Saturday, January 26, 2008

Damon's Buyout Nearly Completed

According to the Commercial Appeal, the Griz have agreed on the framework of a buyout for Damon Stoudamire that could be announced today or Monday. Given Conley's uncertain status, expect them to find a PG from the D-League or free agent pile as soon as this occurs.

Update (3:15 PM) ESPN is carrying the story now, so it appears come Monday Damon will be on his way out.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Memphis vs LA Clippers - 1.26.08

Memphis struggled in their last game as both Pau Gasol and Stromile Swift were inactive for the game and Michael Conley left the game with a shoulder injury in the 3rd quarter. The Grizzlies scored a mere 9 points in the first quarter and seemed to be taking the night off until Kyle Lowry entered the game. Suddenly the 'Great' Kyle Lowry (13 pts and a career high 10 assists) was back throwing his body around the court and energizing the Grizzlies who actually got as close as 6 points in the first quarter before fading. Gasol is supposed to play against the Clippers. It has been obvious for the last three games that something was bothering Gasol and hopefully the day off will help correct the problem. Stromile Swift and Mike Conley (contusion of the shoulder and rib) status is uncertain at this time. Mike Miller had a good game (21 pts and 9 rebounds) trying to shoulder the scoring burden without Gasol but Rudy Gay, saddled with foul troubles all night, was off scoring only 14 pts with 6 rebounds.

Los Angeles were blown out in New Orleans 111-92 but still managed to play their main stars serious minutes with Sam Cassell logging 31 minutes, Chris Kaman playing 38 minutes, Tim Thomas played 31 minutes and Cuttino Mobley logging 35 as well. Peculiar distribution of minutes for a team playing back to back games on the road. The Clippers got some encouraging news today as Elton Brand was cleared for more difficult exercises as he tries to return from Achilles Tendon surgery. While still unable to work out with the team Brand is allowed to do more intense conditioning work. Chris Kaman has excelled during Brand's absence averaging almost 14 rebounds a game. Correy Maggette is leading the Clippers in scoring doing a large amount of his damage from the free throw line. Maggette has already shot 298 FT's this season. Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley may be the oldest starting backcourt in the league which partially explains the Clippers starting low scoring Quinton Ross lately. Recently Coach Mike Dunleavy and owner Donald Sterling have been arguing in the press which is never a good sign for team stability.

Point Guards: Kyle Lowry vs Sam Cassell
With Damon apparently banished from game play and Mike Conley questionable with the shoulder injury, and yes it is the same shoulder he injured earlier in the season, Kyle should log a lot of minutes in this game. Lowry has proven capable when given extended minutes and has not been playing as much lately so fatigue shouldn't be a big issue. Who subs for him when he does need a breather is still uncertain. Juan Carlos Navarro could slide into the backup point guard role. The starters role in LA is set. Sam Cassell, back from injury, is the starter and performing decently for a 38 yr old PG. He's crafty and tall for a PG at 6-3.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Shooting Guard: Mike Miller vs Quinton Ross

Quinton Ross is a good defender and a bad scorer. Mike Miller is a good scorer and a bad defender. Should be interesting to watch, well at least for half the game. Miller took a step forward against Washington when he seemed to realize that he needs to be aggressively looking to shoot. Mike has games when he gets it and games when he doesn't and Memphis always does better when he does. He will need to get it in this game. Memphis hasn't won a game all season when he hasn't scored 17 or more points. Ross is not going to leave Mike wide open but a good offense will beat a good defense every time and Mike is at home.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Correy Maggette

Rudy is starting to struggle with the responsibility of being the #1 scorer. It is difficult when the team doesn't have any interior scoring with Gasol out, a secondary scorer who is unselfish to a fault and rookie PGs splitting time. Rudy still needs a little time in the oven before he becomes a major scorer in the league but at 21 he still has some time. Corey Maggette has matured into the player many people predicted coming out of Duke as a sophomore. Maggette will get his points every night but he does most of his damage from the line. That is rather ominous as Rudy Gay has been in foul trouble too often this season. A very tough match up for Rudy, especially if the bigs aren't playing.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Tim Thomas

Power is an interesting term for this match up. Tim Thomas is known more for his range than his physicality and Gasol's problems with physical play are well known in Memphis if not the world. Gasol is technically averaging 19 pts and 9 rebounds this season but in January he is averaging 22 pts and 11 rebounds. Seems like the early season difficulty with Iavaroni's system are over. Unfortunately not the problem with injuries as Gasol's back has been acting up forcing him to miss the Washington game. Tim Thomas has been disappointing for LA since signing as a free agent. He has that lost Stro-tential in his game. Thomas averages 33 minutes and 12.5 pts as a starter and 17 minutes as 11 pts as a bench player. That means in the extra 16 minutes of play he scores an additional 1.5 ppg. Some players are just meant to come off the bench.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Chris Kaman

