Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dancing with the Grizzlies: Ashley Nations

We at 3 Shades of Blue have been fortunate in the past and gotten some really nice stories about the Grizzlies. Once again luck shined on us as we were able to meet Ashley Nations, one of the original members of the Grizzlies Dance Team. Of course I had to hurt my back to be so fortunate but you take the good with the bad in life.

Ashley retired from the dance team this year and is a full-time physical therapist now. She was kind enough to answer some questions from the 3SoB's crack investigative staff (hopefully she doesn't refer to us that way).

3SoB: So tell us Ashley, when did you start dancing?
AN: I started tap, ballet and gymnastics at 4 years old. I cheered in Junior High and High School and started pom pom in my Junior year of High School.

3Sob: Wow, four seems real young! Is that normal for the dance team or did you start younger than most?
AN : My parents put me in a studio at that age, which is pretty common. I danced in a studio until I was 14 - competing in local competitions and doing recitals. Then when I got to Junior High School, cheer was the only school option and I enjoyed that. From there I went to pom and never looked back after that!

3 SoB: After 6 years on the dance team, what was your favorite team?
AN: The first year was fun and exciting and I met some of my best friends on that team. As far as having a team that got along, I would have to say last season was the best, hands down. There was almost no competitiveness and we did a good job of building each other up.

3 SoB: What was the main attraction to being a Grizzlies Dance Team member?
AN: Being able to keep dancing!! Learning dances from great choreographers in LA, and being a part of all the action!!

3SoB: What was the funniest experience you have had as a member?
AN: I guess when my wig came off during intro and I looked like a fairly decent drag queen!!

3SoB: When was that?
AN: I think the wig session was season 4. That was the last time I wore the afro wig. I banned the wig last year and some of us got to wear the 70's flybacks instead.

3SoB: Who was the most famous person you met in your role as a Grizzlies dance team member?
AN: I've been on the stage with some good ones (Morgan Freeman, Justin Timberlake, Danny Glover), but my favorite one was Andy Roddick!!!

3SoB: What? Andy Roddick? Not LeBron or Kobe?
AN: As far as audience attendees. He was front center, hard to miss, and we got the chance to talk to him and meet him that night. As far as players. Unfortunately, we sign a contract that we are not allowed to fraternize with the players so I was not able to "meet" many of them. My absolute favorite was sitting beside Michael Jordan and seeing John Stockton before he left the scene!

3SoB: What do you do when you aren’t dancing?
AN: I am a physical therapist and I manage the clinic I work at. I am getting my doctorate. I am starting to train for triathlons. I was recently baptised and I am really enjoying the extra time with family and friends and enjoying watching the game from the stands!! I also have a personal trainer's license, but I don't have time for that much anymore. I enjoy working out, running and playing tennis (no, I'm not good!). I just finished the infamous Chicago marathon in October, which was my second marathon. I love to travel and SCUBA dive, but I don't get to do that much either (I have issues with not having enough time).

3SoB: Is that all?
AN: I forgot to talk about the competition. It is a cheer and dance competition for youth and high school age kids. All of the proceeds go to St Jude. We raised over $3,000 in our first year! We look forward to having all of the squads in the Midsouth next year! It is called St Jude Cheer for the Kids and some of our sponsors were UCA, Varsity, Mcdowell marketing, Tabor Orthopedics, and Rehab Etc.

3SoB: With all of those hobbies and activities I don’t know where to start. Where are the best places to dive in your opinion since tennis isn’t high on my activity charts these days and my doctor told me to slow down on dance routines and marathons?
AN: I haven't had the opportunity to do much. I have only been to the Great Barrier reef which was excellent! I would love to go to Turks and Caicos. I look forward to much more travelling now. I have three trips already planned for next year!!

3SoB: If you were talking to someone interested in becoming a dance team member what advice would you give and why?
AN: Practice!! Get in a dance class. Study it. And HAVE FUN with it! Stay true to who you are and don't change into what others want you to be, because in the end, it really is worth it to have your integrity and not the approval of those who don't matter.

