Saturday, September 29, 2007

Candid Damon Stoudamire Interview

Grizzlies Media Day was Friday. I'm going to share a very candid interview that Damon Stoudamire gave to the local media that I thought was worth posting. In the interview, Damon discusses his leadership ability last year, his thoughts on his role on the team, and what he did after hearing Mike Conley's name called during the draft.

Wes Pounds at 730ESPN has the audio for the interview. He also has more audio from Media Day. Clink the link and go listen.

I'm transcribing all the following from the audio on 730ESPN. I apologize for any mistakes. I may leave out some of the filler words, such as, "um, "like", "and", etc. And I'm also trying not to change any double negatives or incorrect grammar. Caveat Emptor.

Damon begins...

The thing that I don't think people really understand, is that I'm not the future of this team. You know? Two, three years from now is not about Damon Staudamire. I think that I understood that, so it really wasn't a thing with them drafting Mike, or even with Kyle here. I understand that today is today, and today is when Damon Staudamire can help this team.

Next, Damon talks about draft day and what happened after he found out the Grizzlies selected Mike Conley...

To be honest with you, and you can ask him, when they drafted Mike Conley, the first person I called was Kyle Lowry and I asked him, was he alright. The reason I did that was, that I've been in this league for 13 years, this will be my 13th year, and I asked him was he alright from the standpoint that he was the 1st round pick the year before and then they bring in a point guard. Now in hindsight that would hurt my feelings. You know what I mean? If I was in the same position. So I picked up the phone and I just thought about how I would've felt in a similar situation. I asked him, was he alright? He said he was alright. He just wanted to battle and let it fall the way it may. I was cool with that.

Damon continues...

This right now, this situation that I'm in right now, is really a win-win situation for everyone involved. I'm not the future, but maybe I can be the present. You know? To help these guys out.

Do you think the Grizzlies are young this year? does Damon...

It's so crazy. Because I've talked to alot of my friends in the league, guys I've played with in Portland. I've never been in a situation like this. I'm looking around here, and all of these guys are babies to me. None of them have really been through what I've been through. None of them have won a playoff game. None of them have really been in what is called a war. So to speak. It's crazy.

Damon then talks about himself being a teacher this year...

This year, I just look at it as an opportunity. Help alot of these guys out. In certain ways that maybe they haven't been helped out before. With Iavaroni and his coaching staff, and the conversations that we've had, they'll allow me do that.

Next is a very insightful look on Damon's thoughts on his leadership last year...

The biggest thing, to be honest with you, is that I feel 100%. It's like I tell people. Last year, I couldn't say nothing in the locker room. You can't say nothing when you're not playing. You can't say nothing when you're not 100%. Players want to see, what's going on, on the floor. But if you're out on the floor and you have the credentials that I have, to go along with the plan, it speaks for itself. The way I feel right now, I feel like now I can go to these guys and tell them the things I might have seen. I seen alot of things last year, but I couldn't really say it the way I wanted to, because hell, I wasn't playing. I was playing here, might play this game, sit out this game.

I'll wrap this up with Damon talking about how much off a crossroads this summer was in his career...

For me, it was a sense of urgency. This summer, for me, was really, Damon, you going to push yourself to the limit. You're going to push this knee to the limit to see exactly where this knee is at. Because if the knee don't respond the way you want it to this summer, then it's time to give it up. That's just how it has to be. The knee responded the way I wanted it to.

Great stuff from Damon. Love his honesty. Even the inflection he throws in while talking would emphasize the honesty of his words. Like the way he said, "I seen alot of things last year, but I couldn't really say it the way I wanted to, because hell, I wasn't playing.

In broader Grizzlies news...

The Grizzlies just had their first practice. I can feel my anticipation and excitement (which was the word of the day during Media Day interviews, everyone said they felt excited) rising. Evidently, the first practice was open to the media for a while. All the nightly newscasts showed video and interviews from the first practice. Noteworthy was the drill where the team had to score 100 points in 2 minutes. They barely missed the mark, but Coach Iavaroni said it was their body language before and during the drill that he was focused on. Iavaroni also mixed it up in the paint during some post drills.

Rank Me Please! 25 Point Guards

It is time once again for me to get entirely too serious about Tony Mejia's positional rankings. This is an annual rite of passage for me, just so you know. You can look at his efforts on Point Guards, Shooting Guards, Small Forwards, Power Forwards and Centers.

First, let me say that I know it is impossible to do these rankings and satisfy all basketball fans. Inevitably, fans will think that their guy deserves to be higher and Player X that they despise should be lower. I understand and appreciate that fact. However, what I usually take issue with is ranking players under the wrong position -- an issue where Mejia is a habitual offender. If Jason Terry and Devin Harris both start for the Dallas Mavericks, then how can both of them be ranked as point guards? Larry Hughes is undeniably best described as a combo guard, but he starts at SG for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the same position he played on his previous team, the Washington Wizards. So why is the oft-injured Hughes listed among the point guards? For the purposes of my rankings, combo guards get ranked with shooting guards since they are SG's in a PG body. Enough nit-picking though -- let's get to my rankings! Today we'll do Point Guards. I'm following Mejia's system of ranking them for the next 12 months, based on talent/skill level/expectations, regardless of their salary.

Point Guards

  1. Steve Nash - There is competition for this spot, with Nash, Jason Kidd and Tony Parker all viable candidates, but Nash's playmaking and scoring ability make him the best choice.
  2. Tony Parker - Conventional wisdom would have Jason Kidd -- one of the best PG's in NBA history -- in this spot. I think that Parker took a big step forward last season en route to winning the honors of Finals MVP and that he'll continue to progress as the team around him gets older.
  3. Jason Kidd - Slightly slower due to various injuries throughout the years, but still one of the best pure playmakers the game has ever seen. If his scoring ability was more prolific, he'd probably be in the top spot.
  4. Chauncey Billups - As clutch as they come, Billups' decision making rarely ever results in a turnover or a bad shot attempt.
  5. Gilbert Arenas - Agent Zero is one of the most unbelievable scoring machines in the league. If his shot selection and decision making can improve, he could see his name much closer to the top of this list next year.
  6. Deron Williams - His playoff performance vaulted him over CP3. They have almost identical stats, so the fact that Williams played in 17 more regular season games didn't hurt either.
  7. Chris Paul - If he can maintain his health, Springfield will be calling his name in another 10 years. Great playmaker with impressive scoring and rebounding ability.
  8. Allen Iverson - His efficiency improved across the board upon his arrival in Denver. If he can duplicate that this season, perhaps he'll help Melo reach the 2nd round of the playoffs for the first time in his career.
  9. Baron Davis - He averaged 20ppg and 8apg, so why is he so low? Because missed 19 games and still cannot accept that he's not a great perimeter shooter. He shoots 30.4% from behind the arc, the same as T.J. Ford. Ford is smart enough to only try 1 per game, though, while BD throws up 4.4 attempts per game. That's gotta change, even in Nellie's free-wheelin' system.
  10. Kirk Hinrich - Captain Kirk is tenacious and smart, displaying no outstanding strengths, but no obvious weaknesses either.
  11. Andre Miller - As consistent as they come, Miller is a true playmaking PG who looks to score as a last result. He's like a mini-Jason Kidd, right down to the non-existent perimeter shot.
  12. T.J. Ford - Despite splitting time with the underrated José Calderón, Ford ranked #6 in assists per game. The players with more assists per game than Ford last season averaged 6.3 mpg more as well.
  13. Raymond Felton - He needs to improve his mid-range game, as well as his overall shooting ability, but he's a very talented playmaker. (Side note: How about the PG's from the 2005 draft?)
  14. Maurice Williams - Forgive me if I want to see Mo duplicate last season's breakout performance before singing his praises. He posted career highs in ever category except 3PT%, so let's see if he maintains that or falls back to Earth.
  15. Mike Bibby - Some choose to see Bibby's performance last year as an aberration, but I think it is a sign of an inevitable decline, as his assist numbers have dropped each of the past two seasons after posting a career high of 6.8 apg in 2004/05.
  16. Devin Harris - He has a lot to prove after signing a sizeable contract in the offseason, having been handed the starting spot with Terry's move to SG last season.
  17. Rajon Rondo - Another classic playmaker with suspect shooting, Rondo will have a lot of pressure on him to step up his game with three All-Stars wanting the ball.
  18. Stephon Marbury - I should rank him higher based on his testimony in Isiah Thomas' trial this summer and for his affordable shoes, but Starbury is a player with good stats on bad teams. He never should have left Minnesota.
  19. Randy Foye - He finished the season strong after a typically inconsistent rookie campaign. That's good, since he'll be the logging the bulk of minutes at the PG spot. Unless of course, Sebastian Telfair rediscovers whatever it was that made him a lottery pick.
  20. José Calderón - He'd start for a lot of teams, but still makes the list because he's that good of a playmaker, even with only 21 mpg on the floor.
  21. Mike Conley Jr. - Couldn't have this list without Mr. I Can Bowl With Either Hand, now could I? I think he'll be the starter by January and will post similar numbers to Chris Paul and Deron Williams in their rookie years. In short, he'll be impressive.
  22. Sam Cassell - If I believed that he was going to be a consumate veteran leader, he'd be in the Top 15. But I don't believe that, so the Alien drops to #22 because I expect him to sulk and complain until the Clippers trade him to Boston, Miami or Cleveland.
  23. Mike James - Surely he'll rebound from the horrific season he had after signing that big contract last offseason.......right?
  24. Jameer Nelson - He's unhappy that he's not the current owner of a Devin Harris-level contract extension, so expect him to elevate his game to show the Magic what he believes he's worth.
  25. Damon Stoudamire - He'll prove that he's healthy, get traded to a playoff contender and resurrect his once-thought-to-be-dead career. His rehab from that knee injury was supposed to take two years anyways, wasn't it?

