Saturday, January 5, 2008

Memphis vs Miami - 1.6.08

Memphis is playing some of their best basketball to start the new year after playing some of their worst to end 2007. The only significant change has been the demotion of Damon Stoudamire and the promotion of Mike Conley. Suddenly Memphis' interior defense is improved, the offense is more effective and the results are far more encouraging. Conley has learned how to swim apparently to use Iavaroni's reference from the beginning of the season. Rudy Gay had a tooth knocked out against Boston but came back to lead the team in scoring against Boston and showed the type of fortitude that the Grizzlies have lacked in previous seasons taking big shot after big shot in the game. Juan Carlos Navarro came back to life to score 20 points after being shut out in the win at Indiana. Mike Miller started hot but faded late to finish with 16 points after scoring 11 after 14 minutes of the game.

Miami has been one of the biggest disappointments in the league this season. With Dwayne Wade, Shaquille O'Neal and Jason Williams it seemed inconceivable that the Heat wouldn't be competitive for the playoffs in the East but Miami is not only not competing, they have the worst record in their conference. Injuries have played a major role as all three of their big name vets plus Alonzo Mourning have suffered through injuries which has torn team chemistry apart. Don't be surprised if health issues sideline Pat Riley pretty soon as his history is to lead championship teams but abandon bad teams. Miami is bad this season. The only bright spot has been the play of rookie Daequan Cook from Ohio St.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Chris Quinn
Miami has suffered at the point all season but seems to have found a keeper in the young Quinn. Quinn has started 8 games for the Heat and performed very well in that role. His 52% shooting has helped him average 7.4 points as well as dealing out 4.3 assists. Mike Conley has done even better starting. Conley is averaging 8.5 ppg, 6 assists and 2 steals while showing incredible poise running the team. With Conley finally in the regular rotation and starting no less it seems impossible that he won't make his home debut in this game.
Advantage: Memphis

Shooting Guards: vs Daequan Cook

Mike Miller has been most effective shooting the ball this season but struggles to get shots in the 2nd half and especially the 4th quarter of games. His rebounding (7.0 rpg) has been a needed aid to the Grizzlies offense but one has to wonder how long Miller can continue to be effective playing over 37 minutes a night. Cook, Conley's teammate at Ohio St, replaced Dwayne Wade in the starting lineup against Dallas as Wade sat out the game against Dallas. Cook is a mad bomber who can shoot his team to victory or defeat since he seems to have no concept of his shot being on or not. Cook will shoot either way.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Ricky Davis

Is there is any player who has broken the Grizzlies heart more than Ricky Davis? Davis could build an hour long highlight film simply on game winning shots against Memphis. Whether at Boston or Minnesota or Cleveland Davis has beaten the buzzer against the Grizzlies and now he gets another shot in a Miami uniform. Davis is struggling this season with Miami after being traded right before the start of the season but seems to be finding his game averaging nearly 20 ppg over the last 5 games. Rudy Gay has been the best player for the Grizzlies this year and has made people forget that he was traded for crowd favorite Shane Battier last year. Gay has shown the athletic ability to shoot over almost any player in the league yet still had the touch to be dangerous from 3 pt land. If Rudy has a weakness it is avoiding foul trouble against slashing players like Davis. Early foul trouble has given Rudy troubles in games this season.
Advantage: Miami

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Udonis Haslem

If there has been one player who consistently puts out the effort to win games for Miami this season it has been Udonis Haslem. The 5th yr pro out of Florida has averaged 12.9 ppg and 9.4 rpg and brought the interior power game that Miami needs with Shaq not playing. Gasol has been anything but consistent this season. He followed a 31 pt game against Philly with his first non-double figure scoring night the next game against New Orleans. He followed a 30 pt scoring night against Indiana with a 12 pt effort on 3-13 shooting from the field but did grab 8 rebounds, dish out 5 assists and block 3 shots but gave up a big offensive rebound and basket in the Boston loss. Gasol has never liked playing against physical players and Haslem is one of the more physical PF's in the league but Gasol has too much talent to not win this match up.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Mark Blount

Blount was the 2nd part of the pre-season trade with Minnesota but was not brought in to be the starter. In fact he really wasn't brought in to back Shaq. Blount made the salaries work and Minnesota wanted to be rid of him. Lucky for Miami that he was included as Shaq has looked terrible this season and Mourning's career is over after tearing his Patella Tendon. Blount has never been a hard working center and this season is no different but at least he is a big body for Miami to put on the court and when motivated can produce. He just isn't motivated very often. Milicic continues to improve with the support of Marc Iavaroni. Despite a painful thumb that makes rebounding and shooting difficult Darko's defense and physical presence allows Gasol to concentrate more on offense and that alone is a huge benefit. Darko may not be a great rebounder but he does a great job of keeping his man off the glass which enables Miller, Gay and Gasol to get to rebounds they didn't last year.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs Miami

With Jason Williams, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwayne Wade injured the Miami bench is decimated. Against Dallas Miami played Luke Jackson, former Grizzly Alexander Johnson and Former Tiger Earl Barron but no one else. That can't be good for any team over a long season. Jackson has been a nicer NBDL pickup for Miami than Jeremy Richardson has been for the Grizzlies but that isn't saying a lot. Memphis' bench has been struggling along with the play of Kyle Lowry. The former spark plug seems to have hit the rookie wall and his minutes and production are way down from earlier in the season. Navarro has been hot and cold as most rookies are even if they are 27. Stromile Swift has been playing a lot like Navarro but he isn't a rookie and Casey Jacobsen has worked hard on defense but struggled with his shot. Still Memphis has depth and talent off their bench and any of the player can perform on any night.
Advantage: Memphis

Relevant blogs/websites:
Crazy from the Heat
Ira Winderman (Sun Sentinel)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Damon Speaks

While Chris Wallace admitted before the game that he still hasn't spoken to agent Aaron Goodwin, it appears that Damon Stoudamire spoke to the fine folks at prior to the game.

