Welcome to the latest edition of our Sunday Chronicle, where the previous week will be reviewed, the upcoming week will be previewed, and a few more things added in there for your reading pleasure. All pictures are from games duing the previous week.
Rudy Invited to Dunk Contest, Adopts Grassroots Approach
Everyone knows by now, Rudy has been invited to the Dunk Contest held over NBA All-star weekend. He is one of four contestants, joining reigning champion (and upcoming FA who wants a trade) Gerald Green, should-of-been winner Dwight Howard, and former globetrotter Jamario Moon. Rudy has come up with an innovative approach towards the NBA Dunk contest. Rudy is asking fans to send in their best dunk to YouTube. He will pick his favorite and replicate it as one of his dunks during the contest. I think it is brilliant. For a small market team with a horrible record, national publicity for the Grizzlies is usually lacking. Rudy's campaign was a nice way to have Rudy (the best, or 2nd best sophomore in the NBA) and the Griz get some good publicity (case in point). The move seems even better when taking into consideration that the fans will help decide the winner.
Shades of Blue Week in Review
Power Rankings - Griz have an average of 25.875 with a high of 25 and low of 27.
Mid Year Perspective - Halfway through with the season, how has the season been and how's the rest of the season going to play out?
2008 NBA Draft Preview Part I - MemphisX breaks down the draft with Grizzlies needs and fit taken into account (hint, OJ Mayo is #1).
Rebounding - The Real Story - Chip explores what is causing our recent increase in rebounding numbers.
The Price is Right (about Damon's buyout) - Chip breaks down the latest numbers thrown around in the Damon debacle.
Griz Week in Review
The Griz went 2-2 this week and 2-1 at home. The overall record now stands at 13-31 and only a mere 12.5 games out of the 8th playoff spot.
The week was a wild, wild ride. From the euporia from mauling (thanks, AP) the Bulls on national tv, to getting embarrased by the great Hedo in front about only 150 people, to losing Conley and Pau to injuries (oh ya, Stro too), to evidently buying out Damon, to playing the single worst quarter of basketball this season, to a spirited 2nd half comeback, to a hard fought OT win against a medicore Clippers team.
104-90 Win vs Chicago
85-112 Loss vs Orlando
93-104 Loss @ Washington
125-120 OT Win vs LA Clippers
Best Game of the Week That Didn't go to Overtime: Grizzlies completely dominate the lifeless Bulls.
The Grizzlies jumped on the Bulls early and controlled the game with a double digit lead for the last 28 minutes. Four Grizzlies posted a double-double, with Micheal Conley getting his career high in assits with 10. Miller was probably the player of the game and the Griz displayed an entertaining, efficient and productive running game. A 4th quarter alley-oop dunkathon was particularly satisfying. The Bulls looked particularly bad, with an absolute insane reluctance to take the ball inside and instead relied on a bunch of brick jumpers. The Bulls were bad, the Griz were good. And during our only nationally seen game of the year on a day celebrating Martin Luther King Jr's remarkable legacy, the Griz shined in the national spotlight and dumped on one of the NBA darling franchises. This win felt especially good. Mr. Sam Smith, eat our shorts!!!!
Best Game of the Week that Included an Overtime: Lowry and Gay lead Grizzlies past a small Clipper team.
Herrington's live blog/recap.
I can't believe the Griz actually pulled out an overtime game at home. The game was a blast to watch. NBA TV pulled the game from the schedule due to the overall level of suckiness displayed by both lottery-bound teams, leaving many in Memphis unable to watch it (thanks to internet links, many still did). All the people around the country and the city that didn't watch this game missed out on a great battle between two sucky, injury depleted, lottery-bound teams (wait, the LA owner thinks the paper Clips still have a shot at the playoffs...haha)
Pau Gasol didn't play (and wasn't at courtside). Micheal Conley didn't play (and also wasn't at courtside). Stromile dressed out, but I think he has some sort of typical Stro injury preventing him the joy of knowing that Iavaroni could have choose him to sub in for Darko, but picked Hak instead. And Damon was inactive, in street clothes on the bench and seemed very happy. I also saw him giving some goodbye's to Grizzlies employees.
Kaman didn't play for the Clippers, leaving them with the likes of Aaron Williams and Josh Powell in the post. That is playoff inspiring combination there. That didn't last all that long actually, as Tim Thomas played center for the Clips for most of the 4th quarter while a SG or SF played PF. This caused Iavaorni to sit Darko and match the Clips in this super small-ball lineup.
