Saturday, January 19, 2008

Post Game Thoughts - Seattle

If there is a cure for losing streaks it apparently is located in Seattle. The Sonics continue to be one team that this season's Grizzlies have no problem with. The 24 pt victory took a little sting out of the recent 5 game losing streak.

Who is Bobby Jones and where did this game come from? A lot of people will probably get overly excited about the 20 pt, 13 rebound, 7 assist, 3 steals and a block game but keep in mind that Tarence Kinsey had a month of such performances last season and is still playing in Turkey right now. Jones provided a huge lift with Rudy out but don't expect a lot more games such as this.

Pau Gasol had a big game (23 pts and 12 boards, 4 blocks) but failed to score again in the 4th quarter. Probably because he didn't play in the 4th as the Grizzlies already had the game put out of reach. Everytime Seattle tried to make a move to get back into the game Gasol made a big play to keep Memphis on top.

Mike Miller's back was obviously bothering him all night but he gutted it out and put a team high 25 pts including 6-9 from the arc. Miller didn't even make it to the end of the 3rd quarter when his back flared up but he fought hard and hopefully he will be ready for tonight's game against the Bobcats. Same goes for Rudy Gay who got sick before the game but was on the bench in street clothes.

I suggested Juan Carlos Navarro would have a difficult time in this game against the big guards of Seattle. I was wrong. Navarro had 21 pts, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. It is so much fun to watch Navarro play in person. He laughs, smiles and really seems to enjoy playing. The funniest moment of the night was when the Grizzlies did their 'Meet the Team' segment with Navarro. A few tidbits from his interview included his choosing #2 because he has 2 daughters, his best friend is Pau Gasol and his favorite food is hamburgers. It was all subtitled since he speaks Spanish and was interjected with movie clips including the hamburger scene with Samuel L. Jackson's scene from Pulp Fiction. Too funny! Great job by the Grizzlies media team.

This game was such a blowout that Andre Brown, Stromile Swift and even Brian Cardinal made 4th quarter appearances. Casey Jacobsen was in uniform for warmups but in street clothes for the game. Damon dressed but did not play.

All I can say about Seattle is that this team isn't good and doesn't match up well with the Grizzlies. At least that is what I can say and remain polite. If I wanted to be cruel I would say Nike isn't getting their money's worth from that Durant contract. Those have to be the ugliest shoes I have ever scene on a human being. Durant looks like he will be an offensive force one day but he has to learn to play defense, rebound and passer. Being a team leader doesn't mean taking every shot possible no matter how bad it is. Jeff Green looks mechanical and may not develop into more than a back up SF. The rest of the team are NBA rejects and over the hill players. I wonder why Seattle is fighting to keep this team right now. Good thing I am too polite to say such things.

Great win for the Grizzlies but it won't be so easy against the Bobcats. Charlotte was blown out by New Orleans and rested their starters as well in the 4th quarter.

Spartacus Says:

It is amazing what a fun game NBA basketball is to watch when your team is winning by 20+ for the majority of the game. This is especially true when the guy sitting directly in front of you is renowned for riding the officials all game long......and the officials are not only looking at him, but responding to him throughout the evening. Thanks for making the game even more entertaining Richard!

What a game by Bobby Jones. The game program for the night might have said that Kyle Lowry was the catalyst for the team, but Jones proved that to be incorrect almost immediately after tip-off. He played smothering, suffocating defense on Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Damien Wilkins and whomever else he was asked to guard. He made hustle play after hustle play, leading to a standing ovation from the crowd gathered at FedEx Forum near the end of the half when he converted a steal into a bucket, then immediately turned and nearly stole the inbounds pass before knocking it out of bounds. It was the kind of effort that made guys like James Posey and Shane Battier fan favorites during their time on Beale Street. Granted, the more cynical among us could say "hey -- the guy is fighting for a contract", but you could tell from the look on his face that he'd be playing this hard whether he was in Memphis, Los Angeles, Austin or Albuquerque. The kid just loves being out there giving his all. I expect that the Grizzlies will sign him to another 10-day contract, and as long as he doesn't completely fall apart, he'll be on the team for the remainder of the season. Rudy Gay might want to avoid eating anything else that Bobby gets him for lunch though.

Chip covered all the relevant stats for Memphis, but here's a new stat for you: .302% That is Kevin Durant's shooting percentage from the field in 3 games against the Grizzlies so far, as he has only made 13 of his 43 attempts. Here's another: in 7 total rebounds he has grabbed in those 3 games. Echoing Chip's thoughts, if I wanted to be truly cruel, I'd tell you that he has more turnovers (10) in those three games than assists (3), steals (1) and blocks (0) combined. But I'm not that mean. His shoes were that ugly though.

While the game was entertaining, perhaps the most unbelievable thing I saw all night occurred when Al Sharpton showed up halfway through the first quarter with an entourage of 4 or 5 people. It was apparent that they were having some difficulty finding their seats, as they meandered along the walkway behind the baseline for several minutes attempting to locate the appropriate place. Finally, as Sharpton grew frustrated, he pointed to an open chair and proclaimed in the way that only he can, "I'll take that seat!". The ushers tried to inform him that he couldn't just have any seat, that he would have to sit in his assigned seat, but he wasn't having any of it by that point. Finally, someone turned around and said, "Reverend Sharpton, that's my seat." Sharpton replied, "Well who are you?" The man responded, "I'm Marc Iavaroni." "Well, I've never heard of you, but you seem to have heard of me, so I think I'll be taking that seat now" was the instantaneous response from Sharpton.

