Saturday, November 24, 2007

Links: Pete Pranica, Art, Revisiting Predictions, Grizzlies News

I'm tempted to make Pete's Perspectives my homepage from now on. Grizzlies' play-by-play man Pete Pranica has some of the best insights and evaluations of the game that I've ever seen. Make sure that you check out his blog daily, as he has been very good about posting consistently.

I was wandering around the inner-workings of Google and stumbled upon Joel Kimmel's Illustrated News the other day. Why does this matter to you? Well, because I found that he has been doing some illustrations of NBA players, including the Grizzlies' Pau Gasol, as well as Reggie Miller, Jermaine O'Neal, Adam Morrison and Chris Kaman. There's really some nice artwork there and I recommend checking it out.

Awhile back, we awarded our first ever "Overreaction Award" to David Friedman of 20 Second Timeout as a joke due to his abrupt turnaround on the Grizzlies chances for this season after witnessing the difficulties they had in preseason in Spain. Well, after Memphis' slow start, he believes that he might be Nostradamus now. David, no offense, but Chip and I were predicting a slow start for this young team with a new coaching staff back in August and September -- we didn't need a couple of preseason games to arrive at that conclusion. We'll gladly let you piggy-back on our evaluations from this point forward though.

We also added the Grizzlies News Feed in the right-hand column, where you can learn about some of the same things in the Links posts. This would include things like the Bud Light Watch Parties and the "Kids 14 and under get in free" game on December 1st, so be sure to check it out everytime you visit.

Reasonable Expectations

See? Now you respect me, because I’m a threat. That’s the way it works.

The Incredibles

In the entire history of Grizzlies basketball, we have never been a threat. We are in the 13th season and nothing, nada, zippo. Only one All Star in the first 12 seasons. Dwindling attendance. Lackluster and indifferent fan base. Currently 3-9 and coming off a blowout loss to the World Champion San Antonio Spurs. Yes, it is a long way from Halloween when we played the Spurs closely. As the season wears on and the losses mount (look at December’s schedule), there is one underlying theme as the Grizzlies face the better teams…we are not a threat.

When discussing the Grizzlies, especially with regards to roster moves, the vision is for building a contender for the Larry O’Brien trophy. It is not about building a “competitive” team or a playoff contender. It is about a team that is at least on the level that the Utah Jazz is currently. Might not be a championship favorite but a team that is considered to have a chance if things break right. So the question that needs to be answered is what type of talent do the Grizzlies need to compete at that level?

When starting this conversation, it is good to refer to an article written about two years ago that covered what it takes to win in the NBA from a historic perspective. When referring to this article, it shows you the #1 reason why the Grizz have failed to build a contender. The Grizzlies have not built the team from the top down. What this means is that the past GMs of the Grizzlies have been more concerned with overall depth than the quality of the players at the top. Another shortcoming is that Grizzlies management has not valued acquiring players that defend the goal over shooters.


STEP 1: Acquire a Championship Superstar
Approach #1: Acquire a Top 5 caliber player Only two NBA Champions failed to include a player named to the All-NBA first team during their careers. These players are easy to identify as all but 4 NBA championship teams included players named All-NBA 1st Team in the prior four seasons.

Approach #2: If you fail to acquire a Top 5 caliber player, then you need a Top 5 caliber defender. Only two NBA Champions failed to include a player named to the All-Defensive first team during their careers, and each of these teams included Top 5 Players.

Approach #3: Clear salary cap space for next year. No NBA team has won a championship without a Top 5 player or Top 5 defender.

STEP 2: Add a championship sidekick (or two) Every NBA championship roster included a Top 10 caliber player or Top 10 defender as a sidekick. Most championship sidekicks can be identified by looking at players named All-NBA 1st or 2nd Team or All-Defensive 1st or 2nd Team in one of the prior 4 seasons. All told, 86% of all championship rosters included at least one sidekick with a previous All-NBA or All-Defensive selection, and over half of the championship rosters (57%) included 2 or more sidekicks with a previous All-NBA or All-Defensive selection.

STEP 3: Make sure one of your players (superstar or sidekick) can defend. No team has won an NBA title without a Top 10 caliber defender.

Now this article is not THE reference for building an NBA champion, but history should not be ignored. The key to winning in the NBA is not size, depth, defense, or scoring. The key to winning is top-level talent. Ask Phoenix if size and defense is the key to contending. Ask Boston if depth is essential to contending. Ask Detroit if you need elite scorers to contend. See I am not asking for or expecting an NBA title. I just want to enter the conversation.

