Saturday, October 27, 2007

Links: Previews, Recap could see the Grizzlies back in the playoffs this season:

OUTLOOK: A full season with Gasol has fans hoping for a return to the postseason, but with Iavaroni learning new faces - and the players doing the same - it might take the first half of the campaign to get things rolling in the right direction. On the plus side, Memphis does have a strong bench, which includes G-F Tarence Kinsey (7.7 points), F Hakim Warrick (12.7) and F-C Stromile Swift (7.8). The Grizzlies should challenge for the playoffs if the team gels in enough time and Gasol continues to grow.

Golden State of Mind thinks we'll finish 10th in the West this year.

Here is my recap of the beatdown that occurred at the FedEx Forum last night, as the Grizzlies played the Indiana Pacers, losing 140-113.

One team couldn't hit water if they fell off the Hernando DeSoto bridge.

The other team couldn't miss with their eyes closed. Guess which was which. The Pacers shot over 70% from the floor in the first half. I know many Grizz fans have blamed this on the defensive deficiencies of the Boys from Beale Street, but only 4 of their 81 first half points came on fast breaks, which has been their Achille's heel this preseason. No, it was a combination of poor rebounding by Memphis and an incredible shooting night for Indiana that resulted in the substantial scoring differential in this game. With it being the final preseason game, I expected to see a few players "mailing it in" and wasn't disappointed. The only things I took away from this game were as follows:

  • Brian Cardinal can still shoot.
  • Casey Jacobsen can still shoot.
  • Mike Miller is tougher than people give him credit for. He took a nasty spill at the very beginning of the game after Ike Diogu undercut him following a breakaway dunk and came back shortly thereafter.
  • Juan Carlos Navarro will not be able to bring us back from every 4th quarter deficit.
  • Michael Conley is going to be a great PG for a long time in this league.
  • Pau Gasol is a sharp dresser.
  • Darko Milicic is not someone I would ever want to meet in a dark alley. *Easy joke: You would hope he has a gun, since he misses almost everything he shoots at.* Solid rebounder and shotblocker though.
  • Tarence Kinsey isn't quite as good a defender as everyone remembers him being last year.
  • Kyle Lowry is the toughest 6 ft. guard to come into the league since Allen Iverson.
  • Andre Brown needs to rebound more and shoot less.

Other than that, I chalk it up to being a meaningless preseason game that will be forgotten in a few days.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Links: More Previews, Copycats, International Relations

As we get ever closer to the start of the season, everyone seems to be waiting as long as possible to glean every single nugget of information from the preseason before posting their previews. Here at Shades of Blue, we expect to be wrong (and ridiculed for it), so we did our's a few weeks ago. But here are a few that you might not have seen yet.

Athlon Sports says the goal should be 30 wins this year.

FanIQ's "gearhead" is predicting 29 wins in his preview of the Southwest Division.

HoopsBlogging's "goathair" says we won't be good, we will be fun to watch and will somehow win 44 games. It's a rather confusing preview, in all honesty.

The Pacers recognize that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so they are copying what the Grizzlies did last year to win back fan support. From the Indianapolis Business Journal:

Last season, the National Basketball Association’s Memphis Grizzlies had star rookie Rudy Gay record a message with a information about a special “two for $22” ticket plan, which resulted in the team selling 1,500 tickets. Grizzlies officials said it resulted in a 4,000-percent return on investment.Fans were so excited to receive this call from Gay that they would forward it to their friends, resulting in a huge viral effect, according to Grizzlies officials.

The Pacers are having coach Jim O'Brien call, which might not be as effective as having a player do it, but should help nonetheless with their attendance issues.

Finally, we come to an interesting article from Nikola Olic on (love the new site design, by the way). It talks about how international players relate to each other better than with their American counterparts, which seems like an obvious conclusion to reach, since they have had similar experiences in adjusting to the NBA and a new culture. In fact, the only thing I take exception with is the title of it ("Grizzlies' First International Duo") and this quote:
And with the addition of Darko Milicic, they are the first NBA team in a long while to have a frontcourt with an international twist.

How soon we forget the greatness that was Jake Tsakalidis. He is Chris Vernon's favorite NBA player of all time, after all.

NBA Previews - Southeast Division

Shades of Blue is pleased to be joining with several other team blogs in providing previews for's NBA section. Be sure to take the time to read all these other quality blogs as they predict their team's future for the 2007/08 season.

Washington Wizards
Bullets Forever

Orlando Magic
Believing in Magic
Third Quarter Collapse

Miami Heat
I Want to be a Sports Agent
Crazy from the Heat

Atlanta Hawks
Impending Firestorm

Charlotte Bobcats
Bobcat Bonfire
Queen City Hoops

CelticsBlog NBA Page

Also, Tom Ziller covers the entire division in his NBA Festivus: Southeast Preview.

Grizz Week of Events

The Grizzlies have "Grizz Week" going on leading up to Opening Night vs. the Spurs next week. They have events all over town, including tonights game, leading up to the first game. Here are the events...

TONIGHT: 6:00 pm The Grizzlies Blog Party! Held inside beautiful FedEx Forum at the Jack Daniels Old #7 Bar and Restaurant, the Blog party looks to become the place to meet other Grizzlies posters, bloggers and media personalities before the game. Talk hoops and have some fun! And I might add that this event is only being held downtown. No catering to those rich East Memphis types!!!

Okay that isn't actually a Grizz Week sponsored event but come anyway to support the team. This is the rematch with Mike Conley's hometown team and we owe them one. At the last blog party Chris Herrington from the Memphis Flyer (an excellent blog writer I might add) was there and we really got deep on what was going down with the Grizz (and no I can't talk jive).

Now back to the official Grizz Events Planning previously scheduled.

Saturday, October 27
Saturday, the Grizzlies will be holding another Block Party at Dalstrom Park in Whitehaven from 2 – 4 p.m., with appearances by Andre Brown and Hakim Warrick.

Monday, October 29
The Grizzlies will host the annual Tip-Off Luncheon, an event allowing fans to rub shoulders with all Grizzlies players and coaches. Tables for the Tip-Off Luncheon are still available, and information on how to purchase a table can be found on

Monday, October 29
The Grizzlies will also be taking it to the streets Monday and Tuesday with drive time blitzes. Grizzlies staff members will be at the following locations giving out posters, pocket schedules and other items:

Monday, Oct. 29: 7 – 8:30 a.m. at E. Parkway and Sam Cooper Blvd.
4:30 – 6:30 p.m. at Highland and Poplar Ave.

Tuesday, Oct. 30: 7 – 8:30 a.m. at the Harbortown Roundabout
11:30 a.m. – Noon at Main Street and Gayoso

Tuesday, October 30
Downtown pep rally at Peabody Place mall on Tuesday, Oct. 30, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. The pep rally will feature players, team mascot Grizz and the dance team, and will get fans excited about the opening of the 2007-08 season.

Wednesday, Oct 31
Another unofficial Grizz event but one that sounds like a blast is the Grizzlies Zombie Walk. If you got a hold of Kyle Knox by Tueday you could have received free tickets to the game. If not you can still go walking in Memphis with a bunch of zombies roaming around and having fun. What more could you ask for on Halloween? You don't even have to buy the costume!

Finally one hour before kickoff we will be having another Unofficial Grizzlies Blog Party. Whoever shows up in the best costume will win a great Grizz prize. And by great I mean whatever I can talk Andy Dolich into giving to us for free.

So come on out and celebrate with the Grizzlies.

UPDATE: Come meet Mike Conley on Saturday afternoon, October 27

4:00pm – 5:00pm

City Gear, 4641 American Way
American Way & Perkins Rd., just south of the Perkins Road exit off of I-240

Final Position Battles - Part 2

Marc Iavaroni has made it clear that he wants to run a basic 8 man rotation this season with a possible 9th player from time to time. He also made it clear that the players involved were not going to change from game to game, but be a more consistent rotation. The starters are Damon Stoudamire, Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol and Stromile Swift. The backup PG is Kyle Lowry.

Yesterday I discussed the final position battle at the wing position. Today I want to look at the backup interior player battle.