A few guys who could jump up into the Top 25 this season: Delonte West, Kyle Lowry, Daniel Gibson, Marcus Williams, Sergio Rodriguez, Acie Law IV.

Don't see your team's PG on the list? Then you should probably be worried. Tell your GM to call Houston, Portland or Seattle, since they all have multiple PG's on their roster and are willing to part with one or more of them. Direct all praise or poison to the comments section.

News and Notes

Over on they have a write-up about Media Day, which was held yesterday. There are also plenty of photos and player portraits to peruse, including the one shown here. Rudy Gay caught a fish "this big".

(Copyright 2007 NBAE. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Grizzlies announced that they signed two free agents to the training camp roster yesterday -- Kasib Powell and Dontell Jefferson.

Dontell Jefferson is a 23-year old 6'4", 195-pound guard who played two seasons with Atlanta Metropolitan College, then transferred to the University of Arkansas for his final two seasons. He then played professionally last season with the NBADL champion Dakota Wizards, where he averaged 9.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 3.7 apg and 1.37 spg. He was coached there by David Joerger, who was recently hired as a Grizzlies assistant.

Kasib Powell is a 26-year old 6'7', 215-pound forward who attended Texas Tech for 4 years. Powell played professionally overseas in Bosnia, Greece, Russia and Greece. Last year, Powell averaged 9.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 apg and 1.4 spg for Spartak (St. Petersburg, Russia) in the Russian Superleague. He attended the training camps of three different teams the past three years: Orlando Magic (2006), Chicago Bulls (2005) and Minnesota Timberwolves (2004).

In other news, it looks like the rest of the sports world has caught on to the story we reported here on Shades of Blue four days ago -- Mark Price is the shooting coach for the Memphis Grizzlies. When news breaks, we're first on the scene with the duct tape.

Marlon Morgan has a nice column in the Commercial Appeal, detailing the fact that the team is actually healthy for this season's training camp -- a big difference from last year's disastrous start. He's got quotes from Brian Cardinal, Damon Stoudamire, Marc Iavaroni and Tarence Kinsey, all of whom are ready to prove that last season was an aberration and that this team was a lot better than their record indicated. Damon, in particular, seems to have a chip on his shoulder going into this season, which could result in him playing a lot more minutes than many fans would have expected after the selection of Mike Conley Jr. on draft night.

Finally, I urge all of you to read Geoff Calkins' column in this morning's Commercial Appeal titled "There's nothing hopeless about the Grizzlies this season". In it, Calkins details just how much things have changed from the standoffish, keep-at-arm's-length approach the organization had employed for the previous few seasons when dealing with its fanbase. The column is highlighted by President of Business Operations Andy Dolich offering his parking space so that a longtime season ticket holder would renew for this season. It is a new era in Memphis for the Grizzlies, so I think everyone should be willing to give them a chance to prove themselves to the community at large.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Meet, Greet & Eat

If you want an opportunity to meet and greet your favorite members of the Memphis Grizzlies organization, this is your lucky month.

On Wednesday, October 3, the Grizzlies will hold their first ever Blue-White Scrimmage game from 12:00 - 1:00 pm.

On Saturday, October 13, you can attend the annually held free Open Practice at the FedEx Forum.

On Friday, October 19, the Grizzlies will hold another Block Party, located at Audobon Park in East Memphis, from 4:30-6:30 pm. You can view pictures from previous Block Parties on

On Saturday, Oct. 27, the Grizzlies will be holding another Block Party at Dalstrom Park in Whitehaven from 2 – 4 p.m.

On Monday, October 29 from 11:00 - 1:30 the Forum will be the site of the 7th Annual Tip-Off Luncheon, where you can mingle with the players, coaches and front office personnel, enjoy a nice meal and participate in the silent auction that benefits thd Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis. Entrance to this even is $50 per person unless you procure a 10-seat table, which can be reserved for $400. If you want the ultimate experience, you can have a member of the Grizzlies organization sit at your table for a sponsorship of $2000. We will have a table at the event under the 3 Shades of Blue name, so be sure to stop by and say hello.

That gives you plenty of opportunities to get to know the team, coaches and management for the upcoming season. Kudos to the organization for continuing to make themselves accessible to their fanbase. You can see all the events leading up to Opening Night on

In other Grizz news, there have been some staff changes. has an interview with new Assistant GM Kenny Williamson, who was previously with the Charlotte Bobcats. Williamson has been involved in the basketball world for 30 years and has an extensive background in scouting.

The Grizzlies also announced that they have a new Director of Media Relations. Dustin Krugel, most recently with the Phoenix Suns organization, will be taking over the post previously held by Stacey Mitch, who has left to pursue other NBA-related P.R. work according to Chris Herrington.

New Rule, Same Problem

We haven't heard much about the NBA referees since the Tim Donaghy scandal broke this summer. Of course, that still means we heard a lot more about the NBA officials this summer than we usually do.

What isn't being broadcast too widely is that there is a new rule going into effect this season and it doesn't involve gambling. That was already outlawed and you don't need a new rule every time someone breaks one, contrary to popular opinion. After all the rule against murder is still in place and yet people are still killed in this country. We don't need a new rule against gambling any more than we need a new rule against committing murder. Everyone already knows what the boundaries are -- they simply choose to cross them anyways.

This season referees will be allowed to go to an instant replay monitor after a flagrant foul is called to determine the severity (flagrant foul 1 or flagrant foul 2 which means automatic ejection). Yes, instant replay has now officially entered the NBA.

It is unknown at this time if an opposing coach will be given a red flag to throw on the court if he wants to initiate a review or not but I wouldn't suppose that there would be.

The funny thing is that while this is a step in the right direction, how many times in a season is a flagrant foul called anyway? I mean, do the powers that be really feel that this is the most important rule change they need to make this year?

I know I am only dreaming, but wouldn't it make more sense to take a serious look at the real problem behind NBA officiating? You don't know what the real problem is you say? Well I can promise you it isn't flagrant foul calls.

The real problem among NBA officials is the difficulty in properly administering three different sets of rules. You have the star rules, the veteran rules and the rookie rules in the NBA. Only in the NBA do you routinely hear announcers and fans say "he won't get that call as a rookie." What does that mean? Can you imagine a baseball game where a runner gets called out at 2nd and the announcer says "you knew the call was going to go that way, after all he's a rookie." How about an offensive lineman not being called for holding against a rookie defensive lineman and an announcer saying "we you can't expect a rookie to get that call." You hear comments like this all the time in the NBA.

I can actually swallow rookie calls more than the Superstar rules. This is the most egregious abuse of referee power in the league. When was the last time a star player was fouled out of a game? Referees deliberately avoid fouling out star players because there is that unwritten rule that ejecting a star denies the fans their opportunity to see these players in person. Rasheed Wallace said after a game that he knew he wouldn't be fouled out in overtime and that he actually committed more fouls during the extra period than he did in regulation.

Remember when Dwyane Wade went to the line 21 times against Dallas in the playoffs compared to 23 for the entire Mavs team? It happens every night in the NBA. Certain players are judged differently than the rest. Either they simply can't foul out or every missed shot draws a foul call, the league has a serious image problem with biased referee calls.

So forget instant replay on flagrant fouls Stu Jackson, and instead, deal with the real issue of preferential treatment by referees. Until you address that problem no one will believe that the games aren't fixed and that maybe the refs have something more on the game than just their eyes.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gasol Interview and Media Madness

Pau Gasol did a conference call interview with about international basketball, training camp, teammate Juan Carlos Navarro and the changes and adjustments he expects to see with the team this year. Here's one of the many questions he answered:

Q: You and Dirk Nowitzki are the best basketball players from Europe. Which areas do you need to improve to become an MVP player like Nowitzki?

