Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pregame: Memphis at Utah - 11.10.07

Pregame commentary for the 11.10.07 Memphis at Utah game, by ChipC3 and Zack. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments.

closes out the first road trip of the season with a tough match up in Salt Lake City against the Jazz. The trip started off on a strong note with a come from behind victory in Seattle before traveling to Portland on Friday. The back to back finish of the road trip makes it difficult to get up for a strong team like Utah but if the Grizzlies are serious about wanting to return to the playoffs this is the type of game they need to win or at least be competitive in. A good effort in this game should also put the team in a good frame of mind to return home to Memphis.

Utah has been strangely inconsistent so far this season. While their record is good they blew a big 1st half lead in LA in losing to the Lakers and blew a 5 pt lead with 30 seconds to play at home against Cleveland before incredibly hitting the winning shot with 1.4 seconds remaining. A veteran team like the Jazz (4 returning starters from last season’s conference finals team) should know how to close out games like those. The Jazz front line introduced themselves to the league last season when Okur, Boozer and Kirilenko became on of the best frontlines in the league. The maturity of Deron Williams continues but the shooting guard slot still is a gaping hole in their championship dreams. Until they fill that position Utah can not be considered a true challenger for the conference title much less the league.


--4th quarter woes. The fast paced Grizzlies offense has managed to score 19, 24, 18, and 22 in the 4th quarter in the first 4 games of the season, respectively. An average of ~20 points in the 4th quarter, for a team averaging over 100 points per game this season.
--Speedy backcourt. Surprisingly, Lowry and Conley have shared the court considerable minutes the last two games. The duo make for a small, but speedy backcourt, that puts pressure on the opposing defense, but allows opposing SG's a height advantage easily exploitable.
--Rudy has yet to experience a successful road trip. Last year the Grizzlies did not have a winning record during any multiple-game road trips. A win against the Jazz and that will change.


--Iavaroni and Sloan. Marc Iavaroni played for the Jazz under Coach Jerry Sloan in the mid 80's.
--World MVP's square off. Two summers ago, Pau was named MVP. Last summer, it was AK47. I'm also guessing that Pau and JC are still a little pissed at Russia's success this summer.
--Griz failing apart last night. Losing what looked like a winnable game by playing one of the worst halves of basketball possible, after playing a great half of basketball, is tough and probably hard to shake out of the consciousness of players, coaches and fans.


--48 minutes. This team isn't good enough right now to win playing only half the game. A still dynamic rotation is helping create the ups and downs, however the team as a whole still needs to learn to play more consistent throughout the entire game.
--Rebounding. I am always anxious about Utah's ability to dominate the boards. Darko, Rudy, Mike and Pau really have to be focused when on defense and limit Utah's second chance points.
--Pick and Roll defense. Thus far this season Memphis has shown to be weak against the Pick and Roll. Unfortunately, the Jazz are one of the best Pick and Roll teams in the NBA. It just doesn't look good for the Grizzlies defense, to be truthful.


Point Guard: Damon Stoudamire vs Deron Williams
The emotional Portland game being behind Damon he now has to face one of the best young PG’s in the league who is taller, stronger and a better passer than Damon. Questions were raised when Deron Williams was taken 3rd in the draft when Chris Paul and Raymond Felton were still on the board. Those questions became complaints when he struggled his first season and was benched by Jerry Sloan. However Deron learned from the bench and last year put all the concerns to rest with a dynamic season. He has continued his development this season and is now considered one of the top PG’s in the league. Damon will have to use his brain and his long range shot to keep up. Being the 2nd night of a back to back won’t help in that regard especially when you factor in the altitude.
Advantage: Utah

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Ronnie Brewer

Mike started the road trip with a big game in Seattle. That has been needed as Miller has been somewhat reticent to enforce himself in the offensive flow in the first 2 games at home. Every night you know Miller will bring his best effort but it isn’t always just shooting the ball. Miller has led the team in rebounding and assists so far this year but not scoring yet. Ronnie Brewer, the 2nd yr player from Arkansas, is struggling early in the season replacing Derek Fisher. The Jazz haven’t had a dependable SG really since Jeff Hornacek and the drafting of Morris Almond doesn’t send a strong message that they believe Brewer is the answer. Time will tell but he needs to play better or start expecting earlier and earlier calls to the bench. Sloan doesn’t put up with players learning on the court. That is what practice is for in his eyes.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Andrei Kirilenko

Rudy Gay may not play against a better defender this season than Kirilenko. The former PF can block steal and flat out shut down players while still having the energy to contribute on the offensive end. AK-47 made it known however that he isn’t happy with things in Utah this summer and even hinted at asking out of his contract so he could return to Europe to play. That may be true but don’t count on AK slacking off because of it. The consummate pro gives his all every night. Rudy has shown the talent that encouraged West to trade him last season for Battier when on the court. Unfortunately he hasn’t always been able to stay on the court because of foul trouble. When Rudy can avoid offensive fouls he is a tough match up but AK is a vet and we know how refs like to favor the old guys over youth.
Advantage: Utah

Power Forwards: Darko Milicic vs Carlos Boozer

Okay, I know that Darko plays Center for the Grizzlies but it was either move Darko or Boozer because Gasol isn’t going to defend Carlos until Darko and Stro are already in foul trouble. It’s Boozer’s court so I moved Darko. In Memphis I will move Boozer. Carlos finally was pretty much injury free last season and earned the money he got when he shocked Cleveland by signing with the Jazz. Chosen for the All-Star (and replaced by Okur) Boozer has continued being a monster this season and Memphis will need to use everything they have to slow him down. Darko got his first double-double against Seattle but Nick Collison and Robert Swift are no Carlos Boozer.
Advantage: Utah