This battle was rumored to be happening almost from the moment Darko Milicic was signed as a free agent on July 16th. It was just assumed that Hakim and Darko would be fighting for the starting role next to Gasol and not the backup role. Hakim was coming off a very encouraging sophomore season where he averaged 12.7 ppg on 52.4% shooting while grabbing 5.1 rpg over 26.2 mpg and 43 games started. In April he picked up the pace to 15.3 ppg and 7.8 rpg. Milicic averaged 8.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg in a reserve role withe the Orlando Magic but finished last season with a strong showing of his own in an impressive playoff series against Detroit. He averaged 12.3 ppg on 58.8% shooting in 28.8 mpg. His signing seemed to set up a duel between both players.

It hasn't worked out that way yet. Stromile Swift has easily beaten out both players for the starting role leaving these two young men to fight it out for the last rotation spot. What do each bring to the table?

Why it should be Hakim: Hakim brings offensive fire power off the bench. He's capable of scoring on both big and small forwards with an array of post moves and shocking jumping ability. He's more familiar with the games of the team's big players like Mike Miller and Pau Gasol having played with them for the last two seasons. His speed at the 4 makes the running game more productive.

Why it shouldn't be Hakim: Defense. While Hakim can't be stopped by most players he is equally inept at stopping anyone man on man. He isn't a great shot blocker either despite his leaping ability. He is a black hole on offense also. While difficult to stop individually his refusal to pass the ball often has him taking ill advised shots against double teams. Rebounding is also a problem for Hakim as he doesn't block out well and is too light to hold his position against most power forwards in the league.

Why it should be Darko: Darko is Chris Wallace's coup from the summer free agent period and having Iavaroni and Wallace hanging their hats on your hook isn't a bad reason right off the bat. Darko is a strong force defensively with an incredible ability to block shots. While not a great rebounder himself he does put his body on people allowing others to get the rebound. Paired with Stro or Gasol he is able to take the bulkier defensive assignments freeing the more athletic players to operate against less tiresome opponents. His range is nearly to the three point line freeing up space in the paint for others to operate. He is also an excellent passer for a big man.

Why it shouldn't be Darko: He seems lost in the system right now. Playing for his 3rd coach in 6 months has apparently made Darko cautious and one has to wonder about the emotional scars from his time in Detroit, the free agency debacle in Orlando and the outburst in Spain this summer. He has the propensity to get into foul trouble. The main reason against Darko is his lack of speed. Pairing him with Gasol would appear to make the Grizzlies a slower team than Iavaroni may prefer. His shot selection is also suspect in the half court game.

So who will win? I think it will start off being Darko. His size, defense and passing ability should more than compensate for his other deficiencies. His foul trouble will most likely be countered by the reality that Stro and Pau aren't prone to getting into foul trouble. Darko in a real sense has 24 minutes to use his six fouls.

This leaves Hakim in a precarious position. His option for next season has already been picked up but he is 4th on a 3 man depth chart. His potential and relatively inexpensive contract can be a nice chip to use in a trade scenario combined with someone else (say Damon Stoudamire or Mike Miller). He has never been an attitude problem in the past but this is an important season for Hakim and one has to wonder what will happen if he isn't a member of the regular rotation.

Don't forget the Grizzlies BLOG Party tonight at Jack Daniels Old #7. Spartacus and others will be sitting on the back side of the bar at the first table after the bar. Celebrities may be in attendance so feel free to bring a camera and get autographs!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Practice Update

I heard from two sources that Juan Carlos Navarro and Pau Gasol both practiced today and should be available for tomorrow nights game against Indiana. I don't expect he will play much but at least he is healthy again.

Of course anyone seeing Gasol walking on the court last night knew he was close to 100% if not fully recovered already.

UPDATE: Ron Tillery who was at the practice today has a better and more detailed report up on today's practice, who was there and how they did. He also mentions that the team waived Dontell Jefferson, which wasn't an unexpected move. Preview has their Memphis Grizzlies Team Preview up, where you'll find complimentary evaluations from Jon Barry and Chad Ford (both have us in the playoffs) and a questionable prediction from Greg Anthony, who has us as last in the West again. There is also a Player Spotlight on Tarence Kinsey and some analysis from stat freak John Hollinger. Oh yeah, some hack blogger gave them a few questions to ask GM Chris Wallace, too. Make sure you check out the other team previews and the questions bloggers had for their GM's. Most of them are absolutely hilarious.

A big thanks goes out to Henry Abbott from TrueHoop for including us in this. I owe him a cookie basket or something.

Final Position Battles

As the final week of training camp winds down Marc Iavaroni made an announcement last night on the starting point guard. The Commercial Appeal covered the comments at the press conference and printed a nice piece on it titled Iavaroni Goes with Stoudamire at Point. It is a must read for understanding the way the coach sees that position battle at this time (and yes I am trying to make peace for yesterday's blog that upset people at the CA).

That answers that question for the time being. What is still unanswered is who is winning the battle for some key reserve roles. As has been covered earlier on this blog and confirmed by Iavaroni later, the coach plans on using an 8-9 man rotation this season which shouldn't vary from opponent to opponent. We can somewhat safely assume the starting 5 are Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, Damon Stoudamire and Stromile Swift. We now also know that Kyle Lowry will be Damon's backup so that is 6 of the 8-9 players.

Who is next in line?

This really breaks down to two positional battles at wing and the interior. The wing battle is the most wide open right now in my opinion with three players fighting for time. The interior battles revolves around two players. Let's take a look at the wing players today and deal with interior battle tomorrow.

Wing Battle: Juan Carlos Navarro, Tarence Kinsey and Casey Jacobsen

Why it should be Navarro: Juan Carlos comes in more mature than the others having starred in Europe and the International stage for many years. He is someone the team went out of their way to procure and he is Gasol's best friend. He is mature enough to want the ball in pressure situations and confident enough to take the big shot. Wallace and Iavaroni put their necks out a bit to acquire the guy and don't want to see him on the bench. Did I mention he was Gasol's best friend?

Why it shouldn't be Navarro: Defense. Navarro has not shown the ability to play defense at the level required in the NBA. Steve Francis routinely toasted him in Houston and he was torched by Mike Dunleavy at Indiana. These two players haven't exactly been offensive horses the last few seasons. Physically he isn't exactly a specimen. He has little vertical leaping ability and he isn't exactly fast although he is sneaky quick. Also Navarro isn't used to NBA officials or the grind of an 82 game season.

Why it should be Kinsey: Tarence Kinsey is the best defensive player among the three and when combined with Kyle Lowry makes a formidable backcourt combination. He doesn't really have three point range but he can hit the the three and he can definitely score against NBA 2 guards. He proved that last March and April.

Why it shouldn't be Kinsey: He's not a Chris Wallace/Marc Iavaroni hire. He's thin and has had injury problems in the past. His lack of true NBA 3 pt range makes it difficult to combine him with either Lowry or Conley since teams can sag off both players clogging the lane on offense.

Why it should be Jacobsen: Has more NBA experience than either other player, has the best range on his shot when his feet are planted and has worked with Iavaroni in the past while in Phoenix. He is thrilled to be back in the NBA and will leave everything on the court when he gets to play. He's smart, understands his limitations and plays within himself.

Why it shouldn't be Jacobsen: He's not fleet of foot so he won't be beating many people down the court. His shot is only effective when his feet are set and he really hasn't shown any ability to put the ball on the floor and drive. His ball handling skills are not his strong point so it puts more pressure on the point guard bring the ball up the court.

What does this mean? It means Iavaroni has a difficult decision to make. With all three players on one year contracts the losers will probably be looking to move out of town before the summer to get a head start on next season. I believe the job is Navarro's to lose right now due to the commitment that the team made in acquiring him from Washington and his closeness with Gasol. Kinsey seems to be the odd man out but could easily be back in the rotation should Navarro or Jacobsen hit a slump. His defense could also be a factor if that becomes a larger area of concern this season.

Houston Recap and Notes of Interest

I, for one, had a lot of fun at the game last night as the Grizzlies knocked off the Rockets for the second night in a row by a score of 96-90. Starters for the Grizzlies: Damon Stoudamire, Tarence Kinsey (a TK sighting!), Rudy Gay, Stromile Swift and Darko Milicic. Three of those guys will be starting on Opening Night. I'll let you figure out which three. I'll give you a hint: Damon Stoudamire will be one of them. Sorry Conley/Lowry superfans.

