Monday, August 25, 2008

Comparing to the Celtics (or Ridiculousness to Pass the Time)

Two seasons ago, the Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics "fought" to the wire for the title of "worst team in the NBA" in order to garner the best shot at the two "no doubt future superstars" in the draft in the form of Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Alas, their "efforts" were all for naught, as both finished outside of the top 3 positions in the draft, slated #4 and #5 respectively. As we all know, the Celtics didn't sit idly by, but were very active, as they traded away their younger assets for the services of two veterans -- Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Those moves helped them to surround longtime Celtic Paul Pierce with enough talent to not only make the postseason, but to do so with the best record in the NBA and go on to win the NBA Championship this year. However, there was also another key acquisition that spurred the Celtics on to title aspirations. That was the hiring of a new assistant coach.

Enter Tom Thibodeau. In his 18 seasons of being an assistant coach in the NBA, his team has finished in the Top 10 in overall defense 14 times. He is a defensive specialist -- that is what he does. Of course, at the time of his hiring, many wondered if he was simply the "coach in waiting" for Doc Rivers, who was perceived to be a lame duck by many. Any of this sound familiar yet? It sure does to me, in light of the way that many people received the news that Kevin O'Neill was being hired for the purpose of bolstering the Grizzlies' defense. There was rampant talk of the move "undermining Coach Marc Iavaroni" and that O'Neill was just in place to be "the next head coach" once Ivy was let go. Unfortunately for all those people -- some of whom just love to stir up trouble -- the fact is that O'Neill was brought in with Iavaroni's full endorsement. We've gone over that issue before, but it bears repeating as we gear up for the season. Marc Iavaroni wants Kevin O'Neill on his staff. Period. End of discussion.

With that out of the way, I wondered if there were any parallels to the champs that we could draw, besides the coaching labels: Doc Rivers = Marc Iavaroni in the "Supposed Lame Duck" category (vastly overstated IMO); Tom Thibodeau = Kevin O'Neill in the "Hard-nosed Defensive Specialist/Coach-in-waiting" category. Since the first two examples were in the coaching staff, I decided to look at it from the perspective of leadership/attitude. So the next few comparisons are based upon that idea, not position, game type or skillset.

Kevin Garnett = O.J. Mayo

KG (or Mr. Intensity) is the unquestioned emotional leader of the Celtics. He is the guy that gets everyone else fired up and has no issue with getting in someone's face and screaming like a banshee if they aren't as into the game as he wants them to be. Rudy Gay is not that guy. Mike Conley hasn't shown that he will be that guy. I believe that Ovinton J'Anthony Mayo just might be that guy though. He has that certain presence that defies categorization beyond the label of "born leader". If anyone on this young team is going to take that initial step towards being the unquestioned emotional leader, I think that Mayo is the most likely choice.

Paul Pierce = Mike Conley

The Truth leads by example. He's not big on displays of emotion, preferring to let his actions speak for themselves. While KG is raw emotional intensity, Pierce possesses a quiet fury that bubbles just below the surface. In that same manner, Conley isn't a guy that gets into his teammates faces (not yet, anyways), but he carries himself like someone who knows what needs to be done and then goes out and does it. He could prove to be the on-the-court leader that the Grizzlies need as they mature over the season. Only time will tell.

Ray Allen = Rudy Gay

Jesus Shuttlesworth is one of the best 2nd fiddles in the league. The fact that he is a 3rd option for Boston makes him one of the best #3 men in the history of the NBA. While he's not a leader in terms of emotion or an "on-the-floor coach", he is an absolute assassin when the need arises. He puts up big numbers when the team needs a lift and has no issue with the ball being in his hands as the clock winds down to 0.0 with the game on the line. Rudy Gay is a lot like that to this point in his career. Whether it is scoring in bunches throughout the game or hitting deep 3's late in the 4th quarter to bring his team back from the brink of defeat, he has shown himself to be a clutch performer so far in his young career. Like Ray Allen, he is best suited to be the sidekick due to his approach to the game, but what a talent to have as the #2 option.

I could go on and on, making further comparisons like Kendrick Perkins = Marc Gasol/Darko Milicic, but I think we've covered the important parts. This is not to say that the Grizzlies are going to even come close to making the playoffs next season, much less contend for a title, but the makeup in terms of personality and attitude is there for them to show some improvement. If their talent level can reach even 75% of the players I have compared them to, they might just reach Tsunami Status a lot sooner than anyone expects. Wouldn't that be a nice surprise?

BallHype: hype it up!


steevel knievel said...

uhh dude, did you ever watch OJ in college? He may have been the laziest player I've ever seen.

Chip Crain said...

Dude - You never saw Kelly Wise play in college then!

Joshua Coleman said...

Shaq was/is a lazy player too. Doesn't mean that he wasn't the emotional leader of his team though. They are not mutually exclusive.

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