Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"I'm Back" Top 10 List (including what future unemployed coach we should try to hire)

1. I'm back...sortof. I haven't posted on 3 Shades of Blue since sometime in March, I think. Maybe February. Quite frankly, after the Gasol trade, I was bored with the team. At the time when I described my apathy towards the rest of the season as being "bored", 82% of Griz fans agreed with my sentiment. I still watched most of the games after the all-star break, but I just didn't want to get all wrapped up in posting and analysis of games that for all intents and purposes were meaningless. Sure we have young players and this was a great opportunity to see them grow and develop. I really enjoy watching young players develop into better players on the court. But I just kept being reminded of Tarence Kinsey, circa Spring 2007. I thought I was watching him grow as a player into a quality NBA player. He was an undrafted rookie, who battled through a broken eye socket, made the team, and then when presented with playing time, played well and got better with each game. Now Kinsey is somewhere in Europe playing and is a distant, albeit painful, memory for most Griz fans. I learned 2 lessons from last year. First, don't over-react and over-analyze the performance of players on the worst team in the league playing in meaningless games. And being a die-hard fan, that was going to difficult to do, so I decided at the very least, I shouldn't go publishing and putting my analysis of essentially meaningless games on record. And second I learned that more meaningful development and growth in the game of young players is probably done in the offseason and not in games for a team wanting to obtain the best lottery odds as possible.

And besides, since I've been on hiatus, Chip has been killing it. That interview with Heisley was great. He's really been making this site award winning. He may have raised the level of expectation on our posts here at 3 Shades of Blue such that my ramblings come up a bit short....lol.

As the draft approaches I'd like to post more. But I'm pretty busy, as I am preparing to defend my doctoral research this summer and am in the midst of trying to secure post graduation employment. Heck come next year, I may be providing Griz analysis from an NBA city other than Memphis. Enough of this rambling, how about I share some of my Griz and general NBA thoughts with our three readers who have the ability to trick the Sitemeter into thinking there were hundreds of unique hits.

2. After Avery Johnson is fired, we should look to hire him. Of course that would mean canning Iavaroni, which although I'm not necessarily in favor of, I'm not necessarily against either. I like Avery as a coach. He's obviously went awry in Dallas, but that wouldn't stop me from giving him control here in Memphis. I think the future would be brighter with him at the helm than with Marc. I think Avery has a philosophy and system he is actually committed to implementing and that he believes in (I'm not sure that Iavaroni is convinced he knows what his philosophy is yet). And I bet Avery would love to get the chance to stick it to Dallas by coaching in their division.

Although I want the Grizzlies to find some consistency on the bench (Rudy has had like a billion coaches already), I don't think keeping consistency should be a strong argument to stick with Iavaroni and his coaching staff next year. I think being reasonable in a critique of Marc's job performance this year puts him on a hot seat on shaky ground. He had questionable rotation patterns (more on that in a bit). It did not look like he had a system he was trying to build with. His words and actions about a commitment to defense and his defensive philosophy didn't match up. There were rumors he did not mesh well with most of the players. Basically, the more and more I think about it, Iavaroni should feel lucky if he is the coach again next year. But I have one point that I feel argues the best for him to stay. The growth of Rudy Gay. No matter how well Marc handled the other 15 or so players on the team throughout the year, he was the head coach overseeing and directing Rudy Gay's coming out party. That should count for something.

Anyway I'm digressing. Avery is going to get fired this week. When he does, I hope Heisley contacts his agent. If there is serious interest there, I hope they work out a verbal agreement, then fire Iavaroni, hire Avery, and get Avery and Chris Wallace together to figure out how to shape this roster to fit Avery's preferred style.

3. Attention outside world: Javaris Crittenton does not play Point Guard for the Memphis Grizzlies. Holy crap, I don't think I could say that enough times. Chip and all his link-worthy posts on here have brought in readers who aren't necessarily Griz fans. For those of you actually reading this, file this nugget of information away. Crittenton did not play a single second as the "point guard" this season for the Memphis Grizzlies. He was only an "off-guard". Sure he would occasionally bring the ball down in transition situation because we were usually trying to push the ball as fast as possible. But even then he looked like an "off-guard" handling the ball.

When outsiders analyze the Grizzlies roster, they usually spend a fair amount of time on our point guard situation. And they always speak in terms of if we have a 3 (or even a 4) man battle for PG minutes. This is simply not true. Since Conley returned from his mid-season injury, there wasn't a single second of time that Conley or Lowry wasn't on the court as the primary ball handler. We never once this season had Crittenton or Navarro fighting for PG minutes. This myth has just been building all season and it has finally made me snap. I think this was the exact article that I snapped on. By Steve Aschburner from SI...

Conley was the fourth player selected overall, the only point guard among the draft's top 10 picks. But he arrived in Memphis as the third point guard on the team's depth chart and, even with veteran Damon Stoudamire gone, still vies for playing time with Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittenton and Juan Carlos Navarro. And they aren't even the most celebrated point guards in the city -- that would be Derrick Rose, freshman at the University of Memphis and likely no worse than the second player picked in this June's draft.