Coach Iavaroni has already stated that he would prefer an 8 or 9 man rotation. So in essence, we should have 6 roster spots that we should not even discuss except in theoretical playoff match up terms such as having an extra big if we had to deal with Greg Oden or an extra long perimeter defender to disrupt Kevin Durant. Did you catch that? Yes, that is how far away this roster is from making the jump into the upper 25% of the league. I think this is the reality that must set in for us. We are at least 3 years away.

These three years assumes that Gay, Lowry, Conley and Darko progress as expected. In this time the Grizzlies should have a top 7 pick in 2008, to be a borderline playoff team in 2009, a playoff team in 2010 and to go into the 2010-11 season as a threat to make the Western Conference finals. So with that timeline it is more important to find players that fit the team our coach wants to build. A team that attacks on both ends of the court, athletic, and able to shoot proficiently from the perimeter is what Coach Iavaroni emphasized. Tarence Kinsey doesn’t count because he should not be in your top 8 or 9.

In my estimation, we have players 3 through 6 in our future contending rotation: (3) Michael Conley, (4) Rudy Gay, (5) Darko Milicic, and (6) Kyle Lowry. So we need use the rest of our assets in getting two big time players: one a glass eating (10+ rebounder) interior defender and the other a perimeter shot maker in the mold of the upper echelon wings in the league. Nothing else matters.

Now the chance of acquiring an age appropriate (25 and under), established “superstar” via trade is virtually impossible. So that leaves the draft, free agency and trading for a potential superstar before they have blossomed. Players that fit the mold we should be looking for: Gilbert Arenas, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala, Emeka Okafor, Andris Biedrens, DeAndre Jordan, Tyrus Thomas, and Josh Smith.

In other words, the two types of players needed are a perimeter player capable of eventually giving you a consistent 20 to 25 points a night with range and without being a defensive liability and an interior player capable of pulling down 10 to 15 rebounds per night while scoring in double figures with good enough hands that the team can use him to run the pick and roll and playing good defense. These two guys don’t guarantee a championship but they elevate the Grizzlies into contention. Isn’t that all a Grizzlies fan could ask for at this point?

Pregame: Grizzlies vs Wizards

Memphis enters the game against Washington in an unenviable position. The team is 2-4 at home with a disinterested fan base who seem to prefer watching the local college team beat weak opponents than watch the Grizzlies lose against quality opponents. Home court advantage needs to be regained to draw back these fans who just want to see the home team win. The loss to Toronto was a major step backwards in that regard. Top pick Michael Conley is sidelined with a shoulder injury which takes some luster off the curious about the speedy rookie. Rudy Gay needs to respond to teams focusing on him as a leader as his points per game has dropped off significantly from earlier in the season.

Washington is more cursed than the Grizzlies. Not only has the team lost Gilbert Arenas, one of the most prolific scoring PG's in the game, but Monday Brendan Haywood, the Wizards starting center, twisted his ankle on Andrey Blatche's foot and is questionable for the game against the Grizzlies. Washington's loss of Arenas may not be so tragic as it allows other players to step up. Caron Butler, Antwan Jamison, Andrey Blatche, DeShawn Stevenson and Antonio Daniels all are solid players who can step it up when called on. It is quite possible that Washington will be a better team without Arenas' individual brilliance dominating the offensive end. The Wizards will be much better with Daniels on defense.

Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Antonio Daniels
Daniels, a former first round draft by the Grizzlies, has stepped into the starting role after the injury to Arenas and performed well so far. Daniels doesn't provide the offensive impact of Arenas but he distributes the ball well, plays solid defense and gets others involved. Damon has been performing well in limited minutes for a starter. Some untimely turnovers really hurt the Grizzlies against Toronto however. Damon has improved his shooting however and is a dangerous 3 pt specialist right now hitting 50% of his attempts so far this season. Damon's 4.1 apg is amazing considering he averages fewer than 20 mpg. The big problem for Damon will be Antonio's size in this match up.
Advantage: Washington

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs DeShawn Stevenson

Mike Miller has been accused of not being clutch, not being able to create his own shot and not being very athletic. No one has questioned his motivation however. DeShawn Stevenson's motivation has been questioned as well as his courage to take a shot. Both impressions are wrong however. Miller takes high risk shots (mostly long-range bombs) that aren't hit as often as other shots. Stevenson focuses on team play and especially defense which are not rewarded with highlight reels on ESPN. Lucky for the players their coaches do appreciate their contributions. Lately Miller has become more aggressive with his shot but is still the #3 option offensively on this team. Stevenson will be called upon to do more offensively now that Arenas is out and my guess is that he will fit in fine with his new role.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Caron Butler