I enjoyed the game from a seat close enough to hear Bonzi Wells say "Wouldn't be me if I didn't get a tech" after receiving a technical foul for trash talking while attempting to guard Casey Jacobsen. Oh, yeah, the "Bonzi Ban" was lifted with 2:28 left in the 1st quarter.

Here are my thoughts on the game:

Tarence Kinsey can still play. He didn't forget how to play solid defense or knock down mid-range jumpers in the offseason. In fact, although it was just one game, he had a better all-around game than either Navarro or Jacobsen have experienced through the preseason. I can see him getting some quality minutes -- especially as a defensive stopper off the bench.

Damon Stoudamire looked like a starter last night. He posted 11 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals against the Rockets in 19 minutes. Mighty Mouse made great decisions in running the offense and actually played above average defense on rookie Aaron Brooks. Having seen him up close, I agree with Marc Iavaroni's decision to name him starter for Opening Night.

Rudy Gay really does have that potential that Jerry West indicated when he traded Shane Battier away to acquire him on draft night last summer. And......he's starting to fulfill it. He had one play that will go down as a simple goaltending in the stat sheets that was a statement, nay a declaration of his emergence. He swatted a ball that was near the top of the backboard.....simply because he could. He then stared down Stromile Swift, who had a similar block last night, and I read his lips to say "Good enough?". Rudy is developing an attitude -- you know, the one thing that scouts said he was lacking when he went from surefire #1 overall pick at the end of his freshman season at UConn to #8 pick after his sophmore year, landing in Memphis as a result. The rest of the league should be worried about this development.

Hakim Warrick is a tremendously talented offensive player. He can score in a variety of ways from a number of angles. He rebounds at a fairly reasonable level. Now he needs to learn how to do other things that make for a good basketball player: passing, dribbling, defending. Chip and I kept track of how many times he passed in the game. I counted once, he never saw any. I know it is just preseason, but he had the same problem last year. I don't say this to be unfairly critical of Hak, but because I want him to be a successful part of this team -- and the team needs him to be a more well-rounded player.

Andre Brown might be a guy who is best described as "just happy to be here", but he brings hustle, energy and grit off the bench, so I'm glad to have him on the roster. He could shoot less often for my taste (especially since his free-throw shooting is abysmal), but it is still preseason, so I'll chalk it up to him displaying what he's capable of to the coaching staff. He's definitely willing to mix it up in the paint and fight for rebounds and loose balls, which will surely have some value this season.

Stromile Swift continues to look like he's motivated this season. I don't know if it is the new coaching staff, the fact that he can opt out of his contract at the end of the season, or something we haven't even considered, but there is a noticeable change in his on-court demeanor this year. I hope that he can keep it up all season long.

Michael Conley....looked like a rookie PG last night. He was the fastest guy on the court, even blowing by Aaron Brooks on one transition play, but that extra gear also got him into trouble, as he made a few bad decisions because he was in a rush. Once again, he showed flashes of the player that is going to terrorize the league for the next decade, but his consistency level isn't there yet, nor do I expect it to be for quite some time. No shame in that, as most rookies, especially PG's, take time to adjust to the NBA game. He has to be 3rd on the depth chart right now -- for his own good as much as anything else.

Juan Carlos Navarro looked a little off last night, which could be explained by the fact that this was his first back-to-back experience in the NBA -- with travel, no less. He never really got his offensive game going and struggled to stay in front of quick guards Luther Head, John Lucas and Aaron Brooks. He appeared to bang his elbow on the floor in the 4th quarter, but I've been unable to find any information about his status. Likewise, there hasn't been an update on Pau Gasol, although it was clear to us that he was walking without any discernible limp last night. Maybe we'll get some news later today.

Darko Milicic was still suffering from "flu-like symptoms" and only played in the first half again, but he managed to block 3 shots in 20 minutes, providing an intimidating presence in the paint. His rebounding wasn't to the same level we saw the night before, but there weren't that many missed shots, as the teams shot a combined 47% in the first half, including 63% from beyond the arc. Darko might not start on Opening Night, but he provides the Grizzlies with the ability to do so much from the high post (expect a post on that later this week) and possesses such a big, athletic body that I cannot see him not getting quality minutes throughout this season.

Casey Jacobsen didn't set the world on fire in playing 30 minutes last night, but he didn't allow his man (either Bonzi or Steve Novak) to go nuts either, so I'd call it a wash for the night. CJ seemed to enjoy the verbal sparring with Bonzi, as Wells repeatedly told him "you can't stop me", but Casey did a decent job on him all night. CJ will never be mistaken for Ron Artest or Ben Wallace on defense, but he's not a sieve either. On Tuesday night, the Rockets' broadcast team made several mentions of how hard he was working, hustling on every play and just generall being a solid gamer.

Kyle Lowry didn't drop another triple-double on the Rockets, but he did show that he is the obvious choice as the primary backup to Damon for the next few weeks, at the very least. His bulldog-like tenacity garnered him 3 fouls in only 13 minutes, but I don't think he was intended to play much after logging 44 minutes the previous night. Can't wait to see him when the games actually mean something. He changes the dynamics of the game when he enters the fray.

Last night was our first ever Shades of Blue: Blog Party. It was a resounding success!

Chris Herrington from the Memphis Flyer dropped by and we discussed several aspects of this intriguing Grizzlies team. There was also......ummmm.......well, Chip was there........and........uhhhh........I was there. Did I mention Chris Herrington was there? Well, I guess you could say that all the fans of our writing were there then. Ok, so it was the three of us and I think Chris just dropped by to get away from the allegedly horrific offering in the media room. I've never actually eaten the food they give to the members of the media, but I have hear many, many horror stories about it. *shudder* Herrington didn't let the poor showing for our Blog Party affect his ability to write, as he provided a running Live Blog over on Beyond the Arc -- always a treat for those who don't get to view the game live. Thanks for dropping by and chatting with us Chris -- it was greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Links: SLAM, Dime Magazine, Battier speaks, Picking up options, Live Blog, Reminder

I listed a lot of previews yesterday and over the past few weeks as well. I think the one done by SLAM Online takes the prize as best of the best though. Rather than just assuming they know about the Grizzlies, Aggrey Sam actually does know about them. He displays a keen insight into the team and makes valid, well-thought-out conclusions based on observation. Either that, or he's been probing my mind while I sleep. Example:

Then there’s the underappreciate, albeit underskilled, Brian “The Custodian” Cardinal, who should be a steady veteran influence on the young squad.

That's the kind of thing I have yet to see on any other preview, outside of our own work here on Shades of Blue. Nice work, indeed.

Dime Magazine gave some much-deserved props to Kyle Lowry for his big performance last night in Houston.

There were two Commercial Appeal articles of note, too.

The first is an interview with former Grizzly Shane Battier that gets his thoughts on the current roster in Memphis. He didn't shy away from praising former teammate Pau Gasol:
Battier said having Gasol healthy -- physically and mentally -- catapults the Griz into a team to be reckoned with despite its overall youth.

"Pau is a lot more mentally stronger than most people give him credit for," Battier said. "I played with him for five years, and he's a tough guy who really wants to win.
"He wants to do the right thing. He wants to be a leader. He wants to be the guy for the team. He's worked really hard to get to that point and erase the memories of last year."

As always, Shane comes across as the ultimate class act that he is.

The second article is a bit of business news, as the Grizzlies picked up the options on a few young players: Kyle Lowry, Hakim Warrick and Rudy Gay. Good to see that we'll be keeping these guys around for a little bit longer.

Chris Herrington promises to Live Blog tonight on Beyond the Arc, so I don't feel too bad about being at the game and leaving all of you without my commentary and insights. He also has a nice recap of last night's game, so go check it out.

Finally, don't forget about our first ever Shades of Blue Blog Party, as we take over the back half of Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Restaurant inside FedEx Forum. Drop by and say hi. We won't bite.

