The Grizzlies are in Spain. No surprise to anyone reading this site.
What some fans might be surprised at is the level of coverage we have to devour.
First, I'd like to praise the blogging Ron Tillery is doing (did I just say that?) over at the Memphis Edge, the blog ran by the Commercial Appeal (go check it out, you'll also find some great posts from Chip there, like this one). I'm happy to see the CA sending Tillery over to Spain. He has photos and even some videos. Here are some highlights from his first few posts from Spain:
--The Grizzlies flew in style.
--Lots of media there to greet the Grizzlies. Ok, ok. Lots of media there to greet Pau and Navarro.
--Mike Conley likes McDonalds.
--Lowry returned to practice and looked 100%.
--Stromile has a sore knee (don't act so surprised).
--A number of Grizzlies along with Kenny Smith met with children at a local hospital.
But that is not all we have from Spain. Grizzlies.com is posting a ton of photos from each day. They have photos getting off the plane and of the first two practices. I especially like the photos from the 2nd practice. It seems the photos posted on the Grizzlies webpage are taken by Joe Murphy for Getty images. Even more of his photos of the Grizzlies are found at Yahoo. There are some cool pics of Mike and Pau at a EA Sports NBA Europe Live Tour event.
(off topic...while I'm writing this post, I just got captivated by one of those new black/white Grizzlies commercials...nicely done, IMO...there are a number of commercials using the phrase "New Game" and all of them are quite good...I have seen a couple of different ones tonight, three I think, and my favorite is of Hakim and Rudy playing one-on-one in an empty gym.)
TrueHoop has a post talking about how Blog Crazy the Warriors are. That got me thinking about how the Grizzlies now having 3 players blogging. Casey Jacobsen is starting up a blog on grizzlies.com. Here is the link to his first post. He thinks the Grizzlies will win a lot of games this year. Hak and Conley both have updated their yardbarker blogs. Does anyone know what team has the most players contributing to some sort of blog on the internet? 3 has to be close to the most I would guess.
Going back Tillery's coverage of the Spanish training camp trip, I got to thinking. Why isn't there this much coverage while the Grizzlies are in Memphis? Why couldn't have Tillery posted blog posts on the Memphis Edge about the training camp practices here in Memphis? The media saw a good amount of the practices here. Chris Herrington wrote a great post about what he saw. I see no reason why Tillery can't provide more Grizzlies coverage by utilizing the blog format on the Memphis Edge like he has for this Spanish trip. I hope he does during this season.
Friday, October 5, 2007
The Grizzlies are in Spain. No surprise to anyone reading this site.
Shades of Blue is pleased to be joining with several other team blogs in providing previews for CelticsBlog.com's NBA section. We will be posting our preview on Monday, October 8th, so be sure to check back for our predictions for the Memphis Grizzlies as well as checking out some other quality blogs on what they expect from their teams. We will also have our roundtable discussion on the NBA and the Grizzlies up next week.
Posting and Toasting
Passion and Pride
CelticsBlog NBA Page
Memphis kicks off the Iavaroni era in a new and exciting local with new and exciting players and a new and exciting style of play. Seems like there will be a lot of new and exciting things to watch in this game. Leading the excitement will be the Spanish national here, Pau Gasol. Playing on his professional team in front of the local fans should motivate Gasol to put up a strong effort. Pau has always loved his native country and this opportunity to shine should really motivate the big guy. Teamed with another 7 ft player in Darko Milicic, a Serb who played in Spain during the FIBA Championships, should add some extra spice. The team looks to be relying on two very young PGs in Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry. Both are fast and know how to get into the lane. What they do once they get there could determine how good the Grizzlies can be.
Unicaja Malaga is rebuilding their team after losing Jorge Carbajosa and Walter Hermann from the team they had two seasons ago. Filling in will be former NBA players Jiri Welsch and Daniel Santiago as well as former Vol Marcus Haislip. The interesting connections continue with the arrival of new point guard Bojan Popovic who used to play with former Grizz players Antonis Fotsis and Eddie Gill in on Dynamo Moscow. Unicaja surprised many last season with their playoff run despite their losses and this year believe they are a club ready to contend. Upsetting an NBA team would go a long way toward confirming that emotion.
Damon Stoudamire vs Bojan Popovic
Damon will know one Serbian via camp with Darko. Now he will be faced with another one in the person of Popovic Bojan, a 6-3 point guard. It is doubtful that Bojan will be prepared for the Grizzlies style of play but he is an experienced PG who will make it difficult for Damon to get away with easy moves. Damon will have to out-speed the crafty vet and put pressure on him all over the court to force the ball out of his hands. More importantly Damon will need to know when to shoot and when not to. Damon's defense has been suspect and at 5-10 he will need to harass Popovic and not allow him too many open looks. Popovic is too smart and knows the refs too well to allow Damon too many easy plays. If Damon struggles expect a quick hook in favor or Lowry or Conley.
Mike Miller vs Berni Rodriguez
Mike Miller is trying out for the USA team this summer so his conditioning shouldn't be a question this year. However, his play on a team focused on defense to promote the running game makes it uncertain if Miller starts or not. He is the only legitimate 3 pt shooting threat on the team however and with penetrating point guards and two legitimate 7 players the need for a sharp-shooting SG seems obvious. Miller is better than Kinsey in this regard. Bernando Rodriquez is the only starter on the Unicaja team that actually came up from the junior program. The 27 yr old player failed to average double figure points last season and only hit 33% of his shots beyond the arc despite the closer range of the international line. He did shoot 64% from inside the arc however. Rodriquez doesn't appear to be up to the talent level of NBA players but he is experienced and knows the game.
Rudy Gay vs Carlos Jiménez
Rudy wasn't very consistent in the summer league but did show a tremendous amount of talent. Capable of highlight film dunks as well as hitting a decent percent from beyond the arc if Rudy can figure out how to overcome slow starts he should be a force in the league. The problem is that Rudy hasn't shown the ability to overcome slow starts yet. Carlos Jiménez is the prototypical role player who does everything well except scoring. He's an outstanding and intelligent defender in both SF and PF positions, rebounds extremely well for his size (and he's not small, mind you), takes charges, is a good passer, gets offensive rebounds and sets up screens for his teammates constantly. He does so many things on the court that he's very valuable to his team. He's the starter SF on the Spanish National Team for a reason.
