Saturday, November 3, 2007

Postgame: Memphis vs Indiana 11.03.07

From Zack:


A- Lowry...Gets my Game Ball (surprise, surprise)...Scored a career high 19 points with impressive drives and lots of free throw attempts, had 6 assists, played his usual solid defense, dove for loose balls, was out of control at times and had a ton of turnovers...
A- Darko...I was happy with Darko tonight. He got into foul trouble, but still was able to play solid interior defense. He only has one move in the post, but his great position he gets on the low block is going to make him a viable offensive weapon this year...
B- Pau...Pau's stats don't look bad, but he didn't really make his presence known much this game. I think we need more from Pau offensively...
B- Miller...Even when Miller isn't on fire, he is solid at rebounding and passing. And at this point, he is one of our top perimeter defenders...sigh...
B- Damon...If I expected him to play better, he probably wouldn't have gotten in the B range...
C Casey...We don't pay him to play defense. He was 3 for 8 from beyond the arc. Ugh...
C Hak...only played 4 minutes. Made one pass and one good defensive play...
C Stro...only played 11 minutes, got called on 4 fouls, otherwise it was stro being stro...
D Gay...One of the more telling things about Rudy's stat line tonight is that he got 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks. The bogus offensive fouls really hurt him. He needs to be more aggressive attacking the rim and totally remove the step back jumper from his offensive options...
D Navarro...We don't pay him to play defense. He was 1 for 6 from beyond the arc. Double Ugh. JC's introduction into the NBA has been rocky so far, to say the least...
F Andre Brown...Can we get a Wide Receiver coach in here to work on his hands?

Something You May Have Not Caught:

At some point in the 2nd half, Rudy was put in to guard the former Hanson Brother, Little Mike Dunleavy. Rudy quickly lost track of the Dunleavy, allowing him to stand directly under the basket alone and get an easy layup. On the way down the court, Iavaroni engaged Rudy, motioned towards the bench, and said something similar to this to him:

Would you rather sit on the bench?

Pick and Roll Mess:

In my humble opinion, we have a mess with our pick and roll situation. Particularly the way we defend the pick and roll. With the exception of a handful of possessions, the Grizzlies have played the pick and roll passively. The guard goes under the ball screen. The bigman guarding the guy setting the screen, slacks off backwards in the lane. The result is an easy, uncontested jumper from either the guard or the bigman (on a pick and pop). So far, the Spurs and Pacers have knocked down the open jumpers, particularly the Pacers. I think we have to start playing the pick and roll more aggressively, by having the bigman hedge. My guess is that Iavaroni is trying to minimize fouls by instructing the passive approach or the personel is limiting the ability to play it aggressive. Whatever the reason, I don't think we can continue being that soft on pick and rolls. Likewise, we are not executing the pick and roll that effectively on offense. Tonight the Pacers were able to routinely hedge hard on the screen and greatly disrupt the offense. Either messing up the timing, or causing the PG to pick up his dribble, or causing a turnover.

Rotation Talk:

Foul trouble again forced Iavaroni to empty the bench (everyone but Conley played). Every bigman got in the game in the 1st quarter. The most interesting news about the rotation was the abundance of small ball combinations. Miller played PF some tonight. Lowry and Damon again shared the backcourt.

Stat Line of the Night:

Mike Dunleavy
27 Points
8 Rebounds
4 Assists
1 Block
2 Turnovers
65% Field Goal Percentage
83% Free Throw Percentage
20% Girl

From ChipC3:

I think Zack did a good job reviewing the individual players (although a B- For Miller seems a little high and the B- for Gasol is unfair considering he put up 18 and 10 against Jermaine O'Neal). I will throw in some thoughts that I have had over the last day.

I wonder how beneficial Mike's time with Team USA has really been. It seems Mike is far more tentative than he was last season and that is not good for this team. I realize we are only 2 games into the season but I was hoping Mike would come back from the summer experience with a more aggressive attitude about scoring not less. Right now he seems to be playing the role that had him sitting at the end of the bench in the FIBA Americas tournament. Sure he is passing and rebounding well but he needs to stop being a last option and become the 2nd or even 1st option on offense. Stop defering to other players and start being aggressive in looking for his shot.

It seems that Iavaroni has a preference for 'his' players and that is hurting the tema somewhat. Tarence Kinsey and Brian Cardinal were inactive the last two games and both bring a stronger defensive presence to the game than either Casey Jacobsen, Juan Carlos Navarro or Andre Brown. One has to wonder how long these West acquisitions will remain inactive while the team's substitutes continue to get burned on defense. Again it is early in the season but it seems that Cardinal and Kinsey should be getting looks at least.

Iavaroni made a strong statement this summer and in the pre-season that defense was going to be something that needed to be improved on this team. Right now Miller, Navarro and Jacobsen are not providing any and when Rudy is off the court no one seems capable of stopping anyone on the perimeter outside of Kyle Lowry.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Pregame: Grizzlies vs Indiana 11.03.07

Pregame commentary for the 11.03.07 Indiana at Memphis game, by ChipC3 and Zack. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments. Check back here after the game for post-game analysis from the SoB crew.

opened against San Antonio and then has to face the same Pacer team that embarrassed the Grizzlies during the last pre-season game. Sure most of the starters didn't play and it was only pre-season but Jim O'Brien sent a message in that game. Memphis fans better hope the Spaniards didn't understand it and the veterans can ignore it. The good news is that Indiana is playing their second game in a row and their 3rd game in four days to open the season. The Grizzlies should be better rested and motivated for redemption after the shellacking they received last week.

Indiana opened the season against Washington and then has Miami at home before traveling to Memphis. One couldn't ask for a better opening to the season. Washington put up a fight but lost in OT and Miami is already crying in the press about the injury problems they are facing (no sympathy from Grizz fans). It won't be surprising to see the Pacers coming to Memphis undefeated and looking to continue that streak against a Grizz team they beat handidly twice in the pre-season. Most prognosticators have the Pacers headed for the lottery this year but this team is motivated, talented and deep. They will surprise a lot of people this season.


--Indiana is 8-4 all-time playing at Memphis (regular season only). Bonus trend...the Griz are 0-11 playing in Indiana.
--Memphis won their final two Saturday night home games last year (against Chicago and Denver).
--The Grizzlies are undefeated when not playing against the NBA champions this regular season...c'mon, the season is young, trends haven't freaking developed yet! :)


--Gay versus Granger. The matchup of these two similar and young versatile forwards is the most intriguing story line of the night, in my eyes. The case can be made (see this week's cover story in the Memphis Flyer) that success for the Grizzlies this year will ride on the growth of Rudy. I suspect the same could be said for the Pacers with up and coming Danny Granger.
--New Coach, new attitude, and new players. Both teams are looking to rebound from disappointing seasons. Compared to the roster and coaching staff of the Grizzlies and Pacers a year ago, a significant portion of the personnel has changed. The latest buzz around the Pacers right now is that they are team that looks to be much improved from last year, with O'Brien preaching defense and a loose, up-tempo style. We are hearing a very similar message in Memphis right now, especially after the Grizzlies spirited play against the Spurs Wednesday night.
--Pacer's dominating the Grizzlies in the preseason. The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies a combined 144 to 90 in the 1st half of the two preseason games against each other. The preseason doesn't matter, right?


--Keep Tinsley from controlling the game. Tinsley is reportedly loving the freedom that O'Brien is giving him. Against the Wizards on opening night, Tinsley nearly had a triple-double and showed great leadership and control of his team, much like he did in the two preseason games against the Griz. Minimizing his impact is paramount tonight (and I suspect slowing down Tinsely will begin with solid transition defense).
--Inside scoring. Right now, I have more confidence in the Grizzlies ability to score buckets (consistently) from 15 feet and in. I think the game plan tonight on offense has to be to feed the Meal Ticket inside, early and often, with a nice spattering of Darko on the side (with his patented baby left hook from the left block).
--Home-court advantage. The home opener seems to have raised the awareness of the new look Grizzlies around town. A vibrant and loud home crowd will help the team keep up the intensity for 48 minutes while they learn to play faster and stay focused and active on defense.