Center: Pau Gasol vs Mehmet Okur

Gasol may have a chip on his shoulder in this game since AK-47 beat his Spanish national team in Spain to steal the European Championship. Hopefully Gasol will make the Jazz pay for the Russian teams insult. Mehmet Okur was a replacement choice for the all-star game last season combining ridiculous range for a 7 ft center with a nice knack for grabbing boards. Okur hasn’t been as effective this season but the capability is there. Okur’s range forces teams to play a big far away from the basket giving the Jazz space for their other big men inside. How the Grizzlies defend against this will ultimately decide the outcome. If Gasol takes charge on the offensive end while keeping Okur from hitting too many threes would be good but his back issues are worrying.
Advantage: Utah

: Kyle Lowry continues to be the main bright spot for the Grizzlies bench. Jacobsen, Navarro, Warrick and Swift have not played well yet and need to start showing why people expected the bench to be a strength for this team. Defensive breakdowns and poor shooting make it difficult for Iavaroni to give them many minutes. Utah has a stud on their bench in Paul Milsaps. An undersized PF who hits the boards and has been surprisingly effective scoring. However, like the Grizzlies he is basically the only producer off Utah’s bench. The loss of Derek Fisher is felt a lot when Deron Williams goes to the bench and could explain their struggles holding onto leads. That problem could be intensified with Kyle Lowry off the bench. If Stro and Hak can contain Milsaps then even the cold shooting bench of the Grizzlies can help keep the team in contention.
Advantage: Memphis

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni vs Jerry Sloan

This will be short. Jerry Sloan is one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, has taken his team to the NBA finals, Conference finals and won his division _ times. Marc Iavaroni is coaching his 4th game as the top guy in Memphis.
Advantage: Utah

Other Game Previews

--Check out Basketball John for a game preview with a Utah perspective. Here is a humorous excerpt:

Shouldn’t we swap nicknames? We already have a Grizzly for a mascot and there’s a lot more jazz in Memphis than Utah. Utah Grizzlies and Memphis Jazz. Plus, the team colors are similar enough we could just swap unis.

-- USA Today has their own game preview.

-- preview.

Postgame: Grizzlies Win First Half, Lose Second Half, Fall to 1-3

Last night was a roller coaster ride that ultimately ended with a disappointing Grizzlies loss. Iavaroni is still figuring out this team, experimenting with different lineups. The players are still learning to play with each other (5 "new" players in the rotation) as well as learning to play within Iavaroni's system. In short, this team is still very much a work in progress.


--Andre Brown and Hakim Warrick were on the inactive list, meaning Kinsey and Swift came back on the active list. Mildly interesting that Hak was not active.

--Pau was on fire in the first half, scoring 19 points, then was a total non-factor in the second half. Pau only attempted (and missed) one shot in the second half. The Blazers were able to take the ball out of Pau's hands by sending a hard double team.

--The third quarter was the most damaging as the starters got toasted coming out of the locker room.

--Gay was great. Tied a career high of 31 points. He was the main offensive option in the second half.

--Darko was up and down. He couldn't make a shot near the basket, finishing 3-13. But I still like his defense and ability to get good position on the block. Darko looked a little winded last night. Pau clearly played better with Darko The Enforcer by his side.

--Conley got more burn last night. Him and Lowry played together quite a bit. They even traded 3 pointers off of drive and kicks. Some fans don't like the small PG combination, but generally I do. It will create a disadvantage with Lowry guarding someone half a foot taller, but if we can exploit the offensive advantage the increased speed creates, it could be effective. But truth of the matter is if Kinsey, Navarro or Casey were any better options backing up Miller and Gay, Lowry/Conley would likely not see the court together much.

--Miller, Damon, Navarro and Jacobsen were a combined 3 for 21 from the field and 0-8 from beyond the arc.

Spartacus Says:
Well, as noted in the title, it was a tale of two halves. The Grizzlies looked impressive in the first half, especially Pau Gasol, who put up 19 points while playing the bulk of his minutes with the starters, although he did get a nice snowbird basket off a 3/4 length of the court pass from his amigo Juan Carlos Navarro. Rudy Gay played well for the 2nd straight game, although he did force things a few times, as would be expected from a young player.

As Zack noted above, Michael Conley got playing time again, often in a small backcourt scheme with Kyle Lowry as the other guard. While I like seeing both of these talented young guys on the court, giving them experience and clock to develop, I think that the lack of a veteran presence was a key reason that things "fell apart" in the 2nd half. I know that Damon's shot wasn't falling, but I think his ability to set up his teammates, as he did in the first half, could have helped the Grizzlies to stay in the game a little better in the 4th quarter. Obviously, there are plenty of you out there who have a far different opinion about Damon's capabilities and place on this team, but that was my perspective while watching the team wander off course last night.

Mike Miller......well, MemphisX described his play as "weird" last night and I think that describes it succinctly, if nothing else. Our best three-point shooter is also our leading rebounder. He is our leading assist man as well. Is he working to become Jason Kidd from a swingman position? Or is he deferring his offensive output to allow Rudy Gay more looks? Hard to say at this early point in the season. I'll be tracking him closely this season.

Lowry and Conley.....looked like young PG's to me. There were flashes of greatness, usually followed by the mistakes that excited rookies make when they rush things. I expect both of them to develop into high-quality players soon enough (Conley will be a multiple-time All Star in his career), but it should be obvious that neither of them are there yet.

Darko.....couldn't hit water if you dropped him out of a plane over the Pacific last night. A few of his misses occurred on putback attempts of his own misses, so his shooting wasn't quite as bad as it looked, but the zero blocks showed that he wasn't the force on the interior he had shown himself to be in the first three games.

Hopefully, this was just an off night for a lot of guys -- something that growth, maturity and developed chemistry will improve upon throughout this season.

Go read the post game commentary over at Blazer's Edge.

Dave from Blazer's Edge has posted a great recap of the game from a Portland perspective. Obviously he is quite elated with the win and the heart/determination his team showed in the second half. Here is an excerpt that probably won't be fun to read for Griz fans.