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me present you with the most improved player in the NBA. Unfortunately it isn't Darko Milicic as many Memphis fans hoped. Chris Kaman is 3rd in the NBA in rebounding averaging 13.9 rpg. Combine that with 17.2 ppg and he has made many Clipper fans forget that he was supposed to play second fiddle to Elton Brand. The 27 yr old center has finally found his place in the sun. Darko has been nicknamed the 'Dark One' by some fans and the difference is night and day between these players. Darko is questioning his game while Kaman is full of confidence. Amazing what a couple of years of experience can do for a player. Kaman has been given the time to mature into a player while Darko has been plagued by high expectations since entering the league but he is actually beginning to improve. Not enough in this game but he is playing better.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Bench: Memphis vs Los Angeles
Memphis' bench could be very thin in this game if Gasol and Swift don't play. Throw in Conley's uncertain status and Memphis could be forced to play Andre Brown, Bobby Jones and Juan Carlos Navarro some extended minutes. The problem is that none of these players are very experienced and consistency is an issue. Hakim Warrick can score and is starting to play some better defense but he has to score a lot to justify his court time and that makes team play secondary in Hak's mind. LA has a better mix of experience and youth off the bench. With Cuttino Mobley LA has a dependable veteran scorer. With Al Thornton LA has a mature rookie (he's 23) who is starting to understand what it takes to play in the NBA. Memphian Brevin Knight returns for the last time as a Clipper this season and will probably have a nice cheering section for himself.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Update (Spartacus): According to the Commercial Appeal, the Griz have agreed on the framework of a buyout for Damon Stoudamire that could be announced today or Monday. Given Conley's uncertain status, expect them to find a PG from the D-League or free agent pile as soon as this occurs.

Relevant blogs/websites:
Clips Nation
Commercial Appeal Preview

Memphis at Washington - 1.25.08

Memphis was playing some of their best basketball of the season before getting buzz-sawed by the Orlando Magic at home on Wednesday night. It is one thing to be flat on the 2nd game of a back to back series. It is quite another to lay an egg in front of the home crowd after a night off and no travel in 5 days. This is the 2nd game of another 3 games in 4 nights stretch and the Grizzlies are facing another Eastern Conference team playing very well right now. Rudy Gay continues to be among the best of the Sophomore class of players. The invitation to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest All-Star weekend is a nice additional feather in his cap but Rudy needs to focus right now on playing basketball and not dunking the ball. Pau Gasol is one of only 4 players in the league averaging at least 20 pts and 10 rebounds a game in December but his play in the last two games, against some seriously powerful inside players, has been less than impressive. Mike Miller's back has raised some concerns about the amount of minutes he has logged this season as he was nearly invisible against the Magic. Mike Conley has been playing extremely solid basketball and is starting to look to score more as teams drop off him to double Gasol. He will be challenged this way for the rest of the season if he doesn't start to punish teams doing that.

Washington is playing extremely solid basketball right highlighted by back to back wins over the Boston Celtics, but they too let their foot off the gas pedal in their last game when Cleveland snuck up and beat them 121-85. Washington has been tough to beat at home with wins not only over the Celtics but the Mavericks and Rockets as well this month. Overall the Wizards appear to be a team that beats the teams they are supposed to beat. Led by Caron Butler (21.5 ppg and 6.9 rpg) and Antawn Jamison (21.3 ppg and 10.4 rpg) the Wizards have righted their ship after losing all-star Gilbert Arenas for the season. Brendan Haywood has improved his play this season and is averaging 10.3 ppg and 7.7 rpg. Former Grizz player Antonio Daniels is playing well replacing Arenas as the starting point guard and has done a better job of distributing the shots than Arenas. Also contributing are DeShawn Stevenson, Andray Blatche, Roger Mason and rookie Nick Young.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Antonio Daniels
Antonio Daniels is a 6-4 swing guard who has done an acceptable job as the starter for the Wizards. Averaging 10.6 ppg and 6.3 apg as the starter, Daniels obviously isn't an offensive replacement for Arenas but his superior effort on defense has improved the teams ability to stop other teams from scoring. his 1.2 spg is more than respectable as well. Conley is starting to realize what his role is going to be on the Grizzlies. He has led the team in assists in 5 of the last 6 games. However, Conley performances on the road have been less than stellar outside of his first start in Indiana. On the road Mike averages 7.4 ppg and 3.9 apg on 42.1% shooting (27.3% from the arc). Daniel's size will force Conley to play tough defensively but Mike's speed should give Daniels troubles as well as Daniels knee has been giving him troubles of late.
Advantage: Washington

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs DeShawn Stevenson

Everything comes back to Miller's back in this match up. After sitting out the Charlotte game with back spasms Miller looked rested and sharp against Chicago but stiff and in pain against Orlando. Miller needs to be aggressive for the Grizzlies to have a chance against the Wizards. When Miller fails to reach 10 attempts the Grizzlies lose. It is that simple. The problem is that Stevenson is a very good defensive player and will not be lulled into allowing Miller easy looks at the basket nor easy to drive against. Like Conley Miller also sees a noticeable drop in production on the road averaging only 14.7 ppg and 6.3 rpg. Stevenson replaced Miller in Orlando after Miller was traded but didn't really find his spot in the NBA until signing with Washington. The back issue, Stevenson's defense and Miller's road woes makes this difficult for the Grizzlies and all Stevenson needs to do to win the battle is to limit Mike's shot attempts but Mike has bounced back well from bad games this year.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Caron Butler