The Clippers whole offense is based around identifying the biggest mismatch and then posting those players up. All of their players can operate efficient in the post, even the guards, no make that especially the guards. This game, the Clips went at Navarro, posting JC up with Cuttino Mobley. Over and over again. Navarro fought his butt off for position. I was impressed with his play. Likewise, Tim Thomas posted up Hak repeatedly in the 4th quarter. Hak also played admirably given Hak's reputation as a wet tissue on defense.
Lowry and Rudy played inspiring games tonight. I don't think that can be stated loud enough. Rudy was flaming hot to start the game, as he sparked a remarkable 36 1st quarter points. He was a one man wrecking crew, scoring on a variety of isolation drives and pull ups. Rudy scored a career high 34 points to go along with 12 rebounds. He probably should have had over 40 points.
Lowry, being the only real PG active, followed up his high energy play against the Wizards with a stunning performance against Brevin Knight and Sam Cassell. Lowry scored a career high 21 points, got to the line in bunches (didn't make them in bunches though), but it was his 8 rebounds and just 1 turnover that was the real key to his success against the Clippers. Lowry played solid defense against Cassell too, while playing part of the 4th and all of the OT with 5 fouls causing him to be iso'd a number of times.
The play of the game came from Lowry in overtime with 40 seconds to play. Down by 1 point, the offense breaks down (again) and Hak ends up taking a wild turnaround jumper as the shot clock expires. Lowry skies over Tim Thomas (there is a downfall to playing him at center) for an amazing offensive rebound and put back. Awesome! That one play epitomized how Lowry willed the Grizzlies to victory over the Clippers.
The refs were horrible tonight. Really, really bad. My seat was close enough to tell them about it (and tell Maggatte how much he sucks too). Dunleavy got a technical after a crazy play directly in front of me went with no foul called. Take a look, what a picture!
Recaps of the Remaining Lottery-Odd-Increasing Losses:
Grizzlies-Magic SoB recap.
Dwight Howard was held in check, but Hedo Turkoglu went off (more on that below). The good thing was that virtually no one was in the arena to see the home blowout.
Grizzlies-Wizards CA recap.
With Pau Gasol nursing a sore back, the Grizzlies start lethargic. Mollases in January type of lethargic. The sloth like start produces 9 freaking 1st quarter points. Ugh! And then to top it off, Micheal Conley goes down with a horrible looking injury. Lowry goes all 2006 and leads a spirited comeback while amassing 13 points, 10 assists and 5 steals.
Player of the Week: Kyle Lowry
The Great Lowry was the most active and spirited Griz player for the Wizards and Clippers games. His offensive rebound and put back won the Clippers game. And with Conley out, we need more of this type of play from Lowry.
Griz Killer of the Week: Hedo Turkoglu
26 points and 6 of 8 from deep in the Magic rout of Memphis.
"It's up and it's good for 3!" Long Ball Bomber of the Week: Rudy Gay
Other Top Griz Stories from Last Week
Conley and Pau Injured
Pau's back injury is likely mild and he is listed as day-to-day. Pau will be back anytime. But it is the Conley injury that is worrisome. It looked really bad at the time. Tillery is reporting that it is a "chest/rib contusion" and the X-rays were negative. Still, with a shoulder injury that was a tear that went without surgery, seeing him injury that side of his body again is nerve racking. I think this one could keep him out longer than people expect.
Damon's Buyout Complete
The odd breakup is now nearly complete, as two reports have surfaced saying a deal for Damon to buyout his current contract has been agreed upon by both sides. This comes after a weird week where Damon's agent even threw some harsh words towards the Griz and particularly Heisley's attorney Stan Meadows. Tillery has most of the details of the buyout and even relays that Damon left a voicemail message with Heisley thanking him (for, um, letting him buy his way from the bottom of the trash heap to presumably the top of the league with the beloved Celtics). Marc Stein at ESPN adds in his report that the Griz wanted to holdout for a trade, but found the offers underwhelming. The easy money bet is that Dontrell Jefferson, a training camp participant and NBADL player for the Dakota Wizards, will be joining the Griz shortly.