A: I guess different areas you can always improve. To become an MVP you have to be one of the top five teams in the league to have that kind of respect and recognition from the media and press and the league. There are always things you can improve. I am continuing to work on every aspect of the game. I’m working on becoming a bigger presence on defense, to block more shots and be more consistent with my rebounding, give more consistency to my team. My offensive game is pretty clean. I’m trying to feel more comfortable to shoot a little more from outside and be more versatile; keep working on my low post game.

Reading the question above, I wonder what Tony Parker thinks about being left off the list of best players from Europe? Guess that didn't fit into the Regular Season MVP line of thinking, did it? He was only a Finals MVP, after all.

It also appears that the Memphis Grizzlies will be all over the local airwaves this season.

GM Chris Wallace has a weekly segment on 730 ESPN Radio with Chris Vernon. We here at Shades of Blue are big Chris Wallace fans, so we highly recommend listening to him go back and forth with Verno.

It was announced today in the Commercial Appeal that head coach Marc Iavaroni will have a regular segment on AM 560 WHBQ every Thursday afternoon from 5:30-6:00 PM during the regular season beginning October 18th. It is reported that he'll be have Grizzlies beat writer Ron Tillery and Sports 56 programming director Eli Savoie as co-hosts, which should prove to be interesting, to say the least. You can also go to their website to listen to interviews that Iavaroni and Wallace did earlier this week.

We bid adieu to sideline reporter Tony Luftman, as he has taken over the duties of studio host for the pre-, halftime and post-game TV reports for the Portland Trailblazers. It has been reported that Rob Fischer will be taking his place. Fischer is a local radio co-host who can be heard on AM 560 WHBQ on The Sports Bar.

Finally, when the team goes to Spain for part of training camp this month, don't despair. After all, you'll be able to watch the games on NBA TV on Oct. 9 & 11. Go to the Europe Live 2007 TV schedule to see other games they'll be carrying.

Roy Tarpley vs Reality

I normally read the basketball news services, blogs and the like for information about the NBA and it doesn't affect me much on an emotional level. I may raise an eyebrown reading about Shawn Marion being upset and wanting to be traded or chuckle a little when I read Stephon Marbury trying to get his name in the press for his sneakers by saying something totally outrageous but not much really gets under my skin and makes me boiling mad.

Today is one of those exceptions to the rule.

As some of you may know, and others are about to find out, I was a Dallas Mavericks fan since they were awarded an NBA team back in 1980. As a student at SMU I was fortunate enough to attend games from the beginning and watching the team develop from terrible (Jim Spanarkle led them in scoring thier first season) to respectable (Mark Aquirre, Rolando Blackman and Derek Harper days) to competing for the elite when Roy Tarpley was on the verge of becoming the best player in the NBA.

Roy was drafted 7th in the NBA draft and as a rookie on a playoff team he managed to average 7 points and 7 boards a game. The next three seasons he averaged a double double every year with career highs of 17.3 ppg and 13.1 rpg. Early in his career he came off the bench. He was the best 6th man in the league. George Karl said of Roy Tarpley

"He's the best player coming off the bench in our game today. I don't even think it is close. He has the one fundamental that all coaches want, but don't know how to teach, rebounding."
In 1988 Tarpley won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award when he finished 7th in the league in rebounding. He was the first person in NBA history to finish in the top 10 in rebounding as a reserve.

Roy Tarpley still holds team records for the Mavs. He was on the verge. He was the man the Mavs were building their future around. He was going to change the balance of power in the Western Conference away from the West Coast to Texas. He was single handedly going to change Dallas from a football city to a basketball city.

He never did.

In 1989 he was suspended for 49 games for violating his aftercare program for substance abuse. Basically that was strike two under the old three strikes and you are out program. Now you have to remember that in Dallas at that time SMU was just resurfacing after facing it's own three strikes situation when the football program was given the death penalty so people took that third strike seriously. Tarpley didn't. In 1991, five games into the season, Tarpley was given the death penalty for failing a drug test and the Mavericks spiraled out of control just as bad as tarpley did.

He attempted to make a comeback in 1994 but again failed a drug test. He was suspended for life from the NBA for abuse of alcohol. The Mavs, so close to the top, eventually bottomed out the year before winning a mere 13 games.

Now Tarpley is suing the NBA to be reinstated claiming protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
"Tarpley is a qualified individual with a disability within the meaning of the ADA, in that he has a disability in the form of past drug and alcohol abuse, which substantially limits at least one of his major life activities,"
That is according to a brief filed in Houston.

Understand this isn't about trying to play in the NBA anymore. Tarpley is 42 after all and hasn't played for over 10 years in the league. No, Roy Tarpley wants his name back. As a fan my first question is why wouldn't you want to change your name instead of asking for it back? Roy Tarpley killed the franchise. What was supposed to be the glory years for that franchise turned into a horror story all because of Roy Tarpley.

Who would want that name anymore?

I am glad to hear that Tarpley has cleared his life of the cocaine and alcohol demons that haunted him earlier. I wish him the best in leading a clean and sober life going forward but to sue because he was caught drinking after being warned he couldn't touch alcohol and play in the NBA is insane. Who cares if he wasn't drunk at the time he was caught. He was not allowed to drink and play in the NBA.

I don't care if Tarpley gets reinstated or not. The damage he inflicted on the fans of the Mavs is long since past. However to ask for financial restitution now is ludicrous. While this lawsuit doesn't expressly ask for money the last time he pulled this stunt he asked for $6 million and you know he is only doing this to extort money from the team and the league so be prepared for another million dollar damage claim. I hope the league doesn't give him a penny personally. He had a chance and he blew it for himself and the fans of the Mavs. It isn't the league's fault he couldn't keep clean. He lost his $20 million contract because he couldn't stay clean. Period. End of discussion.

And while Tarpley may say he is doing this to get his name back. I for one will never forget his reputation. That he can't ever reclaim no matter how many lawsuits he files.

I wonder if I can sue him for dashing the hopes of all Dallas fans?

Another Grizzlies Preview

Lawrence Buirse has posted his Grizzlies Preview over at Hoopsworld. Go over and give it a quick read. For most die hard Griz fans, there is nothing new to learn in the article. He talks about the additions to the roster, which we are all well aware of. And breaks down the players at the different positions (that seems familiar, hint, hint, hint)

It's a good read, though I do have a couple of disagreements with him on a few points.

1.) He talks about Hakim Warrick as a Small Forward. This is wrong. I'll take you back to the
Commercial Appeal article about Hak from a few weeks ago (covered by us here). Here is the key quote:

The days of Warrick trying to learn small forward appear over. Iavaroni stresses versatility but intends to count on Warrick exclusively in the frontcourt.

Ok, that is pretty clear cut. Hak will NOT be playing small forward. Sorry Buirse, it does not look like Hak will be asked to " make the transition to small forward."

2.) Here is a quote from Buirse's article:

On paper, the Memphis Grizzlies appear to be an improved team in all areas except defense.

Scoring should not be a problem for this team. Making defensive stops……that’s a tall task.

Is that what other Griz fans believe? I guess after last years performance with Barone at the helm, nothing should be taken for granted. But I fully believe we will be a much improved team on defense this year. Why?

--Marc Iavaroni was hired as head coach. He has repeatedly said that defense will be a priority. He was assigned to the defense in Phoenix, and he has coached under Pat Riley and Mike Fratello, so I'm sure he knows what he is doing. Clearly, Iavaroni is going to get the Griz to play better defense.

--We signed Darko. Darko may not be known as a defensive stopper, but his shear size and athleticism will make the frontcourt better defensively compared to what was available last year with Hak, Alexander Johnson, Lawrence Roberts, and Big Jake.

--The PG rotation now includes Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley. For the last 2 years the Griz have lacked speed and quickness at PG to stop opposing PG's from penetrating at will. No longer. The Griz arguably have the quickest PG rotation in the league now. And if we add in the perimeter defense of Kinsey and the improvement of Rudy, I think we have 4 quality perimeter players that can play lock down defense.

Chip also looked at the defensive outlook of this Grizzlies team about a month ago. Read it
here. He makes a number of points on why the Grizzlies will be better defensively this year (particularly no more Barone, 2 tall 7 footers in the paint, and Conley/Lowry/Kinsey being able to stop penetration).

So, I'm not nearly as pessimistic about the Grizzlies defensive outlook for this season. Sure we still have some players that are defensive liabilities (i.e., Miller and Hak), but a lineup of Lowry, Kinsey, Gay, Pau, and Darko will make it hard for most teams to score against the Griz easily.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Go Ahead...Request a Trade

Let me take you back to January of this year. That was when Pau Gasol allegedly demanded a trade to a "better" team. Why would I bring this up, you ask? Well, given the recent spate of trade requests and other player demands, I thought we'd take a look back at how Gasol's request was received and also how it was made, in comparison to those made by others.

