Saturday, October 13, 2007

Grizzlies Annual Open Practice

The Grizzlies held their Annual Open Practice today at noon at the FedEx Forum. The team was divided into three teams -- Blue, White and Green.

Blue team: Mike Miller, Kyle Lowry, Stromile Swift, Tarence Kinsey, Hakim Warrick
White team: Damon Stoudamire, Pau Gasol, J.C. Navarro, Andre Brown, Dontell Jefferson
Green team: Mike Conley Jr., Rudy Gay, Darko Milicic, Casey Jacobsen, Brian Cardinal

Honestly, it was hard to keep track of everything while taking pictures and maneuvering around the Forum, but what I did take notice of was the fact that the White team was dominant, winning 6 of the 8 games played, only losing once by my count. You can see Pau and Darko here just after the tipoff of the last game.

Here you see Brian Cardinal going up strong after grabbing an offensive rebound while Stro looks to close out on him defensively.

Andre Brown prepares to shoot a free throw while Pau moves into position for the possible rebound opportunity.

After the practice had concluded, the players threw T-shirts to those gathered in attendance before heading out to tables around the Forum to sign autographs.

The players patiently waited to be introduced to the crowd after the practice, each making sure to acknowledge the applause and cheers each was showered with in appreciation for their efforts.

Overall, this practice was just a brief glimpse at what the Grizzlies could become this season, as I'm sure they were tired from the international flight the previous day and were probably only going at 75% of full speed in this half-hour demonstration. A few quick impressions that I did get from the session:
  • Mike Conley has some of the quickest hands I've ever seen. He almost picked Kyle's pocket twice and Lowry isn't exactly a plodding player.
  • Darko still might not be comfortable on the offensive side of the court yet, but his defense showed some definite improvement, as he altered the shot attempts of Stro, Hakim and Pau on a few occasions.
  • Rudy has to be one of the Top 5 athletes in the NBA today. Words cannot describe what he's capable of on the court.
  • Casey Jacobsen only has one clearly defined skill -- shooting -- but he is very, very good at it. If he can continue to come off the bench and hit open jumpers, he could get more than just token minutes this season.
  • Kyle Lowry might be the toughest guy on this team. Heck, he might qualify for the Top 10 in the league in that category.

Those were my impressions of the practice. If anyone else went and would like to share your thoughts, feel free to do so in the Comments section.

Links: Kyle Lowry, The Dark One, Golden Generation, Open Practice

Our good friend David Berri has some interesting news regarding Kyle Lowry on his recent post titled "Future NBA Stars". Please read the post in full and then go to the table he has posted here about "Distant Future Stars", where he has Lowry listed as having the highest WP48 stat of guys who have played limited minutes to this point. Of course, we all know that Lowry only played in 10 games last season before suffering a broken wrist. It's a good read, as always, and is yet another encouraging thing to consider going into this pivotal season.

Yahoo! Sports has an article about Darko Milicic on their NBA page. The theme of the missive is "Darko's Resurrection" and it contains some interesting quotes from the Serbian Gangster, teammate Pau Gasol, coach Marc Iavaroni and GM Chris Wallace. It would seem that everyone is being very supportive of Darko in Memphis -- hopefully that will translate into on-the-court success for him and the Grizzlies.

I don't know that we can truly appreciate the level of rock star fame that Pau Gasol and his Spanish teammates enjoy in their home country. This article from gives a better idea of just how much celebrity status and clout they carry in Spain. Pau is one of the "Golden Generation", which is the group of players born in 1980-81 who have carried Team Spain to worldwide prominence in international basketball.

"Back in the day when we were 16, 17, 18 we won the gold medal in nearly every championship we played," said Pau Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies forward who some consider the best player in Spanish history.
"We beat the [United] States on different occasions; we were European [junior] champions and world [junior] champions at one time."

As you can see, they are Spain's version of the Dream Team in terms of winning and expectations. Oh yeah, and when it comes to adoring fans as well:

The Spanish players on both NBA teams have been swarmed by media in Madrid. Gasol is featured in an advertisement three storeys tall around the corner from the arena. Everyone wants to touch the players.

"They're like rock stars," Raptors president Bryan Colangelo said. "When we landed there had to be 30 attendants for our airplane wearing these fluorescent vests and as soon as we came off the plane they were just standing there. The second we hit the ground they hit them like a swarm of bees: pictures, autographs, you name it. These guys are larger than life here, and deservedly so."

Don't forget that today's Open Practice starts at noon (doors open at 11 am) and it is free, so you have no excuse not to get your lazy butt down there to see the only professional sport in town ply their trade. I'll have pictures and commentary posted later this weekend about the event. Get out there and support the Grizzlies!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Links: Previews, Michael Wilbon, Free Damon!

Some quick notes for you as you get ready to start your weekend.

There's an......interesting, I guess is the word, preview from Dave over on Blazer's Edge about both the Grizzlies and the Hornets. I'll let you take a look at it because I'm not sure I can really say that much about it without laughing out loud.

Speaking of previews, yesterday Michael Wilbon predicted that the Grizzlies would win 50 games. While I recognize Wilbon as more of a sports expert than I am, I think everyone wants to know what he was smoking when he came to that conclusion. I believe that some of the mid-tier teams in the West will falter, allowing the Grizzlies to improve significantly from last season's disaster, but more than doubling their win total? That's a lot to expect.

This is especially true if you are already seeing the same problems creep up yet again, as they have season after season in Memphis. That's what MemphisX sees in his review of the team's two preseason games on Grizzlies Nation.

This is going to be the 7th season in Memphis and not once have we been considered a playoff lock and we are still left to hope for potential and talk about what ifs. Frankly, I don't think I can stomach another 82 games of watching a team in which the majority of the playing rotation does not understand what it takes to make game winning plays on a nightly basis.

Finally, it appears that Damon's legal issues are no longer hanging over his head. Kim Smith of the Arizona Daily Star reports that a deal was reached in Stoudamire's Tucson marijuana possession case that stemmed from an incident in July 2003.
The marijuana and paraphernalia charges will be dismissed against Stoudamire if he does four things within the next six months. First, Stoudamire must give the
University of Arizona’s athletic department $45,000 in scholarship funds for needy and at-risk youth who want to participate in Lute Olson’s and Joan Bonvicini's basketball camps.In addition, Stoudamire must submit two negative drug tests, avoid any criminal convictions and report any arrests, Chalk said.

Of course, if the Kim Smith reporting this looked like the Kim Smith I immediately thought of, this would probably be a bigger story. It would definitely be on ESPN News.

There's your news for this Friday morning. Check back later when I'll post the first installment of our Roundtable Discussion from two weeks ago. Also, don't forget about the Grizzlies' Annual Open Practice, which will be held at the FedEx Forum tomorrow (Saturday) at noon. Admission is free, so this is one more great opportunity to see the Boys in Beale Street Blue before they see NBA action on Monday night.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

NBA Previews - Southwest Division

Shades of Blue is pleased to be joining with several other team blogs in providing previews for's NBA section. Just like we did for the Atlantic Division last week, here are the previews of the teams in the toughest division in the NBA from several quality blogs, including our own.

San Antonio Spurs
Spur of the Moment
Pounding the Rock

New Orleans
Hornets 24/7
The New Orleans Hornets Fan

Shades of Blue



CelticsBlog NBA Page

Bonus Link: Also see the always entertaining Tom Ziller preview of the Southwest.