Point Guards; Damon Stoudamire vs Jamal Tinsley
Damon didn't hurt his case for being the starter after his performance against Tony Parker. Damon seems a step too slow to run the uptempo style that Iavaroni left in Phoenix and Damon has never been a defensive minded point guard but Damon brings cool leadership and a big play shot making ability that neither of the young guns possess. Jamal Tinsley is a former Grizzlies draft pick traded to Atlanta and then to Indiana in the deal that brought Pau Gasol to Memphis. Tinsely has fought injury issues almost his entire career. When healthy Tinsely is a an excellent floor general who has a solid post up game. The problem has always been his health which may have been an off-shoot of his conditioning. Right now Tinsley looks to be in excellent shape.
Advantage: Indiana

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Mike Dunleavy
Mike Dunleavy and Mike Miller seem like two players cut from the same mold. Excellent outside shooters with high basketball IQ's and the ability to play a point guard type of role when needed. Both are defensive liabilities although Dunleavy seems to be slightly better than Miller while Miller seems to be slightly better on offense. Still the differences are minimal. Miller didn't show alot in pre-season but came up with a double double on opening night against Bruce Bowen. Having a weaker defender should allow Miller even more offensive contribution. Dunleavy has looked good in spurts but hasn't been able to put it all together yet with any consistency in his career.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Danny Granger
This may be one of the best young SF match ups in the league today. Danny Granger enters his 3rd season as a double digit scorer and a good defender at the 3. Rudy Gay enters his second season as a double digit scorer and a good defender. Maybe they cancel each other out but it should be fun to watch either way. Rudy is the more athletic but Granger is probably the more determined of the two. Rudy has been impressive at times but inconsistency has been his modus operandi. Granger has an additional year of experience and has used that to his advantage looking for more consistency in his game. People in Memphis are not going to be happy with me here.
Advantage: Indiana

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Jermaine O'Neal
It wasn't that long ago that Jermaine O'Neal was considered the hands down better player. Now after another disappointing season and a summer of discontent and trade demands from O'Neal, Gasol may have just past the older O'Neal straight up. Last season O'Neal saw his scoring drop for the 2nd consecutive season and he finished below the 20 pt a game mark for the first time since 2001-02, his first season in Indiana. Gasol on the other hand went over the 20 pt per game standard for the first time and out rebounded O'Neal as well. Two years younger than O'Neal and far less traveled, Gasol seems to still have upside while O'Neal has begun to slide. One has wonder what the continued trade rumors with LA will do to O'Neal's emotional side as well. If it motivates him then Gasol could be in for a long evening.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Jeff Foster
Marc Iavaroni pulled a fast one on opening night inserting Darko into the starting lineup after letting it be known that Stro was the starter. Smart move as Darko has a nice game against Tim Duncan and showed a power and intensity lacking from previous Memphis teams. Jeff Foster has apparently replaced injured Troy Murphy at the center spot and brings a tough, no nonsense atttiude toward defense and rebounding. Keeping Foster off the boards will have to be a main concern for the Grizzlies big men. In the past they haven't been able to do this successfully. All this assumes Troy Murphy isn't healthy of course.
Advantage: Indiana

Memphis fixed their bench issues from last season adding two sharpshooters (Juan Carlos Navarro and Casey Jacobsen) to the combination of Kyle Lowry, Stromile Swift and Hakim Warrick to give Memphis a very interesting combination of reserves. Two defensive players and three scorers off the bench is good balance but the reality that these players are all one-dimensional and that may limit their overall effectiveness. Indiana's bench hasn't really added any new names so continuity isn't as big an issue for the Pacers. Ike Diogu has looked impressive during pre-season. Marquis Daniels has also looked sharp but former Tiger Shawne Williams will be serving his 3rd game of his suspension and won't be playing. The Pacers will also be missing Troy Murphy to bolster the bench.
Advantage: Memphis

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

Chris Herrington has his Pre-Game Three-Pointer up on Beyond the Arc.

View From the Other Sideline:

Go over to the high-quality Pacers' blog Indy Cornrows to get their thoughts in their game thread.

There is also a game preview on that I highly recommend reading.

I'm Mad as Hell, and I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore!

I am mad as hell.

Earlier I wrote a blog about the national media titled 'Nobody Loves Us and Why That is Good.' So what if the national media doesn't pay attention to the Grizzlies. We can use that to our advantage after all. I never expected it to become a local issue as well!

Sports 56 WHBQ, the radio station with the slogan 'The Voice of the Fan', has cancelled the post game Grizzlies call in show. It is a sad day when the top rated local sports radio station is unable to find sponsors to pay for a late night call in show. Especially when it is one that so obviously fits the stations demographics. What is more representative of a station wanting to be the 'voice of the fans' than a call-in show right after a game when people are at their emotional zenith? Don't you think the boards would have been flooded with calls after the Spurs game on Opening Night?

I don't want to make this sound like I am ignoring the call-in show on Soul Classics 103.5 FM but that station is known for Soul not sports. Nothing personal but you have to know what you do best and stick to it. I love that Soul Classics 103.5 FM broadcasts the games because the sound quality is superior but I want the static-laden, horse-sounding half drunk comments after the game coming over AM56 not FM103.5 (or ESPN 730AM or FoxSports 680AM, I am not limiting this to AM56).

According to Eli Savoy, WHBQ's offical position is:
We had a couple sponsors who pulled out so we are working on new sponsors right now and we may still do it this year, but for now we will not be doing the show.

What the Grizzlies fans need to do is start a campaign to bring back the voice of the fans to AM56 WHBQ. Demand their sales staff to find the needed sponsors. Talk to those businesses (we all know who they were after all) about renewing their commitment to the community and the team.

You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING! My life has VALUE!' I want to talk about the Grizzlies after the game on sports talk radio!

So listen, I want you to get up. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'

We have to let the community and the businesses and the radio stations know that this callous indifference is not to be tolerated! 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!

Okay, maybe that is a bit extreme but you get the point.

We are the consumers. The businesses need to cater to our wants and desires. If we let the radios and the businesses know that we are willing to listen to their ads if they just let us talk about the game then everyone benefits. It is a win-win situation. The businesses get to pitch their services to the consumers, the radio station gets listeners and the people get to rant about the game in the proper format.

Write WHBQ an email and ask them to find the sponsors and put the show back on the air. Leave voice messages to the guys saying we want to have local sports talk on the air and not some national generic mile toast show. Call into the shows and ask the guys to spread the word.

Will it make a difference? Maybe. It can't hurt. I do know one thing. If you don't let the stations know what you want, don't complain when you don't get it. So make an effort to be heard and maybe, just maybe we can have our time to talk about the Grizzlies again.

Shane's Value, Joerger is missed and other links

I loved Shane Battier as a player. I think in time Rudy Gay will be better so I didn't cry over the trade last year that brought Rudy in at the expense of Shane but I still admired the way he conducted himself. David Berri over at Wages of Wins has an interesting take on Shane using his Win Score methodology. If you like Shane you should read it.

Not many Grizzlies fans, much less NBA fans, have really gotten to know who Dave Joerger is and why fans should be excited to see him in the NBA. in Minot, North Dakota remembers him from his days with the Dakota Wizards and has a telephone interview which may help become more familiar with this popular and successful coach. The Grizzlies are lucky to have him.

Speaking of Memphis' Developmental League team, The Dakota Wizards had their draft yesterday. Carlos Powell was their first selection of the Wizards (#2 overall). Powell is a small forward from South Carolina. If Tarence Kinsey goes to the D-League at any time this season he would be paired with his former team mate. For a complete list of players drafted check out this link.

I hope everyone is planning to be downtown Saturday night for the Pacers game. Another great event downtown is the National Family Literacy Day celebration taking place at the Civil Rights Museum. It's from 2-4 and we should all make an attempt to be there to support the schools and libraries, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and all the other organizations participating in this event.

The Grizzlies have picked up the pace for season ticket sales after the stirring opening night celebration at the FedEx Forum. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue all season!

Draft at No Fantasy

If you have read my rantings in the past you will know that I am prone to use satire as a way of conveying a point. Well at least most of you do. Some people seem incapable of recognizing that about me. As a general rule you should assume I am being sarcastic when reading anything I write but the pre-game commentary. For that you can assume I am just ill-informed.

The following recreation of our Fantasy Basketball Draft is unfortuantly not satirical. It is an accurate re-creation of how a fantasy league was ruined by a computer from advertised it had the ability to renew a league from one season to the next. states that you can have keeper leagues. allows you to make your own divisions, write your own schedule, create your own home page. I thought that sounded great. In theory it is great. You simply go to the previous seasons participants and say 'hey let's do this again!' I had a great league last year with 16 teams, everyone was allowed to keep one player from the previous season (an attempt to reward smart drafting and to maintain an air of continuity) but not too much of an advantage for one great draft. Everyone was excited about the upcoming season.

The problems began almost immediately. I sent the invitations out yet 2 or 3 of the players couldn't sign in. I had to delete teams and then re-invite them. This made tracking previous rosters very difficult. Those that could sign in were assigned duplicate teams. The computer wasn't recognizing the previous season's teams.

First bad omen.

Of course this is pretty difficult for a computer without a large amount of Artificial intelligence to realize. So I did all the extra work without complaint. I didn't complain but the other guys in the league were gettting pissed off. Still I should have recognized the signs right off the bat.

Since I had signed up so early for the league I had a prime draft slot at 8:00 pm CST on Monday night. Or so it seemed. A week before the draft it suddenly changed to Wednesday night at 8:00 pm. Not only was this after the regular season began but in the middle of the home opener for the Grizzlies. That late the only time we could draft was Thursday night. Three days after the start of the season.

Second bad omen.

Still everything was cool. That is until 45 minutes before the draft when another member of the league couldn't sign in. I had to delete the team and re-invite them right before the draft was to start! I got it done but there went my calm pre-draft review and preparation time.

Third bad omen.

Still everyone was excited and we got ready to do the draft. That is when the entire system collapsed. Maybe it was the keepers that screwed everything up. The players being kept (including such players as Pau Gasol, Al Jefferson, Deron Williams and Luol Deng) were still on everyone's draft list! Damn. They were supposed to be blocked so no one would draft someone's keeper. I shot an email off to They replied that in the pre-draft signin period the draft hadn't actually begun and that these players would be removed once the draft started. That seemed needlessly confusing but I accepted that reason.

Fourth and final bad omen.