"As a professional you have to always stay ready," Stoudamire told HOOPSWORLD. "You never know when your number's going to be called so therefore you have to always be ready. You want to keep yourself prepared mentally to play, stay and shape, and just be ready. That's what I try to do every day as I got out there and prepare for whatever might happen."

Stoudamire's "do whatever it takes" attitude doesn't seem to fit with Goodwin's claim to the Memphis Commercial Appeal that his client's demotion to the bench was "unacceptable." So what's the real story?

"I think that's why we hire those type of guys," Stoudamire said of his agent. "So they can be the bad guys, so to speak. So I just kind of let him do all the talking. For me, I'm just trying to go out there and, like I said, work hard, keep my condition, make sure everything is tight whether I'm playing here or somewhere else. I'm going to be ready to play. That's my whole mindset right now."

Stoudamire may pay Goodwin to speak for him, but he has plenty to say for himself. When asked if he wanted to play for the Grizzlies, Stoudamire said, "I want to play [with] whoever's going to let me play. I just want to play basketball."
If winning means going to the bench, the Grizzlies believe Stoudamire will take the move in stride. Head coach Marc Iavaroni is not concerned with Stoudamire's efforts in wake of a demotion -- "We've talked about it. I'm not worried about it at all," Iavaroni said -- and values Stoudamire's contributions to the team.

"Damon's been great from training camp on," he said. "He's helped the young kids by the way he's conducted himself, also by his talk on the court and in the locker room."

Conley is grateful for what he has learned from Stoudamire. He credits his "good buddy" for his progress during his rookie year and swears there is no tension between the two.

In other words, I can stand by my earlier stance that Aaron Goodwin is a typical agent and Damon isn't a troublemaker. I still hope that the Grizzlies can get something decent in return (expiring contract & 2nd round pick or a young player stuck on the bench) and agree with owner Michael Heisley's stance that a buyout is unacceptable....although I suspect we have different agendas when reaching that conclusion. I just hope that this doesn't drag out and become a distraction for a young team that seems to be finding itself finally.

Postgame Thoughts: Memphis at Boston 1.4.08

Well, it wasn't a win, but it was a lot more interesting than just about anyone could have predicted. Rather than the expected blowout, it was a closely contested game that captivated the attention of both fanbases, as well as some interested third-party observers, I'm sure.

Tonight I came away impressed with what Pau and Darko were able to do on defense in the low post. I know you're saying "WHAT?!?! We got creamed by Points in the Paint!" That is true, but I'm talking about the two of them being matched up on KG, Perkins and Big Baby within 10 feet of the basket. They held their position well and either blocked or altered quite a few shots, especially in the 1st half.

How about the toughness of Rudy Gay? He had his tooth chipped by James Posey in the 3rd quarter and managed to make it back into the game in the 4th quarter and hit a few big time shots along the way. For those of you who don't know how much a chipped tooth hurts, all I can say is that you're lucky. I cannot imagine trying to run and jump while enduring that. While it certainly sucks for him, it might actually help him relate to the Memphis locals a little bit better.

Michael Conley didn't lead us to a win, but for the 2nd straight game he created for his teammates and made the offense look better, even if the conversion rate wasn't what we wanted to see with a paltry .429 FG% and .333 3PT% on the night. He was also the only Grizzlies' starter with a positive +/- for the night and one of only 3 Grizzlies period to achieve that. He doesn't make flashy plays, but he always seems to make the right play -- the smart play.

Where are the body snatchers that took over Ray Allen tonight? He was 0-9 from the field and his only points came off 2 free throws in the last minute of the game. Very strange to witness after coming to expect great scoring nights from him his entire career. Everybody has an off night, but this was an anomaly of epic proportions.

The team needs to work on scoring in the paint more, both from the low post and from slashing to the basket, while looking to draw contact. Missing too many 3 pointers (8/24) and missing some key free throws (16/21) made this a win for the Celtics, rather than a toss-up for either team in the last minute of the game. I'll definitely take this result over a blowout loss though, as the Grizzlies are beginning to look like they are working together, establishing chemistry and putting Marc Iavaroni's teachings into practice finally. Definitely a positive night for Grizzlies fans looking for something to give them hope for the remainder of the season.

ChipC3's Perspective:
Who was that masked man off the Boston bench? Tony Allen went for a season high instead of Ray Allen (who probably had the worst game of his career) but once again a backcourt player had his best game of the season and led to Memphis' downfall. The team really needs a defensive stopper on the perimeter more than the reputed scorer from the NBDL.

Gasol had an off night shooting but still contributed 8 boards, 5 assists and 3 blocks but where was the blockout on that last put back by Garnett. I realize it was Rudy's man at the time but Gasol should have been looking to block out someone instead of sitting under the basket like he expected it to fall in.

Rudy Gay showed the most intestinal fortitude in a Grizzlies uniform since James Posey took down Peja Stojakovic in Sacramento. Interesting that it took Posey's forearm to show that toughness as Posey's elbow jarred loose one of Rudy's teeth. How can that not be a foul by the way? Rudy overcame a tough start shooting the ball and Posey's accidental shot to lead the team in scoring and make some big shots down the stretch.

