Welcome, Shades of Blues readers! I hope you are having a great Sunday morning. If you are waking up in Memphis this morning, go get another cup of warm coffee or cocoa and crank that heat up, because IT IS COLD outside.
This is the 2nd edition of our Sunday Chronicle, where the previous week will be reviewed, the upcoming week will be previewed, and a few new things that popped up over the weekend will be discussed. And also, a few choice Getty images will be crammed in here and there to liven things up.
Damon Buyout Coming Soon
Reported on Saturday by both Chris Sheridan of ESPN and beat writer Ron Tillery, Damon will probably not be on the roster come this time next week as a buyout is expected. Go read both articles linked. However, I will also summarize the key details given in both below.
-- A buyout is more likely than a trade.
-- The Grizzlies first offer was an 80% reduction in next year's salary (whoa!!) and Damon's camp will likely counter that.
-- According to Tillery, "Stoudamire is hopeful that he can sign as a free agent with Boston"
-- The Grizzlies had a trade offer on the table for Damon, but turned it down because it put Damon in a "undesirable situation" and that Heisley's preference is to get Damon to a "winner".
-- Talks should heat up on Monday with Heisley making a rare Memphis appearance because of our MLK game
From Chris Sheridan of ESPN:
-- Suns, Celtics, Heat, Raptors, and Nuggets have all inquired about Damon's services.
-- Sam Cassell's uncertain situation with the Clippers is impacting Damon (because I assume all of those teams would prefer Sam to Damon).
-- Buyout like soon, but a trade is still a remote possibility.
Ok, here is my take on this. I have long thought a buyout with Damon was inevitable, whether it would have been in pre-season (my preference), mid-season (what will happen), or after the season. I appreciate Damon's tenure in Memphis. I think all Griz fans would have loved to know what could have happened if he wouldn't have gotten hurt. Maybe a playoff win?
As for the latest details. I think the Suns and Celtics are clearly the most logical teams for him to sign with. He will probably have his decision as to which team he prefers before his contract is officially bought out. The Celtics can give him the most playing time, while the Suns let him go back home and play for good friend and former teammate, Steve Kerr. Either way, if the Griz can get an 80% reduction (or payback, whatever the correct term is) on his contract next year, that is pretty good I think.
As for the turned down trade. My guess is NY or Miami. Both places look pretty undesirable right now to me.
Griz GM and Assistant Coach on The Chris Vernon Show
I do not hide my fondness and respect for Chris Vernon. I love listening to his show every afternoon. He's the cream of the crop when it comes to local AM sports radio hosts. And as it relates to the Griz, he does an exceptional job covering and promoting the team while being a voice for a significant fraction of Griz fans. During the season, much of Verno's show is usually devoted towards the Grizzlies and Eric Hastletine and Chris Herrington are regularly guests.
Each week Verno has a segment with Chris Wallace that I highly recommend (you should also catch the Thursday Grizzlies Power Hour). This week's Wallace segment can be listened to here. Some highlights.
Chris Wallace says that for the rest of the season he wants to see continued team and individual improvement. The individual improvement comment was interesting because Wallace mentions the young guys "creating value". I like the GM to think like this. He knows that improving this team is the most important thing and if the guys currently on the roster can improve and become part of the "core, then great, or if some guys improve and allow the Griz to get better trade value, then great too.
Wallace was asked why we are 10-28 (at the time) and repeats the same thing most fans say. We have a hard time winning close games and are not playing good defense. He mentions youth, but doesn't want to use that as an excuse. Wallace also acknowledges that the team must get tougher, more physical, could use more experience (but not at the expense of talent) and "still has a ways to go".
Verno again prodded Wallace to make a major trade to shake up the team. Wallace says it has to be the "right move", but he has been in contact with a lot of teams. Phones are buzzing around the league, but most is just "tire kicking". Wallace says he will not be timid or hesitant or nervous if the "right deal" comes along. Chris Vernon thinks he should see these deals to give an outside opinion if any of the current deals are the "right deal". Wallace jokes he can hire Vernon be the "Executive Director of Transaction Analysis". Great idea!!! Verno can be Chris Wallace's Gary Colson. Wallace also mentioned that if a good trade proposal is presented, that him, the Head Coach and the Owner all must approve the move.