Gasol Tries to Repair Image, No Comment from Ron-Ron

I know, people came here expecting to read about how the Grizzlies did in Houston yesterday. Maybe read a little about Kyle Lowry's great game and what that means for the point guard battle. Maybe a little comment about how good Rudy looked compared to Shane Battier and a plug for tonights game.

It's all here somewhere if you look around. Instead I am going to talk about someone who didn't play last night.

Memphis has a great player on the team. He is recognized around the world as a superstar. He is one of the most popular athletes in his country as well ranking up with Rafael Nadal in popularity. The only all-star ever in his NBA franchise's history but feels unloved in his adopted home town.

Pau Gasol can't get a break in this town.

Last night the Canadian Press released a story about Pau talking about his attempts this summer to repair that image. Pau went to Chris Wallace and asked what he could do to help the team.

Granted he has some repairing to do after last season's trade demand but as Spartacus pointed out earlier in Go Ahead, Request a Trade Pau did it with class and some sense of respect to his team and the franchise. He still caught a lot of grief from people but we have since seen from Kobe Bryant, Andrei Kirilenko and others how using the media makes the situation much worse. Pau didn't drag the franchise threw the mud in his attempt to be traded. He talked in private to the owner.

Either way, he wasn't traded. He put up with the boos and the criticisms despite posting career numbers on a bad team. He kept working even when it seemed everyone hated him.

What irriates me however is that it took a Canadian Press story for Memphis to discover how hard Gasol is working to repair his image. Just like it took our blog (Chris Wallace, Class in Session) to force the CA to write a story about how Chris Wallace was reaching out to the community. Just like it took our Mark Price blog for the CA to report that Mark Price was hired as a shooting consultant. When will our paid Grizzlies Beat Writer start breaking news instead of just recovering what other people write?

Maybe Gasol needs to do more but the CA needs to do a lot more. This is Memphis' only major league sports franchise. Show the team some love. Report on good stories and stop with the fresh off the Grizzlies press release stuff.

And Pau, those who love the team know you are doing it right. Don't stop trying to repair the image but the city hates to lose. It isn't personal. When you asked out when we were down it hurts but it isn't irreparable. Keep working and maybe Ron Tillery will finally write about it.

And no this isn't written simply because Ron Tillery refused to reply to my request for the Media Bias blog.

Well maybe a little about that...

Update (Spartacus): Click here for the Calkins' column that Keith referred to in the comments.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Starting Point Guard Emerges?

PG Battle: Damon Stoudamire vs. Kyle Lowry vs. Micheal Conley.

Forget how much experience each player has. Forget their age. Forget their draft position. Forget how much each makes. Forget about each players scouting report. Forget about the expectations placed on each player. Forget about who is predicted to start.

Who has played the best during the preseason?

My answer is a no-brainer. He wears #1.

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

The picture above is on the game winning play by Kyle Lowry where he followed up his own last second miss to tip in the game winner.

Update (by Zack): Here is the video of the tip in...

Against the Rockets (albeit in preseason action), Kyle Lowry showed off his typical gritty determination in front of a sparse Houston crowd, collecting a triple-double (21 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) to go with his game winning basket in the second overtime. All in all, Lowry played 44 minutes of the 58 minute affair after Micheal Conley started the game. He used his speed and strength to continuously penetrate into the lane against Mike James, Luther Head and Steve Francis. He did miss on a number of his borderline out-of-control drives, though overall he was effective shooting 6-13 in the lane and getting to the charity stripe 12 times. Also impressive was committing only 2 turnovers and 1 personal foul (offensive, I think) in those 44 minutes. It is quite impressive any time a tenacious defender like Lowry can dog a team for 44 minutes and not get a defensive foul while helping force 26 Houston turnovers, including 6 total for the PG rotation of Francis/Head/James.

One of Lowry's more inspiring plays came in the first overtime. After again driving into the lane for a layup to cut the Houston lead to 2, he was fouled....missed the free throw but collected the rebound and found Andre Brown to tie the game.

Popular wisdom is that Damon will be the starting point guard when the regular season tips off on October 31st against the defending champion Spurs, then eventually giving way to the #4 overall pick Micheal Conley later in the season (at which point Damon would be traded to a contender or bought out).

Kyle Lowry apparently has other ideas.

It is also popular opinion among Griz fans that Lowry is best coming off the bench as a scoring sparkplug and a defensive menace, while Conley is the true point guard needed to run this team on a full-time basis. That might very well be true. But right now Kyle Lowry is doing everything he can to prove he belongs on the court as much as possible and that he can lead this team effectively.

Lowry told reporters after the Houston game:

"I just want to win at all times. No matter if it's preseason or the playground or a pick-up game. That's good I guess."

Chip pointed out that the starting PG and PF spots are the ones up for grabs and that Stromile has all but wrapped up the spot next to Pau in the frontcourt with his stellar play thoughout the preseason and training camp.

I contend that Kyle Lowry is closing in on wrapping up the starting PG spot as well.

Update (by Zack): Looks like it is going to take some more time for Lowry to convince the coaching staff he should start (or more time for the coaching staff to see Damon shouldn't). :)

Live Blog: Grizzlies @ Rockets

I'll be manning the Live Blog Death Ray tonight, so buckle up and hang on.

Make sure you leave some comments this time, so I don't feel like I'm talking to myself. Feel free to ask questions, too.

Pre-game commentary focused on the Rockets' forward tandem of Luis Scola and former Grizzlies' fan favorite Shane Battier. Play-by-play man Bill Worrell compared them to the Rockets' forwards in their first championship season -- Otis Thorpe and Robert Horry. Clyde Drexler agreed with that assessment -- big praise indeed.

Starting lineups
Houston Rockets: Mike James, Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes, Yao Ming
Memphis Grizzlies: Michael Conley, Rudy Gay, Mike MIller, Stromile Swift, Darko Milicic

Q1 - 10:56: Stro looks good so far, with some hustle that resulted in a trip to the free-throw line (1/2), a block on Yao and two more altered shots. Rudy with a long jumper to get on the board early. Grizzlies 3, Rockets 0

Q1 - 9:25: Mike James (WHO!!!) ties the game up with a three, but then Conley answers back with a bucket of his own. The broadcast team makes some complimentary remarks about Gay and Conley and then talk about Conley's pedigree at length. Grizzlies 5, Rockets 3

Q1 - 7:04: Poor transition defense allows Mike James to slice through the lane and get the bucket plus the foul. He missed the free throw, but Memphis has to shore up their defensive inadequacies. Mike James continues to heat up, hitting a long three-pointer. Rockets 10, Grizzlies 5

Q1 - 5:48: Rudy makes another long jumper from the free throw line extended. Then the team gets beat backdoor and fortunately Mike James misses the bunny. Conley picks up his second foul and will be spelled by Kyle Lowry after the timeout. Rockets 10, Grizzlies 7

Q1 - 5:41: Just got the news that Bennett Salvatore is our lead official tonight. Oh boy....

Q1 - 5:03: Mike Miller in transition with the great setup pass to a streaking Rudy Gay for the highlight reel dunk!

Q1 - 4:18: Luis Scola checks in, matching up with Hakim Warrick. Mike James with another three pointer, giving him 11 of the Rockets 15 points in the 1st quarter. Rockets 15, Grizzlies 11

Q1 - 3:03: Hakim gets the entry pass, gets a double team by Scola and Yao and still attempts the shot. He gets bailed out with a foul call. He's still a black hole.....sigh.

Q1 - 1:45: Steve Francis and Bonzi Wells check in. Wonder if the FedEx Forum Ban on Bonzi is still in effect? I guess we'll see tomorrow night. Rudy Gay with active hands tonight. Two steals already in the game. Rockets 20, Grizzlies 14

Q1 -0:59: Miller with another miss. He's 0-4 tonight. The broadcast team notices this as well. Grizz take a timeout after some less-than-stellar play.

Q1 - 0:16: Kyle hits both free throws (thank you Mark Price!) and then grabs the rebound at the other end of the floor. Rudy settles for the jumper and misses. Charge on Stevie Francis on the other end! Way to go Hak! Rockets 21, Grizzlies 16

End Q1: Kyle, Stro and Rudy look good. Mike and Darko look bad. Hakim looks like a black hole. Conley looks like he'll terrorize the league for the next decade....but not tonight.

