Saturday, February 16, 2008

Darko "Busting" Out

It starts off innocently enough....more of a question than anything. Usually it is asked in a manner that is seemingly innoccuous and harmless. Then the question starts to become a statement more and more often. Soon enough it is considered an irrefutable, undeniable fact. After all, you cannot argue that when the #2 pick of a draft that produced LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is only averaging 5.2 ppg and 3.7 rpg after 4 years in the league that he is, in fact, a "bust".

Or can you?

Pau Gasol hasn't played for the Memphis Grizzlies since January 28 against the Dallas Mavericks. In the 7 games since then, Darko has played 30+ mpg in 5 of them, posting averages of 13.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 1.8 apg, .519 FG%, .647 FT%. Add in the game at Dallas in which he played 25 minutes and his averages are 11.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 1.5 apg, .483 FG%, .647 FT%. In other words, if you remove the Philly game where he only played 13 minutes as the team *coughshowcasedcough* ahem, gave significant playing time to Hakim Warrick, Milicic has averaged a double-double since Gasol left the lineup. Darko has 6 double-doubles on the year (3 since "The Trade"), but only one with less than 30 minutes played -- the game against the Lakers on January 8th, where he played 27:10 and recorded 12 pts, 11 reb and 4 blk.

Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but they're far better than what Jerome James or Malik Rose are putting up for the Knicks at similiar salaries. To give a little perspective, a certain 20-year old up-and-comer is receiving plenty of praise for posting 13/10 this year in 29 mpg after putting up 8/6 in 22 mpg last year. That player's name: Andrew Bynum, who is in his 3rd year in the league. In fact, that this is technically Darko's 5th season since being drafted has really worked against him when the dreaded "B" word comes up. But if you truly examine his tenure, you'll see that he is just now truly completing his 2nd full season in the NBA as his first 2.5 years with Detroit were practically wasted. Only when he was traded to the Orlando Magic did he receive any significant playing time. That's right, he's a 22-year old 7-foot center who only has 2 real years under his belt and is just now getting a chance to show what he can do, albeit with a nagging injury to his shooting hand for most of the year.

Hopefully you are over the shock of me comparing Darko to Bynum. Let's look at a few other comparisons and see how Darko stacks up against a few players who were known as solid defensive players with somewhat limited offensive potential and what their respective career arcs look like.

Tyson Chandler 7' 1" 6 yrs Pro












Samuel Dalembert 6' 11" 5 yrs Pro












Chris Kaman 7' 0" 5 yrs Pro












Darko Milicic 7' 0"   4 yrs Pro












It is rather interesting to consider that Tyson Chandler was considered a bust while in Chicago. Samuel Dalembert has shown gradual, but very limited improvement since he came into the league. Chris Kaman was labeled a disappointment before Elton Brand's injury allowed him to flourish this season. Right now, Darko is at least 4 years younger than any of these players. He'll have the rest of the season, as well as the next two years, to establish himself as a consistent low-post performer, something we have gotten a glimpse of since Gasol's departure. Sure, he'll still have a lousy game here and there -- who doesn't? But at his age with his potential on his current salary, I'm not sure that he isn't going to be one of the most important building blocks of this young team going forward. So, to every Mike Kahn or Chad Ford that calls Darko a BUST, I say that his fate has yet to be determined. Darko's Redemption? Nay. Darko's emergence from his chrysalis.

The Dark One cometh....

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Miller Trade Watch Raised to Orange

The trade deadline is less than 6 days away and the Mike Miller Trade Watch is heating up, moving into the Orange Level.

You don't know what the Orange Level is? Well, let me fill you in.

Level 1 - Green or Low...Just a normal day in the trade friendly NBA.
Level 2 - Blue or Guarded...Name is thrown around the NBA trade rumor grapevine.
Level 3 - Yellow or Elevated...Name is thrown around in rumors AND other indicators point towards the likelihood of a trade.
Level 4 - Orange or High...Either exceptionally strong trade rumors OR the Yellow Level near the trade deadline.
Level 5 - Red or Severe...Trusted media sources basically assuring us a deal is imminent.