Pau was fresh off recovering from a broken foot -- an injury sustained during the World Championships -- and had come back to a team in complete dissarray. Head coach Mike Fratello was fired, head of the scouting department Tony Barone, Sr. was given the task of directing the team and the team was beset by multiple injuries. So when Gasol held a closed-door meeting with owner Michael Heisley to talk about his concerns regarding the direction of the team, especially in light of the fact that the team was in limbo due to a pending sale that fell apart, leaving Jerry West with little to do with his time other than dream about spending his days in a quiet cabin in West Virginia, it didn't appear to be a hasty decision. This is especially true given that the team had been remade twice in a short time period, first adding veterans following the first playoff sweep, then bringing in a lot of youth after the third straight first round playoff sweep. That included trading away the face of the franchise, Shane Battier, a glue guy whose leadership was greatly missed during the difficult start to the season. It seems to me that Gasol's questions didn't result in the answers he expected, leading him to request a trade to a more stable team with a better chance of winning. Then this request was leaked to the media -- by whom we do not know for sure, although it has been attributed to both Heisley and Gasol's agent -- leading to an uproar among the Grizzlies' fans and hopeful dreams by every other team's fans, especially fans of the Bulls. Gasol was labeled a quitter who couldn't hack it when the going got tough, a soft, pampered baby who whines too much and was accused of giving less than maximum effort on the court. In short, he was called the Spanish Vince Carter. But those labels weren't true, especially the last one, as Gasol averaged career highs in points, rebounds, blocked shots, FG% and FT%. Last time I checked, players don't average 20 and 10 (20.8 and 9.9 to be exact) by not trying -- but maybe that's just me. Gasol didn't pack it in for the season or become a detriment to the team in any fashion. He showed up, did his job and didn't say another word about the trade request, except in answering questions about it. That's what a team player does.

Let's contrast that with what other players have done in recent months.

After succeeding in getting Shaq traded to the Eastern Conference, Kobe Bryant was The Man for the Los Angeles Lakers. Finally, it was his show and he was going to be the brightest star. Now, a scant three seasons later, he comes out and tells owner Jerry Buss to go rehire Jerry West, to find a way to bring in more talent to surround him with and then to trade him to a team with a chance of winning. In other words, turn the clock back a decade to when Kobe was the "young fella" and Shaq was the "Big Fella" and they were on the verge of winning titles? Is that what you want Black Mamba? Kobe made his bed and now he has to lie down in it. Kobe made his trade demand in a most public way, while on ESPN Radio in NYC. He put the Lakers organization in an awkward position, especially in light of how little superstar players usually bring back in recent history (see: Shaq, Garnett, Iverson). He hasn't been traded yet, but he hasn't rescinded the request either.

Speaking of Allen Iverson, how about we cover his story? He spent 10 seasons in Philadelphia, going through coaches and teammates like Pacman Jones goes through second chances. In December 2006, he demanded a trade with Minnesota and Boston being his preferred destinations. Philadelphia immediately agreed to ship him out, placing him on the bench for the remainder of his time with the team and trading him to Denver 11 days later. This followed several conflicts between Iverson and team management, including him missing mandatory events that resulted in fines. Again, a superstar player put his organization in a position of weakness by making his displeasure a very public event. It is very interesting that the Sixers played much, much better after the trade than they had done with AI on the squad.

Following his MVP performance in the FIBA European Basketball Championship, Russian star Andrei Kirilenko conducted an interview where he expressed his extreme displeasure with Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, his method of motivating his players, his system and Kirilenko's status on the team, having been relegated to 3rd fiddle with the emergence of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams last year. AK-47 made several comments that bordered on the outrageous, including saying that he would be willing to void out his max-level contract so that he could play for another team or even go back overseas to play in Russia. While I agree that Kirilenko's talents would be better utilized in a different system, he signed a massive contract to play for the Utah Jazz who employed Jerry Sloan at that time. What has changed in two years? Kirilenko made the headlines with his tirade, leading many to speculate that he would actually follow through with his threats. Not many guys walk away from $63 million guaranteed, no matter how unhappy they might be, so I doubt Andrei will either. Yet again, a very public demand that lessens the player's return value and hurts his current team.

Finally, we come to Shawn Marion, the athletic freak of nature who has decided that he'd rather play for someone else than to remain with the Phoenix Suns. He has complained that he doesn't receive the amount of respect he feels he deserves, sulked about his status as the 3rd man on the totem pole and most recently whined about his lack of a contract extension -- even though he has two years remaining on his current deal. In short, he has been a petulant baby who will no longer be considered underrated because he complains about being underrated. That gets you kicked off the list, dontchaknow. Marion made his request today in the most -- you guessed it! -- public way possible, by phone interview with an Arizona paper, as noted by Zack in his post earlier today. That's right Matrix, go ahead and put your team (Top 3 in the NBA, by the way) squarely behind the 8-ball before training camp even starts.

So, in review, I see plenty of guys going out and running their mouths about how mistreated they are, even when they either create the situation themselves (Kobe, Iverson) or are in great situations and don't feel properly loved (Kirilenko, Marion). Then I see Gasol, quietly plugging along, having a career year, despite the fact that fans booed him after the trade request was leaked and the team had a Season from Hell. This post will probably come across as the rantings of a Grizzlies homer, but given the way other players are treating their teams these days, I'll gladly toot the horn of my hometown team.

Roundtable Discussion, Part 1

The following is a roundtable discussion that occurred on September 25. This is Part 1 of a 3 part series. Be sure to leave feedback in the comments section. Due to the overwhelming length of these posts, they will be moved after the weekend, but I'll provide a link to each part for your viewing convenience.

