Saturday, March 8, 2008

Memphis vs Boston - 3.8.08

Memphis enters this game with a small winning streak. Well most people don't call one win a winning streak but fans in Memphis take what they can get. Memphis hasn't won two games in a row since sweeping Washington and New Jersey back in November. The interesting thought is that Memphis did beat New Jersey on Wednesday. Could there be a trend here? Mike Miller's return makes Memphis a much more efficient and dangerous offensive team. His long range shooting combined with Rudy Gay opens up defenses that allow Hakim Warrick and Darko Milicic to work inside. Memphis' point guards have been hot and cold lately with Lowry providing the heat. The first time these two teams met, Memphis gave Boston everything they could handle before finally falling 100-96.

Boston comes to Memphis after destroying the Chicago Bulls last night with the best record in the NBA, on a 7-game winning streak (you know, one of those "real" winning streaks) and the first team to have secured a postseason berth after defeating the team everyone expects them to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, when they beat the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. They also acquired a player that many expect to help put them over the top in the playoffs when they signed the recently waived Sam Cassell. Cassell has yet to actually suit up for Boston, but his addition could propel the Celtics all the way to a championship. The Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Allen have lived up to expectations this year and are poised to make the citizens of Beantown forget the disappointment of last season.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Rajon Rondo
Rookie Mike Conley comes into this game having struggled mightily the past 4 games, as noted by Graham Kendrick on his blog. While both Conley and Rondo lead their respective teams in assists per game, neither is looking to challenge Nash, Paul and Kidd for the league leaders with both averaging around 5 assists per game. There are a lot of similarities in these young point guards as they are both lightning quick playmakers with questionable outside shots. The key difference is that Rondo is in his 2nd year while Conley is hitting the dreaded "rookie wall".
Advantage: Boston

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Ray Allen
Mike Miller's return spurred the Grizzlies to a victory over the New Jersey Nets Wednesday night, leading The Blowtorch to proclaim him the MVP....of the entire league. While I make a mental note to party with those guys more often, I think they have hit on something that Grizzlies fans have known all season. As Mike Miller goes, so go the Grizzlies. After all, they are still winless when he scores less than 17 points in a game. Ray Allen has provided the calm, steady hand to balance out the fiery emotion of KG all season. He has missed a few games due to injury, but has appeared rejuvenated after the last few up-and-down seasons spent in Seattle. And just in case anyone has forgotten, Jesus Shuttlesworth can still light it up with the best of them when called upon.
Advantage: Boston

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Paul Pierce
Rudy Gay, the future of the franchise, has been playing like a dying star, rather than a rising star as he prepares to become the first player not named Pau Gasol to lead the Grizzlies in scoring for the season. After scoring a career high 36 points against Phoenix, Rudy has put up totals of 11, 20, 21 and 13 on .363 FG% and .292 3PT% in the last four games. Perhaps the combination of the grind of the NBA's regular season and the pressure of being "The Man" is affecting him as he has played 42+ minutes in 4 of the last 5 games. Paul Pierce, on the other hand, is used to the grind, the pressure and carrying an exceptional load. He has maintained all his numbers across the board from last season's disaster except for his scoring, now that he has some actual help on that end.
Advantage: Boston

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Kevin Garnett
You could say that Hakim Warrick has enjoyed his newfound role in the starting lineup since the Gasol trade. After all, he's averaged 18 ppg and 9 rpg in the last 11 games as a starter. He has even been contributing in other areas, having tallied 9 assists, 9 steals and 5 blocks over that same span. That's good news for fans who have thought of Hak as nothing more than a poor man's Zach Randolph or Eddy Curry over the past few seasons. Unfortunately for him, he's facing Kevin Garnett, who has made a career out of the 20/10/5 line nearly every night out. His numbers are down slightly from that this season as he has deferred to his teammates now that he is surrounded by talent, but the Big Ticket is still as dangerous as they come.
Advantage: Boston