Then...dang. We saw the most inspired half of basketball we've seen in Portland for years. It's like the guys decided they were not going down like that. Numerous things changed immediately upon resumption of play. First we stopped settling for jumpers. We drove and started collecting layups and fouls, exposing a Memphis defense that was really as exploitable as ours is. Second we just started going at it on defense. We continued to play zone but it was a far more aggressive zone. Our smalls hounded the passing lanes, our bigs moved their feet, and our wings stayed in front of their men. We generally limited Memphis to one shot and then gang-tackled the rebound. We went with our speed lineups and started beating them down the floor. When we didn't have a clear scoring opportunity early we moved the ball. The contested mid-range jumpers of the first half became dishes to Lamarcus for jams or passes to the perimeter for open shots in the second half. Our shooting percentage rocketed skyward, Memphis' scoring stalled, and nearly the entire deficit was erased by the end of the third.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Pregame: Grizzlies at Portland 11.09.07

Pregame commentary for the 11.09.07 Memphis at Portland game, by ChipC3 and Zack. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments.

began the first road trip of the year with a heart stopping win over Seattle and now journeys to Portland. The slow start of the season (only 3 games in the first 9 days) has allowed the team some much needed extra practice time and it showed in Seattle with their first win of the season. Led by Rudy Gay, who is trying to break out in his 2nd season, the Grizzlies hope to follow their first win of the season with their first winning streak in this game.

Portland however wants the same thing after winning their home opener on Wednesday night. The Blazers have struggled on the road so far this year but that is to be expected when only one or two players can go to a bar without being carded and one of those is only 19 yrs old and not playing because of micro fracture surgery. Seriously this team is young but talented. Once they learn how McMillan wants them to play they are going to be scary good. They are deep with interior players, wing players and really deep at the point. Someone is going to step up and led this team to success. The question is when will they start to learn to win. The upset win over New Orleans (who just blasted the Lakers in LA) shows just how talented a team the Blazers can be. Consistency will be the biggest issue for this team during the season.


--100 points. The Grizzlies have scored over 100 points in every game this season. The Blazers have yet to eclipse the 100 point threshold this season.
--Rested Opponent. This is the first game of the season where the Grizzlies are not facing a team on the second night of a back-to-back.
--Exactly 10. The Grizzlies have made exactly 10 3-point shots each game this year.


--Did you know this is the first year Conley and Oden have not played together since, like, forever? Really...Conley Sr is Oden's agent, the two grew up together, and even played college ball together...and did pretty good.
--Thanks for stealing our freaking draft pick, Portland. May 22nd is still a bitter, bitter memory for this Grizzly Faithful.
--Rudy Gay. I think if there is one storyline that seems to have the most traction from game to game this year, it is the maturation of Rudy Gay. When he is playing bad, there will be talk of how much we need him to develop sooner rather than later. When he is playing good, there will be talk of how he is ready to be a dynamic playmaker and our #2 (or #1b) option that the team has always needed next to Pau. I know Rudy was disappointed being drafted #8, but one gets the feeling that he wouldn't have any larger hype or greater expectations placed on him if he was indeed drafted by the Raptors than he does here in Memphis.


--Speed up the game. Nate will have his team ready to grind it out and looking to stretch the shot clock on both ends of the court. I like the Griz chances best in an up and down affair.
--Limit the fouls. I've seen it explicitly written in the media and you can tell by just watching the games; Coach Iavaroni does not like his players to foul. Not only does foul trouble seem to fluster a number of our key players, it seems to fluster our coach to a degree. I feel pretty confident saying that how much we foul will have a correlation to if we win or lose.
--Points in the paint. I admit, I don't have much faith in our team winning a jump shooting contest right now. Get the ball closer to the basket.


Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Jarret Jack:
Damon is under some pressure to hold onto his starting role already and now he goes home to where he suffered his horrific knee injury. His backup Kyle Lowry has more speed, better defense and a game changing style but Damon has experience and that is a strong point of a point guard. Damon doesn't get rattled easily and doesn't turn the ball over a lot. His outside shot helps spread defenses as well. Jarrett Jack is also trying to hold off competitors for his job. Steve Blake doesn't have the power or the aggressiveness but is headier and scores more. While Damon knows he is just biding time both Jack and Blake feel they are the PG's of the future. How they co-exist could determine how far Portland progresses this season. Still the Blazers are taller and at home.
Advantage: Portland

Shooting Guard: Mike Miller vs Brandon Roy
Mike Miller was the 12Th man on the USA team this summer. Not great being the last guy off the bench but he made the team which is more than most players can say. Miller is one of the most dangerous shooters in the game but hasn't forced himself on the offense so far this year. He leads the team in rebounding and assists but is only 5Th in scoring. Expect him to become more aggressive offensively soon. Brandon Roy has battled injuries this season and after the injury problems he had last season that may be a concern for his career. When on his game Roy is smart, deadly off the dribble, a good passer and decent defender. The only question is how sharp will he be coming off the injury.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Martell Webster

Webster looked to be a big time bust heading into the season. However the former #6 pick has exploded this season after failing to hit the Mendoza line of FG% (40%) the first two seasons. Hitting on 47% of his FG attempts (43% from the arc) Webster is hurting defenses who double down on Portland's big men. Rudy Gay needs to start making a greater impact on the box score and less on opposing defenders. The 5 offensive foul calls in the first two games (4 along against Indiana) has prevented Rudy from having the type of impact he is capable of having in the game. Once he stops trying to fly over defenders teams will have to start worrying how to stop his game. Rudy is far and away the best perimeter defender on the Grizzlies team so they need him on the court. This may raise some eyebrows but right now Webster is playing better (and longer) than Rudy.
Advantage: Portland