If you read this blog much, you've probably noticed that I like to review what events have transpired to get us to where we are now. Let's do that now as it relates to the Mike Miller Trade Watch. To a lesser degree, the Mike Miller Trade Watch has been going on for a while now.

-- In 2006, after yet another playoff sweep it became obvious that some changes needed to be made, it was rumored that Houston had their pick of either Shane Battier or Mike Miller in the Rudy Gay trade.

-- During June of 2007, it is probably safe to say that the Watch was at a Gaurded Blue Level. There were rumblings around town that Miller may be traded on draft night. One possible destination thrown out before the draft was Charlotte, who had a late lottery pick cap space to absorb Miller's contract. Charlotte ended up trading their lottery pick (and cap space) for Jason Richardson.

-- The beginning of season was more of the same. Tom Ziller at AOL Fanhouse thought Mike Miller was likely to be traded this season. Spartacus replied to TZ, which is a particularly interesting read now considering how the season ended up unfolding.

-- The Watch stayed at a Guarded Blue Level this season until Pau Gasol was traded, when it was then raised up to the Elevated Yellow Level. Part of the reason the Watch immediately went to Yellow was the manner in which Pau was traded. Chris Wallace has been highly criticized for the deal he accepted for Pau, which was a pu-pu platter of expiring contracts and draft picks. If Pau is being traded for cap space and picks, it is logically to think Miller may too, right?

-- Chris Sheridan thought so and named Miller one of the most likely players to also be moved by the trade deadline. At this point the rumors of Miller being traded were loud enough the Commercial Appeal ran the obligatory "I'm not thinking about the trade rumors" article.

Now, things are heating up. In the presence of a looming steaming hot trade deadline, amid swirling trade rumors all across the country that Miller is on the block and in the face of a evidence the Grizzlies are in a fire-sale, the Mike Miller Trade Watch has been raised to the Orange Level. Let's expand on those thoughts.

-- Miller's name is being thrown around in trade rumors all across the country (more on that in a bit).

-- It has even been reported Miller has told friends he believes he will be traded before the deadline.

-- Chris Wallace (or Micheal Heisley depending on your viewpoint) has shown he has a plan for the future and that plan apparently includes increasing both future cap space and future draft picks. On top of that Wallace has shown he will not hesitate to pull the trigger on a deal if it fits his plan (look no further to trading Pau 3 weeks before the trade deadline for cap space and draft picks). If someone offers cap space and picks for Miller, it is reasonable to assume Wallace just may say yes.

-- Chris Vernon, who I can't remember ever being wrong about the Griz, says that Heisley has the team in fire-sale mode and that if Miller gets traded for money and picks, the fire-sale will be completely undeniable. I have learned to always believe Verno and when he tells me there is a good chance that the Pau trade will lead to a similar Miller trade before the deadline, I take him seriously.

-- In what may be the most active trade season in recent memory, there are still 6 days for NBA GM's to make deals and load up in the apparent Western Conference Arms Race (including a yet to be completed Jason Kidd to Dallas trade). I'm sure other teams are talking to Wallace about Mike Miller.

Ok, so there are plenty of reasons to pay attention to the possibility of Miller being traded. What are some of the rumored trades and possible destinations for Miller?

-- Heat. A popular rumored destination is to Miami where they have expiring contracts in Jason Williams (oh, the irony) and Ricky Davis (who if you didn't know is a proud member of the Griz Killer Dream Team). One catch is that they can't trade their 2008 draft pick right now since it could be owed to the Twolves from the Walker-Davis trade.