A classic battle between former Huskies. Rudy Gay is supposed to be the leading scorer on the Grizzlies team. Sometime in the future he may be comfortable in that role but not yet. Right now Rudy is still hesitant to take clutch shots (despite his success so far in that role) and he is not the assist man nor rebounder to be a complete player but he is still growing into that role. Caron Butler will never be considered a #1 option but he is a solid player who can score, rebound and log long minutes. His 39+ minutes per game seems questionable considering his history of injury but it is what it is. Rudy will not have to fight to get his shot off as often as usual but he will have to work harder on defense. Don't be surprised if Rudy defends Stevenson at first to avoid early foul trouble.
Advantage: Washington

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Antawn Jamison

Neither player has peformed at the level their team's expected so far this season. Jamison is shooting below 40% from the field, not grabbing 10 boards a game and not averaging 20 ppg. He is averaging close to 20 ppg and 10 rpg. Gasol is shooting a better percentage from the floor but isn't close to 20 ppg or 10 rpg. Part of the explanation is that Gasol is playing the high post offensively instead of the low post and he has moved backt to PF but Gasol isn't rebounding like he did as a PF in the past. Memphis needs to control the boards so whoever outrebounds in this game could determine the outcome overall.
Advantage: Washington

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Brendan Haywood

I've hinted at this already but I am not sure either player will be active in this game much less starting. Darco is still trying to recover from a sprained right thumb and Haywood is decovering from a sprained ankle. However, since the option was talking about Darius Songalia and Stromile Swift I am going with Darko and Brendan. Brendan could be the surprise player of the year averaging nearly 10 ppg and 10 rpg and close to 2 bpg. Apparently the battle with Eton Thomas finally lit a fire under Haywood that has been missing for so long. Darko finally got the opportunity he has wanted for so long and was making the most of it prior to the injured thumb. Getting Darko back should help shore up the rebounding issue that has been missing since Darko went down.
Advantage: Washington

: Washington's bench has been stretched with the loss of Arenas. Putting Daniels at the point leaves Roger Mason as the primary PG backup for the Wizards. If Haywood can't go then Darius Songalia will likely move into the starting 5. That leaves only Andrey Blatche off the bench and this is the first season he has seen any noticeable action although he has shown incredible talent when given the opportunity. Memphis' bench is still led by Kyle Lowry with Hakim Warrick working his way into the rotation along side Stromile Swift. Casey Jacobsen and Tarence Kinsey are mixing up minutes at the wing position as well. This game reminds me of the season opener in 2005-06 when Washington came to town with a three man bench and handed it to the Grizzlies. Hopefully a repeat isn't in order.
Advantage: Memphis

Coaches: Eddie Jordan led the Wizards to the best record in the Eastern Conference last year and the honor of coaching the All-Star game. He is supposedly on the hot seat this season as the team started very slow but it seems difficult to comprehend that he will be let go after losing Arenas for 3 months. Marc Iavaroni is safe in his job despite the disappointing start of the season. The Grizzlies however need to start winning home jobs or the fans will completely abandon the team. The lack-luster effort against the Raptors can't be repeated.
Advantage: Washington

Other Previews
Bullets Forever
The Sports Network
Miami Herald

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pregame: Grizzlies at Spurs 11.23.07

Memphis is coming off the Turkey Day Holiday facing the same team they played on Opening Night. Why do the Grizzlies always seem to play the Spurs at the wrong time? When will we get to catch them on the 3rd game in a four day road trip or something? Anyway, Darko's return will be much anticipated and needed for the Grizzlies to match up against the Spurs. Last night it was reported that Darko is close to being day to day. I don't know what that means but I am planning on Darko. Duncan on Gasol/Swift/Warrick is just to dreadful to imagine only surpassed by Duncan against Andre Brown. The Grizzlies will need a big effort from their little men to slow down Tony Parker, an absence of foul trouble from their wing men (most notably Rudy Gay) and some serious team defense down low on Duncan while hitting a high percentage of shots and hoping the Spurs ate some bad turkey to win this game but I felt the same way about the Dallas and Houston games and the Grizzlies played above expectations in both so I am trying to keep an open mind.