Sorry Steve, Crittenton and Navarro never once vied for playing time with Conley. In other words, Conley never once lost even a second of playing time to Crittenton or Navarro. Lowry? Sure, he lost lots of playing time to Lowry. That argument is valid and is what Steve should have stuck with and would have backed up his overall point. But including Crittenton and Navarro in there gives the wrong illusion of our actual situation.

4. Most Under-reported Story of the Year: Heisley tells Iavaroni to quit playing Casey Jacobsen before the January Laker game. First, go here and look at the game log for Casey. Look at how much his playing time dipped starting with the 1/8 Laker game. Not long after that Laker game, Chris Vernon (best sports time radio host in Memphis) told me about this story. Heisley told Iavaroni before the Laker game to quit playing Casey and start playing Hak. Marc obviously followed orders. At the time, the rumor was still underground. It wasn't in the papers yet. I don't believe Verno had mentioned it on his show or blog right away. Later, Verno did talk about it frequently on his program and put it on his blog I believe. We then started to allude to it on here a number of times after that. Then surprise, surprise, on-the-ball Griz beat writer, the great Ronald Tillery, was the last to get in on the act on April 2nd and finally reported the story in the paper (typical Tillery M.O. this season: after Verno breaks Griz news or talks about a certain Griz situation either on his radio program or his blog, the great Tillery then writes about it later in the paper and frames the presentation of the information as if it is brand new and has never been reported previously).

Anyway. I find the story of our owner deciding Casey playing too much was worth his time to intervene with and tell his new head coach who he should and shouldn't play quite interesting. The story didn't get enough attention, in my opinion.

5. Uncertainty thick in the air. I think if there is anything certain about this offseason, it's that nothing is certain. Except for that Rudy Gay will be wearing #22 for us next season. Who knows if our starting PG will be Conley, Lowry or Derrick Rose. Who knows if Miller will still be on the team. Who know if we re-sign JC Navarro. Who knows if Marc Gasol will come over and play for us. Who knows if Hak will start at PF, be stuck to the end of the bench or get traded. Who knows what Darko will be like if he returns. Who knows if Iavaroni is still the coach next year.

I think just about anything is possible this offseason. We may stand pat and just add a few draft picks. We may turn nearly the whole roster over. I think where we draft and then who we draft will have a huge amount of influence on how we shape or re-shape our roster. Wait, if my point in #3 comes true, Avery Johnson being our new coach will have an even greater influence. Ok, whatever, the point is that the only thing I know to be true about the 2008-09 Grizzlies is that Rudy Gay will be on the team. Beyond that, who knows.

6. My Draft Board. I'm dreading May 20th. By 8pm that night I will undoubtedly be very pissed off. That is of course the night David Stern will just dig the knife in a little deeper when he announces we are picking somewhere between 4 and 7. So in light of that, here is my current top 7 draft board for the Grizzlies Lottery pick. I'll probably update it again after the Orlando camp and we start having private workouts.

1. Derrick Rose
2. Michael Beasely
3. Danilo Gallinari
4. OJ Mayo
5. Anthony Randolph
6. Eric Gordon
7. Nicolas Batum

My preferred outcome is for us to draft Derrick Rose either at 1 or 2 and then trade Conley to Portland. Wait, I guess if we got Beasley, I still wouldn't mind us trading Conley to Portland. Let's just move on from that point for now. We have a whole summer and likely another full year of Conley vs Lowry debate. : )

Since I'm taking the pessimistic side of this year's draft lottery, my best case scenario is that we get either Gallinari or Mayo at #4. I don't care if Gallinari plays the same position as Rudy technically. I have seen most of other guys enough to have too many negatives on each, the unknown of the "Italian LeBron James" has me currently won over.

7. Free Agency plans. I think like most Griz fans, I understand that who we draft with our lottery pick will likely determine what kind of player we target in Free Agency. Regardless of who we draft, I think we should (in some fashion and to some degree) implement this free agency strategy: Go for Broke and Force teams to overpay their players.

Here is what I would do, knowing full well that we will not net a big time free agent and will eventually settle for a second tier player or nothing at all:

1. At 12:01 on the first day of free agency, I present Josh Smith with a Max Contract. Within 7 days, the Hawks will match.
2. As soon as the Hawks match Josh Smith, I move onto Iggy if he is still un-signed. I then watch Philly match his Max Contract.
3. Then I move onto Monta Ellis and then Loul Deng. I sign them, not to Max contracts, but darn near. And watch their teams match both of them.
4. By then it will be late into Free Agency. The period where players get over-paid would be over (and we would have been the cause of many over-valued contracts). Then we either sign some second tier player for a reasonable Darko like deal (like Josh Childress or JR Smith or Ben Gordon) or we simply re-sign Navarro and bring Gasol over and save our money for the next year. Who knows, maybe we get lucky and get Josh Smith (even with a max contract).