-- Nuggets. A local rumor floating around that I've heard a number of people tell me about is with the Denver Nuggets. With the rest of the West loading up and the Nugs on a 50 win pace yet still on the bubble for the playoffs, they could make a play to improve their club. They have an expiring contract in Najera as well as their pick to trade. Oh ya, they also have a knucklehead named JR Smith ready to poison any locker room he gets put in.

-- Mavericks. Here is a new one, allegedly a sports radio host in Dallas talked about a local rumor of Dallas signing Keith Van Horn for 1 year and 20 million (!!!), then trading him for Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins. Talk about a Memphis salary dump!! I wonder if that could be a way to fill in the Dallas roster after a Kidd-for-half-the-team trade takes place. But that would mean a heck of a lot of luxury tax Cuban would have to pay. Anyway, it is just a rumor and likely without merit and completely untrue, but I just wanted to pass it along.

-- Nets. A New Jersey paper reports the Nets are interested in Miller. They have expiring contracts in Magloire and Nachbar and possibly extra draft picks from any impending Jason Kidd trade.

So there you go. In the next 6 days don't be surprised if Miller is traded for more cap space and draft picks.

One more aspect I think I should mention. There are 3 other Griz players being routinely named in these same Miller rumors:

-- Lowry (everybody assumes he is the odd-man-out among our young guard trio)
-- Hak (very few people see a role for him on this team in the future, so why not try to get something for him now)
-- Cardinal (please, will someone freaking take his contract off our hands)

Personally, I go back and forth on if Miller will end up getting traded before the deadline, however, I will safely predict that if Miller is traded, it won't be for current talent, but rather more cap space and more picks.

If any new information is leaked in the coming days and a trade seems imminent, we will be sure to raise the Watch Level to Red and promptly fill you in on the details and give you our analysis.

BallHype: hype it up!

3 Games Away: Or Chris Wallace and the Finger

I know it is the All-Star Weekend and I could join nearly every blogger in the world in talking about the different celebrations but honestly I don't care about the All-Star game or the 3 pt Shooting contest or even the Slam Dunk Contest (heresy with Rudy Gay performing I know). I'm not even that interested in the Rookie-Sophomore game despite three Grizzlies playing in that.

I can see 5 Grizzlies playing live 41 times a year. Why should I care about a few more exhibitions?

What I am interested in today is 3 games. Not any three games in particular but the 3 games that separate the LA Lakers from the lottery.

What you say? Didn't Stephen A. Smith just proclaim the Lakers the class of the Western Conference? Didn't no less an expert than Gregg Popovich say that the trade of Gasol to the Lakers should have been blocked by a trade evaluation committee? How can I possibly think that the Lakers could drop into the lottery???

Well all of you pundits are getting the finger from Chris Wallace.

No, he is not making an obscene gesture at anyone. He is far too fine a man to do that (publicly at least). Instead Chris Wallace is giving people Kobe's finger. Kobe has a torn ligament in his right pinkie finger Thursday and the Lakers All-Star has decided not to undergo surgery that could sideline him for six weeks. Having the surgery would nearly guarantee a lottery trip for the Lakers so the news could be better, but an injured Kobe is far better for Memphis' chances than a healthy one.

Which brings Memphians back to the trade. When it was made people automatically assumed the Grizzlies were basically getting a 2nd rd player with the Lakers draft pick. Some despondent souls went so far as to assume that Memphis would make a terrible selection with that pick.

Oh ye of little faith!

A top 20 pick is just as good as a late lottery pick in this draft. Heck, this is the type of draft where the last player taken in the first round could be as good as the 5th player taken. If you don't believe that has happened before consider the 1985 draft. That was the first year the lottery was used and the #5 pick was SMU graduate John Koncack. Joe Kliene from Arkansas followed him up at #6. The last two first rd picks were AC Green and Terry Porter. Which two would you rather have had? Not enough? How about 19986 when the 5th pick was Kenny 'Sky' Walker from Kentucky. Portland with the last pick took Arvydas Sarbonis. In 1992 Minnesota took Christian Laettner and Denver took Laphonso Ellis. Golden State at 24 suffered with Latrell Sprewell. in 1993 it was Isaiah Rider at #5 vs Sam Cassell at 24.