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Kendrick Perkins
After struggling through the month of February, Darko appears to be back on track once again. In his last 5 games (including a 2 point performance against the Rockets), he is averaging 13 ppg and 8.8 rpg on .604 FG%. He still struggles with foul problems occasionally, but has managed to play 30+ mpg in the last 3 outings. Kendrick Perkins is proving the doubters wrong, as he is not a weak link for the Celtics to this point. He has played extremely well in his last 4 games, averaging 13.5 ppg, 13 rpg and 3.5 bpg on .645 FG%. In their first meeting, these two players battled to a virtual draw. It should be interesting to see if anything has changed since then.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs Boston
The Grizzlies actually have a bench now, with the return of Mike Miller into the starting lineup. Kyle Lowry has been playing out of his mind recently, gaining more and more playing time as Conley continues to struggle. Juan Carlos Navarro continues to battle with refs on a nightly basis as he impresses fans and foes alike with the variety of his offensive game. Javaris Crittenton has shown flashes of the potential that made him a 1st round selection. Jason Collins continues to provide tough defense as he sets some of the most devastating picks in the league. Of course, some of the guys on the Celtics bench might start for the Grizzlies, with Eddie House, James Posey and Tony Allen logging most of the minutes off the pine for Boston. The Celtics did suffer one setback, as they found out that center Scot Pollard will likely be lost for the remainder of the season due to a partially torn tendon in his left ankle.
Advantage: Boston

Enemy Blogs:
Green Bandwagon
Celtics 17
Red's Army
Loy's Place
The Shamrock Headband
Celtics 24/7

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, March 7, 2008

True Fans Only...

Did I read that right? Did the Grizzlies just mail me something with this message inside?


You've invested your loyalty.
It's our turn.

Being a fan isn't something you turn on and off.

Deep down, it's always there, win or lose. But that doesn't mean you can take a fan for granted. True loyalty like yours deserves true recognition. True thanks. True payback.

In 2008-09, the Grizzlies are stepping up to acknowledge and reward our most important asset as a team - you. Our faithful MVPs. Our true fans.

We're introducing a new, system-wide plan to repay your Grizz patronage and patriotism. From the concession stands to the seats, from the opening tip to the final horn and beyond, we're dialing-up the MVP experience to reflect our gratitude to true fans like you.

For 2008-09, all renewing MVPs will receive a True Fan/MVP Lanyard for each seat purchased. Your MVP Lanyard means you'll enjoy all-new perks, privileges and access few NBA fans have. It gives you exclusive entry to new places, events, and team content. Unprecedented savings and offers. Tokens of appreciation that transcend the usual door prizes. New in-game extras, involvement and much, much more.

In short, it's a new day for Grizz fans. Stay glued to your mailbox, voicemail and inbox for details and improved rewards, privileges and events for MVPs only. We think you'll like what we've done. After all, you've earned it.

I received this announcement in the mail yesterday from the Grizzlies. It came in a trifold placed inside a lanyard. It promises future news explaining what they are talking about.

On the Grizzlies message boards there has been a lot of discussion about what it means to be a true fan. Apparently the Grizzlies have decided to define that as season ticket holders who they want to have renew this summer (if not earlier). Sure you can be a 'true fan' if you don't have season tickets but buying season tickets makes you a true fan.

I don't know how well this is going to sit with non-season ticket holders. There are a lot of people who feel they are true fans who don't live in Memphis. There are people in Memphis who feel they are true fans who can't afford season tickets. There are a lot of people who live in Memphis, who can afford season tickets but don't have the right schedules or free time to attend a full season of basketball games. Are these people not true fans? Of course they are but some people are going to twist this to make it sound like they are somehow being insulted.

I realize that the Grizzlies are not wanting to exclude non-season ticket holders. They are not saying people who aren't buying season tickets aren't true fans. They are just saying those who do are 'true fans' but Memphis is kind of funny about how they react to apparent slights and I definitely think this will be viewed by some to be a slight on their support.

