but I think the Memphis Grizzlies will trump their improvement.

He details the information that all Grizz fans already know by heart (3 straight postseason appearances, Gasol's injury last year, Fratello's firing, new uptempo system) in making his case for a resurgence by Memphis. In all honesty, it is nice to see some optimism regarding the team ruminating from somewhere other than this blog.
In other words, assuming that the Western Conference's top six teams remain somewhat stable, the battle for the final two playoff spots could come down to a dogfight between the Lakers, Warriors, Hornets, and yes, the Grizzlies. And that
should mark a substantial rebound from a 22-win season.

Finally, The Blowtorch named Pau Gasol to the NBA All-Beard Team, which is a prestigious honor, indeed!

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