3SoB: What experience are you most grateful for from your time as a dancer?
AN: Meeting my lifelong friends and having the opportunity to do something I have dreamed of since I was little!

3SoB: What was your favorite Grizzlies game? Does one game stand out among the rest for sheer excitement?
AN: The first was probably the best! Justin singing and sitting mere feet away from me and all those fans!! The first few playoff games were amazing. There was so much energy!!

3SoB: What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
AN: Going for another doctorate or PHD, having a family, and SCUBA diving a lot or maybe even sailing and owning my own boat.

3SoB: You are beautiful, talented, smart and want a boat to go SCUBA diving around the world, is there any chance you would marry me?
AN: Haha. I am very flattered!

Maybe I should have taken off my wedding ring before asking that last question!

Pregame: Memphis at Dallas - 11.17.07

ChipC3 and Zack bring you pregame commentary for the 11.17.07 Memphis vs Dallas game. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments

Memphis ends a difficult week in a difficult place to play. The 4th game in 5 days makes the game difficult to get up for. The good news for the player fans is that the team should be using their bench depth in this game. You know it will be a tough game when you think the bright spot is that Dallas just destroyed San Antonio two nights earlier at home so maybe they will be over-confident or looking past the Grizzlies. Rudy Gay has become a serious challenger to Pau Gasol's streak of seasons as the Grizzlies leading scorer. Mike Miller and Pau Gasol give the Grizzlies three players capable of scoring significant points at any time. Throw in Darko Milicic who, while focusing on defense, is a significant offensive player in his own right and the Grizzlies should be able to score points. The problem will be containment of Dallas' scorers.

Dallas closed into a virtual tie in the Southwestern Division with a dismantling of San Antonio Thursday night in Dallas 105-92. The game wasn't that close. Dallas took a double digit lead in the first 7 minutes of the game and extended that to 33-18 at the end of the first quarter. Former Grizz Eddie Jones is injured (so it isn't something that only happens to him in Memphis) and Maurice Agar got the surprise start but that didn't slow down the Mavericks. Devin Harris out-Parkered Tony Parker (except in the wife department) and the big three of Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry led the team in scoring. The Mavs look like they want a second chance at the league best record.


-- Wish we had their record. Dallas is 6-2, Grizzlies are 2-6. Dallas also hasn't lost at home yet this year.
-- Navarro is 'sul fuoco'. JC broke out last night and shot lights out from beyond the arc. His 8 of 9 performance tied him for most 3-pointers made for an NBA rookie.
-- I want my free chicken. The Grizzles are one of 10 teams in the NBA averaging over 100 points per game. Dallas also belongs to that group. We will now just ignore that column in the standings in between 'Points For' and 'Differential'.


-- Dallas misses the free throw, it's tipped back, Dirk catches, shoots for 3, it's in. Yes, I am still bitter over that Game 3 loss in the playoffs. Every game we play them is revenge for that night, for all I care.
-- Eddie returns. Many fans are mad at Steady Eddie for dogging it last year before getting bought out and heading back to Miami to chase a ring. Some still respect what he brought to Memphis. Personally, I think Darko was a great use of the money freed up by his expiring contract.
-- New Game. This year is certainly a new game in Memphis. On any given night, who might step up and play well is an unknown, and so far the 2 guys we all know so well (Pau and Miller) have not been out in the forefront as dominantly as expected. Last night, JC decided that the basket was 5 feet wide. Darko has been a force downlow. Lowry is making an impact almost every night. Rudy looks nothing like that lost and tentative rookie getting chewed out by Fratello and actually resembles a potential reserve All-star. Conley has looked good in limited minutes. The new faces and the new game they bring have given a fresh and unpredictable aspect to the Griz.


