Saturday, December 8, 2007

Postgame Thoughts: Memphis at Atlanta 12.08.07

No in-depth analysis is really needed for this game. It was ugly.

No -- uglier than that.

Nope -- uglier still.

Now you're getting the hang of it.

Chip's Viewpoint:
Maybe Stro's illness is spreading to the rest of the team like it did to Damon. That and the fact that this was the 3rd game in four days somewhat justifies the shooting touch. I disagree with the attitude some have that the team didn't have effort. They played hard for most of the game but they couldn't hit the broadside of a barn tonight.

I can't imagine a worse time to go 0-4 in a week. Home against Portland, two division games and then a road trip to Atlanta to end the week. 2-2 would have been good. 1-3 would have been acceptable. This was embarrassing. Not only tonight but only one decent effort the entire week. Hopefully with the team regaining full strength with the return of Darko something will change around here and the team will start getting some better results. With Detroit coming up on Tuesday and the Clippers after that now would be a good time to turn things around.

For the first time this season the team is behind where I expected them to be and I only predicted 33 wins.

Links: Recognition for Rudy, Toy Drive

Short on news today, but I'll give you what I've got.

You can add Sports Illustrated to the list of those who have recognized the improvement and progression Rudy Gay has made in his 2nd year. Ian Thomsen ranked Rudy as the 4th Most Improved Player for this year. It is a good article with this great quote:

"He's picking up the whole idea of seeing what are they giving me," coach Marc Iavaroni said. "If the defense says you should be going to the basket, then you should be going to the basket. If they give you a shot, then it's your duty to take that shot."

The Memphis Grizzlies are holding their annual Toy Drive on Monday, December 10 from 6-8 PM at the Hilton. You can find out more details at

Website/Blog of the Day: The Painted Area

Memphis at Atlanta - Dec 8, 2007

Memphis is playing their 3rd road game in 4 days after scrapping with division foes while shorthanded. That is the bad news. The good news is that they are playing a team that is younger, more volatile and definitely more unpredictable than the Grizzlies. Memphis has been needing more interior players with Stro sick and Darko injured. That will be the case again as Atlanta throws Al Horford against the Grizzlies but Marvin Williams isn't any bigger than Rudy Gay so Rudy won't be physically out-matched at the four. The problem in this match up for the Grizzlies are Atlanta's perimeter players. How will Navarro and Miller contain Joe Johnson and Josh Smith?

Atlanta is young and inconsistent. Some nights the combination of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Al Horford and Acie Law look incredible. Other nights they look horrible. The Hawks have more athletic talent than almost any other team in the league but the talent hasn't resulted in wins. The reason is that the team is so young that they don't know how to win in the league. And there isn't anyone on the roster that seems able to teach them either. Joe Johnson, the player Chris Wallace traded away from Boston not so many years ago, is the closest thing to a leader on the team and this man left Phoenix for Atlanta because he wanted to be a star more than be a piece of a possible championship team.

Crunch Time Woes

The Griz have yet to win a game this year decided by 3 points or less (0 for 6). That hurts. And by my count, 11 of the 19 games this year were essentially anyone's game with ~2 minutes to play in the 4th. The Griz are 4-7 in those games. With the key being not to need a last second shot to win or leave time for the other team to have a last second shot to win. This week alone the Griz have lost two games on last second shots. What surely can't be a good sign, Joe Johnson beat the Twolves this week on a last second shot. I don't know about you, but I have very little confidence in the Griz successfully executing in crunch time. And I don't think the responsibility falls all on the players. If you go back and look at the play-by-play in most of those close games, we routinely have a bad offensive possession coming out of a timeout. That is likely in part due to our rookie head coach (who surprisingly has never, to my knowledge, been a head coach at any level before this season....he is the ultimate rookie head may take him more time than I expect to have successful crunch time game planning).

Zack's Blatantly Obvious Keys to Victory
1.) Better perimeter defense.
2.) Better, crisper passes on offense.
3.) Do a better job of preventing second chance points for the Hawks.


Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Anthony Johnson
Anthony Johnson wasn't supposed to be starting for Atlanta. Damon Stoudamire wasn't supposed to be starting for the Grizzlies this late in the season. Well maybe Damon starting but definitely not increasing his minutes every night. Johnson has performed well in his role of distributor but he isn't going to hurt you most nights on offense. His job is to get the offense started and get out of the way. He understands this and does his job. Damon has been stepping up of late and becoming another long range threat for the Grizzlies. They need that threat now with the interior so thin because of injuries.
Advantage: Memphis

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson is shooting terrible right now. He's made 65 of his last 171 shots. One has to wonder if winning is something that remotely concerns JJ. He obviously believes he can shoot himself out of this slump that has him hitting only 40% of his FG Attempts and below 30% of his 3pt attempts. Navarro isn't known as a great defender and if JJ posts him he will need some help. Navarro is sneaky good as a shooter but JJ can play some defense when he wants to. If JJ is hot then this is a serious mismatch. I don't know why but doesn't it seem Memphis is the cure for most teams shooting problems this year?
Advantage: Atlanta

Small Forwards: Mike Miller vs Josh Smith

This is when Grizzlies fans really start hoping Darko is capable of playing. Or at least Stro because this match up is really frightening athletically. Josh Smith is capable of making great athletes look silly. He's also capable of making a lot of silly plays. Josh can do almost anything with a ball on a court. The problem is that he believes he can do everything and he can't. Once he learns that his athletic ability does have limitations and he doesn't have to try to do everything he could become one of the best players in the league. Until then he is just a talented player who doesn't seem to know how to play the team game. Miller is all about team often to the chagrin of Grizz fans who wish he would try and be more selfish. He has one of the sweetest shots in the game, can get past defenders who only guard against the long ball and rebounds as well as any one his size in the league. Miller is slow of foot however and can't jump half as high as Smith. The key here is for Mike to play off Smith and not let him drive since Smith's outside game is suspect.
Advantage: Atlanta

Power Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Marvin Williams

Rudy Gay vs Marvin Williams is a match up of two of the most talented players from the class of 2008. Marvin spent one season in UNC before turning pro while Rudy spent two at UConn. The both are having breakout seasons this year with Marvin Williams averaging 15.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.8 apg and shooting 48.7% from the floor. Rudy is averaging 18.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.4 apg and shooting 47.1% from the floor. If anything differentiates these players it is that Rudy is a better perimeter scorer. This is a battle of future stars in the league and should be exciting to watch. Too bad that Rudy will be playing his 3rd game in 4 days while Atlanta has been at home this week waiting on the Grizzlies.
Advantage: Atlanta

Centers: Pau Gasol vs Al Horford

Al Horford was the player most Grizzlies fans were willing to settle for in the last draft. The 6-10, 245 pound bruiser was the perfect compliment to svelte Pau Gasol and would legitimize the Grizzlies front line. Unfortunately the Grizz didn't get a shot at Horford, Durant or Oden and instead took Michael Conley. that pick could still turn out well for the Grizzlies but watching Al Horford will still hurt somewhat. Horford has been everything expected averaging 10.6 rpg and 8.8 ppg in his rookie year. Gasol has been less than what you expect but his game has been improving of late. Gasol will be a tough stop for Horford but expect Williams and Smith to be helping out down low a lot and daring our perimeter scorers to beat them. The thing is that Gasol is excellent at passing out of trouble.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs Atlanta

Atlanta's bench is being run thin just like the Grizzlies due to injury. Josh Childress has joined ZaZa Pachulia and Tyrone Lue on the list while Memphis has darko Milicic, Stromile Swift and Michael Conley all down at the moment. This game won't likely be determined by either team's bench unless one of those six names returns to action. Memphis still has Kyle Lowry but his star has begun to fade of late, Casey Jacobsen can fill in but hasn't shown anyone why he was signed this summer and Andre Brown gives a ton of effort even if he is short on results. Atlanta has Salim Stoudamire, former #5 draft pick Sheldon Williams and Acie Law but their production has been sporadic at best.
Advantage: Memphis