The preceding was a complete and total fabrication, so please don't sue me......even if it could have actually happened.

Hopefuly the Grizzlies will be able to carry over some momentum from last night into tonight's game against the BETcats.

Memphis at Charlotte - 1.19.08

Memphis hits the road for a quick trip to Charlotte to take on the Bobcats on the 2nd game of a back to back. Whether or not the Grizzlies will be in a good mood for this game depends a lot on their tangle Friday night against the Sonics. Memphis has a 5 game losing streak going and it has been 30 days since Memphis beat San Antonio on Rudy Gay's last second 3 pt shot. Memphis' only home win since that game came against Miami 12 days ago. Pau Gasol has become a stronger force in the middle of late as he has averaged 23.2 ppg and 10.4 rpg over the last 10 games. Either he is serious about wanting to lead this team or he is putting on an impressive audition for teams looking to acquire him. The problem with trading Pau is that the Grizzlies would almost have to trade Navarro as well in a deal and JCN is averaging 10.2 ppg and hitting 42.6% of his 3 pt attempts over the same time frame. Rudy Gay and Mike Miller are also playing well as everyone seems more involved offensively since Mike Conley took over the PG duties. The good news is that Memphis should feel right at home in front of the empty stadium at Charlotte.

Charlotte is actually playing decent basketball, not that anyone on Tobacco Road is noticing with UNC the only team ranked ahead of Memphis in college basketball. In fact, this game could be a professional precursor to the NCAA Championship game. The only difference is that if the college teams play it would be a sell out and that won't happen in this game. Charlotte's play depends on two players: Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace. When they are on the Bobcats are difficult to stop offensively. Just ask Boston who lost by 12 to the Bobcats in Boston. The problem is that they aren't hot enough. Despite winning 4 of their last 6 games heading into New Orleans Friday night Charlotte is only 15-23 on the season. The main force for Charlotte has to be Emeka Okefor. Okefor will be guarding Gasol and if he can stop Gasol Memphis will struggle.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Raymond Felton
Raymond Felton is progressing the way most young PG's in the league develop. He struggled bad his first season while learning from Memphis resident Brevin Knight. The second season he took over full time but still struggled. Now in his 3rd season he is making strides to become what his potential implied coming out of college. It usually takes a few years for young PG's to learn the game. Conley was supposed to follow a somewhat similiar path-learn from Damon, replace Damon but struggle and then become what his potential suggested. It hasn't worked out that way so far as Conley was injured then immediately went from 3rd string to starter forcing Damon into street clothes. What's more he hasn't struggled that bad. His shot has fallen more often than not and he hasn't been lit up defensively very often. I still lean toward the home player with experience however.
Advantage: Charlotte

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Jason Richardson

Mike Miller must be wondering what he has done to deserve this week. First it was Kobe, then LeBron, the Kevin Durant and now Jason Richardson. Mike has to be hoping that he can survive tonights game because he only has to deal with Ben Gordon on Monday. Jason Richardson is seemingly injury free after one nagging injury after another plagues his last few years in Golden St. HIs FG% isn't that great at 43.7% but his 3 pt shooting is strong at 43.8%. He obviously is relying more on his long range shot this season than his legendary slam dunk ability but that doesn't mean he can't pull out a rim rocker if someone overplays his jump shot. Defensively Richardson has quick hands and gets into passing lanes but can be beaten when he overplays.
Advantage: Charlotte

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Gerald Wallace

I haven't said this very often this season but Rudy is overmatched here. Gerald Wallace is a great defender (one of three players in NBA history to average 2 blocks and 2 steals a game for an entire season) and an explosive scorer (21.6 ppg). He is the model of the type of player people want Rudy Gay to become. He is also a slasher and those players frustrated Rudy earlier in the season. If Rudy can avoid foul trouble he should be able to get his shot off against Wallace but it will require more work than usual. Rudy will need to use all of his skills to avoid foul trouble and hopefully to get Wallace in trouble since the backup situation is very weak in Charlotte. This matchup alone should be worth the price of admission to the game.
Advantage: Charlotte

Power Forward: Pau Gasol vs Emeka Okefor

A big time battle of strength vs strengths at the 4 as defensive minded Emeka Okefor takes on offensive minded Pau Gasol. Gasol has been on fire of late and seems more determined than ever to be the Grizzlies go-to player down low. Okefor has not been the dominant rebounder he usually is of late but that probably has more to do with Nazr Mohammed joining him on the front line than anything else. When Charlotte has the ball Okefor isnt a big move offensive player but can score if left alone. Good thing too because Gasol isn't a big time defender. Okefor scoring in double figures probably will be a bad sign for the Grizzlies. If Gasol goes for more than 20 it is a good sign for the Grizzlies. If Gasol can grab at least 12 boards it is very positive. The advantage goes to Gasol because of Okefor's stiffness. Gasol should be able to out-manuever him down low.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Nazr Mohammed

