Saturday, April 5, 2008

Unsung Player: Jason Collins

With Malice has declared that today is NBA Unsung Player Day. Well, I am always completely in favor of random declarations, so I felt compelled to join in.

When rooting for a disappointing team that is mired in the bottom of the standings, you find ways to entertain yourself. One thing I have done is to pay closer attention to the subtle nuances of our young players like Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittenton and Darko Milicic. However, when discussing C Jason Collins, the words "subtle" and "nuance" don't really fit the bill.

(AP Photo/Nikki Boertman)

When Collins came over in exchange for Stromile Swift, many people questioned why a team would trade an athletic F/C capable of crowd-pleasing dunks and blocks for a far less mobile big man who gets confused with his equally non-descript twin brother constantly. Well, Collins showed his value to me within his first few games in Memphis when he began to do something that the Grizzlies hadn't seen in quite some time. Quite simply, he told opponents: "No easy buckets."

This goes beyond the tough interior defense he is known for. He doesn't play dirty (I'm looking at you Bruce Bowen) and he doesn't give unnecessarily hard fouls, but opposing players know that he's not going to give them an easy layup if he's in the area. That might seem like a simple thing, and I'm sure on most NBA teams it is a regular occurrence. But the Grizzlies have been lacking that player for several seasons and it makes a noticeable difference now that they have that intimidating enforcer in the paint, even if he only plays 15 mpg. He averages almost as many fouls per game as rebounds, but his fouls are rarely ever of the ticky-tack variety that allow for an "And 1" situation to occur.

So even as I watch another season limp towards its inevitable finish with my team staring the lottery squarely in the face again, there is a one more thing I have found that provides some comfort -- the toughness of Jason Collins, our Unsung Player.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Links: Slow News Week

Hakim Warrick wants your Final Four picks on his blog.

The Memphis Grizzlies sponsor a team in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association: the Memphis Rolling Grizzlies. Hat tip: Living in Lakeland, who actually participated in a game. Click for pictures.

This guy thinks that the Grizzlies should be listed among the Top 10 Worst Franchises in Pro Sports. I won't argue with him, because their history speaks for itself, but he is taking liberties in assuming that the future doesn't look brighter than the past.

Check out Odenized and Hoop Tube for great NBA videos daily.

A few general NBA posts:

Hardwood Paroxysm gives the best analysis of the San Antonio Spurs I've ever read.

J.E. Skeets (Ball Don't Lie) - An NBA fan's guide to the Final Four

Buster Gunning (RealGM) - Isiah: East is Beast

The Most Overpaid Players of 2007-08

Deadspin (via Ball Don't Lie) - Who is the NBA's Least Valuable Player?

BallHype: hype it up!

Memphis vs Golden St - 4.4.08

Memphis just completed their second season sweep of the year and now try to prevent Golden St from sweeping them for the 1st time since the team's inaugural season in Vancouver. The Grizzlies righted their ship too late to make the playoffs and too early to remain at the bottom of the lottery list. Basically the worst of both possible outcomes but with the lottery you never know what will happen so does losing actually accomplish anything but a negative attitude? The Grizzlies are playing .500 ball over the last 10 games with wins over the Lakers, New York twice, Sacramento and Charlotte. Not exactly the cream of the crop outside of LA but still something the team can use to build on.

Golden State has dropped out of the playoffs with back to back losses at San Antonio (116-92) and at Dallas (111-86) and will be playing their 3rd game in 4 days. There may be an emotional drop after being the first team with a record above .500 to lose to Dallas since the Jason Kidd trade. After this game the Warriors head to Conference leading New Orleans so this game has to be considered a must win for the the Warriors if they want to make the playoffs.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Baron Davis
Mike Conley has been having better games lately but still hasn't shown a capability to string them together. In his last four games Conley scored 6, 17, 2 and 18 points. Tonight would be an excellent time to reverse that trend. Baron Davis brings the total package into this game and has been healthy for the entire season. Averaging 22.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 7.6 apg, Baron Davis has become one of the elite PG's in the league. While his shooting can be suspect at times (43.2% from the field, 33.1% from the arc) he is still the player that Golden St turns to for big baskets.
Advantage: Golden St