Links: Mighty Mouse, Bloggers vs. Mainstream Media, Mike Conley Jr.

There's a short piece on Damon Stoudamire from the Toronto Star today titled Mighty Mouse still flying with Memphis. Stoudamire was drafted by the Toronto Raptors in 1995 and became the Rookie of the Year. Here's a quote from the column:

Whether it was the financial madness of owners in a post-lockout NBA or a watering-down of the on-court product that has allowed him to stay a starter for more than a decade, Stoudamire has easily surpassed his early goals. He's probably made close to $100 million in his career. He's been in the Western Conference final with Portland and will lead an intriguing Memphis team this year while teaching his eventual replacement, Mike Conley, the tricks he learned from Alvin Robertson, Ed Pinckney and John Salley on those early Raptors teams.

I found a very interesting piece on AOL's The Fanhouse today via TrueHoop discussing how some bloggers have garnered press passes to NHL games over the past few seasons. In this post, Eric McErlain (of the great hockey blog Off Wing Opinion) discusses the way he got his start in gaining access "behind the velvet rope" with the Washington Capitals and was accepted without any qualms or labels. However, in this new venture by the New York Islanders, they have purposefully segregated the bloggers from the "regular media" and made it a point to label them, thus ostracizing them. McErlain also touches on the piece that covered the debut of the "Blog Box", as well as taking some justified shots at anonymous hockey blogger Eklund. Read the whole post to draw your own conclusions. I'll be busy trying to figure out how to acquire a press pass from the Memphis Grizzlies.

Last, but not least, Happy Birthday! to Mike Conley, Jr. He turned 20 today.

Live Blog - 10/11 Preseason Game

Game Day!!

As long as I can get the internet streaming to work again, I will host another live blog. I thought the live blog from the first preseason game was well received.

For all of you 8-5 workers out there that can't watch the game live or fans without NBATV, open up Shades of Blue and follow my live blog. I'll do my best to keep you informed of what is happening in the game.

Today the Grizzlies play MMT Estudiantes, who I think beat Unicaja recently. There is still around 3 hours before tipoff. In the mean time, go read Chip's excellent game preview. If you still are looking to kill time before the game, go read Spartacus's NBA positional rankings (PF, SF, SG, PG). And then leave your rankings in the comments. You can also participate in discussion during the game over at the Grizzlies Messageboard game thread.

Hope to see everyone back here at 11:30 am.

10:08 am Update: UGH!!!! Some idiot construction worker cut the phone and internet at work. I walked over to the library on campus where I am now using the wireless connection to get to the internet. In addition, I'm not sure the site I streamed the game on last time will work for today's game. But I have my fingers crossed that it will. If I can't stream the game, obviously there will not be a Live Blog. Come back here at 11:30 and we will see what happens.

11:15 am Update: Sorry everybody, doesn't look like I will get to stream the game over the net. I have 15 minutes to try to track the game stream down...

11:27 Update: We have a Winner!!! Big thanks to bgassassin...
Go here to stream...on the left side click on sports, then NBATV...

11:32 Update: Scratch that.....still no streaming available...ugh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

11:36 Update: OK, Monkey Boy came through in the clutch...Go here...Use IE....

Game getting ready to we go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Remember to keep refreshing this page (F5) to get my new updates...

11:41: Here is the tip...same starting lineup as before....Damon, Mike, Rudy, Stro, and Pau. Pau just talked to the crowd. I have no idea what he said.

11:47: Griz win the tip...Rudy with a 3...miss. Estudiantes brings it down and then some type of offensive foul on Estudiantes. Quick drive by Damon. NICE!!! that is what I want to see from Damon. Memphis 2, Estudiantes 2 after a long 2 by Estudiantes. Damon again penetrates early in the shot clock. NICE!!!! I love it. Miller with a rebound but the outlet pass goes out of bounds. Rudy just got scored on in the post. Damon pushing the ball more than last game. Stro then hammers one and shows the stro sign!!! Miller drains a 3 in transition!!!!!!!! David Stern is in the crowd. Another fast break and Miller gets an easy layup. This game has started really good.

11:55: So far this game has been super easy with the Griz attacking the basket. Miller at the line for the And-1 attempt. After last games 57% from the stripe, I cringe when we are at the line. But Miller sinks it. Memphis 12,
Estudiantes 4. Rudy with a great drive and sinks the mid range floater. Damon got picked and his man drives but Stro helped and stiffed the drive. Another Estudiantes miss. Damon with a great pass to Stro. Damon looks 100% better this game than last game. After a Estudiantes basket, Damon pushes the ball (yes!) and then finds Pau on the block for bucket and harm. Griz up 12. Miller takes the charge.

12:00: Miller then drains a 3!!! I must say that so far this game lacks the excitement of the last. Maybe it is b/c this team is worse. Or maybe b/c there isn't very many fans in the crowd. Kyle Lowry checks in!!!! And he quickly finds Darko (who came in for Pau) off a pick and roll. Announcers are now showing their love to our offseason. Gay with another errant outside shot. Lowry pushes off a miss, pulls it back then gives it to Rudy, but he misses a layup. Estudiantes can't hit anything from the outside. Man, the refs have quick whistles today.

12:02: BC comes in!!!! And then clanks a 3. But another quick whistle on something. Navarro comes in. On the court: Lowry, JC, Rudy, BC, and Darko. Rudy bricks another 3. Estudiantes was in a zone. Lowry with a bad pass leads to a fastbreak attempt, but then Lowry goes and blocks the layup with a great make up play after the turnover. What a play...

12:04: Griz allow an offensive rebound (allowed 15 last game) for a layup, but then JC takes it to the hole for a great transition layup. Rudy is then called for a travel on another transition attempt.

12:08: Estudiantes can't buy a bucket from the outside leading to many Griz fast break opportunities. Lowry and BC running the pick and roll up top leading to a reaching foul. Griz already in the bonus. Lowry sinks both. Pressure defense by the Griz. Shot clock in single digits before they can think of shooting. On the other end, Darko sinks a 12 footer.

12:11: TK7 enters the game. Then misses an awkward tansition layup after another long brick by Estudiantes. On the court, Lowry, JC, TK7, BC, and Darko. Griz hold for last shot in the 1st quarter. Darko then gets an offensive foul and then taunts the crowd!!!!!! Hide your mothers and sisters, Darko is on the loose!!!!!!! Griz dominating the 1st quarter, 32-11. Looks like this is the game to get the end of the bench lots of burn.

12:20: Phantom foul on Lowry to start the 2nd quarter. Estudiantes with an offensive rebound but we force a steal. On the court: Lowry, JC, TK7, BC, and Pau. Block called on Kinsey. BC then takes a charge. NICE!!! Pau with a nice flick for a bucket in the lane. Estudiantes finally makes an outside shot. Kinsey helps out on Pau's man and his man makes a layup. Nice back dorr cut by TK7 for a bucket. I think Damon is back in. Damon then pushes after a miss and we get another easy bucket. Estudiantes is far worse than the last Spanish team. Estudiantes bigs are far worse.