Revealing that the lease at FedEx Forum with the Grizzlies has 14 more years to run should show the community that the Grizzlies are committed not just to the immediate future but for a long time to remain in Memphis, but people still say they don't want to support the team because they are just going to move the franchise. Throw on top of that the potential to misrepresent this season ticket renewal campaign in a negative way and we could have a full scale mutiny away from the team by Memphians.

I hope this doesn't happen but fans here can be pretty fickle. People wanted Gasol traded but hate the trade that sent him out of town. People hated Fratello's slow ball despite the victories he provided but they hate Iavaroni's uptempo style even more.

I just hope the young guns make a good showing Saturday night against the Celtics. A big win in front of a packed house would do more to spur interest in the future than all the marketing efforts the Grizzlies could muster.

And remember people, calling season ticket holders 'true fans' doesn't mean that those who don't buy season tickets are not 'true fans' as well.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Boston Can't Lose This Game

Boston has three players destined for the NBA Hall of Fame in Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Memphis has no one that looks to attain these lofty honors. There is no way that Boston can lose.

Boston has the best record in the NBA this season. Memphis has the 3rd worst record in the NBA and seem intent on catching the two teams behind them. There doesn't seem to be any way that Boston can lose.

Boston is 10th in the league in scoring but known for their defense which is allowing the 2nd fewest points per game in the league this season. Memphis is the 12th best scoring team abd the 2nd worst defensive team giving up over 105 ppg. Boston can't lose this game.

Boston holds teams to an NBA low 42.2% shooting percentage and is 4th best in the league hitting 47.4% of their own shots. Memphis is the worst team in the league allowing teams to shoot 47.9% from the field while only 16th in the league in FG percentage at 45.4% on the season. In case you missed that if Boston just has an average game shooting the ball it will improve our defensive FG% rating! There is no way Boston can lose.

Boston drafted a player known as 'Big Baby' in Glen Davis this summer. Memphis traded for a player known as the 'Big Disappointment' in Kwame Brown. There is no way Boston can lose this game.

Boston is 6th in the league in rebounding differential grabbing 1.95 more boards a game than their opponents. Memphis is 26th in the league giving up 2.85 more rebounds to their opponents than Memphis grabs. There is no way Boston can lose this game.

Boston is 6th in the league in winning percentage when they score 100+ points. Memphis is 28th in the same statistic. Speaking of statistics, PowerGrizz, the resident statologist of the Memphis Grizzlies message board, has Boston with a predicted to win the game 0.638821 to 0.361179. There is no way Boston can lose this game.

Memphis just won their first game since February 10th. That was a string of 8 straight losses. Boston hasn't lost since February 22nd and have lost only 12 games all season. Boston is currently on a 6 game winning streak. Memphis hasn't won back to back games since November 27th. There is no way Boston can lose this game.

The Boston Celtics were able to recruit dancers from all over the country and had a TV special on NBA-TV about the selection of their dance team. Not just one episode either. A series on the selection of dancers was aired on NBA-TV. Even the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition doesn't get a series on the girls. Memphis just lost one of their dancers so she could move to Pennsylvania. What's worse is that she isn't even from Pennsylvania! Apparently the option to be banished to a gulag in Siberia was already taken by a former press agent for the Grizzlies. She's not the first dancer to leave the squad this year either. The roster included 18 girls after tryouts, had 16 girls in November and rarely are there more than 12 on any given night these days. I guess it is just as hard to dance for the Grizzlies as cheer for them this season.

I know this is getting redundant but there is now way Boston can lose this game. I mean no way on Saturday, no way in March, no way this season and no way in any one's imagination! There is no way Memphis can win this game.

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have been to a combined 19 all-star games. 19 is also how old Javaris Crittenton is. No one on the Grizzlies roster has been to a single all-star game. Well Juan Carlos Navarro did announce the all-star game for a Spanish Network but that isn't the same thing. There is no way that Boston can lose this game.

