Saturday, February 23, 2008

Memphis at Cleveland - 2.24.08

Memphis is playing a tough schedule of games and is also playing some of their worst basketball of the season. The trade of Pau Gasol and the loss of Mike Miller to back spasms has caused Memphis to struggle with a young lineup who is ill prepared for the rigors of the NBA season. Hakim Warrick has started to slow down after a hot start replacing Pau as the starting PF. Rudy Gay has been extremely frustrated by the lack of respect from the referees and has struggled to get as many open looks as he got earlier in the season when teams were more focused on containing Gasol and Miller. Juan Carlos Navarro has gone public with his struggles hitting the rookie wall in the NBA as well. Most disturbing has been Darko Milicic's recent struggles after putting together three consecutive double-doubles after the trade.

Cleveland joined many other contending teams in attempting to make a major deal to increase their chances in the playoffs. Gone are former Grizz Drew Gooden as well as Lrry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, Cedric Simmons and Shannon Brown. In are Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West. By trading two starters Cleveland gave up on a lot of players who contributed to their NBA finals run last season. West and Wally should provide immediate aid in two big areas of weakness for the Cavs: point guard, especially with Daniel 'Boobie' Gibson out with a sprained ankle, and outside shooting. Wallace is aging rapidly but will provide toughness on the interior that the Cavs have lacked as well. Cleveland has remained in the playoff hunt this year thanks to the incredible play of superstar LeBron James and his 4th quarter heroics. The changes in the lineup should limit the need for LeBron to lead so many 4th quarter comebacks.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Damon Jones
Damon Jones has started while waiting for Delonte West to be cleared to play for Cleveland but his time as the starter is running short. Damon is known more as a long range threat than a true point guard that Cleveland needs. Jones is shooting 42% from the arc this season and was 7-11 in his one start against Washington on Friday night. Mike Conley continues to gain confidence in his offensive game but still struggles with his outside shot. He is cool in the lane and can score with either hand in the paint as well has being able to spot teammates on the perimeter. He averages 2.5 assists to turnovers the last few games which is more than respectable for a rookie and rather incredible considering the poor shooting the Grizzlies have exhibited lately.
Advantage: Memphis

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Eric Snow

Snow is another player forced into the starting role with Gibson's injury and without West or Szczerbiak available on Friday night. He more than any other player is least capable of relieving James of offensive burdens. Snow is also an intelligent player and excellent defender who will give Navarro fits getting open for a shot. Not that superior defense is called for lately on Navarro. Juan Carlos has struggled badly the last few weeks and is shooting a mere 31% from the field and 19% from the arc in the last 10 games. Navarro has reached double figures in 3 of the last 5 games but he also had a goose egg against Dallas Friday night. The one good thing is Navarro knows he can shoot and won't hesitate to continue putting up shots.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs LeBron James

This is a matchup where Memphis fans get to see the difference between who they want to be a superstar in Rudy Gay and what a superstar is in LeBron James. Rudy is averaging 20 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 1.8 apg. Very nice numbers for a 21 yr old 2nd yr players. LeBron James is averaging 30.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg and 7.5 apg. Damn good for any player and phenomenal for a 24 yr old 5th yr player. LeBron is the total package and what's more is he is most deadly in the 4th quarter. LeBron has led Cleveland from behind in the 4th quarter consistently all season. Over the last 5 games LeBron has actually picked up his play averaging a triple double with 31 ppg, 11 rpg and 10 apg over that span.
Advantage: Cleveland

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Ben Wallace

Hakim Warrick has been one of the few bright spots since the trade of Pau Gasol. As a starter Hakim is averaging 18 ppg, 8.2 rpg and shooting 55% from the field. That's the good news. The bad news is he is hooting 52% from the free throw line and teams are starting to realize that they need to cover him everywhere inside the arc. In the last 5 games Hak's scoring has gone been 24, 23, 22, 20 and 15. The trend is not Hak's friend right now. Ben Wallace was supposed to be the missing link to Chicago's return to glory. Instead he became the reason for their failure. Now in Cleveland he won't be expected to be what he isn't. Defense and rebounding is what Cleveland wants from Wallace and against undersized and underweighted Warrick that shouldn't be a problem.
Advantage: Cleveland

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Does anyone know who the 2nd leading scorer on the Cavs is? Yep, Big Z is still #2 although Cleveland is hoping that won't be the case after the trade with Wally coming to town. Ilgauskas is slow, actually plodding, and doesn't really have a go to move. All he does is his job each and every night. Big Z has 20 double-doubles this season. Darko has 6 double-doubles this season. He even had three in a row but the last one was 7 games ago and his performance has been declining game by game since then.
Advantage: Cleveland

Benches: Memphis vs Cleveland

Cleveland's bench could be loaded or empty depending on on how the starting lineup shakes out. Wally Szczerbiak has been great coming off the bench in Seattle and will probably start that way in Cleveland as first. However, Wally is a far better SG option than Snow, Jones, Gibson or anyone else on Cleveland's roster. Anderson Varejao was a serious prospect for Chris Wallace when he came to Memphis but it was obvious Memphis couldn't sign him so they turned to Darko instead. Joe Smith is solid if unspecatcular. Aleksandar Pavlovic has struggled with his contract, conditioning and expectations this season. Whatever the reason Pavlovic has failed to live up to expectations. Memphis' bench has been terrible lately. Kyle Lowry is struggling shooting, Brian Cardinal looks out of place on the court and Jason Collins contributes nothing. Former Lakers Javaris Crittenton and Kwame Brown have looked alternately terrible and promising but never dependable.
Advantage: Cleveland

Outside Opinions and Other Commentary:
Cavalier Attitude
Larry Hughes: Please Stop Taking Bad Shots - I wonder if they are going to move to covering Chicago or change their name...
Brian Windhorst - - One of the best bloggers in the country on the NBA. A must read for any informed fan.
Waiting For Next Year - This is the former Cleveland Sports Authority site and very well done.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, February 22, 2008

GM Chris Wallace Faces the Fans...again.