Power Forward: Pau Gasol vs LaMarcus Aldridge

A battle of effeminate big men. Who will shy away from contact first? Who will wince in pain without being hit? Who will check for blood. Okay, we know who will check for blood first but the other questions are still valid. Surprisingly these charges of softness really are undeserved. Gasol scores 20 pts a game and grabs around 8-10 boards pretty consistently. You can't do that in the NBA being soft. Aldridge came out of Texas with the soft label but has played hard and actually is able to score late in games (10 pts in the final 5 minutes against Houston). Aldridge looks like he too will be capable of consistently putting up 20 and 10 as well. Gasol is the better shot blocker however. Should be fun to watch. Personally I prefer a go to late in the game scorer to an off-side defender but Aldridge hasn't quite earned the reputation to be favored in the match up...yet.
Advantage: Memphis

Center: Darko Milicic vs Joel Pryzbilla

Darko has settled into the starting role rather well since the surprise announcement on opening night. Matching up against Tim Duncan and Jermaine O'Neal isn't the ideal way to start his career in Memphis but he held his own and has looked very good at times. It will be a building process and there will be ups and downs but this matchup is one which ought to be an up for Darko as long as he doesn't get too anxious on defense. In both games he has picked up 2 fouls in the opening quarter. That trend needs to end. Joel was a highly desired Center as a free agent two years ago. Now he is biding time until Greg Oden heals. Still Joel is an efficient defender, good rebounder and excellent shot blocker who can step out and hit a jump shot. His minutes are limited to protect him from injury. He will struggle stopping Darko's baby hook and getting position underneath with Darko's agility and power.
Advantage: Memphis

: Memphis' bench has been up and down this season. Up on offense and down on defense mostly. Kyle Lowry has been the mover and shaker off the bench but the other subs (Casey Jacobsen, Juan Carlos Navarro, Stromile Swift and Hakim Warrick) have been wildly inconsistent. Kyle usually draws the toughest backcourt defensive assignment leaving Navarro with the weaker player but somehow that player inevitably gets hot when JCN is on him. Casey Jacobsen works hard but hasn't found his long-range shot which is the only reason he is playing ahead of Tarence Kinsey. Stro hasn't changed and Hakim can score but won't pass and doesn't defend. Portland's bench is superb. Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriquez are both capable PGs. Travis Outlaw and James Jones can both light it up and Channing Frye can play underneath. The problem for Portland isn't talent but chemistry. All of these players want to show the coach they can start and sometimes that prevents the team from functioning at it's best.
Advantage: Portland

: Nate McMillan spent his entire adult life prior to coming to Portland working for Seattle. As a player, assistant coach and head coach McMillan represented the city with class. It would be interesting to hear his thoughts about the Sonics situation right now but he is probably too classy to say anything controversial. For some reason two years ago Seattle decided they no longer wanted McMillan despite his success in Seattle (3 playoff appearances in 3 seasons). Nate McMillan was known as a hustle player, a defensive player and a smart offensive player. His teams reflect that brand of ball. Marc Iavaroni has worked with Pat Riley, Mike Fratello and Mike D'Antoni as well as having a long time association with the Pete Newell big man camp. Now in his first head coaching job Iavaroni must put the pieces of talent together into a picture of teamwork and chemistry. He has the pedigree to get it done but it won't happen overnight.
Advantage: Portland

Other Game Previews:

Go read the great game preview on Blazer's Edge for an opposing viewpoint. I like the fact that Dave seems to have more respect for our outside shooting than I would after three games.

-- Chris Herrington's Pre-Game Three-Pointer on Beyond the Arc.

-- Mike Barrett's Blog; Barrett is the play-by-play voice of the Portland TrailBlazers.

-- The Sports Network and SBR Forum both weigh in as well.

Links: First Win, Grizzlies #3, Eric Hasseltine

Just in case you needed an additional recap/review of the Grizzlies first win of the season -- and Marc Iavaroni's first win as a head coach in the NBA -- I've got a couple for you to peruse.

First up is Gary Washburn on

On Wednesday, the Grizzlies ended the third quarter with a 36-16 run and led by six at the end of the third quarter after trailing by 14 with 9:25 left. That is unacceptable, even for a team as young and inexperienced as the Sonics. The Grizzlies were ready to be knocked out if the Sonics had put together a solid third quarter, instead, they felt like they took Seattle's best shot and kept truckin' and they did.

Then we have a statistical breakdown on

The entertaining (if sardonic) fellows over at BasketBawful gave us a mention, as well, in their NBA recap.

The Grizzlies were ranked #3 in an interesting statistic: Efficiency of their Euro players.

Our final note of the day is to inform you that Grizzlies' radio play-by-play announcer, Eric Hasseltine, visited The Bodine School today. According to the site, Eric "addressed students in grades 4-8 about persistence, setting goals and the importance of hard work. " Nice to see members of the Grizzlies organization getting out into the community and being a positive influence.

Postgame: Memphis at Seattle 11.07.07

First Times

--The Memphis Grizzlies got their first 2007 regular season win by beating the Sonics 105 to 98. Congrats.
--Coach Marc Iavaroni got his first regular season NBA win last night. Congrats.
--Micheal Conley saw his first regular season action in the NBA last night. Congrats. Conley came in during the second quarter and played about 8 minutes. I suspect this will be the norm in the near future.

From Seattle's Perspective

After some Griz games I would like to highlight what is being said in the opposing city. I'm sure every Griz fan that reads this blog, also reads the Commercial Appeal's coverage of the Grizzlies (Tillery's recap is here). Below are some snippets from the Seattle media...

Jayda Evans at the Seattle Times wrote,

He was told no one on Memphis' team could guard him.

Not that it gave Sonics rookie Kevin Durant any false confidence, but it did make those 14 misses sting a little more. Especially because some were against the player who spoke the words, second-year Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay.

Eric D. Williams at the News Tribune wrote,

Seattle fights mightily in the fourth quarter, but ultimately can’t make enough plays to close out a win.