12:27: Announcers are now talking about Dwight Howard for some reason. On the court: Damon, JC, TK7, Andre Brown, and Pau. Looks like David Stern is sleeping. NBA: feel the excitement!!!! Lots of whistles this game. Estudiantes makes a long shot. Griz with a turnover. Then another whistle and it is again Griz ball. Iavaroni looks alot calmer this game. Griz up 40 to 20. JC misses 3, then TK7 gets an offensive rebound and Damon misses a 3.

12:33: Conley hasn't played yet. I expect he'll play in the 2nd half. I'd like to see Pau, Mike and Rudy sit the 2nd half of this game to reduce the risk of injury. On the court: Damon, Mike, Rudy, Andre Brown, and Darko. Miller misses 3, but Damon gets the long rebound and sinks the 3. Scratch that, long 2. Darko on the left block and guess what? He goes to his patented lefty baby hook for a score. The intensity of this game is not even close to the first game. We were all spoiled during that game. Lowry back in. Darko with the turnover. Estudiantes strokes a 3. Darko over the back off a Miller missed 3.

12:39: 1st half is coming to a close. Wait, the commercial that says that "nobody has mastered the shot like JJ Reddick" is playing again. Everytime I hear that I chuckle. Memphis up 46 to 29. Griz have played really good. Damon and Lowry are running the point great. Conley hasn't played yet. Estudiantes doesn't have the size or offensive skill to hang with us. Officials are quick on the whistles. Estudiantes is now putting on some full court pressure. Miller is now ice cold from deep. Darko gets fouled going for the loose ball after the miss. The lefty sinks one of the FT's, but Rudy got the rebound. On the court: Lowry, Mike, Rudy, Stro, and Darko.

12:44: Rudy bricks a 3 after great ball movement. Anther ticky-tack calls gives the ball back to Memphis. Lowry finds Darko in the lane for a thunder dunk!!!!! Rudy then shoots another jumper (from the top of the key) and again he bricks it. Miller bricks a 3. Estudiantes has scored more 2nd quarter points than the Griz. Halftime. Memphis 52, Estudiantes 33. I hope the refs swallow their whistles in the 2nd half.

12:59: 2nd half is getting ready to start. I couldn't find the box score on to give some 1st half stats. We had an awesome 1st quarter but got outscored in the 2nd quarter. Estudiantes couldn't buy a bucket for a while. We forced lots of turnovers and had a lot of fast break opportunities. Damon looks WAY better than the first preseason game. He is pushing the ball and being a threat to score early in the shot clock. Miller and Rudy are cold from the outside. Conley hasn't played yet. TK7, BC, and Andre Brown all got burn in the 1st half. My favorite play of the half started with a Lowry errant pass, but then he recovered and blocked the fast break layup. Miller with 11 points (on a ton of shots). Darko with 10. Stro (yes stro!!!) with 9. 32-18 rebounding advantage. Nice. Estudiantes is shooting 27%. I don't think all of that is due to our defensive pressure.

1:02: 2nd half starters: Conley, Rudy, Mike, Pau and Hak. Hak and Conley with their first appearance of the game.

1:07: Pau with a great look to Hak. I love the prospect of Pau and Hak (or darko/stro) using the high low game due to Pau's court vision. After a Rudy board, a quick outlet pass to Conley leads to a layup. You can tell Iavaroni is stressing the quick (and long) outlet passes. The refs are still calling it tight. Looks like TK7 checks in for Miller. Estudiantes with a long offensive rebound. Pau then with the deflection, but Estudiantes returns the favor on the other end. Rudy fouls going for the steal (did I mention he had 5 steals in the first preseason game). Conley pushes, but nothing. Pau then misses a runner in the lane. Estudiantes is still cold from the outside. Rudy got away with a push off and makes the 15 footer.

1:09: WTF? The shot clock buzzer was super annoying. Rudy makes a 3 after a kick out by Conley. Finally. Estudiantes bricks another 3. Both teams shooting horrible from beyond the arc as both are 3-16.

1:15: Memphis 61, Estudiantes 35. Rudy almost with a nice steal. TK7 then with great defense and forces the turnover. Pau makes a 15 footer. Pau then makes another 15 footer and gets the And-1 this time. I think it is safe to take out the Meal Ticket now. JC checks in to a loud ovation.

1:19: On the court: Conley, JC, Casey, BC, and Pau. Pau with an offensive rebound and Casey makes a 3. 69-42 Memphis after Estudiantes makes a 3. Announcers are again talking about the Celtics and how Danny Ainge is the best executive in the NBA....hahahahahaha...whatever. Now they are talking about Damon being traded to Boston. Lowry checks in for Conley. Pau also comes out (and don't come back in!). BC with a nifty scoop shot. 71-42.

1:21: JC and Lowry are showing some great chemistry in the backcourt together. 73-45 memphis. BC makes a great pass to Darko, but the big guy can't finish. Estudiantes makes a 3. Now a 25 point game.

1:27: Casey makes an outside shot. Lowry gets to line after one of his patented drives. BC with a big block from behind. BC is playing good today (tonight?). Memphis up 80 to 52. Holding for the last shot of the quarter and Lowry is called for an offensive foul. Again, Griz fans be ready to see Lowry get a lot of charges called on him this season.

1:35: I'm slowing down and might have to call it quits before the game is over. The 4th quarter just started. On the court: Lowry, JC, Casey, Brown and Darko. Lowry not playing nearly as well this game. Though I think Lowry has played the most minutes at the point. Iavaroni looks subdued on the bench. Looking to get the ball to Darko in the post. Results first in a foul on Estudiantes then a jump ball. The arena is playing "Jump" during the jumpball, how witty!!! I was 4 when that song was released.

1:37: Memphis 80, Estudiantes 54. Darko almost got dunked on. I think Conley should finish out the game. We are just informed that it is not Mike Conley Jr. He wants to be called Micheal Conley. Estudiantes in a zone, Casey then drains a 3.

1:41: Looking at the stats, the Grizzlies are shooting 88% from the stripe, a nice improvement from the 57% last game. We are killing them on the boards, but mostly b/c Estudiantes was cold as North Dakota most of the game. The bad stat is we have more turnovers than them. Looks like Jefferson just checked in, playing SF (wasn't he a PG in college). JC drains a shot.

1:45: Micheal Conley checks in. JC misses his patented floater in the lane.

1:50: Conley with a 3 on 1 fast break layup off a JC steal. JC comes out to large cheer. Only 6 points this game for JC. Conley with a nice pick/roll pass to Brown for a dunk. Then Conley penetrates and scores.

Alright everyone, I'm done. Griz win big. Pretty easy game from start to finish. I don't even know who to give the game ball too. Damon and Lowry both played good at the point. Mike and Rudy were cold from the outside. Pau, Darko and Stro all played well downlow.

Open practice on Saturday. Minnesota on Monday at home in Memphis. Go Griz!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Links: DIME Magazine, Kenny Smith

There was a nice recap of the loss to Unicaja on DIME Magazine today. They had some interesting insight into the Memphis Grizzlies young players, particulary their critique of Rudy Gay:

Rudy Gay is so freaking athletic and could be so good, it’s a shame he isn’t better. Think about it: physically, Rudy doesn’t have anything Kevin Durant doesn’t have (maybe the long-range accuracy), but he probably won’t ever be a superstar like KD can be because Rudy simply doesn’t go hard all the time. He made some amazing plays yesterday — crazy dunks from all over the place, and one block where he looked like Mike Powell jumping out at a three-point shooter — but there were also times when you could see Rudy start to drive, then blow an opportunity because he didn’t want the contact. If Rudy needs a “Don’t do this to your career” manual, he should look down the bench at Stromile Swift …
I think that's the fear that many fans have about Rudy -- that he'll never fulfill his potential...or possibly even come close.