I know the sign of the devil is 666 but three bad omens should have told me that something was drastically wrong here. By the time the fourth omen arose it was way past time to reconsider. It's like those photos from the movie 'The Omen'. If you wait until the shadow crosses your neck you aren't going to make it.

So the draft begins and almost immediately people start saying their draft board is acting funny. People can't get the draft player button to work properly, people are being thrown off-line and all kinds of weird things are happening. Worst of all, some teams draft players but it doesn't show up on the master list of drafted players. People taken remain on the master list of available players and teams are drafting players that the owners didn't want.

Basically it was terrible. I'm talking old testament type stuff here. fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, rivers and seas boiling, forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanos, the dead rising from the grave human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together --- mass hysteria to paraphrase Bill Murray.

Someone came up with the idea of refreshing the screens so we tried that but that didn't work either. We finally abandoned the draft and opened a new league over at Yahoo. Everyone is pissed and now we have to start almost two weeks late.

Thanks so much

And to think I used to believe the refs were the only major screwups in the NBA.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Links: Game Review, Media Guide, D-Wash

Chris Herrington delivers again with a quality post game review on Beyond the Arc.

SLAM Online had some fun at the expense of the Memphis Grizzlies media guide cover art They picked on the T'Wolves guide, too.

Lastly, there was a nice article about Darius Washington's return to Memphis on

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Postgame: Memphis vs San Antonio 10/31/07

Going to do this postgame writeup a bit different than usual.

Zack's Thoughts

Aspect that decided the game:

--San Antonio's ability to always find the open man on offense. When Duncan is doubled or Parker/Manu penetrate and the defense collapses, the Spurs are so familiar with each other that they always manage to find the open player. The result is usually an easy 3-pointer. They had 12 tonight, with Manu and Matt Bonner a combined 8 for 13.

Interesting Developments:

--Darko starting over Stro. Good move, it paid off tonight. I hope it continues.
--10 Grizzlies players entered the game in the 1st quarter. So much for a 8-9 man rotation.
--Lowry and Damon on the court together. To close out the 1st half, Lowry came in and played PG on offense and SG on defense. I like the idea (since Damon is such a good shooter), but tonight it had mixed results. During that stretch, Parker and Manu lit up the scoreboard on Damon and Lowry, mostly off of drive and kicks.

My Biggest Complaint:

--Casey played too much. I say that and just now read that he only played 15 minutes. Still, being at the game, it just felt like he was hurting the Grizzlies on the court. Porous defense with no offensive output to counterbalance. As HPTMatt told me after the game, "I actually was wanting Miller back in because of his defense!"

Things I Liked About Our Defense:

--Overall effort and focus towards defense.
--Darko's muscle and positioning on the low block. Darko played a hell of a game against Duncan. He fought for position and challenged shots.
--Miller's defensive rebounding.
--Rudy's ability to close out shooters after getting pumped faked.
--Kyle Lowry.

Something You May Have Missed:

--I'm sure most saw Lowry not return after diving into the 1st row for a loose ball. What you might have missed was Kyle hurt those same ribs earlier in the game. I don't remember exactly when, but earlier in the game Kyle came back to the bench during a timeout holding his ribs. He went back in anyway. Later he fell hard after a baseline drive and again showed some bias towards his ribs while on the ground. Than again later, he took a D-wash charge and seemed to acknowledge his ribs. Then finally around the 5 minute mark in the 4th quarter he dove for that loose ball, came up hobbled and never returned. From the upper bowl, it looked like he had an ice pack on his ribs on the sideline. I hope it is minor.

Worst Moment(s) of the Game:

--Twice knocking an easy rebound out of bounds when more than one Griz went for the ball.
--Seeing (and anticipating) the Grizzlies collapse in the final minutes of the game. The Curse lives on.

Something to Work on in Practice:

--The pick and roll. Both offensively and defensively. For the most part, San Antonio defended our pick and roll very effectively (usually they had the big show hard and had the help rotation to not allow our bigman to get a pass rolling to the basket). We played their pick and roll soft, allowing their guards to tear it up (47 combined points for Parker and Manu, penetrating almost exclusively off of a ball screen). All preseason I have seen the Grizzlies play the pick and roll soft, rarely having the bigman hedge very hard. Is this Iavaroni's philosophy or just a coincidence?

Closing Remarks:

--I had a great time. The game was 48 minutes of solid basketball for both teams and the game had plenty of exciting plays. I feel more comfortable with my 40 win prediction now. Go Griz!

ChipC3's Comments:
Damon showed why he was the starter tonight and if Kyle (and Conley for that matter) don't learn to shoot better from outside then the changing of the guard may not happen as quickly as expected. Damon had ice in his veins hitting some clutch 3s and made a great steal at the end of the 3rd but still is a defensive liability.

Memphis also needs a bit more play making at the point from both PGs. Mike Miller led the team in assists last night with 5. Memphis needs to have someone setting up open shots for players and they didn't get that last night from either Damon or Kyle.

Speaking of defensive liabilities did anyone else notice the rotation at one point of Damon, Navarro, Miller, Gasol and Swift? Is there a less defensive 5 the Grizz could put on the court at one time? And why was Jacobsen in the game at the end when the Grizz needed someone other than Ginobili handling the ball? Casey isn't quick enough to prevent Manu getting the rock and he was death at the line to end the game. I wonder how much Iavaroni wanted Kinsey in a uniform at the end of the game last night.

Don't you wonder what it would feel like to have a player make that many free throws at the end of a game? Seems like Memphis is always the team that misses those shots.

Great game by Darko. Staying out of foul trouble in the 2nd half was huge! People complain about Gasol down the stretch but Duncan was equally ineffective. It is really a perimeter game down the stretch in close games.

Gasol was good offensively and played hard despite the sore ankle but only 3 rebounds? Gasol has to be a greater force on the boards. Just because Darko is next door doesn't mean Gasol doesn't have to answer the door himself.

Miller was solid against nemesis Bruce Bowen. Rudy was more consistent, especially defensively, against Manu. He shut down Manu until the FTs at the end after Ginobili hammered the Grizz in the 1st half for 18 Pt's.

Dance team is much improved. Fan giveaway guns are much improved and the entertainment made me realize this isn't the Conference USA anymore! Major league attractions for the only major league team in town. Seeing the Tigers games advertised against UT-Martin, CBU and Arkansas St coming up and seeing empty seats on opening night makes you wonder what people are wanting from their teams. To paraphrase friend Chris Vernon: You can only choose one? Do you choose the San Antonio Spurs or CBU? I realize that it was Halloween but still.

Iavaroni is a good coach right now with the potential to do great things in Memphis but he will remember not saving one timeout for the last 3 seconds of the game. Possibly a rookie mistake?

Great job by Mr. Heisley, Chris Wallace, Andy Dolitch, the entire staff at the Forum and the Memphis Grizzlies. My only complaint is trivial. While it was a great idea to have that wrestling announcer to introduce the Grizzlies did we have to use the wrestling referees as well? Most pathetic example of star protection I have seen in months (okay it wasn't any worse than usual but it has been months since I have seen a real season game).

Live Blog: Grizzlies vs. Spurs 10/31/07

Welcome to the first Live Blog that actually counts!

It's Opening Night in Memphis, TN and I'm laid up with flu-like symptoms. Yes, the same flu-like symptoms that plagued Darko Milicic in the preseason and kept Brian Cardinal out the past few days. That's how close we are to the players -- we share the same illnesses.

Pete Pranica and Sean Tuohy spoke about Darius Washington making the Spurs squad and then turned it over to Rob Fischer who interviewed D-Wash prior to the game. Nice fluff piece for the Memphis crowd, although I find it very disconcerting to have to watch Fish after listening to him on the radio for the past few years. He's one of those guys who doesn't look like you would expect him to. He's certainly no Tony Luftman either -- I haven't heard him squeak in excitement yet. ;^)

Also, D-Wash is rocking a serious beard. As a fellow bearded one, I can say that it is quite impressive.

Fish interviews Coach Marc Iavaroni and then Rudy Gay, neither of which seems tense tonight, which is a good thing. Rudy seems very ready to get out there and perform at a high level.

Starting lineups
San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan, Fabricio Oberto
Memphis Grizzlies: Damon Stoudamire, Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, Darko Milicic, Pau Gasol

We've got the Trampoline Guy, Grizz Line and other assorted performers all over the court prior to the Grizzlies' introductions. Quite a spectacle, as they have the blacklights going and all the acts are glowing in the dark. Nice work!

Michael Buffer is in the house! Way to go all out guys! And he's doing the player introductions.

Anyone want to place a wager on whether or not Rudy Gay takes Bruce Bowen to flight school tonight?

Q1 - 11:00 -- Pau wins the tip-off and we are underway. Miller misses an 18 footer off a curl. Duncan cooly puts home a long jumper.

Q1 - 10:30 -- Darko hits a lefty hook from the left block. Duncan gets a sneaky basket to go in, but then Pau comes back and hits from the right baseline.

Q1 - 9:00 -- Tony Parker is crazy sneaky as he snakes in for a 1-on-2 layup. Rudy comes right back and hits a short turnaround over Bowen. Darko runs the floor to get an easy basket and then Parker comes right back again for another highlight style layup. Grizzlies 8, Spurs 8

Q1 - 7:33 -- Duncan somehow gets a leaner to go over Pau's outstretched fingertips, but then Pau gets fouled the next trip down the court and hits both free throws. Tied at 10.