Need more convincing? Maybe you want something more current and more painful for Grizzlies fans. How about Darko Milicic at #2 instead of Josh Howard at #29, Leandrho Barbosa at #28 or Travis Outlaw at #23? The Grizzlies took Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones at #16 and #20 respectively.

The point is that this draft is similiar to many drafts in that there is going to be good players, possibly great players, available late in the draft and the sooner a smart mind gets a chance to draft one the more likely it is he will make a smart pick.

Is Chris Wallace a great mind? He does have one strike against him by taking the job as GM of the Grizzlies. However, his track record implies that he does in fact know how to select players that will be successful in the NBA. More importantly he appears to know who won't be successful even more. There is an old story about a young Chris Wallace, at that point not employed in the NBA, going to a NBA GM and beggin him on his knees not to draft a certain player. The GM ignored him and now both the GM and the player are out of the NBA and Chris Wallace is. 1981 he started Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook that covered college players. That magazine became required reading among the movers and shakers of the NBA for the player evaluations. He was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the most influential members of college basketball media in 1991. His actual draft picks include such players as Paul Pierce (#10), Joe Johnson, Chauncey Billups (#3), Joe Johnson (#10) and Mike Conley (#4).

He definitely has the resume.

So now Chris Wallace has the opportunity to show that the resume isn't just a piece of paper and the Lakers have a problem that may affect their standing in the Western Conference, not to mention the general mayhem he has caused in the conference that should benefit the younger teams in the not too distant future.

It may be Kobe's finger but don't be surprised to see Chris Wallace pointing it at some of his critics in the not too distant future.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Postgame Thoughts: Memphis at Philly 2.13.08

Spartacus Says:
The All-Star break couldn't get here soon enough for the Memphis Grizzlies. After yet another loss, this time to the Philadelphia 76ers, most of the team will get a chance to take a much needed break. The Grizz will send 3 players to All-Star weekend, as Juan Carlos Navarro and Mike Conley will be participating in the Rookie/Sophmore game along with Rudy Gay, who will be pulling double duty as he competes in the Slam Dunk contest as well.

The Good:
Hakim Warrick - Hak has put two solid games together after the Gasol trade left him as the only consistent low-post scorer on the team. If he can continue this kind of production, he might stick around through the "rebuilding process" the team is currently undergoing.

Kyle Lowry - The Bulldog played well in his first return to the City of Brotherly Love since being drafted last year. He played with his trademark intensity while logging more minutes than any other Grizzly. Even his outside shot was on, as he hit 3/5 from behind the arc.

The Bad:
Starters' scoring - Philly had all 5 starters score in double figures. Memphis had 3....and the other two were scoreless. Granted, Kyle might as well have been the starter given he played nearly 40 minutes, scoring 15 points along the way, but that is still inexcusable.

Creating opportunities - The Grizzlies had 17 assists for 35 made baskets. That doesn't sound too bad, until you consider that the Sixers had 28 assists on 42 made baskets and the Grizzlies' 2nd leading assist man was Kwame Brown. No, that's not a misprint.

The Ugly:
3-Point Shooting - 7 for 26 = .269%. Need I say more? I didn't think so.

Team defense - Philly shot over 50% from the field and over 46% from behind the 3-point line. Hard to beat teams if you're going to post numbers like that.

This team has a lot to work on over the break and throughout the remainder of the season.

BallHype: hype it up!