The battle for UConn bragging rights as the two former Huskies go head to head in this battle. While they play the same position and come from the same school they are very different players. Butler is a mature player who knows when to impose himself on the game and when to let the game come to him. Averaging 21.5 ppg and 6.9 rpg Butler is more of a strength player than an attacker. Butler is averaging career highs in points and assists while having his 2nd best season rebounding the ball. Rudy, more of an athlete than Butler is breaking out this season leading the Grizzlies in scoring and third in rebounding, 4th in blocks and leading in steals. He has shot more 3 pt shots (and hit a higher percent) but also is a slasher who can finish very well. Experience and home court advantage go to Butler however and that should make the difference.
Advantage: Washington

Power Forward: Pau Gasol vs Antwan Jamison

Another excellent match up with Gasol vs Jamison. For the season Jamison is outperforming Gasol averaging 21.3 ppg and 10.4 rpg while Gasol isn't cracking the 20 ppg or 10 rpg mark. For the month of January it is Gasol averaging 22.6 ppg and 10.9 rpg while Jamison is averaging below 20 and 10. Jamison gives more powerful PF's fits with his all court game forcing the bangers away from the hoop. Gasol has shown an ability to use his length and yes even his speed to get out on perimeter shooters and Jamison doesn't have the power to keep Gasol outside of the paint on offense. In the first match up Jamison dominated scoring 41 pts (on 18-22 shooting) and grabbing 11 boards while holding Gasol to only 21 and 9 but this isn't the same Gasol that was playing in November and no one can post numbers like that twice. Still the game is in Washington.
Advantage: Washington

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Brendan Haywood

Haywood probably won't receive any votes but he should be considered for most improved player in the league this season. The 7th year pro from North Carolina is averaging career highs in points (10.3 ppg), rebounds (7.6 rpg) and blocks (1.7 bpg) while only increasing his average play by 5 minutes a game. That is pretty impressive. Darko showed some of the early season promise against Orlando with 8 pts on 4-5 shooting but only grabbing 1 board, even if he did hold Howard below his season average, isn't good and this is not against his former team. Haywood represents the only interior scoring threat on the Bullets and Gasol should be able to contain him so I expect Swift and Hakim to eat into Darko's minutes in this game.
Advantage: Washington

Benches: Memphis vs Washington

Juan Carlos Navarro was drafted by the Wizards but they never seriously attempted to sign him and finally traded him for maybe a mid to late 1st rd pick sometime in the future for the Grizzlies. If Navarro can get motivated by something other than playing in the NBA this would be a good time to show his stuff to the team that didn't want him. In the first match up JCN scored a career high 28 pts so maybe there is something to the revenge factor with him. Memphis will need that kind of performance from Navarro if they go with the small lineup since Bobby Jones is playing terrible since his big game against Seattle. Lowry has worked his way out of a mid-season slump but hasn't really shown the flair that he exhibited earlier in the season. The biggest surprise off the bench has been Stromile Swift who emerged from the DNP doghouse to have some impressive performances and with Washington's perimeter based big men may continue to see more PT. Hakim is still scoring off the bench but not doing enough other things to increase his playing time. Washington's bench is adequate with Songalia and Blatche as the bigs and NBA Journeyman Roger Mason on the perimeter but rookie Nick Young looks very promising. His battle with Navarro should be fun to watch.
Advantage: Memphis

Relevant Links:
(nice piece on Rod Strickland, Memphsi Tigers coach, by the way)
Bullets Forever(Pray they mention Brendan Haywood in a good light tonight. Just trust me on this!)
Lez Bullets
Washington Post: This Grizzly Could Have Been A Wizard (Juan Carlos Navarro article)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rebounding - The Real Story

Grizzlies, 16th in the league in rebounding the basketball as Stan Van Gundy talks to Matt Bolin as offensive rebounding has been very good tonight.
Pete Pranica during the Orlando Magic game on January 23rd.
Wow, that just makes you feel better already doesn't it. Memphis is middle of the pack in rebounding after being near the bottom the last few years. We must really be doing a lot better on the boards.

Well, as with most statistics, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, the Grizzlies are currently 16th in the league in rebounds. However we are currently 24th in opposition rebounding. We are also 24th in rebounding differential at -2.07 a game.

Why the discrepancy? We are increasing the number of possessions in the game. More possessions means quicker shots being taken and more rebounding opportunities. Yes the Grizzlies are doing a better job of getting those rebounds but it isn't like we are better than almost half the teams in the league. This is an improvement from earlier in the season when the Grizzlies were languishing at the bottom of the rankings but they haven't stepped out of the bottom 20% yet either.

As I said, statistics are in the eye of the beholder.