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Monta Ellis

Mike Miller has been struggling lately scoring the ball with a total of 37 pts combined in the last four games and has failed to break 20 pts in a game since scoring 34 pts at Madison Square Gardens against the Knicks on March 21. That span of 7 games is the longest that Mike has failed to score at least 20 pts since going 7 straight from Dec 21-Jan 4. Monta Ellis is a free agent this summer and playing like he wants a big contract this summer. The Mississippi native is averaging just under 20 ppg (19.9) on 52.9% shooting from the field. Not a great perimeter shooter (25%) Ellis relies on speed and a quick release to get his shot off over taller SGs.
Advantage: Golden St

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Stephen Jackson

Rudy Gay is back on top of his game after struggling with the lead role a bit after the Gasol trade. Rudy has emerged as a candidate for Most Improved Player in the league this year. Rudy is among the top 40 in the league in both 3 pt shots made and dunks. The only other player on both lists is Kobe Bryant. Stephen Jackson has to be one of the stranger team captains in the league. Formerly considered a malcontent in San Antonio, Atlanta and Indiana, Jackson usually guards the toughest opponent and that has had an effect on the notoriously streaky shooters accuracy this season. Barely shooting over 40% from the field (40.7%) he makes it up with clutch long range accuracy (37.6%) and a tough mental attitude. It is strength against strength in this game but Jackson has not been playing well on this road trip.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Al Harrington

It is not for certain that Harrington will start this game but that is the norm for Don Nelson coached teams. Harrington has been a disappointment this season after his strong play last year after the trade with Indiana. Across the board his numbers are down this season. Hakim Warrick has been a major surprise for the Grizzlies since the Gasol trade, nearly replicating Gasol's offensive numbers while spreading team's defenses to cover his better range. His defense has improved mostly by the Grizzlies option to play zone defense more to cover for Hak.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Andris Biedrens

Darko injured his shoulder against the Knicks but is said to be playing tonight against the Warriors. That is important because Biedrins is the Warriors secret weapon. He is quick to loose balls and offensive boards and has enough speed to be a threat on breaks for the lightning fast Warriors. Darko was playing some of the most consistent ball of the season prior to the injury so everyone is hoping it wasn't anything serious.
Advantage: Golden St

Benches: Memphis vs Golden St

Memphis has a 1-2-3 punch off the bench with Lowry, Navarro and Crittenton combining to add pace and athleticism to the bench. When they are shooting well they cause a lot of teams matchup problems. The Warriors counter with size off the bench from the likes of Michael Pietrus, Kelanna Azubuike and Matt Barnes. The retirement of Chris Webber has no effect on the Warriors. Brandon Wright has yet to show the ability to play the NBA game and may be joining Patrick O'Bryant who is a bust as a lottery pick from 3 years ago.
Advantage: Golden St

Relevant Blogs/Commentary:
Golden State Of Mind
The City
Warriors World

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Guest Post: It's That Easy

Today we have a guest post from Jonathan Kiersky who has written for Divingin2Memphis and is the new owner of The Hi-Tone Cafe in Midtown Memphis.

Memphis needs Derrick Rose. And by Memphis, I don't mean the Tigers. I mean the Grizzlies. And it could happen, without much having to go right. (I'm staring at you 2003 Ping Pong balls…)
Here's the scenario- the Miami Heat, in desperate need of any talent, but really in need of someone that can get the ball across the half court line, get the #1 overall pick. Memphis gets the second or third pick in the upcoming draft. Memphis would then package Mike Conley Jr, Javaris Crittenton and their pick to Miami for the #1 overall pick and some cap filler like (cough) Earl Barron. Memphis takes Rose and Miami takes either Michael Beasley or Brook Lopez. Pretty simple, no?