Memphis at Philadelphia - 2.13.08

Memphis is probably the most relieved team to see the All-Star break arrive. Riding a 6 losing streak prior to Tuesday night's win against Sacramento, things are dark in Memphis right now but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Cap space, young talent and competent leadership will eventually produce the results Memphis fans have desired. Rudy Gay is a clutch scorer who should emerge into the national spotlight by next season if not this season after the Rookie Spectacular and Slam Dunk Contest. Mike Conley has great composure and only needs to develop an outside shot to become a deadly point guard. Darko Milicic is developing consistency after 4 years of misery prior to arriving in Memphis. Those three players are 21, 20, and 22 respectively so the future is bright with 5 additional first round draft picks coming in the next 3 years. Throw in the capability of using the cap money to add to the talent level and Memphis is not as far from playoff potential as their record indicates. Hakim Warrick is a streaky scorer who provides big play potential as well.

Philadelphia is racing into the All-Star break and is probably sad to see it get here. Riding a 4 game winning streak including a dominating win over Dallas on Monday night, Philadelphia is making a strong run up the Eastern Conference standings and is now only half a game out of the playoffs. Led by Andre Miller, Andre Iquodala and Samuel Dalembert, Philly has a strong core of players and some youth developing as well. Led by Louis Williams and Memphis native Thaddeus Young and former Tiger Rodney Carney, Philly seems to be developing a team that will be competitive for years to come. The interesting thing is the 76ers win streak has taken shape after trading Kyle Korver to Utah who has also been red hot. I guess some trades benefit both teams immediately. Philly is tough on defense as well so that will make things even more difficult for the Grizzlies.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Andre Miller
Andre Miller may be the most physically intimidating point guard in the league today. He uses his bulk to post up smaller players, has a great eye for passing and can rebound as well. Just ask Dallas who watched him put up 21 pts, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the last game. If there is a weakness to Miller's game it is his perimeter shooting which is weak at best (14.3% from behind the arc). The key to controlling Miller is to force him into long range shots but that isn't easy to do. Conley will also have to contend with the physical play of Miller and after two stays on the inactive list with sore shoulders that could be a problem for Conley. Mike is faster than Miller but Miller is more comfortable with pace of the NBA game.
Advantage: Philadelphia

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Willie Green

This matchup is a rare one for Navarro. He isn't under-sized and he has better range than Willie Green. Unfortunately Green has NBA experience that overcomes these drawbacks. Green, a 5 yr veteran who missed one season recuperating from a devastating knee injury, is a streaky shooter who can explode when on his game but disappear when he is not. Navarro is also a streaky shooter who can explode when he is on his game but lately he has not. JC will need to find the range he lost when his buddy was traded. The Sacramento game was a good start in that direction as Navarro not only filled up the basket but was instrumental in some nice plays where his vision opened up easy looks for other players.
Advantage: Philadelphia

Small Forwards: Mike Miller vs Andre Iquodala

If there is a reason for Memphis to get fired up for this game it has to be the rematch with Iquodala. Not many people will forget him streaking off the court after hitting the game winner over Mike Miller this season. The New AI has become a fan favorite in Philly but is still willing to test the free agent waters this season. Iquodala has increased his scoring every year in the NBA and is on pace to do so again but he only averages 19.2 ppg. Surprisingly low for a team leader in the NBA. Iquodala also doesn't have great touch on his long range shots hitting only 30.6% of his three point attempts. What AI does have is a clutch sense of confidence. Mike Miller is sorely lacking in that regard. Miller is one of the best shooters in the league but in crunch time turns to jelly.
Advantage: Philadelphia

Power Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Thaddeus Young

Thaddeus Young was supposed to be too weak to play PF in the NBA. Well as a rookie starter he is averaging 11 ppg and over 6 rebounds. His 8 pt, 8 rebound game against Dirk was particularly impressive when considering Dirk had a terrible offensive game. Rudy Gay has snapped out of his funk after the Gasol trade to start putting up consistent numbers. He has averaged 22 ppg and 8.6 rpg since Gasol left which is almost identical to the numbers he put up in the last five games with Gasol. Rudy's combination of long range accuracy (38.8%), explosive leaping ability and clutch shooting has made him one of the more talked about sophomore's in the league this year. It won't be easy against Young but the rookie may overlook this game after his performance against Dirk the Jerk.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Samuel Dalembert