-- Slow down the JET. Jason Terry has been playing well off the bench and really giving the team a huge boost. Lowry has a tough assignment ahead of him.
-- Make Dirk drive. We aren't that great defending the ball screen. We get killed by big guys that can shoot the mid-range shot. Thus, I would like to see us get up on Dirk and either make him pass or try to put the ball on the floor and drive. I'd also like to be physical with Dirk, but right now I don't know if our Serbian Enforcer will be playing. (Bonus key...use Hak in limited minutes, he has shown the ability to score against Dallas)
-- Reward Navarro. I'd like to see Iavaroni stick with Navarro for big minutes off the bench against Dallas. I have a feeling that JC's hot hand is just getting warmed up.


Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Devon Harris
Devon Harris was a former #5 draft pick who took a few years to really get comfortable running the Mavericks offense but he apparently has figured it out moving Jason Terry to the bench. While not the scorer that Terry is Harris is a leader who does the things a point guard is suppposed to do. He gets the offense set up and running properly, his size and speed makes him a good defender and he understands his role. Damon also understands his role too. He is to teach the rookies behind him how to beat him out of his job. That has to be a bit unnerving for a professional athlete but so far it seems he is doing his job. Damon has been the most effective point guard despite his defensive weaknesses. Still the future is coming fast for Damon and he knows it.
Advantage: Dallas

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Maurice Agar

Mike Miller has been the subject of numerous trade rumors in some circles but it is highly unlikely that the team will make a move anytime soon with their best long-range threat. Miller is also leading the team in rebounding and has the most assists on the team this season. So why are people not happy with Mike Miller? He isn't great defensively and he hasn't imposed himself on the offensive end. Maybe that is changing after a great 4th quarter in Milwaukee however. Agar is starting for the injured Eddie Jones who is starting for Jason Terry because Avery Johnson wants Terry's production coming off the bench. The 6-5 2nd yr player from Michigan St is getting his first exposure to the NBA after only playing 214 minutes last year.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Josh Howard

Is this the new marguee matchup in the Mavs-Grizzlies series? Both Rudy Gay and Josh Howard are making strong charges to be considered the best player on their teams. Rudy is pretty close averaging over 20 pts a game and being the go-to player down the stretch in close games. Howard is playing great but still defers to Big Dirk as the team leader. Rudy is still young and has a lot to learn on being a complete player (3.7 rpg and 1.0 apg) but defensively he averages a block and steal a game while shooting over 50% from the field. Howard is averaging 22 pts a game (on 54% FG shooting), 5.7 rpg and 2.2 apg but fewer steals and blocks. Both are some of the best young SF's in the league and their battle should be fun to watch if Rudy can avoid foul trouble.
Advantage: Dallas

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Dirk Nowizki

This match up is still the main one. Gasol has been battling ankle, back and now a finget injury but is playing through the aches and pains to put up respectable numbers for most players. His 17.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 2.3 apg are respectable but not up to the standards that he has set in the past. Dirk Nowitzki is also not averaging the numbers you expect from a player of his stature. His 18.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 5.5 apg are excellent but not up to his standard either. Most surprising is Nowitzki's lack of shooting accuracy. Dirk is only shooting 44% from the fiels and a shocking 28% from 3 pt range compared to 52% from Gasol. One area of Pau's game that has dramatically improved is his FT shooting but he isn't getting to the line nearly as often as last season. Two seasons ago Gasol demolished Dirk in a head to head matchup with 36 pts and 15 boards. How effectively he can get to the line in this game could decide the outcome. However his injuries seem to cast a shadow on that ability.
Advantage: Dallas

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Desagna Diop

Dallas has a serious hole in their lineup and that same hole has been shored up by Memphis. Eric Dampier is out while recovering from off-season surgery while Memphis signed Darko to a free agent contract. This means Dallas can no longer protect Dirk by putting their centers on Gasol on defense while Gasol doesn't have to pound so much down low. Darko has been a huge positive for the Grizzlies giving the team a banger to match up against other big men and allowing Gasol to handle less strenous defensive assignments. Diop is a decent rebounder and great shot blocker but Darko has shown already he knows how to attack shot blockers himself.
Advantage: Memphis