Q2 - 11:40: Navarro, Brown, Jacobsen in the game. Bonzi take Miller into the post and gets the foul call, hitting both free throws. Bonzi's low post game is his strength.

Q2 - 10:05: Luis Scola with the baseline jumper -- wonder if Shane taught him that? Andre Brown makes an appearance and gets the steal. Quick feed to Lowry for the transition bucket. Rockets 25, Grizzlies 18

Q2 - 8:48: Scola abuses Hakim in the post to get the bucket. Casey answers with the rhythm three-pointer to keep it close. Rockets 27, Grizzlies 21

Side note: Rockets dance team is still in preseason mode, too. Just an FYI.

Q2 - 7:50: Grizz with an...ummm...interesting lineup on the floor: Lowry, Navarro, Jacobsen, Brown, Swift. Still evaluating people, I guess. Rockets 30, Grizzlies 21

Q2 - 7:06: Stro picks up two quick fouls, but stays in the game. He's having difficulty with Scola right now, fighting for position. Francis with the long two-pointer.

Q2 - 5:50: Drexler questions Navarro's listed height of 6'3" after he pushes the pace and finds Stro for the easy dunk. Rockets 33, Grizzlies 23

Q2 - 5:22: Miller hits a three from the right corner. Maybe he'll warm up. Stro with the wicked block on Mutombo.....that gets called goal-tending.....incorrectly.

Q2 - 3:25: Conley hesitates from the free throw line and then nails the jumper. Nice to see him hitting shots from that range. Stro is all over the place tonight. Is this his "revenge game" on the Rockets? Save it for the regular season big guy. Conley fouls Mike James, sending him to the line for two....which he hits. Rockets 37, Grizzlies 28

Q2 - 2:35: Darko just looks uncomfortable out there. I don't know if he's having trouble with this much running or what, but he looks out of place.

Q2 - 1:41: All the Grizzlies are settling for long jumpers right now. There doesn't seem to be any semblance of an offensive rhythm. The Rockets are taking high percentage quality shots on the other end of the floor. Rockets 39, Grizzlies 28

Q2 - 1:16: Rudy comes back from T-Mac's finger in the eye to knock down a three-pointer and then get fouled in transition, hitting both free throws, giving him 13 points as the crowd chants "Overrated". What a lovely group of people. Rockets 42, Grizzlies 33

Halftime: Rudy still looks good, as does Stro. Darko still looks bad, but Miller is showing signs of life. Both young PG's have had their moments, but still look like young PG's. This team is going to have to make a committment to attacking the basket and playing tough defense this year. Too much settling for open jumpers.....that are open because the Rockets don't believe they'll hit them consistently......which they haven't. Too many defenders with hands down by their knees, instead of outstretched at their sides to cut down on the passing lanes. This will be a season-long teaching session for Iavaroni, in all likelihood. It's time for me to have an ice cream cone.

Q3 - 10:56: Conley with the beautiful feed to Andre Brown, who is unable to convert. Then he stops Mike James from completing the transistion bucket, showcasing those ultra-quick hands of his.

Q3 - 8:58: Stro continues his destruction of Houston with a fierce dunk that draws some bemused comments from the broadcast team regarding his season as a Rocket. Rudy with the return pass from Stro to get the foul among the trees and go to the line. Hits them both. Rockets 46, Grizzlies 38

Q3 - 7:33: Mike James hits another one and then Conley finds Stro for yet another easy dunk. Now I see what Rod Benson meant when he said that Conley could find Osama bin Laden if he was open! Rockets 48, Grizzlies 43

Q3 - 6:35: Miller goes strong to the hole and draws the foul on Hayes, although it could have been called on Yao, too. Mike makes 1 of 2 as Scola comes in to replace Hayes. Rockets 50, Grizzlies 44

Q3 - 5:43: Rudy gets a charging call after Stro pulled down a strong rebound. As he matures, Rudy will make better decisions -- like not driving at a perennial All-Star (Tracy McGrady) and expecting to get a favorable call. Where's Chip at to voice his frustration at the inequity of foul calls based on player status? I need a Lewis Black level tirade right now to make me laugh.

Q3 - 4:41: Miller runs Battier off a pick to get free for the long jumper. The broadcast team continues to give Stro a hard time -- which I fully support, since he had a horrible season in Houston. If the Clippers had any fans, they'd do the same thing to Andre Miller for his poor showing there. Rockets 52, Grizzlies 48

Q3 - 2:29: Lowry attempts to take the charge on Mike James, but flops too soon, resulting in a made basket for Houston. Bonzi with a massive bandage on the back of his shiny dome -- guess he got whacked by someone in the first half. Is Fratello in the building, perhaps? Stro dunking over Yao and Battier!!! Rockets 58, Grizzlies 55

Q3 - 1:55: Houston with their intergalactic lineup: Yao (China), Scola (Argentina), James (The Sun), Bonzi (Alpha Centauri). Both teams do lots of running up and down the court, but cannot convert much. Guess they are enjoying the exercise though. Rockets 59, Grizzlies 57

End Q3: Rockets 59, Grizzlies 58. Memphis shot 57% in the 3rd quarter and outscored Houston 25-17 to climb back into the contest.

Q4 - 11:20: Andre Brown just can't seem to do anything right. Misses the two-footer on one end and then gives up a ticky-tack foul on Landry's layup attempt, instead of doing something that might have made him miss.

Q4 - 9:15: Hakim with the high percentage dunk. Casey ties it up with a three from the left wing! 65 all!

Q4 - 8:50: Bonzi hits one of two free throws to give Houston the lead. Our first appearance by La Bomba and his rainbow shot are negated by a three-second call in the lane......when there was no one in the lane! Bennett Salvatore....I don't like you. Rockets 66, Grizzlies 65

Q4 - 8:20: Navarro comes back and gives a repeat performance. La Bomba!!!

Q4 - 7:45: Navarro is a cold-blooded killer, hitting a deep three to tie it up at 70 all.

Q4 - 7:11: Lowry with a beautiful running leaner off the glass to take the lead, 72-70.

Q4 - 6:45: LA BOMBA!!! That's all I need to say. Navarro is on fire right now. Where's Dan Patrick with "Simply.....en fuego"??? Grizzlies 74, Rockets 70

Q4 - 5:55: Nice crossover by Francis to get the acrobatic layup past Navarro. Grizzlies 74, Rockets 73

Q4 - 5:45: Lowry to the line for two -- hits one to give him 10 pts, 6 reb, 8 ast. Lowry = Jason Kidd lite tonight.

Q4 - 4:59: Casey lights it up again from beyond the arc. Grizzlies 79, Rockets 75

Q4 - 4:01: Rockets have gotten two easy layups in back-to-back possessions. Gotta close up those passing lanes, guys. Grizzlies 79, Rockets 77

Q4 - 3:42: Great rebound in traffic by Hak off the JCN miss. It results in a jump ball that Warrick easily wins.

Q4 - 2:57: Luther Head with the steal, which then goes to Landry for the long jumper that ties it up at 79.

Q4 - 2:00: Block by Hakim goes right to Novak for the easy bucket.

Q4 - 1:44: Casey hits a three from the left side, which is immediately answered by Luther Head. Rockets 83, Grizzlies 82

Q4 - 0:50: Lowry hits both free throws to give the Grizzlies the one-point lead, but then Francis slices through the lane with another crossover to get to the rack and take the lead right back. Rockets 85, Grizzlies 84

Q4 - 0:21: Grizzlies get a break with the 3 second call on Houston, so they get the ball back with the chance to win the game.

Q4 - 0:13: Isolation for Lowry, who misses the driving shot and the subsequent tip-in attempt. Landry grabs the rebound and is immediately fouled. He hits them both, so the Grizzlies need a three-pointer now. Rockets 87, Grizzlies 84

Q4 - 0:11: Casey Jacobsen with the heat-seeking missile! Came off a pick at the free throw line to hit the top of the key jumper. Tie ball game.

