Saturday, March 1, 2008

Guest Post: Deconstructing Darko

As is well documented here on 3SOB, Darko Milicic is an enigma wrapped in a question mark. What do you make of this guy? I mean, yeah he's young. Yeah, his confidence was dissolved in acid by Larry Brown. But he's been in the league for four seasons now, going on five. We should be seeing something, right?

Well, I'm starting to think that the trick for Darko is this: Both Darko and his coaches must begin to think outside of the the box with him--literally.

I suppose the seed for this line of thinking began shortly after we signed him, and I was looking at his highlight reel on YouTube.

I know highlight reels are deceptive, but here are things I noticed:

1. He can shoot
2. He can run
3. He sees the court pretty well, and can make some nifty touch passes, even on the run
4. He can take guys off the dribble

What prompted this particular submission was watching Darko drive the lane during the third quarter of the PHX game. Yes, he was up against an aging Shaq, but still, his athleticism, length and quickness enabled him to get to the rim with jaw dropping speed. By the time I realized it was happening, he'd already dunked the ball. He made a similar move earlier in the season in Seattle, crossing over the opposing center and driving baseline. I began wondering how many centers could keep up with him if they had to actually move their feet to defend him.
Got me thinking: Maybe the problem with Darko's offense is that we're playing him as a back to the basket center, when that's exactly what he's NOT. No wonder he keeps going to that lefty hook. What if his TRUE game should be modeled on Nowitzki instead of, say, Shaq or Yao? In theory, it would create matchup nightmares--you could quietly run an ISO for Darko against the opposing center. He drives and gets to the basket, or pulls the defense in and passes to a slashing Rudy or a Bombing Juan Carlos. If he ends up with a smaller defender on him, then there's a mismatch somewhere else on court, and he's a good enough passer to exploit it.

Instead, it seems we've got him mostly playing in the low post, not really his game. No wonder his confidence is flagging. I've got a remedy for that, too.

Darko: Go Rodman. Seriously.

Grow your hair out. Color it blonde at least, maybe streaks of blue. Grow a beard and shave it like Sam Jackson wore his in Shaft. Get a couple of tatts. In other words, get out of the box. People have been trying to put you in a box since you came into the league. You should be this. You should be that. All of it has caused you to question who you are, and sapped your belief in yourself. So quit trying to fit in. Quit trying to be what others think you should be. Do something wild and out of the box. Become a character. Embrace your mean streak a little. Don't be an asshole but raise a little hell in the locker room. And by all means . . . HAVE FUN, both on the court and off it. You're just 22. Don't know what kind of horrible things you saw while in your homeland, but you look WAAAY too serious most of the time.

Rodman was a good player with the Detroit Bad Boys. But his game leaped when he embraced his inner strangeness.

Now it's your turn, Darko.


BallHype: hype it up!

Memphis vs Utah - 3.1.08

Memphis marches into the new month with glee after leaving the month of February with the worst record for any month since the team arrived in Memphis. One win vs 11 losses would be upseting to anyone. Throw in the Gasol trade, the Miller and Lowry rumors plus the abreviated situation with Marcus Vinicius (was he ever even in Memphis?) and you have a team needing to put that month behind them. If it is any consolation the team seems to be rebounding from the shocking series of events and could be welcoming back Mike Miller to the lineup. Mike would bring a serious second scoring threat to Rudy Gay and should be able to open the paint for the point guards as well. Over the last few games Memphis has started only two players averaging over 10 ppg for the season. If Miller comes back the Grizzlies will still probably be starting only two players averaging more than 10 ppg this season.

Utah is coming in with a 2.5 game lead over 2nd place Denver for the division lead which is a good thing since they are also 2.5 games out of missing the playoffs after reaching the conference finals last season. Led by 3rd yr PG Deron Williams and finally healthy Carlos Boozer, Utah has been adjusting to the early season trade to acquire Kyle Korver for unhappy Gordan Giricek. Korver gives Utah their first true long-range scoring threat since Jeff Hornacek. Utah is a complete team with all 5 starters contributing to the team's success and everyone understanding their role on the team. How can I say that? Well how about all 5 starters scoring more than 11 ppg and European Championship MVP Andrei Kirilenko scoring the fewest points among the starting 5.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Deron Williams
Anyone concerned about Mike Conley not being able to take the beating from the long NBA season better not watch this matchup. Deron Williams is a bruising PG who not only possesses a great outside shot and good passing eye but he is not afraid to use his significant bulk for a PG to get easy shots around the basket. Conley has been getting his strength and confidence back the last few games, especially in regards to his passing. His last 5 games have seen Conley averaging 12 ppg and 6 apg. Not bad for a 20 yr old rookie. Deron Williams is putting up numbers to put him in the same breath as Chris Paul and Steve Nash.
Advantage: Utah