: Dallas has one of the most productive benches in the NBA with Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and with the return of Erick Dampier a legitimate big man off the bench. Brandon Bass and Jose Barea round out the substitution pattern and both have prodided quality minutes when on the court. Dallas isn't afraid of going to their bench which allows the starters to put out maximum effort without having to hold something back for extended minutes. Memphis' bench was supposed to be a strength of the team going into the season but that hasn't been the case so far. Kyle Lowry has been exciting but erratic. Michael Conley is the supposed point guard of the future but is still learning his way. Casey Jacobsen and Juan Carlos Navarro are supposed to be the scorers off the bench but neither have found their shots yet (although both are showing signs) and JCN especially needs to improve his defense. Stromile Swift has been inconsistent which shouldn't be a surprise but Hakim Warrick losing playing time to Brian Cardinal and Tarence Kinsey's inability to get more than token minutes should be.
Advantage: Dallas

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni vs Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson took the league by storm after replacing Don Nelson as head coach in Dallas. It seemed no one had an answer for the combination of defense and offense Dallas threw at teams in their racing to first an NBA Finals and then the best record in the NBA the next season. Then Don Nelson showed Avery that while he may have taught Avery everything Avery knows, he didn't show him everything Nelson knew. Johnson entered the season under some suspicion and early losses on the road to Atlanta and Portland raised more eyebrows but his complete team effort against San Antonio should silence critics for the time being. Marc Iavaroni is still in his honeymoon period but his rotations are raising eyebrows as well with Casey Jacobsen, Brian Cardinal and Juan Carlos Navarro getting minutes that TK and Hak had last year. Also the sporatic playing of Michael Conley is making people wonder.
Advantage: Dallas

Other Previews:

The Sports Network Preview

Friday, November 16, 2007

Postgame Thoughts: Memphis vs. New Orleans 11.16.07

This was a fantastic game between two very entertaining teams. Let's get that out of the way right now, because as much as it stings to lose close games, this was pure entertainment from the 2nd quarter on.

Tonight was mostly about the coming out party for Juan Carlos Navarro aka "La Bomba". JCN hit 8/9 three-pointers on his way to a career high 28 points. Navarro was unbelievable, hitting everything he threw towards the basket. I say "threw" because Navarro doesn't really shoot, he kind of flings the ball no matter what kind of shot it is -- three-pointer, floater, runner, even his free throws look semi-unconventional. Hopefully, this is the first of many big nights for La Bomba.

Unfortunately for Memphis, Chris Paul matched his 28 points and David West led all scorers with 40 points. Maybe someone at the game can clear something up for me. Was David West invisible to the naked eye? Do you need special goggles to see him in person? I ask this, because the Grizzlies continually left him open in the first half, so I assumed that they could not identify him without some form of aid. That had to be it, right?

Unusual game for Rudy and Pau as they both stumbled through a subpar first half, but turned it on late in the game. Rudy, in particular, was amazing, hitting two deep three's to send the game to overtime when everyone thought the game was past saving. He missed the game-tying shot at the end of OT, but he is still showing flashes of the superstar level talent that Jerry West pronounced him to possess last year after the trade to acquire him. The future looks bright for Rudy....and Memphis, as a result.

Darko was largely ineffective in his limited minutes due to foul issues and then he injured his wrist, sending him to the locker room for X-rays. The results came back negative, so hopefully he will be available tomorrow night against Dallas.

I know Zack will be here to talk about Kyle's 8 assist/1 turnover night, so I'll leave that bit of enjoyment for him.

All in all, I think this was a great effort against a team that will be in the playoffs this year if they can maintain their health and I'm proud of our guys, even though they came up just a little bit short. One more night that produced a few lessons, some growth and maturation, and a peek into what the future holds for this young, talented team.

Thought's From a Sleep Deprived Grad Student (i.e., Zack)

Like Spartacus, I had fun watching this game. Ok, I had fun once we weren't down by 15. Which reminds me, did you know Peja was trying out for America's Next Top Model? Getting back on point and trying to be quick, here is what is on my mind right now...