The deal is a win-win operation for both clubs. Miami now has Conley and Crittenton to run the point next to Dwayne Wade, Shawn Marion, Beasley/ Lopez and Udonis Haslem. Their bench has Dorell Wright, Crittenton, Ricky Davis, Mark Blount and Daequan Cook. Memphis now starts Rose, Miller, Gay, Milicic and Warrick with Lowry coming off the bench. (And wider ranging deal with Miami would have the Heat send Shawn Marion to the Grizzlies in some sort of sign and trade, but I doubt the numbers and players could be matched up.) With the expiring deal of Kwame Brown and some other pieces not being re-upped (I'm looking at you Andre Brown and the living corpse of Casey Jacobsen), a second round pick and some signings in the off-season (as well as whatever Juan Carlos Navarro can bring you in trade), suddenly the Grizzlies are relevant again. The Heat all of the sudden look, well, undead.

Look, there certainly are other motivations for the Grizzlies to get a once-in-a-generation point guard into their lineup. First, this city adores Derrick Rose. Second, we need to see him play more than just one year in the FedEx Forum. We deserve that as basketball fans. You hear it all of the time, but this kid really can change an NBA game just by stepping on the court. Third, and this is a very big third, name the top 10 point guards in the NBA right now? (I'll give you the requisite two minutes to name the top 7 and after that all we're doing is arguing semantics.) Now name the top 10 power forwards or small forwards depending on which position you believe Beasley play in the pros. The lists can be compiled in twenty seconds each. The point is both simple and clear- if you get the chance to get a great point guard, you snap him up any possible way you can think of. If you have a game changing point guard who is in the middle of completing on of the great runs for your hometown college team, a team that half the city considers their kids, who will immediately bring credibility and exposure to an otherwise questionable and folly ridden franchise, you do anything short of kidnapping the children of the GM with the #1 overall pick.

Pretty clear, right?

Jonathan Kiersky

BallHype: hype it up!

What Do We Call Them?

Dallas had its Tres J's. Boston has the Boston Three Party. Memphis has three small guards coming off the bench that have sparked the team more than any bench players since Mike Miller won the 6th man award and Hubie had his 10 man rotation.

These guys need a nickname!

Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro and Javaris Crittenton have become the best story on the team this season. 'The Great' Kyle Lowry, as Memphis radio heads used to call him, was expected by most Grizz fans to be a spark off the bench. Juan Carlos Navarro came in with the 'La Bomba' nickname and the cute smile and instantly became a fan favorite. Javaris Crittenton is the baby of the three at only 19 years of age but all three should be considered rookies even if Crittenton is the only one who has never played professional basketball before this season.

College teams routinely go small and use three guards. Texas had 5-11 AJ Abrams, 6-0 DJ Augustin and 6-2 Justin Mason playing big minutes this year. North Carolina has 6-4 Wayne Ellington, 5-11 Ty Lawson and 6-5 Marcus Grinyard starting for Tarheels.

But this is the NBA. Teams aren't supposed to be able to get by playing three guards, much less three small guards. Kyle Lowry is a generous 6-0. Juan Carlos Navarro is listed as 6-3 and Javaris Crittenton is supposedly 6-5 but he looks more like best. These guys are small, unselfish and very, very fast. The pressure they put on defenses is incredible.

Okay, maybe I am falling under the spell of Kinsey Fever again but all year we have wanted to see uptempo basketball, with three point bombs and slashes into the lane and now we finally are getting it from our 3 rookies off the bench.

They have earned a nickname. I just can't think of one to give them. Beale St Blue and Yellow Fever doesn't really work for me. The Oreo Cookies? No, that plays on race and is offensive to me and just about everyone in the city. Three G's sounds fun but may be too esoteric for some people to catch the meaning.

Anyone have any better suggestions?

Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section below. It should be interesting to see what people come up with.

BallHype: hype it up!

Post Game Thoughts - New York Knicks

Grizz Win 130-114! A blowout at the Forum. Streamers floated down from the sky and everyone left happy.

Why does it feel like another loss?

Victories seems Pyrrhic these days. Sure it was great to see the young players step up and produce in a game. The problem is that the win cost the Grizzlies two spots in the lottery game. They dropped from 3rd to 5th with a win over the New York Knicks, a team that seems depressed that they can't tank enough to catch the hapless Miami Heat who the Grizzlies also have to play next week.