Mike Conley has learned how to swim in the pool. He didn't fill up the stat sheet like he did in In Indiana but he made good decisions and forced Rhondo to take jump shots instead of lay ups. Speaking of lay ups Boston killed Memphis in the paint (44-26) but more from Boston not allowing Memphis to score more than defensive breakdowns on the Grizzlies. Still the breakdowns were at particularly bad times.

Mike Miller has to learn to find his shot in the 2nd half and especially in the 4th quarter. With Rudy and Gasol drawing defensive attention Mike has to take more shots. His drop off from 11 pts in the first 14 minutes to 5 pts the rest of the way really hurt. Don't worry if you miss Mike just find a way to take some shots. That will force teams to play more straight up defense and Gasol and Gay can beat straight up defenses.

Tough loss for the team but not many teams can go to Boston and only lose by four points. The team should hold their heads up and come back home ready to give 100% effort against the Heat.

Other Views
A Boston fan's recap of the game.

Links: Damon Fallout, Conley Blogs, Gasol Rumors/Wishlists, Staxtacular '08, NBA Blogger Award Ballot and All-Star Team

We've already covered the Damon trade demand from top to bottom and side to side. Now let's take a look at the fallout.

Kelly Dwyer has some good thoughts about the situation and the future direction of the team over on Yahoo's NBA Experts Blog, along with a mention of our little old site. Thanks KD!

Chris Vernon also has a take on it, although in his typical way, he is less than complimentary of what he perceives to be "whining".

Predictably, fans of teams around the league needing a PG upgrade or depth (like Cleveland) are posing scenarios to acquire the former Rookie of the Year.

In related news, Michael Conley updated his blog to talk about his first career NBA start and admits to being nervous.

ESPN's Daily Dime jumps on board with the "Chicago could really use Gasol right now" movement:

Team that needs to make a move, or else
The Chicago Bulls. Their two best players are Ben Gordon and Luol Deng. Both are up for contract extensions, both are unsigned. Scott Skiles has been fired.

What this team needs now is to develop an identity, which can be helped by getting an interior scorer and go-to guy. Getting Pau Gasol would be a great move for them, a face-up shooter who can complement their tremendous perimeter players. Seems like they have a glut of young big guys like Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah who do the same type of things.

To follow that up, over on RealGM, there is a piece by Patrick J. Austin where the title really says it all: Grizzlies Need to Move in a New Direction: Deal Gasol. The highlights:

Change is never easy. It’s always a scary and unpredictable proposition, but one that is ever present in life. People cling to what they know for fear of what’s “new and unknown.” The Memphis Grizzlies are currently facing this grim reality. They are a franchise in flux mired in another disappointing season and cellar dwellers in the most difficult division in the NBA.

However, the cold hard fact of the matter is that Gasol has not elevated the Grizzlies to a competitive level, despite the team emphasizing his talents and making him the focus of the offense for the majority of his career in Memphis. The organization saw flashes of a superstar player in Gasol’s earlier years and tried to make him the face of the franchise and go-to guy on the court. He repaid them by demanding a trade this past off-season and is nagged by various injuries. Moves were made to try and appease Gasol including using a chunk of cap space to sign a complimentary big man in Darko Milicic and dealing away a first round pick for Gasol’s good friend, Juan Carlos Navarro. Neither move has made the team markedly better and Gasol has not put up better numbers.

I believe the trade below would be perfect for both teams…

Grizzlies acquire:
Tyrus Thomas
Ben Gordon
Joe Smith
Chris Duhon

Bulls acquire:
Pau Gasol
Brian Cardinal
Juan Carlos Navarro

In other words, it is a rehash of what has been written by many people in many different places, including by our own bloggers here. I'm just curious why it is that we have to trade with Chicago in all these scenarios. Sure, they need Pau the most, but they really don't have what we need the most in return, IMO.

Are you ready for Staxtacular '08? In case you don't know what that is, here's a brief explanation from the link provided:

STAXTACULAR returns on Friday, March 7, 2008!
The city's wildest "soul-shakin' throwdown," hosted this year by Brian and Danielle Cardinal, Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay and Mike Conley from the Memphis Grizzlies, is back, bigger and better than ever--and now YOU have the opportunity to buy tickets before they go onsale to the public!

Call 901-261-6385 now to purchase your tickets before they are available to the public. Tickets are $150 each, and as always, all the proceeds will benefit the life-changing music education programs of the Stax Music Academy.

Sounds like a great event, as well as benefitting a good cause.

Over on Hardwood Paroxysm, they have released the NBA blogs that will be voted upon for various awards, as well as the First and Second Team All-Stars. Our fair blog did not make the cut for any of the categories and it would be fair to say that I'm disappointed. Nay, not disappointed -- OUTRAGED!!! After all, how many other blogs have sat down over chicken wings with their team's GM? How many I ask!?! If that's not enough to get you some recognition, then I don't know why I roll out of bed at noon every day to update this blog. We even got shut out of "Rookie of the Year" because of some technicality based on the fact that we posted a couple of times late last season about Greg Oden and the draft. Well that's not right and I refuse to stand for it! Give me my internet award right now! Sorry....just had some righteous indignation left over from yesterday's Damon post and had to get that out of my system.

In all seriousness though, everyone go over there and look at all the great blogs/websites that were nominated in preparation for the voting which will take place in April.