We've made it over the halfway hump of the season. The Griz finished the first half of the season 12-29 and only 2 games better than last year. Chip, Spartacus, and MemphisX have given their 1st half impressions and 2nd half expectations. The CA polled the public for grades for the Grizzlies (ugh). And Herrington trumped everyone with his optimistic and astute mid-season report. Here are some of my thoughts...
I'm disappointed about the 1st half of the season. While I seemingly imitated a 10 year old girl at a Hanana Montana Concert, I (think I) predicted the Grizzlies to finish 6th in the West. Ya, right. That was right on the mark. About as accurate as a Chicago Bull's jumpshot. So, knowing my high expectations, I can be nothing but disappointed. However, there is a lot of optimism and hope in with that disappointment. The draft picks of Conley and Gay give the Grizzlies a bright, very bright future.
The pessimism I do have about this team going forward involves my belief that a 40-minute a night core of Conley-Miller-Gay-Pau is not a winning combination. I think the first half of this season was further proof of that. Basketball can be about who has the most talent, but it is also a team game where the 5 players need to fit together and play above their collective talent suggests. The Conley-Miller-Gay-Pau core, with whoever as the role players around them chomping up the few minutes remaining, is just not ever going to be a serious contender, even with my expected bright futures for Gay and Conley. I'm convinced this team needs a shake up in order to force the best working pecking order out of our players/team.
Why do I think we are barely above last years pace at the half-way mark?
I probably can't be more pleased with the play of Rudy Gay so far this season. Most claim he is the 2nd best sophomore this year, but I think he can make a good case for being the best, and certainly has more potential than Roy. I think Rudy probably should have been the #1 overall pick in his draft class. Toronto and Charlotte in particular, goofed by not taking Rudy. Rudy was suppose to be the surefire #1 pick in January of that year, but the scouts over-thought themselves by June and 7 teams missed out.
Mid-Season MVP: Rudy Gay
Best Game: Dec 19th Victory Over Spurs; Rudy Nails Game Winning Shot over Duncan
Mid-Season Griz Killer MVP: Chris Paul
Griz Killer Honorable Mention: LeBron James and Travis Outlaw
Griz Week Ahead
The Griz have 3 tough home games slated for the week. I was excited about the 5 home stand until I saw Dallas, Denver, and Utah were 3 of those 5 games. I expect all 3 games to be shootouts. I predict no one scores in the double-digits this week. I also predict Pau will play against the Mavs, while Conley will not play at all during the week.
Monday vs Dallas
Do you think the Mavs think about how much their 1st round sweep of the Griz set the course for trading for our new superstar-in-the-making Rudy Gay? The matchup of the game might be Rudy vs Dirk if Iavaroni goes small and let's Rudy play major minutes at PF.
Wednesday vs Denver
Denver visits the Forum for a partial home game as the Memphis crowd loves AI. I hate the Nuggets and if we can only win 1 game in the coming week, I hope it is against the Nuggets.
Saturday vs Utah
The pick-and-roll machine comes to town to inflict severe damage to the Griz. As I have talked about until my fingers wear down, the Griz are downright horrible at defending the pick-and-roll for most of the season and Utah might have invented the pick-and-roll. Deron Williams is probably more likely than not to have a career game. Watching AK-47 try to check Rudy will be fun.
I Can Be Sam Smith Too; A Pau Gasol Trade Idea
Just a quick hypothetical, RealGM fueled trade idea involving our favorite trade-idea whipping boy, Pau Gasol. Ok, so we have been told more than once now by Tillery, that Atlanta and Billy Knight have a standing offer for Pau. I am intrigued by this because I like both Al Horford and Josh Smith. Anyway, here is my idea:
Pau and NavarroRen and Lue are both expiring contracts. Actually Lue could help us at PG right now. But clearly the centerpiece of the trade is Pau for Josh Smith. I think Josh Smith will turn into a beast, particularly in a system that allows him to take poor shots, but will relish him for his defensive ability. The expiring contracts and not needing to re-sign Navarro, should open up enough cap room to sign both Josh Smith and Josh Childress to extensions. Smith and Childress add solid defenders to the rotation. This trade banks on Josh Smith morphing into a stud, which I think is a bet worth taking. Next year's rotation could look something like this:
Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Lorenzen Wright (!), Ty Lue, 2008 2nd Rounder
Bench: Lowry, Mayo, Childress, Hak, Stro