Which is why I think the Grizzlies can't lose this game. There is absolutely no reason the Grizzlies should even be competitive and every reason to believe the Celtics should win easily. When the stars are that much in alignment bet against the obvious. Strange things happen when teams with no chance play teams that can't lose. Remember the Super Bowl this year? Take the points (there should be a lot to take) and watch the kids beat the all-stars on Saturday night in front of a packed house at FedEx Forum.

And If that isn't reason enough I will be out of town and won't be able to see the game. That is the most consistent indicator of a Grizzlies victory I know!

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cutting Down the Nets

Yep. You read that right. The Grizzlies swept a season series against an NBA team. They couldn't do that against the Spanish league teams they played in the preseason. The couldn't do that against the Seattle Supersonics. They didn't do that against anyone last season but the Grizzlies completed their season series with the New Jersey Nets undefeated and the Nets are possibly a playoff team this season.

Okay the Nets are only a playoff contender because they play in the pathetic Eastern Conference making them more pretenders than contenders but the fact is they were in 8th place in the East heading into this game.

The Grizzlies ended their longest losing streak since the team began their 2nd season in Memphis 0-13. The Grizzlies won their 2nd game since the Gasol trade was announced making their record 2-11 since that fateful day. To put that in context the Grizzlies were 4-9 to start the season with Gasol and two of those victories were against Seattle. Not coincidently Mike Miller returned to the lineup tonight and looked extremely good. Mike only played 30 minutes as he eases himself back into game shape but he made the most of those minutes. Shooting 9-13 and scoring 22 pts with 6 rebounds, Mike looked in mid-season shape when he was on the court.

The other Mike had a difficult night, supporting the idea that he has indeed hit the rookie wall (or is just tired mentally and physically) but Kyle Lowry was on top of his game. In 35 minutes Kyle scored 15 points, dished out 7 assists and played solid the entire night wrecking havoc on many occassions with his quick hands.

The Grizzlies were led early by Darko Milicic who followed up his 21 pt, 7 rebound game in Chicago with a double double scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Rudy Gay was off offensively (probably thanks to the fine defense played by Richard Jefferson) but grabbed 10 boards and dished out 5 assists to go with his 13 points. Hakim Warrick was his usual offensive force who shook off a tough night against Chicago to score a team leading 25 points to go with 7 boards.

The big story tonight was the defense. The Grizzlies held New Jersey to a horrible shooting second half surrendering only 40 points. A switch to zone defense late forced New Jersey to settle for long range shots which are difficult to hit on the second game of a back to back series. Memphis also held Vince Carter to a quiet 12 points and he was actually heard to say "I'm ready to get out of here" midway through the 4th quarter. Shocking to think that VC would consider quitting on his team against a bad team while the Nets are fighting to reach the playoffs (that is satire by the way).

It felt great for the Grizzlies to get back into the win column. Sweeping the Nets was just icing on the cake.

Other Reviews:
Commercial Appeal
New York Post
Newark Star Ledger
Washington Post

BallHype: hype it up!

Miller Returns! What does that Mean for JCrit and Navarro?

With Mike Miller due to return to action tonight against the Nets, what will this mean for the rookie backups of Juan Carlos Navarro and Javaris Crittenton?

Miller has been quoted as saying he is going to ease back into the rotation. Minutes should be short at first. That bodes well for JCR and JCN but that won't last for long. What happens when Miller is healthy and the gym rat wants his minutes?

Iavaroni has said he feels best running an 8 man rotation but who are the best 8 on a team building for the future? Conley and Lowry are set at the point. Rudy, Hak and Darko are the front line with either Collins or Brown backing up Darko. That leaves the 2 guard and backup SF/PF positions still undecided. Miller can play the SF behind Rudy and Rudy can back up Hak at PF when he needs a rest making Miller, Hak and Rudy a three man rotation at the 3/4 spots and that frees up Navarro and Crittenton to play all the minutes at the shooting guard.