Blog/Website of the Day: The Basketball Jones

Memphis at Boston - 1.4.08

Memphis had been reeling of late with successive blowout losses to Houston, New Orleans and San Antonio until the Indiana game. Frankly the Grizzlies were playing some of the worst basketball in the league at the end of the year and things could only improve and did in the Indiana game. Memphis big three of Gay, Gasol and Miller had not been able to put together consistent efforts by even two of the players much less all three on any given night until the Indiana game. More time together under Iavaroni's system can only improve things as the Indiana game showed. The time off gave Conley and Darko further time to heal and they both looked better in the Indiana game especially Conley who started his first game. Not that any of these things should matter in this game. This will be the Grizzlies 3rd consecutive road game and we are talking about Boston in the Garden, I mean Fleet Center, or whatever they call their new digs.

Boston has opened the season with the NBA's best record and arguably the best big three in league history. The 'Boston Three Party' as ESPN dubbed them have pulled an otherwise inexperienced and ineffective team to the top of the standings by playing team ball with none of the three seemingly unhappy sharing the work load. So far KG and Paul Pierce have both won Players of the Week honors with Pierce receiving the honor for the last week of 2007. Kevin Garnett still leads all players in All-Star votes which is amazing considering how many Chinese routinely vote for Yao Ming. Rajon Rhondo has made strides to be a top flight point guard which has helped the team reach this level of play quickly. Throw on top the fact that the Celtics haven't left Boston since Dec 30th and this has the makings of an ugly game.

Point Guards: Michael Conley vs Rajon Rhondo
It will be speed on speed in this match up of ultra fast point guards. Conley took over the starters role in Indiana and produced. His 7 pts, 6 rebounds, 8 assists and three steals help the Grizz control the ball and push the tempo. Rhondo won't be impressed as easily with Conley's speed. The 2nd yr player from Kentucky is averaging 1.9 spg in only 31 minutes. Those quick hands will probably give any Grizz point guard fits. Rhondo's major weakness is a poor shooting touch but that is well hidden with the big guns in Boston. The key will be if his defensive pressure can combine with the ghosts of the Garden to unnerve the cool looking Conley. It is a big test in seeing how ready Conley really is.
Advantage: Boston

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Ray Allen

Ray Allen is 2nd on the Celtics in scoring at 19.1 ppg but his season high is 33. The reason I bring up his season high is that often that number gets set against the Grizzlies. Ray Allen has always been a thorn in the Grizzlies side as well. Who can forget the 25 second shot clock he got with Seattle where he nailed a three pointed after the buzzer to beat the Grizzlies? The NBA actually wrote a letter of apology to the Grizzlies after that game. Mike Miller has had some success scoring on Allen as well but if Ray gets hot Mike will struggle to stay up.
Advantage: Boston

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Paul Pierce

Rudy Gay is an up and coming star who has all the moves but seems to lack the mental toughness that comes from experience but he is only 21 yrs old after all. Paul Pierce is a veteran who had carried teams on his back single-handed as well as functioned well in a team oriented environment. Basically Pierce is willing to do whatever it takes to win. His scoring and rebounding are down this season but he will gladly trade that to win more games and you don't win a lot more than the Celtics this season. Not having to carry all of the scoring load this season has allowed Pierce to increase his shooting percentages making his a more effective scorer.
Advantage: Boston

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Kevin Garnett

How can Boston support their highest paid player if he is only the #3 scorer on the team? Memphis has turned their back on Gasol because he is the highest paid player and is only 2nd on the team in scoring. Sure Garnett leads his team in rebounds but so does Gasol so that is a push. Okay if you count some arbitrary statistic like Wins and Losses it could make a difference but those statistics are meaningless when comparing individual players right? Garnett is leading the Celtics emotionally and with him the team is scared to lose. Not scared like the refs were after Darko's tirade but scared just the same.
Advantage: Boston

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Kendrick Perkins

Kendrick Perkins is finally learning to play after being drafted in 2003 straight out of high school by the Grizzlies who immediately traded him to Boston for trash. Wait a minute, who else was drafted that season? Why Darko Milicic with the 2nd pick in the draft by Detroit. Who would have thought that 4 years later both of these players would still be struggling to establish themselves in the league and that Perkins would have the upper hand? Neither player is very good yet but Perkins is benefiting from superior players around him to build up his confidence. Darko's confidence is reportedly lower than ever. Maybe he is finally realizing that he isn't as good as he thought he was...
Advantage: Boston

Benches: Memphis vs Boston

Finally! Memphis may have an edge somewhere. Boston traded away their entire bench to get Garnett, a good trade by the way, but Boston has survived by relying on their starting 3 anyways. Still Tony Allen, James Posey and Eddie House provide some experience off the bench and Glen 'Big Daddy' Davis will be difficult to contain for Memphis' lighter interior players. Memphis' bench has not been that effective of late. Navarro continues to score above 10 ppg on average but Lowry seems to be hitting the rookie wall and Stro is only good for 10 minutes of action during the 18 minutes he is on the court.
Advantage: Boston

Other Blog Commentaries:
Celtics Blog
Green Bandwagon
Loy's Place

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Damon's Agent: Trade him or release him

From the Commercial Appeal:

Grizzlies veteran point guard Damon Stoudamire will seek a trade or contract buyout, his agent said Thursday.
Stoudamire was removed from the starting lineup in favor of first-round draft pick Mike Conley. Stoudamire was on the inactive list for the Grizzlies' victory Wednesday over Indiana. Aaron Goodwin, an experienced NBA agent with a star-studded client list, called the decision to relegate Stoudamire to an insurance player at the point unacceptable and disrespectful.
“For the Grizzlies to demote Damon because of his age and because of the team’s record is unacceptable,” Goodwin said. “They’re going to have to do right by Damon — move to get him out of there or restructure his contract so he can be bought out. Mr. Heisley is a good, compassionate man. But we’re not going to sit back and watch Damon’s career rot.”