Pau Gasol vs Marcus Haislip
The former Vol and 1st rd draft pick of the Milwaukee Bucks, Haislip washed out of the NBA pretty fast for a lottery pick. In three seasons in the NBA Haislip played a grand total of 79 games. After leaving the NBA Haislip played in Turkey where he earned an all-star game appearance before signing with Unicaja. An incredible physical specimen Haislip has shown an inability to combine his physical talents and athleticism into success on the court. Gasol will be playing in his home country with his professional team and should be difficult to stop in this environment. Last season Gasol was not able to play for the first 23 games of the season, worked himself into shape while playing, dealt with the stress of a trade request and still averaged 21 pts and 9.8 rpg. One of the most unstoppable players around the paint Pau needs to focus on being more of a leader in the young Grizzlies team.
Darko Milicic Daniel Santiago
Darko could be the savior of the Grizzlies franchise or he could continue a career of failing to live up to expectations. A true shot blocker, Darko is supposed to be carrying a chip on his shoulder after Orlando pulled their qualifying offer for Darko making him an immediate unrestricted free agent. That insult may spur him to realize the potential people saw when he was drafted 2nd ahead of such notable names as Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Kirk Hinrich. Daniel Santiago will play his third season with Unicaja. He played well for them two seasons ago when they won the ACB league. Of course, he had Garbajosa by his side to attract defenders and open up spaces. He struggled last season with less space to move and later with an injury that had him sidelined for a high number of weeks. He's supposed to have recovered from it.
Benches & Coaches
Sergio Scariolo's a veteran of the acb league, coaching there since 1997. He first coached on the Italian league from 1989 to 1997 winning the tournament once in the process. He has won one ACB league coaching Real Madrid and has been runner up twice with two different teams (Tau Vitoria and Real Madrid). He's a veteran coach with many tricks under his sleeve. Marc Iavaroni has done everything right since joining the Grizzlies franchise just before the draft. Everything that is but actually win a game. With his first camp being interrupted by the trip to Spain one has to be concerned about the mental shape of the Grizzlies as they play this game. The Grizzlies have a far deeper team than Unicaja with Juan Carlos Navarro, Tarence Kinsey, Hakim Warrick and the depth at PG to bolster the team. Germán Gabriel is a poor man's Garbajosa who plays both PF and C positions. He's a good defender (but not as good as Garbo, of course) and can hit the outside shot. Our big men can have some difficulties defending him because of that, but Memphis can play with two seven footers at the same time, so even if he takes one outside of the paint with his shot there will still be another. Jiri Welsch has NBA experience and has the all-around team first game that excels internationally but fails in the NBA.
I have been concerned about the NBA Europe trip for quite a while. With a brand new coach implementing a radically different strategy than the team has played in the past, numerous starting and substitute roles unclear and a history of injuries from playing extra games out of season, is it any wonder that the hairs on the back of my neck have stood up everytime I thought about the team flying over the pond twice in the first two weeks of training camp?
What I hadn't done is look into the performance history of teams that participated in the past to see if there was any long-lasting effects from playing in Europe in the pre-season. While only having one year and four teams to makes a determination isn't statistically valid it probably wouldn't hurt to just peek at the teams that participated last season and see how they did.
The Philadelphia 76ers were a team on the brink of disaster when the pre-season started. While talking optomistically about their chances heading into the season not many people saw the total equalling the parts. They opened with a loss to FC Barcelona and, despite winning their next two games including a win over the Phoenix Suns, their season continued a downward spiral into December when Allen Iverson demanded a trade. One can't really blame their disastrous season on the European trip. The disaster of the Philly season was a bomb waiting to explode although the loss to Barcelona didn't help their confidence.
The LA Clippers were supposed to be a team on the rise after a highly successful season in 2005 that culminated with thier first playoff appearance in years. They opened with a win over BC Khimki before being blown out by CSKA Moscow. The 19 pt loss was ugly and the Clippers never really recovered starting the season slowly and fading down the stretch after Sean Livingston's knee injury. For a team just bonding together the trip and upset loss didn't help unite the Clippers.
The Phoenix Suns went to Europe and opened with a win over Lottomatica Roma. While the 7 pt victory wasn't convincing it was the first game for Phoenix. The Suns followed up with a loss to the 76ers before easily handling Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Suns opened the season well, played well all season and were one controversial call away from the Western Conference finals. There didn't seem to be any hangover from the trip.
The San Antonio Spurs also went overseas. The Spurs opened with an easy win over ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne. They followed that game with a convincing win over Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Spurs didn't play a 3rd game overseas. They returned hom to a somewhat unremarkable regular season, started improving right before the playoffs and were the beneficiaries of the call against Phoenix that propelled them to another NBA Championship.
So what have we learned? Obviously experienced teams that go over seas don't suffer any ill effects from the break during camp. The Suns and Spurs both took care of business in beating the European squads and carried that over to the season and eventually post-season. The lesser teams that lost in Europe were unable to overcome the weaknesses exposed by the European teams and subsequently underperformed in the regular season and failed to make the playoffs.
Coincidence? Possibly but I don't think it is as big a coincidence as some may believe.
European teams don't rely on athletic ability. They play a more team oriented system that pokes and prods until they find their opponents weaknesses and then exploit that weakness. The weaker teams both physically and mentally were exposed and that forshadowed their regular season performances. The stronger teams took care of business and showed a mental and physical toughness that eliminated their opponents belief that they could win. Those teams carried this attitude into the regular season and produced excellent records and playoff success as well.
What does this mean for the Grizzlies? Memphis is in a fragile shape right now. They have more talent than their opponents but they also are less organized with far more questions that need to be answered than the Europeans. If Memphis answers the questions successfully it could be the start of something really good. However, a stumble early could be forshadowing of future struggles.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Disclaimer: I know that Seattle says that Kevin Durant is going to be playing SG this season. And I should probably just go back and alter my SG rankings to reflect that. However, I don't believe he'll play SG for the majority of the year, so I'm putting him at SF...so there!
- LeBron James - Like it was even a contest.
- Carmelo Anthony - He'll continue to score at will, but will he develop the rest of his game?