Well the trade dead line has come on gone with the Memphis Grizzlies basically standing pat until the 2008 off season. Well they helped a couple of their division rivals exchange malcontents but decided against trading Mike Miller or Kyle Lowry at this time. Supposedly, Grizz GM Chris Wallace had multiple offers for both Miller and Lowry but decided none of the offers were worth making a move. Unfortunately for Wallace, after the Pau Gasol trade he has joined the likes of Isiah Thomas, Kevin McHale and Billy Knight in the ESPN WILL RIDICULE EVERY MOVE I MAKE CLUB. The influence of ESPN can not be ignored. Also, the fact that Gasol is now playing for the Los Angeles Lakers and will likely be on national TV every week can't be ignored. For the rest of this season, Memphis will likely be losing and Gasol and the Lakers will be winning with ESPN's talking heads being critical of Wallace and the Grizzlies along the way.

Whether I agree with the decisions Chris Wallace has made or not, after trading Pau Gasol for a bag of magic beans and not trading Mike Miller for another bag (I agreed with both), Wallace has always gone the extra step to try and keep the fan base informed about his reasoning for doing or not doing a particular move. Shortly after the NBA trade deadline, Wallace took it another step and fielded phone calls on Chris Vernon's radio show from frustrated Memphis Grizzlies fans for an entire hour(part 1, part 2, part 3). Although Wallace has a tendency to use redirection and deflection, he did at least give some outlet to the growing frustration in the Memphis Grizzlies fan base. It is one thing to call or listen to sports talk radio and speak with the radio host but it is another thing to engage in a discussion with the man who is making the decisions for your favorite team.

So after the uneventful trade dead line, it is time for Chris Wallace and the rest of the Memphis Grizzlies fans to turn our focus to college basketball and hope that our savior is coming in the 2008 NBA draft. The Western Conference in the the NBA is going to be hellacious to navigate through over the next season and a half. It is with this notion the Chris Wallace has positioned the Grizzlies to try and be ready when the Suns, Spurs, Mavericks, and Nuggets are hit with the realities of age that the Memphis Grizzlies can join Portland, Seattle and Minnesota as the up and coming to teams poised with young talent to take their place.

Now winning the lottery...that is another article entirely.

BallHype: hype it up!

Memphis vs Dallas 2.22.08

Memphis has been in the doldrums of late. It seemed the players were more concerned (some would say anxious) to hear their name mentioned in a trade more than focusing on their play on the court. That emotional baggage is over for now. That alone should be a big relief for the team. Not that Memphis wasn't involved in a draft day trade of course. New to the Grizzlies fold is Marcus Vinicius Vieira de Souza also known as 'Marquinhos' de Souza. Marcus is a 23 yr old player from Brazil who's career highlights so far have been shorter than his name. It is unknown whether Vinicius will be available for this game. Mike Miller is still around but his troublesome back may not allow him to play. Hakim Warrick has been playing lately and playing well with 4 consecutive 20 pt games to his credit. In his last 5 games Warrick has averaged 20.2 ppg and 7.6 rpg. Rudy Gay, the new face of the franchise, is averaging 20 ppg this season and if he can continue at that pace will be just the 3rd player in franchise history to average 20 ppg for a full season.

Dallas is still adjusting to their late season trade that brought back home former Mav Jason Kidd but cost the Mavs DeSagna Diop and Devin Harris (plus Keith Van Horn being lured out of retirement) to get the deal done. It did not cost the Mavs Jerry Stackhouse however and Kidd did bring Antoine Wright, a promising young guard from Texas A&M with him. Adding Kidd to a lineup with Dirk Nowtizki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry is another example of the rich getting richer in the west. So far the returns have been questionable however. In the first game with Kidd in the lineup Dallas was waxed by division and conference leading New Orleans 93-104 dropping the Mavs 3 games behind the Hornets in the standings. Not exactly the start Billionaire owner Mark Cuban envisioned.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd brings a resume to the table that few point guads in history can match. 9226 career assists (9.2 a game), 1979 career steals (2.0 a game) and 6726 career rebounds (6.7 a game). While never noted as a great shooter Kidd still has averaged 14.3 ppg over his 14 yr career. Mike Conley was 5 yrs old when Jason Kidd was drafted out of Cal. Conley has been a heady point guard as a rookie using his speed and experience growing up with Greg Oden to fearlessly challenge big men in the lane while showing a good eye passing the ball (5.0 apg as a starter). He doesn't have the size to deter Kidd from shooting but Kidd isn't a great outside shooter and if Conley can use his speed to stay in front of Kidd then the Grizz will gladly let Kidd shoot from outside instead of their other gunners.
Advantage: Dallas

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Devon George

Devon George originally held up Jason Kidd's arrival in Dallas. Now he is starting next to him. What a strange world we live in. George has started the last three games for Dallas and shot a world beating 6-24 over that time span. And this guy held up the Kidd trade? Mike Miller has been troubled by back spasms but hopefully the knowledge that he doesn't have to leave his wife and kids for the rest of the school year will ease the tension and he wil lbe able to go tonight. When Miller is on his game he makes it easier for everyone to score by forcing defenses to guard him at halfcourt it seems. The minutes he has logged this season combined with his throwing his body into every play has created health issues. Miller would be more effective playing 30 minutes a game ala Manu Ginobilli but that hasn't been feasible this season.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Josh Howard

There isn't a better matchup in the game than Rudy Gay vs Josh Howard. Both players have taken major steps forward in their games this season with Howard second on his team in scoring at 20.1 ppg while Rudy leads Memphis at 20.0 ppg. Howard grabs 7.3 rpg while Rudy grabs 6.1 rpg. Howard shoots 46.8% from the field and 35% from the arc while Rudy shoots 46.5% from the field and 39% from the arc. Neither player is a great passer (.21 apg for Howard and 1.8 apg for Gay) but both are good defenders with Rudy holding the edge in hustle plays with 1.5 spg and 0.8 bpg compared to Howard's 0.7 and 0.4 respectively. Both players are young but Rudy is very young at only 21 yrs. Howard graduated from Wake Forest and will be 28 this season. In their matchups this season Howard has had the edge but it is very close.
Advantage: Dallas