Q1 - 6:40 -- Mike witht he steal and feeds it to Darko running the floor, who slams it home with the left hand!

Q1 - 5:56 -- Parker hits a long jumper from the left wing to tie it back up at 12 all. Pau gets called on a questionable offensive foul for a clear-out. Parker misses everything on another long jumper, prompting "Airball!" chants around the FedEx Forum. He looks for a foul call and gets none as we take our first timeout. Grizzlies 12, Spurs 12

Darko looks good. Perhaps the Dark One has decided to come out to play on Halloween.

Q1 - 5:12 -- Manu Ginobili into the game and he immediately heads to the rim in his slithering style. Misses the layup, but still got to the rim effortlessly. Damon rushes down the court and takes an ill-advised three pointer, which rattles out.

Q1 - 4:58 -- Darko inadvertently pokes Duncan in the eye, sending him to the bench. They call a foul on Rudy against Bowen on the next play, despite the fact that he was standing still with arms straight up in the air. Nothing like a makeup call so quickly after the non-call! Stro into the game now. Bowen misses both, because he can't hit free throws.

Q1 - 3:39 -- Bowen hits a runner from the left side, proving he can do more than hit corner threes. Miller comes back with a three from the left wing. Parker with another easy layup to give the Spurs the lead back. Spurs 16, Grizzlies 15

Q1 - 2:39 -- Wholesale changes as Navarro, Lowry and Jacobsen are now in the game. Duncan misses a bad pass, Navarro picks it up, feeds Casey for the fastbreak layup. Grizzlies take the lead 18-16 and the Spurs want a timeout.

Q1 - 1:50 -- Both teams hate free throws, as Ginobili misses a couple, then Stro hits one of two. Duncan hits another leaner that Navarro immediately answers with a three-pointer from the right wing. Grizz 22, Spurs 20

Q1 - 0:42 -- Pau fumbles the ball, recovers and hits a fallaway from the lane. Duncan gets fouled, hits one of two, but Manu gets the offensive rebound off the miss. Ginobili drives to the basket and Darko fouls him, giving him two fouls -- enter Hakim Warrick.

End Q1 -- Manu hits them both. Kyle Lowry is a force of nature. He drives the left side of the lane, dishes back out to Gasol, who slams it home! D-Wash tries to take the Spurs last shot, but is rejected by Pau! Grizz 26, Spurs 23

Q2 - 11:22 -- Finley hits a jumper from the right side over Hakim. Kyle continues his high energy play, blowing by D-Wash to get the foul call and head to the line for two free throws....and hits them both. Grizzlies 28, Spurs 25

Q2 - 10:20 -- Ginobili answers with a three-pointer from the top of the arc. La Bomba doesn't fall, leading to a miss by Ginobili, a scramble for the ball that winds up in Manu's hands again for another three-pointer.

Q2 - 9:32 -- Hakim grabs his own miss and puts it back in with one hand. Then Hak gets a ridiculous foul called on him when Finley acts like he's been thrown from a moving vehicle. Hakim couldn't throw one of the ball boys that far. Ginobili hits the three-pointer on the other end. Spurs 34, Grizzlies 30

Q2 - 8:10 -- Great set play as Gasol passes to Lowry at the top of the arc, who swings it to Navarro on the left wing.....alley-oop to Pau! Parker answers with a mid-range jumper. Hakim with a turnaround over three Spurs defenders that misses. Matt Bonner then hits a three from the left wing. Spurs 39, Grizzlies 32

Q2 - 7:22 -- Pau gets hacked on a trip through the lane and hits both free throws. We have our first Pau checking for blood sighting of the year! Finley misses a contested jumper, Rudy grabs the rebound and feeds Kyle who sprints down the floor for the easy transition layup. Next trip down, Brent Barry steps out of bounds and we get another TV timeout. Spurs 39, Grizz 38

Q2 - 5:50 -- Rudy abuses Bonner for a spinning hook shot to give Memphis the lead. These refs are horrific!!! Navarro is standing perfectly still next to Duncan, who elevates for the shot and gets a foul call. The Forum crowd is really giving it to them now! Pete and Sean agree that there was no foul to be called. Grizz 40, Spurs 39

Q2 - 5:36 -- Duncan misses them both -- the one chink in his armor still. Rudy vs. Bonner is a frightening mismatch as he blows by him and gets hacked to prevent the easy basket. Rudy hits them both, showing Duncan how it is done. Thank you Mark Price!

Q2 - 4:15 -- Rudy picks up another foul, giving him 3 on the night, which brings the return of Stro to the floor. Duncan uses the glass to score over a good defensive effort by Pau. Damon answers with a mid-range jumper from the left side of the floor. Ginobili misses a three-pointer and Miller gathers the rebound. Grizzlies 44, Spurs 41

Q2 - 3:20 -- Ginobili is fouled by Navarro, and JCN goes to the bench in favor of Lowry. Manu hits both free throws. Stro with the offensive board off Kyle's miss and then works into the lane for a basket over Duncan. Spurs take another timeout. Grizzlies 46, Spurs 43

Q2 - 2:15 -- Grizz are on a 14-4 run right now and are +7 in the rebounding department. Parker misses a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down. Miller coasts down the lane for a layup. Parker hits a three from the right corner to answer. Grizzlies 48, Spurs 46

End Q2 -- The Spurs hit two threes in a row and then Miller answers with one of his own. Lowry takes the hard foul driving from the left side and challenging the Spurs' big men. Kyle hits them both to tie the game again at 52 all. Spurs hold for the last shot -- Finley takes a bad shot, one step inside the three-point line, leading to a strange play where Ginobili flips the ball over the top of the backboard, turning the ball over to Memphis, who miss the final shot. Grizzlies 52, Spurs 52

I'm taking a break to eat some dinner, but if you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

Q3 - 10:36 -- Finley opens up with a fadeaway over Miller. Pau misses a fallaway over two defenders. Francisco Elson (the answer to "Who is that masked man?") hits a mid-range jumper. Rudy misses a long three. Memphis allows Bowen to set his feet and he knocks down a 17 footer, prompting a 20-second timeout from Iavaroni. Spurs 58, Grizzlies 52

Q3 - 9:21 -- Out of the timeout Damon hits a three-pointer. Then after a defensive stop, Rudy gets down the floor and hits a mid-range jumper to whittle the deficit down to one. Offensive foul on Duncan relieves the Spurs of another possession.

Q3 - 7:55 -- Rudy loses the ball and Duncan rattles one home on the ensuing possession. Pau answers back with a short leaner of his own. Duncan gets fouled by Gasol and manages to hit both free throws. Damon answers that with a three-pointer to tie it up at 62 all.

Q3 - 6:09 -- A rendition of "Can you top this?" breaks out as Parker and Damon both hit long two-pointers. Bowen breaks that up with a three pointer from the right corner. Darko comes back with a hook shot from the lane. Spurs 67, Grizzlies 66

Q3 - 4:13 -- Parker misses a long jumper. Mike misses a three, Pau grabs the offensive board, passes to Damon who misses another three. Duncan misses a shot on the right block as Darko came over for the intimidation factor. Rudy misses from the left elbow. Nobody can hit right now. Elson finally breaks the monotony with a slam off a nice feed by Ginobili. Gasol answers with the bucket and the foul. Spurs 69, Grizzlies 68

Q3 - 3:14-- Pau hits the free throw to tie it up and give him 17 points for the game. Oberto squeaks by Darko for the lay-in. Damon hits the three-pointer from the left wing. Then Damon steals the ball right out of Parker's hands, feeds Rudy who lays it in and gets fouled. Grizz 74, Spurs 71

Q3 - 2:52 -- Bowen tries to pass it in to Duncan, but the Grizzlies grab it, run down the floor and Miller hits the three from the right-hand side. Grizz 77, Spurs 71

Q3 - 1:33 -- D-Wash misses the three from the right side. Rudy turns it over after getting stuck in No Man's Land and D-Wash takes it coast-to-coast for the layup. Right now, it appears that they are trying to get Darko actively involved in the offense again. Rudy misses an open three and the Grizzlies slap the ball out of bounds. Kyle back in the game now.

Q3 - 0:22 Offensive foul on D-Wash after he pushes Kyle to the floor. Rudy tries another shot from the left side and makes this one. Bonner answers with a three. Grizz 79, Spurs 76

End Q3 -- Gasol says that "if the goofy-looking redhead can do it, so can I" and cans a three from the top of the key. Bonner misses his shot at retaliation as the buzzer sounds. Grizzlies 82, Spurs 79

Q4 - 12:00 -- Enter the final quarter with Gasol, Gay, Miller, Lowry and Swift on the floor.

Q4 - 9:55 -- D-Wash hits a floater to cut the lead to one. Lowry gets to the rim, but cannot finish. D-Wash misses from the left elbow, but Rudy and Stro knock the rebound out of bounds, allowing Brent Barry to hit a three-pointer on the extra possession. Spurs 84, Grizzlies 82

Q4 - 9:18 -- Rudy with a great save to get the ball back to Pau after a tipped rebound nearly went out of bounds. Kyle sprints down the floor and coasts in for another layup. He's quicker than a hiccup.