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Ronnie Brewer

Earlier this season I belittled former Razorback Ronnie Brewer's production. I'm not making that mistake again. How many SG's are shooting 53.4% from the field? Throw in almost 2 steals a game and 11.7 points and you have a very nice looking player. Juan Carlos Navarro seems to have finally gotten over the rookie wall he was banging into most of the month. Since the all-star break Navarro is hitting 35.7% of his 3 pt attempts while scoring 13.4 ppg and hasn't missed a single free throw. Another interesting statistic is that Navarro actually shoots better from beyond the arc on back to back games (39.5%) than he does with 3 days rest (20%). Lucky for Memphis he is playing back to back in this game. Still Brewer has size, speed and athletic ability over Navarro.
Advantage: Utah

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Andrei Kirilenko

Rudy Gay has been the leader of the team since Pau Gasol was traded. However without Mike Miller to keep defenses honest Rudy has struggled to get any consistency going. He has a big weight on his 21 yr old shoulders and after being harassed by Shane Battier Friday night he can't be excited to see Andrei Kirilenko the next night. AK-47 has not been a big scorer this season (11.5 ppg) but he is a great defender averaging 1.21 spg and 1.72 bpg. That isn't good for Rudy who has had trouble dribbling the ball under pressure.
Advantage: Utah

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Mehmet Okur

I know Okur is the center and Boozer the PF but there is no way Iavaroni is going to allow Hakim to defend Boozer and I can't move Hakim to Center with a straight face. Okur, a former All-Star, has seen his star dimmed somewhat this season. His rebounds are down to 6.4 rpg and his scoring has dropped to 13.1 ppg. However he seems to have gotten a 2nd win in February raising those numbers to 14.8 ppg and 8.8 rpg while hitting 47% of his FG attempts and 36.5% of his three balls. Hakim has started 8 of the last 10 games and is averaging 16.5 ppg and 7.7 rpg over that span while hitting over 53% of his FG attempts. he needs to focus as much from the FT line as he has hit only 60.5% of his attempts. This boils down to Hak being able to stop Okur's long range bombs. If he gets on him then he can win the matchup.
Advantage: Utah

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Carlos Boozer

Carlos Boozer is probably the best player in the league running the pick and roll. Memphis is one of the worst teams in the league defending it. Not a good combination. What's more both Okur and Boozer are more agile than most Centers and that is the kind of player than gives Darko fits. Not many players in the league can reach double figures in points and rebounds in the league. Boozer averages 21 ppg and 10.8 rpg. Darko averages 6.6 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Need I continue?
Advantage: Utah

Benches: Memphis vs Utah

If Miller is playing some of the matchups change but not even Miller can sway the difference in the benches. Utah has Kyle Korver, a younger Miller in some people's eyes, Matt Harpring (an older Shane Battier) and power player Paul Milsaps. About the only interesting match up from the bench would be Jason vs Jarron. That's the Collins' twins and not some new Halloween slasher flick although it may resemble one by the end of the game.
Advantage: Utah

Relevant blogs:
Basketball John
My Utah Jazz

Friday, February 29, 2008

Grizz Need Some 'Assist'ance

No, I am not going to talk about how badly the Grizzlies need Mike Miller back for the game tonight but that would be a big help against the Rockets. Instead I want to talk about the hidden assassin killing this team's efforts. People wonder why the Grizzlies aren't playing better at the end of games this season. The answer could be that while the team abounds with great individual offensive talent, they don't play as a team.

How do I justify this comment? Look where the Grizzlies stand in assists compared to where the Grizzlies stand in team scoring. Memphis is 12th in scoring but only 25th in team assists. The Grizzlies are putting Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick out on the court as starters right now. How many people realize that JCN has more assists than Gay and Warrick combined and JCN only averages 2.2 apg? This team isn't exactly playing unselfishly at this time.

Heck, Darko has nearly twice as many assists as Hakim does this year. The starting front line of Darko, Hakim and Rudy average a combined 3.3 assists per game. Rudy is the 42nd best forward in the league in assists and he leads the Grizzlies front line. When you consider assists per minute played Rudy is 95th among forwards and is 2nd on the Grizz front line behind Brian Cardinal (73rd in the league). Now I am not suggesting that Rudy play 48 minutes but that number reflects the number of assists a player gets per minute on the court. Memphis is supposed to be playing a motion offense like Phoenix. That motion is predicated on players sharing the ball and when they share the ball the team plays at a very high level.

So why doesn’t our frontline share the ball more? Is it a lack of confidence in their teammates? Is it a lack of confidence in the offensive system? Many people have stated they don't feel the style fits the players the Grizzlies have.