- Luol Deng - He took a massive leap forward last season and I think he'll take a substantial step forward yet again this year.
- Josh Howard - He's #2 to Dirk on the Mavs and he'll see his role increase even more this year.
- Paul Pierce - Sacrilege you say?!? Somebody has to see their stats drop in Boston and Pierce is my pick for the honors.
- Rashard Lewis - In Orlando he's paired with one of the top big men in the league, which should be a very complementary relationship for his perimeter-oriented offensive skillset.
- Caron Butler - After having a career year sidetracked by injury, I expect Caron to perform at an even higher level this season.
- Andrei Kirilenko - Whether or not he's moved, he'll have a resurgence that will produce stats similar to his All-Star season two years ago.
- Richard Jefferson - He needs to step up his game as the talent around him continues to age and wear down.
- Tayshaun Prince - A versatile player on both ends of the court, Prince could see a more active role on offense this year.
- Josh Smith - Listed next to the word "superfreak" in the dictionary. This year, he'll either make "The Leap" or will be left out in the cold when it comes time to talk contract extension with Atlanta.
- Corey Maggette - Along with Cuttino Mobley, he'll have to take on a greater burden this season as the Clip Joint struggles to avoid the cellar while missing Elton Brand.
- Rudy Gay - Scream "Homer pick" all you want to -- he'll thrive in Iavaroni's uptempo system with some real point guards delivering the ball to him.
- Kevin Durant - He's going to struggle early on and he'll hit the rookie wall sooner than most expect while he is thrust into a leadership role immediately.
- Shane Battier - His stats will look the same as they always do, but Houston will win more games than they have in recent memory due to his ability to hold things together in crunch time.
- Ron Artest - Honestly, I expect him to have a down year, probably get traded and then promptly lose what little remaining grasp he has on sanity.
- Danny Granger - He was going to take on more responsibility this season after his strong showing last year anyways, but with Jermaine O'Neal 's chances of getting traded stronger than ever, he might be the leading scorer for the Pacers.
- Stephen Jackson - He'll perform well in Nellie's system again this season. Now if we can just keep him out of trouble away from the court.
- Peja Stojakovic - Supposedly he's healthy, which makes the Hornets an early favorite to joing the playoff hunt this season.
- Grant Hill - If he can get playing time in Phoenix, he'll be a positive contributor. His desire for a ring will coax him to push himself hard all season.
- Luke Walton - One of the few guys that Kobe seems to like playing with in L.A., Son of Bill will need to elevate his game to keep the Black Mamba from killing the rest of his teammates.
- Hedo Turkoglu - Will probably see his minutes decrease with the arrival of Rashard Lewis, which makes him a good candidate to be traded early in the season.
- Kyle Korver - Wonder if he'd shoot better if he got his hair cut so it wasn't constantly in his eyes?
- Bruce Bowen - I expect a precipitous dropoff in his regular season production, due to his age and the arrival of Ime Udoka.
- Ruben Patterson - Simply because I read today that he's tired of people calling him "Kobe Stopper".
Guys who could enter the Top 25: Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Tarence Kinsey, Ime Udoka, Matt Barnes, Matt Carroll, Jeff Green.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Let me start off by thanking the Grizzlies for thinking outside the box again. This franchise is obviously making serious efforts to reconnect with the fans despite never saying that is what they are trying to do. I find it interesting that last season when the disconnect was a hot topic of discussion it seemed that no one was really interested in dealing with the problem outside of Andy Dolitch. This year everyone from the GM down to the assistant equipment manager (who was so kind to get Rudy Gay to sign a photograph for my nephew) is interested in letting the fans feel appreciated.
The scrimmage was incredibly well attended for a short lunchtime lightly promoted event. Half of the lower bowl was open for fans and it was packed. Seats were actually hard to find.
I can't comment personally on the first half as real life interrupted my passion. However I was told that Damon Stoudamire really stood out. He looks noticeably thinner this season and quicker from what I saw and the limp is gone. Mike Miller was aggressive going to the hole and even had a nice block to compliment his normal outside shot.
In the second period I was able to make first hand impressions. If I was to use one word for Juan Carlos Navarro it would be crafty. He made a drive that stirred memories of Manu Ginobili. Hakim Warrick had two blocks on back to back possessions. Rudy showed off some jaw dropping moves. I am glad no one in the NBA checks Rudy's DNA. Not because I think he's on steroids. I'm just not sure he's human the way he moves! My favorite play I saw came from Mike Conley Jr. when he used his 41 inch vertical leep to go over a player (I think it was Darko) to tip a pass over to Gasol for a dunk. It was really incredible to watch.
The low point of the scrimmage was seeing Mike Conley laying on the court. Darko set a high pick and Conley literally crumbled to the court. After the game Gasol told me he just caught a knee in his thigh and the injury wasn't serious. That calmed me down a bit. allowed me to think a bit more clearly and, more importantly, someone on the Grizz set a strong enough pick to put someone on the floor! I am not advocatng dirty play but physical picks are not so bad.
Hopefully some one (Zack) will fill in the blanks in the first half. I saw Ranstay, Neon Leon, Memphis Slim, Grizzman and Zack at the game so I am sure someone should be able to complete the picture for me.
For those interested Kasib Powell was waived prior to the scrimmage. Unfortuantly the Grizzlies forgot to tell the announcer who had an akward moment introducing a non-existent player. I heard rumor that Marc Iavaroni used a decidedly displeased expletive at the oversight.
I had a pleasant surprise after the scrimmage in meeting Chris Vernon, radio 730AM host who was selected the best drive time talk show today in the Memphis Flyer. Conrats Chris and I love the audio links on the ESPN web page. Chris was kind enough to show Zack, Memphis Slim and myself around the radio station with him. It was very interesting.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Blue and White Scrimmage today. The crowd was larger than I expected and probably more people were there than showed up for the open practice last year.
I think I should say who won, but truthfully, I don't remember looking at the scoreboard more than once or twice. I think the White team won. They played two, 10 minute periods.
Here was how the teams were split up, with an (s) designating who started for each squad.