Nazr Mohammed is playing like the man Detroit wanted him to be before giving up on him. Darko is playing like the man Detroit thought he was before giving up on him. Not good in that respect for Memphis. The difference is that Darko is improving considering the health problems he has had this season while Nazr has pulled this type of show before only to retreat back into his career averages of 7 pts and 6 boards a night. Those numbers are still better than Darko this season and Darko's knee has joined his thumb on the injured but still playing list.
Advantaga: Charlotte

Benches: Memphis vs Charlotte

If Memphis stands a chance in this game it will have to come from the bench. Navarro, Warrick and Lowry need to have big games against the Charlotte bench because frankly the starters will struggle to stay even. Charlotte's only scoring threat off the bench is Matt Carroll and he shouldn't be tough for Bobby Jones to stop. After that the pickings are pretty slim. If Memphis can get 35 points from their bench they will be in great shape.
Advantage: Memphis

Friday, January 18, 2008

Memphis vs Seattle - 1.18.08

Memphis has lost 5 consecutive games but two were on the last possession and one more was in OT so their record is a bit deceiving. Expect the Grizzlies to play small ball tonight despite Seattle's tall team as Darko Milicic is experiencing knee pain and said he felt popping in the knee prior to the Cleveland game. Doesn't sound promising but what else would you expect from the Grizzlies? Pau Gasol has been on fire of late but Mike Miller has struggled finishing games since he rarely is allowed to leave the court. Rudy Gay broke out of his two game slump with a 30 pt effort against Cleveland. Mike Conley set a career high in points against Cleveland and Juan Carlos Navarro integrated himself back into the rotation with a strong game against Cleveland as well.

Seattle is struggling worse than the Grizzlies and are even younger. Kevin Durant leads the team in shot attempts as well as scoring but he has struggled this season doing either against former Baltimore childhood friend Rudy Gay. Durant is averaging 20.1 ppg on 41% shooting from the field and 30.5% from the arc. In other words he is scoring by putting up a lot of shots. The other rookie Jeff Green is only scoring 9 ppg but is hitting on 44.2% of his FG attempts. His rebounding is acceptable for a SF and he is producing in all areas. The duo is raising expectations in Oklahoma City as the owner has stated he wants to move the team but Seattle is still trying to keep the team as well. Perhaps getting on the road and ignoring the soap opera will be good for the team.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Earl Watson
Some people say that Earl Watson can't shoot but he is hitting shots as well as Kevin Durant who is supposed to be the next super scorer in the NBA. Earl is clipping along at 40.8% from the field and an eye-popping 35.2% from the arc this season More importantly he is averaging 6.1 apg while splitting time with Luke Ridnour. Earl is known for his defense but that will be tested against the lightning fast Mike Conley. Conley is getting more and more comfortable running the offense as the team has eclipsed 100 pts in 5 pf the last 6 games while failing to hit for 100 in 6 of the previous 7. He must be doing something right. His shot is still not respected but that may be changing as Mike is hitting 45.5% of his FG attempts and 34.6% of his long range attempts. Conley leads all rookies in assists at 4.6 a game but has averaged 5.4 apg as a starter. A classic confrontation between a talented rookie and a crafty veteran. Remember what the last crafty veteran PG did to Mike and he never played for the Grizzlies.
Advantage: Seattle

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Jeff Green

I know this is not the true SG match up but everyone knows Rudy is going to be guarding Durant and I am not going to waste a great match up simply because some people get hung up on terms. Miller has increased his scoring in January to 18.1 ppg which just happens to correlate with Conley being the PG. Is there a connection? For the month Mike is hitting 55.7% of his FG attempts, 43.2% of his long balls and grabbing 7 boards a game. Naturally local fans are calling for him to be traded. Green has been developing slowly but solidly. He isn't a flashy ESPN highlight real type of player but more of a blue collar worker who gives great effort every night. He is now playing 32 mpg and but his percentages are starting to drop as his minutes increase. The rookie wall may be rising up to claim another player as Green starts hitting new barriers for games played in a season.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Kevin Durant

I've already discussed how poorly KD is shooting this season. To put it in perspective however Rudy shot 42% from the field as a rookie. I haven't heard too many people complain about his sophomore season lately. There is no reason not to expect KD to not improve similarly next year. Rookies struggle to get their shots in line with the pace of the game and once it slows down for Durant he should be long as he isn't playing against Rudy Gay who knows every move KD has. The players are so similar physically it is scary. One is 6-8, 222 lbs with limitless range and awesome ability to get shots off in traffic. The other is 6-9, 215 pounds with awesome range and an awesome ability to get shots off in traffic. Rudy is more experienced right now and has given Durant fits in their first two match ups. KD has scored 28 pts total in those two games hitting 5-25 from the floor. Rudy is playing the best basketball of his career right now including putting up 30 against LeBron James on Tuesday night.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Chris Wilcox