Update I (12:30 am, 12.08.07 by Zack) - Health an Issue
All of a sudden, we have been struck by a string of health issues. Stro has missed 2 games with a stomach virus and now Damon missed the Friday night Hornets game with the same flu bug. I hope more players don't come down with it too. That left Lowry as the only healthy PG, which isn't a preferable situation despite the fact it allowed Lowry to start his first game. Darko returned against Hornets and played major minutes. It is apparent that his ankle isn't 100%. Darko is proving to be a warrior to push through the pain. Even Miller left the Hornets game momentarily with an apparent injury issue, but returned shortly. The health of the Griz players will be key tonight. We will try to get a new post up before the game if there is again a surprising injury scratch like last night with Damon.

Other Pre-game Sites/Relevant Commentary:
Atlanta Hawks Preview
Hawks - Impending Firestorm
Hawks - Sekou Smith
The Fanhouse (Tom Ziller): Hawks broken, not broke

Got a Prediction? Leave it in the Comments.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Post Game Thoughts - New Orleans

Another opportunity and another disappointment.

Memphis fought hard, which this team has to do to stand a chance against the better teams in the league. It was a game they deserved to win. They had a chance to win. A game they turned the ball over twice in the last 1:04 seconds of overtime to lose by two points.

Rudy Gay is definately becoming the end of game player the Grizzlies have needed. That leaves the question why wasn't he getting the ball on the last possession? I am sure Iavaroni will answer that question (he is great at being honest after games) but a play designed for Pau to touch pass to Kyle Lowry for the last shot seems peculiar play calling.

Great games by Rudy, Pau and Mike. Respectively they had 31, 26 and 26 points. Gasol chipped in with 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

Kyle Lowry replaced Damon Stoudamire who was sick in the starting lineup and started slow but played hard and seemed to find the shooting touch in the 2nd half. His 14 pts, 9 boards and 9 assists. I don't know if he read my blog about him playing himself into a possible trade but he sure looked good in his first start of the season.

Juan Carlos Navarro had an off-night but having to play the back up Point Guard role made it difficult for Navarro to get comfortable. The good news was that he didn't force anything in frustration.

Memphis' downfall was in the last minutes of every quarter and the OT. The Grizzlies outplayed the Hornets except at the end of periods where they were completely outplayed.

Warrick and Jacobsen were the only players to see court time off the bench. Stromile was sick again and apparently gave the flu to Damon as well. Scary to think the team has to fly with them to Atlanta tonight.

The team played like a team tonight. No one was showing poor body language as far as I could tell. Great to see that.

Spartacus Pictorial Postgame Comments:

Darko Milicic

Kyle Lowry

Rudy Gay

David West

Tyson Chandler

Chris Paul

More recaps:
Big Easy Buzz

Links: Leadership, Pranica in the Big Easy, Dance Team

Former NBA player Eddie Johnson (Kings, Suns, SuperSonics, Hornets, Pacers, Nuggets and Rockets -- he's been around) is currently blogging for Hoopshype. His post today is titled "Leaders among players are hard to find." In it, he mentions the Memphis Grizzlies as one of the teams that is foundering due to a lack of leadership among those actually lacing up their sneakers. Here's what he had to say:

Memphis Grizzlies
Pau Gasol needs to play up to his potential and stop trying to jump ship. That attitude will not allow him to lead the team, where he is presumably the best player. The Grizzlies have very good young talent, but like the Bulls will need to find a leader that can allow Marc Iavaroni to have a solid year evaluating his team and at least get them close to the potential he expects.
I'm not in disagreement with his assessment of Memphis being a team in need of on-court leadership -- I just don't think that Pau Gasol will ever be that guy. It's not really what I consider a fault -- it just isn't part of Pau's personality to be that guy and likely never will be. If he were part of the future of the team, I believe that Damon Stoudamire would embrace that role. But he isn't, so he is unlikely to contribute in that way this season unfortunately. In all likelihood, this team won't get its "leader" until Michael Conley is the unquestioned starter. He was the floor general for Ohio State as a freshman in leading them to the NCAA title game and I fully expect him to do the same thing here in Memphis. So get well soon Michael -- we need you out on the floor!