Q4 -8:03 -- The Spurs start to take over, making three baskets without an answer from Memphis, prompting a timeout from Iavaroni. Spurs 90, Grizzlies 84

Q4 -6:33 -- Navarro comes in and immediately hits a three-pointer. Parker misses a long shot and Lowry gathers the rebound. Navarro travels on the next possession running a pick and roll with Darko. Barry misses a three badly, Navarro brings the ball down and gets hammered on the shot -- no call. These refs will be getting a call from Ronnie Nunn tonight -- I guarantee it. Spurs 90, Grizz 87

Q4 - 5:05 -- Finley hits a three and Navarro answers. Darko with the block on Duncan! Lowry pushes the ball, feeds Warrick who gets clobbered from behind. Spurs 93, Grizz 90

Q4 -4:44 -- Come out of the TV timeout to see Kyle Lowry with ice on his hip after he took a leaping dive to save a ball a few plays earlier. Warrick at the free-throw line for two shots -- hits one of them to cut the lead to two points. Finley misses a three, but Duncan grabs the offensive board. Then Duncan gets the offensive foul! Spurs 93, Grizz 91

Q4 - 3:07 -- Back-and-forth we go, with both teams missing close shots. Miller misses a long jumper, then Duncan responds in kind.....but the Grizzlies fight over the rebound and lose it out of bounds. Duncan misses badly on the shot and Bonner knocks it out of bounds, but the officials give it to the Spurs. Where's Nunn's e-mail address again?

Q4 -2:40 -- Ginobili misses a wide-open shot and Darko boxes out Duncan for the rebound. Rudy gets the ball on the left wing, drives in and hits the jumper from 8 feet to tie it up at 93 all.

Q4 - 1:52 -- Finley misses another mid-range jumper with Rudy applying defensive pressure. Rudy gets the ball to Gasol who sets up Duncan and drives right around Timmy for the reverse layup. Duncan works into the lane to score over Darko and tie it back up. 95 all

Q4 - 0:27.7 -- Bonner misses a three, ball out of bounds to the Grizzlies. Gasol drives the lane and gets blocked by Duncan -- ball OB. Gasol gets the ball on the in-bounds and misses the shot across the lane with three defenders hanging on him. Ginobili hits the runner on the left side to give the Spurs the lead. Spurs 97, Griz 95

Q4 - 0:19.7 -- Crunch-time lineup: Gasol, Rudy, Mike, Darko, Damon. Ball goes in to Rudy who gets an offensive foul called on him when he lowers his shoulder and Ginobili flies into the next area code. Flopper. Spurs get the ball inbounds to Manu and force him to give it up to Duncan who is fouled. Ginobili gets fouled and goes to the line and only hits one of two. Spurs 98, Grizz 95

Q4 - 0:13.5 -- Iavaroni is setting up the play to either get a quick two or a set play to make the game-tying three. Casey in the game now for Darko. Miller goes down the lane for the deuce, but gets tripped by Ginobili and goes to the line. Mike misses the first one, makes the second. Spurs 98, Grizz 96

Q4 - 0:8.1 -- They foul Ginobili who hits them both this time. Damon down the floor for the quick layup. The Spurs are forced to take a timeout when they cannot inbound the ball.

Q4 - 0:3.1 -- Ginobili to the line again. He hits them both again. Damon comes down the floor and hits a huge three-pointer! They foul Manu yet again. Spurs 102, Grizz 101

End Q4 -- Ginobili hits them both. Long outlet to Rudy Gay who heaves it up from 40 feet and misses off the backboard. Final score: Spurs 104, Grizzlies 101

What a game. That's all I can really say at this point.

Links: Game Previews, Predictions, CA Coverage

Chris Herrington has his usual high-quality game preview up on Beyond the Arc.

If you feel like you still need an additional game preview -- although I think that Chip, Zack and guest star San Antonio Spurs blog Pounding the Rock have already covered everything -- then check out the preview from Philadelphia TV station

Mississippi based Speck's Sports Blog also has a preview of tonight's home opener.

The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, has his season predictions up on now and is surprisingly pro-Memphis, given his less-than-flattering comments in the past about the Grizzlies. He likes us to win 35+ games, make the playoffs and has nice things to say about Pau Gasol and Kyle Lowry. Is this Bizarro World or something? Or has all the Halloween candy affected him already?

Finally, there are a ton of new articles on the Commercial Appeal today....guess they were saving them up or something, since we had 8 today after one per day all through preseason. Click here for the direct link to the Grizzlies section.

If you live in the area, make sure you get out there and support the home team tonight as they take on the defending NBA champions.

Memphis vs San Antonio Pregame Commentary

Don't forget the Opening Night BLOG Party (or posters party for those so inclined) at Jack Daniels Old #7 starting at 6:00 pm. Eric Haseltine may make an appearance so be there early.

Read Chip's pregame commentary and excellent breakdown of the matchups. Below is my commentary for the 10-31 Grizzlies-Spurs game. Hopefully we will also be featuring pregame commentary by an 'enemy' blogger for each Grizzlies game.

Storylines of the Night:

--Will Pau play? Evidently Pau's availability for the game is still up in the air. The Grizzlies absolutely need Pau to play for the hometown fans hopeful for a win (more on that below). To gain any advantage we can against the dominate Spurs, I hope word is leaked that Pau won't play, then have him in the lineup come gameday to go mano-y-mano against the Big Fundamental.

Update....Yes, Pau will play. It was reported today there is no way he would miss the regular-season opener. Great news for the Grizzlies, obviously.

--Can the Grizzlies win a home opener? The Grizzlies historically have a difficult time winning the first home game of the year. Lost to Dallas in 02-03, Boston in 03-04 (curse you, Mike James), Wizards in 04-05 in the opening night of the FedEx Forum, Miami in 05-06, and New York in 06-07. I know personally attending the home opener is more important than most other early season games. A win would be nice. Playing the Spurs isn't.

--Will the early back-to-back affect the Spurs? In what I'll interpret as a partial attempt to make up for the fact that we have to see the Spurs come to town for the home opener, the NBA scheduled the Spurs with back-to-back games to start the season out. Having the Spurs play Portland the night before sounded a lot better before Oden (and other) Trailblazers got injured. Still, the fatigue of an early season back-to-back for an aging veteran team might be to the Grizzlies advantage, especially with our young and deep bench.

Update...Bonus Storyline: Darius Washington returns. I didn't think it would happen, but our beloved D-wash has made the Spurs team. And with the trading of Beno Udrih, his foot hold on the 3rd string PG spot is more solid than I ever would have guessed.

Key's to Victory:

--Keep Tony Parker out of the lane. Last postseason I saw Tony Parkers driving penetration be more of a factor to the Spurs success than the steady hand of Tim Duncan (that might be because Tim Duncan is so steady, his effectiveness gets overshadowed). The Grizzlies seem to unravel defensively when the defense is required to help out on players driving into the lane and the backside rotation can't properly react. Damon and Kyle need to keep Parker out of the lane as much as possible. And do it without fouling too much. The task is not an easy one.

--Rebounding. Rebounding totals are not as important as 'rebounding margin'. However one slices it, the Boys in Blue are in constant need of rebounding better. Oberto will likely be a pest on the offensive boards (who, when I am sitting in the upper deck of the FedEx Forum, looks identical to Rocket's rookie Luis Scola). The Grizzlies are too suspect on defense to sustain allowing many 2nd chance points off of San Antonio offensive rebounds.

--Shooting percentage. One way or another, the Grizzlies are going to have to shoot well to win. Shooting well from all aspects (FT, FG, and 3) will not necessarily be required, but some type of hot hand is. It could be that Lowry and company get enough charity attempts to make FT percentage meaningful. Or Miller, Rudy, Navarro, and Jacobsen light it up from beyond the arc. Or Pau, Swift and Darko convert at a high rate around the basket. In some offensive aspect, the Grizzlies need to have a hot hand. Seeing the basket shrink for Grizzlies shooters will likely lead to a typical opening night result.

Memphis vs San Antonio 10-31-07


Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis enters their 7th season in Memphis with a team filled with more potential than at any time since the Grizzlies were in Vancouver and Stu Jackson was the GM. That isn't to say the team is going to be the best team in Memphis history but just that the opportunity for greatness seems more palpable than at any previous time. Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Rudy Gay and Tarence Kinsey are the young guns now and look like all can contribute, Darko Milicic, Casey Jacobsen and Andre Brown were FA signings that bring a lot of upside and some experience and the vets of Miller, Swift, Stoudamire, Warrick and of course Pau Gasol all look to improve on previous years. Memphis is a young, fast and talented team that needs to put it all together in the toughest division in the toughest conference. Rookie Head Coach Marc Iavaroni has an interesting job ahead of him.

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio opens at home against the Greg Oden-less Blazers on Tuesday night. Talk about a letdown for the networks. The Spurs also get their World Championship rings before the game. They then travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies. One could understand the Spurs overlooking this game. The Spurs are veterans however who have been simultaneously proclaimed the team of the decade and criticized for their failure to be able to repeat as champions. Obviously a repeat has to be high on their list of things to accomplish this season. However the team continues to age at an alarming rate. Tim Duncan is 31. Manu Ginobili is 30, Michael Finley is 34, Bruce Bowen is 36, Francisco Elson is 31, Fabricio Oberto is 32 and Robert Horry is only 37 but seems to be closer to 50. The only young contributor on the team is Tony Parker, 25, and coming off an incredible summer where he won the NBA Championship, was named NBA Finals MVP and then married Eva Longoria. Talk about a nice couple of months.