On a positive note (and I do still like to see things in a sunshine state of mind) the Grizzlies over the last 10 games (roughly 1/4th of the season) are dramatically improved in rebounding in every sense of the word. Over that time frame the Grizzlies are outrebounding their opponents by 1.0 rebounds a game. That is tied with Orlando for 11th best in the league. They also are 9th in the league in team rebounds at 43.1 a game. So while the team over the entire season is not really doing that well on the boards over the last 10 games they are.

What is causing the difference?

I am sure some people will say that they have played poorer rebounding teams is the one and only reason. That isn't exactly true however. Yes Miami is the worst team in the league over that time frame but the Cavs are 1st in the league over and the Lakers (who the Grizzlies played twice) are 4th. You can't explain the increase solely in terms of opposition.

Others will point out that Memphis is using their guards to rebound more and that is why the rebounding is improving. The problem with that theory is only Mike Miller is actually rebounding and his has been declining not improving over the last 10 games. So much for the rebounding by guards theory.

There is one theory however that I put forward many weeks ago in explaining the Grizzlies poor interior defense. I postulated that Gasol and Milicic had not played many consecutive games together in the starting lineup and that was probably the root cause of the Grizzlies defensive woes. The pair have now started 14 consecutive games together and over the last 10 the Grizzlies have risen from one of the worst rebounding teams in the league to a top 10 rebounding team.

Coincidence? I don't think so.

What's more since the start of January (and the Ivory Towers streak of starting consecutive games together) the Grizzlies defense has improved in opponents field goal percentage. So the team is holding teams to a lower FG% and grabbing more of those rebounds. The interesting thing is that Darko actually isn't grabbing more rebounds. Gasol and Gay are the main rebounding beneficiaries of the consistent front line. In fact Darko's personal rebounding numbers have dropped significantly in the last 10 games. Peculiar I admit but the team's defensive FG% tells the story in my opinion. Teams are not shooting as well against the Grizzlies as they were earlier in the season even including Orlando's hot shooting Wednesday night.

So Pete thanks for pointing out the rebounding story. It is a little deceiving the way you said it in the broadcast but it did allow me to discuss the issue in greater detail on the blog.

Links: Linkstravaganza!

Sorry for the lack of updates and links lately. New job = new work schedule. To make up for it, here's an extra-large helping of links.

Rudy Gay is in the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk Contest. He will be facing reigning champ Gerald Green, the man-beast who should have won last year in Dwight Howard and rookie surprise Jamario Moon. He is asking for all the help he can get, as he is requesting that fans offer submissions via YouTube that could assist him in capturing the crown. Go to for all the details.

The Ahwatukee Foothills News (real paper, I swear) has a great look at the story of Eric McMahon, known to the readers of this blog as "Grizz", the mascot of the Memphis Grizzlies. McMahon found out that he has Hodgkin's lymphoma in December and the article provides several details about his battle to recover. As a reminder, you can send cards and get well wishes to McMahon at 191 Beale St., Memphis, Tenn., 38103, or email him at

Ben Q. Rock over at Third Quarter Collapse has a recap of last night's game up that is fair, if a little harsh in its frankness. Actually, I think he's just happy that they blew us out last night, since we beat them on their home floor in the first meeting this year. It seems to have restored his faith in his team's postseason chances, even if he isn't willing to admit it.

While we didn't get a chance to meet up with Matt from Blog a Bull while he was in town for the MLK Day game, I did enjoy his recap of the experience, as well as his post this morning about the "return of Kirk", since Hinrich has been one of my favorite players going back to his college days at Kansas.

After you check out our postgame thoughts and comments, make sure you look at the recaps that the guys at Beale Street Beat and Grizzlies Locker have been putting up.

Warren Blatt asks the question, "Is trading Gasol the way to go for Memphis?". He reaches the same conclusion as most of the rest of the sports writing nation and offers the same stale proposal involving Chicago as a trade partner. Well better late than never on that bandwagon, I suppose.

It appears that at least one Chicago sportswriter isn't completely enamored with the idea of acquiring post player extraordinaire Pau Gasol.

Speaking of Gasol and trade rumors, at least he's not letting them affect him, according to this article from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Head over to David's Memphis Grizzlies Blog to see what a way-less-than-happy Grizz fan looks/sounds like.

Check out for the viewpoint of a vocal fan/season ticket holder of the Grizzlies.

ESPN's David Thorpe covers which sophmore players are doing well, and not-so-surprisingly he came to the conclusion that Rudy Gay is pretty darn good, coming in at #2 on the list. Kyle Lowry also received mention, although Thorpe made the same classic blunder in his evaluation as most "experts" do, in assuming that Lowry needs to be moved since Conley is the starter.

FOX Sports' Mike Kahn with earth-shattering news: He thinks Darko Milicic is the biggest bust in the NBA since 2001. He reached that conclusion even when he had Nikoloz Tskitishvili in the discussion. The same Skita that is no longer even in the league. *sigh* Mike, I've never liked your writing, so thanks for allowing me to continue down that same path.

USA Today has a very good article titled "Foreign rookies face world of change" that looks at what international players have to deal with in terms of transitioning to the NBA and living in America. "La Bomba" is mentioned and you can see by the charts that JCN stacks up very well in comparison to the other foreign rookies.