Pete Pranica has a new blog post up today titled "New Orleans in the Morning". It is a heartfelt look at the citizens of N'awlins and the dwindling fanbase capable of supporting the Hornets. As always, it is a fantastic read that I highly recommend.

The big news of the day is that the Grizzlies Dance Team section is finally up and running on with new photos and dancer bios. As you may remember, we were fortunate enough to interview two former dance team members and truly appreciate the hard work that these young women do to provide entertainment at the games. You can view those interviews and pictures by following these links: Ashley Nations and Terah Chin.

Website/Blog of the Day: PhDribble

Can We Talk?

From time to time I am going to bring up a topic that doesn't have an answer but is worthy of discussion. I am not trying to give an answer here but just get people to think. Last week I did it with the question about whether there is something going on emotionally with the team (Is Trouble Brewing Behind the Scenes?). This week I want to address the idea of a trade for one of the Grizzlies point guards and a not so obvious choice for who should be gone.

Three months ago nearly everyone who thought about the Memphis Grizzlies assumed Damon Stoudamire would not be playing at all this season. People told me I was insane for suggesting Damon would not only play but start the season at the point. Even I assumed that either Michael Conley or Kyle Lowry would be unseating Damon by December or at least taking the majority of his minutes and by January he would be ready for the trading block with either Hakim or Stro (I still look good on that at least).

No one, and that includes Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni, expected Damon to be increasing his minutes played in December. But that is what appears to be happening. Sure part of the reason is that Micheal Conley is hurt but for the first time this season Damon played more minutes than Kyle Lowry in three successive games. Against Houston Damon played 29 minutes compared to Kyle's 18.

Apparently Damon is recovered from his knee injury. That injury occurred nearly two years ago. A lot of smart people told me that if Damon could return it would be a two year rehabilitation. Well two years later we are seeing a slightly slower but still capable Damon Stoudamire leading the team. The limp is gone and the big shot capability is back. Next season Michael Conley should be ready to assume the point but won't the Grizzlies need need an experienced player backing him up. Is Kyle Lowry that man? Damon will be on the last year of his contract, 35 yrs old and capable of doing what Conley hasn't proven he can (hit the three on a consistent basis). Damon has experience and has expressed the desire to be a coach one day. Who better to work with a 2nd yr point guard?

So could Kyle Lowry be on the blocks instead of Damon? Kyle would attract a different sort of suitor than Damon. That is certain. A suitor for Damon would be a team with playoff hopes who need an experienced PG to help them get to the playoffs due to injury at the point. A team wanting Kyle would be looking for a young PG to grow into the leadership role and not necessarily looking to win this season. The Grizzlies would probably need to add someone to a deal to make it cost effective since Lowry doesn't make a large salary also.

Common sense says trade Damon and keep both young PG's but is common sense right? I don't know the answer but it might be time to start the conversation.

UPDATE: With Kyle Lowry winning the Fan's Choice Figurine Award I hope this subject is moot. I would hate to see the Grizzlies run a give away promotion with a player no longer on the team again.

Memphis at New Orleans - 12.7.07

Special thanks to Ryan Schwan over at THE New Orleans Hornets Fan blog for his assistance in this pre-game.

Memphis fought hard against Houston but simply didn't have enough size to stop the Rockets. With Darko and Stromile both out for the game the only size off the bench was Andre Brown. Navarro was punished by former Grizz Bonzi Wells as well. Simply put the team was out manned by the deep and vetarn Houston team that needed to win the game. On the positive side Pau Gasol played his best game of the season with his 23 pt, 12 board game. The numbers aren't earth shattering but when you consider that he was the only big threat on the team against a powerful Rocket front line it was impressive.

