Friday, April 11, 2008

Memphis vs Minnesota - 4.12.08

FAN APPRECIATION NIGHT! - The Grizzlies are going to be emptying the cabinets of every trinket left in stock tonight. The players are literally going to be giving fans the shirts off their backs! If you go to one game all season this is the one to attend. The first 5000 fans will receive T-Shirts and there will be plenty more given away. If you don't get a freebie the team store will be selling everything at a 50% discount as well!

Memphis pulled out a tough game in Miami to match last seasons win total of 22 games. It was the first win of the season for the Grizzlies without Mike Miller. It was also the third season sweep for the Grizzlies (the Knicks and the Nets were the others). Last season they were only able to sweep one team. Andre Brown had his best game of the season grabbing a career high 11 rebounds to go with his four (or was it six?) points. Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley controlled the game from the point with a combined 32 pts, 13 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals.

Minnesota is coming to town with a victory under their belt and a flight out of Florida as well after coming from behind to beat Orlando on Ryan Gomes' free throws with less than three seconds remaining. The 102-101 victory lifted the TWolves to 20 victories for the season. A loss to the Grizzlies will insure the TWolves no worse than the 3rd worst record in the regular season. Minnesota is running with a young lineup of Rashard McCants, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, Gomes and Al Jefferson giving hope to their fans that better days are near.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Randy Foye
While it would be interesting to see former Villanueva guards Foye and Kyle Lowry match up head to head, Conley and Foye should be interesting as well. Conley and Foye are both up and coming PG's in the league but they are not cut from the same mold. Conley is a traditional point guard who to set up teammates first and his own shot second. Foye is a scorer first who looks to pass only after own shot has been ruled out. Foye has better range but Conley is quicker into the paint. Foye is also 4 years older than Conley.
Advantage: Minnesota

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Marco Jaric

Jaric is a converted PG who is better known for his girlfriend, Adriana Lima, than his game. That is too bad because Jaric has a decent game. match up head to head, Conley and Foye should be interesting as well. Never much of a scorer Jaric has become an efficient 3 pt spot up shooter and excellent passer from SG position. At 6-7 he has the size to look over smaller guards and the ability to harass shots on defense. What he doesn't have is quickness and that is his major weakness. Navarro is short, a creative passer but doesn't think pass first but boy can he shoot. Navarro has two weapons offensively: The infamous 'La Bomba' in the lane and the three pt shot. Navarro isn't a great defender but he is more than adequate in the zone which Memphis has been playing. Navarro also has deceptive quickness to get past many defenders. It appears Navarro is becoming concerned about the NBA 3 pt shooting record. That could be a distraction for him the rest of the season.
Advantage: Minnesota

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Kirk Snyder

Kirk Snyder has done a lot to spark Minnesota since coming over in the trade with Houston. Snyder is strong, has an erratic but effective shot but doesn't realize his range isn't out to the 3 pt line. However strong he may be he is not athletic enough to stop Rudy Gay. Rudy is on his way to becoming the 3rd Grizz to reach the 20 pt plateau for an entire season. He has done it by being among the league leaders in 3 pt shots and dunks. A rare double that only Kobe has matched this season.
Advantage: Memphis

Pwer Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Ryan Gomes

What has happened to Hakim Warrick's rebounding? He is averaging barely 4 rpg over the last 10 games. That is simply not acceptable from a team's PF. His scoring has been slipping as well. Sure he's scored in double figures for 12 straight games but he has only breached 20 in a game once in the last 8 games. Is is fatigue? Is it team's responding to his game? I don't know but Hak better figure it out. Gomes has been stepping up lately. Not coincidently he is in the last year of his contract in Minnesota. Undersized at only 6-7 for a PF Gomes gets by using his wide body for positioning and extending his range. Hak has a tremendous speed advantage over Gomes and his height should allow him to get more boards.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Al Jefferson