Ricky Davis is getting nervous. His status as top Grizzly Killer, once miles ahead of the pack, might have serious competition. Apparently the Grizzlies forgot that David West is a really good shooter from mid-range. I guess that Haitian from NBC Hero's came in and erased all memories of that fact. Seriously, 40 points? Seriously? (note - Grizzly Killer is a term I apply to players that aren't anywhere close to being superstars, but look like them against the Grizzlies, time and time again.)

Juan Carlos Navarro would prefer we not have a draft pick this year. Wow! What a game from JC. That was something to behold. In reality, our top-19 protected 1st rounder is all but certain to stay in Memphis, but if we were able to pull the miracle off of being a top 10 team in the league, having Navarro shoot that well off the bench is probably a requirement. A big round of applause goes out to JC. On a side note, I think we should increase the Spanish flavor by trading for Garbo. Here's how.

Starting point guard emerges? Ok, not really. I understand the reality that for better or worse, Damon's job is safe as long as he is still a Grizzly. But my preference for Kyle Lowry being the Grizzlies full-time PG this season is probably not a secret for anyone that reads this blog or the Grizzlies message board regularly. Tonight was just another day at the office for the 2nd year guard. He picked up the pace, picked up the energy level, played great defense and even knocked down his jumpers. Commonly, his critics like to pick on his low assists and high turnovers, though tonight he had 8 assists and only 1 turnover (in contrast Chris Paul had 13 assists and 7 turnovers). Though in reality JC's hot hand is a big reason why Lowry's assists were so high (or conversely, JC's cold hand the previous games is the reason why he doesn't average 8 assists every game). Lowry might not be the most talented ball distributor, but his motor, his defense, and his will to win is as high as anyone not named KG.

Get well soon Darko. We are a better team with him, so I hope Darko the Serbian Enforcer is back at full-strength as soon as possible. I've really grown fond of Darko and seeing him go out with an injury sucked. Here I thought Stro was on the team to take everybody's minor injuries for them.

Rudy Gay is about 2 years ahead of schedule. Despite missing the bucket to tie in overtime, his back-to-back triples to send the game into overtime were simply electric.

USA Today Recap

Grizzlies Holiday Pack

Just got some news about a fantastic ticket offer from the Grizzlies.
The New

Give the exciting holiday gift of NBA BASKETBALL
to your family, friends, staff and employees!

-2 packs to choose from!
- the Best Locations we have ever offered(Lower Level locations available!)
-Discounted Pricing! (STARTING AT $25 for all 5 games!)

Package A
(*Grizzlies Player figurine Series Give away)
*1/6 vs Miami Heat(Dewayne Wade & SHAQ)
1/21 vs Chicago Bulls (MLK Game)
2/2 vs Utah Jazz (Carlos Boozer)
*2/22 vs Dallas Mavericks (Dirk Nowitzki)
*3/8 vs Boston Celtics (Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen & Paul Pierce)

Package B1/8 vs Los Angeles Lakers (Kobe Byrant)
1/15 vs Cleveland Cavaliers (LeBron James)
1/30 vs Denver Nuggets (Carmelo Anthony & Alan Iverson)
*Mike Conley Jr Jersey Night
2/26 vs Phoenix Suns (Steve Nash)
3/22 vs Sacremento Kings (Mike Bibby)
*Spain T-Shirt Give Away

Terrace V - $25 for all 5 games
Terrace IV -$60 for all 5 games (reg price $90)
Terrace II - $125 for all 5 games (reg price $175)
Plaza II - $650 for all 5 games (reg price $695)
Plaza IV - $375 for all 5 games (reg price $410)
Plaza VI -$225 for all 5 games (reg price $295)
Clube Seats - $500 for all 5 games(reg price $530)

Call the Grizzlies ticket office if you have any interest in any of these sweet deals.

The 3 Shades of Blue blog and it's writers are not affiliated nor endorsed by the Grizzlies in any way. We are simply fans of the team and want to promote the team among their fans. If you are interested in purchasing tickets from this offer please call the Grizzlies ticket office at (901) 888-HOOP.

2008 All-Star Voting

2008 All-Star Voting has begun, so click on the link and vote for your favorites players -- hopefully they are wearing Beale Street Blue. There will also be an icon in the right-hand sidebar, so make sure you remember to vote daily.