New Orleans New Orleans is coming off an ugly loss to the Detroit Pistons where they showed all of their weaknesses over the last 3 quarters of the game. While Tyson Chandler was a monster and has clearly recovered from his knee injury earlier in the season,(17 points, 19 rebounds) he was the only one playing with fire after the 1st quarter. Chris Paul re-tweaked his previously injured ankle early in the second quarter and the offense stagnated as he struggled to push the ball and get to the hoop. David West shot poorly to produce his second poor game in a row, and Peterson pulled a muscle in his back and is now listed day to day. Bobby Jackson is playing with a strained groin, Pargo is getting 20 minutes a game - about 12 more than he should be - and the rest of the bench has played very, very poorly the last few weeks. Last night, rookie Julian Wright played 9 minutes - 5 more minutes than his season high - as Byron Scott desperately tries to find a contributer off the bench. If Memphis comes out, plays physical, and smacks them in the mouth, the Hornet's wavering confidence could break again. If Memphis lets the Hornets get into rhythm, they're finished.

Zack's Corner: Focusing on the Hustle Stats

Steals. Memphis averages an NBA worst 5.6 steals per game. And here I thought deflections was something the coaching staff was stressing. In addition, New Orleans is the best in the NBA at preventing opponents from stealing ball, only allowing 5.9 per game. Not an encouraging stat for tonight. To top it off Chris Paul leads the NBA in steals per game (2.88 spg).

Blocks. Memphis averages 5.2 blocks per game. However, Darko and Stro combine for more than half of those blocks (3.3 bpg) and both will likely not play against the Hornets.

Rebounds. Mike Miller, the Grizzlies leading rebounder, is currently 30th in the NBA in rebounds per game. Miller, along with Kobe Bryant, are the only two players in the top 50 in the NBA in rebounding that average less than 1 offensive rebound per game. We are playing the Hornets, so of course I should mention that in the last meeting the Griz were out rebounded on the offensive end 15-7, with Chandler recording 6 offensive rebounds himself.

Assists. Chris Paul is 3rd in the NBA in assists per game (9.9 apg). However, the Hornets as a team are 23rd in assists per game (20 apg). Compare that to the Grizzlies, who are 13th in the NBA with 21.5 assists per game, yet do not have a single player averaging more than 5 assists per game.

Turnovers. The Hornets are 5th in the NBA in fewest turnovers committed per game (12.8 tpg) and the Grizzlies are last in the NBA in forcing turnovers (12.7). That doesn't sound promising. However, in the last meeting, Chris Paul turned the ball over 7 times by himself (and the Hornets 16 as a team). Interestingly, the Grizzlies commit on average the same amount of turnovers in wins and losses.


Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Chris Paul
Damon Stoudamire has been playing better and better every day. No longer is he the tired looking old man limping up and down the court. His shot is finding it's range and he is definitely the number one point guard on the team. Chris Paul however is dominating the league and his main strength overlaps Damon's weakness, speed. Chris Paul right now is possibly the MVP of the Western Conference.
Advantage: New Orleans

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Morris Peterson

Size is going to be the determining factor in this match up. Navarro is sneaky quick, has excellent range and a subtle defensive style that produces steals but MoPete is a lot bigger than Navarro. His 6-7 frame is going to make it difficult for Navarro to stop his silky smooth outside shot while MoPete, who is a surprisingly good defensive player, should be able to affect Navarro's shot. Statistically the players are very similar however and it was against New Orleans that Navarro really announced his presence to the league. However MoPete may want his revenge.
Advantage: New Orleans

Small Forwards: Mike Miller vs Peja Stojakovic

Miller is back in his more comfortable SF position. Mike's new found ability to drive the ball and rebound makes him even more valuable than last season. Apparently playing for the national team did teach Mike something besides how to be a secondary option to other players. Peja Stojakovic is one of the most hated players to old time Grizzlies fans in the league. There aren't many players who consistently get booed in Memphis but this game isn't in Memphis. Peja is actually as good if not a better outside shooter than Miller but he's a step slower these days and Mike should be able to exploit that.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Rudy Gay vs David West