End Regulation: Novak misses the three-pointer at the buzzer, so we're getting free basketball. Grizzlies 87, Rockets 87

OT - 4:01: Luther Head hits the long shot to give Houston the lead. Warrick takes a contested 18-footer with 14 seconds on the shot clock??? Head finds another easy basket to push the lead to 4. Rockets 91, Grizzlies 87

OT - 2:33: Navarro hits the nifty runner to tie it back up, but allows Francis to blow by him for the easy layup. JCN turned his head for a split second and lost his man. Rockets 93, Grizzlies 91

OT - 1:13: Francis with another big shot, this one high off the glass that falls through. Navarro misses a shot and Lowry pressures Landry into stepping on the baseline after collecting the rebound. Grizzlies ball! Rockets 95, Grizzlies 91

OT - 1:10: Navarro gets the easy layup, making it a two point deficit.

OT - -0:50: Francis makes another tough shot. He must think it is 2001 instead of 2007. Lowry answers back with his own layup. Rockets 97, Grizzlies 95

OT - 0:17: Pick and roll results in a bad matchup Casey on Francis and Lowry on Novak. Novak pump fakes Kyle out of the gym and then cooly hits the open jumper. Rockets 99, Grizzlies 95

OT - 0:10: Kyle Lowry simply makes things happen! He gets the basket and the foul, misses the free throw attempt, gets his own rebound and feeds Andre Brown for the tying basket!!! What a gamer! Tied at 99.

End OT1: Francis keeps it on an isolation, gets Hakim as a defender on the switch and cannot get a good look over the lanky forward, missing from the left baseline. More free basketball!

OT2 - Rudy back in the game, playing the 4. Grizzlies go small with Lowry, Navarro, Jacobsen, Gay and Warrick. Rudy might be the Center in that lineup.

OT2 - 4:30: Novak hits another open jumper off a great screen by Chuck Hayes. Rockets 101, Grizzlies 99

OT2 - 3:16: Luther Head with a big three pointer. Warrick answers with a bucket of his own. Rockets 104, Grizzlies 101

OT2 - 1:14: Bad pass by JCN results in a turnover. Fortunately, Head gets an offensive foul on the ensuing possession. Rockets 107, Grizzlies 103

OT2 - 0:43: Lowry with the layup and then Navarro gets the charge against Head. CJ with the twisting layup to tie it up yet again! Neither team wants to just give up and get this game over with. We could be hear all night. I might have to order another pizza if this keeps up. Tied at 107.

OT2 - 0:08: Francis uses up his last foul, which is the Rockets last one before the bonus kicks in. Aaron Brooks into the game to replace him.

End Game: Kyle Lowry gets another isolation play, gets into the lane, misses the runner, and tips in the miss! Game over! Grizzlies 109, Rockets 107

Great game by Lowry: 21 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 turnovers

Thanks for all of you who stayed with me -- especially the overseas people who kept up the entire 3 hours!

Update (by Zack): To go along with Lowry's triple-double he also had 2 steals and only 2 turnovers and 1 personal foul in 44 minutes. Impressive.

Links: Conley should start?, Prediction Hysteria

Steve Weinman of Taking it to the Rack had a post today titled "Time is now for Conley in Memphis". This basically comes across as a declaration that the Grizzlies should start Michael Conley now, rather than later. Weinman is less than complimentary of Damon Stoudamire, both as a player and a person, insisting upon a needless focus on his past transgressions and brushes with authority figures, while ignoring how well he played in Memphis prior to his injury. For that matter, he doesn't even mention the career-threatening patella injury when discounting Mighty Mouse's potential contributions to the team.

I've been on record as saying that Damon is not part of the Grizzlies' long-term future...but he is important to the long-term success of both Conley and Kyle Lowry. In the 2-4 months that he is in Memphis this season, he can have a profound effect in mentoring these two young PG's, which seems to be a role he has accepted. Weinman believes that the Grizzlies are a potential playoff team, but doesn't want to see the better player get minutes? That seems contradictory in practice, but he is a Celtics' blogger, so maybe he just wants to make sure his team has the biggest improvement from last year. ;o)

Here's a quick look at a multitude of predictions involving the Grizzlies and what I did or didn't like about them.

Let's start off with the various previews/predictions from
End of the Bench has two separate predictions for the Memphis Grizzlies. First, Eric Thibauld predicts that we'll finish 12th in the west in his Western Conference Preview. Then, Chris Clarke mentions us as a strong contender to shock the NBA with our improvement this year.

I can't fault Thibauld for placing us that low since we were the worst team in the NBA last season, but he put the L.A. Clippers ahead of us. The same Clippers that appear to be in the same situation the Grizzlies were in last year by having their franchise player miss significant time. To each their own, I guess. And, of course, I agree with Clarke's line of thinking in naming us to surprise the rest of the league. I would feel better if people would stop picking us to win 50 games and make the postseason easily, though.

Speaking of that, Jon Burkett of Passion and Pride posted his Playoff Seed Predictions and has the Grizzlies as the #6 seed in the West. Nice to see that Zack isn't the only one drinking Beale Street Blue Kool-Aid these days.

On the flip side, Amar Panchmatia of Cavalier Attitude has a much bleaker prediction. In his Power Rankings, he places the Grizzlies 29th overall.

29. Memphis Grizzlies: A team that peaked when it got swept out of the first round for three straight seasons. Look, when you’re a small market team like Memphis that isn’t going to attract many big-name free agents, it’s hard to be anything more than a middle-of-the-road franchise. Picking up Mike Conley in the draft was a terrific move, and he’ll be an elite point guard in the league in due time. But unfortunately for Memphis, “due time” in this case is a matter of years. And is Conley going to do anything to add to this team’s biggest flaws: defense and rebounding? The Grizzlies were the worst in the league last year in opponents’ field goal percentage by giving up a whooping 52.9 percent field goal percentage. They were also 23rd in defensive rebounding, and although Pau Gasol missed 23 games, the Spaniard has long been referred to as one of the softest players in the league. Back when the Grizzlies were actually a playoff threat every year, the Grizzlies built their image in the name of defense under former Cavs coach Mike Fratello. Sure, we Cavs fans know how boring Fratello-ball can be, but it got the job done for Memphis. Fratello got canned after 30 games, but the Grizzlies defense had never been as poor as it was last year under the Czar’s guidance.

Then in his 2007/08 NBA Preview, he has the Grizzlies' record at 18-64. Apparently he doesn't realize that these are the Memphis Grizzlies and not the Vancouver Grizzlies being run by Stu Jackson. Chris Wallace actually knows how to make intelligent basketball decisions, so this team has gotten better, not worse. Needless to say, both Chip and I have put Amar on our "antagonize beyond belief" list. Amar, you have no idea what that means for you the remainder of this long, long NBA season.

On (via Golden State of Mind), they have Ryan McNeill's (HoopsAddict) Memphis Grizzlies Preview. McNeill takes a rather harsh approach to evaluating Darko Milicic, but admits that he could very well be the key to the Grizzlies' success or failure this season. Overall, it is a fair look at the Grizzlies prospects.

Over on The Sports Network, Warren Blatt sees the Grizzlies as a fringe playoff team with the possibility to reach a win total in the low 40's.

Yesterday, I directed you to to see their Every Player Preview (Players A-F). Today, they continue it with Players G-O. Of course, that includes Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, Mike Miller, Darko Milicic and Juan Carlos Navarro. Needless to say, when I got down to Gasol's entry I was momentarily floored:
Gasol, Pau: Wins first MVP award
I dismissed this as shenanigans in the name of fun until I read Navarro's line shortly thereafter:

Navarro, Juan Carlos: Makes Gasol's MVP season possible
Surely they cannot be serious. They are serious...and don't like to be called Shirley. That's a rather amazing pronouncement from where I sit. When people predict that the Grizzlies will win 50 games and/or be the 6th seed in the West, I can chalk it up to being overly optimistic. Gasol getting an MVP vote would be amazing to me. Him being on the receiving end of an MVP award would be surreal. I might have to go lie down now -- FreeDarko has made me light-headed.

Grizzlies BLOG Party

The boys from S.O.B. have decided it is time to meet our readers. We are going to try and take over the back half of the Jack Daniels Old #7 restaurant/bar in FedEx Forum from 6:00 pm to tipoff (or just before).

