Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Memphis vs Indiana

Memphis returned home from Spain and looked extremely jet lagged in the first half. In fact they reminded fans of last season's squad more than this years. First they started only returning players and then they played Fratello's offense (45 pts) and Barone's defense (61 pts). This could also partly be due to the pathetic attendance in the Forum. The crowds was terrible. The second half saw a renewed emphasis on defense and faster play which showed results as the Grizzlies scored 56 points while surrendering only 32. The major bright spots were Juan Carlos Navarro and Rudy Gay who led the team in scoring and the fans in exciting plays.

Indiana stayed perfect in preseason with a 117-104 over the Hornets on Monday night in New Orleans. Old stars like Jermaine O'Neil (yes he is still with the Pacers despite off-season demands to be traded) and Jamal Tinsley combined with former Warriors Mike Dunleavy, Ike Diogu and Troy Murphy to power the team over the Hornets. The Pacers seemed to be a team on the decline last season but new coach Jim O'Brien has the team moving forward and seemingly on a straight path. All five starters scored in double figures against the Hornets and Diogu was perfect going 7-7 from the field and hitting all 5 of his free throws.

Point Guards; Damon Stoudamire vs Jamal Tinsley
One has to wonder how much longer Damon will hold off hard charging Kyle Lowry as the starter. Damon was outplayed again by Lowry against the T'Wolves and seems a step too slow to run the uptempo style that Iavaroni left in Phoenix. More importantly, Damon has never been a defensive minded point guard and Lowry is definitely defensive minded like Iavaroni. Mike Conley, the future starter, seems to be falling off the pace for starters minutes right now but at barely 20 yrs old the team can afford to be patient right now. Jamal Tinsley is a former Grizzlies draft pick traded to Atlanta and then to Indiana in the deal that brought Pau Gasol to Memphis. Tinsely has fought injury issues almost his entire career. When healthy Tinsely is a an excellent floor general who has a solid post up game. The new kid on the block at Indiana is Travis Diener. The former Marguette player escaped the backlog of points in Orlando and is seeking an increase in PT with the Pacers.

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Mike Dunleavy
The Rudy Gay experiment at the 2 probably ended last night. By the end of the game Rudy was playing more of a small 4 than even the 3 so expect Miller back starting at the SG against the Pacers. Unless of course Juan Carlos Navarro gets a start. Navarro is short and not a big defensive player but Dunleavy isn't an elite SG and maybe the Grizzlies will want to see what he can do defensively and offensively against mid-level NBA players. Just a thought. Dunleavy has been playing well in the preseason and has actually raised his scoring average since arriving in Indy to over 14 a game. Higher than he scored in Golden St. Backing up Mike is Andre Owens and Kareem Rush. They seem to be having a spirited competition for the #2 role with Marguis Daniels out of action.

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Danny Granger
This may be one of the best young SF matchups in the league today. Danny Granger enters his 3rd season as a double digit scorer and a good defender at the 3. Rudy Gay enters his second season as a double digit scorer and a good defender. Maybe they cancel each other out but it should be fun to watch either way. Rudy definately is the more talented but Granger is probably the more determined of the two. Backing up Granger is former Memphis Tiger Shawne Williams who struggled to find PT as a rookie and then ran into trouble with the law this summer. Williams seems to want to put both bad memories behind him as he is averaging nearly double his rookie scoring right now. Behind Rudy is not Tarence Kinsey. Casey Jacobsen is getting the extra minutes right now and that may be due to his greater range, may be due to Kinsey's injured shoulder or it may be due to his outplaying last year's surprise. No matter what it is Casey is getting the PT not TK.

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Jermaine O'Neal
It wasn't that long ago that Jermaine O'Neal was considered the hands down better player. Now after another disappointing season and a summer of discontent and trade demands from O'Neal, Gasol may have just past the older O'Neal straight up. Last season O'Neal saw his scoring drop for the 2nd consecutive season and he finished below the 20 pt a game mark for the first time since 2001-02, his first season in Indiana. Gasol on the other hand went over the 20 pt per game standard for the first time and outrebounded O'Neal as well. Two years younger than O'Neal and far less traveled, Gasol seems to still have upside while O'Neal has begun to slide. Backing up O'Neil is Ike Diogu. The Golden St washout has been reborn in Indy and seems to be making a charge at redemption. Gasol's backup is Hakim Warrick who looks lost in the new system but with his 3rd coach in less than a year that is understandable. Still at 25, Warrick needs to find his footing fast.

Centers: Stromile Swift vs Troy Murphy
There aren't many centers that are a more difficult guard for most bigs than Troy Murphy. With legitimate 3 pt range and a strong nose for rebounds Murphy gives even the best PF's a tough time. The key to Murphy's game is hustle. He simply outworks many of his opponents. Not a good sign for Stro who's toughness and effort have been questioned throughout his career. Stro is surprising some with his consistent ability to outplay Darko and hold onto the starting role but this is a contract year for Stro if he wants it to be. This could also be a tool by Iavaroni to motivate (or showcase) Stro and Darko. Jeff Foster is still hanging around as the traditional big man in Indy as well.

Coaches: Quick, who was the coach for new Grizz GM Chris Wallace's Boston Celtics team that lost in the Eastern Conference Finals? If you said current Indianapolis Head Coach Jim O'Brien give yourself a prize. O'Brien has coached for over 30 years and held the top job in Philly as well as Indy and Boston. Right now O'Brien has the team playing well but dissent has long been a trademark of O'Brien coached teams in the past and seeing O'Neal demanding a trade already isn't a good sign for the relationship between O'Brien and his star. Iavaroni has been getting sweaty with the team actually lacing it up on the court to show his big men what he wants them to do. Iavaroni's freer offensive sets have pleased the players as well. Now if he could just get the fans to notice.

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