Links: PG Battle Heating Up, Casey Jacobsen on Defense

Who wants Kyle Lowry to start? Show of hands? Yes, there are quite a few of you out there. Well, you'll all be happy to know that there are others who think like you do (even if I'm not one of them). Wendell Maxey has a new column up on titled "Is Lowry Ready to Start in Memphis?" He mostly focuses on Lowry's road back from his season-ending wrist injury last year, but does touch on the 3 PG rotation that Iavaroni has used in road games this year.

It will be interesting to see how long Marc Iavaroni continues to shuffle between a three point guard rotation, a dilemma he hasn't had to endure before. But one thing is for sure this year in Memphis: Kyle Lowry is making a case to become a starter.

Casey Jacobsen says that Defense Wins Games (and Championships) in his latest blog. I know that some of you might think that this basketball lesson is coming from an unlikely source, but Casey has a great understanding of the game's basic principles.
Offense shouldn’t be any team’s top priority. It is important, of course, but offense must be secondary in our minds when we step on the basketball court every night. Traditionally in basketball, offense is inconsistent. Sometimes the ball goes in, and sometimes it doesn’t…even if you work very hard developing offensive skills. Defense, however, should be consistent.

That's not a notion that is popular among many fans who want to see scoring and lots of it, but it is one of the universal truths that cannot be ignored. Why do you think San Antonio is always a title contender and Phoenix continually falls short of the ultimate prize (as Dallas and Sacramento did before them)? Defense, defense, defense.

Two Month Anniversary

It was two months ago today that we put up the site counter and today it passed 24,000 hits. Thanks so much for reading our obsessive rantings. The SOB's really appreciate your patronage.

In celebration of this, we'll be posting an interview with a former dance team member later today.

Pregame: Memphis vs New Orleans - 11.16.07

ChipC3 and Zack bring you pregame commentary for the 11.16.07 Memphis vs New Orleans game. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments.

lost a heart stopping game to the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night to finish the first back to back series of the week at 1-1. That was an expected outcome with two games against Houston and Milwaukee but not many people expected the Grizzlies to win the first game only to lose the 2nd. At 2-5 the Grizzlies are not the worst team in the league right now but they aren’t far from it. Rudy Gay continues to score seemingly at will but has yet to rebound or assist to the level of an elite player. Pau Gasol’s minutes are down, his shot attempts are down and there are rumors his motivation is down despite continued minutes for Juan Carlos Navarro, the player supposedly brought in to pick up his spirits. Mike Miller finally broke out of his season long slump at the end of the Milwaukee game, but one quarter doesn’t break a slump. He will need to be aggressive again to win back some non-believing fans.

New Orleans is hanging with the Texas Trio early in the season behind the strong play of Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and surprisingly Morris Peterson. Peja Stojakovic still has incredible range when healthy and David West is an up and coming player at the forward spot. Former Grizzlies player Byron Scott has the Hornets over achieving from some experts expectations but the players believe in the system and are working hard to implement it. The only drawback for the Hornets seems to be fragile health of some of their starters. If they get injured who knows what would happen. If the Hornets win tonight it will mark the best start in franchise history. I would hate to allow them to do that.


-- Shooting slump. Mike Miller is 1 for 14 on 3-point attempts in the last 4 games. Ouch.
-- Big 3, now Big 4? So far this season, the Hornets are trying to prove that the Southwest Division is not just about San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. At 7-2, New Orleans is sitting at 2nd place in the division. Maybe more telling is that Hollinger has the Hornets ranked #2 overall in his statistical-based power rankings. Only the Celtics are better. Lucky for the Griz is that they have played their best this year against Southwest Division foes at home. (Bonus trend...the Hornets beat the Grizzlies 3 out of the 4 games last year)
-- Winning streak. Not so surprising, the Grizzlies have yet to string together any wins this year. Last year, it took until the end of March (!) before the Grizzlies strung together multiple wins. How long will it be this year? After losing a heartbreaker to the Bucks, obviously tonight isn't the answer. Though maybe tonight will be win #1 in our first winning streak of the year (wait, who do we play tomorrow night...ugh!)