Roundtable discussion, Part 1
Chip: New team, new coach, new season about to start. First question, let’s start at the end. How do you see the season ending?
Spartacus: I think, in all likelihood, we’re looking at 36-37 wins as the most likely scenario. We’re looking at 2 young PG’s. Navarro is a veteran overseas, but is still an NBA rookie, so we’re not sure how well he’ll go through that transition. Darko, for all intents and purposes is still a big question mark. He’s still unfulfilled potential at this point. Throw that in with a new coach and a new system and it’s an uncertain reality to face.
C: Well, we know what Darko can do to a ref’s family, but we don’t know what he can do on an NBA court.
S: Exactly.
Zack: I’m a little more optimistic. I was right around 36-38 wins, but I’ve bumped it up in the last couple weeks, looking at a win total in the low 40’s and grabbing one of those last playoff spots.
C: What do you see as the big difference that will allow us get a few extra wins to enter the playoff picture? You’re talking about an additional 5% upgrade over an 82 game season.
Z: I’ve downgraded my predictions on the rest of the West. Portland is a couple of games less now. I saw them as a playoff possibility before.
C: They still have LaMarcus Aldridge, Channing Frye, Brandon Roy, Jarrett Jack, Sergio Rodriguez.
Z: They’re loaded with young talent, that’s for sure.
S: Darius Miles is supposed to be healthy now.
C: He is healthy and is supposed to come to camp without a contract.
Z: Well, physically healthy anyways.
C: Yeah, physically. Very good point. LOL
Z: The Clippers with Brand out. They’re looking at a repeat of the Grizzlies season last year.
S: Exactly. Especially with Sam Cassell sitting there looking at Boston going, “Please.....please”
C: Now wait a minute guys, we saw Chris Kaman this summer. He completely dominated the Grizzlies big men in Summer League. None of them are actually in the NBA now and I don’t think any of them are in any training camps...
S: Summer League All-Stars! They’re the biggest crock every year.
C: He at least admitted that he needed to improve and is showing signs of carrying that out. You’ve got to look at a team with Al Thornton, Corey Maggette...
Z: Al Thornton impressed me during the summer league.
C: Summer League All-Star here too. But he’s a 23-year old rookie.
S: He impressed me last year in college, too, though. He was a little older, a little more mature than everyone else.
C: I wonder how greatly the demise of the Clippers is being overstated. It’s hard to see how they won’t have an impact with the talent they still have on that roster.
S: I think everything rests on how Sam Cassell reacts to the situation.
C: What about Tim Thomas?
S: *snort*
C: Tim Thomas plays where all of a sudden you’ve got this weird situation where there are four outside shooters, a slashing point guard and a big man in the middle. I’ve heard some people think this is an effective way to play these days. Trying to get perimeter shooters with slashers and a big guy. Hmmm...who do we know doing that?
S: There’s nobody that does that. Well, not successfully of course!
Z: Going back to the original point, I see the Grizzlies grabbing one of those last playoff spots—the 6th, 7th, 8th spot that always seems to be up for grabs.
C: Last season’s 6th-8th spots were who?
Z: Golden State, the Lakers and Denver.
C: I look at those teams and wonder, where is the slide? Granted, the Lakers aren’t going to improve, but are they gonna slide? They do have one or two guys who can shoot.
Z: I think they’re going to slide, because they’ve got turmoil. They’re in a big media market ready to pounce—they’ll take anything they can get.
S: Who exactly were their big offseason acquisitions? They got Derek Fisher.
C: Which is a pretty good acquisition.
S: But other than that, what did they do?
C: They re-signed Luke Walton.
Z: They drafted a PG for the second year in a row, just like the Grizzlies.
C: They’ve got Jordan Farmar starting because they got rid of their starter from last season because Smush Parker is in Miami now.
Z: Javaris Crittendon is who they drafted.
C: I don’t have a lot of faith in rookie PG’s, as much as it pains me to say that.
S: And Crittendon is more of a scorer than a playmaker, whereas Farmar is the opposite.
Z: Then you have the Warriors losing Jason Richardson, which will definitely hurt them in the short term as they try to replace his scoring.
S: Losing Richardson and then waving good-bye to Jasikevicius, which means both of their SG’s are gone from last season.
Z: Baron Davis is wanting a contract extension.
C: He won’t get it.
S: And Monta Ellis probably stepping into the starting lineup.
Z: They’ve got some question marks, which is why I’ve got the Warriors and Lakers falling out of the postseason, even if Memphis doesn’t take their spot.
C: So, if someone was going to fall, you’ve got those two. Who do you see, other than the Grizzlies, potentially stepping up?
Z: You’ve got to like the Hornets.
S: We were talking about them earlier today. You almost have to like them. Peja is back healthy, they signed MoPete in the offseason and Tyson Chandler looks like he’s ready to just destroy the entire league on his own.
C: As long as he doesn’t have to shoot the ball anyways.
Z: And I really like David West. He hits that 15-ft. elbow shot all day long.
S: He’s like another P.J. Brown. He says, “I’m just going to sit out here all day long until you stop me”.
C: David West is an average PF who can take advantage of whatever you give him, but won’t enforce himself on anyone.
S: He’s not going to go down to the low post to bang around with everyone. Like Zack said, he’ll take that mid-range shot all night and at the end of the game you look at the stats and go, “Hey, West had 22 and 11. How did that happen?”
C: Offensive rebounds. He grabs 4-6 every game it seems, which allows him easy putbacks, so he doesn’t have to shoot that much to get his points. He’ll get points and rebounds, but he doesn’t seem to give you much else. Like David Berri said after reading Ryan Schwan’s Hornets blog—he’s average. But on the right team, an average player can be exceptional.
Z: I like their coach, too.
C: The Original Grizzly—Byron Scott.
Z: I think he’ll rally the troops. Even when they’ve had injuries, I thought he handled things well. A lot of the 82 game season is about who can deal with adversity. Who can suffer an injury to a key contributor and keep the momentum until that guy can make it back.
C: If I was going to say that there is one thing that scares me about calling the Hornets a lock for the playoffs, it is that they seem fragile. There isn’t a single player on their team that I would bet would play 80 games this year.
Z: Chris Paul, he’s so young, but he plays a style that lends itself to contact.
C: It’s such a physical game and he’s not really a physical specimen. You’ve also got Peja...
Z: History speaks for itself there.
C: But they’ve also got the ironman in MoPete. Until last season, he had the longest active consecutive game streak going. Of course, you find that when people break down, especially around the age of 30, it doesn’t seem to stop with just one injury.
S: It becomes a chronic problem, more often than not.
Z: Speaking of injuries, if there was one Western Conference team that you think is going to get the injury bug this year, who would it be? There’s always one.
S: Sacramento.
Z: I’m looking at Sacramento or Utah.
C: You know who I think? What do you look for when you look for potential injury bug? Players who play a lot of minutes.
Z: Rely heavily on one player.
C: Teams that have a preponderance of older players.
Z: And a short bench.
C: And a team that avoided injury the previous year. I’m picking the San Antonio Spurs. Nobody got hurt last year. They basically go 6 deep and they’re all over 40. You look at that team and go, “If Tim Duncan doesn’t go down, it probably doesn’t matter”. They did finish 3rd in the conference and 2nd in their division last year and still managed to be 1st overall. But you look at a team with Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry, Manu Ginobili. Fabricio Oberto has already broken his jaw, his face, something like that. Tony Parker’s never been hurt, Tim Duncan is passing 30. Who else? That’s their 6 or 7 guys, right?
Z: So who is more valuable to them? Parker or Duncan?
C: Duncan in the regular season and Parker in the playoffs. Because Duncan, night in and night out, never seems to fail you. He’s going to do his job.
S: 25 and 10, just like clockwork.
C: Parker in the playoffs, just has so much speed that they more he wears out the opponent, the more effective he becomes. In a short series, I want Parker. Over 82 games, I want Tim Duncan.
S: With that speed that Parker brings, it frustrates a defense. And in a playoff series, where you know that you’re going to see the same guy the next night and the next night, it becomes a mental issue, which makes him even more effective. That’s why quick heady point guards destroy teams in the playoffs.
C: So my Glass Team, the Red Cross team to watch this year is the Spurs. It’s very hard to do it two years in a row.
S: Part of the reason why they’ve been prevented from winning consecutive titles. It seems like someone ends up with a nagging injury late in the season that affects their postseason performance. That’s what happened with Duncan two years ago when they lost to Dallas. He goes down towards the end of the year and never fully recovers in time for the playoffs.
Z: So who’s better—the Spurs, Mavs or Suns? They’ve been the top three for a few years now.
C: This is the first year that I see there being some weakness at the top. Not a lot, but it is there. Of the three, I think in the regular season, you have to say that the Dallas Mavericks have the best combination of depth and talent.
S: What did they have, 67 wins last year?
C: Yeah, and the only guy who could beat them was their former coach.
S: Did you read the post by Henry Abbott on TrueHoop today about them hiring Paul Westphal? The guy he quoted just absolutely destroyed them for that move. Apparently, he was a student at Pepperdine and believes that Westphal destroyed that program. He detailed the roster from 2 or 3 years ago, where there were 3 or 4 NBA level talents on the team and they finished below .500 in the WCC.
Z: And he was using John Calipari’s, well it was his (Westphal’s) “Attack, Attack, Attack” philosophy?
S: The guy went on to say that he had that much talent in one of the worst conferences in America and still ran the program into the ground? Why would you want him anywhere near your team?
C: The last time Dallas hired a former Phoenix coach, it didn’t end well. When John MacLeod came to Dallas, he had a great history of running a team from top to bottom. Then he promptly took a playoff team that made the Conference Finals in his first year and dropped them off a cliff. They won like 15 games by the time he was done with them. That’s why I’ve never been a fan of hiring former Phoenix coaches. Uhh..........Phoenix head coaches that is!
S: Nice save.
C: Well, we’ve kind of covered the West now. Can anyone stop Boston in the East?
Z: I think so.
S: We’ve gone over this before. I even had a blog post about it, because I’m not conceding the conference championship to Beantown just yet.
C: I’m not conceding the division to them yet.
S: They asked Jason Kidd about that the other day, if anyone can stop Boston. He said that Toronto won the division last year and all of a sudden everyone is counting them out. I’m not sure why. They’re a great team that’s only going to get better.