Maybe it is a coaching issue but I don’t know how much of an effect Iavaroni can have in 8 months compared to all the previous years of playing. And it isn’t like the team has a lot of people on the bench to set better examples. Casey Jacobsen has a career average of 1.1 apg (0.3 apg this season). Jason Collins is averages 1.1 apg over his career (0.3 apg this season). Brian Cardinal, the leading assist per minute played frontline player for Memphis, has averaged 1.2 assists per game over his career (0.6 apg this season).

What about Mike Miller? I know that is in the back of some of your heads. Yes, Mike Miller has played some small forward this season when Memphis goes with a 3 guard lineup but those minutes are minor in relation to the amount of time he plays at shooting guard and he only averages 3.6 apg this season. This is higher than his career average of 3.0 apg however.

Everyone knows Steve Nash leads the Phoenix offense in assists. If you don’t know this then why are you reading this blog? However Grant Hill averages 3.1 apg and Boris Diaw averages 4.0. Raja Bell only averages 2.2 apg but he is the fourth option offensively for Phoenix. Even center/forward Amare Stoudamire averages 1.2 apg. That is more than Darko and Hakim combined! And Memphis is led by Mike Conley’s 4.8 apg not Steve Nash’s 11.5. Memphis can't expect Mike Conley to double his assist totals as a 20 yr old rookie. He will get there but for now the onus falls on the frontline to help.

If people want to see improvement in the team, we need to see improvement in team play and that means looking more for the open man and less on trusting their individual talent.

BallHype: hype it up!

Memphis at Houston - 2.29.08

Memphis 'leaps' back into action after their encouraging performance against Phoenix on Tuesday night. For only the 2nd game since the Gasol trade Memphis looked competitive with Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick and Juan Carlos Navarro leading the way against the revamped Phoenix Suns. Memphis will attempt to not lose all but one game in February by giving Houston their only loss of the month. Memphis seems to be gaining some confidence after losing their face of the franchise as Hakim Warrick and Rudy Gay bring athleticism and excitement to the court. Memphis is hoping to get Mike Miller back for this game but it is doubtful. Kwame Brown failed to get into the game against Phoenix due to some minor injuries including a sore shoulder according to Coach Mark Iavaroni.

Houston took advantage of a friendly schedule in February to win 13 consecutive games but that doesn't mean every thing is going great in Texas. The Rockets are playing their 2nd game without Yao Ming who is lost for the season with a stress fracture in his foot. There didn't seem to be much of an effect against Washington in their first game as Houston won 94-69 against Washington. That puts Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo aka Dikimbe Mutombo into the starting center role. No one is really sure how old Mutombo is but his profile says he is 41. He could actually be older! Houston is led now by Tracy McGrady but gets important minutes from Shane Battier and Shane Battier. Houston surprised many people with two late trades despite their winning ways. Houston acquired former Grizz Bobby Jackson and former slam dunk champion Gerald Green at the last second before the deadline.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Rafer Alston
Rafer Alston is being asked to pick up a large amount of the scoring lost by Yao Ming which is fine with Rafer but the Rockets aren't so sure. Alston's reputation is being a selfish point guard who thinks 'me' first. Despite his poor shooting percentages this season Alston has been better at playing within the team concept. Mike Conley is all about the team concept. The 20 yr old PG is averaging 5.2 apg as a starter while shooting 44.5% from the field. The main area Conley needs to develop is his long range shooting is terrible (27.5% from behind the arc).
Advantage: Houston

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Tracy McGrady

This is probably the worst match up Memphis will face all season. Tracy McGrady is 6-8, scores at will and has an all around game people dream about. Juan Carlos is 6-3, a weak defender and has only recently climbed over the rookie wall to start producing again. The main deficiancy in Navarro's game has been on the defensive end which doesn't bode well when playing T-Mac who seems to take personal joy in lighting up the Grizzlies especially in crunch time. T-Mac's averaging 29 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists against the Grizzlies this season.
Advantage: Houston

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Shane Battier

It seems strange today to believe that Rudy and Shane were once traded for each other. Rudy Gay is starting to prove he can score on anyone in the NBA. Shane Battier is one of those players who lives to shut down people who think that way. Usually Shane is giving Mike Miller fits but with Miller laid up Battier will turn his focus to Rudy. That isn't good for Memphis. Battier is a 'glue guy' that does everything well. Shane's benefited against the Grizzlies in the past with insider knowledge of our players favorite moves. That isn't the case now so it will be interesting to see how things develop.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Luis Scola