--Mike Conley (s)
--Casey Jacobsen (s)
--Mike Miller (s)
--Hakim Warrick (s)
--Pau Gasol (s)
--Juan Carlos Navarro
--Damon Stoudamire (s)
--Tarence Kinsey (s)
--Rudy Gay (s)
--Stromile Swift (s)
--Darko Milicic (s)
--Kyle Lowry (didn't play)
I don't remember seeing the other training camp invitee play (Kasib Powell). Chris Wallace just mentioned on the Chris Vernon Show that he has already been waived.
The most memorable part of the scrimmage was everyone holding their breath when Mike Conley went down. It was only a charlie-horse in his thigh. Here is a picture I took when Conley was getting looked at on the bench after he went down. You can see the trainer messaging the thigh.
Here are some of my random observations. Most Griz fans echo similar thoughts (messageboard thread on scrimmage).
--Neither team really played at full speed.
--Rudy can still dunk.
--Casey can shoot.
--Miller wore sweat pants. yuck!
--Darko has a nice lefty baby hook shot.
--Navarro (called "instant-grits" by his teammates) showed off his running tear drop in the lane...nice.
--Rudy played the 3 and 4.
--With Kyle out, Navarro and Kinsey had to run some point.
--Players were conscious of not trying to hold the ball for very long (one of the points of emphasis from Coach Iavaroni). This unfortunately led to some careless turnovers, but that's alright. This is still a work in progress.
--Kinsey missed Stro for an alley-oop. TK7 (my nickname for him) immediately acknowledged that he missed it, but Stro still pouted and loafed after the fact. Reactions like that are going to get him sat on the bench this year. He needs to just keep playing and not dwell on things like that.
Now I want to talk a bit about Conley vs Damon. Damon looked good physically. Clearly more healthy than last year and could be potentially better than he was when we signed him. But, unlike many of my fellow Griz fans (and probably chip and spartacus too), I still see him as a point guard best suited for a half court team and not what this team needs to ignite a fast paced offense that is spurred using ball-hawking defense. Conley plays the point more like I envision the team needing. When Conley penetrates, he is great at keeping his dribble and leave as many options open as possible. Today Damon picked up his dribble a little earlier than I think he should have a few times. Damon showed off a great stroke today (clearly he is light years ahead of Conley in terms of shooting). While Damon looked healthy physically, I still have my doubts that he will be anything but average on defense. But enough of that. Both point guards looked good. Damon probably surprised people with his health and play. I'm glad Conley only has a thigh bruise and wish we all could have seen Lowry (the soon-to-be fan favorite) play today.
I also want to discuss some of the stuff we are doing on offense for fans that couldn't make it to the scrimmage. We are using more on-ball screens than in the past. In addition, when our bigs are in the high post, they are handing the ball off to a curling point guard often.
Here is a breakdown of one of the common half-court sets we used:
1.) PG passes to the right wing, then goes and picks for the PF on the left lower block.
2.) Either the PF gets the ball on the right lower block, or more likely, the ball is passed to the C at the top of the key.
3.) Then the left wing goes down and picks for the PG who is now on the left lower block.
4.) The PG pops out to the left wing off of that screen, then curls around the C for a hand-off pass.
5.) From there, the PG penetrates and makes something happen.
The Blue team ran that exact play to start the game and Mike Conley penetrated and found a diving Pau for an easy dunk. Nice.
Finishing up, here are some links. Wes at 730ESPN has audio from the scrimmage. Yahoo has pictures from the scrimmage.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Am I overstating things? Given the track record that Hollinger has in regards to Grizzlies related items while at ESPN.com, I don't believe so. He posted his preview of the team on ESPN Insider and it was less than complimentary, to say the least. I can handle someone thinking that the Grizzlies are bound for another bad season if their logic is sound and their information is correct. However, Hollinger seems to be lacking in both areas in his preview. On one hand, he doesn't like the roster assembled. On the other, he predicts 34 wins and says that next season the Grizzlies are poised for a serious playoff run. Contradictions abound in this swirling tale of missteps and poor reasoning. We'll go quote by quote in our evaluation of his efforts.
In discussing the lack of defense the Grizzlies employed in the Tony Barone era:
The decisions to buy out veteran guard Eddie Jones and move Dahntay Jones out of the rotation accelerated the defensive meltdown; those were the team's only decent perimeter defenders.
Well, what does he consider Tarence Kinsey and Rudy Gay? I watched every single second of the game against the Nuggets when Kinsey frustrated Allen Iverson -- no slouch when it comes to scoring -- to the point that he was berating the officials and *thisclose* to receiving a technical foul. This is a case of Hollinger relying on stats instead of observation in making his determination.
On offensive play, notably Gasol's career year:
Offensively, it was a different story. Memphis ranked 11th in offensive efficiency, and may have set some kind of record for most career years on a 60-loss team. Gasol had easily his best pro campaign once he returned from the injury, while veteran guard Chucky Atkins inexplicably blew up with a Fluke Rule campaign.Easily his best pro season? Last year Gasol posted 20.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.1 bpg. The year before that, he averaged 20.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.9 bpg. So we're going to say he had a markedly better season last year? I thought Hollinger understood how statistics are to be interpreted...guess not. The only thing that Gasol was noticeably better at was shooting, as he posted career highs in FG% (.539) and FT% (.748), both of which were well above his previous bests.
On the hiring of new GM Chris Wallace:
Among other moves, he pulled the trigger on the disastrous JoeDisastrous? Perhaps hindsight has blinded Hollinger. That looks like a bad deal now, but at the time it was a solid move. Joe Johnson was averaging 6.3 ppg (on .439 FG% and .273 3PT% -- and no, that 2nd one isn't a typo), 2.9 rpg and 1.5 apg when he was traded (along with Randy Brown, Milt Palacio and a draft pick) to Phoenix for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk. Rogers was averaging 12.6 ppg (on .466 FG% and .350 3PT%) and 4.8 rpg, while Delk averaged 10.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg prior to his arrival in Boston. Does it look like a bad deal now that Johnson has turned into a Top 10 SG in the league? Sure does, but Johnson wasn't helping Boston get to the playoffs, while Rogers and Delk assisted them in reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, as Boston went 21-13 after the trade was consummated. This smacks of taking a cheap shot at Wallace's expense, rather than an honest evaluation of his tenure in Boston.
Johnson-for-Rodney Rogers deal.