Kenny Smith is the new NBA expert for Yahoo! Sports, taking the spot vacated by Steve Kerr who is now employed by the Phoenix Suns. He posted his predictions for the Eastern and Western Conferences. He has the Grizzlies finishing 9th in the West, which is the second highest position I've seen in all of these previews so far.
9. Memphis Grizzlies – They improved their team by adding Mike Conley Jr. However, the best improvement comes from just being healthy. Pau Gasol is arguably the second-best power forward in the West behind Duncan, and don't underestimate Damon Stoudamire's value.

Those are pretty strong words that he has to say about Gasol when Dirk Nowitzki -- you know, the reigning MVP -- still plays in the West, as well as Carlos Boozer, Shawn Marion and Elton Brand. Let's hope The Jet is an accurate prognosticator.

Rank Me Please! 25 Power Forwards

You should know the rules by now.

Power Forwards

  1. Tim Duncan - The Big Fundamental is the best PF to ever play the game in this blogger's humble opinon -- so who am I to put him anywhere other than the top spot?
  2. Kevin Garnett - He's got two seasons to get a title in Beantown, so expect him to find a superhuman way to elevate his game to an even higher unbelievable as that is to contemplate.
  3. Dirk Nowitzki - Dirk Diggler is coming off an MVP season (deserved or not), but will need to display some leadership to climb these rankings and ascend to the top spot.
  4. Carlos Boozer - Took a major step up last year in leading the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals and I don't see any reason that he'll decline this season. If anything, he might find a way to score more than the 20.9 ppg he averaged in 2006/07.
  5. Pau Gasol - Consistency is his M.O., but his numbers will probably see an increase under Marc Iavaroni's uptempo system, as they did under Barone last year.
  6. Shawn Marion - He might be unhappy in Phoenix, but with Amare Stoudemire coming off another knee surgery (minor or not), he'll continue to put up solid numbers in points and rebounds and great stats in steals and blocks. If you could run plays for him consistently, he'd be challenging for the Top 3.
  7. Chris Bosh - I had to drop him because of his injured foot, although he is quickly elevating his game to the point of being worthy of Top 3 consideration. As a side note, the guys at #4 - #8 are all equal IMO as the 2nd tier of PF's in the league -- but I do have to assign them numbers.
  8. Jermaine O'Neal - He didn't get traded to Los Angeles....yet. He'll keep putting up All-Star level numbers in Indiana as they figure out how to surround him with the talent needed to challenge for the Eastern Conference crown.
  9. Gerald Wallace - With Sean May out for the year, look for the athletic freak to log most of the minutes at PF where he is a mismatch for everyone not named Shawn Marion.
  10. Zach Randolph - His scoring might suffer slightly in the Big Apple, but he'll be able to pull down all the rebounds he wants alongside Eddy Curry. Now about that defense....
  11. Lamar Odom - It seems that he's really trying to make things work alongside Kobe, so maybe he'll finally be allowed to improvise rather than deferring to the Mamba so often.
  12. Antawn Jamison - I believe he'll take a backseat to Arenas and Butler, which means that his scoring will drop as his rebounds increase -- especially in light of the news that Etan Thomas will have heart surgery.
  13. Al Jefferson - He could struggle as "The Man" in Minnesota, but I think he'll shine instead, as he continues to develop into one of the most dangerous low-post threats in the game.
  14. Chris Wilcox - I'm anxious to see what he'll do without two All-Stars taking the majority of shots in Seattle. My hunch is he'll average 15 and 10 this year.
  15. LaMarcus Aldridge - With Oden out, Aldridge will likely be paired with Joel "White Mutombo" Przyzbilla most of the year. That means the low-post scoring load will fall upon his shoulders.
  16. David West - He's not flashy or spectacular, but somehow he continues to pile up solid numbers in sneaky fashion. As long as Tyson Chandler remains an offensive afterthought, West will get to pop mid-range jumpers to his heart's content.
  17. Charlie Villanueva - He was inconsistent through an injury-plagued year last season, but was showing bursts of incredible levels of improvement when he did get to stay in games.
  18. Nene - I think he'll see his minutes get reduced by the return of Kenyon Martin, but he's still the better overall player of the two, so he should still receive the lion's share.
  19. Udonis Haslem - He might get traded...he might not. Either way, he's capable of scoring a lot more than has been required of him while playing alongside D-Wade, Shaq and 'Toine in South Beach to this point.
  20. Al Harrington - He's one of many who will be asked to shoulder an additional scoring burden after the trade that sent Jason Richardson to the opposit coast. Is he up to the challenge?
  21. David Lee - If he doesnt' get to see the floor for at least 25 mpg, David Stern should step in and force the Knicks to trade him to someone with a clue how valuable he truly is.
  22. Boris Diaw - He's a headache to gameplan for as he is an impossible matchup for nearly everyone not named Sheed or KG.
  23. Antonio McDyess - Word outta Detroit is that he'll start at PF with Sheed moving over to play Center this year. Should be interesting, to say the least.
  24. Luis Scola - I wouldn't be surprised if he warrants being ranked 10 spots higher by the end of the season.
  25. Tim Thomas - With Elton Brand out, he'll have to elevate his game. Will he shy away from the added responsibility?

Others who might be Top 25 worthy: Hakim Warrick, Al Horford, Al Thornton, Tyrus Thomas, Jason Maxiell

Conley: We Weren't Mentally Ready to Play

Mike Conley just posted a new post over at his Yardbarkers blog. It is a good read. I love it that him, Hak and Casey all have blogs.

Conley talks about the "hostile" atmosphere playing Unicaja at their home in Malaga:

Yesterday we had our first pre season game and i had nerves running all through my body! It was different because of the hostile environment. I had never played over seas before and the fans love basketball. You could hear random whistles coming out of the stands and all of the different horns that people would play.

I love the thought of having whistles and horns in the stands, though I think that might not be allowed in NBA arenas. Maybe it is, I don't know. What I do know is that home court advantage would mean more if we could use devices to make it even louder in the FedEx Forum.

Next is the quote that might be the most important and candid quote I've read after our disappointing loss on Monday.

I thought we weren't mentally ready to play from the beginning of the game.

I hope the coaching staff realized that too and will correct it for next game. Conley then admits what everybody else saw watching the game.

But in the second half Kyle Lowry really stepped up when no one else was and helped get us back into the game.

I like the fact that Conley will give props to someone he is competing with for playing time. It really emphasizes the team aspect we have going on right now. But as long as Kyle Lowry is 3rd on the PG depth chart despite being the best PG during actual games, I am going to be somewhat frustrated. I am under the impression that every spot except for Pau's is up for grabs. I just hope that Lowry has a fair shot at the starting PG spot and that Conley's draft status or Damon's veteran status doesn't keep Lowry off the court. I want the best PG to play, regardless of draft position or age.


