Sunday, March 9, 2008

Three Quarters Down

It is almost sad to believe but the season is now over 75% completed.

Sad because the season is almost over and sad because the season isn't over yet! It hasn't been the best year to be a Grizzlies fan (although we are promised great things if we renew our tickets next year). From a disappointing loss to a European team in the pre-season, to the slow start, the injuries, the Gasol trade, the fallout and the losses and losses and losses. It is at times hard to believe we still have over a month until the season is over on April 16th.

The good news is that Memphis should finish strong this season. They have games against Minnesota (twice), Miami and the Knicks in April. With these three teams fighting to have the most ping-pong balls there should be some seriously interesting games the last month, but probably for the wrong reasons. Either way, the schedule appears to be easing as much as possible considering the conference the team plays in.

Players at the 3/4 mark:

Rudy Gay: Rudy has struggled in the 3rd quarter with the losses of Gasol (trade) and Miller (injury) putting almost all of the pressure on Rudy to score points. the boiling point was reached when Rudy blasted refs and teammates during
the Utah Jazz game. He will need to learn how to accept the pressure and still play at a high level but Rudy is only 21 and still has some maturing to do.

Mike Miller: Mike true worth to the team couldn't have been made clearer than when he missed some games with a bad back. Suddenly everything that was difficult before became nearly impossible now. There simply weren't any players capable of stepping up when Mike wasn't in the lineup. The only regular contributor from the playoff days in Memphis, Mike is one of the most popular players on the team both in the locker room and in the stands. Mike range and hustle are simply too valuable to let go right now.

Juan Carlos Navarro: The 3rd leading scorer on the team has really struggled lately as teams are better understanding how to defend his drives in the lane and his long range shot has been off. Always a streaky shooter, JCN has been more off than on lately and really needs a strong finish to the season to earn a big paycheck next year. That could be affecting his play since he actually lost money playing in the US this year.

Hakim Warrick: Hakim has finally started to play like a man who belongs on the court in the NBA. Hak has always scored well and usually rebounded adequately but his defense was pathetic. Now, with a combination of zones and hard work, the Grizzlies are not worried when Hak is on the court. Warrick still needs to work on his defense and passing but he has been more than expected filling in for Gasol. He is averaging 17 ppg and 9 rebounds as a starter.

Kyle Lowry: The reports that Kyle Lowry will never become a solid played in the NBA have been greatly exaggerated. Kyle struggled some earlier in the year with the flu and with being passed over by Mike Conley but has become an integral part of the rotation both as SG and PG. Kyle has worked hard on improving the mechanics of his shot and the results are starting to pay off. Kyle's 3 pt shooting has improved from 17.6% in January to 31.3% in February to 33.3% in March. You have to like that trend since Lowry never hit above 30% in any month of his NBA career prior to February.

Mike Conley: Mike is struggling with his game as he adjusts to the NBA schedule. Mike has 32 games this season despite missing large stretches with injuries. To put it in comparison he only played 39 games in his run to the NCAA championship game. The travel and talent he has to face every night has obviously worn him out. Mike will need to work on conditioning this summer. Still Mike has the highest assist average among all rookies this season. The future is bright for the 20 yr old.

Darko Milicic: Darko has improved his play the most this quarter. He started off playing as poorly as he ever had and ended the quarter averaging almost a double-double (16 pts and 9.7 boards over the last three games). This gives great optimism for the future of the 22 yr old big man. Darko's main troubles have been with fouls both committing too many and not hitting the free throws when they are committed against him.

Javaris Crittenton: It hasn't been long enough to fully grasp what JCrit's future holds for Memphis. The main piece currently in Memphis from the Gasol trade, JCrit has shown flashes of brilliance in Grizzlies losses but hasn't gotten consistent minutes to show if that is fool's gold or the real deal. JCrit's minutes may be cut with the return of Miller to the lineup but the team has high expectations from the 5th youngest player in the league.

Brian Cardinal: The main beneficiary of playing time since the Gasol trade, Cardinal has been able to put together some nice efforts but his physical limitations don't bode well for my time in the uptempo style of play Memphis wants to run. 2 knee surgeries and a shoulder operation has reduced what little athleticism Cardinal possessed but hut that was never the strong point of Cardinal's game anyway. BC still is capable of spreading defenses with his 3 pt shot but it is unlikely that Cardinal will see much court time if the team remains healthy.

Kwame Brown: Kwame has seen very little time on the court. Iavaroni has said on his radio show that it wouldn't be fair to Kwame to throw him on the court at less than 100%. It makes even less since if you have any intention of re-signing him since his valur right now is bottom of the barrel. Playing him won't lower it but could raise it in some GM's eyes if he performs. Only time will tell if Memphis will offer him a contract.

Jason Collins: Jason Collins is all about defense and intelligent play. That is code for saying he has no offensive game and can't rebound well. He does set some mean picks and will not allow people to get easy baskets in the paint. Outside of that he doesn't contribute a lot other than giving Darko a breather when he's tired. Darko's minutes are up because Collins isn't an option Iavaroni feels comfortable playing.

Casey Jacobsen: Rumor is that Casey was benched by Michael Heisley. If true then Memphis fans should not be so hard on the owner since he does make some good decisions from time to time.

Andre Brown: Andre can't beat out Kwame Brown or Jason Collins for playing time. Does anything else need to be said?

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