Speaking of rookies, here is a post dedicated to those feeling the effects of the dreaded eventuality that is the "Rookie Wall".

While the Grizzlies might not be good right now, at least they aren't the Miami Heat. I can neither confirm nor deny my involvement with this piece of humorous writing, but I will say that I approve the intended message.

Hardwood Paroxysm released Part Two of the phenomenal saga that is the Birth of a Division.

We did our own Mid-Season Review, but I must tip my hat and bow before the majesty that is The Dream Shake for their 80's Mid Season Review which left me speechless. I thoroughly enjoyed Chris Herrington's mid-season report, as well. Make sure you go over to to see Jack McCallum's take on all 30 teams, too.

Blog/Website of the Day: The Wizznutzz

Memphis vs Orlando - Post Game Thoughts

Looks like I picked the right week to quit sniffing glue.

For those of you that haven't seen the movie 'Airplane' you don't know what you are missing. And you should have watched that instead of the Grizzlies game last night.

But that isn't what I meant by that comment. What I was implying was that I picked the right game not to attend. I was at my son's game instead and didn't see the game until late last night. What a stinker. The Grizzlies played unispired at best and down right intimidated as Orlando humiliated the Grizzlies in front of a sparse crowd last night.

Pau Gasol put up numbers (17 pts, 11 rebounds, 5 assists) but he looked more like a deer in the headlights than one of four players in the league averaging 20 and 10 in January. One paricular play stood out in my mind. Pau got an entry pass about 5 ft from the basket and turned to see who to pass the ball to despite no one covering him! Pau, we play a Phoenix style of offense. Can you imagine Amare Stoudamire looking to pass the ball that close to the basket with no one guarding him? I can't. That is when big players make thunderous dunks and get the crowd on their feet. Time to act like a man and start being aggressive. I realize Dwight Howard is in the game and that Gerald Wallace blocked one of your previous dunk attempts but you have to go to the hole. That play exemplified everything Pau-Haters dislike about Gasol and there is no defending it. Most of the night Orlando doubled Gasol whenever the ball came near him so he has to take advantage of the clear opportunities when they are there. And double teams don't justify the 5 turnovers Gasol had.

Mike Miller did nothing. I honestly was hoping his back was acting up because only taking 8 shots against Maurice Evans and Keith bogans is inexcusable. Of course, once our big men (see Gasol) decided they weren't going near Dwight Howard it enabled everyone else to play that much tighter on the perimeter. When Miller only takes 8 shots and turns the ball over 4 times that is pathetic.

The only players willing to challenge the Magic were Mike Conley and Rudy Gay. Rudy led the team in scoring with 20 pts and grabbed 8 baords but didn't have any steals. The entire Grizzlies team only had one steal and this was a Magic team who's starting PG didn't play. Conley exploited the Magic for 13 pts and 5 assists and most of his points came in the paint challenging Howard's power with his speed. The future sure looks bright with Conley at the point.

The Grizzlies don't play man on man defense well enough to win without creating turnovers. Orlando turned the ball over 6 times all night. Apparently the flat-footed effort was on both sides of the court last night. Orlando shot extremely well last night despite some decent on the ball defensive effort but those constant 3's balls falling really took the energy out of the team.

What really pissed me off however was the lack of energy to make a comeback in the 4th. The team scored 13 pts in the last quarter! Players are not supposed to quit like that in front of the home crowd. I don't care if the arena was empty the fans who were there deserved a better effort and the fans choosing to watch the Grizzlies instead of the Tigers deserved better as well. And there were fans at the game trying to cheer for the home team.
photo curtesy of Getty Pictures

The sad thing is that despite poor play from 2/3rds of their stars and a weak perimeter defensive effort Memphis wasn't out of the game until the fourth quarter. Or rather the end of the 3rd. With Memphis down 11 pts and with the ball in the last 20 seconds Memphis only had to hit a bucket and enter the 4th against a perimeter shooting team down less than 10. That is still winnable. Instead the Grizzlies turned the ball over and Orlando drained a 3 at the buzzer. Down 14 to start the fourth and game over. Adding injury to insult was Memphis' play to end the first half when Memphis had the ball but turned it over for a breakaway layup at the buzzer. Instead of being down 8 with a chance at only down 6 Memphis went to halftime down 10.

The bright signs defensively was that Memphis did contain Dwight Howard. He only had 16 pts and 1o boards and a lot of his points came from the line. Normally Howard doesn't shoot well from the free throw line but in two games against the Grizzlies he was 17-26. Well above his seasonal averages. Hedo Turkoglu was en fuego however and he single-handedly beat the Grizzlies. Rashard Lewis was decent but not spectacular. Miller's being outplayed and Gasol's being intimidated was the difference in the game.