I touched (again) on the PG battle in this post. I've said previously that the PG battle is the storyline I'm most interested in this preseason.

Chris Herrington had this to say about the PG Battle following in a post about yesterday's loss.

On the first chapter in the preseason point-guard battle: I know a consensus storyline so far is the return of Damon Stoudamire, but I’m not buying the hype just yet. I’m trying not to prejudge this since I never liked the Stoudamire signing to begin with, but even though he does look better than he did last season, he still looks slow to me.

Clearly, Stoudamire is the least important point guard on this team in terms of long-term value — and I do think that needs to be a consideration. But, I also suspect he’ll be the least effective point guard on the roster THIS YEAR, especially relative to the style the team wants to play. Lowry outplayed Stoudamire (and Chucky Atkins) last season prior to his injury. He outplayed him yesterday. I don’t see any reason this is going to change.

Though Lowry outplayed Conley yesterday, I did like what the rookie showed. Remember this is his first preseason game: He’s going to be a work in progress all year. But he got the team into the offense quickly, was aggressive looking for transition opportunities, and showed his quickness off the dribble, getting into the lane pretty much at will.

Great thoughts by Chris. And like usual, I agree with his stance. Damon, even if healthy, is still going to be slow compared to normal PG's and REALLY slow compared to Conley and Lowry. Conley showed glimpses yesterday of being able to initiate the break or the half-court offense very quickly. Lowry showed his usual tenacious defense and the ability to raise the level of play of everybody else. Add with that the fact that Conley and Lowry are our future PG's and I'm not sure Damon should be seeing more court time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Memphis vs MMT Estudiantes

Memphis played with numerous lineups in their loss on Monday but still managed to keep the game close against an experienced Spanish team in Malaga. While fans may be disappointed by the team's failure down the stretch Iavaroni did get the opportunity to see how the team competed against new opponents. Game two is important now as no NBA team has ever lost two games to European teams in the same pre-season.

MMT Estudiantes is a second division team in the Spanish League finishing 9th last season. MMT is a young team that always competes hard. For MMT, a non-affluent team, any victory is a big win so they always try very hard. MMT is famous for developing young players that richer teams sign in their prime. This is a major game for this team.

Point Guard: Damon Stoudamire vs Sergio Sanchez:
Damon has made an amazing recovery to regain the lead spot at the point for the Grizzlies. His 1st game however left much to be desired after his 3 pt, 2 assist effort. He will need to start performing better if he wants to stay in the starting role. Kyle Lowry continued to impress off the bench and Mike Conley played well in his first professional game. Sergio Sánchez will be the starter. He's a pure point guard who's good at finding the big men. Nothing spectacular, but serviceable. He played for Boston in the Summer Leagues this year. Gonzalo Martínez is a veteran player who will defend and do whatever the coach asks him to do. He won't win the game by itself, but won't lose it neither.
Advantage: Memphis

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Txemi Urtasun
Mike Miller showed some difficulty against Malaga especially on the defensive end. However he is still the most deadly outside shooting threat on the team and one of the most well rounded players. JC Navarro had a great game against Malaga and should be expected to provide a strong offensive punch off the bench. Tarence Kinsey didn't play in the first pre-season game. Txemi Urtasun is a good shooter. A young player (23) that could become someone really good in the ACB league, but hasn't improved enough the last two seasons. He played on some young Spanish National Teams from 2002 to 2004. Dome Lorbek is another young player from Slovenia (22). He's had a good European Championship now it's a matter of doing it in a long season every night. He can be really great if he continues to improve his game.

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Hernán Jasen
Rudy had a inconsistent game against Malaga as he recorded 5 steals but also 6 fouls. The Grizzlies need him to be more consistent. Hernán Jasen is one of the few veteran players in this team. He's been playing for estudiantes since 2001-02 season. He's a good defender with a decent outside shot and a good inside game. Carlos Suárez is supposed to be the next Carlos Jiménez with a better offensive game. It's still a long shot though. Javier Beirán is yet another young player with a plausible bright future. At 20, he's already a pure shooter and must improve the other areas of his game. It will be the first real professional season for him (he was in the roster last year but nearly didn't play).

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Larry Lewis
Pau Gasol started the pre-season strong with a solid game scoring 18 pts, grabbing 10 boards, dishing out 3 assists and blocking 4 shots. Hakim had a solid game in limited minutes scoring 11 pts with 5 boards in under 15 minutes. He also committed 4 fouls in that time. Larry Lewis is the only american player in the team. At 37 he's the older player by far and is supposed to bring veteran toughness on the paint. He's been playing all around the world. Florent Marius Pietrus. Mickael's brother. Similar games. A very athletic player with a decent touch, member of the French National Team, will provide interior defense and dunks. Daniel Clark. The youngest player of the team at 19.

Center: Stromile Swift vs Jesse Young
Stro was a surprise start at center over free agent signee Darko Milicic. Neither player really made a strong arguement to be the starter in the first game. Stro played just under 20 minutes scoring 6 points and getting 4 rebounds. Darko played 16 minutes scoring 4 points with 2 rebounds and 5 fouls. Jesse Young (27) is a Canadian player who has already played in the Spanish league. He played on the NCAA at the George Mason University. He's supposed to provide some interior scoring for this team while they develop Caio Torres. Another 20 year old player and a member of the Brazilian National Team. Has good post moves and a bright future ahead, but is still raw. A typical inside player with 52% FG and 56% FT. This should be a chance for the Grizzlies big men to gain some confidence and don't be surprised to see both players on the court at the same time in this game.

Coaches: Mariano de Pablos is a coach who is young also. Younger than the older player on his team, actually, since he was born in 1975. He's another product of Estudiantes (yes, they develop coaches too. Does Pepu Hernández ring a bell?). He was the assistant coach of the team the last two seasons and is the main coach now for the first time. Hey, Iavaroni will face someone with as much experience as him! Iavaroni's first game was not a must win but he may be facing one in this game. Ivaroni doesn't want to be the first coach to be shut out in the Euroleague games.

Live Blog - 10/9 Preseason Game

If I am able to stream the game over the net while at work, I will try to have a live blog going during the game. Check back here after 1pm.

12:55: I think I have this thing streaming right...right now is some NBA story narrated by Ahmad Rashad about Loul Deng....I have my fingers crossed....

Go Griz!

1:02.: Here we go! Starting lineups after this commercial. Streaming over the net rules.

1:05: Looks like the starters are Damon, Mike, Rudy, Pau and Stromile. Stro is the surprise starter.

1:10: Looks like the teams are exchanging gifts. ????

1:11: Navarro is addressing the crowd. I have no idea what he is saying.

1:15: Here comes the tip. Griz get the ball. Gasol gets a pick on the baseline, then misses a hook in the lane. Unicaja scores. Gasol answers. Unicaja misses oop. Great drive by Mike. Rudy from DEEP...brick.

1:17: Nobody can make a shot from deep. Damon gets the to the lane and gets fouled. But still when he drove, the shot clock was at 8 and that was the first threat to score in that possession. We have to be a threat to score earlier in the shot clock. Unicaja scores and then Damon answers with a quick drive (good!).

1:20: Great long outlet by Swift. Swift with the heady play, write that down. Griz up 9 to 6. Mike with a nice kick out 3, assist by Pau. 12 to 6. Horrible decision by Rudy on the fast break. Ugh!