That would make sense but do the Grizzlies want to move Miller to the bench? Obviously Miller is better than Navarro or Crittenton right now at the shooting guard position but is it best for the team in the long run to sit those players? Would it hurt Memphis' ability to trade Miller (if that is even being discussed) if he isn't playing the shooting guard position. Would that put more pressure on Miller's back to be guarding small forwards predominantly or would it be harder on his back to be running around guarding players on the perimeter?

I don't know the answer so I asked an Orthopedist I know what he thought. Is it more difficult on a players back to be on the perimeter or nearer to the basket? He said he has no idea which is more stressful but he agrees with me that the rookies should play shooting guard and let Miller play forward with limited minutes for the rest of the season. So a doctor agrees with my opinion about Miller.

Honestly the season is shot, Miller doesn't have anything left to prove to anyone that making the FIBA team last summer and this season's performance hasn't proven already and the rookies need the court time. Why put Miller in at the 2 and deprive Navarro or JCrit the experience?

BallHype: hype it up!

Chicago Recap

Tough night but someone has to write about it.

Best dunk goes to Rudy Gay for his first quarter blow by Luol Deng.

Best defensive play was Lowry stripping the ball from Gordon and going the distance in the other direction.

Best play was the first of the game when Warrick hit Gay with a pass in the lane for a quick bucket.

There are moments of quality play from the team. Unfortunately those are few and far between. When Darko went out last night in the first quarter the chemistry fell apart and was not regained until late in the 3rd. By that time we were down 30 points and the game was over.

Watching the team play gives glimpses of what will come but the reality of the present moment is often painful. Rudy should continue to improve. Conley, Lowry, Crittenton and even Darko should continue to improve. These players are all 22 or younger. Throw in 5 more draft picks in the next three seasons and the future looks bright. It just feels that the brightness is at the distant end of a dark tunnel. Memmphis misses Mike Miller simply because he knows how to get the players to play under control. His range forces teams to open up shots in the paint which makes everyone more effective. Right now the team is facing 5 defenders around the paint most of the time and they are daring Memphis to beat them from outside. No one on this team can do that for 48 minutes.

Those are the positives believe it or not. The negatives are a defense that allowed the worst shooting team in the league to hit nearly 54% of their attempts. They allowed 48 points in the paint from primarily a jump shooting team. They had 8 shots blocked and seven steals surrendered. They had a mere 16 assists on 39 made FG attempts and shot a 42.4% thanks to some hot shooting late. They were below 40% most of the game. Memphis has potential but as Pranica and Touhy pointed out, they need a lot of coaching and that appears to be missing right now. Hopefully it is just an illusion and the basics are being put into place that will forge a better team next season. For now it takes a lot of searching to be excited about the team.

BallHype: hype it up!

Memphis vs New Jersey - 3.5.08

Memphis has been described as giving away the most for the least this season in their trade of Pau Gasol to the Lakers. The Grizzlies will be playing their second game in a row after battling in Chicago on Tuesday night. This is a rare moment in the Grizzlies season when they are playing back to back games against teams they have already beaten once this season. In fact it may be the only time this season. The Grizzlies are a young team which should help them recover quickly and a couple of good performances could turn the team's perception of themselves around pretty quickly.

New Jersey may have improved themselves more than any team unloading a superstar this season. That won't help them this week as the Nets have possibly the worst road trip in modern basketball history. New Jersey plays all 5 of the teams in the Southwest division in a row over a seven day period. The Nets have to be looking at this game as the only realistic shot at a victory but they are playing the 2nd game of a back to back as well having played the Spurs the night before. New Jersey is holding on the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference just a single game ahead of the Atlanta Hawks so this makes the Grizzlies game very important.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Devin Harris
Devin Harris had a nice first game for New Jersey but has to feel somewhat shaken by his trade from Dallas to New Jersey. Going from starting for one of the best teams in the league to a rebuilding one takes some adjustment mentally but Harris is quick and smart. It won't take him long to adjust. Mike Conley is quick and intelligent as well but has far less experience than Harris. Harris is known as one of the better defensive PG's in the league and that will put more pressure on Conley to run the offense. This should be a great battle one day but Conley isn't quite up to the challenge yet.
Advantage: New Jersey