San Antonio hasn't played in two days either but of course they got to stay at home after Thanksgiving. That has to be a nice scheduling concession for having to play on the road for Christmas. Wait a minute, they are in the middle of a four game home stand from before Christmas until after New Year's. It's good to be the Champs I suppose. The Spurs are chugging along beating everyone they are supposed to beat and only losing to teams giving the supreme effort on an off-night. It isn't that the Spurs don't try hard every game but they aren't going to get too excited about regular season games. They save that intensity for the playoffs. They seem to have the attitude of 'let the minions fight over playoff seeding while the Spurs figure out where to put their 5th ring.' Maybe someday the Grizzlies will have that attitude as well.

Fast Facts
-- Memphis has yet to win two or more games in a row.
-- San Antonio has yet to lose two or more games in a row.
-- San Antonio only committed 3 turnovers in their last game against Orlando.
-- Memphis made only 5 3-pointers in 24 tries in their last game against Toronto.
-- Memphis starts 2 players over 7 foot tall, yet 6'8 Mike Miller is the teams leading rebounder.
-- San Antonio starts former MVP's Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, yet 6th man Manu Ginobili is the teams leading scorer.
-- Manu Ginobili is averaging over 2 steals per game.
-- Out of the 11 games the Grizzlies have played this year, 7 of them have been essentially tied within the last 2 minutes. The Griz are 2-5 in those 7 games.

-- Will Darko return to action?
-- Can the Griz continue their strong play against Southwest Division opponents?

-- Play effective defense against the pick-and-roll.
-- Don't let San Antonio's transition defense dictate the tempo and flow of the game.
-- Rudy be productive on offensive.


Damon Stoudamire vs Tony Parker
Coming off the most incredible summer anyone could ask for Tony Parker faces an aging point guard who is showing that experience can out-play youth and talent. Parker doesn't have a lot of support behind him and will be pressured all game from the PG's Memphis can throw at him. The key to stopping Parker is to not let him get into the lane, something easier written than done. Damon will be pressured to do this since he's not that great on defense. Damon just needs to play his game and keep them team controlled. Slowing down Parker man to man will fall on Kyle Lowry's shoulders. Unfortunately, Parker is just too experienced and fast for the Grizz to contain. Lowry will need to play tough defense and not make silly turnovers.
Advantage: San Antonio

Mike Miller vs Michael Finley

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

Rudy Gay vs Bruce Bowen

Bowen is a defensive master (or dirty player depending on who you talk to) who will get inside players shirts and drive them crazy. Rudy can physically outmatch almost anyone in the league but his propensity to commit offensive fouls and Bowen's ability to draw them makes for a tough match up. With a 39" vertical leap and long arms Rudy is both a shot blocking threat and a decent steals man but still needs to learn the other facets of the game to be truly effective. People aren't looking for Rudy to be the next great defensive SF. He is expected to be a 5 category threat starting with scoring. Rudy has range to the 3 pt line and can jump over almost anyone in the league. Bowen is old and will have to use all of the tricks left in his bag against Rudy. Unfortunately the bag is pretty big with tricks.
Advantage: San Antonio

Pau Gasol vs Tim Duncan

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

Darko Milicic vs Fabricio Oberto

If there is a bigger surprise on the team this season than Darko Milicic then I don't know what it is. No one saw Darko battling Yao Ming toe to toe like he did before he did it. At least I didn't. The wrist may not be 100% (it hasn't even been announced if he will play at the time I am writing this) but Memphis needs Darko to play and play well. Oberto emerged in the playoffs last season. This season he has apparently gone back into his shell and at 31 you have to wonder if the big playoff games were an aberration. A healthy Darko and motivated Swift should keep him that way.
Advantage: Memphis


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

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni v Gregg Popovich
Iavaroni has elevated the Grizzlies play from the opening night game that the Grizzlies barely lost but seriously is there a better coach in the NBA than Gregg Popovich? It isn't just that he has 4 titles without repeating once but he has kept his team competitive in almost every season he has been in control. He did lose valued assistant PJ Carlisimo but how important are assistant coaches anyway? This will be Iavaroni's first visit to the Alamo as a head coach. It is one thing to coach against the Spurs on Opening Night, quite another to take them on when the team is on a roll and playing like they intend to return to the Finals this season.
Advantage: San Antonio

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

Other Previews
USA Today
CBS 42 (Austin, TX)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Everyone have a safe and happy holiday, enjoy the Terah Chin interview and eat far too much turkey and dressing.