Sorry I was late with the news -- I was returning a movie to Blockbuster that coincidentally enough had a co-starring role for Damon Stoudamire's agent, Aaron Goodwin.

Yeah, that's what I think of Goodwin at this point. I'm not saying that Damon is innocent in what transpired, but if there is one thing that I do know, it is that agents only care about the bottom line. Most of them barely care about their clients and none of them care about the teams their clients are employed by. So why would Goodwin release this strongly worded statement that surely makes it impossible for the Grizzlies to get anything but trash in return for Damon? In my opinion, it is because he wants them to release Stoudamire, thus paying him for the remainder of his contract (that Goodwin has already collected his 10% for), allowing Damon to sign for the veteran's minimum with a contender (Boston, Cleveland, L.A.), which will pay him another fee, in addition to "proving" that he gets what his clients want when they want it. I despise agents for this reason, as if there aren't already enough other reasons to hate them.

There are plenty of potential deals in which to acquiesce to Damon's preference, either him alone or with another player (Stro or Hakim, perhaps?) to get something worthwhile in return. What I actually find amusing is that in all likelihood, this demand has done little to Damon's value in a trade one way or another. He'll still garner an expiring contract or a player that doesn't fit another team's current or future plans (say...Mickael Pietrus?), so all this has done is made public what everyone already knew. Either way, I appreciate what Damon has done for this franchise as a veteran influence and still marvel at the recovery he has made from a career-threatening knee injury. I'll miss his big shot capability and his refusal to accept the losing culture that had crept back into this franchise. That's all though. I don't echo Heisley's sentiments in "hoping he can win a championship", because the only team I want winning a title is my own. The rest of the NBA can sit on it and rotate for all I care. That goes for "The Boston Three Party", too. Nobody "deserves" a championship. You have to earn one as far as I'm concerned. So in closing, take care Damon and get the hell outta here. Take your scum-sucking agent with you.

Zack's Viewpoint

Updates included below...

Micheal Conley started last night and looked great, while Damon was inactive. Today Damon's agent has went public with a trade and/or buyout demand. Coincidentally, the Griz are in Boston tonight, who happen to need a PG. Linkage:

Grizzlies veteran point guard Damon Stoudamire will seek a trade or contract buyout, his agent said Thursday.

Stoudamire was removed from the starting lineup in favor of first-round draft pick Mike Conley. Stoudamire was on the inactive list for the Grizzlies' victory Wednesday over Indiana. Aaron Goodwin, an experienced NBA agent with a star-studded client list, called the decision to relegate Stoudamire to an insurance player at the point unacceptable and disrespectful.

Unacceptable and disrespectful? Wow! Also in the article, owner Micheal Heisley has some interesting quotes. It might also be a good time to remind readers how Damon was quoted yesterday in the Commercial Appeal:

"It was to be expected," Stoudamire said. "They have to see what Mike can do. He's a very capable player. I'm happy to see him get a chance. It's something everybody's looking forward to -- you know, to see how he plays.

And here comes the odd part. Awesome Memphis radio host, Chris Vernon, reports on his radio show that he called GM Chris Wallace this afternoon after hearing the news. Chris Wallace said the Verno phone call was the first time he has heard about it and has yet to talk to Aaron Goodwin or Damon about it.

Personally, I think we should have done something with Damon in July or August, but I digress.

More details to come later.

Chipc3's Perspective:
I think Damon is probably embarrassed about his agent going public. However he hired the man to represent him and he deserves any backlash caused by that decision. He can't take back what has been done but the idea that his agent would go public with this just shows how self-centered agents are. It's sad to see what could have been a great hire by the Grizz denegrate to this level.

Having said that there is absolutely no way the Grizzlies should buy out his contract. Conley or Lowry could get injured and we would need Damon if that happened. If a trade can be arranged that gave the Grizzlies a 3rd string PG with an expiring contract then the team would be foolish not to pursue it but to buy him out means his salary is still charged against the cap this season and next season. Memphis needs that cap space to re-sign Navarro or pursue other FA's. By buying him out it may save money for Heisley but needlessly hamstrings Wallace and Iavaroni from building the team that they want on the court.

Sorry Damon but the team should not buy out your contract and you should be the adult your age implies you are and do what is best for the team not yourself.

Friday Morning Update (by Zack):

Some more info has been added to the Commercial Appeal article. Heisley says that he has no intention of a buyout:

"It's not my preference," Heisley said. "I'm not going to be constantly buying out people's contract so they can go play somewhere else for nothing. I did that with Eddie Jones and I told everybody that's not going to happen again."

I know Chip made the case above against a buyout, but I disagree and think a buyout is probably the best and easiest solution. But let's not dwell on that right now.

The next bit of interesting news regards Damon saying he believes he will not again be in a Grizzlies uniform. He says all the right things and expresses the right attitude if that is the case:

Stoudamire sounded as though he's conditioned his mind to be in Memphis although he's hopeful something can be worked out by the Feb. 21 trade deadline.