Grizzlies assistant coach Ron Dubois was also on the show this week.
I mention this because Verno read an email question I sent in about the Grizzlies poor pick-and-roll defense. Coach Dubois did a great job of answering the question. By now most readers of this blog know my thoughts about our p-n-r defense. Dubois says that against bad shooters, they tell the guard to go under the screen and against good penetrators they tell the guard to go over the screen. For instance, against Chris Paul, the guards were instructed to go under because Paul had only hit 15 3's before that game and then went on to hit 5 against us. I asked about what I call "passive" play by the bigman on p-n-r defense. He says they instruct the bigman to play "zone" against the guard and bigman, so that he can help out on either one, depending on what happens. I call that passive, because what ends up happening more times than not is the bigman doesn't help on the guard and also gets out of position to stop the bigman from rolling for an easy layup. My personal opinion is that this philosophy is hurting the Griz. I would like to see the bigman hedge hard on p-n-r defense and let the other 3 guys worry about helping on the bigman rolling to the basket.
Chad Ford Thinks Darko is a Bust?
Just a quick item. Tom Ziller at AOL Fanhouse reports that ESPN's official European player promoter, Chad Ford, has admitted that Darko is a bust in an ESPN chat. Wow! Does this mean Ford is admitting that he was wrong too? Darko may be a bust compared to his draft status and draft class, but he still has the potential to have a solid NBA career as a starting center.
Shades of Blue Week in Review
-- The Curse of the Spanish Cast
-- Looking for Leadership
-- Interview with Eli Savoie of Sports56
-- Power Rankings
-- Interview with Brian Windhorst, Cleveland Cavs Beat Writer
Be sure to check out those interviews. Original interviews like the ones Chip and Spartacus posted this week is what really makes this blog great. That Power Ranking post is pretty damn good too. And the Curse post was picked up by TrueHoop!
Griz Week in Review
The Grizzlies again went 1-3 this week. Luckily the Sonics came to town to let the Griz break a 5 game losing streak (3rd 5 game losing streak of the year...ugh). The Griz now sit at 11-29 and 13 games out of the 8th playoff spot. The Griz also have an average of 25.375 in the latest round of power rankings.
99-100 Loss versus Lakers
124-132 OT Loss versus Cavs
124-100 Win versus Sonics
87-105 Loss versus Bobcats
Lakers game...The Grizzlies should have won this game. Plain and simple. The refs were absolutely horrible (more on that in later). This was the last game of a 3 game road trip, all losses. The Lakers lost emerging star Bynum to a knee injury. Pau's stat line was notable:
21 points, 18 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 blocks
Cavs game...LeBron goes for 51 in this OT home thriller. It was such an exciting game to attend, although I admit no one sitting next to me thought the Griz would win when the game was up for grabs in crunch time. The Griz lose close games and everyone knows it. Rudy's stat line was notable:
30 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Sonics game...If only we could play these guys (or the Twolves) every game. Seattle is awful. Rudy sat out sick and Bobby Jones got the rare start (because Casey was already put on the inactive list or else CJ would have started....whew, we dodged a bullet there). All B.Jones then did was earn himself a second 10-day contract with his career game in almost every statistical category. I think very few people saw this game, the crowd attendance was pathetic. B.Jones stat line was notable:
20 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
Bobcats game...Just when things were looking up after the Sonics game, the Grizzlies show virtually no energy and even less defense in a loss to the BET Cats. Mike Miller, who the coaching staff say is our best defender, was out with back trouble. Thus, Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson were just too much for Rudy Gay and Bobby Jones and J-Rich became the latest SG to have a season high against our poor perimeter defense. I don't think anyone's stat line is worth mentioning because everyone sucked, but here is Rudy's because of his steals:
17 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 steals, 1 block
Other Stories from the Week
The Refs Suck!