Al Jefferson is everything that Memphis has been searching for in the middle but unable to find. A legitimate 20/10 man who's brute strength intimidates lesser men. Jefferson isn't a finise player in any sense of the word. He is power. Darko has struggled with more finese like players and done surprisingly well against power players. Jefferson is no exception as he has only averaged 18 pts and 9 boards against Memphis and most of that damage has been done while Darko was in foul trouble. Darko's offensive game has degraded to the point of being too erratic to depend on night to night. He's only 22 (the same age as Jefferson) but he has not learned how to use his size as a power player nor does he have confidence in his outside shot to be a consistent threat as a finisse player. Over the summer Darko needs to learn one style and become adept at it.
Advantage: Minnesota

Benches: Memphis vs Minnesota

Memphis' bench has been stretched thin by the loss of Javaris Crittenton (to injury) and Navarro (who is in the starting lineup with Miller's injury). That has taken what was a strength of the Grizzlies a week ago and made it a scary proposition. Memphis still has Kyle Lowry who is a sparkplug but now he is paired with Casey Jacobson, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins as subs. Rashard McCantsis the TWolves #2 scorer despite coming off the bench. His role is similiar to Mike Miller's of a few years ago when he won the 6th man award. Craig Smith attempts to be Jefferson's backup but he is too small to be effective in that role. He is acceptable as a back up PF but that is it. Corey Brewer hasn't shown the talent that made him a top pick in last year's draft often but he is starting to turn it on at the end of the year.
Advantage: Minnesota

Related Blogs:
Timberwolves Today
Wolves Watch

BallHype: hype it up!

Michael Heisley Tells It Like It Is - Part Five

This the continuation of the interview 3 Shades Of Blue had with Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley on Friday, April 4th before the Chalk Talk. Due to the length of the interview it is being presented in sections to make it easier to read. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 were posted earlier.

3 Shades of Blue appreciates Mr. Heisley taking the time to do this interview.

3SOB: If I can interject and respectfully disagree with you on one thing, people didn't feel you were an idiot for the Shane Battier trade, they just hated to see him go. Now the Pau Gasol trade is a little harder for people to understand but even now many people feel that we couldn't get there with Pau Gasol and that maybe we could have gotten more but the best thing to help you...
MH: I wish someone could tell me what could I have gotten for Pau. See that's what always gets me. Everybody assumes that we started off with the idea to get money and not to get players. Do you know how long we tried to get quality players?

3SOB: That's what we read...
MH: We had discussions for months with Chicago, who were interested in Pau Gasol, but they refused to trade any of the players they considered their core, namely, Deng, Gordon or Hinrich. They offered Nocioni, who we felt was not fair value. I wouldn’t trade Pau Gasol for Nocioni. Later on, we offered to try to put together a trade similar to what we did with LA, but the Bulls were not interested because it would put them in the Luxury Tax.

What I don’t understand, I when I was on a couple of talk shows in Memphis, I listened to callers and read the papers. A number of them were urging us to trade Gasol. They said he’s got the wrong attitude, he doesn’t like it here, take what you can get for him. I’m not upset about this, but I knew this would happen. When we made the trade, a number of these people were saying oh my God, why did you do this?

You can't make the trades people want to make because. #1 it's very complex to make a trade in the NBA; #2 the people don't know everything there is to know about it. We don't either, but at least we know more than the average person knows. I hear friends who know if this guy is a problem in the locker room. Some players get traded because there are locker room problems. People say why would you make that trade? Well it's because the guy is making it almost impossible for the coach to coach the team. You're better off getting rid of him and taking someone else and let him take his problems with him. Now maybe he goes to the next location and he turns over a new leaf. Maybe he becomes motivated to do different and everybody says what a stupid trade that was. It might be, but if you were sitting where the coach was sitting and this guy was threatening to beat up people in the locker room, it isn't such a bad trade.

3SOB: I was going to say that when Popovich came out and said he didn't like the Gasol trade but hadn't made a better offer it really took some heat off of the team. A lot of people went wait a minute. You didn't know Pau Gasol was on the blocks or you just didn't offer enough yourself?
MH: He was just upset. He felt we sent him there and got nothing back. Can I tell you something. Popovich does not have a player on his payroll that can do for us what Kwame Brown can do.