Damon Stoudamire vs Tony Parker
Coming off the most incredible summer anyone could ask for Tony Parker faces an aging point guard who is recovering from major knee surgery and was expected to be more coach than starting PG this season. Parker doesn't have a lot of support behind him and will be pressured all game from the trio of PG's Memphis can throw at him. The key to stopping Parker is to not let him get into the lane, something easier written than done. Damon will be pressured to do this since his reputation is not that great on defense. Damon just needs to play his game and keep them team controlled. Slowing down Parker man to man will fall on Kyle Lowry's shoulders. Unfortunately, Parker is just too experienced and fast for the Grizz to contain.
Advantage: San Antonio

Mike Miller vs Michael Finley

It still amazes me that these two players are expected to start for their teams. Finley was considered over the hill when San Antonio signed him three years ago. His massive minutes in Dallas had supposedly robbed him of his game and he was rumored to be burned out. While it is true he isn't the player he was in Dallas, Finley has proven to be an intelligent player who knows when to step up his game and when to allow others to lead the way. Miller was supposed to be the consummate 6th man. A scoring threat from anywhere on the court, Miller's lack of speed and toughness was rumored to be too much to overcome as a starter. Last year he proved his critics wrong becoming a dominant #2 scoring threat and surprisingly tough. A suspicious knee injury sidelined him the last month of the season keeping him from playing in 80 games last year for the 1st time since his rookie year. He still set season highs in scoring, rebounding and assists and at 27 is in the prime of his career.
Advantage: Memphis

Rudy Gay vs Bruce Bowen

I don't know how often these two will be paired up against each other. Bowen is a defensive master (or dirty player depending on who you talk to) who will most likely draw Miller for a defensive assignment but an offensive liability who will most likely be guarded by Miller as well. But the positions are what they are. Rudy showed glimpses of the ability Jerry West believed in when he traded fan favorite Shane Battier for Rudy's rights in 2006. Just turned 21, Rudy has height, talent and determination. Most importantly he wants to be among the best and worked hard this summer to take another step toward that goal. With a 39" vertical leap and long arms Rudy is both a shot blocking threat and a decent steals man but still needs to learn position to be truly effective. However people aren't looking for Rudy to be the next great defensive SF. He is expected to be a 5 category threat starting with scoring. Rudy has range to the 3 pt line and can jump over almost anyone in the league. Bowen is old and will have to use all of the tricks left in his bag against Rudy.
Advantage: San Antonio

Pau Gasol vs Tim Duncan

Pau Gasol is one of the few players in the NBA that is capable of averaging a double double in scoring and rebounding over an 82 game season. He is among the top 10 in the league at blocking shots. He shoots a high percentage from the floor and is a good enough passer to possibly post a triple double on any given night. And he is hopelessly outclassed in this matchup. Tim Duncan could quite possibly be the greatest power forward to ever play in the NBA. His career averages are 21.8 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.3 apg, 3.1 bpg and 52.1% FG shooting. That is a 10 yr average. He had routinely been named to both the All-NBA first team and the All-NBA Defensive first team. Does he have a weakness? Well it is written that he is afraid of heights and sharks. Seriously, his free throw shooting is abysmal which does allow teams to play a sort of 'Bonk a Dunc' defense in reference to the old Hack a Shaq ploy but late in games you don't want him on the line either.
Advantage: San Antonio

Stromile Swift vs Fabricio Oberto

If there was a bigger surprise on the team this season than Stromile Swift then I don't know what it is. No one gave Stro a chance to be in the mix for a starting job but he beat out returnee Hakim Warrick and free agent Darko Milicic quite easily to win the job. Swift has a history of failing to capitalize on opportunities and will have to prove he can play a full season to win over a lot of people. Oberto emerged in the playoffs last season but a broken bone in Elson's his face forces Oberto into the starting role and at 31 it is more likely the playoffs were a fluke than a trend.
Advantage: Memphis


Memphis' bench is as deep as it has been with since Hubie Brown paced the sidelines. With Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro, Casey Jacobsen, Hakim Warrick and Darko Milicic the Grizzlies have someone at every position to offer support and often the bench is faster than the starters. What they lack is experience. San Antonio's bench is long on experience and age. With Brent Barry, Matt Bonner, Francisco Elson, Manu Ginobili, and Robert Horry the Spurs bench averages over 30 years old and will be hard pressed to stay with the Grizzlies if the game picks up pace. It is the Spurs job not to let the game get fast and they are good at that. Back to back games hurt the legs of these old guys and Memphis will be fresh and anxious.
Advantage: Memphis

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni v Gregg Popovich
Iavaroni waited until the time was right and is ready to go but seriously is there a better coach in the NBA than Gregg Popovich? It isn't just that he has 4 titles without repeating once but he has kept his team competitive in almost every season he has been in control. He did lose valued assistant PJ Carlisimo but how important are assistant coaches anyway? Iavaroni will be tested by the best to start his head coaching career. Iavaroni has carried the clipboard with some of the best coaches in the game in Mike Fratello, Pat Riley and Mike D'Antoni but everything changes when you have to make the tough calls. Welcome to the hot spot Marc.
Advantage: San Antonio

Make sure you post your final score predictions in a comment!

Comments from Pounding the Rock (San Antonio Spurs blog): Record: 1-0
Up Next: @ Memphis Grizzlies
And just like that, as Matthew pointed out, we've got our first segababa of the year. A loss here wouldn't surprise me in the slightest as conditioning will probably be an issue for Tony, who's still trying to work himself into shape, and who knows how Finley and Barry will respond? If we play defense like we did tonight, we're gonna be 1-1. Fortunately, nobody on Memphis' roster is all that defensively imposing and I think we'll be able to take advantage of some of their youngsters. I predict a double-double from the Red Rocket, 25+ points from Opus, and a narrow Spurs win, let's say 99-95.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

News and Notes: Captains, Inactive List

A couple of newsworthy items to inform everyone about.

First, the Grizzlies have named their captains for this upcoming season. From Graham Kendrick's blog today:

Marc Iavaroni announced that the team has named three captains for the upcoming season: Pau Gasol, Mike Miller and Damon Stoudamire.

That is great to hear, as I love the fact that they are putting Gasol in a visible leadership role, rather than simply calling him a leader and expecting it to mean something.

The other item is that Brian Cardinal and Tarence Kinsey will both begin the season on the Inactive List. (

A lot of fans are puzzled by this, given how well TK played last year, but I think it is probably a combination of some lingering issues from his shoulder injury (suffered during Summer League), as well as how well Casey Jacobsen played in preseason. The most common complaint of fans has been that Andre Brown should have been on the list instead, but given that we open the season against the San Antonio Spurs, I want as many frontcourt players available as possible. With Cardinal going on the list, it made sense to make the other player a swingman.

Bye Bye Mike

We hardly knew you.

Mike Conley Jr is no longer on the Grizzlies team.

Don't worry we didn't trade our #4 draft pick. He just prefers to be known as Michael Conley. No 'Junior' jokes (I can't imagine that would be good for a rookie on this team anyway). No 'be like Mike' comments. No 'Hey Mikey he likes it' quips. It is serious, adult and proper Michael if you please.

This may help him avoid some small amount of rookie hazing but not a lot. Maybe he just figured that Mike Conley Jr was too big a mouthful and would take too long to say for a player as fast as he is. Maybe he chose Michael instead of Mike because he didn't want his name confused with Mike Miller and I really can't imagine Michael Miller on the Grizzlies anyway.

I don't know why he wants to be called Michael other than it represents his new professional status. Two years ago he was in high school. Last year he was a freshman in college. Now he is a man plying his trade and putting his skills up against the best players in the world. Working in a man's world he wants a man's name. He's no longer a kid.

Remember that if you see him carrying donuts to morning shoot arounds and lugging luggage out of veterans cars.

Season Predictions

Western Conference Predicted Finish (regular season wins)-

Chip: Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, Houston, Utah, Denver, New Orleans, Portland, Golden St, Memphis, LA Lakers, Sacramento, LA Clippers, Minnesota, Seattle
Zack: San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Denver, Utah, Golden State, Memphis, New Orleans, L.A. Lakers, Portland, L.A. Clippers, Seattle, Minnesota, Sacramento
Spartacus: Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Utah, Houston, Denver, New Orleans, Golden State, L.A. Lakers, Memphis, Portland, Sacramento, Minnesota, Seattle, L.A. Clippers

Eastern Conference Predicted Finish (regular season wins)-
Chip: Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Toronto, Miami, Washington, Detroit, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Indiana, Orlando, Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, Charlotte
Zack: Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Washington, Cleveland, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Toronto, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Orlando, Charlotte, Philadelphia
Spartacus: Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Toronto, Orlando, Cleveland, New Jersey, Washington, Miami, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, New York, Indiana, Charlotte, Atlanta

Western Conference Playoffs-
Chip: Dallas over Portland, Phoenix over New Orleans, San Antonio over Denver, Utah over Houston, Dallas over Utah, San Antonio, Dallas over San Antonio
Zack: San Antonio over Memphis, Dallas over Golden State, Phoenix over Utah, Houston over Denver, San Antonio over Houston, Phoenix over Dallas, San Antonio over Phoenix
Spartacus: Phoenix over Golden St., Dallas over New Orleans, San Antonio over Denver, Houston over Utah, Phoenix over Houston, San Antonio over Dallas, San Antonio over Phoenix