Most people realize that Gasol is the #2 scorer on the Grizzlies. What most people may not realize Chris Wilcox is the #2 scorer on the Sonics. The 6th yr player out of Maryland has never materialized into the player many people thought he would coming out of Maryland but he is a fine player who uses intimidation as one of his best attributes. Gasol has been known to be intimidated by players such as Wilcox. Gasol is only averaging 12.5 ppg against Seattle this season but that was the November Gasol and the January Gasol is a far different creature. Gasol has been putting up huge numbers in January and Wilcox won't be able to just give him a scowl and a scream and expect Gasol to roll over. With Pau averaging 22 pts and 11 boards it may take every big Seattle has to slow him down. Wilcox is also on the mend after he suffered an injury so another advantage for Gasol.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Kurt Thomas

I know it may sound silly but this could be the most important matchup in the game. Will Darko be able to go? What will the MRI say? If not Darko who will play center? Will Hakim move to PF and Gasol to C? Will Stromile make an appearance after not playing since January 8th? It seems obvious that Darko won't be 100% but the team doesn't need Darko 100% in the game. They do need his bulk in the game. Behind Thomas is Johan Petro, Saer Sene and Nick Collison so you can count on Seattle playing every big they have to to dominate the boards and Memphis will need to find a way to counter this. Thomas is averaging almost 10 rebounds a night, partially because the backcourt throws up so many bricks everyone has a chance to grab boards. Thomas isn't a great shot blocker however so he shouldn't be effective trying to cheat away from his man to help out. Still a healthy Thomas vs an injured Milicic is no contest.
Advantage: Seattle

Benches: Memphis vs Seattle

Memphis bench has been getting solid production from Navarro lately and Lowry and Hak seemed to have solidified their bench roles as well but that was with a healthy Darko. If Darko can't go then Swift, Brown and maybe even Cardinal re-enter the picture. Navarro may also start but it is pretty spooky to think of Navarro guarding either Green or Durant. It is pretty scary to think of Navarro matched up against Wally Szczerbiak or Damian Wilkens for that matter who are the main bench scorers for Seattle. Delonte West and Luke Ridnour are battling for backup PG duty and right now it seems a toss up. West being more active defensively and Ridnour better offensively.
Advantage: Seattle

Update at Game Time:
No Rudy Gay tonight. Out sick via Chip from the game.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Links: Rudy talks to Dime, ESPN creates a trade rumor, Confusion about Casey (that has been verified resulted from misinformation)

Dime Magazine's Austin Burton recently sat down with Rudy Gay to conduct a very good interview.

Dime: It’s not like the Grizzlies came into this season with great expectations, but you still hoped to be better than 10-28 at this point. How would you analyze the season so far?

Rudy Gay: It may not seem like it, but we’re taking some big strides as far as individual people getting better. Once a couple of things fall into place, we’ll be pretty good. But we all know we have a lot of work to do.

That was the first question, and they just got better from there. Be sure to go check it out.

ESPN's Chris Sheridan got bored today and decided to make Grizzlies' fans work feverishly at their keyboards by first stating that NBA executives overwhelmingly believe that Pau Gasol is the high profile player most likely to be moved before the deadline and then proposing a Gasol/Warrick for Amare Stoudemire/draft pick trade while discussing the Phoenix Suns' big man. Thanks a lot Chris! Now the fanbase has gone from being willing to take Chicago's "kiddie meal" offer or L.A.'s "expiring contracts bonanza" to thinking they could have Amare in Beale Street Blue. Like they didn't want to move the talented Spaniard enough already?

Finally, it seems that some overseas announcers might have intimated that the Grizzlies were on the verge of releasing G/F Casey Jacobsen and that a return to Germany would be in his future. I've seen nothing to substantiate this and have no doubt that at the current time it is a complete fabrication -- that's a big word that means it belongs in a Sam Smith column.


Special thanks goes out to the best Sports Radio Host currently residing on the Bluffs of the Great Mississippi River.

Chris Wallace confirmed to Verno that Casey "has not been bought out or released".

Verno contacted Wallace after seeing the above mentioned link and then relayed the news to me. I feel bad for that misinformation about Casey being taken from the dark depths of messageboard-land to the perils of the NBA Blogsphere. I'm glad Verno helped us straighten it out.

Blog/Website of the Day: 20 Second Timeout

The Curse of the Spanish Cast

Fewer than 16 months ago the Memphis Grizzlies held their annual Kick-Off Luncheon at the FedEx Forum and as usual had a silent and live auction during the event. Players talked, the coaches talked and everyone had a very nice time. Even the food in the Forum was good. It was fun.

Until the live auction began.

Among the items up for bid were the Honorary Ball Boy on opening night, a trip with the Grizzlies to an away game (including flying on the team plane, hotel stay in the team hotel and tickets to the game), a chance to have Grizz visit your child's class and one odd item.

The team was going to auction off Gasol's cast from his broken foot he suffered while playing for Spain, not the Grizzlies mind you but Spain.

Who would want to buy a cast from a 7 ft man that had been wearing it during September and October in Spain? It wasn't decorated with Grizzlies stickers, it wasn't colored in Beale St Blue and while autographed by the big man himself it wasn't exactly something you would hang on the wall in your den. The team was coming off three successive playoff appearances and had won 49 games the year before and had made a big time trade to acquire Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift for Shane Battier but who would want to put a stinky cast from someone Else's foot on display?