3SOB: $9 million dollars in cap space.
MH: Exactly. Kwame was the largest contract offered to us who was coming off the payroll.

3SOB: You're maybe the first owner to allow himself to be interviewed by a true blogger outside of Mark Cuban. Mark also was reported to give you some advice about not listening only to the basketball minds, you touched on this earlier, but to do what your heart and mind tells you is best. Are you following Mark's lead in how to connect with fans or is this a coincidence?
MH:No. I am just talking to you because Stan talked to you, he read your blog and he thought it would be a good idea . . . I would like to communicate more. I will say this to you. I will not be answering any more e-mails.

3SOB: Yeah, we heard about that from Ron Tillery today.
MH: Well that's true. I'm not going to be doing that. I feel that was pretty reprehensible. I only answered about 10. All 9 of them before the people took it between me and them. None of them went public with my comments. They wrote me back thanking me for the comments because I took them at face value. This young man, whoever he is, took it immediately to the news media. He was obviously not interested in having a discussion like he had portrayed in the email and have a real conversation with me like a telephone conversation. It was almost like he taped the conversation and sent the tape out to all of his friends. It was like his purpose was to get me on tape.

I guess I learned something from that. I guess I should have known it before. I was pretty naive to think he would keep that between him and me. Quite honestly if I had wanted that to go to the media I would have sat Down and had a media review for that. I would have basically portrayed it in a way that was meant to go out to a lot of people. I wouldn't have made it so personal, like you said this and I said this back to you. So I will have to tell from all of the things that have happened in the news that is probably the one that touched me the worst. I really was very disappointed that the guy did that.

They have every right to do it. Don't get me wrong. I mean it's just that now all of sudden people who would have written me emails won't get written back and that is sad. Mark Cuban may be like that. Mark does Dancing with the Stars and things like that. He does that fantasy thing. I love Mark Cuban. When Mark Cuban wasn't so popular, when he first came into the league, Mark will tell you his strongest supporter in the NBA was me. I defended him. Well not defended him per se but basically supported him. I think he is the prototype of what a good owner should be in the NBA. I've said so many times in the press.

It would be a blessing for Memphis to have a Mark Cuban and I'm sorry they don't. It seems to me that he and the Malouf Brothers are the perfect type owners. They are owners that are there. They interact with the fans. They're demonstrative. I come from a different era. Mark is the age of some of my youngest children. He's someone who came from a different world just like my father came from a different world than me. When I grew up sportsmanship trophies were very important. Sportsmanship trophies now are sort of for wusses. I mean literally you would almost be embarrassed to get a sportsmanship trophy. Trash talking and so on is the way. It doesn't mean trash talking is bad, it's just from a different time and a different era.

I was stunned, I can't tell you how surprised I was after I bought the Grizzlies they wanted me to walk into a room to meet the press. I walked into this room that wasn't that big - about four times the size of a conference room maybe a little bigger - and there were 75-100 people in that room. There were cameras and lights and the lights hit me and I said Oh ****! Happy Birthday! I'm sitting there and I could not believe it—my wife was absolutely appalled because we have a very low profile. We're from a small town called St. Charles. When the [Vancouver] Sun called up to find out something about me they went to a newspaper that was in our town, a small paper controlled by the Chicago Sun Times. Well the Sun-Times called our little paper in St. Charles and they asked them who Mike Heisley was and were told we don't know who he is and St Charles has 17,000 people. Then they called the mayor and I just happened to be on a school board with her and she told the press who I was, but she didn't know a lot about me either.

Now all of a sudden that life is gone and my wife will never forgive me. I'm not kidding. So the reality is I'm a different person. I'm not Mark. He answers all the emails. He likes that. He likes to get on and interact. I'm doing my best to try and communicate. I'm trying my best to communicate with the fans and let them know what is going on. Maybe this is the right move. Maybe after meeting with you I will realize that was a mistake. I have no idea how this is going to come out. It could come out fine. It could turn out to be a disaster.