8. Game of the year: Rudy officially becomes our guy. This is the game I remember the most. This will probably be the only game I remember in 5 years. In this game, Rudy made it perfectly clear that trading Pau and building around Rudy was the smart move. Enjoy that moment again:

9. NBA Playoffs and go read Hornets247. The playoffs are pretty good so far. I enjoyed seeing the Mavs lose in the 1st round. The Cavs-Wizard series has been really good (and physical). I'm currently over-joyed watching the scrappy Hawks going toe-to-toe with the Celtics. That Suns-Spurs double OT opener was almost as good as it gets (and in the case of the Suns was essentially when they lost the series). And as for our good friend Pau, unfortunately I don't have much good to say. I'm rooting against him. I get sick when I see the Nugs big guys play patty cake with Pau now while he plays for the Lakers, after all those times of playing the school yard bully on him when he played for us. I feel bad for thinking and saying it, but I hope the Lakers are out of the playoffs as soon as possible and that Pau plays bad in their defeat. Sorry to our Spanish readers for that. I'll make it up to you and cheer for Spain to win the Olympic Gold, ok?

If the playoffs have done anything for the NBA, it has made NBA Blogs even more relevant. Things are getting out of hand. There is too much NBA related stuff to read on the internet right now. I'm overloaded. Luckily, I've found that many of the big Blogs seem to be mirror images of each other and I end up just reading virtually the same thing. That is were team-specific blogs come in. And if you aren't reading Hornets247 right now, you are missing out. It is a great thing to see a up and coming young team emerge as a surprise Championship Contender and at the same time see a blog devoted to covering that team follow lock-step in the ascension upwards. Truthfully, if the Hornets weren't so good this year, I probably wouldn't be reading Hornets247. But the Hornets are good. And Hornets247 has been even better.

10. Me and my poor ole Tigers. I will end this blog post with this. Even now, I am totally deflated about the Memphis Tigers losing grip of OUR national championship. For at least one week after that devastating night, I couldn't watch ESPN or read any sports related website. And for me that is saying something. I didn't read a single word in the Commercial Appeal. I have no idea what any local or national sports writer wrote after the game. I couldn't stomach to read it. While I write this I am still a mix of steaming mad and dangerously depressed about not winning. I want to pick up something, anything and throw it through the wall in frustration, followed by throwing up into the newly created hole in the wall and then falling to the ground crying. I still just can't believe we didn't win. I'm not sure how I will be able to stomach watching DRose or CDR or Dorsey play next year in the NBA. It's going to be hard. I will never get over that game I'm sure. The bitter taste of a crushing defeat that ruined a darn near perfect year where I saw myself invest my emotions into a team like never before, is just too much for me to take. I'm not sure if I will ever be able to click on the "Mens NCAABB" link on any site ever again.

That's all. I might not post again for a while. Just too busy. Hopefully I'll be able to chime in with joy and elation at our lottery luck on May 20th, but I'm not holding my breathe.

BallHype: hype it up!


ChipC3 said...

"At the time when I described my apathy towards the rest of the season as being "bored", 82% of Griz fans agreed with my sentiment."
90% of all statistics can be made to say anything you want...50% of the time!

Welcome back Zack.

Anonymous said...

Nice read Zach!

ChipC3 said...

Do we need to start calling Zack Dr. Z?

Does that make Spartacus, MemphisX and me the Funkmonsters?

A little local humor there in case people wonder what that is all about.

Anonymous said...

with this drivel, you could have stayed away

Anonymous said...

ugghh..funkmosnters, what a craptastic party band...

Anonymous said...

couldn't agree with you more on #10 and that's all i have to say about that

SeanBS said...

Fantastic article. Welcome back. Being there for that Rudy shot was one of the top sports experiences of my life... that one moment, at least, manages to rise above the muck and mire of this discouraging season. If the Griz drop Iavaroni, I'd rather them go after D'Antoni than Avery Johnson. Johnson is too stuffy and disconnected from his players... not what an exciting young team needs. And do not fret- Tyreke Evans will lead us to the promised land.

Black said...

Lol, I jus used the same exact "max contract scenario" for all the free agents with my friends. We will try to acquire the talent I just dont think it'll happen this year. Keep the money, draft day trade with Mike Miller, pray for ping pong balls.

Anonymous said...

I guarantee you in the next 4 year, the tigers will be in the final four again, maybe even win a championship. Tiger fans just have to be patient with a rebuilding team, but I think we have a chance to go very deep in the tourney this year, as long and Dozier and Anderson come back. Who knows, if we get Devin Ebanks and Wesley Witherspoon too, we will at least get to the elite 8. That's just my take. Also, I would like to go after D'Antoni more than Johnson because D'Antoni is laid back and close to his players which is great for a young team like ours. Also, he runs the right version of offense that Iavoroni was trying to run.

Anonymous said...

> I might not post again for a while

Is that a promise?

Take a year off.
Maybe 2 or 3 even.

Stephen Brunt

Carolyn said...

Look to hire Avery. That's brilliant. Totally worth the read for that line alone.

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