Memphis must have studied the script while waiting for Seattle to return from back-to-back games in Los Angeles and Sacramento. The Grizzlies followed the plot line to perfection in defeating Seattle, 105-98, Wednesday night in front of an announced crowd of 10,761.

The game was in question with 20 seconds left, but Memphis guard Kyle Lowry put the contest out of reach by nailing a 3-pointer from the wing, pushing Seattle a game closer to some unwanted franchise history.

Gary Washburn at the SeattlePI wrote,

After the shot fell through the hoop, Wilcox slammed the ball into the basket support, a testament to the team's frustration.

To no one's surprise, the Sonics, winless in their first five games, were unable to hold a 65-51 third-quarter lead. But what was surprising was how quickly the lead disintegrated and turned into a sizable deficit.

Earl Watson's jumper gave the Sonics the 14-point lead with 9:25 left in the period. And by the time Lowry completed a three-point play with 5.9 seconds left in the period, Memphis owned an 87-81 lead. The Grizzlies went on a 36-16 run in just over nine minutes, adding to the list of runs against the Sonics this season.

Random Thoughts From a Sleep Deprived Graduate Student

--I think the Griz will make the playoffs. Bethlehem Shoals thinks the Griz will make the playoffs. But is making the playoffs good for the Grizzlies? From a business standpoint in the short-term, yes. Memphis fans are more likely to go watch a team playing for or in the playoffs than a team destined to be in the lottery. But in the long term, the answer is likely no. As new SoB, MemphisX, pointed out, we have a talent gap. This year's draft looks to be talented and deep. We could sure use any of the stud's likely to go in the top 10. Plus, if we finish as one of the top 10 teams in the league, we lose our 1st round pick to the Wizards in the Juan Carlos Navarro trade. However, it will not be fun to see Memphis relying on more high draft picks to develop. The more sensible way to acquire more talent is likely through trades. But getting back to the question of is it good for the Grizzlies to make the playoffs. Probably. Although it is probably best for the Grizzlies to show dramatic improvement, be as good as a playoff team and barely miss the playoffs due to great play by other Western Conference teams.

--I might be wrong about JC Navarro. There is no way he is in contention for 6th man of the year. He might not be in contention for 10th man of the year. JC hasn't shot well from beyond the arc, and has yet to make a shot inside the 3 point line this year as well, missing on all of his patented 'La Bomba' running floater in the lane. Between JC and Casey, we expect pinpiont 3 point shooting. We haven't gotten it. We aren't paying these guys to play defense, they need to start earning their money by being sharp shooters.

--No, Chris Herrington, I don't think it is too early to call Darko the best center in Grizzlies history. At least not from me. He has officially beat out Lorenzen and Jake for that honor already. Darko has really impressed me in the first three games of the season. My biggest complaint surrounding Darko is the inability of the rest of the team to get him the ball in the post when he has his man buried under the basket. Darko might not have shown great touch around the basket, but he has shown an ability to get great position on the block. I want to see our guards and espicially the bigman in the high post to do a better job of getting Darko the ball when he has his man pinned.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pregame: Memphis at Seattle - 11.7.07

Pregame commentary for the 11.07.07 Memphis at Seattle game, by ChipC3 and Zack. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments.

has started the season with back to back home losses. Not an encouraging beginning to the season but the Grizzlies were in contention in both games and both the Spurs (3-0) and Indiana (3-0) are undefeated this season so the losses aren't as catastrophic as they could be. A few bounces going the other way or a few less offensive charging fouls and the record could be very different. The Seattle game opens a tough 3 games in 4 days road trip. It is not critical yet for the team to get a win but it would make everyone feel better.

Seattle has struggled so far this season as well. Their 0-4 mark includes strong efforts against Phoenix (who is struggling right now as well) and Sacramento, but were blown out at Denver and at the Clippers. Kevin Durant seems to be the real deal despite the losses as he is averaging 22.5 ppg and 5 rpg. However he is shooting only 40% from the field and 30% from the arc so he isn't very efficient in getting his points. Chris Wilcox is coming into his own as he is averaging 18.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg so far. Seattle is playing at home on Tuesday night against Sacramento so fatigue may be an issue. With a possible move lingering over the franchise it will be interesting to see if the fans are supportive or bitter at this game.


--Small ball. It's no secret that Iavaroni has not hesitated to go small so far this season. Two examples of pushing the use of the small lineups; Mike Miller playing PF against the Pacers and a Lowry-Damon backcourt to close out the first half of each game.
--Damien Wilkins is excited. Manu scored 30, had 5 boards and 7 dimes. Dunleavy had 27, 8, and 4. Needless to say, opposing SG's are playing well against the Griz this season.
--Careless basketball. The Grizzlies and Sonics are last and second-to-last, respectively, in the NBA in turnovers committed. In 5 games, they have combined to commit a total of 100 turnovers, compared to 72 for the opposition.


--Iavaroni looking for his first win. On paper at least, this game is Coach Iavaroni's best chance to collect his first every regular season NBA win.
--Griz fans get to watch what could have been. May 22nd, 2007 will haunt Griz fans everytime they see Kevin Durant play.
--Will the Sonics follow the Grizzlies lead in leaving the Pacific Northwest? New owner Clay Bennett wants to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City. With the ex-Vancouver Grizzlies coming to town less than a week since the official announcement of intent to move, you can be sure the similarities between the two teams will be written/talked about plenty.


--Get Pau more involved. Although Pau is leading the team in field goals attempted, he hasn't necessarily been the focal point on offense like in the past. Normally, I'm all for a balance when it comes to offensive focus, but Gasol has historically killed the Sonics and it may be a good time to let Gasol do his thing more often this game.
--Keep teams from shooting a high percentage from the outside. Although sometimes I don't act like it, I'm not an official basketball coach. So however Iavaroni goes about it, something has to be done to keep the opposing teams from shooting so well from the outside. My suggestion... Quit being so passive against the pick-and-roll. But what do I know?
--Continue to learn how to play together as a team. Ok, this might not be a key to victory in this particular game, but for the Griz to have more victories in the future, the team must continue to improve the on court chemistry. Win or lose, it needs to be within the umbrella of playing as a one unit, not a collection of individuals.