What was even more incredible was that the cast sold for more than the Honorary Ball Boy! $200 more in fact!!! I can't imagine the thought process there. A lifetime memory for your son or a $700 piece of plaster that wasn't art and really can't even be put on display.

So it began.

Since that moment the Grizzlies have been a failure. They lost in triple OT to the Knicks to open the season. They won the fewest games since the team moved to Memphis. Over nearly a season and a half the team has gone from playoff contenders to one of the worst teams in the league. No playoffs, not big crowds and no fun. If that isn't a curse I don't know what is.

Things become cursed in innocent ways. A man brings a farm animal to a baseball game in Chicago, an owner traded a player to raise cash to produce a play for his girlfriend in Boston, even sports magazine covers can be cursed.

Holding on to the image of something broken has apparently cursed the Grizzlies. I don't remember the team auctioning off Big Country's back brace or the infected toe nail of JWill after all.

There are ways to determine if something or someone is cursed. lays it out in simple and easy words:

If the Lord of the twelfth be in the sixth, or the Lord of the sixth in the twelfth, or the Lord of the ascendant in the twelfth, or the Lord of the twelfth in the ascendant, or the Lord of the eighth in the ascendant, or the Lord of the ascendant in the eighth, in a Question where suspition of Witchcraft is, it is probable; otherwise not so: But the Judgment succeeding I have found more certaine.
Okay. Maybe it isn't so easy to actually determine.

The question now becomes how do we break the curse?

It is rather vague in how to remove curses. Would hiring a voodoo doctor work? Probably not since there are limits to the ways a curse can be removed and I imagine possessing the cursed item is on the list. The cast is held in private hands. I doubt anyone remembers who actually owns the cast now at the Grizzlies front office. IF they did know would they have to buy it back from the owner? The team isn't really free spending with their money these days. I mean they gave Bobby Jones jersey #6 which was previously owned by Eddie Jones after all. takes the stated position that not only can curses not be removed but paying money for such services would only make them worse!

So let's rule out the Grizzlies spending any money in this matter.

What makes matters more complicated is that removing a curse often involves sending the curse back on the person who started it. Who is that anyway? Was it the Boys and Girls Club of Memphis who sponsored the auction and received the proceeds? I doubt that anyone would support cursing that organization just to end the Grizzlies losing ways. But what if someone else was to blame? Do we blame Gasol for not getting rid of the cast in the first place? Do we want to risk cursing him now that he is play some of the best basketball of his career?

I know someone will suggest we trade Gasol for whatever we can get and then remove the curse and I can't deny that hasn't crossed my mind but what if it doesn't work? Remember that it is the belief of that you can't remove curses at all. The Sports Illustrated Cover Curse is still going strong, the Chicago Cubs have yet to figure out how to win a world series but Boston did overcome the Curse of the Bambino after 86 years.

What did Boston do? According to Wikipedia Boston tried just about everything. They hired exorcists, Father Quido Sarducci and even found a piano Babe reportedly pushed into a lake. Wikipedia went on to say:
Some declared the curse broken when, on August 31, 2004 a foul ball hit by Manny Ramirez flew into Section 9, Box 95, Row AA and struck a boy's face, knocking two of his teeth out.[2] 16-year-old Lee Gavin, a Boston fan whose favorite player was and remains Ramirez, lives on the Sudbury farm owned by Ruth. That same day, the Yankees suffered their worst loss in team history, a 22-0 clobbering at home against the Cleveland Indians.

So who is willing to buy Gasol's house and subject their son to a facial by Rudy Gay to break the curse?
If anyone has any other suggestions on how to break this curse just leave them in the comments.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Looking for Leadership

Why do young teams, such as the Memphis Grizzlies, struggle so much? Is it a lack of experience? The need for a "pecking order" to be established amongst the players? The search for a franchise player to carry them? Personally, I think that it is all those things, plus one more thing that helps to remedy many of those problems: leadership.

After reading Adrian Wojnarowski's article on Yahoo! Sports about the Chicago Bulls' players telling interim coach Jim Boylan that F/C Joakim Noah deserved another game off due to his tirade towards an assistant coach, it made things even more apparent that I've been on the right track in pinpointing the Grizzlies primary problem. He also mentions the mistake that Knicks GM/head coach Isiah Thomas made after polling his players about what to do with PG Stephon Marbury after he refused to show up to a game after being told that he would not be starting. The players said that Starbury should be benched for the forseeable future. Thomas responded by playing Marbury 34 minutes in the next game.

One coach responded by allowing his team to do what was best for the team as a whole. The other caved in to a petulant player who has done nothing to make his team better since his arrival. Both the Bulls and Knicks lack leadership right now -- mostly in the form of on-court leadership from a good player capable of making big plays and keeping the team on track during difficult times. Not so coincidentally, the Grizzlies have been looking for a player like that recently, too.

How does a team acquire a leader though? I posed this question on a few different message boards over the past couple of weeks and got a variety of answers, many of which advocated trading for or signing a "proven leader". No one was able to tell me why a player of that caliber would be available through either of those channels. After all, didn't the Bulls sign Ben Wallace hoping that he would be the leader who carried them to postseason success? Perhaps Big Ben just wasn't quite the leader everyone perceived him to be? That's the conclusion I drew....before the signing even took place. But that's a story for another day.