In the last 5 games Warrick is averaging 18.8 ppg and 8.4 rpg. while shooting 52% from the field. That is pretty good production for the Grizzlies who were supposed to be weak at the PF position after trading Pau Gasol. However everything isn't simply by the numbers. Warrick doesn't command the double teams that Gasol did which makes it difficult for their other players to get easy shots and his passing is close to terrible compared to Gasol. Luis Scola, the rookie from Argentina, has averaged 13 points and 6.6 rebounds over that same time frame but is bring muscle and effort to a position Houston has been extremely weak at historically. Scola struggled on the boards with Yao out against Washington getting only 2 rebounds. How well Scola handles the increased pressure with Yao out will determine if Houston can continue to climb in the Western Conference standings. Scola will need to use his bulk against Warrick's speed and range.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Dikembe Mutombo

If there is a more important match up in this game than T-Mac against Navarro is has to be Mutombo against Milicic. In the first game without Yao Houston got 4 blocked shots from Dikembe but the Rockets lost Yao's ability to score and rebound getting only 4 pts and 6 rebounds from the elder Mutombo. Darko Milicic was limited to 12 minutes against Cleveland but returned against Phoenix and Shaq to score 15 pts and grab 7 rebounds in only 21 minutes. Darko is the future in the middle for Memphis but needs to start showing more consistency and a better touch around the basket to make fans agree with the decision to sign him. Milicic has performed well against slow big men and Mutombo is that in a nutshell plus he offers almost no offensive threat.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs Houston

If Memphis appears to have an advantage among the starters that won't be enough to overcome Houston's dominating bench. Former Grizzlies swing guard Bobby Jackson brings toughness to the backcourt and mixes well with Luther Head for a powerful scoring dou off the bench. Rookie Carl Landry is starting to make a name for himself at the forward position as well. In the last 5 games Landry has averaged 10.4 ppg and 7.0 rpg. Houston will have to go small a lot with Yao out but Chuck Hayes has proven himself to be more than capable rebounding despite his size. Memphis' bench is led by Kyle Lowry but falls off quickly after that. Javaris Crittenton has yet to find his groove in Memphis since the trade. Kwame Brown has struggled with minor injuries and isn't expected to play in this game leaving Jason Collins as the only big off the bench. Brian Cardinal has been getting minutes and still exhibits that go for broke style and outside touch that enamored former GM Jerry West to bring him to town.
Advantage: Houston

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

2008 NBA Draft Primer (Part 1)

I had hoped to do my first One Game Breakdown by now but after the Pau Gasol trade added a late first rounder to the Memphis Grizzlies mix, I had to start watching more games that included more of the late 1st round hopefuls. Hopefully this is the year the Grizzlies get a little lottery luck. Now the more college games that I watch, it is becoming very apparent that there are very few players who are capable of coming in and helping a NBA team next season. The question for Chris Wallace and the Grizz staff is: Do you take the player most ready to compete now or the player with the most long range potential? I think the answer is different depending upon the player. I also think that the Grizzlies have to hit a home run in this draft. They need a player that will be making a big impact on games. They don't need a stat machine. They need an impact player. There are five important things that the Grizzlies need this summer:

(1) Swagger
(2) Athleticism
(3) Size - Length
(4) Basketball IQ
(5) Winning Mentality

With those five qualities in mind I am going to present my Memphis Grizzlies Draft Board. Part 1 will be the top 15 players and Part 2 will conclude with players 16-30 with regards to the Grizzlies.

1. Michael Beasley - Kansas State - This one is a no brainer at this point. Beasley is more perfect for the Grizzlies need then Kevin Durant was last year. He is a merciless scorer, a tenacious rebounder, and has the attitude to dominate. His versatility will allow him to excel in a fast paced game or a half court game. Will be able to punish teams that go small with his board work. He will become the prototype for the "Phoenix" 4.

2. Derrick Rose - University of Memphis - Does not fit a need for the Grizzlies but is the second best talent in the draft. Big for his position and has the tendency to shine in bigger games. Outside shot is coming along and his ability to get to the rim is NBA level. Might cause a log jam but it is a problem Wallace would gladly deal.

3. DeAndre Jordan - Texas A&M - A physical specimen like no other. A true seven footer with the athleticism to match. Draws comparison to Dwight Howard but he isn't there...yet. Whispers of attitude and work ethic problems in school but you have to remember that the coach he is playing for did not recruit him and he is probably one and done so his minutes have been limited even though he is out producing the starters. Will require a lot of background by the team that wants to take him.

4. Blake Griffin - Oklahoma University - A muscular power forward. Not quite as polished offensively as Beasley but just as mean on the boards. Has said he will not come out but if he peeks at his draft status he might get an offer he can't refuse.

5. Anthony Randolph - LSU - Blowing up the draft charts right now. Long, lanky bean pole right now at 6'11 and 220lbs. However, remember Chris Bosh came in a t 225lbs and just last year Brandan Wright came in at an even 200lbs. He is a great game time athlete. He makes plays with his athleticism and could have a future as a 3/4/5 in an uptempo system.