"If something happens, it happens," Stoudamire said. "It'll probably be a lot of people thinking (a trade) will happen, but I don't know. I'm here and I have to do my job and be a soldier around here, and try to help in different ways rather than on the floor.

Even though he seems convinced Dec. 30 at San Antonio was his last appearance in a Grizzly uniform, Stoudamire promised that he won't disrupt the team in the locker room or on the bench.

"I've got to keep working as if I'm playing every day," Stoudamire said. "The wrong thing to do right now is not work. You've got to keep working and stay professional through all of this."

This is a case of good cop, bad cop, where Damon is able to say the right things and then let his agent be the Jackass. Either way, this is an interesting story to watch unfold.

Friday Morning Update II (by Zack):

I have a ton of work to accomplish this morning, but I wanted to include this in this discussion as well before I try to force myself to quit talking Grizzlies and get some real work done.

Ron Tillery has graced us with a Memphis Edge post about Damon. Tillery needed to be objective in his earlier 2 articles and not show favoritism to someone that has clearly been one of his favorite Griz players. But the Memphis Edge post allows him to be more subjective and opinionated. He makes the case that this is a business decision, not a basketball decision.

Not every detail will become public in this saga. But here’s one: I’m told that Stoudamire’s contract calls for him to play in 55 games and average 20 minutes this season. If Stoudamire doesn’t, he’ll receive roughly 50 percent of the $4.65 million he’s due for the 2008-09 season.

So don’t think for a second that this is PURELY a basketball decision.

Tillery also implies that Damon has been TOLD that he is now only the emergency PG. This does not sit well with the great Ron Tillery.

If this was simply a basketball decision, then Conley would start and Lowry would be the third (insurance) point guard instead of Stoudamire at this point and time. Lowry, off the bench, has played the most minutes at point but he’s regressed defensively. Lowry makes the same mistakes (see: turnovers) over and over and his decision-making is poor.

Lowry is an excellent energy guy in an Earl Watson mold. But he’s not starter material. Frankly, Iavaroni lost the majority of those seven games by three points or less in large part by staying with Lowry at the end of games.

Stoudamire is a stabilizing force, a leader and a decorated NBA veteran who doesn’t deserve to be treated like this. The Griz can and should go to a youth movement. But Stoudamire has earned the right not to want to watch.


Is it ridiculous for a 13-year veteran who is serviceable after coming back from a serious knee injury to want to play with another year left on his contract?

I can not state how much I disagree with Ron's stance. We should have went with a Conley-Lowry PG combo starting October 31st, not January 2nd. While Lowry has not shown the improvement many (including me) had wanted to see this year, he is still, in my humble opinion, playing as well or better than Damon. And with the potential to get better that will only come by actually playing, the decision to have Lowry be the primary backup instead of Damon is an easy one.

I find the opinion that the Griz have lost so many close games because Lowry played in the 4th instead of Damon to be laughable. I don't think anyone is saying that Lowry is starter material, rather I am saying that he is a better option than Damon now and in the future to play behind Conley. But really, I think anyone that follows the Griz expected Ron to jump to Damon's defense on this one. And he did.

Interview with Peter Edmiston

The boys at 3 Shades of Blue have done it again. This time we were very fortunate to squeeze in some time with one of the busiest sports radio personalities in Memphis as Peter Edmiston answered a few of our questions.
3SoB: You recently added a new voice on your show. Can you tell us
about her and why did you add her to the team?
Peter: Lots of people have watched Kristen Tallent on FOX 13's sports coverage - she's been in Memphis for a year now and has definitely established a following.

Kristen is a genuinely funny, friendly, excitable person who doesn't take herself too seriously and really knows her sports. She ran track at Mississippi State and is a far better athlete than I will ever be. I talked with her about a month ago about doing something with me and Ron and she wanted in. She's been great so far and I hope people enjoy hearing from her on Thursdays.

Plus, Griz fans will want to take note that we've added Griz assistant coach Dave Joerger to our lineup as well. He will be on every Tuesday morning to give us some insight into the team, life in the NBA, and other stuff. He's a great guy and is really funny. And we've also got former Griz head/assistant coach Lionel Hollins on to talk college and pro basketball every Friday - the Train is an incredible analyst and I guarantee you won't find better basketball analysis than he gives.

3SoB: With Joerger and the A-Train on board can we expect the remainder of the season to be focused more on the Grizzlies news and features? I don't imagine it is a coincidence that as the SEC football season ends you are ramping up exposure to the only major league sports franchise in town.
Peter: I've always felt like we talk a lot about the Grizzlies. It's one of our most important subjects and a huge strength of our show. That being said, as the season progresses, you can expect a huge amount of talk about the Grizzlies. To me, they are always really interesting, no matter whether they're very good or very bad. There are so many storylines and intriguing topics that it's a natural we discuss as much as we can. Lionel and Dave add fresh and informed perspectives to the mix, and it's really cool to have them. Plus, Lionel loves to rip Ron for his clothing, which always cracks me up.

3SoB: You have been a bit down on the Grizzlies of late. What do you
think needs to be done to improve the team going forward?
Peter: That's a tough one. I have been down of late because I was one of the many reporters and fans who thought this team was going to take a step forward this season - a big one - and the fact that they've struggled so mightily is a definite disappointment. Part of the issue in my mind is that the front office clearly took steps to build around Pau this offseason and he's not playing anywhere near his highest level. He is not a leader on the court, not a leader in the locker room, and is not the best player on this team on a consistent basis. Given the salary cap limitations here in Memphis, having your max guy be so limited is a really big problem. When you add to that the fact that Marc Iavaroni's system doesn't mesh well with Pau's strengths, he goes from a manageable problem to a distinct liability. And this is coming from a guy who has defended Pau staunchly until this season.