Dancing with the Grizzlies: Terah Chin

Some people think going to Grizzlies games is a pain and expensive and not likely to do much but make you tired the next day at work. I met Terah Chin leaving the game the other night and she graciously accepted my invitation to be interviewed for 3 Shades of Blue. So without further ado here is Terah's interview.

3SoB: When did you start dancing?
TC: I actually first started dancing when I was only 5 years old. My mom wanted me to be a competitive ice skater so I took ballet lessons when I was younger to help me as a skater. I competed in national tournaments until I was in the fourth grade. Then I accidently fell in love with basketball after trying to impress a crush on the playground and it was all over from there!

3SoB: What was the main attraction to being a Grizzlies Dance Team member?
TC: The free basketball tickets of course! If you think about, I was paid to do two things I love, watch basketball and dance. It was the best part time job ever!

3SoB: What was the funniest experience you had as a member?
TC: Too many to comment on...

3SoB: What was the worst experience (on the court not behind the scenes, I would prefer to leave negative team experiences out of the interview)?
TC: The worst experience was learning that one of our biggest promotions was canceled. We had been invited to represent the Grizzlies in China, but another NBA dance team got to go instead of us.

3SoB: Who was the most famous person you met in your role as a Dance Team member?
TC: Justin Timberlake came into our locker room one year unannounced. I guess that’s one of the perks of being an A-list Celebrity. His little brother used to dance on the Junior Grizzlies Squad so he was poking around the locker rooms looking for we think.

3SoB: What do you do now that you aren't dancing?
TC: I work at FOX 13 as a Media Rep selling advertising. I love my job because I help other people’s businesses by increasing their revenue through effective marketing. Everyone likes you when you can help them make more money!

3SoB: So what is else is happening in your life? I mean it can't be all work and no play.
TC: I’m also getting married in Cancun in a few weeks. I met my future husband at a mutual friend’s wedding and as cliche as it sounds, it was love at first sight. He is the love of my life and my best friend. I can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together.

3SoB: If you were talking to someone interested in becoming a dance team member what advice would you give and why?
TC: Just be yourself and show a lot of self confidence at tryouts.

3SoB: What was your favorite Grizzlies game? Does one game stand out among the rest for sheer excitement?
TC: The first season, first round of playoffs. The energy in the Pyramid was incredible! I have never seen or felt anything like it in the world.

3SoB: What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
TC: Taxiing my kids around to all of their practices. I can’t wait to raise little athletes!

3SoB: What experience are you most grateful for from your time as a dancer.
TC: Meeting one of my best friends in the entire world. She is like the sister I never had. I’m really blessed to have such great people in my life!

3SoB: Thanks for taking the time to do this. I know people are going to be interested in knowing what you are up to these days.

I wonder how many more people would attend games if they knew Terah was going to be there most nights!

Post Game Thoughts

The Grizzlies looked terrible last night. Their shots were off, the passing was suspect and the big plays absent. Completely different than the confident team making the extra pass and hitting the open shots on Monday night.

It seemed from TV (I was not at the game due to a prior commitment) that the Grizzlies expected the Raptors to roll over and give them the game. The Raptors however wanted to atone for the loss in Dallas and refused to quit. That effort won out in the end.

This is a young team and hopefully they learned a lesson tonight. Even when things aren't going right you can't expect the opponents to lay down and quick. For every game like Seattle on Monday night there are three more like the Raptors game last night. Memphis has to fight through these off-shooting nights and continue to work hard.

I don't believe there will be many more nights when the Grizzlies below 40% from the field or miss their first 10 3 pt shots. However there will be plenty of nights when things don't work out as planned and the ability to overcome those off nights is what separates the winners from the losers.

For now I hope the team enjoys the Thanksgiving holiday, comes ready to attone for this game in San Antonio and ends the week on a high note.

I am now going to go eat myself silly and pretend last night never occured.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Links: The Sports Guy, Navarro speaks, Rookies

Bill Simmons (ESPN) finally got around to his full-fledged Western Conference Preview and has wisely downgraded the Grizzlies from a prediction of 42 wins and a #7 seed to 35 wins and a #10 seed....both numbers that sound strangely familiar to this blogger. He's a big fan of Kyle Lowry -- what's not to love? -- but doesn't seem to understand that Hakim Warrick doesn't fit that well with this Grizzlies team going forward. I guess you cannot expect a guy to be familiar with all 30 teams in the NBA and their bench players, though.