Eastern Conference Playoffs-
Chip: Chicago over New Jersey, Boston over Detroit, Washington over Cleveland, Miami over Toronto, Chicago over Miami, Bston over Washington, Chicago over Boston
Zack: Boston over New Jersey, New York over Chicago, Detroit over Cleveland, Miami over Washington, Miami over Boston, Detroit over New York, Detroit over Miami
Spartacus: Chicago over Washington, Boston over New Jersey, Detroit over Cleveland, Orlando over Toronto, Chicago over Orlando, Detroit over Boston, Detroit over Chicago

NBA Finals-
Chip: Dallas over Chicago
Zack: San Antonio over Detroit
Spartacus: San Antonio over Detroit (much gnashing of teeth in Dallas, Phoenix, Boston and Chicago)

Rookie of the Year-
Chip: Kevin Durant
Zack: Kevin Durant (JC will be #2)
Spartacus: Al Horford

Most Valuable Player-
Chip: Kevin Garnett
Zack: Tony Parker
Spartacus: Amare Stoudemire

Sixthman of the Year-
Chip: Juan Carlos Navarro (this is a Grizzlies site after all)
Zack: Juan Carlos Navarro (if I didn't believe that Lowry would end up starting soon, he would be my choice)
Spartacus: Juan Carlos Navarro (because I believe he is the best candidate)

Coach of the Year-
Chip: Nate McMillian
Zack: Rick Adelman
Spartacus: Stan Van Gundy

Grizzlies Wins-
Chip: 33
Zack: 40
Spartacus: 37

You can check out Chris Herrington's predictions on Beyond the Arc, as well.

Links: Previews, Scoop Jackson, Dance Team,

Guess what I got......more previews.

We Rite Goode asked us for our predictions and we answered. Read the Southwest Division Preview today. (self-proclaimed "World's Most Dangerous Site") picks the Grizzlies to finish 10th in the West in their Southwest Division Preview.

"twins15" of Complete Sports has Memphis in the playoffs as the 8th seed.

Mediaverse covers a few Memphis related items in a post entitled "On Darius Washington", including's Scoop Jackson mentioning Pau Gasol and Grizzlies dance team member Noelia Warnette-Jones. Some entertaining commentary about Scoop was included in that post.

FOX Sports has a piece entitled "Here's why your team might win" that covers exactly what you think the title suggests. Randy Hill manages to cover each team in the NBA, although I think this could have been really easy to do by saying "Make sure Tim Duncan misses the playoffs".

Basketbawful has some doubts about how good (or at least how exciting) the Grizzlies will be in his NBA Bestern Conference Preview.

Both of the fine gentlemen at The Basketball Jones have Memphis in the playoffs, one as the 7th seed, the other as the 8th seed.

NBA Previews - Pacific 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.

Golden St. Warriors
Golden State of Mind

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Lakers
Forum Blue & Gold
With Malice

Phoenix Suns
Bright Side of the Sun

Sacramento Kings
Sactown Royalty

CelticsBlog NBA Page

Monday, October 29, 2007

Predictions and Expectations

As we draw ever closer to the start of the 2007/08 NBA season, the Net is buzzing with predictions about how each team and player will perform this year. The Memphis Grizzlies Message Boards typically have a thread or two concerning this very subject and this year is no different with a thread dealing just with the newest imports already up and running. The predictions range from cautiously optimistic to wildly hopeful, which is to be expected with any fan base. So, in the spirit of that, I'll attempt to predict the stats for each member of the Grizzlies.

Pau Gasol
Career stats: 35.4 MPG, 18.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.9 BPG, .510 FG%, .724 FT%
2006/07 stats: 36.1 MPG, 20.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, 2.1 BPG, .539 FG%, .748 FT%
Preseason stats: 23.0 MPG, 9.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.75 BPG, .375 FG%, .765 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 38 MPG, 22.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.9 BPG, .530 FG%, .766 FT%

Pau should see an increase in scoring and assists, while the additional help provided by Darko and friends will cause a slight decrease in his rebounding numbers from his career high last season.

Mike Miller
Career stats: 31.8 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, .454 FG%, .398 3PT%, .771 FT%
2006/07 stats: 39.1 MPG, 18.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.3 APG, .460 FG%, .406 3PT%, .793 FT%
Preseason stats: 24.6 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, .382 FG%, .300 3PT%, .600 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 32 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, .472 FG%, .422 3PT%, .795 FT%

Mike will see a slight drop in overall scoring as his minutes decrease, but his efficiency should increase since he won't be dog-tired by All-Star break.

Rudy Gay
Career Stats: 27 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .422 FG%, .364 3PT%, .727 FT%
2006/07 stats: 27 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .422 FG%, .364 3PT%, .727 FT%
Preseason stats: 30.3 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.63 SPG, 1.75 BPG, .462 FG%, .385 3PT%, .871 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 32 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.5 BPG, .440 FG%, .380 3PT%, .720 FT%

Rudy should see slight increases across the board in his second season, most notably in the defensive categories and rebounding as he'll shift over to PF in some lineups. Hopefully, I'm lowballing him, but I don't want to set expectations too high, which is something we'll discuss later in the post.

Damon Stoudamire
Career Stats: 34.3 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, .408 FG%, .358 3PT%, .834 FT%
2006/07 stats: 24.2 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, .391 FG%, .337 3PT%, .795 FT%
Preseason stats: 17.3 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, .465 FG%, .364 3PT%, .875 FT%
2007/08 projected stats (November/December): 18 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, .388 FG%, .350 3PT%, .844 FT%

Damon will be given about two months to prove that he is healthy and can contribute to a veteran team with playoff aspirations (or possibly even title dreams), at which point he will be traded to that team. Call it showcasing if you want, but I believe that this course of action is also necessary so that the Grizzlies don't just throw their young PG's to the wolves right off the bat.

Darko Milicic
Career stats: 15.0 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.2 BPG, .444 FG%, .610 FT%
2006/07 stats: 23.9 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.8 BPG, .454 FG%, .613 FT%
Preseason stats: 22.1 MPG, 6.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.3 BPG, .351 FG%, .469 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 28 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.2 BPG, .475 FG%, .626 FT%

Darko will be given ample opportunity to prove himself, and after a slow start will warrant the opportunity to start and finish games. His free throw shooting will continue to be a problem area for him, even as he reverts back to a higher shooting percentage from the floor.

Juan Carlos Navarro
Career stats: N/A
2006/07 stats: N/A
Preseason stats: 24.1 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, .413 FG%, .419 3PT%, .833 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 20 MPG, 14.3 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, .445 FG%, .409 3PT%, .820 FT%

"La Bomba" has been the hit of the preseason so far, with his electric play carrying the team in the 2nd halves of most games. If he manages to avoid "the rookie wall", he could be in the running for Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year...or both.

Kyle Lowry
Career stats: 17.5 MPG, 5.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, .368 FG%, .375 3PT%, .893 FT%
2006/07 stats: (10 games) 17.5 MPG, 5.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, .368 FG%, .375 3PT%, .893 FT%
Preseason stats: 20.4 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.9 APG, 0.6 SPG, .417 FG%, .000 3PT%, .706 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 26 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, .395 FG%, .379 3PT%, .875 FT%

Kyle appears to have surged into the lead as the heir apparent for the PG spot when (not if) Damon is traded this season. While that may only last for part of this season, it is encouraging to potentially have two young starter-quality PG's on the roster given the issues the Grizzlies have had at that position the past few seasons. He's another guy that I'm tempering expectations for, since there are so many variables at the PG position this season. I expect him to play more MPG than either Conley or Stoudamire, even though he'll likely be coming off the bench to start the season.

Stromile Swift
Career stats: 20.7 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 0.7 SPG, .471 FG%, .705 FT%
2006/07 stats: 19.1 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 0.6 SPG, .465 FG%, .724 FT%
Preseason stats: 18.6 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.75 BPG, 1.0 SPG, .688 FG%, .750 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 15.0 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 0.5 SPG, .470 FG%, .711 FT%

I think that Stro will be playing elsewhere next season. Either he'll play to his normal levels and be traded (possibly in the impending Damon trade) or he'll exceed everyone's expectations, in which case he'll opt out of his contract to get one more substantial payday. Through the preseason, he has given fans reason to once again hope for a realization of his "Strotential" (hat tip: Scott), but I'm not sure that even a contract year is motivation enough for Stro to achieve consistency.

Hakim Warrick
Career stats: 19.2 MPG, 8.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.3 BPG, 0.4 SPG, .504 FG%, .746 FT%
2006/07 stats: 26.2 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.4 BPG, 0.5 SPG, .524 FG%, .771 FT% Preseason stats: 17.4 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.5 BPG, 0.75 SPG, .451 FG%, .645 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 13.0 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.5 BPG, 0.5 SPG, .530 FG%, .743 FT%

Why the drop in minutes after Hak played so well last year? Because of the arrival of Darko Milicic mostly, but also because Warrick doesn't play defense, doesn't pass the ball and can't dribble. Marc Iavaroni can forgive one of those things in a player, but not all three. If Stro does get moved, then perhaps Hakim will find some additional playing time. Otherwise, it will take some serious growth and development on his part to become a contributor for this team, IMHO.