Signed Andre Brown, waived Alexander Johnson
This one left me scratching my head. Yes, Brown is an up-tempo guy who will thrive in the running game, but he has no upside beyond being an energy guy at the end of the rotation. Meanwhile, Johnson was a productive player in his rookie season and was going to be a bargain in Year 2, plus Memphis has a shortage of muscle up front that he would have helped fill. It seemed a baby-with-the-bathwater move by the new regime, and I think they'll regret it.
Since he doesn't know about the issues that team management had with Alexander -- namely that he thought he was a future All-Star PF -- it is easy to understand why Hollinger would come to this erroneous conclusion. Johnson wasn't willing to accept that he was going to be a backup after the Darko signing, probably thinking that his efforts last season entitled him to a starter's role this season -- especially after Lawrence Roberts wasn't retained. Andre Brown is a "just happy to be here" guy -- he'll accept whatever role Iavaroni outlines for him...even if that includes bringing donuts to every team meeting. Johnson seemed to believe that he was a scorer, rather than a rebounder capable of delivering hard fouls. Otherwise, why would the Grizzlies have released him in the middle of the Las Vegas Summer League, rather than waiting until after training camp? Possibly because they thought that he would be disruptive to the team in light of his new reduced role? Sounds logical to me.
Signed Casey Jacobsen, let Dahntay Jones leave
I don't really see the point in this one. Let's say Jacobsen plays better
than he ever has -- even if there's no reason to think that -- and he earns a
spot at the end of the rotation. Then what? Is he going to be any help three
years from now when this team is finally ready to do something? I know Memphis
needed help on the wings, but I don't see how Jacobsen is a solution.
Well, first of all, they signed Jacobsen prior to the Navarro deal...when the team needed outside shooting more than anything else. Secondly, Jones was another guy who thought he was better than he actually was. Finally, who cares about 3 years from now when it concerns Jacobsen -- he only has a 1-year contract, after all. Was Dahntay going to turn into a valuable contributor suddenly? More poor reasoning from Hollinger.
Biggest Weakness: Muscle
The Grizzlies would be a more serious playoff threat
in the West if any of their players weighed more than 184 pounds. Gasol is an
amazingly talented offensive player, but he's scrawny and easily pushed around
at the defensive end. Milicic has a little more bulk but has been reluctant to
use it and may not be on the court for more than 25 minutes a game anyway. The
other frontcourt players -- Brown, Warrick and Swift -- are total waifs who are
overmatched against big low-post players.
Perhaps Hollinger hasn't watched the Phoenix Suns over the past few seasons. What muscle do they employ on their way to 50+ wins every year? There's little need for banging in the paint when you can outrun your opponent every other possession. With Iavaroni's uptempo system, opponents will face the same frenetic pace that the Suns, Warriors and Raptors employ. Last I checked, they were all playoff teams last year....without big men on the roster who also doubled as walking vending machines. Logic would dictate that a larger, less athletic frontcourt would be counter-productive to this new style of play.
There were other things he had to say that I slightly disagreed with, but none of them directly defied logic or information that we've been privy to, thanks to observation of the players in games, contacts capable of providing behind-the-scenes information and a more-than-passing knowledge of the team inside and out. His conclusions about Damon's lack of worth (which we know to be off-base) and Lowry's need for a trade (way too soon to think about that eventuality) smacked of the conclusions one would reach if they simply looked at the rosters and the statistics. Perhaps John should go back to crunching numbers, since he didn't seem to do a very good job with his preview of the Boys from Beale Street.
Update: Matt (from the fantastic site Blog-a-Bull) thinks I used the wrong stats to counter Hollinger's assertion that last year was "easily Gasol's best season". So here are a few more stats -- most of the complicated stat geek variety.
First we'll go to David Berri and his Wins Produced metrics. In 2005/06 Gasol produced 14.1 wins in 80 games and posted a WP48 stat of .217, ranking 18th overall in production. In 2006/07 he produced 11.5 wins in 59 games (which extrapolates to 15.9 wins over 82 games) and posted a WP48 stat of .259. So we have a noticeable level of improvement with that metric.
Next we can go to the list compiled by databasebasketball.com, which is littered with Hollinger created stats and measurements. His Efficiency level climbed from 23.63 to 25.49, his Approximate Value dropped from 13.6 to 11.5, his Versatility Index dropped from 9.4 to 8.9, his PPFGA rose from 1.111 to 1.186, his PPR dropped from 0.31 to -1.38 and his Rebound Rate climbed dramatically from 13.8 to 16.2. So by some measurements Gasol improved, by others he declined. The increase in Rebound Rate is noteworthy though.
Then we go to Basketball-Reference.com, which has even more stats to peruse. His Effective FG% was .540, surpassing his previous best of .518. His True Shooting percentage was .593, while his previous high was .582. His Win Share was 15, while the year before it was 31. This is explained by the lack of defense, as his Offensive Win Share was an 11.2 (15.4 the year before), but his Defensive Win Share was only 3.7 (15.9 the year before). That's a precipitous dropoff. His Player Win Percentage dropped from .792 in 2005/06 to .660 in 2006/07. That's another significant decline. So again, we have increases and decreases using different metrics.
Finally we come to Hollinger's baby -- the PER. Gasol posted a 24.1 last year and 22.7 the year before. After viewing how this stat is calculated, I honestly couldn't tell you if an increase of 1.4 is substantial or not. Here is what I do see in these stats: Gasol was better offensively, but significantly worse defensively. This could be attributed to the Grizzlies lack of defensive concern altogether last season. By the same token, not being worried about defense would allow a player to focus on offense exclusively, leading to an increase in stats as the number of possessions increase, as they did for Memphis last season. With all that said, I still maintain that Hollinger should stick to compiling statistics and leave the analysis to his colleagues.
Go over to Beyond the Arc and read Chris Herrington's training camp notes on what he saw at today's practice. Unlike in the past, the team is actually showing the media legit practice time instead of just free throws. As usual, Herrington is a must read for Griz fans. Herrington mentions that Conley looked great. Navarro looked a little weak. Rudy looked like Rudy. Darko looked disinterested during team huddles. And a high-five tweaked Stro's finger.