In short, I think it's imperative they move away from Pau, both on the court and off the court. He doesn't sell tickets, doesn't excite fans, and won't be the reason this team succeeds. His eventual trade will be the most significant personnel move in the history of this franchise. They must get a young, athletic big who can run the floor and defend well, and something else of value (high pick, contributing player, etc.) in the deal. The day that happens is the day the Grizzlies truly take the next step towards success.

I build around Conley and Rudy and run like crazy.

3 SoB: In your pre-season comments you thought the team could compete for the playoffs until late in the season, what has failed in that regard?
Peter: This is a team comprised of very talented players who do not seem to play well together. There is a distinct lack of chemistry and leadership on this team, which to me explains a lot of the problems we've seen. They don't perform well in clutch situations because they don't have an established go-to guy (Rudy is getting there, mind you), they give up a lot of scoring runs because they don't have a defensive stopper, and they don't respond well to adversity because they lack locker room leadership. It speaks to the disappointment and difficulty of the season when you note that the team is getting better-than-expected performances from key individuals like Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Gay, and Darko Milicic (defensively), yet is underperforming as a whole. This team is less than the sum of its parts.

Marc Iavaroni is getting adjusted to life as an NBA head coach as well, and I think we've seen him struggle to establish consistent rotations and deal with difficult game situations. I wouldn't say he's done poorly or anything, but he's been a bit hit or miss so far, much like his team. I think we will see the best of him next season once he's got a year under his belt.

3SoB: Well trading Gasol seems high on the list of things to change with the franchise. What type of player would you think the Grizzlies should try and obtain for the Spaniard if a deal was made or should the team go with draft picks and expiring contracts to totally rebuild the franchise?
Peter: I would want (and I would expect the Grizzlies front office to demand) more than merely expiring contracts and picks for Pau. I'd like either an athletic defensive-minded big who can run the floor and I don't care if he can score (Tyrus Thomas) or a 3/4-type in the mold of a Marvin Williams/Danny Granger who I could throw out there in an athletic lineup with Conley, Rudy, Mike (or Hak), and Stro (or Darko). Throw in expirings as needed to make the contracts match and a 1st and I'm sold.

Now if and when they trade Mike, I would be happy with an expiring and a pick.
I don't know that he's got a ton of value.

3SoB: According to David Berri's work 'The Wages of Wins' Mike Miller is the one player producing the most for the Grizzlies and that isn't just in minutes played. Losing him would leave a very large hole at the 2/3 swing positions wouldn't it? Or do you believe Jeremy Richardson might be the answer?
Peter: With respect to Dave Berri and his work (which I like), I don't know that his metrics tell the full story of Mike Miller. That said, I wouldn't advocate absolutely trading Mike away in any circumstance - you are right to point out that he does do a lot for this team and can be among its very best players.
Depending on what happens with Pau, Mike could thrive in a more Phoenix-esque offense. But if he does get traded, I think that is the value he has out there.

Jeremy Richardson is not the answer. I miss TK.

3SoB: Michael Conley replaced Damon as the starter against Indiana and looked pretty good. What do you think of Conley so far and is this a pre-cursor to a Damon trade?
Peter: I think Conley is hugely important for the Grizzlies' future prospects. The coaches and his teammates always praise his professionalism and intelligence on the court. But it's not just his intangibles I like; he's got tangibles, too. His speed and passing will be incredible weapons. His quickness on defense was immediately apparent last night (albeit against Andre Owens), and it's only going to get better. I couldn't be more excited about his future ability - I think he will be a star.

I think the organization will do everything in its power to move Damon, not only because it makes financial sense to get his contract off the books and try to save a bit of cap in the process, but also because he has been a model professional in his time in Memphis. They should do their best to take care of him and move him to a better situation. I expect they will.

3SoB: So what else do you do besides chat with poorly dressed Ron Tillery every morning?
Peter: Obviously my main role is cohosting the show with Ron, but I am also our web administrator. We've got a brand-new web site in the works and I'm working hard right now to put it together. It's going to be great - look for it in the next few weeks. Combine that with on-site reporting and it's a full schedule. But I really enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Indiana Postgame - First Win in Indiana, Conley Starts, Darko Shows Right Hand

(Getty Images)

From Zack - Quick Thoughts

-- Surprisingly good game tonight by the Griz. Nice to get that first win on the road against the Pacers.
-- Conley started and looked poised on offense and defense. It was a very impressive starting debut.
-- A glimpse of the future Conley-Lowry PG combo was on display (I loved it), with Damon not playing at all and being in street clothes (I think). Which was odd since Lowry was reportedly under the weather.
-- Darko shot and made a right handed hook. Yes, you read that right.
-- Offensive rebounds kept Indiana in the game.
-- The offense was better, but the defense was even more improved. Held a Tinsley-less Pacers to 72 points on 30% shooting.
-- Pau, Gay, and Miller was the offensive force we need. 73 combined points.
-- In the end, Conley was clearly the story of the night.

MemphisX's View:

Well, it has been obvious to most that Michael Conley was the best point guard on the team since preseason and he did nothing to disappoint me. Once he gets the nuances of when to score down, he will become very dangerous. Also, the team will look a lot better once they get used to having a point guard that they can let initiate the offense at all times.