6. Marreese Speights - University of Florida - Another physically gifted big man that might not declare with the glut of freshman likely to enter the draft and the good advice given by his coach to the last batch of potential NBA players at Florida. Speights has one of the quickest second jumps in college basketball and he uses it on both ends of the court for put back dunks and quick blocks. Dunks everything around the rim. Lacks in awareness but this is probably due to inexperience. No real offensive game to speak of at this time.

7. OJ Mayo - University of Southern California - Trying to hold off Jerryd Bayless as the best combo guard in college. He has the size and shot to be special. Lacks in over the top athleticism but is real adept in creating his own shot and creating for teammates. He is not Kobe or LeBron but he is a damn fine combo guard prospect.

8. Jerryd Bayless - University of Arizona - Playing point guard most nights especially with Nick Wise injured, Bayless is very good at getting into open spaces for clear shots or creating contact and getting to the line. Reminds me of Monta Ellis with range but he has more natural point guard instincts. However, he is a scorer first and does it well. Think of an American version of Juan Carlos Navarro but more athletic.

9. Eric Gordon - Indiana University - Hit the college scene in a blaze and has not really cooled off. However, his handles really need work and he lacks a developed mid range game that keeps him a notch below Mayo and Bayless. He has more range on his jump shot but does not get the elevation of the other two and that could be a problem because he has the least ability to move over to point guard. Top notch athlete and strong for his position but has holes.

10. Danillo Gallinari - Armani Jeans Milano - Knows the game. Supposedly has grown to almost 6'10 which if true would help him leap frog the combo guards for Memphis purposes. High basketball IQ and has been battle tested at the highest European levels of play. He should excel in the faster pace, less physical NBA where his ball handling will be top notch on the wing. He is just 19 so further development is likely.

11. Brook Lopez - Stanford - Personally, I have not been impressed with him as an NBA prospect. He has the size and the body but seems easily pushed off the block in college. Shoots less than 50% which is alarming for someone playing primarily in the post. Benefits from playing beside his twin brother and is not a dominant defensive presence (I like Robin more as a future NBA player). However, his size and production will make him a lottery pick and he will more than likely disappoint.

12. Nicolas Batum - Le Mans Sarthe Basket - French product who shined in Memphis at the Nike Hoop Summit. Looks to be a smother version of Rudy Gay. Great athlete and seems to have more court vision. Needs work on his handle and his shot but is somewhat productive in Europe (not on Gallinari's level though). Shows flashes of greatness.

13. Darrell Arthur - Kansas University - A great offensive player that is showing more on the boards lately. Not going to shine statistically on a deep Kansas team but has a lot of weapons in his arsenal offensively. Has a tendency to drift in games especially defensively.

14. Kevin Love - UCLA - A beast on the boards. Simply goes and gets every missed shot on both ends of the court. Not tall and not a great athlete but gets balls tall athletes do not get. Has range out to the college three point line. Decent back to the basket game and great outlet passer. Will have a place on the next level and likely will work his way into a significant role on a very good team in the NBA.

15. Roy Hibbert - Georgetown - Colossus. Very big player that lacks the end to end mobility of the better center prospects. However, he knows what to do in the post. Has a decent face up game. Although he is a senior, he is only 21. He really needs a professional conditioning program to take him to the next level. Will cause problems in the NBA with his size alone. If he can increase his end to end speed, he has a chance of making an impact even as a rookie. Great post passer.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Yesterday in the Heisley Speaks! blog I I had this little blurb at the end.

When asked about possibly hiring Dick Hackett and the overall business side of the team Heisley said this:
We have basically interviewed and looked at several people. We have some consultants in from the NBA that are working with us trying to improve various aspects of the franchise and we have not made a decision on who is going to take that position (replacing Andy Dolich) just yet.
He didn't elaborate on what the NBA was actually looking at to improve aspects of the team but I bet it isn't hiring a replacement for Andy! Obviously something is viewed as messed up in Memphis if the NBA sent consultants down to straighten out things.

I seem to have made more than just a small misinterpretation of what the NBA consultants were in town discussing.

Pete Pranica, the voice of the Grizzlies and an incredibly nice guy (he reads what we write so I obviously think he very intelligent as well!) wrote me to clarify why the NBA Consultants are actually in town and it has nothing to do with the recent criticisms around the league of the Gasol trade or anything at all in fact to do with the team per se. Pete explained that:
the presence of NBA types in Memphis isn't necessarily an indication that something is wrong and needs straightening out.

The league holds meetings for various units of the franchises: broadcast, media relations, marketing & sales. The league compiles a "best practices" program for each and shares it with member clubs. A part of this sharing is followup visits by NBA staffers. Last night, we had our second visit from one of the upper managers from NBA Entertainment. Nothing's wrong with our broadcast, it's just an effort to keep lines of communication open between Olympic Tower in NYC and Memphis.