One last player comment. After his awesome game starting for the Grizzlies Bobby Jones appears to not want to be signed for the rest of the season. His play has been more than just bad in the last two games. He looks dispirited. I don't know what is happening there but it is very peculiar to say the least.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Memphis vs Orlando - 1.23.08

Memphis has won two consecutive home games by double digits. Sure the opponents weren't leading their divisions but the playoff teams that the Grizzlies have played lately didn't actually have fun in the games either. Cleveland in OT, Lakers by one referee...I mean point, Golden St having to fight right down to the wire shows me that the players are learning what Iavaroni wants them to do, Iavaroni is learning what the players can do and that everyone seems to be on the same page. There have been some stumbles along the way but Memphis is growing as a team and the next two games should be a good time to see how far they still have to go. This is the 2nd and last matchup for Darko Milicic against the team that let him go and Memphis will need his defense in this game.

Orlando surprised Detroit with a home win on Monday which should give the Magic some motivation heading into Memphis. The Magic have probably not forgotten how the Grizz treated them in their house earlier in the season either. Orlando is doing something very rare these days with 5 players averaging double figures. Led by Slam Dunk contestant Dwight Howard at 22.1 ppg and a league leading 15.2 rpg, Orlando has managed to survive in the East despite not having a true PF on the roster. Hedo Turkoglu (18.7 ppg) and Rashard Lewis (18.6 ppg) are both 6-10 but also more small forwards than power forwards. Orlando is an amazing 16-9 on the road so the Grizzlies had better come prepared to play.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Carlos Arroyo
Orlando didn't see Mike Conley when the teams played the first game as he was recuperating from his shoulder injury. Now Conley is not only healthy but starting and leading the team. Conley has averaged 10.4 ppg and 5.4 apg in 2008 and that isn't including his 10 pt, 10 assist game Monday. Most importantly Conley is hitting at a high enough percent from the arc (33.3%) to make opponents at least be aware of him out there. That makes his passing and driving ability that much more effective. Arroyo has replaced the injured Jameer Nelson in the starting lineup and played well in that role. His 11.7 ppg as a starter on 57.1% shooting attests to that. He isn't the distributor that Nelson is but his size allows him to be more physical on defense. That attitude has gotten him in foul trouble on occasion however.
Advantage: Orlando

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Maurice Evans

Maurice Evans came to Orlando in a mid-season trade with the Lakers and has worked himself into the starting lineup for the Magic. As a starter Evans is averaging 11.6 ppg but not scoring very efficiently from outside (31.6%) but he has hit nearly 50% of his field goal attempts. His ability to get to the hoop allows the team's sharpshooters more space on their attempts. Evans is an erratic player who is very good when hot but not so good when cold. Miller has been hot a lot lately but will need to make sure that he keeps Evans cold. Something Miller and the team have struggled with at the SG position all season. Miller's stepped up his game a lot lately and his size and rebounding skills should prove to be the difference in this matchup.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Rashard Lewis

Rudy Gay has retaken the team scoring lead after his 24 pt outing against Chicago. Rudy should also be motivated by his selection for the All-Star Slam Dunk contest but Rashard Lewis has been an All-Star game selection at at 6-10 has the size to compete against Rudy. Rudy has been playing some of his best defense of late and with Rashard not known as a slashing type player will need to make sure he doesn't pick up silly fouls in this matchup. Lewis has been playing well this season but not as well as he is being paid after signing a huge free agent contract this summer. His play has picked up lately however including hitting over 40% of his three pt attempts. Lewis missed the first game against the Grizzlies and his presence makes this a very important matchup for the Grizzlies.
Advantage: Orlando

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Hedo Turkoglu

Another interesting match in this game is at PF. Gasol has been playing much better this month as he recovers from numerous injuries and gets comfortable with the new offense. Orlando will struggle to find a player outside of Dwight Howard who can stop a motivated Gasol. Likewise Pau will struggle to stay with Hedo on the perimeter. Turkoglu is extremely comfortable shooting on the perimeter but has a quick enough first step to get to the lane and exploit a slower footed big man rushing out to contest a jump shot. The deciding factor may be who is more aggressive on the offensive end. Don't be surprised to see Gasol moved to center and the Memphis small ball lineup see considerable time if Hedo starts lighting up the scoreboard. Orlando may also try to use Hedo at center on defense against Darko allowing Howard to compete with the less physical Gasol if Pau starts hot.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard, who also is invited to the Slam Dunk Contest, did what almost every team best player has done against Memphis this season. He had a near career night when he went for 31 pts on 10-11 shooting and grabbed 20 rebounds. Not surprisingly the only team that he has performed better against this season is Phoenix where Iavaroni used to coach. Containing Howard has to be the single most important facet of the game. Darko has to stay in the game to do that. In the first match Darko was hampered with foul trouble ending up with 5 fouls in only 16 minutes. It is difficult to see Memphis coming out on top again if Darko can't remain in the game. Milicic has struggled this season offensively and has lost time to the bench when the Grizzlies go small but Gasol can't contain Howard on the glass. Darko will have to keep his emotions in check. If Milicic can hold Howard to a more normal night then Memphis has a chance. If not it will be tough.
Advantage: Orlando