Anucha Browne Sanders won her lawsuit claiming that Isiah Thomas sexually harassed her at work. She won $11.6 million from the jury. Jimmy Dolan was held personally liable for $3.6 million of the fine. Madison Square Garden was held liable for $8 million. Isiah is not personally liable for any damages to Ms Sanders.
How can the person who committed the sexual harassment not be liable for anything but Jimmy Dolan who didn't harass her be personally liable for $3.6 million?
Is this a messed up country or what?
Is there a political candidate running anywhere in the country that is for tort reform? I will vote for that person if I can.
Maybe the jury of 'peers' just wanted the rich guy to pay for wrecking the Knicks franchise for hiring Isiah to run the team so this seemed like the best way to do it. That makes a lot more sense than saying Dolan is responsible for Isiah's sexual harassment.
Actually I am not upset with Dolan getting hit since he fired her obviously because she was neglecting her job to drum up support for her lawsuit. Dolan should have realized he would get busted for that but why is it 'sexual' harassment anyway? Did Isiah proposition Ms Sanders? Did he talk lewd manner to her? Did he expose himself or make suggestive comments about sexual favors for certain considerations?
No. He called her a bitch. Judging from the fact that she took him to court for doing that I think he was right but even if he wasn't that isn't sexual harassment. It is plain harassment just like cursing anyone would be.
But that is off the point. The point is how can a jury not decide that the man calling the woman a bitch isn't liable for saying it?
When juries start trying to determine what would be the most fair and who should pay regardless of who is at fault then the system is pretty broken. This trial was about a jury of peers determining that Isiah was mean to a woman but Dolan had the real money so he should pay.
Now comes the interesting part. Will David Stern punish Isiah for being found guilty of harassment or Dolan who has to pay the fine? Maybe neither person will be punished from the league. After all they aren't players so they are allowed to break the law without repercussions.
Maybe it isn't the legal system but society in general that's broken.
Just a quick note...
The Grizzlies will be holding the First Annual Blue and White Scrimmage tomorrow from noon to 1pm at the FedEx Forum.
Here at Shades of Blue, we are excited for this event. I am particularly excited, since this will be the first time since the Vegas Summer League that I can watch the Grizzlies actually play. By the way, I absolutely loved the Summer League this year. Being able to go home early from work to watch Rudy, Lowry, TK7, and Conley play during the middle of the summer was a great way to keep the excitement from the draft going strong. Kudos to the Grizzlies Front Office for getting the Summer League games on broadcast TV. Since then, blogging/discussing about player movements, season predictions and Grizzlies articles in the mainstream media is fine and dandy, but actually being able to blog/discuss the Grizzlies playing basketball is much more enjoyable.
I hope as many Griz fans as possible can make it out to the scrimmage tomorrow. Check back tomorrow for our take on the inaugural event.
By now most readers know how I feel about Chris Wallace. You may even have read Geoff Calkins great article about how Andy Dolitch gave up his parking space to a fan who walked with a cane. Hopefully you know that Both Coach Iavaroni and Chris Wallace are doing weekly radio shows, the team is having the first Blue-White Scrimmage tomorrow and all of the other events the team is hosting to help kick start excitement about the team this year.
What you may not know is this sudden love of Memphis and the citizens doesn't end with publicity stunts.
Randy Stephens, the Senior Vice President of Broadcasting for the Grizzlies, was given a tough problem to deal with yesterday. In trying to program my TIVO box to tape the Grizzlies games in Spain I was surprised to see that the games weren't listed in the programming guide. I looked on NBATV.com and the games weren't mentioned there either. The Boston games were picked up on ESPN2 but no mention of the Grizzlies. I contacted Randy to verify that the games were in fact being broadcast locally.
He did more than just that.
Randy contact the NBA TV guys directly. The next thing I knew not only were the games up on the TV Programming Guide but the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen was promoting the upcoming broadcasts. For those interested the games are as follows:
At Unicaja Malaga Oct. 9 1:00 PM CT
At MMT Estudiantes Oct. 11 11:30 AM CT
That alone was pretty cool for Randy to do and if he had stopped there I would still be writing this blog to say thanks but he didn't stop there. Randy went the next step and emailed the local channels that will broadcast the game on satellite and cable
Comcast Digital 221 & 649
Dish Network 560
Unfortuantly there are no local channels broadcasting the game currently but give Randy a chance and who knows what the Grizzlies will do!
Some people may remember that the Grizzlies won an award this summer as the best organization in professional sports (that is all sports and not just basketball) with regards to their Charitable Contributions to the community. If Wallace and his team continues the way they are going they may just win an award for the best front office in professional sports.
I know they are already the envy of the league. Keep up the good work guys.
Side note: Mitch Lawrence is obviously too cheap to pick up a phone and call the Grizzlies to find the real story behind his comment about Memphis being cheap. Here is what Chris Wallace wrote me in an email when I asked him to comment on it:
As far as the blurb yesterday in Newsday, I would file it under "much ado about nothing."And that is the rest of the story to paraphrase Paul Harvey.
First of all, I would have appreciated the writer calling me to discuss his conclusion before he labeled me a cheapskape. Dontell Jefferson, whom we signed last week, played for Grizzlies' assistant coach Dave Joerger last season for the NBDL champion Dakota Wizards. In September a few local players and Dontell Jefferson came to the practice facility and participated in pickup games with some of our players.
Since coach Joerger and Dontell know each other well, he stayed at Joerger's house for awhile. At this point, Jefferson was not a consideration for a place on the training camp roster but as the pickup games progressed it was decided he would be a desireable player to invite to preseason camp. Once we decided to sign him, Jefferson was provided the option of moving into a hotel.
The only other player we signed, Kasib Powell, was housed in a hotel from his first day in Memphis.
The writer left the impression that the organization has a policy of intentionally placing free agent prospects at the homes of team personnel which is not accurate. One player, with a prior relationship with a staff member, stayed at the home of that individual at a time when he wasn't even a "free agent prospect" but rather simply an extra player for pickup games.
The use of the term "free agent prospects" and the word "homes" also insinuated that multiple players stayed at team personnel's homes which is also not accurate.
The writer also left the impression that the team housed potential free agents brought into Memphis on recruiting visits at the homes of team personnel which is inaccurate.