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Dirk Nowitzki

This used to be the premier matchup when Dallas played Memphis and it may be again one day soon. Dirk's ability to score on the perimeter used to give Gasol fits defensively and Dallas' ability to hide Nowitzki defensively against the Grizz center while the Mavs big men leaned on Gasol usually gave Dallas the edge. Now Dirk will have to defend Warrick who has range out to 20 ft and an explosive first step and leaping ability that will give Dirk fits. Defensively Warrick is nimble enough to hang with Dirk but for some reason it doesn't translate well in man to man coverage. If Dirk is hot on the perimeter this could get ugly quickly.
Advantage: Dallas

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Erick Dampier

Erick Dampier has had trouble staying out of foul trouble in the past and this wasn't a major concern for Dallas who still had Diop backing him up. Now that Diop is gone Dampier is going to be asked to play more minutes and that could be trouble for Dallas. Dampier averages only 5.6 ppg and 7 rpg compared to Darco's 6.6 ppg and 6 rpg. Neither player is contributing the way the team had hoped when they were signed. The main difference has been that Dampier shoots 63% fro the field compared to Darko's 42%. At least Dampier realizes if he shoots he better make it. What could be terrifying would be if the game is close down the stretch and Darko or Dampier has to go to the line with the game in question. Dampier shoots a terrible 61% until you compare him to Darko's 50%. That is flat out ugly! Still all Darko has to do is keep Dampier off the boards, especially on the offensive end and if he focuses on that job he can succeed in doing that.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs Dallas

Ever wondered what approximately %52 million can buy? How about Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Eddie Jones, Juwan Howard and Brandon Bass for starters. Dallas' payroll is nearly double the Grizzlies and it shows when you go to the bench. Dallas' bench has maybe three players who could start on the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are supposed to be going with a youth movement with Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro (who is a rookie despite being 27) but no other contributors off the bench are that young. Jason Collins is big and mean but not very productive, Brian Cardinal is old physically after numerous surgeries on his knee and shoulder and only Javaris Crittenton is truly young and he rarely contributes right now.
Advantage: Dallas

Other Opinions and Commentary:
Can Kidd Save Dallas from Wages of Wins
Mavs MoneyBall has a great video of Jason Kidd blocking current head coach Avery Johnson about half way down their page

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Big Trade Going Down

And the Grizzlies are a small part of it.

New Orleans is trading former Grizzlies player Bobby Jackson and Adam Haluska to Houston for former Grizzlies player Bonzi Wells and Mike James. Houston also has the option of switching 2nd rd picks. To make the deal work Memphis is taking Marcus Vinicius from New Orleans.

When was the last time ANYONE can remember that three teams from the same division did a trade together? Has it ever happened before? Even back when there were only 4 divisions I don't remember such a thing happening.

Seems like every time the Grizzlies are involved in trades it is something no one thought could happen before the deal was announced. A 5 team trade three years ago, Gasol for future considerations earlier this year and now a 3 team inter-division deal?

What's next? Memphis trades their entire roster with the Milwaukee Bucks just to see if anyone notices? Okay, I am being funny with the last one but it is strange to see three teams from the same division, two of whom are very hot and competing with each other right now, do a trade.

Anyway, Memphis is supposed to receive Marcus Vinicius from New Orleans and possibly the draft right to Senegalese Malick Badiane or a 2nd rd pick or some other unsigned player. It is all still very vague and may be a false rumor but everyone is reporting it so I have to assume it is true.

Vinicius is the interesting player. The Brazilian native is supposedly a great offensive player who doesn't play defense well and hasn't been able to crack the lineup in New Orleans so no one really knows much about him. So why is he interesting? Well how many Brazilians have you heard of that aren't interesting?

Maybe he can give some tips to Grizzline! A little Brazilian flair should be nice. Maybe the dance team can do a Brazilian number. I bet that would get some fans back in the stands.

The obvious gain here is a SG/SF player who can shoot from outside, supposedly, and run up and down the court in case Miller's back continues to give him troubles. He adds some size and can play the 3 behind Rudy as well. Who knows, maybe he turns out to be the lightning Chris Wallace is trying to catch in the bottle. If not he will just be a cloud passing through this dreary season as his contract expires at the end of the year.

From Ryan over at Hornets 24-7:

Vinicius hasn't played a lot as a Hornet - mostly in garbage time. When he's been on the floor he's shown good hustle, and a decent three point stroke on a somewhat slow jumpshot. The slowness of his shot isn't so bad though, because he shoots it almost behind his head, making it near impossible to block.

He's a bit thin, and his rebounding hasn't been that great, but he's shown a surprising dribble drive to his left once or twice that gets him to the basket. He's about an average finisher.

In the D-League last season he averaged about 15 a game, with 6 rebounds.

He's got a reputation as a malcontent, having been one of the leaders of a team revolt against the Brazil National Team Coach in last years tournament of the Americas, (It got REALLY ugly) but for the Hornets, the team loves him and Byron has always said good things about him.

My final evaluation - from the meaningful minutes he played for the Hornets, I'd rate his ceiling to be a 7th or 8th man on a good team. Of course, I would have said Brandon Bass would be a 9th man on a good team - and he's been a decent rotation player for Dallas.

Update: Chris Herrington has some thoughts on the trade on Beyond the Arc.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Miller Trade Watch: No Trade?

With the trade deadline looming, is the Mike Miller Trade Watch cooling off?

It looks that way.

Miller's name has been all over the NBA trade rumor grapevine in the last week (e.g., here, here, here, here)

But now, Verno just posted that Miller is likely to stay in Memphis.

I am told that a betting man would bet the Grizzlies would stand pat, but anything can happen.

Now, on to Miller... the Grizzlies point of view is that they will not trade Miller in a simply financial deal. Any deal for Miller would have to make basketball sense (this was a nice thing to hear). They are worried that if they move Miller they will lose real outside shooting and virtually any veteran presence (from a guy that plays). The thought is that if you keep Miller that you could put something good together within a few years, whereas if you move him for what you would get in many of the deals you could quickly become 4-5 yrs from being really competitive (like the Bulls did). The other thought is that at the top of the draft (where the Grizz pick will be) there are pg's and bigs, but really only one outside scorer (Gordon). So let's say that you more than likely get an interior guy (Beasley, Love, Arthur, whoever) in the draft, then you want to have Miller and you could be something other than an abomination in the near future. Again, Miller's outside shooting and the fact that he is a vet make them very skeptical of moving him. I understand the value that they see in keeping Miller if teams are not bowling them over with the offers.