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Vince Carter

Miller is back at practice and should be back in the lineup for this game. His presence gives the Grizzlies a far different look and a far better shooting attack. The last time these teams met Vince Carter went for 32 points and nearly pulled the game out. That was against Juan Carlos Navarro when the rookie was starting for the first time. He won't find it quite so easy against a rested Mike Miller and without the fine passing of Jason Kidd. Carter isn't as young as he used to be and he can't take over the entire game like he used to do but he can dominate in spurts. Miller will be hard pressed to control VC when he wants to score.
Advantage: New Jersey

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Richard Jefferson

Rudy Gay played the four against New Jersey in the first match and was still a bit insecure about his role on the team with Miller and Gasol. That is no longer the problem as Rudy is confident over his ability to play at this level and he knows he is the main man on the team. Richard Jefferson has been on the brink of stardom for a few years now and is obviously the player that the new Nets will be built around. Jefferson is a more complete player than Rudy in that he passes the ball and scores more but he also is a weaker rebounder. Where Jefferson really distinguishes himself is on defense. That ability to guard the other team's best offensive weapon while still scoring himself is a level of performance Rudy hasn't reached yet. Of course Rudy is only 21 and in his 2nd season while Jefferson is 27 and in his 7 NBA season.
Advantage: New Jersey

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Nenad Kristic

An interesting battle of softer bigs. Neither Warrick nor Kristic can be described as physical players. An interesting battle of softer bigs. Neither Warrick nor Kristic can be described as physical players. Kristic was coming into his own last year before a devastating knee injury cost him the season. He has struggled in his return. Warrick has started to earn some respect around the league, frequently getting double teamed on the offensive end. This has caused Warrick's scoring to slip a little. This also puts more pressure on Warrick's poor passing game. Once Hakim starts to realize how to incorporate his teammates more after the ball is in his hand then the flow will return to Memphis' offense. This however is a good matchup for Warrick who is too quick for Kristic.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Josh Boone

Josh Boone played 61 games as a rookie but his season was essentially lost after missing all of training camp and the first quarter of the season with shoulder surgery. A former teammate of Rudy Gay, Boone is the bruiser in the paint for New Jersey who has averaged 8 ppg basically on put backs and dunks. He is hitting 53% of his field goal attempts but shooting only 41.1% from the line and has yet to hit a 3 pt shot. His range is about the circumference of the rim. Darco is back to playing well after a lull following the Gasol trade. At 22, Darko is starting to find some consistency in what is his first season starting in the league. The 21 pt, 7 rebound game against Chicago was very promising.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs New Jersey

For once the bench isn't a severe negative for Memphis. Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro and Javaris Crittenton are showing a lot of energy and promise in the backcourt where New Jersey is suffering with Marcus Williams and Darrell Armstrong. The front court should be bolstered by Jason Collins who spent his entire career in New Jersey prior to the trade in late January for Stro. Normally a player returning to his former team is dangerous but Stro has never shown enough motivation to be interested in the game to be concerned about paybacks. Sean Williams however is a frightening potential player. When his game is on he can dominate the paint forcing teams to the perimeter. He is easily excited and can get into foul trouble however.
Advantage: New Jersey

Enemy Blogs:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Power Rankings 3-4 & 5

The Grizzlies are a solid #30.  It is hard for anyone to beat them out.
Some 'bad' sarcastic remarks made by the rankers.
John Galinsky of Fox has in his intro and remarks the 'worse' for the Griz.

Power Rankings for 3 & 4 March '08
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