Michael Conley
Career stats: N/A
2006/07 stats: N/A
Preseason stats: 16.0 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 4.6 APG, .38 SPG, .407 FG%, .500 3PT%, .500 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 24.0 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, .408 FG%, .338 3PT%, .793 FT%

Conley is expected to be the PG of the future, but I think he'll spend most of this year learning from Damon and Kyle, rather than being thrown directly into the fire right off the bat. He'll struggle some, because that's what rookies do, but by the end of the season he might be splitting minutes evenly with Kyle.

Casey Jacobsen
Career stats: 20.4 MPG, 5.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, .399FG%, .370 3PT%, .770 FT%
2004/05 stats: 21.5 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, .406 FG%, .373 3PT%, .783 FT%
Preseason stats: 17.8 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, .583 FG%, .552 3PT%, .500 FT%
2006/07 projected stats: 8.5 MPG, 3.4 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, .412 FG%, .389 3PT%, .786 FT%

For whatever reason, Casey seems to have taken Tarence Kinsey's allotment of minutes in the preseason. The most likely explanation for that is that Kinsey's shoulder injury from summer league is more serious than anyone thought. However, it could be that Jacobsen's outside shooting is seen as a more valuable commodity than Kinsey's perimeter defense at this point. We'll see how that plays out over the course of the season.

Tarence Kinsey
Career stats: 20.1 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, .457 FG%, .283 3PT%, .796 FT%
2006/07 stats: 20.1 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, .457 FG%, .283 3PT%, .796 FT%
Preseason stats: 13.8 MPG, 5.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, .400 FG%, .250 3PT%, 1.000 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 15.2 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, .462 FG%, .311 3PT%, .781 FT%

TK impressed a lot of fans with his play during the last 3 weeks of last season. Of course, some pundits have openly wondered if that was merely a flash in the pan or if he can consistently play at that high level. Unfortunately, as noted above, we haven't seen much of Kinsey in the preseason to be able to gauge him on. I would hope that Kinsey can duplicate his "poor man's Tayshaun Prince" act from late last season, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting on it to happen.

Brian Cardinal
Career stats: 17.5 MPG, 6.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, .425 fG%, .397 3PT%, .862 FT%
2006/07 stats: 11.2 MPG, 4.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, .494 FG%, .409 3PT%, .926 FT%
Preseason stats: 10.6 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, .435 FG%, .300 3PT%, .667 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 6.5 MPG, 3.1 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, .467 FG%, .419 3PT%, .866 FT%

The Custodian has suffered through three injury plagued seasons since signing with the Grizzlies. While many fans consider his contract a millstone, I think that they have forgotten about how important he was to the team in 2004/05 when he carried the team while Pau Gasol was out battling foot issues, helping them to maintain momentum and reach the playoffs. I don't think that BC will get much burn this season, but his unique skillset could prove to be valuable, as he is a PF capable of shooting from the perimeter proficiently.

Andre Brown
Career stats: 7.1 MPG, 2.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, .568 FG%, .600 FT%
2006/07 stats: 7.1 MPG, 2.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, .568 FG%, .600 FT%
Preseason stats: 20.7 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, .467 FG%, .500 FT%
2007/08 projected stats: 6.5 MPG, 2.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, .551 FG%, .667 FT%

What can I say about a guy who probably won't see the floor except in blowouts and the case of injuries affecting the roster? He's long on hustle and short on ball-handling, so he'll get a few minutes here and there throughout the season, but will mostly spend time on the Inactive List.

So there are my predictions for the team's statistical outlook for the season. If you add them all up, it won't look right in terms of Team MPG, PPG, RPG, etc., but it never does, so don't worry about it.

Now the second part of the title to this thread is expectations. I was already working on this post when I wandered over to the Grizzlies Message Board and saw that someone else had a similar idea. The high-quality poster named bgassassin started a thread titled "For Rudy's sake, please dial down some of your expectations" , which implored Grizzlies' fans to be realistic in their predictions for the player many hope is the Grizzlies future star. He put great effort into finding statistics that showed that even the greatest of players struggled with certain aspects of the game in their formative years in the league. WIth his permission, I'm reproducing his work here:

With Rudy's shooting, someone needs to let him know that he doesn't have to be a great outside shooter now. Or for that matter an elite player now. Yet at the same time, I think we have been too harsh on him at times as well.

Jordan was not a good shooter when he came in the league. He was putting up big numbers while being a poor outside shooter. In fact, here are Jordan's 3pt% numbers his first four years and what he averaged:

84-85 - .173 (28.2ppg)

85-86 - .167 (22.7ppg, cut short due to injury)

86-87 - .182 (37.1ppg)

88-89 - .132 (35.0ppg)

Kobe has never even reached 40% from outside. His best was .383 five years ago. In fact, his second best shooting year was his rookie year (.375) and he struggled till the aforementioned time.

The player most of us compare him to, Shawn Marion, started out his first season at an atrocious .183 from behind the arc. He peaked in his third season and has regressed ever since.

Vince Carter started out at .288 from three.

And if we REALLY want to get picky, Reggie Miller shot .355 from outside his first season.

As you can see out of this selected group, only Kobe shot a higher percentage his rookie year than Rudy's .364. And as far as makes and attempts, only Reggie and Kobe are comparable in their first season. Is he really as bad as we think? Should two preseason games continue or even strengthen a certain thought about him? I will admit that I have been guilty of this thought as well at times.Rudy obviously must learn to attack the basket as often as possible to set up his jumpshot. At least then he should be in a position where he's not subconsciously falling away when he does shoot.

As you can see, many players who are considered elite superstars have struggled with parts of their game, only to develop that skill as their career progressed. For this team that is full of young talent (average age of the Grizzlies: 23.7 years old; 22.3 without Damon and BC), patience will be required when establishing expectations for the upcoming season, as well as their progress in the future. Too often we allow our best-case scenario "hopes and dreams" get mixed up with what is realistically achievable. That's one of the reasons I set our win prediction (37 wins) as low as I did. That is a 15-game improvement from last year which, injuries/bad luck or not in 2006/07, is a tremendous jump for any team that didn't acquire a star-level player in the offseason. I'd be happy with even fewer wins than that, to be quite honest.

Improving in the NBA is meant to be a gradual process, contrary to popular opinion. That's one of the reasons that only 8 teams have won a championship in the last 25 years. Many people are comparing this team to the 2003/04 Grizzlies that went from 28 wins the previous season to 50 wins and the playoffs. I admire their optimistic viewpoint, but that team skipped at least 3 steps that most young teams go through. In all likelihood, they should have gone from 28 wins to 33-36, then to 41-44 and then to 50 and the playoffs. This amazing jump lead to unrealistic expectations of title contention for a young NBA fanbase that wasn't as studied in the history of professional basketball as those in the cities of historic contenders (Boston, L.A., Chicago, Detroit, et al), despite having a rich basketball history in the area of high school and college levels. So, much like bgassassin, I urge all of you to temper your expectations for this Grizzlies team. I don't expect them to come roaring out of the gates. Rather, I expect a slow start, as the team develops chemistry, learns each other's tendencies and adapts to Marc Iavaroni's system. That means that they are quite likely going to be below .500 by more than a few games when January rolls around. This isn't all doom-and-gloom, though, because I think they will come together and play well for the last two to three months of the season, which will hopefully carry over to next year. That's my outlook for this season, so send all cheers or jeers to the Comments section.

7th Annual Tip-Off Luncheon

Well, the Memphis Grizzlies did it yet again. This was my second time to experience the Tip-Off Luncheon in the past three yeas and it was definitely worth the price of admission. As usual, there was ample opportunity to mingle with the players, coaches and front office of the team, as well as get autographs and pictures taken. There were several interesting items in the Silent Auction, such as Framed Autographed Jerseys (Pau, Rudy, Mike, Kyle), Autographed Basketballs (Lowry, Navarro, Calipari, Derrick Rose, Jerry West) and some items from other teams and even other sports, such as the Shaun Alexander Laser Engraved Football and the Aaron Boone Autographed Baseball Bat. The Live Auction had some fantastic offerings as well, such as the Honorary Ball Kid Experience, which allows a child to be a ball kid for one of four games this season. There was also an L.A. Fly Away trip to see the Grizzlies take on the Lakers and Clippers on back-to-back nights in March and an All-Star Weekend Getaway for two people to fly to New Orleans to attend all the All-Star festivities. The big prize was a "Travel with the Grizzlies" experience that allowed for two people to travel with the Grizzlies on their private plane to see them on the road at four different games throughout the year: the Mavs, Magic, Cavs and Heat. Chip and his group put up a valiant effort to win this, but ultimately fell short of winning. I'm told that Chip's therapist has talked him off the ledge and the police have restored order to that particular street now, so that's good. All proceeds from the event and the auctions went to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis, which has been a civic fixture for 42 years. It was also announced that Pau Gasol would be giving away 500 tickets to Opening Night. You can find all the details on This is just one more thing Gasol is doing to connect with the fans in the wake of last season's unpleasantness, which Shades of Blue has detailed before. Pau was in a good mood today, having fun every time we saw him. It was a great event benefiting a great cause and allowed several fans the chance to get to know the key members of the organization just a little bit better as a result. I hope that everyone had as good a time today as I did.