I would bet that Miller is not dealt, but again, anything can happen. Wallace will be on the show tomorrow.

Makes sense.

And we also have some additional evidence that supports what Verno is saying.

During the Clippers feed of the game, their sideline reporter was talking about Miller not being active due to back spasms and that the timing may seem odd due to the trade deadline, she reported that she had it on "good authority" that Miller will NOT be dealt before the trade deadline. She then mentioned a few reasons that were exactly in line with what Verno said.

So, the tone seems to be that Miller will not be dealt for just expiring contracts. It has to make sense basketball wise. And the team seems to be scared of losing his outside shooting presence.

I'd say the Mike Miller Trade Watch should remain at Yellow, but I do believe reports that odds right now are that he likely wont' be dealt.

Now we just wait to see if anyone presents Wallace with any better trade offers in the next 12 hours or so.

Update I

Tillery has an article saying the same thing as above.

Anything can happen by the NBA's 2 p.m. CST trade deadline.

Then again, nothing is likely to occur regarding the Grizzlies.

That was the tone within the organization late Wednesday with regard to potential deals, specifically regarding guards Mike Miller and Kyle Lowry.

The two most sought-after players will remain in Grizzlies uniforms through the remainder of the regular season barring an 11th-hour, earth-shattering pitch from suitors.

"We value these guys," Griz general manager Chris Wallace said Wednesday before the team faced the Los Angeles Clippers. "We have not committed to any deals. There's nothing that I would consider imminent. If I had to put odds on it, I'd say it's more unlikely than likely that we'll do something."

So there you go, similar to what Verno said. Nothing likely. Door not closed, but expect no deals. Team insists that the team isn't being stripped down financially and that they are considering the basketball standpoint.

Wait....just saw another mention somewhere about us not trading Miller. This time it is Yahoo.

It will be interesting to see what the beat writers from Denver, Miami, and Cleveland say in the morning.

Update II (not about Miller)

A Houston paper reports that we are somehow acquiring Marcus Vinicius from the Hornets in a 3-team deal. Doesn't give any details and sort-of implies we get him for free. I suspect the Hornets needed to make room since they are trading former Grizzly Bobby Jackson for 2 players (former banned Grizzly Bonzi and Griz Killer Mike James). Maybe we use any cap space we have or an exception of some sort or send over future considerations or a 2nd rounder or something. I'm sure we will find out on Thursday sometime if this report is true and the full details.

Memphis at LA Clippers - 2.20.08

Memphis lost another game they seemed to have won in Seattle Tuesday night. The usual suspects were at fault. Poor shot selection, poor defense and poor execution were the downfall as Memphis blew a 19 pt lead in the 3rd quarter. With the game tied and less than a minute remaining the Sonics scored the last 7 pts to put the game away. Memphis was led by Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick but Mike Miller's back spasms left the team short in the backcourt as the Sonics were led by guards Earl Watson and Wally Szczerbiak. Memphis is seeing some improvement in different areas but the team hasn't united yet.

Los Angeles suffers similiar problems as the Grizzlies did earlier in the season. A mostly veteran team that is underperforming, Los Angeles has to be looking at an overhaul of players in the near future as Corey Maggette, Cuttino Mobley, Sam Cassell and Elton Brand - who has been out all season with achilles tendon surgery - could be gone before the start of next season. One bright spot for the Clippers has been the development of big man Chris Kaman. With Brand out Kaman has become a dominating inside presence and leading rebounder. Rookie Al Thornton wasn't selected for the All-Star festivities but has been improving his play of late has caught people's attention. The week before the all-star break saw Thornton average 20.7 ppg and 7.7 rpg. It will be interesting to see how he comes back after the break.

A View from the Other Side of the Web:
Spartacus and Steve Perrin over at Clips Nation have been trading questions this week. Here are Steve's answers to some of Spartacus' questions:

3SoB) What do you think the chances are that Elton Brand and Corey Maggette are still Clippers next season?
SP) I'm no expert, but I blog one on the interwebs. In Brand's case I think it's about 95% certain that he'll be a Clipper next season. It's just not a good business decision to opt out after missing essentially the entire season due to injury. He's still Elton Brand, so he might still warrant a maximum contract, but it's fair to say that his value is lower now than it has been in a long time, simply because he hasn't been on the court. Beyond that, I think he is genuinely excited to be paired up with the new Chris Kaman in what could be the best low post tandem since... since... McHale and Parrish? Unseld and Hayes? It's been a long time. Brand refers to Kaman as 'my brother,' he's known for awhile how good Kaman could be. He wants to play with this new, focused version. He'll play out the final year on this contract, which gives him the option of testing the free agent market next year if it still isn't happening for the Clippers.

I'd put Maggette at about 80% to opt out, but of course he could still re-sign with the Clippers at that point. It's a very down market for free agents - after Antawn Jamison, you're looking at damaged goods like Bonzi Wells and Ricky Davis as the only unrestricted free agents definitely out there. A slew of top players have ETO's (Brand, Maggette, Iverson, Marion, Arenas) but most of them will probably stay with their current teams. Given the relatively scarce supply, Corey would be wise to opt out and see what his value is, especially considering his - shall we say - strained relationship with Mike Dunleavy Sr. However, I think it's entirely possible that he'll be disappointed in the offers he gets. He turned down a 3 year extension from the Clippers that would have paid him about $30M. Maggette's a unique talent, but I'm not sure that there are going to be a lot of teams lining up to pay him $10M per - he's not a great defender, he's injury-prone, and his coach has spent the better part of the last three seasons dissing him. With only a handful of teams likely to be far enough under the cap to pay him that much (your Grizzlies being one that is pretty well set on the wing), I'm just not convinced he's going to get the payday he's looking for.

3SoB) Will Shaun Livingston be the starting PG next season?
SP) Yes.