It seems to me that the only way to acquire a "true leader" is by drafting that player. Perhaps you draft a player that makes his teammates better, doesn't get rattled under pressure, is lauded for his "maturity beyond his years" persona, is trusted by the coaching staff and can be counted on to make the right decision 95% of the time. If that player has the potential to be one of the very best at his respective position in the league, then chances are you've got a leader that teammates are going to follow into Hell and back, no matter what he asks of them. Does Memphis have a player like that on their roster? I believe they do, although it might take a couple of years for him to reveal himself. Some things are worth waiting on though.

Examining the Facts with Eli Savoie

Eli Savoie is the program director for AM 560 WHBQ, more commonly known as Sports 56. He also hosts the midday program with Greg Gaston. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask him a few questions that he graciously answered for us.

3 Shades of Blue: Your official title with Sports 56 is Program Director, as well as being the midday host along with Greg Gaston.What does a Program Director do on a daily basis?

Eli Savoie: As program director, I am responsible for the day to day on-air operations of the station. I make decisions on what shows, games, etc. we put on and oversee the scheduling of those shows or games. I am in charge of overseeing the on air staff as well as the producers and part-time employees that are involved in the programming on the station making sure all shifts are covered and everyone is doing their job properly. I also work with our sales department on promotions and sales ideas for the station.

3SoB: What led you to get into the radio business?

ES: I knew from a young age that I wanted to get into a sports related field since I was always a sports nut. In high school I decided that the media was the field I wanted to get in to. Once in college, I majored in Mass Communications and minored in History and Journalism and as I took courses in television, radio and print journalism, I realized that radio was where my passion was and I made the decision to pursue a radio career. It also didn't hurt that I had a face made for radio.

3SoB: You've been blogging since February 2005 at What do you think about the growth of the blogosphere over the past decade and the effect it has had on the world of sports?

ES: I think it is amazing. You can go on the internet now and find a blog on almost any subject in the world. It's crazy! As far as sports blogs go, they are all over the place. I think the biggest effect they have had is that information is much more accessible at any time of day because people can get on and post something at any time. On a negative side, the fact that anyone can have a blog, you don't really know what information can be trusted. I think a lot of the blogs out there are great and are very credible, but there are a lot of blogs that aren't and it makes it tough to figure out which ones are which.

3SoB: You have been experimenting with live blogging recently. We did some live blogging during the preseason and for the home opener before deciding that it was preventing us from enjoying the game in any respect. From your brief trial run, what are your thoughts on doing it so far?

ES: It does take away a little from the enjoyment of the game. I am still trying to figure out the best way to do it. I got a positive response from people on the first couple I did so I would like to continue to do it at Tigers and Grizzlies games, it’s just going to take some fine tuning.

3SoB: For our post that asked local media members to predict the number of Grizzlies wins, you had this to say:

I expect the Grizzlies to be better this year, but I don't expect the huge improvement in wins that a lot of people are predicting. I am looking for the young guys to get a lot of experience and this team to start working towards being competitive in the playoffs two or three years from now. I think 33-35 wins is a realistic goal for this year as far as wins go, but more important to me is the development of the younger players such as Conley, Lowry, Milicic, Gay and Warrick. Barring any major injuries, I look for the Grizzlies to win around 35 games.

Do you feel that they are still on track to perform as you expected them to or is it better/worse than you thought at this point in the season?

ES: You know I think it's funny because when I talked about his team in the preseason, many people criticized me for being too negative when I said there was no way they could make the playoffs. I just didn't see how people were picking them to win twicw as many games as they won last year, teams just don't double their wins from year to year very often. I did think they would be vastly improved though, and I thought the 35 wins was very attainable. Right now, the fact they can't play defense at all makes me think it will be tough for them to get to 35, so if I had to reassess now, I would say that, without any major moves, I would expect around 30 wins. I do, however, think that they will make a fairly major trade before the deadline. I think either Pau Gasol or Mike Miller or both will be moved this year.

3SoB: You say that either Mike Miller, Pau Gasol or both will probably be moved this season. What do you think that GM Chris Wallace should seek in return, since he has stated that he won't take back only expiring contracts for Miller and doesn't seem sold on what the Bulls have reportedly offered for Gasol? Is there a player (or players) that you think would both be available and fit the future of this team that should be targeted?

ES: I have always said that the three things the Grizzlies have to get in return are young talent, draft picks and/or expiring contracts. Young talent is the hardest to acquire obviously because teams aren’t as willing to part with it. I still think Pau’s best fit is in Chicago because of their style and need for a low post offensive threat. I wish the deal could have gotten done last year because I think you could have gotten more, but I still think you might be able to pry Ben Gordon from them, but he’s up for a contract so you have to sign him. I also like to Andres Nocioni and Tyrus Thomas. I definitely think the Grizzlies could get a deal done with the Bulls that makes sense for both teams. As for Miller, I have always said Denver is a perfect fit for him. The problem is their lack of quality young players so unless they are willing to give up Marcus Camby, it could be tough to get a deal done there.