Benches: Memphis vs Orlando
Memphis' bench has dramatically improved their play of late. Juan Carlos Navarro has found his shooting touch and is deadly when hot. Hakim Warrick has played better defensively and his shot has always been a strength. Kyle Lowry still struggles with his shot but has been making more intelligent decisions on the court. Even Stromile Swift has seen some minutes and been productive. Orlando's bench is not as strong. With Nelson out, Keyon Dooling becomes the backup PG and at 6-4 his size is difficult to match up against. Former starter Keith Bogans has been playing more minutes lately and producing as well. Where Orlando struggles is when their bigs have to rest. Brian Cook and Adonal Foyle have not been able to contribute at all forcing Orlando to go very small with JJ Redick as the only other contributor off the bench. If Memphis can get the frontline tired or in foul trouble Memphis has a real opportunity to sweep the series.
Advantage: Memphis

Relevant Links/Other Blogs:
Third Quarter Collapse (An Orlando Blog not Grizzlies)
Believing in Magic
Grizzlies Home Page Preview

2008 NBA Draft Preview (part 1)

Well it seems that at 12-29 the Memphis Grizzlies are going to have to face the wheel again. However, unlike like last season, the stakes are not that crucial. In other words, the #1 pick would be nice (a first for this organization) but there is not a large separation at the top of the draft. So, if the ping-pong balls don’t pop up our way then it will not be a franchise deflator like the Oden/Durant sweepstakes. There is no consensus number one player, heck there isn’t even a consensus top 5 players at this point and a number of players have the chance to be able to play their selves to the top. It is going to be a dog fight to be the first player called by David Stern.

For the most part, this draft preview will concentrate on how players will fit into the Grizzlies draft plans. If I do not think a player fits or fills a need, his ranking might be lower than his talent suggests. Also, since the Grizzlies do not currently own a second round pick and their first round pick can be had by the Washington Wizards, this article will focus on the players attainable and of valu with the Grizzlies first round draft pick.

After watching half of this season (I don’t need no stinkin’ fifty games!), I have narrowed the Grizzlies needs to the following: (1) Swagger – the Grizzlies must get a refuse to lose type of player, an alpha dog with supreme confidence with time running out; (2) mental and physical toughness – the Grizzlies can’t afford another player that has a follower mentality and they need someone that is not a physical mismatch at his position; (3) a closerçinsert link- if nothing else, this year has put the spotlight on the need to have someone who can get their shot off with the clock running down, Rudy Gay is making strides but his ball handling is still suspect in this regards; (4) a perimeter defender – the Grizz need someone with an attitude toward making stops without being an offensive liability; (5) an alternative post option – when Pau Gasol goes to the bench, our offense needs to have someone we can throw the ball into in the post that is willing to pass it out (not you Hakim), not a great player but someone who can take advantage of bench post defenders; (6) a basket protector – Darko looks to be growing in this role but his off the ball defense and defensive awareness need a lot of work; and (7) a superstar – we need a player that the average fan can believe in, a player that has that certain something that potential ticket buyers will gravitate toward. Unfortunately, just being a very good basketball player is not enough.

Ok that was a little lengthy. But what do you expect when our team is 11-29. Now here is the first look at my Memphis Grizzlies 2008 NBA draft board:

(1) O.J. Mayo – Coming into this season, he was my #1 prospect. Since the college season started, I have been wavering between Michael Beasley and Eric Gordon. Those two got off to such explosive starts and have continued with such stellar play that it has been hard to ignore. Then I went back to the tape and my notes. Mayo is still everything the Memphis Grizzlies need. Forget all the attitude crap people always try to put on him, he has been the best player in this class since it was ranked for a reason. He is a certified killer. Having been a PG most of his high school career, he is transitioning well to the role of shooting guard at USC. He is a combo guard of the highest order. Able to run a team, be an explosive scorer, or both. At a legit 6’5 with NBA athleticism, he is not a combo guard due to his size. He will probably never be a high percentage shooter like Dwayne Wade because he tends to take some very high degree of difficulty shots. Why? Because he can make them at a higher rate than most elite scorers. Has great mechanics on his jumper and already possesses NBA range and accuracy. There is nothing he can’t do offensively. The surprising aspect of his game is his development as a perimeter defender. He has always shown the ability but now his is showing the will to be a lock down perimeter defender. Quick enough to cover most point guards and strong enough to defend shooting guards, he will be much more than adequate on defense in the NBA. His anticipation and hands will make him a top of the line ball hawk. The other aspect I like about him is that his early hype has given him the villain persona amongst NBA fans. Opposing fan bases will hate him but they will come and watch him. He could change the entire attitude of the franchise. Mayo is a true alpha dog. There will be no mistake who will be the best player once he hits the court, he will lead, he will make big plays and most importantly…he will be a winner.