Oh, you want some justification for that.... This is the topic of much debate around ClipsNation right now, but I find myself squarely in the pro-Livingston camp. Obviously the big question is the knee. I've reminded my readers that Willis McGahee had essentially the same injury (about as bad as it gets to be sure) and made the Pro Bowl this season. The doctors say he's doing fine and will make a full recovery. So I'm acting on the assumption that this injury is behind him. The next question is what other injuries are in front of him, because he's never had an injury-free season.

As for the basketball part, although he's only rarely flashed the potential that made him the 4th player in the 2004 draft, he does some things very well. As with Darko, it becomes difficult to get over the disappointment at not having the player you thought you had long enough to embrace the player you actually have. But Shaun Livingston is a terrific defender (with the potential to be a game-changer on defense), and a great passer who can absolutely run the point in the NBA. If he never develops the mentality to take over a game, if he never consistently makes a 20 foot jump shot... he'll still be a legitimate starter. A point guard who plays solid defense and who can get the ball to Brand and Kaman in the right places on the floor won't have to do that much more for the Clippers. Don't get me wrong - it would be nice if he did. And frankly, I've always viewed Livingston as eventually being the best player on a great Clippers team (as opposed to a good player on a good Clippers team). So I'm hoping that he'll soon take that step that Chris Kaman took this season. He's still only 22 after all. But even if he doesn't (and assuming he's healthy), he's the starter, and I'm fine with that.

3SoB) Who do you want to see the team take with the lottery pick this summer?
SP) The answer to this question is dependent on the answer to the question above. If team management agrees with me that Livingston is going to be OK (and obviously they're hoping that they'll get more data on that between now and June hopefully in the form of some actual NBA games), then they will be looking to add a shooting guard to eventually take over for Cat Mobley. And they are in perpetual need of shooters, so whoever they draft needs to be able to shoot. Maybe you look for a combo guard as a hedge against Livingston, but those invariably end up not working out.

I don't think of myself as a draft expert. I can read what they're saying on the draft sites, but I don't end up watching that much college hoops, and I've never even seen footage of Nicholas Batum. Having said that (and bearing in mind that the Clippers will likely be picking around 6 or 7, give or take), it seems like Eric Gordon would be a good fit and might be available. The only knock on him seems to be that maybe he's a little undersized, and pairing him with the 6'7" Livingston mitigates that. Some of the experts are saying that Jerryd Bayless could be a Monta Ellis style 2 guard in the NBA, so he becomes a possibility as well. It's a long way off, but it seems unlikely that OJ Mayo would drop to the Clippers. If on the other hand they win the lottery and get the number one pick, I think they have to take Michael Beasley; like I said, I'm no draft expert, but even I know that guy's good.

3SoB) Did you ever imagine that Chris Kaman was capable of the performance he has put up this season?
SP) Imagine? Yes, absolutely. But I will say that the consistency with which he has performed is something that has been a very pleasant surprise, if not a shock. During the 05-06 season, especially after January, Kaman showed much of what he has been doing this season. He is a defensive rebounding machine when he is focused, and he has always had a truly dazzling array of offensive weapons. He shot over 52% from the field that season, so his shooting percentage is actually significantly worse this year than it was two seasons ago (the constant double teams in the absence of Brand has a lot to do with that). But having watched the guy for over four seasons now, I've known that he had a world of talent. He's very big, he's surprisingly quick and graceful, his footwork is tremendous and he has good hands - he's ostensibly right-handed, but he's actually better finishing with his left hand around the basket. He has added a consistent face up jumper out to about 18 feet this season, and that has helped his offensive game a lot.

The one thing I definitely did not see coming is the shot blocking. Third in the league? Where did that come from? He's averaging almost 3 blocks a game, which is twice as many has his previous career high for a season. In fact, if the Clippers have a chance to be a very good team, it is because of defense. They're a middle of the pack defensive team this season, without their best low post defender in Brand and their best perimeter defender in Livingston. With two premier shot blockers anchoring the back line next season, they could be a scary good defensive team.

3SoB) Should the Clippers trade Sam Cassell to a contender before the deadline?
SP) Yes they should trade him, although not necessarily to a contender. Sam is a double-whammy of trade value right now. He's a veteran scoring point guard with a ton of playoff experience in a league where that is in short supply. But he's also a $6M expiring contract. Unfortunately, those attributes don't compound making him doubly valuable to one team, but he could conceivably end up going to a contender looking for playoff help OR to a lottery team in a salary dump (like in the Cassell, Aaron Williams and a pick for Mike Miller trade rumor). Sam's been a great Clipper, and I'm sure Elgin Baylor would love to send him to a contender if the price is right, but let's not be sentimental about this. Whoever makes the best offer gets him. That's why I've always found the 'buyout' talk so strange. Other than Celtics fans dreaming of acquiring a playoff proven point guard on the cheap and maybe Sam's agent, who is talking about a buyout? Sam has value now, and he needs to be traded in order to get something in return since it's highly unlikely he would be back with the Clippers at 39. At any rate, I'll be surprised and disappointed if he is not traded this week. Cleveland and Denver seem like possibilities.

You can check out the asnwers Spartacus provided to Stephen's questions at

Now to the matchups...

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Sam Cassell
Sam Casell is old, unhappy and wanting out of LA. Mike Conley is young, fast and looking to make a mark in Memphis. Cassell has publicly expressed a desire to be traded to a competing team and that attitude has made it difficult to be the leader the team needs. While it is understandable at 38 that Cassell would want to be on a leading team but it isn't like Cassell is playing at such a level that competing teams would be knocking down the door to get him. His minutes are down on a team desperate for PG play and he is hitting only 24% of his 3 pt attempts. Conley had a strong game against Seattle with 8 pts and 9 assists but consistency is always the problem for rookie PGs. How well he responds to a disappointing loss and traveling to play the next game will show just how mature he is in handling the starting role.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Cuttino Mobley

If Mike Miller can go this should be a great match up. Unfortunately Miller's back prevented him from playing almost the entire game against Seattle and that really hurt the Grizzlies attack as the team abandoned their inside attack that had been successful to attempt more and more long shots that weren't falling. Memphis needs Mike's maturity more than ever right now and the trade rumors surrounding him doesn't help. Cuttino Mobley at 33 and a generous 6-4 is an older undersized guard who has remained in the league by knowing how to score. Shooting 41% from the arc will keep almost anyone playing. Mobley's experience can be negated by Miller's but he will exploit the Grizzlies smaller guards if Miller is unable to go.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Corey Maggette