This is why you see the same halftime entertainment in most arenas (game presentation managers share ideas) and ticketing promotions are very similar across the league (yeah, more sharing). And given that attendance is down in Memphis, it's understandable that the Grizzlies might get a little more TLC from the league office in the sales and marketing end.

Hope that helps,
Pete Pranica

It is never my intention to misrepresent things about the Grizzlies. I may not always be right on target with my thoughts but I do like to make amends when I make mistakes.

Thanks Pete for helping us get the story correct and for not blasting me publicly. We all appreciate everything you do. I apologize for my misrepresentation on why the NBA Consultants are in town. I am especially happy to hear they aren't messing with Pete and Sean's coverage of the team. They are doing a great job in my opinion.

BallHype: hype it up!

Heisley Speaks!

Grizzlies Owner Michael Heisley appeared on Ron Tillery's radio talk show Tuesday morning to explain what is happening with the Grizzlies and what the plan is going forward. He made some interesting comments that seem to put into clearer focus the team's plan moving forward.

He talked for just over 15 minutes and fielded some good questions. He did make some obvious comments like "I don't think we have done as well as I or the team or the fans expected starting the year. The owner down to the management has to look at things and say we haven't gotten the job done.' Boy that is a relief to know. I am sure some people were worried this is exactly what the front office and the owners wanted for the team.

On Trading Gasol and the Direction for the Team:

When asked where the team goes from here things started to get a bit fuzzier. Heisley said that

We made an assessment in January before the trade deadline that the team was not going to get 'there' the way we were constructed and we needed to start looking back and trying to figure out how to start building another team with playoff potential. That means from our perspective, since we aren't able to attract as many free agents as other people, that we are going to have to rely very heavily on the draft.
So if we can't rely on free agency why are we insisting on expiring contracts? Why not get players instead of expiring contracts? If as Heisley stated the plan is to build through the draft with a lot of young players then why trade Gasol for a very late 1st rd pick and $10 million in expiring contracts? I know, you can't trade a big contract like Gasol's for only draft picks but if the team isn't planning on using the cap space why have it? A few veterans wouldn't exactly kill the future prospects of the franchise after all. Maybe some veterans would have made the team watchable this season instead of what is on the court now.

Whether or not this is accurate is debatable and it is quite likely that he misspoke or 'misremembered' the number of teams that the Grizzlies talked to about Gasol but it was definitely disappointing to hear him say that only 6 or 7 teams were involved on discussions for Gasol.

Heisley went on to say that the decision to trade Gasol was difficult and how much he liked Gasol. He said that his:
"valuation of Pau was probably twice as high as a lot of people in Memphis. I've always felt he was one of the better players in the NBA. I think the situation for several reasons deteriorated and to a certain extent Pau was beat down this year and quite honestly it got to a point this year where I could see it wan't going to get better and so this year around December I decided we would probably have to trade Pau."
Sounds to me like the Heisley is saying that the fans forced Memphis to trade Gasol and that this was decided in December which is before the January assessment of the team that the team wasn't going to be able to reach 'there' whatever 'there' means to Heisley. It was also peculiar to here him describe his valuation of Pau as twice that of local people since he traded Pau for half of what the same local people seem to think the team should have gotten for him and dramatically under what inside people like Poppovich and Cuban felt he was worth.

Maybe it was the people of Memphis that Mark Cuban meant when he said Heisley was getting bad advice. I don't think that is what Heisley was saying but it was obvious from his comments that the relationship between Pau and the fans had a large impact on the ultimate decision to trade him. At least as much as the so called lack of the team's future ability to get there.

What About Free Agency:

The next question seemed a little odd following up on Heisley's statement that Memphis won't be able to attract free agents like other teams and that his intention was to build in the draft but he was still asked if the team was prepared to offer someone a max contract either this summer or the summer of '09. Heisley responded that he is:
prepared to build a team the best that they can build a team. We will use some of our cap space to try and attract free agents to Memphis. One thing I am not interested in doing is getting free agents who at the end of their contracts and only have 3 or 4 years of good effort left in them. Somebody 32 or 33 years of age because quite frankly they may have great game but we are looking to build a young team and build it around Rudy Gay and Mike [Conley] and Mike Miller and so on. Quite honestly I don't think that spending the cap room in getting tied into expensive cap situations with free agents nearing the ends of their careers is very attractive.
So forget Shawn Marion, Gilbert Arenas and Antwan Jamison but hold your breath for Josh Smith or someone young who can still grow with this team. Of course Josh Smith and other young free agents are usually under restricted free agent contracts and they will be hard to wrestle away from their teams. But Heisley said all he is willing to do is spend some of the cap space money to attract players to Memphis but that he doesn't believe that Memphis can attract them anyway.