I've been very blunt. I try to be very blunt with everyone of the news reporters. Any time Calkins calls me he gets a telephone call back. I do my best. He doesn't call me all that often. Sam Smith, who wrote about me in Chicago more than I got written about in Memphis for a while—he never once picked up the phone to call me and ask whether or not what he was about to say was accurate or not. Why? Because I might tell him that it's not the truth. Then he may be obligated to look further or not print it. That's not what they want to do. They want to print the story that they've gone to their publisher and gotten approved. Otherwise get the story. That's the way it works. If you got the story why do you want to call me? Better to say sources said this and sources said that. If you went to the source and he said it was bull**** then you have a bunch of problems.

3SOB: I assume Mitch Lawrence falls into the same category.
MH: Who?

3SOB: Mitch Lawrence wrote an article saying you were interviewing other people for a coaching position.
MH: Who's Mitch Lawrence? I've never heard of the guy. He said I said that to him?

3SOB: No. He said he had been told by 'sources' that this is what you were doing.
MH: Sure he's told. Who's he told by? They never tell you that. Who's the source? You know what. You can write in your thing and it fits it that I said I wasn't moving the team.

3SOB: The Vancouver paper.
MH: That's right and that's the source so what do you do about it? It's like someone told me that with the internet now. It's like the prosecutors today that go out and talk about things and destroy a person's reputation. It doesn't go away tomorrow. It's with you the rest of your life because someone writes a story and he looks it up and he's got yours and he's got the guy in Vancouver. So how do I get rid of it? Say it 50 times? My only point is that guy I never talked to in my life.

Obviously if I was going to go out and say something. Have I ever talked to Larry Brown? Twice in my whole life. Did I seriously consider him the last time I looked? He was. Have I ever offered him a job? No. So that's where I am. If I'm out doing this, have I ever told Marc Iavaroni he won't have his job next year? No. Have I ever told him he is going to have his job next year? No. I don't know what to tell people. I'm looking and evaluating Marc Iavaroni over the job he's doing. Everybody here seems to be talking with their pocketbook. They aren't showing up at the games. Why? Because the team's not doing very well. So what does that mean? Who's responsible? I don't know how to handle that.

I will evaluate Marc. I will evaluate my options. I'll do what I think is best for the team but I have not even addressed that issue. And I would be a nitwit to address it before the seasons over. And that's what I've told everyone until I'm horse. I can't say it anymore. Isn't it interesting if he has a source why didn't he pick up the phone and call me? I'm the ultimate source. I'm the guy who supposedly will make the offer. Why didn't he call me? I guess he called Larry although I doubt it. You'd think instead of sources he'd say Larry Brown. That'd be better wouldn't it?

Now don't make it come across that I'm angry with the system because I'm not. It's just been an education for me. The biggest education with me is the dealings with the press.

3SOB: How do you view the first seven years in Memphis? Is it a success or a failure or somewhere in between?
MH: I think based on what I'm talking about and you need to talk to more people but based on the opportunity to do good I think it's been an outstanding success. It's the thing I'm proudest of. It's the thing that was the most important thing to me.

Obviously how would I view our performance as a basketball team? I think it's been pretty good. I think we took a franchise that never won more than 21 games in a season and put them in the playoffs three years in a row. If you measure it on how we've done building up a fan base I'd say it's not very good. To me a fan base stays with you in good years and bad years and you always lose a portion of that fan base. I think we've lost a lot more than I would have hoped for. I would be less than honest to tell you I'm not disappointed to be in a situation where sometimes we draw 4,000 fans.

3SOB: Last question. Ron Tillery wrote today that you were truthful in your email about Coach Iavaroni but you wish you hadn't responded. Now that you are done with this interview do you feel the same way?
MH: I don't know. I haven't seen what the blog is going to write about. If the tenor that I tried to put across comes across then Id say okay it's been a success. Would I do another blog? I may. If it turns out terrible for the franchise or causes problems, not because you wrote it but from the news media or the league calls me or something happens, then obviously that's different but right now I feel I made up my mind if I was going to meet with you, I was going to try and tell you to the best I could the answer to your questions. I told you if I've got something I don't want to talk about I won't.