Rudy Gay had fun in New Orleans last weekend then traveled to Seattle and seemed to be a little leg weary as his outside shot betrayed him in the 2nd half. Now it is a back to back game situation while Maggette has been waiting for a chance to show why he should have been at the all-star weekend himself. Maggette may be having his best all-around season this year which isn't totally surprising with his impending free agency looming. This is a great match against two exciting players. The first meeting between the teams resulted in a combined 69 points between the two players. Maggette is a driver who routinely gets to the line and Rudy has trouble defending this type of player.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Al Thornton

Al Thornton has been one of the most dynamic rookies in February. Averaging 16.8 ppg and 6.1 rebounds this month Thornton is finally living up to the draft hype of being the most NBA ready rookie in the draft. Hakim Warrick has put together three consecutive 20 pts games as the starting PF and has really worked hard on defense as well. Warrick realizes that this is the most important time for his career as he has a clear opportunity to establish himself as a legitmate PF in the league. Warrick is averaging 18 ppg and 8 rebounds as a starter and won't have the mismatch in size that he often does at PF.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Chris Kaman

In the last 10 games Darko Milicic is averaging 8.3 pts and 8.5 rebounds a game. Not bad for a 22 yr old player who's mind was screwed around terribly the last few years. To put it in comparison Chris Kaman at 22 averaged 9.1 ppg and 6.7 rpg and his previous situations weren't quite so mentally challenging. The problem is that Chris Kaman isn't 22 anymore. He is now a seasoned veteran who is averaging 16.4 ppg and 13.6 rpg and nearly 3 blocks a game in what was nearly an All-Star first half of the year. Darko has the muscle to keep Kaman off the boards but he can't afford quick fouls and he needs to hit his shots. Kaman isn't exactly quick so Darko needs to get up the court fast. Who am I kidding?
Advantage: Los Angeles

Benches: Memphis vs Los Angeles

Memphis' bench was hurt when Miller went down with back spasms against Seattle. Navarro was red hot coming off the bench but wore down in the 2nd half under the increased work load which doesn't bode well in a back to back situation. Especially since Navarro has admitted to hitting the rookie wall. Kyle Lowry has performed well off the bench but his shooting has disappeared. Lowry missed layups against Seattle not just open jump shots. Jason Collins actually provided the best performance off the bench against Seattle which is never a good sign. The Clippers bring Tim Thomas, Aaron Williams and Memphian Brevin Knight off the bench but not much else. The Clippers don't have a lot of depth so foul trouble or a fast paced game could give them troubles. Of course that is why you want veterans on your team to not allow the games to go against the way they want to play.
Advantage: Los Angeles

Alternative Views and Other Cool Stuff: Great interview with Spartacus! All hail Spartacus!!!
AOL Fanhouse More Miller trade discussions
Grizz Notes from the Commercial Appeal has great comments about the Clippers possible interest in Miller and Lowry.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Miller Trade Watch Inching Closer to Red

The trade deadline is less than 48 hours away. The Mike Miller Trade Watch is as hot as ever.

There are so many Mike Miller rumors out there, I'm not even going to attempt to provide all the links. Go to the hoopshype rumors page and see most of them.

I'll summarize where we are at:

-- Mike Miller is clearly the most mentioned name right now in NBA trade rumors. He also might be the player most likely to be traded that can make an immediate impact on the team he is traded to.

-- Miller's name has been linked to something like 11 teams (Denver, Clippers, Miami, Dallas, New Jersey, Indiana, Spurs, Blazers, Bulls, Cleveland, Lakers).

-- Denver seems to be the most interested, but also seem to be looking at either Miller or Artest (wait, they also want Lowry too!).

-- Cleveland seems to be the next most interested in Miller (and Lowry as well, imagine that). Although the problem with Cleveland is that they have very little to offer. Check out this craptastic trade offering Chad Ford spits our way.

The deal, as described to me by a player agent, would send Miller, Cardinal and Lowry to the Cavaliers for Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall, Shannon Brown, Cedric Simmons and Dwayne Jones along with cash and at least one first-round pick from Cleveland.
The trade works using the RealGM Trade Checker, but I still say Yuck! I understand this pu-pu platter contains the prerequisite expiring contracts and draft picks, but I would hope we could land at least 1 current player to add to our nucleus when trading Miller (and/or Lowry). Even getting rid of Cardinal's two more years isn't that exciting because Marshall has one more year left. I understand the reasoning in also trading Miller now and increasing our cap space even further, but I'm still dumbfounded why a cheap and producing player like Lowry must also get traded for nothing? He cost very little, has been a solid backup, and currently nobody else on the roster looks like a full time backup PG. Why is it a must we trade Lowry before the deadline again?

-- Rumor has the Clippers wanting to send Sam Cassell and filler for Miller (what? how does that makes sense? are we buying him out too?), but the Griz wanted their pick and they said no to that.

-- Rumor has it that Indiana has offered Daniels and Diogu (I'm not appalled, at least).

-- On the radio, Verno and Hassletine were fairly certain that Miller would be traded.

-- Miller, after getting undercut by Ridnour, was suddenly done playing for the rest of the Sonics game. Didn't want to risk injury before a trade???

-- A report was that Miller said bye to all his teammates before the all-star break, just in case he was traded before the Sonics game. And another report then mentioned that he flew to Seattle for the game on his own and his teammates were happy to see him show up for work at the team hotel.

It sure seems that Miller is going to be traded before Thursday. And if not then, it is highly unlikely he plays with the Griz in 08-09. Miller's trade value seems to be as high as ever right now, as many teams are rumored to be chasing him pretty hard. I hope Wallace can turn a Miller trade into something good for the team. If Miller does make it past the trade deadline, I'd fully expect to see him moved during the draft. The Mike Miller Trade Watch never seems to end...