David West destroyed the Grizzlies the last time they played. Controlling his ability to score in the paint and on the wing is going to be the primary responsibility of Rudy Gay is Darko can't go. Rudy has struggled to stay out of foul trouble in games where he has to defend a primary scoring threat but usually that happens on drives to the hoop which isn't West's primary weapon. West's primary weapon is using his bulk to force his way inside or to fake inside and hit the open J. It's a tough match up for anyone in the league and Rudy's habit of getting into foul trouble is worrisome with the depleted big man corp. If Rudy can hit the outside shot however that exposes West's lack of mobility on the perimeter.
Advantage: New Orleans

Centers: Pau Gasol vs Tyson Chandler

Pau played 7-5 Yao Ming on Wednesday and now gets to match up with someone who can really rebound. Sometimes life isn't fair. Ideally Darko would make his return against the team that injured his thumb but I believe the Darko will play rhetoric is just an attempt to throw teams off their preparations. Tyson Chandler has recovered from his knee contusion and is again among the best rebounders in the league. That's a good thing too because New Orleans is among the worst shooting teams in the league. Chandler favorite offensive move is the put back dunk. That is also about the depth of his range shooting the ball. Gasol had his best overall game of the season against Houston despite getting three shots blocked for the 2nd straight game. Gasol's logging heavy minutes and will need to continue to do so in this game.
Advantage: New Orleans

Benches: Memphis vs New Orleans

Memphis' bench continues to shrink. Not just in numbers but in minutes as well. Kyle Lowry, who started the season competing for the starting PG job played fewer than 20 minutes for the first time this season against Houston. Andre Brown replaced the injured Darko and sick Stro. He was active but ineffective. Hakim has played very little lately (36 minutes in the last 4 games) despite Darko's injury and Stro's illness. Casey Jacobsen made it into the game against Houston but didn't contribute. New Orleans also is struggling to find any production from it's bench. Former Grizzly Bobby Jackson is battling another injury. Janero Pargo is hit or miss in how he plays. Melvin Ely and Hilton Armstrong don't appear to be the answers off the bench as bigs for the Hornets. Rookie Julian Wright barely makes it off the bench. Tough call but with Darko and Stro possibly playing I will go out on a limb.
Advantage: Memphis

Other previews/blogs:
THE New Orleans Hornet Fan
Hornets 24-7
Hornets Beat Courtside Live
Swarming the Ball (Times-Picayune)
The Spread

Got a Prediction? Leave it in the Comments.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Links: Damon's Charitable Efforts, Rudy's Improvement, Kelly Dwyer, Blues Music, Hollinger, Tight Pants

Fresh off of the Grizzlies feed in the sidebar comes the news that Damon Stoudamire will take 100 children on a Christmas shopping trip to Sam's Club next week. According to, photos of the trip will be available on December 14th. As always, it is great to see members of the Grizzlies organization doing their part to help out the community.

The Bleacher Report lists Rudy Gay amongst its "Polished Gems", players they feel have improved their games the most.

Kelly Dwyer (formerly of, now with Yahoo! Sports) listed last night's contest with Houston as his "Game to pay attention to". KD seems to have a good grasp of what the team is trying to do right now. I wish I was able to look past the disappointing losses and do the same.

The Blues Foundation reports that the Grizzlies are looking for help in finding blues music to use on Blues Night on January 30th. Send your ideas to The Blues Foundation.

John Hollinger has a new toy. Don't know how accurate it is but it should put the 'playoffs now' people in a tizzy. Hollinger's PER Ratings are up as well and you will never guess who the two Grizzlies are rated in the top 50 of the league.

This is about a week old, but it is still good stuff. FreeDarko is calling for a return of the tight pants that dominated the NBA landscape until Air Jordan appeared.

Website/Blog of the day: Hardwood Paroxysm

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Power Rankings 12.05.07

Power Rankings from 3 & 4 December, 2007

Yahoo has no update yet for this week. They are inconsistent when they update, so
I would like suggestions for a ranking to replace Yahoo. Tell me with a comment.

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