3SoB: With Damon Stoudamire's agent demanding a trade following his move to the inactive list, the fan base has been abuzz with what should be done. Do you think that the Grizzlies or Aaron Goodwin handled the situation correctly? What should be done with Damon and what will be done with Damon (if you don't think they are the same thing)? (Ed note: This was asked prior to the rumors of a buyout being discussed surfaced.)

ES: The Grizzlies did what they had to do with Damon. In my opinion they even waited too long to do it. This team isn’t going anywhere with Damon as the point guard so they have to get Mike Conley on the floor as much as possible. For Aaron Goodwin to say it was disrespectful is just dead wrong. He knows that it’s just the nature of the business and this is what happens in the NBA. I understand that he and Damon would like him to get out of Memphis, but his comments were out of line. I think in the end though, I don’t think the Grizzlies will find a taker in the trade market, so they will work out a contract buyout and Damon will move on, which is best for everybody.

3SoB: Who do you think the Grizzlies should focus on in the upcoming draft? (Feel free to base it on them being in the Top 5, 5-10, with a procured 2nd round pick, etc.)

ES: This question is a little difficult to answer without knowing what, if any, moves will be made before the trade deadline or before the draft in the offseason, but I will do my best. If the Grizzlies get lucky in the draft lottery this year then I think either Michael Beasley or Eric Gordon would be a great pick. Gordon is a great shooter and I think with him alongside Mike Conley and Rudy Gay you have some explosive scoring ability in the back court. I actually like Gordon a little more than Beasley, but Beasley would certainly fill a need up front, especially if Pau gets moved. From 5-10 I think the Grizzlies would have to consider Roy Hibbert. I'm not a huge fan of him because of his lack of offensive game, but he does provide size and a defensive presence. I would also look at OJ Mayo in this range, while he's not the shooter that Gordon is, he does provide another explosive scorer and athleticism. As far as the second round goes, depending on what way you go in round 1, I would certianly take a look at a guy like Joey Dorsey if he's available. Overall, the Grizzlies biggest needs continue to be athleticism and defense and strength up front, I think they have a chance to address at least one of those in this draft.

3SoB: What do you foresee regarding the future of the Grizzlies in Memphis? Will they be here for years to come in your opinion?

ES: I know there is a lot of concern about the team possibly moving, but I just don’t see it happening. David Stern does not like having teams move and he likes the Memphis market for the league so it will be tough for anyone to move this team. The attendance is way down, but if they start winning again and getting to the playoffs, the fans will come and the franchise will be fine. In my opinion, they aren’t going anywhere.

You can listen to Eli Savoie with Greg Gaston on AM 560 every weekday from 11 AM to 1 PM.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Post Game Thoughts - Cleveland

Well another close game, this time making it to OT, but the same result. When the game is on the line you can expect Memphis to lose. It is painful to say that but just the same it is true. You can feel it in the stands during the game, an almost fatalistic plea to win the game only to see the team fail in the crunch. If you can take a positive out of this game it is that the team isn't quitting and that drive will produce results at some point as long as the team keeps fighting. The talent is there but the ability to put it together in crunch time is still missing.

Pau Gasol had a decent game fighting against not just one big but two and outplaying them both but he was alone in fighting in the paint and it wore him down. Logging 45 minutes against Ilgauskas, Varejao and Gooden will do that to anyone. Darko Milicic only played 5+ minutes and had his leg wrapped the entire second half and without his bulk Memphis was killed on the boards against one of the best rebounding teams in the league. Despite Milicic's lack of PT Stromile Swift never left the bench again. It makes you wonder just how deep in the doghouse he has fallen. Gasol was effective on offense whenever he touched the ball but the double teaming made it difficult to be the offensive force he has been.

Rudy Gay broke 30 points on the night but was silent after hitting a big three with time left in the fourth. Memphis rode his shooting to get back in the game but he looked tired as well after logging 47+ minutes. Mike Miller struggled offensively all night but having to guard LeBron James for 48 minutes will do that. He tried hard but couldn't stop LeBron who scored 51 points on 18-28 shooting. Juan Carlos Navarro picked up the slack for Milicic's absence and hit some key shots but also was the defensive victim of Damon Jones's clutch three to put Cleveland ahead for good in OT.

The refs were a joke but can't be blamed for the outcome. They allowed Ilgauskas to basically play like a pulling guard on high screens and push (or shove) players at will but until the Grizzlies prove they can win in spite of the refs you can't expect them to bail you out. They let the game play physical and that benefited the Cavs. Memphis has to start making the plays and stop looking to the refs to bail them out even when they are fouled. Until that happens the refs won't see what everyone else thinks is so obvious. I'm not saying the referees were close minded but LeBron got to the line 16 times. The Grizzlies as a team got to the line 18 times. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is a little out of whack.

The game was entertaining and thrilling and even if the Grizzlies lost it was definitely worth the price of admission. It was so quiet in the first half I could harass Damon Jones about his smurf-like hair cut and not only did he hear me but I heard his retort although I doubt he was serious when he said the girls love it. Maybe he meant his daughter and her friends because no adult woman could look at that head and not laugh. Memphis needs to get the fans back into the game and the best way to do that is to start winning games. Until then it will be difficult to take solace in close losses.