(2) Eric Gordon – The player I have been pimping since the college season started. He is such a great shooter from distance it is ridiculous. Makes 27 footers like they are layups. Can shoot it off the dribble, off of picks, at a stand sill, and on the break. However, shooting is not his only offensive skill. He has a ferocious drive game. Routinely blows by his defenders when they start crowding him to take away his shot. Is a top shelf athlete and is able to finish well even at his height (6’4ish). He has long arms to compensate. Gordon is a very good ball handler and is a willing albeit not creative passer. However, he gets to the free throw line very well and can finish through contact. I see no reason why he won’t be a 25+ point per game scorer in the NBA, probably before his rookie contract is extended. He seems to be an adequate defender. He has the quickness to be able to defend point guards and his athleticism should keep him in most match ups at shooting guard. However, Gordon is a true shooting guard. He can be a secondary ball handler without a problem. In the new NBA that stresses perimeter play and transition, Gordon’s ability to finish, pull up off his own dribble, or flare out to the deep corners will make him an impossible match up in the open court. He has the potential to be real explosive with his range plays within himself. Never seems to get rattled. Also there is the added bonus that he played on the same AAU team as Michael Conley.

(3) Michael Beasley – or B’Easy or Beastly or whatever the heck he wants us to call him. New age power forward. Does all the things power forwards should do with the skills and shot of a small forward. Already has an NBA body. A legit 6’9 with long arms and above average athleticism, so I have not understood the notion that he will be undersized. I remember people saying Al Horford would be an undersized NBA power forward and he is now the starting center for the Atlanta Hawks. Players play in the league. Beasley’s greatest skill might be his rebounding. He just has a knack for getting his hands on the ball and the strength to win any and all tie-ups. He is just relentless and although he doesn’t have that special Amare pre-surgeries athleticism, his second jump is quick and as strong as his first. Can score with his back to the basket but needs to add some more to his post game to punish with it on the next level. He is real good facing up because his first step and strength usually allow him to get past his defender while his wingspan allows him to finish in traffic. Has a real good jump shot with a quick and high release. Will be able to run pick and pops in the NBA from day 1. Combine that with his ability to pick and roll and finish through contact, he is going to be a good offensive facilitator from day 1 especially with a strong point guard.

(4) Derrick Rose – Rose is probably the player I have seen the most and scouted the least. I think it would have to be a really unique draft situation for the Memphis Grizzlies to draft him and really I can’t see the circumstances coming up at this time. However, if the above three players were off the board I would lean toward taking him over anyone that is left due to him being a sure thing on the talent meter. Rose also has the size to play alongside Conley if that is what the Grizzlies wanted to do until better options became available. Rose is probably the quickest big guard I have seen with the dribble since Jason Kidd. He does not have the court vision of Kidd but he is very capable at the point. His game play reminds me of Devon Harris of the Mavericks. His outside shot is a little shaky but his form does not look broken. His shot has already improved throughout the young college season. His physicality with the ball and his athleticism makes him a demon when attacking the basket. In the NBA, I see him playing the same role Brandon Roy plays for Portland. He will be a guard capable of attacking or distributing the ball. His ability to get into the lane at will and finish through contact will make him an offensive force the minute he hits the floor.

(5) DeAndre Jordan – The first and only legit center prospect in this preview. Jordan is an athletic specimen that definitely passes the look test. His rebounding skill is the first thing that jumps out at you. He routinely grabs rebounds at the top of his extension in traffic and is able to pull rebounds away from others with his hands. Unlike some other athletic bigs, he takes advantage of his athleticism and length to get rebound before others can reach them. Think Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler. However, like those two, he lacks polish on the offensive end. His loses balance on his back to the basket moves and is unable to finish strong. He badly needs to develop a go to move with his back to the basket. However, he plays to his strength. He is always around the basket on both ends of the court and has great timing blocking shots. He has the highest ceiling of any prospect in the draft but he also has a high chance of not developing fully. The team that drafts him needs to hire a personal coach and trainer for him. He is going to need to get a lot of close one on one attention to reach his potential.

(6) Donte Green – Green is a 6’10 SF/PF. He is a very athletic and diverse NBA prospect. He has the handles and jump shot of a shooting guard but rebounds and blocks shots like a power forward. His biggest weakness is his shot selection. The fact that he has NBA 3 point range on his jump shot, he tends to take ill-advised long-range shots. His play is somewhat undisciplined but he plays with some desire. Being at Syracuse and stuck playing in that 2-3 zone all the time his man to man defense is impossible to evaluate. However, he has excellent instincts as a weak side shot blocker and seemed willing to battle for position against the much larger Roy Hibbert. He seems to be built for Coach Iavaroni’s system. His height was measured at the Nike Hoop Summit. Green has plenty of room to grow more into his body and his lack of discipline does not seem terminal. His desire to drive and play more on the inside as the year goes on will be one of the keys to his development. The Orangemen lack veteran players so his team's reliance on him for offense might stunt his growth just a little.

After doing a lot of film watching, I think these are the only six players that can actually be impact players at this time. Other players still being evaluated that should appear in part two are Danilo Gallinari, Nicolas Batum, and Brook Lopez. For right now, this top six is what I consider tier 1 in regards to the needs of the Memphis Grizzlies and the style that Iavaroni has openly stated he wants to play in the future. Unfortunately our fate remains in the hands of a lottery combination.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Power Rankings for 1-21 & 22

Great comment about Conley by Tony Mejia on CBS ranking.
He thinks another T.J. Ford.  Agree?  Fox comments also.

Power Rankings for 21 & 22 Jan '08
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