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Memphis at Seattle - 2.19.08

Memphis needed a break during the all-star weekend just to get their feet underneath them again. So far the only additional player moves have existed in the minds of the many NBA correspondents around the country. There have been rumors that Mike Miller, and one of the three young PG's (likely Kyle Lowry) will be moved by the deadline but nothing has happened yet. Hakim Warrick has been playing very well on offense since his promotion and has been covered well on defense as the Grizzlies have resorted to zone defenses more than ever. Rudy Gay is back to being the man in Memphis and should be focused on that alone (instead of the next dramatic dunk idea off of YouTube). Mike Conley and Juan Carlos Navarro didn't play poorly over the weekend as well making sure Memphis' future was well represented. The player to watch will be Darko Milicic who hopefully used the days off to improve his conditioning, post moves and heal up a little more. Adding to Memphis' insecurity was the rumor that the NBA has sent a team down to evaluate what is happening with the team. That can't be good news if it is true.

Seattle was well represented over the weekend as well with Kevin Durant leading the rookie team in scoring with 23 pts and Jeff Green adding in 9 pts and 5 boards. The problem for Seattle has been the lack of reliable production anyone other than Durant and Durant has been erratic at best. Another thing disappearing in Seattle is hope as Commissioner Stern said that it is almost definate that Seattle will be moving to Oklahoma City sometime soon although he hasn't ruled out another season in Seattle. The Sonics have been scoring better in February after a bad month in January and seem to be finding some form of constant rotation. Seattle is 0-3 this season against Memphis and professional pride requires an all out effort to prevent being swept by the Grizzlies. Seattle is another team building for the future and not for the present.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Earl Watson
It is scary how similiar Conley and Watson's statistics are. Both players average around 8.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1 steal and 27 mpg. Neither player is very effective shooting the ball but Watson is slightly more effective from beyond the arc although not to the point of being a threat. Watson is a tough defender as well who knows how to use his body to compensate for a lack of speed. Conley has tremendous speed however and Watson will be forced to use all of his skill to stay in front of Conley. It should be an interesting matchup.
Advantage: Seattle

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Kevin Durant

If I have to give Watson the advantage because of experience at the point then how can I give Durant the advantage at the 2? Well Miller is not a great defender and Durant can shoot. Still Mike may have an additional motivation Durant doesn't have. Miller has been having his name used in rumors with nearly every team in the league and if he wants to be traded he needs to make it impossible for teams to say no. Now is not the time for him to be quiet and defering to other players. It is sad to say but it is quite possible that people will be seeing the Miller they always wanted between now and the trade deadline simply because he wants to get traded.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Jeff Green

Rudy Gay was 2nd on the sophomore team in scoring and may have gotten serious consideration for player of the game if not for Boobie shooting 11-20 from three pt land. Green didn't play bad but it was clear that Rudy is the more talented of the two. 11 days younger than Rudy, Green has always played 2nd fiddle to the more highly recruited UConn star. Green shows a lot of potential to be a solid NBA player but Rudy is almost a star already.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Chris Wilcox

As a starter Hakim Warrick is averaging 17 pts and 9 boards a game. Comparing that to Chris Wilcox who averages 13 and 7 would seem to be a clear advantage for Memphis but Wilcox usually has big games against the Grizzlies. He is intimidating, strong and powerful inside at it will require Hak to play tough on defense to keep him away from the basket. Wilcox doesn't have great range but he does know how to dunk the ball. That has been a weakness of Hakim in the past. As a starter now Hakim will have to play both sides of the court. Hak is fast however and his range will give Wilcox fits.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Kurt Thomas

In February Darko started to look like the man everyone was excited about in October before his thumb was injured. Averaging 9.2 ppg and 8.3 rpg in the month, Darko is starting to put together some nice games but he still has a limited repetroire of moves and commits too many bad fouls. Kurt Thomas gives up a lot of height to Darko but he is experienced and knows how to overcome his lack of size to be productive. In a game with so many inexperienced players this is another example of wisdom and old age defeating youth and talent. A good learning experience for Darko however.
Advantage: Seattle

Benches: Memphis vs Seattle

This is the one big difference in this game from the previous matchups. Seattle's bench used to be equal to Memphis but with the trade Memphis' bench has been severely weakened. Juan Carlos Navarro struggles against Seattle with their big guards of Wally Szczerbiak and Damien Wilkins. Jason Collins and Kwame Brown don't match up well against Nick Collison. Luke Ridnour and Delonte West are more experienced than Kyle Lowry and Javaris Crittenton. Basically if Memphis has to use their bench too much it won't be good for the Grizzlies.
Advantage: Seattle

Sonics Insider Preview
Buzzer Beater
Sonics Beat

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Links: All-Star Hangover Edition

Hope everyone enjoyed the All-Star weekend festivities. I, myself, didn't actually watch any of it other than the Slam Dunk contest, because the Rookie/Sophmore game is an abomination, the Celebrity game and Shooting Stars competition are beyond horrendous and I find the Skills Challenge and 3-point Shootout rather pedantic. And, of course, the Knight Rider movie came on last night, so I skipped the All-Star game. Priorities and all. I know that Hardwood Paroxysm made the trip down there and snapped a quick picture of Juan Carlos Navarro, so that's something, I guess.

Chris Herrington compiled the Top 10 Grizzlies Dunks in preparation of the Dunk Contest.

The has the lowdown on what the Sixers' scouting report for newly acquired player-coach Aaron McKie looked like the other night.

  • Savvy vet
  • Not as good a shooter as he thinks
  • Used to defend
  • Don't guard
  • Rotate off of him
Nice to see that they think enough of him to have some fun at his expense.

Trade Talk: Miller/Lowry to Denver? Lowry to Cleveland?

Even though it doesn't make the news every time it happens, the Grizzlies try to do their part in the community. Hakim Warrick does his part in his hometown, too.

Speaking of Hak, Empty the Bench lists him as one of their Ten NBA Players Poised for Better Things Down the Stretch, along with rookie Mike Conley. Some interesting analysis to be read there.

Pau Gasol is adapting to the Triangle just fine. Now, will somebody get him the number to a real estate agent?

Speaking of Pau, add Tim Duncan to those who think the trade was fairly craptastic. Wait, what's that? Tim Duncan whining about something? I'm shocked.