I can assure you that all free agent recruits as well as free agents signed recently and participating in our preseason training camp have been taken care of by the Grizzlies in a manner consistent with NBA standards.
Just another example of how great our front office is. Does anyone believe another GM would take the time to respond like that to a fan? Memphis is lucky to have the guys we have running this team.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Awhile back, I asked for an Andre Brown article or interview. Today Ron Tillery delivered with a well-done piece in the Commercial Appeal. The part I liked the best was where Brown was described as having "Dennis Rodman-like intensity". I look forward to seeing what he's capable of in the upcoming season, although I don't expect him to get a ton of playing time.
Lawrence Buirse has an interesting read over on Hoopsworld.com covering the opening of Grizzlies' training camp. He discusses the new uptempo style Marc Iavaroni is installing, how the team is putting last year behind them and has a few quotes from players, including Darko Milicic, Stromile Swift and Tarence Kinsey.
Chris Wallace reported on the radio this morning that Kyle Lowry will miss 5-7 days after spraining his ankle. That makes it highly unlikely that Lowry will be the starter opening night, but hopefully it won't be a lingering issue, as sprained ankles have been for other Grizzlies in the past.
You can read the rules for the rankings here. Let's jump in.
- Kobe Bryant - The Black Mamba will devour everyone in his way...including his teammates and front office.
- Tracy McGrady - He's in great shape after missing a few games last season and is still one of the most complete scorers in the game.
- Dwyane Wade - Why here? Because reports are that the Heat aren't sure of when he'll be 100% after his offseason surgeries. If his healing process hits any snags, he could face some lingering issues.
- Michael Redd - Lost more than a few games to injury last year, but shot very well from all over the floor and will have more weapons around him this season, making him even more dangerous.
- Joe Johnson - Is he putting up great numbers on a bad team? Absolutely. But he got some help this offseason that could take care of the cellar dweller moniker the Hawks have been saddled with. If his team gels, he could average 28+ ppg this season.
- Ray Allen - He just won the lottery. With Garnett and Pierce slashing and posting up, he'll get to camp out behind the arc and bomb away to his heart's content. He might challenge the record for 3-pointers attempted and made in a season if he stays healthy.
- Richard Hamilton - His teammates are another year older, but nobody is in better shape than Rip, so look for him to carry his team and lead them in scoring this season.
- Vince Carter - Is he in a contract year? Didn't think so. He'll continue to shoot fadeaways and avoid contact while his shooting percentages continue to slide.
- Jason Richardson - The BETcats have a legit lead scorer now, so look for him to lead by example. The interesting thing to consider is that his style of play didn't fit in with Nellie's free-wheelin' system and he still put up great numbers.
- Manu Ginobili - He's a flopper and a royal pain in the butt for opponents, but he's still sneaky good with the ball in his hands and his outside shot is still improving.
- Kevin Martin - This is one guy that won't take a step back after signing a big contract extension. With Bibby and Artest on the trade block, he could be the de facto leader on this team by January.
- Andre Igoudala - He's poised to jump to the next level after emerging from a cocoon following the Iverson trade last season. If he puts it all together, the rest of the division could be dealing with another team fighting for the top spot.
- Leandro Barbosa - He had a coming out party last season and continued to impress during international play this summer. Steve Nash and Raja Bell will need some rest this season if they are to get over the hump in the postseason, so look for him to get even more playing time this year.
- Mike Miller - Played at a very high level after Pau Gasol returned from injury and Tony Barone instituted an uptempo system. With Marc Iavaroni set to run, run, run this season, look for Miller to put up solid numbers again.
- Jason Terry - Moved over from PG last season and bounced back from a poor season the previous year. He also posted a career high in 3PT%.
- Ben Gordon - He's a one trick pony, but what a trick it is. He scores points like he's at an arcade.
- Raja Bell - Solid perimeter shooter (.413% last season) and dogged defender, Bell has established himself with the Suns after bouncing around the league his first few seasons.
- Morris Peterson - He seems to have been forgotten now that he's in NOLA. That's a mistake, as he's likely to become CP3's favorite target in the open floor.
- Cuttino Mobley - With Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston out, somebody is going to have to step up. Mobley will take on as much responsibility as Mike Dunleavy can give him and will fill the stat sheet on a nightly basis.
- Wally Szczerbiak - I can see you scratching your head right now. He's the likely starting SG for the Sonics as they embark on the Kevin Durant era. Wally is still a capable scorer and he's healthier now than he has been in quite some time.
- Brandon Roy - He'll have to carry the load this year with no Zach Randolph to take on the brunt of the scoring. LaMarcus Aldridge will be some help, but I think Roy will find it a little more difficult this season than he did in his rookie campaign.
- Monta Ellis - Should see more PT for last year's MIP now that Jason Richardson is on the other coast. If he can continue to improve, look for him to make everyone forget about last year's Sarunas Jasikevicius experiment.
- Ricky Davis - It pains me to have him on this list, but he's the most proven scorer in Minnesota and it will take his teammates some time to figure out that he's a black hole on offense.
- Juan Carlos Navarro - La Bomba will take some time to get acclimated to the NBA, but once he does the fireworks will begin.
- Jamal Crawford - He'll continue to shoot without conscience (or awareness of his teammates on the court) and his stats will reflect that, just as they do every season.
Players who could move into the Top 25: J.R. Smith, Ronnie Brewer, Corey Brewer, Rodney Stuckey, Thabo Sefalosha, Matt Carroll
It gets old after a while but I am learning to live with it.
The constant ignoring of the Grizzlies franchise from the national media is understandable. We aren't a large media market. We don't have a star player with folklore status here in the states (although world wide he is recognized in such terms). We will probably never be the lead story on Sportscenter or even Fox Sports unless a player gets caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy to paraphrase a famous comment.
The team routinely gets ignored when talking about the NBA. Even worse, when they do talk about the Grizzlies it is usually in a negative tone.
One writer actually suggested that the Grizzlies should be disbanded since the franchise was just a talent drain on the league (thanks Bill Simmons). NBA.com did a poll this summer and the Grizzlies were voted the least likely team to surpise. An optomist could take that to mean the Grizzlies are actually the team most likely to surprise since so few people believe the team will do well this season but optomism has been in short supply around Memphis lately.