Now is a great chance to put faces to names and talk basketball or whatever you want. It is obviously an ala carte party so don't plan on us picking up the tab. After all we are just poor bloggers (so far).

Come meet Spartacus, Zack and Chipc3 and get primed for the big game against Battier and the Rockets. Let's see if we can 'upset' this mayor unlike the last election.

We'd like to make this a pre-game tradition so don't leave us all alone. It would be so some of PMI's trade ideas!

Feel free to leave a comment if you plan on being there so we can keep an eye out for you.

Update (by Zack): In typical fashion, I won't be able to make it. Though I'll most likely be following the game via some Chinese broadcast of the game if possible. I wonder how one says "Shane Battier Memorial Baseline Jumper" in Chinese? Don't forget to pick me up a free Shane Battier poster.....what? Those won't be given out this time?!? Actually I just read that it won't be on TV anywhere!?! Guess I'll be listening to the Eric on the radio then...

Who's gonna play?

There has been a lot of conversation floating around recently about the Grizzlies rotation. Who is going to be in the starting rotation is the most popular question, but there is an equally interesting question floating around.

How many people should be in the playing rotation?

Ever since Hubie Brown brought his unique 10 man rotation (more aptly described as a 2 team, 5 man rotation) to Memphis the rotation has been a topic Grizzlies fans like to discuss. With a new coach in town people have wondered what type of rotation the team will run this season. Will he use our depth and go 10 or more deep? Will he use a 6 man rotation predominantly like Phoenix has? What is the plan?

Perhaps we should look back at the teams Marc Iavaroni has played and coached in the past to get an understanding of how he may coach in the future.

As a player Iavaroni was the starting PF on the World Champion Philadelphia 76ers. That team had a legendary 5 players (Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones). Eight players played more than 1000 minutes that season. That means these players averaged at least 12 mpg over an 82 games season. However no one played 82 games that season. In fact 12 players averaged at least 10 minutes a game that season. A telling statistic is that four players averaged over 30 minutes per game and only 8 players averaged 20 or more minutes.

After his career ended Iavaroni eventually became an assistant coach with Mike Fratello in Cleveland. The first season there Cleveland had 10 players average at least 10 minutes per game. However, Bob Sura and Mitchell Butler both played fewer than half the games that season and since both played SG it is likely that their minutes should be considered one player. Four players averaged over 30 minutes a game that season (Shawn Kemp, Wesley Person, Brevin Knight and Cedric Henderson) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas averaged 29 mpg. Also only 7 players averaged 20 minutes a game. The second season Ilgauskas was hurt after only 5 games. Cleveland rotated more with 9 players averaging at least 20 minutes per game but you have to assume a healthy Ilgauskas would have altered those minutes significantly.

From Cleveland Iavaroni went to Miami to work with Pat Riley for three seasons. His first season there Miami had 4 players average 30 minutes per game (Alonzo Mourning, Jamal Mashburn, Dan Marjle and Tim Hardaway). Five other players averaged at least 20 minutes a game but once again injury seems to have played a role in that number. The next season Miami had 5 players average at least 30 mpg including an iron-man like 40.7 mpg from Tim Hardaway. Three other players averaged at least 20 mpg that season. His final season in Miami the Heat again had five players average 30 mpg and three others averaging at least 20 mpg.

From Miami Iavaroni moved to Phoenix with Mike D'Antoni for the last five seasons. Here the rotations really get short. His first season Phoenix had two players average 40 mpg (Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion) and a mere 6 players averaging at least 20 mpg. The second season, Phoenix had three players average at least 40 minutes (Marbury, Marion and Joe Johnson) but the Suns radically changed the team at the all-star break by dealing Marbury and Hardaway and going very young. The next season Phoenix had 5 players average 30 minutes but only one other person averaged at least 20 mpg. The next season Amare Stoudamire was limited to three games and 8 Suns reached the 20 mpg mark. Last season it was back to a basic 6 man rotation with all six players averaging 30 mpg.

In Iavaroni's career he has never played or coached in a system that didn't emphasize a limited number of players playing a large majority of minutes. I would be very surprised if Iavaroni changes suddenly into the type of coach who uses his bench a lot during the season. Assuming Gasol, Miller and Rudy all average over 30 mpg, Stro starts with Gasol and with the point guard position apparently going to be run in a three man rotation for the time being (eventually that will drop to two man rotations) the last week should be interesting to watch to see who emerges. Right now it looks like Darko, Hakim and Juan Carlos Navarro are battling for those roles with Jacobsen, Kinsey on the outside but that can still change.

Update: The point guard role has apparently already dropped to a 2 man rotation as Damon has been practically named starter and Kyle is to come off the bench.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Links: FreeDarko amazes me yet again

Thanks to a helpful tip*, I wandered over to for their coverage of every single player in the NBA. Yes, you read that correctly, every single player. The link will give you players A-F. To give you an idea of what you're in for, here's what they had to say about the Custodian:

Cardinal, Brian: Hopefully will donate his body to science

So now you know what you're in for. Make sure you read what they say about Mike Conley, as well. It is a rather bold prediction, in my honest opinion. Besides, it is only fitting that I direct you to the site that is eponymous with our imported big man.....right?

*Hat tip to Tom Ziller @ Sactown Royalty for the info

Memphis at Houston

Memphis survived the thug squad from Miami on Saturday night to escape with a 104-98 victory. Memphis easily controlled the game in the 1st quarter and basically coasted through the rest of the game trying to avoid serious injuries after it became apparent that Miami's scrubs were long on physicality but short on talent. After Casey Jacobsen was sent to the locker room for stitches after catching an elbow, Rudy Gay was nearly flipped on an undercut move and Juan Carlos Navarro was steam rolled for a loose ball the team it appeared the objective changed from working on attacking the rim to just basic survival. This is pre-season after all and the Grizzlies don't need any more injuries before the real games commence.

Houston made a lot of noise in the off-season by acquiring Steve Francis, Luis Scola and Mike James to strengthen a bench that did little to support the big two stars of the team last season. It should be an interesting team to watch this season with volatile attitudes like Bonzi Wells and Rager Alston coming off the bench. One can only wonder what will happen if the three attitudes of Wells, Alston and Francis can't co-exist in supporting roles. The Rockets are still led by Yao Ming, probably the best true center in the league right now, and Tracy McGrady. Both have suffered through health issues during Jeff Van Gundy's more pedestrian style. If Adelman's more up tempo style leads to more injuries this team could fall far in the standings. If not then this team could be very dangerous come playoff time.

Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Rafer Alston
There is a glut of experienced point guards in Houston but not a lot of point guards known for leading teams. Rafer Alston, the playground legend from NYC, is flashy but a shoot first PG who struggled under Van Gundy's rigid system. Francis is a former Houston star who lost his way after stops in Orlando and NYC. How much game he has left is up in the air. Mike James loved Houston the last time he was there but was shipped out to make room for Alston and then bombed out after signing a FA contract with Minnesota. Memphis on the other hand has three guads who are not considered shoot first guards and have been sharing minutes as closely as possible. Damon is the veteran and a step slower than Kyle Lowry. Lowry is the defensive PG who changes the game's tempo when he gets into games. Conley is the consumate point guard who just needs time to develop.

Shooting Guard: Mike Miller vs Tracy McGrady
A nightmare matchup for Miller as McGrady punishes on defense and plays good enough defense to distract Miller from his offensive game. The key will be for Miller to find his stroke early and hope that McGrady wants to get others involved on the offensive end. Backing up Miller will be Juan Carlos Navarro who is too small to defend TMac or Wells but should be able to stay with Luther Head if he plays. Otherwise expect to see Kinsey's minutes continue to climb in this game. Kinsey had trouble getting off the bench early in the preseason but has been getting more and more minutes of late. Houston also has Kirk Snyder fighting for minutes. With three fine players backing up T-Mac someone is not going to be pleased. If there will be an emotional problem on the team the backcourt is where it will start.