In the closing minutes of the Lakers game, the refs blew, in my estimation, 3 huge calls against the Griz. First, they called a foul on Kyle Lowry on a fast break dunk attempt by Lamar Odom. Odom looked to have an easy breakaway, but Lowry came from nowhere to block Odom cleanly. The ref blew the whistle as soon as he saw Lowry going for the block. Next, with the scored tied, the refs called a phantom foul on Rudy Gay on a Kwame Brown dunk (which he missed). They say Rudy hit Kwame on the head, and he might have grazed him, but if he did it wasn't enough to call a foul on, IMO. But if the refs aren't going to allow that kind of contact in the closing minutes, ok, so be it. But wait. With the game on the line and 7 seconds left, Kyle Lowry drives to the hoop and gets hammered by Kwame Brown and NO FREAKING FOUL IS CALLED. Ridiculous. If the previous play is a foul, then that is too. Many Griz fans were irate and emailed Ronnie Dunn to let him hear about it. Surprisingly he emailed back. Unsurprisingly he defended the refs. He is paid to defend whatever the refs do. Go here to read Dunn's explanation.
Pau Most Likely to be Traded? Trade Possible With Suns?
In a surprising development this week, the Griz and Suns have been mentioned together many times this week as possible trade partners. And get this, a Pau for Amare trade is what is rumored. Wow! Talk about getting my hopes too high. We go from only being able to get a bunch of crappy bench players from Chicago to being able to get an All-NBA player. Sweet! It started with Chris Sheridan saying that NBA executives believe Pau is the overwhelming favorte to be the biggest name traded before the deadline and then causes Griz fans to faint by mentioning Pau/Hak for Amare AND the Hawks 1st rounder. But we weren't done with unsubstantiated rumors about Pau and Amare. Tony Mejia at CBSsports also writes about Amare and says some in the Phoenix organization wants to move him and then mentions Pau as a possible player Amare could be traded for. But we aren't done yet. This comes from a Phoenix messageboard. A huge rumored trade of Pau/Miller/Hak/Damon for Amare/Diaw/Banks/Atlanta Pick. Again, wow! Here is the link. I gotta admit, if Pau is going to be constantly tied to trade rumors, these Phoenix ones are much better than the crappy Chicago ones. Amare >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Ty Thomas.
Bobby Jones Earns 2nd 10 Day Contract
A big night against the Sonics earned him the contract renewal and I hope he is signed for the rest of the year.
Misinformation about Casey Being Released (h/t to Verno for clearing it up)
Earlier this week I found a mention on the RealGM forum of some Euro announcers saying that Casey Jacobsen would be released and that his old German team would sign him again. I posted this on the grizzlies messageboard. And then Verno again shows how great he is. He sees my post and contacts Chris Wallace and then relays the information to me that Casey is still on the team and hasn't and won't be released. Could that train of events have any possibility of happening that quickly in any other NBA city? I think not. Being a small market has it's perks.
No Player Has Started Every Game This Season
Rudy Gay and Mike Miller both sat out a game this week. Now nobody on the team has started every game. And only Navarro and Lowry have played in every game.
Player of the Week: Bobby Jones
It might have been only 1 game of greatness - statistically Pau Gasol probably should have been the Player of the Week - but the fans desperately needed Jone's gutsy performance at home against the Sonics.
Griz Killer of the Week: LeBron James
Long Ball Bomber of the Week: Juan Carlos Navarro
Dunk of the Week: Rudy Takes Flight Against Cavs
Griz Week Ahead
Games this Week:
Monday vs Chicago
Wednesday vs Orlando
Friday at Washington
Saturday vs Clippers
Grizzlies on National TV for Martin Luther King Game
Monday the Grizzlies host the Chicago Bulls in the annual MLK game at a weird start of 4:30. In the past, this game has been very well attended (last year was more than 18K in a season where only 12K was the average). This game has so many story lines. It is the Griz versus Bulls for goodness sake. The team that covets Pau more than any other. It was also after this game last year (against the Suns) when Pau met with Heisley to ask for a trade (and then prompt Jerry to get mad and leak the info to the New York Post).
Dwight Howard Might Go for 40/20?
Last game against the Griz (an improbable road win for the Griz), Howard had 30/21. If, no when, Howard actually does get 40 points and 20 rebounds in a game, there is a good chance it is against the Griz.
Can Kaman One-up Howard?
The last game against the Clippers was utterly forgettable and might have been one of the worst overall Griz performances of the year. With the way Kaman abused Darko that game, Kaman may have a legitimate shot at being the Griz Killer of the Week over favorite Dwight Howard.
Lastly, make sure and read HoopsHype Sunday morning. Trade (talk) season is in full swing and there will sure to be Griz players mentioned in many papers around the country.