C: New Jersey is still solid, too.
S: Exactly what he said. He felt that his team still had a great shot. There are others in the East, too. With Miami, it would take...
C: A miracle?
S: Well, a healthy Shaq, Wade and a lot of help from their role players to beat the Celtics in a playoff series. I think that Chicago could potentially take anybody down in a best of 7, if they are clicking on all cylinders.
C: I think if any team can come up out of the East and truly be an elite team, you have to look at Chicago before you look at Boston.
S: Well, you can’t forget about Detroit either.
Z: I’m a big fan of the Pistons’ chances in the East. They are getting old and their days are numbered, but they’re still dangerous.
C: Is Webber coming back?
S: No, they are moving Rasheed over to center and starting Antonio McDyess at PF.
C: Interesting. I don’t think that will work, but we’ll see.
S: Here’s the thing though. With Sheed, you’ve got the one guy that Tim Duncan freely admits gives him absolute fits when they are matched up. That was at PF. You move him to C and he becomes the Mehmet Okur of the East, because McDyess can hit the midrange shot with consistency too. Can you see the frontcourt guys in the East following him out to the perimeter?
Z: I also really like the young wing guys for Detroit—Arron Afflalo and Rodney Stuckey.
C: Summer League All-Stars again.
S: Not as much as you’d think. Afflalo I wasn’t as high on, but I detailed Stuckey in our draft preview. He’s just a flat-out scorer.
C: They’ll still have that typical rookie adjustment. (Speaking directly to Zack:) I can’t believe that you’re talking to me about Afflalo after I wrote about him over the summer and you chastised me about him. Don’t even talk to me about Arron Afflalo!
Z: I just didn’t like him college.
S: He looked good in college...just not in the tournament.
C: He was the only guy on their team that could score.
C: What will end first, the New York Knicks season or Isiah Thomas’ trial?
Z: You mean trials?
S: Yeah, are we including the future civil suits that will be forthcoming?
Z: I’ve been reading the headlines from this trial and it looks like something out of Penthouse. It’s unbelievable.
S: I don’t know. Like Chip has said before, if you have jurors falling asleep during proceedings, it can’t be that interesting.
C: I’ve never heard of a sexual harassment suit where people were falling asleep. That doesn’t seem to follow.
S: Of course, the clips they’ve had of Isiah and Starbury on The Fanhouse and Deadspin have been endlessly entertaining. Absolutely priceless.
Z: So who’s winning the East?
C: I’m going out on a limb and saying Chicago.
S: I think they are still a year away.
C: I thought they were a year away last year.
S: They still haven’t added any low-post scoring. That’s still holding them back.
C: Ben Wallace is currently enrolled in the Mark Price Shooting School.
S: I think Detroit does it as kind of a last hurrah before they begin a minor rebuilding phase. They need to rebuild their frontcourt.
C: You’ve got to face facts though. The Red Sox have the best record in baseball. The Patriots are a dynasty that’s gotten better. It’s obvious that it is a New England type of year. It’s happened once before where one city held all three major sports crowns at one time. It was a “Tiger Slam”, not a Bobby Jones Slam, as it spanned two calendar years, but they were all in possession at one time. It was the Knicks, Jets and Mets in 1969-70. Boston/New England has a really good shot at doing that this year.
Z: I’ve got to stick with the Central Division and go with the Pistons.
C: You’re not taking the Knicks? Interesting that nobody is taking the Heat. We haven’t even talked about Orlando.
S: They have to get an upgrade at PG. Jameer Nelson is not the answer if you want to go far in the playoffs.
C: They have an interesting situation where this coming summer all three of their PG’s will be free agents...and they have no money.
Z: They’re not talking with Nelson on an extension right now either.
S: They realize they have to get an upgrade, so they might be in the market for one of Houston’s 8 PG’s.
Z: What about the Cavs?
C: I don’t believe that they will be able to re-sign both Andersen Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic, which makes them weaker right off the bat. Larry Hughes is still fragile and Big Z is getting older by the second. Drew Gooden is getting more and more confident, which is always a bad thing. LeBron James can only do so much. It was a fluke run last year. Let’s face it—how many times can he go out on a court and score 29 of the team’s last 30 points, including 25 straight? That was probably the best individual performance I’ve ever seen in an NBA game, and I’ve seen Dominique Wilkens and Larry Bird’s battles, and I saw Michael Jordan a hundred times. That game was the best effort by a single player I’ve ever seen, and it shocked Detroit so much that it cost them the series.
Z: And I think this is in spite of the coach not really utilizing LeBron in the best way. I never really liked what he’s done with LeBron to this point. Against the Spurs, he really took it to them in the post early in the first game...and then they never went back to it. I really question their coach more and more every time I watch them.
S: If you remember, it was about halfway through this past season, there were rumblings that LeBron was unhappy and thinking, “Hey, maybe I need a new coach here”. Then, all of a sudden, they go on a run, make the playoffs and the rest is history. That problem still remains though. I think that’s what is going to hold Boston back, as well. Doc Rivers is a (cue Bill Walton) H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E coach. He was a horrible coach in Orlando.
C: He got them to the playoffs.
S: And what happened then? They blow a 3-1 series lead against Detroit that began the futility that is Tracy McGrady’s quest to surpass the first round of the playoffs. Speaking of T-Mac, what do we think about Houston? Best offseason in the West?
Z: I think so, and I can’t believe that that package includes Stevie Francis.
C: That’s the key. I question whether or not they truly had the best offseason outside of Boston. I’ll play devil’s advocate here. They have something like 16 signed PG’s, right?
S: The only team with more is Portland, because they insist on getting one thrown in with every trade they make.
C: Yeah, but Portland hasn’t signed them all—they just own their rights. I mean, how do you see Steve Francis, Mike James, Rafer Alson and the kid from Oregon, Aaron Brooks, working together? That’s four PG’s and not nearly enough playing time to go around.
S: First of all, forget about Brooks. He’s a non-entity this year.
C: But he was a Summer League All-Star!
S: Point taken. Rafer Alston—they’ll find a way to either trade him or waive him.
C: Then you’re still left with Mike James and Steve Francis.
S: Which is OK if you’re bringing Steve Francis off the bench as your 6th man, saying “Hey, go out there and score”.
C: And Steve Francis is willing to accept that role.
S: I think if you let him know “We don’t want you to do anything but score”, I can’t imagine him not being OK with that.
C: Has he ever felt any team thought otherwise?
S: That’s just it. If he’s in the starting lineup, you can’t have him doing that. He has to be a playmaker/facillitator to get Yao Ming involved in the offense, first and foremost. That’s one thing I still don’t think they’ve grasped as the key to their success.
C: How does Yao fit in with Rick Adelman’s typical style of play? Again, everyone agreed that he’s a great hire...but is he the right hire for that team?
S: I think there are still a lot of questions about that, although his history with big men who can pass well—Divac, Webber, Miller—says that he’ll “work things out” just fine.
C: Then there’s McGrady. Has he ever made it through a season without injury concerns? And then we’re going to put him in an up-and-down the floor style of play with his bad back? You’ve got a 7’6” sloth at center. Let’s face it, he’s incredibly talented, but he is not fast. Big Jake beat him down the court for pete’s sake. Then you’ve got T-Mac and his back, Bubble Butt Bonzi and then Shane, who isn’t a speed merchant. And you want to play an uptempo pace?
Z: They might have the highest ceiling and the lowest low.
C: Exactly. I don’t really know what to expect from this team. As they get closer to the playoffs and realize that they’re destined for 3rd in the division...or maybe even 4th.
S: I don’t know. I could see them moving up to 2nd behind Dallas.
C: San Antonio breaks?
S: No, the Spurs realize, much like the Lakers did, that you don’t have to win 60+ games every year. You just have to make the playoffs and then take care of business. All they have to do is make the postseason.
C: Especially if they make the playoffs and then play Houston in the first round, because that’s a guaranteed win. LOL
Z: With Houston, I think the best recipe for success will be to have McGrady as the de facto PG. Even if he doesn’t bring the ball up the floor, in the half-court sets, he has the ball in his hands and makes the decisions.
C: That could work, because none of their PG’s are really pass-first playmakers. Of course, then you have McGrady and Shane......and backing them up, thinking he’s more talented than they are, unhappy Bonzi.
S: I don’t like having Rafer Alston on that team. I don’t like Bonzi on that team, because he’ll do what’s best for Bonzi at the expense of everyone else. The one thing that I think makes this the best offseason for them was getting Luis Scola. That move, by itself, the acquisition of a consistent low-post presence to put next to Yao is a tremendous upgrade over a Juwan Howard or an undersized guy like Chuck Hayes.
C: So, just so I’m clear, we’re saying their great move is bringing in a rookie international player?
S: Yeah. Well that, and bringing back Mike James and Steve Francis. Again, with all respect to Marc Stein’s rankings, I put us a close second in the West with the moves the Grizzlies made this offseason. I look at Seattle’s moves and just don’t see how their moves fit together.
C: I don’t see Seattle’s moves doing anything substantial for them for the next 24 months.
Z: I agree. While you can look at their moves and say, “Wow great moves”, in reality what they did was trade away proven talent now for potential in the future.
C: Potential at the same position with Durant and Green.
Z: Kurt Thomas was a nice pickup, as well as the additional draft picks that came with him.
C: That was a nice move on the Sonics part.
Z: Let’s say you make the same trade that Seattle did. Do you take Jeff Green at # 5 with Durant already being take at # 2? There’s a slew of choices at # 5 and you take another SF.
S: That’s exactly what we talked about the other day. How do you not take Corey Brewer, Brandan Wright or Yi Jianlian? Do you think Yi would have balked at being in Seattle?
C: Of course not. Jeff Green is the one guy I thought fit poorest alongside Durant.
Z: Didn’t I read that they’re going to play Durant at SG?
S: Sure did. A 6’10” SG that's the size of a # 2 pencil.
C: Well, you can’t play him under the basket.
S: You can put him at SF where his height still gives him an advantage over most guys. He’s not a physical player at all, though. It’s funny, because right now he’s looking more and more like Rashard Lewis....the guy Seattle just shipped out of town for a conditional 2nd round pick. I still cannot believe the contract that the Magic gave him.
--End Part 1--