A sparse crowd that was no where near the amount of tickets sold for the game saw the Grizzlies put together their best effort of the season against a team more interested in their lottery position than their record. Ideally, one would look at this game as something to build on for the future.

Does anyone truly believe that this season's Grizzlies are a team that can score 130 points on any given night? Do people look at this game as the first step in the rebuilding of the once solid franchise?

But there is good news here. First, while technically 5th in the standings the Grizzlies are still tied with New York for the 4th lottery spot. Tie-breakers aren't used in the lottery so if the season ends with both teams having the same record then both teams get the same number of ping pong balls. The head to head match ups are of no concern.

Rudy Gay was Kobe-esque in the ease and fluidity of his game. His 21 pts on 7-11 shooting was so easy it looked like that ad for the Grizzlies where players are working out on the court by themselves hitting shot after shot. At times it even felt like he was on the court, all alone, hitting shot after shot.

(Hat tip: Odenized )

For the game the team shot 60% from the field. Before you say that it was just the Knicks remember that this follows a 53.9% shooting night against Atlanta, 47.5% against the Clippers and 49.4% against the Lakers. Something is working with the offense. The team is hitting their shots at a rate unmatched all season. They are starting to shoot like the Phoenix Suns that we wanted when Marc Iavaroni was hired.

Juan Carlos Navarro was 4-6 from the 3 pt line running his season total to 146. That leaves him 12 short of the tying Kerry Kittle's NBA record for three pointers in a season. With 7 games remaining including Friday night's game against the Warriors, a game at Miami and two against Minnesota it is definitely within reach.

Javaris Crittenton was a major bright light. He had a terrific game with 23 pts (a new career high), 9 rebounds (tying a career high) and 3 assists (one short of his career high) including a beautiful bounce pass through traffic to Kyle Lowry for a layup. Not bad for a former 3rd string bench player who spent most of the night playing Small Forward for the Grizzlies.

Kyle Lowry was the pugnacious bulldog Grizzlies fans love to watch play. He also showed off in front of shooting coach Mark Price by going 5-8 from the field to go with his 6 assists and 2 steals.
That has been one of the main reasons the bench has been so productive of late. Memphis routinely has Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro and Javaris Crittenton on the court at the same time and frankly teams can't handle that combination of speed, passing ability and youthful exuberance. These three players seem to really enjoy playing together and make life miserable for opposing benches. The Knicks tried to go big and it did allow them to have a huge night on the offensive glass (17 offensive boards) but it didn't allow them to catch up.

One of the reasons that Knicks were so effective on the glass also had to do with the one true negative of the night. Darko Milicic, who has been so effective preventing opposing teams from controlling the glass this season, appeared to injure his shoulder early in the game and did not return. That meant the Grizzlies had to go with Jason Collins and Kwame Brown in the middle. Collins played his normal defensive game.

Kwame was the story of the night. The rarely used $9 million expiring contract (and does anyone think of him in any other terms) had his best game since coming over in the trade. He was actually important to the early success of the team with 6 pts and 6 boards in the first half. It looked like an easy double-double for Kwame as the Knicks resorted to fouling him to keep him at bay offensively. Clearly exhausted after playing 31 minutes he only finished with 8 boards but it was still good to see him out there gaining confidence every minute he was on the court.

The test of the team's new found success comes Friday night against the desperate Golden St Warriors who lost to the Dallas Mavericks last night to fall one game behind Denver for the last playoff spot.

It should be a great game to watch.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Memphis vs New York Knicks - 4.2.08

Memphis slipped back against the Hawks after starting to take some positive steps forward in the preceeding games. Fatigue appeared to be part of the problem although I can't blame that solely for the weak showing against the Hawks. The Grizzlies youth will not make a smooth rise to success but the effort exhibited in the 4th quarter showed the young guns haven't quit on the team, the coach or the city yet. Right now Iavaroni and the Grizzlies are looking for something positive to build on for the future.