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Shane Battier
The once and future mayors of Memphis meet for the 1st of an incredible 6 meetings between the teams this year. Shane Battier is still among the most popular players in Memphis history despite Rudy's good play as a rookie. Battier has completely shut Mike Miller out in the past but he shouldn't be guarding Mike this time around. Rudy has taken that step forward and should be the more important player for Shane to defend. In his last outing Rudy was perfect from the floor including 5-5 from 3 pt land. If there has been anything to criticize with Rudy it has been his rebounding from the 3 spot. Casey Jacobsen backs up Rudy. It will be difficult for him to get open looks against a team that doesn't need to cover for the man in the middle. Former Rebel Justin Reed is fighting for a spot on the team but Wells and Steve Novak have the inside track for the backup SF spot with the Rockets.

Power Forward: Darko Milicic vs Luis Scola
The 27 yr old rookie Scola ought to have his hands full with the 22 yr veteran Darko. I realize that sounds strange to read but it is also true. Isn't international basketball great. Scola has looked good so far doing the dirty work under the basket for Yao. He grabbed 9 boards against Seattle on only 24 minutes in the last game. Darko is getting more starts with Gasol out but will need to take advantage of his size weight superiority. Chuck Hayes backs up Scola and absolutely gave Hakim Warrick fits last season. The rematch will be interesting to see Warrick has learned from his past experiences. Carl Landry and Jackie Butler may also see time at the 4 in this game. Brian Cardinal keeps sneaking into games and making a good play or two but not really having a major impact yet.

Center: Stromile Swift vs Yao Ming
One of the best centers in the league, if not the best, against the comeback kid in this matchup. Yao should have a clear advantage with his size and strength but Stro has made some impressive plays against Yao in the past with his superior speed. If the Grizzlies can make this a running game then Stro might actually have some moments to shine again. Backing up Stro has been Andre Brown who is more physical but less polished than Stro. Yao hasn't looked great in the uptempo style of Adelman but his passing ability should have Adelman very drooling. Incredibly Dikembe Mutambo is back for his 16th season and at age 41 (at least) is a physical marvel on defense but worthless on offense. Jackie Butler may get some minutes here as well.

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni vs Rick Adelman
Some fans in Memphis wanted Adelman to coach the Grizzlies before Iavaroni was hired. The thinking was his uptempo coaching style and use of big men in the passing game would be ideal for Gasol and the Grizzlies. It is more interesting to see how well this works with bad back McGardy and the plodding of Yao. The system should work well with the other players but are the Rockets stars willing to share the spotlight? Iavaroni keeps teaching and experimenting with players and lineups but hasn't really shown a full 48 minute game where the team was totally in control. There have been glimpses however such as the 73 pt+ 2nd half in Indiana and the 40 pt first quarter against Miami.

Links: Stardom, Altered Outlook, Possible Pickup

Marlon Morgan wrote a good article on Rudy Gay today, titled "Grizzlies' Gay on cusp of stardom". He talks about the strides Rudy has made in maturing as a player and pays specific attention to his versatility, which is one of the most intriguing aspects of his supreme potential.

''Right now, he's the only player we have that would swing between perimeter and post positions. That's the biggest swing there is. Three and four is a big learning curve, and he's handled it well.''
Gay said he doesn't have a problem playing either position, just as long as he's playing. Through the Grizzlies' first five preseason games, the 21-year-old has looked good in both roles.
Against fours, Gay said he tries to utilize his speed and quickness. Against threes, and sometimes twos, he turns to his size as an advantage.
''It's good for me to show coach I can do different things, and it'll help me grow as a player and get more experience,'' Gay said.

Good to see that Rudy is committed to growing as a player -- that gives me hope for his future...and the future of the Grizzlies.

Chip pointed out this post by David Friedman on 20 Second Timeout, where he explains why his expectations for the Memphis Grizzlies have changed. Here's what it boils down to, in essence:
The two NBA teams that lost a game in Europe last year--Clippers, 76ers--did not make the playoffs. Although my initial thought had been that the Grizzlies will be much better with a healthy Gasol, Memphis looked so soft in the loss to Unicaja Malaga that I downgraded my opinion.

So, he is echoing Chip's earlier thoughts that the games against international competition could be an indicator on a team's playoff chances. Still, even though I like Friedman as a writer, I'm going to have to give him our first ever Overreaction Award. Congrats, David! = )

In other news, local Memphis product and former Vanderbilt Commodore Derrick Byars was cut by the Philadelphia 76ers today. Since the Sixers already had Andre Igoudala, Willie Green, Rodney Carney, Thaddeus Young and Kyle Korver under contract at the G/F positions, it was a longshot that Byars was going to find a meaningful spot in the rotation in Philly. However, his scoring ability might fit well back home in Memphis. The former Ridgeway star could be signed to a non-guaranteed contract and then sent to the D-League for the bulk of the year, while being brought over a few times to see how well he plays at the highest level. That would be an ideal situation since Tarence Kinsey is on the last year of his current contract and Casey Jacobsen is on a one-year deal, as is Juan Carlos Navarro. Although I'm sure that if Navarro keeps up his level of play to what we've witnessed to this point, the Grizzlies' front office will find a way to re-sign him next year, even if it means making some one-sided trades. At least, that sounds reasonable to me....and some others as well. This would mean cutting Dontell Jefferson, but if the choice comes down to either the reigning SEC Player of the Year or a guy I hadn't even heard of two months ago, I think I'll take Byars.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Reflections on a Strange Pre-Season Game

Saturday night at the Forum the Memphis Grizzlies experimented with lineup combinations and gave their youngsters some experience against the Ft Wayne Heat, I mean Miami Heat. Seriously it felt at times like I was watching a ABA game more than an NBA game (and yes I am old enough to remember the ABA in Memphis but just barely).

The Grizzlies started the game playing great. Led by Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift the Grizzlies scored 40 points in the quarter and while surrendering 28 as well were in total control of the game. From that point on it was a nasty affair where Miami's development league players threw elbows, undercut drives and basically played as dirty as possible to discourage the Grizzlies.

Which brings up a common complaint of mine. The referees were terrible. It appeared two of the team were rookies. That should have been a bad sign to begin with. While I did recognize the senior official he is not someone I consider at the top of the class so pairing him with two officials without experience wasn't the best combination. One of the rookies had an expression similar to a deer in the headlights and the other made so many terrible calls that even Stromile Swift was rolling his eyes at times. Usually that happens when a player disagrees with a call. Rarely does it happen after the referee explained what he saw! That happened twice in this game. I mean I can understand a player in the heat of battle getting upset when a call goes against him but what would a referee have to say that would cause a player to double take his explanation?

Anyway, the game seemed to be something less than a normal preseason NBA game with a team on the court of players I didn't know. Quick trivia. Can you tell me the first names (and I will give you the first letter) of the five Heat players with the most time on the court? J. Anthony, B. Chase, J. Richardson, D. Cook and A. Johnson and the last player was not Avery Johnson!

It was slightly disappointing that the Grizzlies couldn't win by more than they did but the objective in this game was too avoid injury. After Casey Jacobsen received stitches in his head for apparently cutting his forehead open on wind, Rudy Gay was undercut on a drive and nearly flipped over and Juan Carlos Navarro was run over and left for dead without any calls being made you could see that the idea of running it up on this team wasn't as important as escaping without a hospital visit.

We didn't learn a lot about the team as a whole but I did like that fact that Navarro continued to take open shots even though he was having an off-night. We will need his scoring and it is difficult to score if you don't shoot. Rudy Gay was phenomenal. Tarence Kinsey had a good night in limited minutes showing his defensive skills and nice shot. Mike Miller had 11 pts, 6 boards and 4 assists on barely 20 minutes. If this had been a night like last season when he played 40 minutes routinely he would have been close to a triple double.

The biggest surprise may have been the point guard position in general. Damon, Kyle and Michael all played well and the position produced 13 pts, 11 assists, a steal and even a blocked shot (thanks for Conley's 41 inch vertical leap). With the players rotating in like they do it is difficult to make a big impact but so far the three headed PG position is looking pretty good.

On the bad side was Darko Milicic. While he made some nice moves and showed the range on one shot we were told he had, overall his game was disappointing and against less than quality opposition. At least he didn't get into foul trouble.

On the Side: I wonder if the poor officiating had anything to do with 6 referees being punished for for undisclosed reasons that may have had something to do with their being seen in casinos in Las Vegas.

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