I hope the tenor isn't that I had a battle going on with the minority shareholders, not for any other reason than they are good people. If you meet good people and you end up in some way at odds with them, and you don't know why, it isn't a very satisfying situation. That's the way I feel about the minority shareholders.

I would hope, I feel comfortable in some ways that we still have a relationship. My reaction is I think they do fantastic things for the city and I'm not just trying to color it. I really mean it. I feel proud to be associated with them because the thing that means the most to me they did the most. They showed me what a real good philanthropic citizen really is. Both of them are really special and I never met anyone who are more generous and involved in my life than these two guys. That's the truth. That doesn't make me and them great partners. I have always felt a little uncomfortable because they take such a back row. They don't want to get out front and yet they do so much for the Grizzlies foundation that they are truly what makes it a success. We would not be anywhere near as successful if it hadn't been for them.

If they don't buy the team, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. The idea that I'm suddenly going to do something to the team if they don't buy it, I just don't understand that.

When I talked about bringing Jerry West to Memphis people asked why Jerry West would leave Los Angeles to come to Memphis. I said have you ever lived in Los Angeles because I did. Do you know how long it takes to get to the airport? It takes you like an hour and a half. You know how long it takes you in Memphis? 15 minutes. Memphis rush hour has less traffic than Los Angeles Ventura Freeway has at 3 o'clock in the morning.

I mean it's a different way of life. If you are a hunter or a fisherman and come from West Virginia where do you want to be? Do you want to be on a quarter acre lot in Beverly Hills or do you want to live someplace where you can go with friends and go hunting and fishing down in Mississippi down on a plantation? I just don't understand why people thought Jerry wouldn’t love Memphis.

Then I finally realized that there is just a bad self-image or something. I don't know what the hell it is. I like Memphis. If my wife would move here, I would move here. I like the community. I really do. I don't understand why people think I've got to pack it up and move it out of here. For the health of a franchise its important for you to win games, but you also have to be financially responsible. Nobody over the long run is going to sit here and drop hundreds of millions of dollars into a losing franchise. I've got to get this thing in line with what people are going to support but we can do that and we can have a good team and we can get a break and actually have a championship team.

Is it harder here than in Chicago. You bet your ass it's harder to build a championship team here because there you can take more risks and you can spend more money because you have more support what people don't understand is all of that revolves around the athletes. They want to play before 15,000 people.

So we've got to build a fan base, we've got to have a payroll that's balanced with the size of a market until hopefully at some point the league gets revenue sharing and puts us on even footing with some of the others. As it is right now I've got to be more fiscally responsible. Does that mean I won't go after free agents? No it does not but it does mean there are free agents out there I can't compete with Chicago for.

I really do believe we can have a good franchise here.

Mr. Heisley and I chatted about some other things while he waited to go to the chalk talk. That was when I saw, really for the first time during the two hours we spent together, the fan Mr. Heisley tells us he is. I wish more people could spend time with that man. To hear him describe the joy he felt watching the Grizzlies fourth quarter rally against the Hawks the other night. To hear him relate the pain he felt during game 3 of the Mavs series and the frustration he felt watching the Clippers be rewarded for throwing games at the end of the 2005 season while Memphis was punished for doing the right things. That man would really turn some heads and get people wanting to be a part of his vision. Mr. Heisley the business man doesn't really create a lot of empathy. Mike Heisley the fan is someone you could be sitting next to at a bar and strike up a conversation with.

And remember that Mr. Heisley the businessman has been pretty successful turning things around. I wouldn't bet against him turning things around again.

I really do appreciate the time he spent with me and I hope the Grizzlies fans who read our blog enjoy the interview as well.

BallHype: hype it up!