New York is taking a different approach to the end of the season. Instead of searching for something positive to build on, the Knicks are clearly looking to lose games to increase their chances of getting something positive in the draft. The Grizzlies took this approach last season when there were clearly two players that could make a big difference on a team. It isn't so clear this season that such a player exists in this draft, at least not along the lines of an Oden or Durant. Only time will tell if David Stern's favorite team has better success in the lottery than the Grizzlies did last season.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Nate Robinson
There aren't many PG's in the league that Conley can look down at but Nate Robinson is one. That isn't to say that Robinson is going to be physically pushed around by Conley. If Kyle Lowry is a middle linebacker among PG's then Nate Robinson is a strong safety. Not as big as a linebacker but still capable of laying out a player not paying attention to him. Robinson struggled against the speed and power of the Grizzlies point guards last time and will probably struggle again since he isn't a good set up PG. If hot Robinson can outshoot either Grizz PG but both Grizz PG's are better at getting the team involved.
Advantage: Memphis

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Jamal Crawford

Miller had one of those games at MSG earlier this season. 12-16 from the floor, 7-11 from the arc, 34 pts, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and Crawford looking like he didn't know what hit him. It may be too much to expect a similiar performance from Mike especially after the lackluster effort exhibited against the Hawks. That has always been Miller's MO, when he is hot he is deadly but when he's not he's invisible. Crawford can be deadly when hot but when he's not then he is terrible which is worse than invisible. It is one thing to realize you are having a bad game and defer to others. It is quite another to not realize you are having a bad game.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Wilson Chandler

Rudy Gay put on a show in the 4th quarter against the Hawks but it was against the Hawks backups predominantly. Then again this entire game will have Rudy up against the Knicks backups and they aren't as good as the Hawks backups. Wilson Chandler has never looked good for New York but he did have a career high the last time these two teams met scoring 17 pts. The last two games Chandler has scored a total of 12 points.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Jared Jeffries

Why is Chandler starting for New York? Oh yeah, the Knicks want more ping pong balls. Hakim hasn't looked as sharp lately under the strain of increased minutes but he should be well rested for this game. Jeffries was supposed to be the missing piece for Isiah when he signed him to a big contract from the Washington Wizards. So far that money hasn't been as poorly spent as Jerome James' contract but it is close. 53 starts over two seasons isn't exactly what Knick fans expected. 3.3 ppg and 3.1 rpg aren't either.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs David Lee

David Lee is the type of player every great team needs. He's a modern day Kurt Rambis. The guy who is there to make everyone else look good and in the process actually puts up great numbers himself. He is all about winning and playing to win. So what is he doing in NYC? Darko has been up and down but mostly up lately. If he can catch a pass and be aggressive to the rim he is very good but Lee isn't a big banging type of center. In fact he isn't a center at all and Darko may struggle with his quickness and range. Defensively Darko doesn't like to fight for position and Lee refuses to allow people to set up the way they want.
Advantage: New York

Benches: Memphis vs New York

Quentin Richardson has been starting some games for New York but as bad as he is been playing it makes no sense to put him on the court at all. Which is why Isiah just might start him anyway. Randolph Morris, Renaldo Balkman, Malik Rose and Fred Jones all make appearances off the bench but like everything with the Knicks the pieces don't fit together well. Memphis' bench has been really playing well together with the three guard offense of Lowry, Navarro and JCritt causing teams fits to control. Jason Collins provides the muscle and occassional inside scoring for the bench.
Advantage: Memphis

Relevant Blogs/Commentary:
Knicks Nation
Father Knickerbocker
Posting and Toasting

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Power Rankings 3-31 & 4-1


Guess who doesn't mention the Tigers in their comment?
Can someone explain the comment by Murphy on


Power Rankings for 31 March & 1 April '08
Mouse Over GRIZZLIES LOGO to see COMMENTS (works best with MS IE)
Click on Grizzlies logo to go to team web page for each media's web site.
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Actual NBA SI SteinCoversSagarin CBS FOXHollinger

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