Darko Milicic is averaging 5.8 ppg and 6.8 rpg. So why should anyone consider this an improvement? I can answer that. Darko started the season playing strong and then badly sprained his left thumb (dominant hand). Instead of waiting for his thumb to get its lift back, he played through the pain and his numbers suffered for it. Since the thumb started to heal he has gradually started improving. In his last 5 games he is averaging 11 ppg and 10.6 rebounds and is avoiding foul trouble early in games. That is something to get excited about for a 22 yr old player finally getting regular minutes. Samuel Dalembert also was a slow starter in the NBA. His fourth season in the league he averaged 7.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg. Now he is considered one of the better big men in the league and is averaging 11.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 2.4 bpg. Unfortunately Darko still has some developing to reach that kind of production but it is conceivable that Darko can score more and rebound as much as Dalembert in the near future.
Advantage: Philadelphia

Benches: Memphis vs Philadelphia

Philly has more experience in their starting lineup but the benches are both pretty green. Louis Williams is actually exciting to watch play. Erratic and poor shooting overall but damn exciting. Reggie Evans is a powerful rebounder and defender but offers little else. Rodney Carney is still struggling with his shot and will need to improve if he wants to continue to play in the NBA. Memphis' bench should start to settle down and start producing soon. They haven't yet. Hakim Warrick redeemed himself as a starter against Sacramento and is scoring like he did early in the season. Unfortunately he is back to defending like he did early in the season which has forced Memphis into more and more zone defenses. Kyle Lowry can't hit an outside shot and is too focused on the rim once he gets into the paint. He needs to learn how to do more. Jason Colllins and Kwame Brown both need to show something more than we have seen although the Ben Wallace hairdo was interesting last night. If he could just become the Ben Wallace defender as well Memphis may have found something.
Advantage: Philadelphia

Opposing Viewpoints:
Sixers 4

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Post Game Thoughts - Sacramento

From Zack

Tonight, this is going to be short on substance. Look for more postgame impressions added in the morning.

--Tonight was a game of runs, with most of the scoring from both teams coming in bunches.

--Predictably, Kevin Martin had a big night....well, mostly 1st half. The Griz and Coach Iavaroni actually made some good half-time adjustments and kept Kmart in check in the 2nd half.

--Hak had a monster 2nd half, going nuts scoring and rebounding. Hak got the start to match the Kings size and keep Miller on Kmart as much as possible instead of Navarro. Although Hak couldn't make a shot in the 1st half, he kept at it and was clearly the difference maker tonight with his 2nd half play.

--The zone looked good tonight. Part of that, IMO, is that Hak and Navarro are good zone defenders who actually seem to have better defensive instincts when in a zone compared to man-to-man. Well, Navarro has good defensive instincts all the time, the zone just minimizes teams taking advantage of his size at SG. Hak was raised on the zone for 4 years in college. When we play zone, it should coincide to when Hak is on the court.

--Nice offensive balance tonight.

--Darko had hands made of Pre-Cambrian Granite tonight. In one sequence, he failed to catch like 3 or 4 straight passes. Can anyone tell me a center the Griz have had that actually had good, soft hands?

--The win snapped our 6 game losing streak. Much like last year, any win feels about 4 times better than it should. Even a win against the Kings at home.

--A few words about the Kings. I think they are better without Bibby and Artest on the floor. They should look to trade Bibby and Artest for a similar pu-pu platter of expiring contracts and draft picks that we got for Pau. It would be a better direction than keeping either of them around, IMO.

Rudy Gay shows off a seldom used post up game with his version of Darko's lefty hook-type shot. (Getty)

We won! I'm pumped! Go get 'em Grizzlies! (hat/tip to Tennessee Drew for the pic)

Chipc3's Perspective:

I love the smell of Nepalm in the morning. It smells like victory!