Damon Stoudamire vs Earl Watson: Memphis should have interest in this match up as former Grizzly Earl Watson matches up against Damon. Earl is not a super fast PG nor will he have a size advantage which means Damon should have a chance to shine. So far this season Damon has been erratic with his shot and has not been impressive defensively or as an assist man. His leadership may be greater at this stage than Lowry's but obviously Lowry is the main man. Likewise, Watson may be starting but Delonte West, in only 19 mpg, is averaging more points while shooting more efficiently. His assists lag Watson's but one has to wonder how long West will remain behind Watson.
Advantage: Memphis

Mike Miller vs Damien Wilkins
: Damien Wilkins realizes his time as a starter is not going to be long. With Kevin Durant and Jeff Green waiting to take over the team Wilkins's role is to teach the rookies professionalism and the NBA game. In the meantime, Wilkins seems very interested in showing the rest of the league he belongs on a team in a prominent role. The son of Gerald and nephew of Dominique Wilkins, Damien is averaging 16.5 ppg and hitting an amazing 62% from the arc. Miller took a back seat to superstars on the Team USA this summer. He has yet to reclaim that role of dominant scorer since returning. Memphis needs Miller to look for his shot and stretch defenses with his range. So far Miller is leading the team in assists (6.0 per game) and rebounds (10 per game) but is only scoring 12.5 per game and he needs to be more aggressive.
Advantage: Memphis

Rudy Gay vs Kevin Durant
: This is the marquee match up of the game. Kevin Durant was the #2 pick in last summer's draft and has shown no intention of holding back his shooting despite his early season ineffectiveness. At 6-10 and capable of hitting any shot on the floor he will be a defensive nightmare for any player in the league. Rudy is the Grizzlies best perimeter defender and at 6-9 he has the ability to alter his shot. Durant and Rudy should be fascinating to watch if the referees stay out of the way. Against Indiana Rudy was given 4 offensive fouls and was called for a questionable charging foul in the Spurs game as well. This time the rookie will be guarding Rudy. The big difference is Durant seems to realize he is the best option on the team while Rudy seems hesitant to take that role.
Advantage: Seattle

Pau Gasol vs Chris Wilcox
: The battle of the bigs matches brute force against coached skill. Wilcox is a beast willing to use any intimidation factor he can call on to gain an advantage. A ferocious dunker and determined rebounder, Wilcox embodies everything people want more of from Gasol. So far Gasol has seemed tentative and while putting up acceptable numbers he hasn't been the focal point of the offense yet. Perhaps this has to do with Iavaroni's style or being unsure of his role in the new system but Memphis needs more from Gasol if the team wants to win games. I thought about giving Wilcox the edge because of his physical nature but Damon Agnos at Seattle Weekly reminded me of how often Gasol dominates Seattle.
Advantage: Memphis

Darko Milicic vs Nick Collison
: Darko is a stronger and bigger center than Memphis has ever had. Collison is more of what Memphis was used to seeing in the middle when Lorenzen Wright manned the post. He works hard and is willing to sacrifice himself for the team. He is just outmatched physically under the basket. Darko is starting to get comfortable in the post with his new team and has been very effective when avoiding foul calls. Neither players will be expected to score a lot for their team. This match up will come down to who get the most rebounds. Darko's height should give him the edge but Collison is at home and Darko has yet to avoid early foul trouble.
Advantage: Seattle

: Memphis was probably surprised to see back to back teams come in with benches every bit as capable as their own. Memphis' depth is supposed to be one of their strengths but so far new players Juan Carlos Navarro and Casey Jacobsen have struggled with their shots and being terrible on defense while Stro and Hak haven't found their rhythm. The one true bright spot off the bench has been Kyle Lowry who's defense and attacking style have helped elevate the backups to perform better as a unit than individually. Seattle's bench is a combination of developmental players like Johan Petro and Jeff Green with veterans like Wally Szczerbiak and Luke Ridnour. Delonte West has emulated Kyle Lowry providing a spark off the bench as well. Szczerbiak hasn't found his shot yet and Ridnour has been battling an injury
Advantage: Memphis

: PJ Carlisimo doesn't have a stranglehold on this team yet (I am sorry I couldn't resist saying that). His team couldn't get their breath in Denver (bad pun) and choked against Phoenix (I promise to quit now) before the weak effort against the Clippers. Carlisimo is experienced as a bench coach but struggled in the head coaches chair in the past. This team will try his patience after year's on San Antonio's bench but he does get players respect for what he has accomplished. Iavaroni seems to be playing favorites with his signees getting PT (Darko, Navarro and Jacobsen) while holdovers Tarence Kinsey and Brian Cardinal have yet to be activated for a game. Eventually Iavaroni will either have to improve his players performances or activate these former good role players. He's a rookie Head Coach but he seems to have already fallen into a trap with the players.
Advantage: Seattle

Other Game Previews:

--Check out the game preview written by Damon Agnos at the Buzzer Beater blog in the Seattle Weekly. Particularly you should read his take on the epic Wally vs Miller matchup.
--As always, go read Chris Herrington's Pre-Game Three-Pointer.
--To prepare Sonics fans for tonight's game, Kevin Pelton, at Sonics Beat, has 5 questions for Chris Herrington about the Griz in his Opposing View column. Great stuff, go read it. game preview.
--USA Today's game preview.

Leaping to Contention: The Talent Gap

Some times you get much more than you bargained for when you stay up late watching NBA league pass. Last night I had the chance to watch Chris Paul and the healthy New Orleans Hornets dismantle a pretty good Los Angeles Lakers team that was playing well coming into the game and actually played well during the game. The Lakers lost by 14 on their home court. Seeing Chris Paul slice through the Lakers defense and dishing out a Hornet’s record 21 assists, Peja turn back the hands of time to the 2003-04, and the rest of the supporting cast hit shot after shot while Tyson Chandler controlled the paint late after early foul trouble was a humbling experience for me as a Grizzlies fan.