On Trading Mike Miller:
Heisley was brief on the possible trade of Mike Miller. He said:
A lot of teams were talking to us about Mike Miller and I think anyone in the NBA, unless they are talking about one of the very, very elite players in the league, wouldn't be honest with you if they said they wouldn't listen to a trade if they felt it would improve their team. Quite honestly we never saw an offer that we felt that we could use.
So the team is always willing to listen (well at least listen to 6 or 7 teams it appears) for offers on Mike Miller but cap space is no longer that attractive and teams weren't offering enough in draft picks to put together an attractive offer.

On Ownership of the Grizzlies:

Heisley got a little testy here. You could hear it in his voice. Again I recommend everyone go and listen to the interview. Heisley interrupted Tillery's question on the ownership issue and said this:
What I am doing is basically what I did. You know I seem to have a hard time trying to communicate. After the last go round I got up in front of hundreds of people at the FedEx Forum at one of our conferences and I was asked this question and I answered very specifically. I am focusing my attention on operating the team and so on. I am not involved in...we have not put the team up for auction, we are not hiring one of those companies...that solicits that type of business. If someone were to come in and make me a good offer for the team that I thought would be a good owner then I would sell the team. And that has been my position from day 1. What has changed is that I am not out looking actively to sell the team. I don't want to be a liar. If someday someone wants to come in a make an offer and we sell the team then I don't want someone to say I said I wouldn't sell the team.
I personally believe this to be true. Heisley would love to sell the team but he isn't actively shopping it right now. He isn't paying a firm to round up prospective buyers for him. Why pay a firm to solicit what everyone knows is for sale anyway? I am sure, and Tillery apparently implied later (not in the interview) the Heisley is getting plenty of prospective interest as it is. He just hasn't heard anything that sounded interesting to him. He ended the question with a quip about the team not being for sale anymore than Mike Miller. I think that basically should clear up any confusion. If you don't think the Grizzlies are shopping Mike Miller then you can feel confidant Heisley isn't shopping the Grizzlies either.

Bias Against the Grizzlies:

He did say that he understands the questions about the moves the team has made and he figures he will continue to answer questions like this for the foreseeable future.
Do I think people are criticizing us? I think everybody that is competing with Los Angeles in the West is very, very upset. What everybody forgets is Jerry Buss was willing to step up. He's over the cap limit, I mean the luxury tax limit with Pau Gasol. He was willing to step up and basically face that when people such as Jerry Rheinsdorf and a lot of other owners were not prepared to do that. So you hear a lot of comments and so on coming in from coaches and general managers of other teams in the West and you'll hear a lot of comments coming in from sportscasters from all over the country saying it was a pure give away...I think you wait 2 or 3 years and so one and when we build a great young team then everybody is going to forget all those criticisms and we won't hear anyone come back in and say 'boy was I loaded.' For example not too many people are beating up on Minnesota for getting rid of Garnett because those young players are sitting up and starting to play. I think another trade that will be looked at quite a lot is that Phoenix trade because the risk there was much bigger than my risk. We were one of the worst teams in the NBA and we made a deal for our best player to try and rebuild with younger players. There they made a trade when they were leading the Western Conference and they traded off one of their best players for Shaq. That will change the whole appearance of their team and I think that was a very gutsy move.
That wasn't a gutsy move. I was a desperate move made in retaliation to Heisley trading Gasol to the Lakers more for cap space than draft picks or young players.

On Season Ticket Renewals:

When asked about season ticket sales, how Cleveland has already started to secure deposits for next season and if he is concerned about sales here in Memphis Heisley had this to say.
Absolutely, We've had a very, very tough time filling the arena and in fact we had a tough time filling the arena when we were in the playoffs. With the team losing like this absolutely you lose fans and making controversial trades upset fans and many of them leave. So obvioulsy we have to get better as fast as we can to get people to get back in the arena and we are doing that as fast as we can.

One of the benefits of being a fan is you have the right to criticize ownership and management and the players. That's what it is to be a fan and that is what I've done all my life. I screamed and yelled at Rheinsdorff for breaking up the team in Chicago. If I had a radio show I would have roasted him.
Well Memphis definately has that Chicago type of fans.

On the Business Side of Things:

When asked about possibly hiring Dick Hackett and the overall business side of the team Heisley said this:
We have basically interviewed and looked at several people. We have some consultants in from the NBA that are working with us trying to improve various aspects of the franchise and we have not made a decision on who is going to take that position (replacing Andy Dolich) just yet.
He didn't elaborate on what the NBA was actually looking at to improve aspects of the team but I bet it isn't hiring a replacement for Andy! Obviously something is viewed as messed up in Memphis if the NBA sent consultants down to straighten out things.