Airport Arrest Still Unresolved for Memphis PG

This caught me by surprise today.

Today on AOL Fanhouse, there is a post by Matt Watson (who links to Dime Mag) that mentions Damon Stoudamire's 2003 misdemeanor arrest while trying to sneak a little herb onto a plane is still unresolved. The most startling point Watson makes is that Stoudamire could spend up to 180 days in jail in Washington for a violating a previous plea bargain in another case. Uh, oh. One would hope it is common sense not to wrap any illegal narcotics in aluminum foil before passing through an airport metal detector. That should be especially true if one is still on probation for an earlier incident.

I must mention that all of this happened before Damon's tenure in Memphis, which makes it all the more troubling that if the situation isn't resolved and any subsequent legal action is taken against Damon, the Grizzlies could be hurt in the process.

I think the likely outcome of this will be for the judge to either throw the case out (it's good to be rich and famous), or the prosecution striking another plea deal with Staudamire that would result in no jail time. Still, the situation needs to be monitored for future developments.

Trouble in the Desert


The tensions between Shawn Marion and the Phoenix Suns have been simmering on the back burner for a few years now. Well, that unwatched pot finally started to boil today. In an Arizona paper, Matrix said this morning that it is "Time for me to move on".

Marion is fed up with another summer of the Suns considering to trade him. Marion is irked that the team is not willing to talk about a contract extension. After eight years in Phoenix, Marion wants to leave the Suns and has let the team know in recent weeks.

"I'm tired of hearing my name in trades," Marion said by phone from his Chicago home Tuesday night. "I love my fans in Phoenix but I think it's time for me to move on."

Marion holds a player option after this year where he can void his contract and become a free agent. Logic tells us that he would be stupid to walk away from 17 million next year since he probably couldn't get close to that much per season next year on the open market. Still, Marion was hoping the Suns would negotiate a contract extension with him this year where he was reportedly looking for 3 years at a astronomical total of 60 Million.

All those previous rumblings of disharmony in the Suns locker room and jealousy between Marion and Amare look very credible now.

What will happen next? Stay tuned. The same publication quoted above speculates on possibly trading Marion for AK47 or Lamar Odom. From a Grizzlies perspective, I'm hoping whatever happens of this weakens the Suns and doesn't improve another Western Conference team in the process. Though my money is on Nash smoothing things over. But one thing is clear. Steve Kerr now faces his first real test of being a NBA General Manager.

Update (9-27-07, 11am):

Here is some recommended reading on the Marion trade request...

First, TrueHoop's take which pulls together alot of the past events and important articles regarding Marion and the Suns.

Second, Bill Simmon's take, which not surprisingly includes him saying he say this coming last year.

And I'll add that it is looking like Marion will show up Monday and be the last Sun to arrive for camp.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Gameshow: Name that Owner!

As Chip, Zack and myself were wrapping up our roundtable discussion on our predictions for the NBA and the Grizzlies (coming soon to a blog post near you), an interesting topic came up. Through a roundabout way, we began questioning why it was that owners who are in the news are typically the "bad owners" in the NBA. There are some exceptions, with Mark Cuban (Mavericks) and the Maloofs (Kings) being the two most obvious examples, but by and large, if people know the name of your owner, chances are he's not in the upper echelon of ownership rankings. Who are the owners of the Spurs, Suns or Pistons? Anyone know? Bueller?

Let's take a look at the owners most serious NBA fans can name right off the bat, excluding the two we already mentioned. George Shinn (Hornets), Donald Sterling (Clippers), Clay Bennett (Sonics), James Dolan (Knicks), Jerry Buss (Lakers), Herb Kohl (Bucks), Glen Taylor (T'Wolves), Michael Heisley (Grizzlies), Jerry Reinsdorf (Bulls), Larry Miller (Jazz) and Paul Allen (Blazers). For a full list of NBA owners, go to the list compiled by the always helpful Hoopshype. Of the guys on that list, which ones own teams that (1) belong in the upper half of the NBA, (2) haven't allowed incompetence to remain in their organization and (3) haven't suffered as a result of the owner's insistence in either meddling in basketball issues or being in the news for the wrong reason? Well, by my count, we can take Herb Kohl, Larry Miller, Paul Allen and Jerry Reinsdorf off that list using that criteria, although Reinsdorf only gets a pass because Jerry Krause is perceived to be at fault for the dismal years the Bulls suffered through after their dismantling following the second three-peat. Ok, so now we have a list we can dissect.

George Shinn (New Orleans Hornets) -- #1 on my list because he has worked hard to set the bar high in alienating fans in not just one, but two cities. He's willing to spend money, which is something others won't do, but he's also a thorn in commissioner David Stern's side, having forced a move from Charlotte after doing his best to convince fans not to show up to support the hometown team. He's the poster boy for Bad Owners.

Donald Sterling (L.A. Clippers) -- He's finally decided to start spending some money on his team, after decades of feeding off the fact that not all of the actors/actresses, agents, power brokers, wannabe's in Los Angeles could score tickets to the Lakers and partook of the Clip Joint in order to see the NBA in action. It's hard to feel too sorry for Clippers' fan, with it being so blatantly obvious that Sterling was a cheapskate, but that doesn't exonerate him from being a bad owner. Especially when he commits the cardinal sin of becoming newsworthy in a tabloid sense.

James Dolan (N.Y. Knicks) -- You know what, just read this...and this...and this...and this. David Stern would love to throw this guy out of the league for all of eternity -- I can guarantee that. That doesn't even cover the incompetence he's allowed by his last two GM's either. Wonder if he'll manage to outlast Isiah in New York?

Clay Bennett (Seattle Supersonics) -- Has shot near the top of the "Bad Owners" rankings with his abrupt about-face concerning the Sonics' remaining in the Pacific Northwest. It went from a statement of hope last September to the current turmoil of a possible move to Las Vegas, Oklahoma City or who knows what other location he might come up with. Nothing like lying to an entire region with a straight face to cement your place among the most reviled in NBA ownership.

Jerry Buss (L.A. Lakers) -- So far, he has meddled in team affairs and been featured in the news for bad behavior. But, unfortunately, it would be impossible for him to alienate his fanbase, so we'll have to settle for two out of three, I guess. I don't know that he's a bad owner, per se, but he's been visible for all the wrong reasons, which is bad for an organization.

Glen Taylor (Minnesota Timberwolves) -- He doesn't make the gossip sheets and he stays out of team affairs as much as possible, so he's this close to being a good owner. But, alas, he continues to allow Kevin McHale to run basketball operations, which has been steadily dragging this franchise down, eventually costing the team its star player -- and subsequently its drawing power -- this past offseason with the trade of Kevin Garnett to Boston. McHale should have been fired long ago, after the Joe Smith fiasco, but Taylor continues to employ him, allowing his incompetence to flourish, because he doesn't think there is someone better out there. That's unfortunate for the fans in Minnesota, who deserve more than the mediocrity they have been given for the majority of their existence.

Michael Heisley (Memphis Grizzlies) -- If you're reading this blog, you were probably waiting for this entry in particular. Heisley used to say and do all the right things, from being visible at the games in his courtside seat to allowing his basketball personnel to make decisions and spend money where necessary. However, when he decided to limit Jerry West's authority in terms of player acquisitions and trades, he stepped over the line that owners should recognize as a necessary boundary. Then he announced the team was for sale and allowed a farcical offer to seem legitimate before allowing the NBA to shoot it down, throwing a wet blanket over an already dismal season. He has faded to the background for now, but something tells me that once the team shows some success again, he'll announce the team is on the market again, creating uncertainty throughout the organization for another season. I hope that is not the case, but experience tells me to expect something along those lines.

I would have added in the Atlanta ownership group, but their fans have suffered through enough horrors without me detailing it, so for once, I'll pull a punch. I think we've been able to illustrate that well-known owners are far-too-often known for the wrong reasons in today's NBA. If you're a fan of one of the teams I've listed above, just know that I feel your pain. If your team wasn't listed above, consider yourself one of the lucky ones, as you don't have to deal with the issues the rest of us face as fans of teams with bad owners. Count your blessings and hope that your owner remains in the background, signing the checks, but allowing his basketball people to make the decisions he pays them to while keeping them in line, and doing his best to stay out of the news and off of Sportscenter.

Mark Price Shoots Straight

Marc Iavaroni said in his WHBQ56 Radio that Mark Price was working out with our point guards this off-season.

My first thought was GREAT! Mark Price was a damn good shooter and is considered the best point guard the Cleveland Cavaliers ever had in their history (unless you want to consider LeBron James a point guard of course). He was part of the highly successful Cavs teams of the 90s that included Brad Daughtery, John 'Hot Rod' Williams, Craig Ehlo and Larry Nance. They were generally recognized as one of the best teams in the league during the Chicago Bulls run and Mark Price was among the best point guards in the league. Why shouldn't we hire Mark to work with our guys?

Then I remembered that not every ex-player is a great coach. Is this just a publicity stunt or what? I am usually a little skeptical after all. So I did a little digging.