1:25: Are we in Memphis? I just saw an Iverson jersey. Shot of Kenny Smith in the crowd. Hak and Darko are in. Darko misses his patented lefty baby hook. Conley is in too. What a pass by Darko for the Rudy Gay dunk. Wow!!!! Followed by a great steal by Rudy, leading to a Hak dunk. Love the defense.

1:28: In comes Navarro to a standing ovation. Conley just showed how he is able to get the ball down the court and into the offense very fast. Ended up with a Hak fadeway. Followed by a Conley to Rudy alley-oop. Our hands are very active on defense, leading to some great fastbreak opportunities.

1:35: Does Darko have any other move than go to the block and use that turnaround lefty baby hook? Jacobsen in, I'm assuming for Rudy. I love how fast Conley gets the ball down the court. Haislip just took Hak to the rack.

1:37: Haislip with a nifty steal and open court dunk. Whoever in bounded the ball messed up. Conley holds for the last shot, leading to a Hak airball. Griz looked good for a while, but sloppy play let Unicaja close the gap.

1:43: Damon, Pau, and Rudy back in. Goaltending by either Rudy or Pau. Tie game at 21. Strong drive by Rudy. That is what we need more of. Clear out for Rudy and he shoots a freaking jumper. Drive, Rudy, drive!!! I think Rudy is playing the PF right now. Pau just got school on the block. Then someone gets school on the give and go. I think it is time to put Lowry in.

1:46: Damon, Navarro, Mike, Rudy, and Pau are on the court right now. Navarro is making great entry passes to Pau. Lots of zip and right on the mark. Another deflection leads to another Rudy dunk!!!!! 29-28 Memphis. Phantom foul called on Navarro. The announcers are calling him "JC". Is that what we should be calling him?

1:51: The Meal Ticket with great position in the post and scores. Then Santiago takes it right back at Pau. Brick by Damon. JC with the brick. Another made shot by Santiago in the lane. Him and Haislip must have most of their points. JC out. Who's in? Looks like Damon, Mike, Casey, Rudy and Pau are on the court. Where is Kinsey and Lowry? Rudy with a stupid foul on a deep 3.

1:57: What a day to spend an afternoon at work. The NBA is back...finally. Conley back in. conley, Mike, Casey, Stro and Darko on the court. Conley with one of those crazy underhand flips on a drive. Darko just steamrolled someone. He looked like a fullback. Griz losing. By 8. check that. By 11. Conley with a dumb turnover, but Mike makes a great play in transistion. What is wrong with our defense? Looks like we are allowing penetration, then after we help, they make the outside shot.

2:00: I like the Unicaja player with the full beard. Or is there more than 1 with a full beard? Either way, more white guys need to sport the full beard. It immediately adds a layer of toughness. Griz down by 10. Darko showing he can guard Santiago better than Pau.

2:05: On the court, Conley, JC, Mike, Darko, and Swift. They just ran the play that I outlined in the Blue/White Scrimmage Recap. It led to a Conley jumper. Next possession, Conley shows off his fast first step. Rudy in for Swift (that was fast) then Rudy pushes off. WOW!!!!!! What a block by Rudy Gay!!!!!! Then Swift comes right back in for Rudy. Swift must have needed a quick lesson. Maybe they wrote the instructions on the back of his hand.

2:12: Spoke too soon. Santiago schools Darko too. Griz down. Pau back in for Darko. JC with his patented runner in the lane. NICE! Then he turns around and gets drove on and commits a foul. Why are the announcers talking about the Suns and Spurs? Great alley-oop from Conley to Stro!!!!!!!!!!!!! At halftime, Griz down by 5, 47 to 42. I think a little Kyle Lowry and TK7 combination is needed to get the lead back in the good guys favor.

2:27: Mike and Pau segment at halftime. Good stuff. Pau and Rudy lead the team with 8 points a piece. Miller coming thru with 6 boards and Conley has 3 assists. We are shooting 46%, Unicaja with 42%, both teams are shooting under 20% from beyond the arc.

2:34: 2nd half starters are Damon, Mike, Rudy, Pau and Swift. Pau just got muscled down low. Rudy's jumpers just don't look smooth. Another drive by Unicaja. I'm ready to see TK7 and Lowry come into the game. Stro forcing his way to the line. Gotta love that. The annoucners just said that Stro hasn't yet found what makes him good yet. I think that comment speaks for itself. Another great give and go by Unicaja, leading to an And-1. Griz are shown scratching their heads on the sideline. Then we have a stupid turnover and allow another offensive rebound. Who's the NBA team again? 12 point lead for Unicaja. UGH!!!!!!!! Take a timeout coach. Haislip just takes Stro to the rack and the other post player follows up with a emphatic dunk. Not looking good for the Griz. How about Lowry and TK7, coach?

2:40: Looks like Lowry is in!!!!!!!!!!! And the Griz might be in a zone. Miller strokes a 3. Back to man. Miller fouls trying to guard Haislip in the post. Miller then misses from wayyyyy deep. Unicaja banks in a 3. 15 point lead for Unicaja. Rudy bricks a 3. Iavaroni is not happy. Memphis fans are not happy. Rudy with the steal and takes a fall when getting fouled.

2:44: Lowry with full court pressure. Then Lowry (with some help from Rudy) makes a great play on breaking up an oop. On the court, Lowry, Mike, Casey, Hak, and Pau. Good pressure D forces a turnover. Lowry pushes the ball, but gets blocked. Hak gets scored on. 14 point lead for Unicaja.

2:48: Mike with another board after good post defense by Pau. Hak bricks a FT shot. Hello, Mark Price. JC in for Mike. Lowry, JC, Casey, Hak and Pau on the court. Unicaja with some great interior passing. Then Lowry comes down and penetrates allowing Hak to get to the foul line again. Our interior defense has been pathetic this game. Navarro just got backdoored. Lowry again forces his way to the rim immediately and goes to the line. Lowry is our best PG right now. Sorry, did I just say that out loud?

2:51: Lowry with a great full court pass to Hak. Iavaroni talking to Darko on the bench, hopefully prepping him on some interior defense.

2:55: Kyle forces jump ball. His defense is great. Then wins the tip. Pau gets lucky and doesn't get called for a charge. On the court: Lowry, JC, Casey, Pau and Hak. Now the announcers are talking about the Celtics Screw Boston.

3:00: Kyle drives again, but gets the charge. That is going to happen alot this year. Kyle with great defense again and forces a moving pick. Kyle again drives to the rim, but misses the layup. JC with a huge 3. Assist Lowry. The announcers are realizing that the key to the game is Kyle Lowry. Everytime he plays, we always say the same thing. He just turn games around in our favor. On court: Kyle, JC, Casey, Pau and Darko. Darko with a nice give and go with Casey. Announcers are speculating that we will trade Damon. Someon looks is JC. Memphis within 4. Darko brings us to within 2. Nice deflection by JC. I prefer to type JC instead of Navarro. Kyle is waiting for the last shot. JC nails a 3. Memphis is now up by 1. All hail Kyle Lowry and JC Navarro.

3:02: There is this stupid commerical that keeps saying that "Nobody shoots the ball better than JJ Redick." Really? Nobody?