One final thought, I don't know who Tony is or where WHBQ found him but I have never heard a bigger shill in my entire life. I too am a Grizzlies fan but am not a Heisley fan. When a man steps up and proclaims he wants to build the new team with draft picks and young players then trades his best asset for expiring contracts and late picks you have to wonder about his sincerity, especially when you consider that he doesn't believe Memphis will attract any big names in free agency. You have to wonder about a man who says the team isn't for sale unless he gets a good offer. He says what people want to hear but upon further review you realize this isn't what his plan is. If he believes Memphis is going to model Chicago's rebuild then be prepared for 10 years of bad teams and the Grizzlies only becoming successful when they relocate.

I hear Kansas City is desperate for a full time tennant in thier brand new downtown arena...

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Postgame Thoughts: Memphis vs. Phoenix - 2.26.08

Hanging around, hanging around. Kid's got alligator blood. Can't get rid of him.

The Grizzlies just wouldn't go away quietly tonight. They hung with the Suns for 46 minutes before finally succumbing to superior talent and chemistry.

Rudy Gay posted a new career high in points, tallying 36 on the night, as Mike Conley set a career mark with 11 assists. Nice to see the young cornerstones developing despite being mired in the middle of a lost season.

Phoenix is one of those teams that has the kind of guys that you always see on championship contenders. Steve Nash is sneaky good, capable of putting up big scoring numbers when you least expect it. Grant Hill is the crafty veteran that everyone tends to overlook despite the fact that he still has plenty left in the tank. Raja Bell.....I hate Raja Bell. I mean seriously, the guy starts the game 0-9 and then late in the 4th quarter he hits three straight 3's?!?! Who does that? Then we come to Amare Stoudemire. STAT was his usual force of nature self without ever having to demand the ball. He dunked again and again, making the Grizzlies his own personal poster playground. The Suns just a little too much for the Grizzlies to overcome tonight.

But, there were flashes of light throughout the game. Through a great stretch in the first half, Memphis played solid defense that resulted in quite a few stops and transition opportunities. They weren't able to convert all of them, but you could see that they understood that defense led to the easy looks, not mindless running.

A few quick looks at the notebook:

I write down that Mike Conley needs to be more assertive on offense after he is passive early in the 3rd quarter. He then proceeds to score on 2 of the next 3 possessions.

Kyle Lowry looks to create for himself first, instead of facillitating for his teammates. That won't work in a Phoenix-style offensive system.

Juan Carlos Navarro and Darko Milicic seem to have developed some good chemistry, as JCN found the young Serbian with some nifty passes tonight. Too bad Darko is still a little awkward and uncoordinated, as he fumbled a couple of them. Still, a solid game by the Dark One as he matched Shaq's production on the night.

Hakim Warrick looks comfortable on the floor now. Perhaps that is all it took for him to become the productive player we have enjoyed for the past few weeks.

The Grizzlies have no bench right now. Cardinal is capable of filling in (and not screwing up) and Kyle is a solid backup for Conley, but the rest of them are borderline worthless......and I'd still take any of them over Suns' rookie D.J. Strawberry, who looked worse than a D-League call-up tonight.

There were several positives to take out of this game, which was nice for a change. It was an entertaining game, even though it resulted in a loss.

BallHype: hype it up!

Links: Cleaning Out the Inbox (Quick Hit Edition)

Washington Post: Rudy Gay is On the Cusp.

Chance Harper (SBR Forum) on small market realities in Memphis and Milwaukee.

Round 7 of the MVP/ROY Blogger Rankings is up on CelticsBlog for your viewing pleasure. LeBron still has a stranglehold on the top spot, but there has been a shakeup after that. On a related note, the guys at Hardwood Paroxysm have been having a little back-and-forth with CelticsBlog and David Friedman (20 Second Timeout) about MVP voting practices today. Very entertaining.

Pete Pranica's latest blog post.

The Play in California and The Free Throw Line review the trades. Some interesting thoughts, even if I think a few are off-base.

Neil and Vicky took in a Grizzlies game on their travels. You can read about it on Travel Pod.

Ted Sevransky says the Grizzlies are the worst team in the NBA. Guess he doesn't get Miami Heat games in Canada.

Think Chris Wallace is the worst GM in the league after the Gasol trade? At least he's not the Sports Guy. Go read BrewHoop's take on having Bill Simmons offer to be Milwaukee's GM. (via Hardwood Paroxysm)

Blog/Website of the Day: 20 Greatest TV Show Intros

BallHype: hype it up!

Power Rankings 2-25 & 26

Not a 30 ranking among them.  Ahh, but highest is 27th!

Power Rankings for 25 & 26 Feb. '08
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