Mark is currently partnered up with Suwanee Sports Academy in Atlanta, Ga where he has the Mark Price Basketball School. The premises have 100,000 sq ft of area and 7 full sized basketball courts. Mark has a special program he runs called the Mark Price Shooting School where he holds clinics for high school players to teach them fundamentals. He utilizes the NOAH Shooting System that measures the arc of shots. That combined with the DartFish Technology system can really break down a shot for a player and show him what he is doing wrong and how he can improve.

Does it work? I don't know. I was told that 5 NBA teams utilize the Suwanee Sports Academy to help them so someone thinks it does.

Mike and Kyle didn't actually go down to the SSA campus however. I was told that Mark Price came up to Memphis to work with them here instead. I don't know if he brought the machine or the computer program with him.

So what do I know?

I know that Mark Price learned to shoot from his father. That is the same father who taught Gary Bowen how to shoot free throws. Who is Gary Bowen you ask? Gary Bowen was the first, and as far as I know, only coach in the NBA who is specifically charged with teaching players how to shoot free throws. Dallas has finished in the tops of the league in FT shooting since he was hired. I don't think that is just a coincidence. I know that Mark Price wants to increase his representation with the NBA and so wants to make a good impression every chance he gets. The people I talked with in Atlanta said that while their emphasis is on younger players Mark wants to focus on the pros. His work with Lowry and Conley is important for him to build his reputation.

And his work with Conley and Lowry is very important to the team. If our players can improve their perimeter shooting then the team will be far more dangerous than expected. Apparently Rudy Gay just missed the practice because of a scheduling conflict but the idea that the team is taking a professional approach to improving their shooting is very encouraging.

I don't know who to thank for bringing Mark Price to Memphis but I sure do like the way that person is thinking.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Links: Marc Iavaroni Interviews and ESPN Grades the Offseason

Memphis Grizzlies head coach Marc Iavaroni was on Sports 56 this morning with George Lapides and Geoff Calkins. Iavaroni talks about what he expects from the team heading into training camp and for the rest of the season. Go to their website to hear the interview in its entirety.

Looks like Ron Tillery is finished with his offseason, as he's found time to interview the new GM and the new coach of the hometown Memphis Grizzlies in the past week. I hope this won't affect his preparation for the Babe Draft. Click here to read his Q & A with Iavaroni.

Bethlehem Shoals of AOL's The Fanhouse read the interview above and has an interesting take on Iavaroni's view of his current point guards versus the man/myth/legend that is Steve Nash. He wonders if this could result in a bumpy relationship with Mike Conley, Jr. as a result of expectations being too high and not leaving enough room for him to grow and know, like it took Nash a few years to get comfortable.

Marc Stein released his Western Conference Offseason Grades today, to follow up his look at the Eastern Conference over the weekend. He has the Grizzlies at #3 in the West, behind Houston and Seattle.

Only a small handful of teams had a more fruitful offseason than the Grizz, whose new brain trust (general manager Chris Wallace and coach Marc Iavaroni) has already generated some new hope after drafting Mike Conley, signing Darko Milicic and trading for Gasol's close friend Juan Carlos Navarro.

Overall, a very complimentary review of what the Grizzlies' front office has accomplished this offseason.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Preseason Predicton Confusion

This time of year everyone has opinions.

Joel Brigham at predicts the Grizzlies will flirt with 50 wins and return to the playoffs. A combination of a healthy and motivated Gasol (apparently averaging 21 pts and nearly 10 rebounds last season was accomplished without Gasol being motivated), promising new players, a new coach and improvement from the returning players and the propensity for people to overlook Memphis will create a symmetry of success.

On the other side of the fence we have David Berri and his Wages of Wins statistical work that suggests that while Gasol and Miller will be strong players again that the combination of players who are sub-standard and/or inexperienced will drag down the overall team effect. Mr. Berri also believes that coaching has far less to do with outcomes than most people believe. Having read much of what Mr. Berri has written it is difficult to argue with the logic of his assumptions. His prediction is a better year than last but not a playoff contender or even pretender. Some improvement but still a bad team.

In the middle you have people like Phil Partington at Suite101, an on-line open posting magazine (I have no idea what that literally means by the way). Mr. Partington believes that Memphis will be one of the most improved teams in the league this season but still fail to reach the playoffs. His prediction fails at one level. He predicts a 13 game improvement and a final record of 38-44. Apparently English Composition is his forte, not math. 13 wins only brings the Grizzlies to 35 wins Phil.

Where do I stand on the upcoming season? I have looked at the team's point guards, wing men and interior players and I see talent at all three spots. Far more talent than we have had in total at any time since the Grizzlies came from Vancouver. However I also feel the team has the look of a 3rd year expansion team. The team has talent and some experience but is lacking cohesion and chemistry. It will probably develop during the season but in a difficult conference and the most difficult division there isn't time for slow starts and team building. I also have a bad feeling about the trip to Spain during training camp. This team needs to spend time bonding on the court not in a plane and traveling over the Atlantic Ocean twice in a week takes a heavy toll on your body, even if you are a professional athlete. That disruption puts the team behind the 8 ball right off the bat.

I have serious qualms about rookies playing the point, especially when they aren't score first point guards. Granted Kyle Lowry had an awesome start last season but he also played select minutes and very few games. Mike Conley and Lowry have no outside shot and teams will be able to play off them daring them to take outside shots. Until they hit those shots with regularity they will find it difficult to create mayhem in the paint.

Our perimeter players are strong but Rudy Gay needs to become more consistent and use his ability better. Summer league showed both what Rudy is capable of and what he is content on doing. He needs to be the dominant player that his physical ability says he should be and not the disappearing act he so often was in college and last season. Navarro and Kinsey should have an interesting battle for minutes off the bench and if Rudy isn't careful TK may just beat him out of minutes allowing Miller to play more at his natural small forward position.

The real mystery is still the interior. Pau Gasol will be the leading scorer and rebounder on the team again. He should average 20+ points and possibly reach the elusive 10 boards a game as well. That is definite. Everyone else comes with question marks. Can Darko be more than his previous four seasons in the NBA have shown? Can Hakim play defense well enough to justify court time? No one questions Hak's offensive ability and speed at the power forward position but last season he gave up more points than he scored. Will Stromile Swift play? Can Cardinal return from another knee surgery? Who is Andre Brown?

The Grizzlies are a team with many questions and a broken training camp schedule. That means a slow start to the season the way I look at it. Things should become better as the season progresses and the team's depth will pay dividends during the dog days of the season. Unfortunately it won't be enough to even reach the fourth spot in the division and fifth place teams don't make the playoffs in the Western Conference.

I expect between 33 and 36 wins, a bright future but a lottery pick next year. Sorry Washington but you will most likely have to wait at least one year to get our #1 pick.

Update: NBA Glue says not to sleep on the Grizzlies.

2005 Lottery Pick No Longer a Clipper

During the 2005 NBA Draft, three players fell further than expected: Danny Granger, Gerald Green, and Hakim Warrick. Those three ended up going 17th, 18th, and 19th, respectively.

One reason the Griz were able to snag Hak at #19 is because the Clippers fell asleep at the wheel and drafted Yaroslav Korolev at #12. Here is what the Sports Guy had to say at the time in his annual running draft diary:

8:44 – Did you enjoy the Elgin Baylor Era? The Clips took Mike Dunleavy's guy (Yaroslav Korolev) at No. 12, signifying Elgin's inevitable move upstairs that came about eight years too late. We'll remember Elgin as a Hall of Famer, a veteran of the lottery process, and the guy who said about Shaun Livingston's progress last year, "It might take a season, it might take half a season, it might take a year." Farewell, Elgin. Farewell.

(And just for the record, as a Clippers season-ticket holder, consider this my formal complaint that they passed on Granger for some Russian dude who can't help them for three to four years. I'm sending my second installment of my payment plan to the Clips right after I dip it in golden retriever urine.)

I bring this up because last week the Clippers announced they have rescinded their contracted offer on Yaroslav Korolev, the 12th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Only 2 years after being a lottery pick, Korolev will be lucky to make an NBA roster this year.

I take satisfaction in seeing other NBA teams blow a draft pick, espicially teams in the West drafting ahead of the Grizzlies. (This year the laughs on you Portland....hahaha....just kidding....sort of)

One goal I have while blogging during the upcoming NBA season is to introduce Griz fans to other blogs around the net that cover a specific NBA team. This seems like a good opportunity to do that for the Clippers. Clips Nation covers the Clippers on SBNation. Needless to say, ClipperSteve doesn't seem thrilled with what transpired with Korolev:

1. They wasted a lottery pick on a guy that no one else would have taken in the lottery
2. They wasted a roster spot on a guy who wasn't ready.
3. They did nothing to develop the guy.
4. They didn't leave him in Europe.
5. They could have drafted for immediate help.
6. They could have drafted for spectacular potential.

So, Elgin, thanks for helping Hak fall to the Grizzlies in 2005. With Brand out, I'm sure Hak could have been useful this year.