3:06: That 3rd quarter just showed why Kyle Lowry will force his way to the court when the game really matters. Darko misses another shot. Unicaja nails a 3 to take the lead. Pau got clobbered on a attempted oop by Darko. JC nails another 3!!!!!!!!!!! Pau blocks a 3 and then gets the open court dunk. Miller comes in for Casey. Where is TK7? A phantom call on Dako. Man, this game is flying by. In comes Hak for Pau.

3:08: Turnover, Griz ball. JC with another 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Memphis up by 5. Lowry catches a weird shot by Darko and finds Hak for dunk. Darko is out of control. I think he just whacked a Unicaja player. Hide the mothers and sisters, Darko is loose!!!!!!!!

3:13: On the court: Kyle, JC, Mike, Stro, and Hak. Unicaja in a zone. Miller misses 3. Hak misses the putback. Great double team by Lowry forces a turnover that leads to a Miller fast break layup. JC just missed Lowry for an easy layup and then Stromile gets called for a worthless moving screen. Unicaja with another 3. Hak got stuffed. Unicaja then nails another 3 and Hak fouls him setting up the potential 4 point play. Take Hak out, please.

3:16: JC misses a runner. Tied at 82. JC with a 3 after a great find by Lowry. Pau is at the scorers table. Santiago with another strong effort in the post. Can we sign that guy? Pau in for Hak. The crowd is chanting. Something. JC with another 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think Conley came in for Lowry. Rudy just had a spectacular dunk in the open court after a great pass by JC.

3:22: Navarro with a runner. Saying he is on fire is an understatement. Griz up 9. Unicaja brings it down to 7. Pau fouls Haislip on the drive and isn't happy about it. I think he has a point after the replay. Iavaroni does not look pleased with the Memphis hustle. I think that has something to do with our hustle man being on teh bench. JC finally misses. Off Rudy, Unicaja balls.

3:25: Rudy forces a bad shot. Griz up 4. 2 minutes to play. JC blocked. Unicaja with another 3. Time to take Conley out and put Lowry back in I think. Timeout. Game on the line. Let's go Griz!

3:30: Lowry back in (yes!). Pau with a clutch basket. Assist from Miller. Lowry forces an airball, but it turns into an accidental alley-oop. Memphis up 1. 1 minute left. Lowry got fouled. He doesn't like the foul. The announcers just said that NBA refs are consistent. What? JC with the ball. to Pau. Pau misses the layup. Memphis up 1. Unicaja takes the lead. Memphsi calls timeout. Uh-oh!!!!

3:32: Lowry misses layup. Pau looks hurt. Unicaja with a fast break point and up 3. Ok, Pau is alright. Memphis down 3, doesn't look good.

3:35: Will we go for 2 or 3? Looks like Lowry is in bounding the ball. I say get it to JC. Lowry, JC, Mike, Rudy, and Pau on the court. Miller gets fouled. Looks like we went for 2.

3:37: Miller misses both. Way to go Mark Price! Looks like game is essentially over. Hats off to
Unicaja. Unicaja misses the first free throw. We need them to miss this one. They make it. 4 point game. Timeout Memphis.

3:39: JC with an offensive foul. That seals the game. Thanks for coming over and reading the Live Blog.

3:41: Ok, Mike just nailed a 3, but Memphis is still down by 3. Wow!!! We got a turnover. Unicaja will foul. Miller looks shaken up on the hard foul. Miller actually makes the first free throw. Miller makes the 2nd accidentally. Memphis down 1. Lowry with the foul. Only 1 or 2 seconds left. Officially 2.4 seconds left. Memphis now down 2. We need some Dallas Cowboys like magic. Memphis down 3. Miller misses a long 3 for the tie. We lose...ugh!!!

Game ball goes to Juan Carlos Navarro (with Kyle Lowry runner-up)

Update: David Friedman has some analysis and commentary on the game on 20 Second Timeout.

Update II: Dime Mag has some analysis and commentary on the game, titled "Go Hard or Go Home".

Update III: Chris Herrington also posted his take.

Monday, October 8, 2007

2007/08 Memphis Grizzlies Preview

Memphis Grizzlies

Last Years Record: 22-60

Key Losses: Chucky Atkins, Eddie Jones (Minor losses: Dahntay Jones, Alexander Johnson, Lawrence Roberts)

Key Additions: Marc Iavaroni, Darko Milicic, Mike Conley Jr., Juan Carlos Navarro, Chris Wallace (Minor additions: Andre Brown, Casey Jacobsen)

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
New GM Chris Wallace and new head coach Marc Iavaroni were hired and have made great strides in improving the overall level of talent on the team and molding it to Coach Iavaroni’s specifications. First came the drafting of PG Mike Conley Jr., as talented a floor general to come out of college in the last few years as anyone has seen. Then they went after big man Darko Milicic, managing to sign him prior to his furious tirade against FIBA officials that only made him more attractive to Grizzlies fans who have been longing for a healthy dose of attitude and aggression on the team. Finally, they capped it off with the trade of a heavily protected 1st round draft pick to the Washington Wizards for the rights to Juan Carlos Navarro, the Spanish star who also happens to be franchise player Pau Gasol’s best friend. These three acquisitions, coupled with the additional depth provided by newcomers Casey Jacobsen and Andre Brown have Grizzlies fans praising the front office – a new experience considering the events of recent years.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Versatility, speed and depth. Pau Gasol is capable of playing two positions and is a better passer than many point guards in the league. Rudy Gay could play up to three different positions (SG/SF/PF) this year in Iavaroni’s uptempo system. Mike Miller is comfortable at either wing position and has shown the ability to play the point in a pinch. Tarence Kinsey proved that he could guard three positions against top flight competition last season. With PG’s Mike Conley Jr. and Kyle Lowry likely to see the bulk of playing time, this team is set to run all day following the lead of these two speedsters. The speed and athleticism of Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, Tarence Kinsey and Stromile Swift should leave the FedExForum crowd gasping in amazement night in and night out. Even the two big men, Gasol and Milicic, are more explosive than one would think upon first glance at the Ivory Towers. The Grizzlies appear to be two-deep at each position, leading many fans to wonder if we’ll see a return of “Hubie Ball”, the vaunted system that former coach Hubie Brown installed that led the the turnaround of the Grizzlies’ fortunes soon after their arrival in Memphis, having suffered through 6 dismal seasons in Vancouver. One injury will not derail this team in the coming season, that’s almost guaranteed.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Chemistry and familiarity. This will be their first season under new coach Marc Iavaroni, so there will be an adjustment period as they learn the new system he is installing, as well as trying to become aware of new teammates’ preferences and tendencies. With a possibility of as many as four new starters this season -- both Iavaroni and Wallace have said that only Gasol is truly guaranteed a starting spot -- it could take more than a little time for this team to form the cohesion necessary to win games consistently. In fact, everyone should expect a rocky start to the season as the team gels. Great teams are not just thrown together – they take time to develop. That’s the vision that Wallace and Iavaroni have – a great team – so it would be foolish to expect too much from this unit initially.