Another low point came today when uninformed writer Mitch Lawrence for the NY Daily News mentioned that the Grizzlies were so cheap an organization that the team had resorted to putting up potential free agents in team personels homes instead of hotels. The player in question (Dontell Jefferson) asked the Grizzlies to help him out when he came to town to work out in non-sanctioned scrimmages with some team players. He wasn't signed or even being pursued by the Grizzlies. He was just a former NBDL player hoping to catch on somewhere who knew new Assistant Coach David Joerger. Joerger agreed to put him up at his house.
Do you think any team would put a random ball player up in a hotel just to play around with some of the guys on their team? Could you see the Knicks putting me up in a Manhatten hotel because I wrote them and asked to play with some of the guys on their team?
Okay, the way the Knicks waste money maybe they would but San Antonio or Utah wouldn't. This is a great story about a struggling ball player trying to realize his dreams of playing in the NBA by doing whatever it took to get a chance not about a team being cheap by forcing free agents to sleep on assistant coaches couches.
And it worked! Jefferson earned a training camp invite because of the hard work ethic he displayed in those games. He impressed someone enough to continue on the path to realize his dream. The national media missed that aspect of the story while trying to insult the Grizzlies.
It doesn't help that the Grizzlies have never won a playoff game (although they have been to the playoffs more often than the Hawks, Clippers or Warriors since the team was founded). It doesn't help that the Grizzlies have the worst attendance in the NBA (although the city supports basketball better per capita than almost any other NBA city except maybe Philly).
But honestly, would it make any difference if they were 25th in the league in attendance and had won a playoff game or two? Does anyone believe the national media would care one bit if these things were different?
I don't. I don't believe that the media gives one hoot what the truth about the city, the team or it's fans. After the team won shocked everyone by winning 50 games with Coach of the Year Hubie Brown and Executive of the Year Jerry West did the Grizzlies see a dramatic increase in TV appearances? It's a dog eat dog world and the Grizzlies can't force the league to take notice.
What's more, I don't believe the team should try to change the image of a losing situation. It is hard to sneak up on teams that keep reading in the papers and seeing on ESPN how tough and exciting the franchise is.
This season the Grizzlies can surprise some teams and not having to do so under the spotlight of the national media should only help.
So keep insulting the Grizzlies. Keep leaving us off the Sportscenter highlights. Most important of all, keep thinking this is just another situation where the team is bound to fail.
We'll see who's laughing when the season is over.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Michael Heisley conducted a radio interview on Friday morning with local radio personalities Ron Tillery and Peter Edmiston. While it was nice to hear the owner talking positively about the team, Heisley brought up a couple of thorny issues which need to be addressed by fans of the team.
Heisley discussed the freedom he has given Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni in building and running the team. He clearly placed the signing of Darco Milicic and Juan Carlos Navarro on their shoulders. He said
Surprisingly he didn't say that Mike Conley was clearly their decision. It left the impression in my mind that West had a stronger hand in the drafting of Conley compared to the free agent moves of the team. While this may not in fact be the case it was a curious omission.
Jerry still spends time talking to me and talking to Chris and Marc. I think he still has interest in the team but I think it's Marc and Chris's team and I think they will add their own flavor to it. I think that Milicic was definitely their move. I think that Navarro was definitely their move. My point is that they are definitely putting their stamp on the team and that is what I want to see.
Another point Heisley made was that
They (Wallace and Iavaroni) work very well together and that is very important for the General Manager and the Coach to be on the same page and I am very, very pleased with that.A definite implication that this was not the case with West and Fratello. Heisley also clarified the issue of Jerry West saying he is not paid but is a consultant. West still feels a connection with the team but is not interfering with how Wallace and Iavaroni run the team.
Tillery asked a pointed question about Darko Milicic and what Heisley expected from him this season. Heisley's reply was to clarify that while his expectations were not certainty he did believe Milicic could be a fantastic acquisition for the team. He mentioned how respected Joe Dumars' talent evaluation is (Dumar's drafted Milicic with the 2nd pick in the 2003 draft ahead of Carmello Anthony, Chris Bosh and Kirk Hinrich among others), how his development was slower but that Bill Russell once told him that big men take longer to develop. Darko has been maturing and that talent is there. When his talent and development come together then he could be a real force for the Grizzlies.
Heisley clearly stated that he doesn't think about the Grizzlies every day and even when he does think about them then it is only a small part of his day. When he is in Memphis it commands 100% of the team but otherwise it isn't very much of his day. He discussed his desire for a local owner or ownership group but did not go into the difficulty that has been rumored with relationship with the local ownership group. He stated that he turns over more responsibility to the team's professionals than most owners and that is how he runs all his business. He also stated that he feels it is the team's responsibility to attract fans to the game and that it isn't the fan's responsibility to come to the games. He plans on building long time devout fans and to do that he feels the best avenue is through the younger fans.
He talked about the difficulty of being financially successful in a small market city like Memphis. He referenced that the LA Lakers make a lot more money from their local TV contract than the Grizzlies but still have to pay salaries commiserate with the league. He stated that teams like the Lakers and Knicks make more money from their local TV contracts than the Grizzlies make in total revenues. Without the income of the local contracts that other teams have in major markets it is difficult to be financially successful and that the team could no longer afford to be among the highest salaried teams in the league. This was an reference to the league for revenue sharing which has been a passion of Heisley's for the last few years.
Heisley also discussed the rebuilding of the team. Heisley reiterated that with the right people around Gasol that the team can be successful. He believes that people will eventually thank the team for not trading Gasol. He also stated that he holds no grudge with Gasol for asking for a chance to compete for a title. He referenced players who left organizations in search of a ring like Karl Malone who had far greater histories with their team than Gasol.
Heisley also discussed the Tim Donaghy scandal and held the commonly held belief that if this is a one time scandal then it is bad but not that bad. If it is found to be more widespread then it could be terrible for the league.
This is where Heisley is good. He is an open and honest man who sincerely answers questions. Sometimes the answers aren't as rosy as people would like but he tells the truth. While the questions left something to be desired (who cares about Mark Cuban and dancing with the Stars?) Heisley did leave people with an optimistic feeling about the franchise and the direction the team is headed.