Over on the Grizzlies Official Message Board, poster "frangs" provided a link to a recent interview that Juan Carlos Navarro gave in which he talks about opponents attempting to trash-talk with him and the language barrier that he must cope with. Of course, it is all in Spanish, but I treated it just like the soap operas on Telemundo and make up things when I don't understand what he's saying. It's a two-parter totaling 18 minutes.

Part One
Part Two

David Thorpe has an updated Rookie Watch up on ESPN Insider (free preview) with some good thoughts on Juan Carlos Navarro.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pregame: Memphis vs Toronto - 11.21.07


Actually the real Spanish Night is March 22nd against Sacramento but this game makes more sense. With Garbajosa, Calderon, Navarro and Gasol you won't find a more Spanish flavor at any NBA game this season.

Just like for every game, ChipC3 and Zack bring you pregame commentary for the 11.21.07 Memphis vs Toronto game. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments.

Memphis has finally come home for a few games around Thanksgiving with only San Antonio on Friday night being the only road game this week. Injuries forced the first change in the starting lineup for the Grizzlies in Dallas as Juan Carlos Navarro entered the lineup for Darko Milicic (sprained thumb). Michael Conley hurt his shoulder in the Dallas game and is out after having surgery to repair a posterior labral tear. For those history buffs, Toronto was the first team Memphis played under the Tony Barone experiment.

Toronto is 5-3 to start the season heading into Dallas but this road trip is not the type you want to have heading into the holiday. Combine that with the meltdown against Golden St on Sunday when the Raptors went ice cold in the 4th quarter (4-22 from the field) to blow a big lead and lose at home. Back to back road games against two more high scoring teams can't make the Raptors feel thankful to the NBA. Toronto has been experimenting with lineups as only three players have started all nine games (Ford, Parker and Bosh) with no other player starting more than 6 games.

Memphis Trends
--Won 1 in a row (looking for first winning streak of the season)
--2nd game of 2 game home stand
--0-2 vs Eastern Conference

Toronto Trends
--Lost 2 in a row
--2nd game of 3 game road trip
--0-2 vs Western Conference

Noteworthy Statistic: 3-Point Percentage
Memphis....41% (3rd in NBA)
Toronto.......43% (2nd in NBA)


-- Ole! Garbajosa, Calderon, Navarro and Gasol reunite for what might be the most watched internet broadband stream in Spanish history.
-- Point Guard curse strikes again. Conley will be out at least 2 to 3 weeks with a torn posterior labral in his right shoulder. This is the third year in a row the Grizzlies newest PG acquisition has gotten hurt. (Bonus storyline...will Darko play? As of right now I don't know)
-- Attendance, the story that won't go away. With a dismal crowd for the Sonics game, attendance problem is once again a topic of discussion. Will the Forum be fuller for the Raptors game? I doubt it.


-- Effective interior passing. Against the hapless Sonics, the Griz (particularly Pau) showed great interior passing, which resulted in a huge night for Stro and fewer turnovers than normal. This offense seems as if it will be it's most effective, when the interior passing is more effective.
-- Rudy and Kyle staying on the court. The Grizzlies can't afford either of Rudy or Kyle to get stuck on the bench for long stretches of this game. Foul trouble will be the primary reason why either won't play their normal minutes, but Kyle particularly needs to stay in control and limit the turnovers in the 1st half to gain Iavaroni's confidence to play him more than Damon.
-- No more injuries. Until we get Darko back, the Griz can't afford any more injuries.


Point Guard: Damon Stoudamire vs T J Ford
T J Ford has been a consistent player for the Raptors this season hitting 48.8% of his FG attempts and dishing out 8.1 assists as well in only 28 mpg. 28.8 mpg is a dream for Damon right now even with Conley's injury. Damon is under the gun right now as Iavaroni said he is tired of having to come from behind every night. That is a slap at Damon who basically only plays at the opening of the halves anyway. With Kyle Lowry's development it looks like Damon won't be starting for long.
Advantage: Toronto

Shooting Guard: Mike Miller vs Anthony Parker

Mike Miller is starting to get back into his aggressive role with the Grizzlies and out of the passive role that we saw emerge on the USA team. It's about time to say the least. Mike's aggressive play is needed for the Grizzlies as is his long range shooting. Anthony Parker isn't Spanish but he did play at Macabib Tel Aviv for two years and Virtus Roma for one so he was in the neighborhood so to speak. Parker is a solid player who has deadly range (56.7% from the arc) and is not going to be over run by any SG in the league. After a quiet start to the season Parker too is starting to warm up as well.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Jamario Moon