4. What are the goals for this team?
The primary goal for this team will be, first and foremost, to avoid a repeat of last year’s disastrous showing, which resulted in the worst record in the NBA. To do this, avoiding injury to multiple players would be helpful, but if there was truly a way to plan for that, somebody would have figured it out by now. Beyond that, they should look to develop the chemistry necessary to make strides forward in the future, while nurturing the young talent they have on the roster. Cultivating the skills, and thusly the careers, of Conley, Gay, Milicic, Lowry and Warrick should be a high priority this season. Any one of these players could be the future star of this organization, so it will be important not to overlook any aspect of their maturation process.

5. Who is going to prevail in the battle for the point?
With former ROY Damon Stoudamire, super-sub Kyle Lowry and top draft pick Mike Conley Jr. all fighting for playing time at the point guard position, not to mention Juan Carlos Navarro being able to help out at the point from time to time, this battle should be the most interesting to watch in preseason camp and subsequently throughout the season. Conventional wisdom says that Conley should have the advantage as a lightning quick, pass-first PG. Kyle Lowry has a lot of fan support after his incredible start to his rookie season that was cut short after only 10 games do to a wrist injury. The long shot is veteran Damon Stoudamire who has the experience, but is recovering from a devastating torn patella tendon injury that had him limping up and down the court last season. He is rumored to be fully healed this year, has lost 10 pounds and plans on using his experience to offset the youth of other two players. In what limited time we've had to observe him, that appears to all be true. Likely Damon will hold down the starting job coming out of camp but pay attention to who the 2nd point guard off the bench is on opening night to see who will most likely be starting the new year.

Predicted Record: 37-45
They will lose just enough close games to miss the playoffs and finish at #10 in the Western Conference, although if they catch a few breaks they could sneak into the postseason.

A look into the Future

Around this time of year every web page you turn to has a prediction involved. You can find predictions of the upcoming season on ESPN thanks to Grizzlies hater John Hollinger, on Wages of Wins thanks to David Berri and even on CNN/SI (wouldn't that sound better as CSI Atlanta?). Some of these will come true and some won't and no one will ever remember who was correct when the season is over.

I am going to make a further reaching prediction. Not about who will win this season or how many games they will win but about how the game will be played sometime in the future.

The Grizzlies are participating in NBA Europe 2008 starting Tuesday and they won't be playing using NBA rules. They won't be playing using Euroleague rules either. They are playing under what the Associated Press is calling:

A hybrid of NBA and Euroleague rules

What exactly is a hybrid of NBA and Euroleague rules anyway?

That took a little digging but I did manage to find what I was looking for. Euroleague basketball has the rule changes posted and it makes for interesting reading. The time is the same as the NBA rules with 48 minutes games divided into four 12 minutes quarters. This makes for longer games than the European teams are used to and that could have an effect at the end of games. It still takes six fouls to foul out and the coach and players can call timeouts. Taking rules from the Euroleague is the trapezium lane shape which makes the bottom of the lane wider than the top. This makes it more difficult for big men to camp around the basket, opens more passing lanes in the middle but also makes it more difficult for backside double teams if a player does get the ball in the paint.

Unique rules for these games include a 3 pt line that is further out than the Europeans are used to playing but closer in than the NBA is used to having to shoot. This should be a decided advantage to NBA players in theory but in reality is an equal handicap. NBA players used to shooting from further away have to decide to take a longer shot than is necessary or move in closer for a shot they are less comfortable taking.

There are differences in timeouts as well as both squads have to adjust to only 6 timeouts per game. That is one more than the Europeans are used to having but one fewer than NBA teams usually have. There are two 20 second timeouts as well which is the same as the NBA is used to having. Basically the NBA coaches have one fewer full time out to use while the Europeans get one additional timeout plus the additional two 20 second timeouts they don't have in Euroleague play.

The biggest adjustment for NBA players involves touching a ball in the cylinder. This rule exists in Euroleague but is strictly forbidden in the NBA. This means that once the ball hits the rim anyone can swat it away without fear of penalty.

Is this the future David Stern foresees when he discusses having an NBA team in Europe? I think the future definitely requires a single set of rules for playing the game and using combinations of both makes the most sense. I don't know if all of these rules will eventually become the standard but I definitely think we are on the path to such uniformity and knowing the differences will make the games more interesting to watch. Fans of the Grizzlies and the other NBA teams need to know these differences and watch to see how they play out in the games. It may not be too long before everyone is playing the same game and that makes these exhibitions far more interesting than the normal pre-season games.

I predict these hybrids may become the standard before too long.

You can check out all the differences on Anthony's FIBA vs. USA page.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Lineup and Rotation Still Unknown

After more than a week of training camp, Coach Iavaroni gave the team a day off. The time hasn't been long enough to determine who is starting and who will make the primary rotation. Iavaroni said that no lineups have been determined.

"Is anything shaking out right now? No," Iavaroni said. "We haven't played any games. That's where we'll decide who is going to start and how we'll rotate, and have combinations. I'm going to sit down with the coaches (today) and decide which direction we want to go."

Iavaroni has said that nobody except for Pau has a guaranteed spot in the starting five. It seems reasonable to expect that Miller and Rudy will start at the wing positions. How the rest of the rotation shakes itself will be the most interesting aspect for the remaining time in training camp and preseason.

My favorite position battle is at the point. Right now I think the starting spot is Damon's to lose. During the Blue and White scrimmage, Damon started on the same team as Pau, Mike and Rudy and played really good. Tillery reported that during last practice, Damon was on the same team as Miller, Gay, Pau, and Darko. Those five are probably the consensus starters right now for most Griz fans. Looking at the pictures taken during practices, Damon usually has the same color jersey on as Pau, Rudy and Mike. That is why I believe that the starting point guard spot is Damon's to lose.

However, everything will most likely change once the Grizzlies start playing other teams. On Tuesday afternoon (Memphis time), the Grizzlies open up preseason games playing Unicaja. Chip thinks that Damon, Mike, Rudy, Pau and Darko will start and I agree with him.

I still think that within the first month of the season (if not by opening night), Mike Conley will be the starting point guard. Conley's ability to play and push the team to such a fast pace will earn him Iavaroni's trust. Right now it may look like a now-healthy Damon has the upper hand, it is still just a matter of time before he gets passed over. Damon understands this.

Even though Damon might be the favorite to start at PG and Conley looks to be the most competent contender, Kyle Lowry should not be counted out. I fully believe that as long as Lowry is healthy, his tenacious defense and knack for making big plays will force his way to the court, especially in the 4th quarter. I predict that Kyle will become the biggest fan favorite this year for his gritty, bulldog style.

The backup wing position is another competitive battle (assuming Miller and Rudy start). I have no idea who will come out on top between Navarro, Kinsey and Jacobsen. Kinsey is the worst shooter of the three, but a better defender. I also have a feeling that if Damon or Lowry finds themselves third on the point guard depth chart, that either of them could see some spot minutes at the 2 if Iavaroni chooses to go super-small (Damon for his shooting and Lowry for his defense and ability to get to the rim). That could hurt the court time available for Navarro/Kinsey/Jacobsen. Working in the other direction is the possibility of Rudy playing some at the 4, opening up more minutes for the Navarro/Kinsey/Jacobsen trio.

There is one prediction I do feel confident making regarding the Grizzlies position battles. Stro will not be apart of it. Like clockwork, Stro already has a knee injury. Although minor, I have a feeling this will be the start of a string of small nagging injuries for Swift.

Edit (10-8-07, 3:55 pm): Check out Chris Herrington's take on Camp Battles.