Former Cav player Mike Sanders was scouting the game for the Bobcats tonight and he sat right in front of me. He was very gracious and it was interesting to watch him diagram our plays and take notes of our tendencies. If the Bobcats look prepared for the Grizzlies you know who to blame now for the scouting report.

From Zack

Went to the game tonight, sat in what are some of my favorite seats, Row A in the Upper Tier. Great view of the court.

It was an exciting game, despite the painfully obvious crunch-time loss. Even further than the fact that a typical Griz fan expects to lose when the game is essentially tied at the 1 minute mark, a typical Griz fan also knows that going to OT is not an acceptable option at the end of regulation. OT = Loss. I can't remember the last OT win in the Forum. I'm sure there has been a couple here and there that I am forgetting, but overwhelmingly if we are going to OT, it is just going to be another loss.

Enough about how the Grizzlies can never pull out close games. Here is what I am thinking about right now when I think back to the game and what plays or players made an impression on me.

-- What an electrifying dunk Rudy had (see below). It was off a nicely anticipated half-court steal. Rudy's arm got a good 3 feet above the rim. Please let Rudy make the dunk contest. Take a look for yourself thanks to Getty.

-- Rudy's dunk wasn't the only highlight reel dunk of the night. Hak put one down on the other end of the court (i.e., in the 1st half) and we as beyond the block in the short corner. He had to jump over a couple of players that fell down (probably off a Mike Miller jump pass or something) and Hak did that go-g- gadget-arm-extending thing. It was pretty awesome.

-- Navarro played a great game. I don't think any shot is a bad shot for him. When he is on the court, I just want him to shoot as much as possible, particularly early in the shot clock. He finished with 47 minutes and started the 2nd half in front of Darko. He was 9 for 16 from the field. I'll take that. The last 3-pointer that JC had which tied the game (see below) was a riveting play to watch develop. From my view he was leaning pretty hard to the left to get the shot off, with Damon Jones and LeBron chasing him. here is the Getty Image of the play.

-- Overall, I was pleased with Pau's crunch time play with a couple of big blocks and a few big shots. but I hated his weak-sauce play fumbling the ball when he got the offensive rebound off of a short 3-pointer. I also hate it that I remember those couple of weak plays by Pau over his numerous good plays whenever I go to games at the Forum.

-- Conley was a terrific tonight. He had a good sense of where to direct the ball on offense, some quick slicing drives, 2-3 from deep, and a couple of great steals. Although to be fair, tonight might have been his most turnovers in a single game (to go along with what I'm assuming to be a season high in points). It was an up and down game and I don't mind those turnovers. I really like the Conley-Lowry combo at PG. The scaled back minutes have helped Lowry be a better compliment to Conley. The two of them always give us the speed dimension in transition.

-- Miller played his heart out against LeBron. All the respect for how hard Miller tried to stop LeBron from scoring 50+. LeBron is just pretty damn good. I would hope that Bobby Jones can come in for a few more minutes or in certain situations to relive Miller from having to chase LeBron down for 48 minutes. Or maybe put Rudy on LeBron more in the 2nd half. Running Miller to death on defense negatively affects his offensive game.

-- Rudy is a freaking stud. He might still have a long way to go to be the star we all hope he will become, but he is a special player. Rudy is the player on our team I feel most comfortable with taking shots the important shots, the shots at the end of the shot clock when all went south, the shots that end scoring droughts, the shots that win games. He was 12 for 22 from the field (3-6 beyond the arc) and had the most shot attempts on the team. And I wouldn't be upset if he got even more shot attempts. I know it sounds crazy to think that he should be shooting, say 25 or 30, times in a game, but if he did I think it would likely benefit the Griz, much like LeBron being a ball hog benefited the Cavs tonight.

Go read Brian Windhorst's game recap up on Here is a good bullet he writes about Mike Miller guarding LeBron:

–Can’t believe the Grizzlies decided to let Mike Miller basically play LeBron James alone on a island for much of the night. Sometimes they double teamed but most of the time they left those two alone. Thus, LeBron puts in 51. You won’t see that again for awhile unless it’s Bruce Bowen. Miller was just disheartened by the end and the late doubles Memphis did bring only meant fouls and easy passes to open teammates. Meanwhile Marc Iavaroni says: “I thought our defense improved.”

Also, when Big Z got fouled in the 3rd quarter, sitting in the stands we thought something was funny. I'll let Brian explain:

–Funny moment in the third quarter. Zydrunas Ilgauskas got fouled and made the shot, which the officials waved off but still gave Z two shots. Which didn’t make sense. Mike Brown calls LeBron over and LeBron tells him: “They say he doesn’t get the basket because he traveled but they are still giving him the two shots. I’ve never heard that rule before in my life, but we’re going to roll with it, coach.”

Spartacus Says:

That is all.

Power Rankings for 1-14 & 15

Check comment by Stein of ESPN about MM scoring and Griz wins.
Are there similar scenarios that are true of other Grizzlies?

Power Rankings for 14 & 15 Jan '08
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