Although after watching the preseason, I did not think the Grizzlies were a playoff team, watching the Hornets sort of confirmed it for me. The problem for the Grizzlies is that we are stuck in limbo and like Jerry West before him; GM Chris Wallace seems reluctant to cut bait with some members of our roster (see Presti, Sam in Seattle) to improve the long-term future of the franchise. What I mean by limbo is that we are not good enough to be contenders (heck we are not good enough to make the playoffs) and the teams at the bottom of the Western Conference are led by high level young talent that the Grizzlies simply do not have on the roster.

To put this in perspective, Peja Stojakovic is probably the Hornets second best player. At Mike Miller’s age he was 2nd team All NBA, 4th in the MVP voting and averaging 24 points per game. This is the history of the Hornets, a perspective 7th or 8th seeded team, second best player who is still in his prime. He looked like that Peja in his movements vs. the Lakers. The point of this is that Peja has had a more prolific NBA career than our best player and he is the second best player on the Hornets.

Oh, I know this is where you want to chime in and talk about Rudy Gay and his future development. Well, the Hornets have their own Rudy Gay in rookie Julian Wright. An athletic long SF/PF from a big time program that had a disappointing second year that dropped him in the draft. Sound familiar?

The entire point I am making is that there simply is not enough talent on our roster at this point to have any expectation of contending in the near future (within 3 years). I expect we could become what we were if some of our young talent does develop. So if that is the conclusion (and it is a fair one), why was there such a universal declaration of love for our roster by our new GM? How do we take the quantum leap needed to get to contention with midland draft picks, no cap room, and a reservation to trade our players?

Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and Darko Milicic are a good start to putting some talent with Pau Gasol but we need our 5th starter to be an All Star. That is the type of talent level you have to have if you want to compete at the highest level of the NBA. Do you think Mike Miller can reach that level of play? This road trip is going to go a long ways to answering some questions. Was last year a product of playing on a bad team? Can Miller be as aggressive with his shot as he has been on the defensive boards? I will be watching Mike, starting tonight in Seattle.

Pau Gasol -- Video Game Superstar

I don't have the necessary vocabulary to accurately describe this Playstation 3 ad that features Pau Gasol, so I'll just leave it to y'all to figure it out.

(Hat tip: The Fanhouse and Memphis Flyer)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Closer

I am ashamed to admit that I got caught up in the hoopla that is the Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni show. Now I am not suggesting that either of these men have been in any way dishonest but I have so liked the direction they have taken the Memphis Grizzlies that I forgot our most glaring failing of the last five years. The Memphis Grizzlies continue to suffer from the lack of having a closer on the roster.

Even during our three year playoff run, we lacked that player that we could give the ball to at the end of games or to stop runs. For a fan base it has made for some very frustrating ends of ball games. In fact, unless Rudy Gay or Mike Miller seriously step their games up this season the Grizzlies look to be the final member of a curious fraternity. The Memphis Grizzlies will be the only team to not have had a 20 point per game perimeter scorer or a 25 point per game interior scorer since the team moved to the mid-south. (I used the 25 point plateau for interior scorers because of the difficulty of getting an interior look in the last five minutes of games.) That is if Jason Richardson continues his scoring output for the surging Charlotte Bobcats.

Now I am not some statistical wizard about to pronounce the significance of the 20/25 stat. However, I do watch a lot of NBA basketball and it seems that is the threshold for a player being an elite interior and dependable perimeter scorer in the NBA. I don't think it is a coincidence that Memphis fans have had years of frustration watching fourth quarter leads being lost by our inability to put the ball in the basket in the last five minutes of games. What is frustrating for me is that Memphis does not even have a player on the roster with this type of scoring mentality on their NBA résumé.

Early season returns show that Rudy Gay wants to be the guy. However, inexperience and lack of skill may prevent him from being consistent enough to do so this season. Hopefully, either through roster development or trade, the Grizzlies are not the last man standing in the fraternity of offensive futility. Now back to my inappropriate thoughts of Kyra Sedgwick....
P.S. Thanks to Chip, Spartacus, and Zack for the invitation to write on this growing platform for Memphis Grizzlies news and information.

Links: Conley, Conley, Conley

Think that there might be a theme for today's links?

Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star reports that Michael Conley is staying prepared, despite the fact that he hasn't been on the floor through two games of the regular season.

Conley, who was still on the court nearly 45 minutes after his teammates had departed from their morning shootaround, is getting the majority of his work before, during and after practice because playing time has been sparse for the No. 4 pick in the summer's draft.
"This is where I'm getting all my work in," Conley said. "Of course I would love to be out there, but it's something right now that this team is in a good position. . . . I'm fine with the guys that are playing ahead of me. I'm trying to learn as much as I can while I'm on the bench."

Even though Conley is probably disappointed by not playing, he's not letting it affect how he practices or relates to his teammates and coaches.
Despite the high expectations of being the No. 4 pick, Conley has remained level-headed and keeps a positive attitude. Iavaroni said the rookie is usually one of the first players to arrive at practice and is routinely one of the last ones off the court.
"He's a young kid and you see what he's willing to do," the Grizzlies coach said. "To me, he's going to be a success because he's a hard worker. I think he's been hungry in practice. He's ready on the bench."

Over on SLAM Online, Nick Tuths lists Conley among his under-the-radar guys to keep an eye on during the onslaught of Kobe trade rumors, Knick-related fiascos and officiating turmoil. A brief snippet of what was said:
Conley is already (yeah I said it) one of the best ball handlers in the NBA. Even if he struggles at first, to get minutes with Damon Stoudamire and Kyle Lowry on the roster, expect him to force himself into the class of Deron and CP3 as the best young Points in the NBA.