Tonight at times made me feel like Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now. A dominating single victory in the midst of losing a war. It was a great single game victory but the long term outcome for this season is already determined.

Hakim showed tonight that he can score in the NBA which he hasn't done since Pau left. It didn't hurt that Mikki Moore, who has to have the worst dreadlocks I have ever seen, seemed incapable of escaping the refs whistles. Was it just me or did Hakim actually trim his goutee?

Navarro has definately trimmed his smurk hair cut. I am sorry Juan Carlos but you look a lot better without the baby spiked hairdo. I think he found some maturity on the court when he got rid of the childish haircut personally. He also found his shot tonight and that made a huge difference in the game. Juan Carlos also appeared to have fun tonight. That too was missing since the trade of his buddy Gasol. I remember in particular one play when he just missed Hakim with a bounce pass in the lane that was tipped away at the last moment. He turned to the crowd and you could see just how close he thought that was with his expression. Is there another player in the league who expresses how happy he is playing basketball than Navarro? The bottom line tonight was that when Navarro in particular and Memphis as a whole hits their shots they play with any team in the league. When they don't...well they don't. Lately they haven't so tonight was a pleasant surprise.

Could it be the hair?

Speaking of surprises, Jason Collins did his best Ben Wallace imitation tonight from defending the paint like a beast, to missing free throws to his HAIR! My god Jason, you went to Stanford for goodness sake. You should know better than to go out in public like that.
Darko Milicic showed tonight what everyone has been talking about with him...and I mean everyone. He showed a nice offensive game, at times very offensive to the casual fan. He made some incredibly smart passes and some incredibly dumb turnovers. Basically he looked a lot like a 22 yr old kid who was still trying to figure out what he is capable of doing. Which of course is exactly what he is but I am still encouraged to wait and see what happens when he does figure it out. Darko's hair is starting to grow back from that freshman initiation hatchet job on his head too.

Maybe it is the hair.

It seems scary to think but Rudy Gay actually had an off night. Sure he scored 21 pts but he did so on 6-15 shooting while grabbing only 3 rebounds. The signature play of the game was when Rudy blocked John Salmons three point shot attempt near the end of the third quarter. He absolutely soared up to block the shot and the exploded down the court for a monster dunk! Of course he was fouled immediately after the block and the dunk didn't count but no one in the stands cared. It was a great play from a young man still learning what he is capable of doing in the NBA.

Brian Cardinal gave some impressive minutes tonight but had to make the bonehead play of the game too. Late in the game Sacramento scored a bucket and Artest stayed down low to do a mini-press on Conley. Apparently BC didn't realize it until after he started leaning into the court and you can guess what happened. Yes he stepped over the line before making the pass and the ref caught it. Talk about dumb.

There isn't a lot you can do with Cardinal's hair. It had to be the hair tonight.

The most encouraging thing I saw tonight was the attitude that this team isn't dead. It was as if the shock of the Gasol and Swift trades finally wore off and the team realized that this group of players was capable of winning without those two players. Memphis has a great assortment of young players still figuring out where they fit into the team and what it takes to win. They will have bad games but tonight showed what Wallace and Iavaroni want to develop. Given time I am optomistic that this group of players can develop into a fun team to watch.

Which only leaves the question "Who does their hair man?"

BallHype: hype it up!

Power Rankings for 2-11 & 12

Should I start listing this as inverted standings as Zack suggests?  Comments please!
Lowly Grizzlies at 29 or 30 except for the math guys: Sagarin and Hollinger.

Power Rankings for 11 & 12 Feb. '08
Mouse Over GRIZZLIES LOGO to see COMMENTS (works best with MS IE)
Click on Grizzlies logo to go to team web page for each media's web site.
other weeksAll2-41-281-211-141-712-3112-24
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Actual NBA SI SteinCoversSagarin CBS FOXHollinger

BallHype: hype it up!