In the "piling on" portion of the program, we have Epic Carnival saying that Chris Wallace is no Rocket Surgeon.

The Bismarck Tribune has a nice article on assistant coach Dave Joerger.

Blog/Website of the Day: The 22 Worst Dunks Ever

BallHype: hype it up!

2011: A Cap Space Odyssey

The scene opens and we are in the year 2008 (or 1 AP as in After-Pau). It is a dark time in the evolution of the Grizzlies. Seemingly huddled in caves and around camp fires, the men appear weak. Enemies easily defeat the hapless Grizzlies and it appears that extinction (or relocation) is the most likely outcome.

Suddenly there appears a huge monolith. It raises suspicion and fear among the group. Slowly they approach it in an attempt to comprehend its power. They call the monolith…Kwame Brown.

The monolith is gone almost as quickly as it arrived but it leaves behind a gift that seems inconsequential and unimportant at the time but contains the potential for great advancement.

And so begins a new chapter in Grizzlies evolution.

Fast forward three years to 2011. The Grizzlies are taking off into unchartered space, far above the normal teams in the NBA, and trying to reach a new, previously unimagined level of development for the franchise.

Rudy Gay is being called the closest thing to Dr. J since the Doctor himself. The two-time slam dunk champion is averaging over 25 points per game combining a sweet outside jump shot with the ability to leap over any two players in the league for a posterizing finish.

Mike Conley, the fastest point guard in the league and one of the most improved three point shooters as well, has taken control of the assist lead with his drives into the lane only to hit the open man for an easy shot or flipping the ball in the basket himself.

Darko Milicic, finally shaking the reputation as the biggest bust of a #2 pick in history, is consistently getting double figures in rebounds and points while closing down the lane with his ability to block shots. Hakim Warrick, still coming off the bench, is the most feared scoring 6th man in the league averaging almost 15 ppg in that role.

What has really excited the Memphis faithful, who now flock to the FedEx Forum for every game, has been the development of the young players Memphis acquired in the trade of Gasol.

While their future development has yet to be determined, the young guns provide flair and speed off the bench when the starters must rest. The free agent signings have fit in perfectly with Iavaroni’s goal for the team.

Is this science fiction?

Definitely but it is also a possible glimpse of the future.

Whatever people can imagine, can happen. It is not a guarantee that the Memphis Grizzlies will disappear from the city as some have predicted. Teams have turned around seemingly moribund situations before.

Memphis has been given something that most of their competitors don't have, flexibility. They can choose to spend their free money or not, they can trade draft picks for players or use those picks to get players that will better fit into Marc Iavaroni's vision of this team. Chris Wallace’s tenures as GM in Boston and Memphis have given critics more than their fair share of reasons to be pessimistic. Yet few have argued the man doesn't know what players need to be successful in the NBA.

So for now the monolith is here. The opportunity to be an elite team has been given. The team has to make the correct moves to be the next New Orleans Hornets and not the perennially underachieving Atlanta Hawks. It won't be easy but nothing worth achieving ever is.

Wouldn't it be funny if one day Bill Simmons talked about the Grizzlies and said: "My God, they're full of stars!"

Sunday, February 17, 2008

All-Star Flame Out...Again

Well the All-Star Game celebrations are over for the Memphis Grizzlies and once again the results were less than hoped for by Memphis fans.

The Rookie-Sophomore shootout (it was hardly a contest) was a bomb, literally. Game MVP Daniel 'Boobie' Gibson from Cleveland took 20 three point shots and made 11. Yes he took 20 three point attempts, made 11 and didn't set the single game scoring record. It appears this game is supposed to make the teams that are rebuilding feel better that their players are represented. Memphis had three participants in the game. Seattle had two as did Portland, Utah and Toronto. Only one player will be suiting up Sunday as well (Brandon Roy of Portland).

Rudy Gay was 9-12 in the game but was ignored frequently when open under the basket or on breaks in favor or Boobie Gibson's three point shots or other selfish plays. Juan Carlos Navarro chipped in with 14 points on 6-11 shooting including and 4 assists but was ridiculed in the game by the broadcasters most often by Charles Barkely who's most recent athletic accomplishment was defeating an old man in a foot race. Mike Conley apparently didn't get the memo that this was supposed to be a 'me first' game as he dealt out 8 assists but only took three shots. Conley also committed 5 turnovers but most were caused by trying to be too sharing with the ball and catching people off guard. John Hollinger graded the Grizzlies this way: Rudy Gay - A, Juan Carlos Navarro - C, Mike Conley - D.

The Slam Dunk Contest was a continuation of the frustration for Memphis fans. Rudy Gay scored an inexplicable 36 points on his first dunk despite the high degree of difficulty. While Rudy's dunk was spectacular by itself, it was not up to the standards set that night. However his score came before the other dunks. Many dunks scored higher in the past were far less spectacular. Not that it mattered as Rudy was obviously not in the class of creativity and explosion as Howard and Green. So for the third time the Grizzlies have someone competing in the Slam Dunk contest and once again he failed to advance joining Hakim Warrick and Stromile Swift in that regard. The off-the stanchion slam dunk was impressive and showed what Rudy is capable of doing but it was too little too late this year.

The commentators didn't give Rudy much of a hope to begin but they did make a good point at the same time. Rudy is a game dunker not a showcase dunker. While he may not be as impressive as Gerald Green or Dwight Howard he is also most likel the one player capable of doing an incredible dunk in a game. Dunks off the back of the glass, in a Superman cape and even blowing out a cupcake make for some incredible creativity and showmanship you aren't likely to see one of those in a game. Rudy's first dunk was not only impressive in that format but is something he may pull off in a game as well. As a ticket buying fan that is more impressive to me.

When you throw in Pau Gasol being the only player not to score in his all-star appearnace (and getting faced by Ben Wallace on back to back shot attempts) the Memphis Grizzlies record in these events is rather poor.

The next thing the Grizzlies have to look forward to is their 4th game against Seattle on Tuesday night. The Grizzlies have won the previous three games and a clean sweep would be a nice accomplishment in what has been a disappointing season.

BallHype: hype it up!