-- Lottery point guards. Chris Paul is playing at an MVP level in only his third year. Micheal Conley is having a hard time getting on the floor. Still, the fact that 2 top-5 PG's are playing against each other is noteworthy.
-- Making the Southwest Division the best in the NBA. I mentioned in the Trends section that so far this year, the Hornets are every bit as good as the Texas Trio. Of course that is only taking into account the first 10 games of the season. However, stepping back a little farther, both the Hornets and Grizzlies are young, up-and-coming teams trying to force their way into the elite of the Western Conference. Both still have a ways to go (winning a single playoff game would be a good start), but this year the gap certainly looks to be closing.
-- Rudy Gay for All-Star? I've talked about it previously in this space, the emergence of Rudy Gay is certainly the top story of the year for the Grizzlies regardless of the matchup. Not many expected him to be averaging 20 ppg (double from his rookie campaign) and forcing his way into a primary offensive weapon. Foul trouble has kept him from making a big impact on the defensive end, but that will soon come.


-- Downtown Memphis Pick and Roll Blues. It is only the early part of the season, and I am already beating a dead horse with the "we have to defend the pick and roll better" theme. I'm tired of it. I want to move on, but first either the Grizzlies have to move on or we have to play a team that doesn't excel at the P-n-R. Chris Paul and David West should be licking their chops right now. I predict David West to keep nailing that elbow jumper of his. I'd love Iavaroni to get more aggressive in P-n-R defense, but I expect him to keep it passive so to avoid foul trouble.
-- Easy Rider. Before last game, I went on and on about the superb job the Griz have done this year at getting easy buckets (i.e., getting lots of FT attempts and points in the paint). Against the Bucks those easy buckets were not nearly as plentiful. With Memphis signing the jump shooting blues more times than not, continuing to attack the rim and force feed Pau/Rudy/Darko will go along way tonight. (Bonus Key...Keep Chandler from setting a career high in rebounds)
-- Get on your feet, Memphis and stand up! This Grizzlies team is hungry. They are also a bit fragile. A good cure to prevent lags in intensity and effort is for the crowd to stay pumped. It is nearly impossible to keep a loud and lively atmosphere for 48 minutes in the NBA, however, having an energized crowd at the right moments throughout all 4 quarters will help this team. I'm sure Rudy Gay will do his best to get the crowd involved with a few sick dunks (Julian Wright, you have been warned).


Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs. Chris Paul
This is an ugly match up for the Grizzlies. Chris Paul is lightning fast player who can score and dish. Damon has been solid this season in extremely limited minutes (15 a game) but still that is too many according to some fans. Chris Paul is playing at a pace that has garnered some talk of MVP awards this season. He leads the Hornets in scoring (18.6 ppg) and assists (10.6 apg) in only 34.1 mpg. His 51.2 FG% and 44.4 3pt% makes him very efficient for a point guard and throw in 4.7 rpg and you can understand why he is being discussed for MVP.
Advantage: New Orleans

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Peja Stojakovic

I wonder how many people will boo Peja in memory of the Slam in Sacramento? Peja was the most hated player in Memphis at one time. Time heals all wounds probably and that can be said for Peja as well as he attempts to rebound after missing last season with a bad back. His 10 3 pt shots against the Lakers seems to imply he is back. Now if Mike Miller can only build on his finishing effort in Milwaukee for the Grizzlies. Mike has been hesitant to take shots this season but he took over late against Milwaukee and made some clutch shots. Hopefully this is the start of good things. Until it is confirmed however...
Advantage: New Orleans

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Morris Peterson

Mo Pete found his shooting touch in the last game hitting 6-9 bombs on the way to 27 points against Philly. It's not likely that he will find it quite so easy in Memphis against Rudy Gay. Unfortunately Peterson is a better defender than he gets credit for so it won't be easy for Rudy to get his points either. Neither player hits the boards that hard. For Peterson that isn't a big problem with Chandler and West cleaning the glass. For Rudy that may be a bigger concern. Miller has been filling in nicely but Rudy has to contribute more in the all-around game to be considered a dominant NBA player and not just a scorer. It seems weird that Rudy is actually averaging more blocks and more steals than assists. Great players make players around them great. That is Rudy's next step in his development.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs David West