Who is Jamario Moon? The Mississippi Community College player has come out of nowhere to earn a starting role over high priced free agent signee Jason Kapono and Jorge Carbajosa, who is not playing due to the injury risk with his ankle despite his insisting that he is healthy. Either way, Moon is starting and playing major minutes. Rudy Gay would be playing major minutes if he could stay out of foul trouble. The team leader in training still seems a bit immature to take the reigns but the talent is unquestionable. Rudy has shown consistent NBA 3 pt range, power inside and improving defense but he has to avoid the silly early fouls to really make a statement. Being matched up against a less respected player should aid in that process.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Chris Bosh

The battle of two team leaders who have struggled to start the season. Gasol has struggled to overcome injuries to his ankle, back and finger while Bosh has struggled being the focus without any interior support. That only got worse this week with the news that Rasho Nesterovich is injured and out for a while. Gasol seems to be out of shape but the combination of injuries has that effect. He seemed to be getting back into shape despite a poor shooting night in Dallas. Bosh has to raise his shooting from 40% to start being the superstar expected of him.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Maceo Baston

Call me crazy but I expect Darko back for this game to give him some court time before the Spurs game Friday. Not a lot of minutes but some just to get his juices flowing. Memphis with Darko and Gasol would really pressure the small Raptors lineup as well. Former Wolverine Maceo Baston is playing out of position at Center as well as in the starting lineup. The problem is for Toronto is that they really don't have an alternative with the bench having Andrea Bargnani as the only other big man available. Of course that brings back up Garbajosa who is such a tough player that he could play some center if Toronto would let him play.
Advantage: Memphis

: Former #1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani leads a bench that is strong and capable. Jose Calderon, another Spaniard, has earned minutes despite T J Ford's strong play. The problem for Toronto right now is the lack of quality power players off the bench. Bargnani prefers the three point line to the paint. Carlos Delfino is more comfortable on the wing as well. Jason Kapono is paid to hit three pt shots and not much else. About the only player willing to mix it up underneath is Kris Humphries who is an undersized PF. Memphis' bench has come to life in the last few games with Kyle Lowry getting plenty of support from Juan Carlos Navarro, Stromile Swift and Hakim Warrick. Tarence Kinsey is also taking minutes in the rotation. Iavaroni keeps insisting he only wants an 8 man rotation but the way these players are performing that is hard to believe without a trade. That doesn't mean the Grizzlies will make any moves right away but the future has to include a deal involving Damon Stoudamire and someone else for future picks or a lock down wing defender. That is the only weakness the Grizz seem to have right now.
Advantage: Memphis

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni vs Sam Mitchell

Sam Mitchell was on the hot seat to begin last season but a shocking in season turnaround and an Atlantic Division title put those rumors to rest and earned Mitchell a brand new contract instead of a pink slip. His team started the season strong but lately has been slipping and the lack of interior strength combined with Bosh's poor shooting puts more pressure on Mitchell. Iavaroni is still in the honeymoon phase of his coaching career and people are starting to see that he is providing great entertainment at the Grizzlies games. What he hasn't done is find an answer for the end of game troubles that have plagued past teams. Hopefully he will find out who is comfortable taking those important big shots at the end of games.
Advantage: Memphis

Other Game Previews

Raptors HQ
Beyond the Arc
USA Today

The Sports Network

Late News: Toronto could be without second-leading scorer T.J. Ford on Wednesday after sitting out the final quarter of Tuesday's game against Dallas. He was apparently injured after taking a knee to the chest while trying to draw a charge.

More Latest News: Garbajosa on inactive list according to ESPN after seeing something on an MRI of the leg he injured last season. More in the continuing drama building in Toronto that has gotten so weird that Pau Gasol actually spoke out on behalf of his friend.

Should We Be Worried About Conley's Injury?

Spartacus mentioned in the Daily Links post that #4 overall pick, Micheal Conley has a posterior labral tear in his right shoulder. He is expected to miss at least 2-3 weeks of action. Conley injured the shoulder in the third quarter of the 11.17.07 game versus the Dallas Mavericks.

I want to take this opportunity to delve a little deeper into this unfortunate situation.

Are the Memphis Grizzlies Cursed?