Finally, over on Buzzer Beater, Damon Agnos wants to know why Conley hasn't been playing in his pregame writeup on the upcoming meeting between the Sonics and the Grizz. Fortunately, Chip was there to let him in on the inside scoop.

Big Games on the Horizon

Starting 0-2 isn't catastrophic. There are seven 0-3 teams right now in the NBA and some of the teams are very shocking. Washington, Miami, Chicago and Golden St, all playoff teams last year, have started the season 0-3. Throw in Sacramento, Portland and Seattle and that makes seven.

Do teams start to panic starting 0-3? Denver made the playoffs last season despite an 0-3 start. Phoenix started 1-4 last season. Toronto was 2-8 to start the season. A slow start is not the end of the world, as long as the team continues to build during the season.

Which brings me back to the Grizzlies. The 0-2 start is better than 7 other teams in the NBA. What's more they are playing Seattle and Portland in the next two games. I don't want to say these are important games but no team last season that started 0-4 made the playoffs.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. Washington gets the Grizzlies top draft pick if they make the playoffs after all.

Seattle hosts Sacramento the night before Memphis comes to town (interesting that they are able to have back to back home games but Memphis isn't). Portland has a rematch with the Hornets squad that blew them out in New Orleans on Wednesday as well. These games are games the Grizzlies can win but they are also games that Seattle and Portland have marked as potential streak ending wins. Should make the games exciting to watch without mentioning Durant, Green, Roy and the other young guns on display.

Which brings up the question, do the Grizzlies need to win a game on this road trip?

One Thing We Shouldn't Have Forgotten

I can't believe we forgot to mention this in the Indiana game recap but the Grizzlies once again did something great during the game.

Military Appreciation Night was the promotion. They did the normal things like having tons of military kiosks available to give out information about the different armed services, the military band performing the national anthemn and honoring returning veterans from Iraq. While incredibly nice for the team to honor our military service that part wasn't really anything special. The Grizzlies have been honoring military servicemen for years (and should continue to do so in my opinion). For more information about the Grizzlies efforts to recognize military members and their families, go to

What they did that was special was arrange for a live phone call for one family to talk to their son/husband/father serving in Iraq. I have no idea how they arranged that but it was truly special for the family and the fans. The soldier even asked how the game was going (his mother politely said we were making a run to win even though we were way behind at the time) and he gave a cheer for the team.

I just wanted to point out how the Grizzlies are doing things different this year. They really went the extra mile for that and it made an otherwise dissappointing night somehow better. I think it says a lot about the franchise that they would do this for a soldier working to protect us from enemies abroad. The Grizzlies deserve a salute for a job well done.

UPDATE: Memphis was visited by the committee members for the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy. They awarded the 2007 Award to the Memphis Grizzlies in case you didn't remember. The Grizzlies have given over $19 million to charities and non-profits in our community since arriving in 2001. Everyone is very proud of the Grizzlies contributions in this area. If you are more interested in this please read the CA's cover story.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Handing Out Awards

As the inspiration for the querie that Henry Abbott (TrueHoop) put to team bloggers to be used in's 2007 NBA previews, Chip and I felt that it was our duty to select the best questions that were submitted. It turned out to be a difficult task, as nearly all the bloggers were creative in the questions they would ask their team's GM. So here are our Top 5:

1. Lang Whitaker, Atlanta Hawks

2. J.E. Skeets, The Basketball Jones: Toronto Raptors

3. Dumpy, NetsDaily: New Jersey Nets

4. Liston, Introducing Liston: Minnesota Timberwolves

5. Wizznutzz: Washington Wizards

All the bloggers did a fantastic job and we here at 3 Shades of Blue salute you.

Setting Sights on Closing Night

There was an interesting article in the USA Today about Memphis setting its sights on closing night. The article was talking about the Tigers who open their season tonight against mighty UT-Martin but the article could just as easily have been written about the Grizzlies and their fans.

This season is going to be a series of ups and downs. The likelihood that this team will seriously challenge for a .500 record by the new year is doubtful and probably not even desired if you look to the long term. The Grizzlies need more talent at several positions and more importantly where they do have talent they need more experience individually and playing together as a team.

The Indiana and San Antonio games are excellent cases in point. Memphis had a lead against San Antonio with under 3 minutes to play. Turnovers and mistakes (some might say rookie calls but that is for another discussion) led to a a disappointing 3 pt loss. Against the Pacers the Grizzlies overcame serious early game foul trouble to pull within 4 pts with under 6 minutes to play. Definately a winnable situation for an experienced team. Turnovers, missed opportunities and inexperience again led to a frustrating finish.

There is nothing wrong with this (other than the normal frustration with losing). Indiana and San Antonio are playing some of the best basketball in the league right now. Memphis is learning to play together. We shouldn't be focusing on the beginning of the season. Fans need to focus on building to the end of the season. By the mid way point Iavaroni will know a lot more about his team than he does now. The players will know a lot more about how they fit into the system than they do now. The team will know how each individual performs best within that system than they do now.

So while early season struggles hurt, they should not be the focus of conversation. In my opinion people should be focusing on the end of the season because the way the team plays at that time will say a lot more about the franchise's future success than anything that happens this month.

Besides if we make the playoffs this season we lose our first round draft pick. Nobody wants that to happen do they?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Predictions: 1st Home Win

This is a site dedicated to the fans of the Memphis Grizzlies. We talk Grizzlies (well write Grizzlies at least but we are working on a podcast), we think Grizz (I am sure some will argue that point as well) and on those glorious occassions when the Grizzlies win we cheer Grizzlies.

What I am curious about is when do most of our readers believe that the Grizzlies will win in Memphis? With an upcoming schedule of Houston, New Orleans and Seattle will the Grizzlies win in Memphis before Thanksgiving?

Give us your thoughts on when the 1st home win of the season will happen.