Power vs finesse in this atypical match up at power forward. Pau Gasol has the height but is more a finesse player. David West has the bulk and uses it to his advantage to gain leverage in rebounding. West has range nearly to the 3 pt line (he's actually 3-5 this season from beyond the arc). This is a test for Gasol's back (some would say spine). If Gasol allows West to push him around the Grizzlies will be in trouble. Gasol must use his height to go over West on offense while blocking out to grab boards on defense. New Orleans misses shots so controlling the glass is vital. West just seems to be the type of player who intimidates Gasol. If Gasol checks for blood more often than he grabs a board you will know who won the match up.
Advantage: New Orleans

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Tyson Chandler

You want to read something incredible? Tyson Chandler is learning how to score outside of dunking the ball. I realize most people didn't think this would happen but his 11.2 ppg implies something different is going on with the Big Easy's biggest player. Tyson always could rebound but his shot was suspect (7.6 career ppg, 60.4 career FT%). Tyson poses unique challenges for Darko in the post because of his speed and agility. Darko does better with slower centers like Yao. However Darko has been surprising everyone so far this season. His 11.1 ppg and 8.4 rpg are great and he should only continue to improve. The question is can be adapt in time for this game?
Advantage: New Orleans

: Former Grizz Bobby Jackson leads the scoring off of New Orleans bench averaging 8.1 ppg but his shooting isn't exactly accurate. Rasual Butler had some big games against Memphis last season, Janero Pargo and Hilton Armstrong provide most of the bench play but don't overlook promising rookie Julian Wright who is buried on the depth chart but has some serious talent once he develops. Memphis' bench finally matched Kyle Lowry's intensity in Milwaukee as Casey Jacobsen, Brian Cardinal, Juan Carlos Navarro and Michael Conley all contributed in bringing Memphis back in the first and second halves. Hopefully this is the start of some decent play from the back ups because the team needs more contribution from it's bench. While the bench overall improved, Stromile Swift had a poor night against Milwaukee and needs to rebound against New Orleans. Where have you gone TK and Hak?
Advantage: New Orleans

: Byron Scott exercised one demon already this season when he defeated New Jersey for the first time on their court since he was fired from the Nets job. Scott's resume includes trips to 2 NBA finals as a head coach in New Jersey and 3 NBA titles as a Laker player so he gets respect from his team. With only Mo Pete as a new player among the top 8 on the roster Scott has a group of players who know what is expected of them. That chemistry should continue to improve this season unless injuries take another significant toll. Marc Iavaroni is still experimenting with different lineups while trying to figure out who is going to run the point. It isn't easy but the tinkering now should produce results later in the season.
Advantage: New Orleans

Other Game Previews

-- Today's must read game preview from a Hornets blogger is from Ryan over at THE New Orleans Hornets Fan blog. Probably the best game preview from an 'enemy' blogger that we have linked to this year. Please, click the link and read the whole thing. For now, I want to highlight one of Ryan's on-point observation/prediction.

In the end, the Grizzlies are going to have to hound Paul and defend the perimeter closely or the Hornets are going to crush them under three point shots and dribble penetration like they've done to 7 other teams to start this season.

-- Chris Herrington's preview at Beyond the Arc.


-- Big Easy Buzz Blog

-- Hornets 24-7

-- The Sports Network

Power Rankings - 11.16.07

This is our new collection of Power Rankings, courtesy of the fantastic CarlCR.

Week of November12th, 2007
1 1
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5
6 6
7 7
8 8
9 9
10 10
11 11
12 12
13 13
14 14
15 15
16 16
17 17
18 18
19 19
20 20
21 21
22 22
23 23
24 24
25 25
26 26
27 27
28 28
29 29
30 30