Pau Gasol benefited so much from not having to facilitate for others and just being able to concentrate on scoring the ball. Still needs to get tougher on the defensive boards but that is really not going to happen at this point. He was The Spaniard tonight and I will take it every time.

Rudy Gay also benefited from the better offensive flow and was even better as a play maker.

I have the same gripe with Mike Miller. Shoot more Mike, please. There are no bad shots for Mike Miller just bad drives. He should really concentrate on spotting up from deep now and let Conley run the pick and roll.

Darko played good individual, interior defense again on Jermaine O'Neal. I still think he needs to lose weight to improve his rebounding range.

Damon in a suit means his time in Memphis is about over and just like I predicted, there will be a major (starter) trade before the MLK game.

The bad: rest of the team looked like crap with the exception of Lowry who was sick.

MemphisX advice: Be in the forum early on Sunday (3 pm tipoff) because that Pau Gasol action figurine wil be a collector's item.

Opposing View

Click here to read the postgame comments from the great Pacers blog, Indy Cornrows. A sample:

Indy's freshly sworn-in mayor, Greg Ballard was a guest of the Pacers tonight. Of the many issues that carried him to an unexpected victory was his promise to address a festering crime problem in several areas around the city. (Okay, are you finished with all of your Pacers off-court behavior jokes? Can I continue with this post? Thank you.)

Maybe Mayor Ballard should start at the Fieldhouse, because the basketball malfeasance he witnessed tonight during the Pacers' 90-72 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies should not be tolerated by the citizenry. The premeditated assault and battery on the helpless rims at the Fieldhouse with utter disregard for basic basketball principles like ball and player movement, making the extra pass, or shooting within the flow of the offense should be considererd felonious acts. Back up the paddy wagon to the locker room because everyone in blue and gold went wilding on the precious game we revere.

Additional Getty Magic (taken from here, click to see other great photos)

ChipC3's Perspective:
-Memphis finally got a chance to see the future PG of the franchise and he looked real good. Mike Conley's performance against the Pacers rivaled the performance he put on during the pre-season. Too bad Conley can't play every game against backup PG's in Indianapolis. The 7 pt, 6 rebound, 8 assists and 3 steals were one heck of a coming out party in his first career start.

-Damon made an impact by his absence in two ways. First, suddenly, a team wasn't able to get into the lane with ease and Memphis' defense was much improved. I wonder if there is a connection? Second, Sitting at the end of the bench in a suit raised a lot of suspicion that a trade is in the works to me. Damon was inactive without any injury being reported so why else does a player go from starter to inactive?

-Pau Gasol wasn't double teamed by Indy. He punished the Pacers all night to the tune of 30 pts and 12 rebounds. Either that was the height of foolishness or Coach O (O'Brien that is) read the Grizzlies Message Board and figured Gasol wasn't any good anymore. Either way Gasol looked like a kid in a candy store (30 pts and 12 boards) and had a solid all around night. The only negative was missing that jump shot before half-time that could have given the Grizzlies the lead at halftime. Damn Spaniard can never be trusted to produce under pressure! Sure he carried the team on his back in the third period when it seemed no one else was scoring but Gasol but he still didn't hit that clutch shot in the closing seconds nor did he make a game winner. (that is satire by the way).

-The Grizzlies Big Three beat the entire Pacers team 73-72. Besides Gasol's 30, Rudy Gay scored 24 and Mike Miller chipped in 19 pts. That compensated for a bench that scored 5 points all night and looked terrible. Navarro may have played his worst game as a Grizzlies with 3 turnovers in only 8 minutes. Stro was terrible despite scoring all 5 of the bench points. Kyle Lowry may still be feeling the effects of the flu he had in San Antonio. The bench committed 8 of the 17 Grizzlies turnovers despite no one but Stro playing more than 14 minutes.

-Indiana threw Jermaine O'Neal, Ike Diogu and Jeff Foster at the Grizzlies but only scored 34 points in the paint. Was that because Andre Owens couldn't penetrate like Jamal Tinsley, Mike Conley was quick enough to cut off dribble penetration or the Ivory Towers were that effective on defense? Probably a combination of all three but forcing (or allowing) Indiana to shoot from the outside instead of getting into the paint was huge defensively in this game.

-The Grizzlies came out from halftime like a team on fire. I don't know if people realize it but Indiana scored 28 pts after halftime. 9 pts in the 4th quarter. The Grizzlies put up 28 pts in the third quarter alone.

-Is this the team Chris Wallace told us to be patient and wait to develop or was it a fluke? It is hard to not be cynical about this win honestly. Conley was in his hometown, Tinsley didn't play, the Grizzlies shot below 50% from the line, were outrebounded by 10 pts and committed 10 turnovers in the first half and only trailed by 1 pt! The Pacers continued to shoot from outside when the book says attack the middle against the Grizzlies.

I just didn't see Indiana attempt to score from inside that much so I believe it is more mirage than material. Still feels good to finally win at the Fieldhouse but the Grizzlies head to Boston for a different test. As good as this game makes Grizz fans feel it is a long year. The more important games are going to be Miami and the Lakers next week in Memphis. Stringing together some home wins against the likes of DWade and Kobe would go a long way in re-energizing the home crowds.

One suggestion Coach Iavaroni, let Mike Conley play in those games. The home fans deserve a chance to see him play in person.

Power Rankings 12-31 & 1-1

Power Rankings for 31 Dec '07 & 1 Jan '08
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