Yes, particularly at the PG position. What else would someone living in Memphis say? The negative, woe-is-me attitude isn't totally unjustified. First, the franchise lost out on being able to draft potential superstars LeBron, Melo, or D-wade in 2003, then again with Oden or Durant in 2007. Memphis fans have yet to see a playoff victory. And now it seems that new Grizzly PG acquisitions are destined to get hurt in their first year on the job.

Damon was signed in the summer of 2005, then blew out his knee in December of that year and is just now fully recovering. Kyle Lowry was drafted in 2006, then severely damaged his wrist in the 10th game of the year and missed the rest of the year. Now the 2007 #4 overall selection has a posterior labral tear in his right shoulder within the first month of the season, despite having a hard time finding playing time this season. With a fan base ready to see Conley play sooner rather than later, this injury is hard to stomach. So it seems that anything less than 3 quality point guards is a recipe for disaster for the Grizzlies.

Should we be worried about this injury?

I don't yet know if we should be worried, but I'll admit that, yes, my gut feeling is that I am worried about this injury. I'm worried that Conley will miss significantly more time than suggested right now. And I'm worried that this could be the start of long term problems to that shoulder.

First, the good news. The injury is in the right shoulder and Conley is left-handed. Tillery also says that

this injury isn’t too serious. Posterior labral reattachment provides consistently good results, allowing the athlete to return to competition without worry of complications. It’s mostly a football injury.

Being someone that sustained a major shoulder injury playing high school football, I admit that I'm a little more ignorant on shoulder injuries than I should be. I don't think my injury was the same as Conley's. In fact, my injury was initially misdiagnosed and then required surgery a year later. It was a nightmare and I have tried hard to forget as much as possible about the injury and grueling rehab process, though I am reminded everyday by the throbbing that still exists.

Originally, Conley's injury was said to be a "sprained shoulder", and I was under the impression the implication was that the injury was minor. I am always skeptical of injuries when the initial diagnoses is not correct and proves too optimistic.

Anyway, I found this page helpful in re-educating me about shoulder injuries. The link lists 3 types of labral tears.
--SLAP Tears
--Bankart Lesions
--Posterior Labral Tears

Posterior Labral Tears are also called internal impinchment and is said to be caused from pinching of the tuberosity (top of the humerus) against the labrum. The link says that Labral tears do not typically require surgery, although they can. And the posterior labral tear is seen mostly in athletics, particularly football and baseball.

I also want to mention Lamar Odom. I am not entirely up to speed on Odom's injury history, though I do know he has suffered from shoulder problems in the past. At the end of last season, Odom was sidelined for the rest of the year because of a labrum tear in his left shoulder. The injury required surgery. It was the same shoulder he had surgery on 2 seasons prior. Most likely, Conley's injury is much less severe than Odom's. I hope. I also don't think Conley has a history of shoulder problems, like Odom had.

How will this affect Damon?

I would think the possibility of trading Damon in the short-term is nearly ruled out, although I doubt that was much of an option yet anyway. The injury is sure to stunt Conley's development this year and thus could make it less likely that Conley is ready to be handed the keys by the time the trade deadline comes in February. Right now, I would still say trading Damon by the trade deadline is more likely than not, but this injury certainly provides a solid reason for keeping Damon around all season. One future scenario that I think is now a possibility is that Damon will stay all season and just be bought out after the season is over.

Can we trust the 2-3 week timeline?

It is reported that Conley will miss at minimum 2 to 3 weeks. Tillery also says Conley is out 'indefinitely. I am making a guess that this injury will keep Conley out at least 6 weeks, if not 2 to 3 months, although I have no real basis for my opinion, other than a gut feeling that the 2-3 weeks is much too optimistic. Plus there is no real reason to rush this rehab process. Conley wasn't playing much, Damon and Kyle are playing fine and the kid is still only 19 or 20 years old. Last year, it seemed that Lowry's injury was under-reported, then eventually ballooned into needing 3 different surgeries and keeping the wrist inactive for longer than expected. Something tells me this injury to Conley might play out in a similar manner.

I suggest you forget about the 2-3 week timeline and just be ecstatic if Conley returns before the calendar says 2008. The Grizzlies can't afford to rush Conley back. 5 days ago it seemed that the future was ready to be the present, but now it seems the future is back to being the future.

Addendum: Posterior Labral Tear is fully explained on this web page for those interested in the science aspect.

Power Rankings - 11.20.07

From November 19th, 2007
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