Memphis at Miami - 4.11.08

Memphis is winning at a clip their fans haven't seen since this time last season. The big difference is that at this point last season Memphis had already sewn up the worst record in the league. This year they are in the middle of the pack for a legitimate chance in the lottery. Not exactly the best time for a team to start winning if strategy is their prime concern. Which leads one to only one conclusion. They are trying to win because they believe that is what they are supposed to do. What a novel attitude for a team in their position.

Miami has taken a more strategic view of this season. Shelving Dwayne Wade to rehab his injuries for next season, allowing Shawn Marion to rest the remainder of the season after an apparently painful slip in the shower and allowing their coach to scout college players at the NCAA tournament instead of actually coaching games is not what you would call a competitive attitude toward winning games. Throw in injuries to former Grizzlies Alexander Johnson and Jason Williams plus Udonis Haslem has made Miami's starting lineup a better trivia question than an NBA team. Seriously, can anyone name thier starting 5?

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Chris Quinn
Mike Conley has played three really nice games in the last six. That is what happens with rookies and especially with rookie PGs. One night he is able to use his speed to get to the rim and really put defenses on their heals opening up jumpers for his teammates. The next night he appears to be sluggish and unsure of what to do with the ball. Chris Quinn has struggled coming off the bench but the 2nd yr guard out of Notre Dame has been much more effective as a starter. Quinn is a better shooter but will be pressed defensively with Conley's speed. With no true shot blocker behind him Quinn won't be able to get a lot of support either.
Advantage: Memphis

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Daequan Cook

Mike Miller was struggling before erupting at Minnesota for a season high 34 points with 8 three pointers. Unfortunately his cold slump returned against Phoenix making it 9 games out of 10 with Miller not reaching 20 pts and 4 out of 6 games that he failed to reach double figures. Something is obviously not right with Mike right now. DeQuan Cook, a teammate of Mike Conley at Ohio St, is not afraid to shoot the ball despite his low shooting percentage (37.1% from the field and 32.1% from the arc). Rookie gunners routinely struggle with their shot in the NBA but against Miller he may have better looks than he is used to getting. It shouldn't help that much however.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Ricky Davis

If their is a bigger nemisis for the Grizzlies than Ricky Davis I don't know who he is. Ricky Davis has made a career of beating the Grizzlies with last second shots including a streak of three straight game winning shots at one point. It may not be a coincidence that this streak ended when Rudy Gay came to town. Since Rudy's arrival Davis has not been nearly as effective. Rudy, who is having a break out season and is in competition for the Most Improved Player award, has been red hot of late and especially effective during the 4th quarter. That is a trait the Grizzlies have been notoriously missing since their arrival in Memphis.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Earl Barron

Hakim has started to struggle of late after an impressive run after the trade of Pau Gasol. In his last 10 games Warrick is averaging 16.4 ppg but only 4.5 rpg. That isn't good enough. Warrick has a big advantage against Barron being able to draw him away from the basket offensively but will struggle with Barron's size on the glass. The former Tiger center is starting simply because Miami has no one else to play right now. The 3rd yr pro is playing only 19 mpg and scoring only 6.4 ppg and grabbing 4.2 rpg, but is playing far better since being inserted into the starting lineup.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Mark Blount

Darko has been an enigma wrapped in a quandry this season. Averaging only 24 mpg this season despite starting 63 games Milicic has excelled against bigger, slower centers but struggled mightily against Centers capable of operating away from the basket. Blount is capable of scoring away from the basket. When motivated Blount is a very capable center but he is rarely motivated which works to Darko's advantage. Not enough however to win the individual battle.
Advantage: Miami

Benches: Memphis vs Miami
If I thought figuring out who was starting for Miami you can imagine the difficulty in discovering who is really contributing off of their bench. Marcus Banks, the former Grizzlies draft pick, is on his 4th team in his 5th NBA season. Judging from performance (9.5 ppg on 51.2% shooting and 3.0 apg in only 21.6 mpg) you might believe he has finally found a home. The rumors that Coach Riley is most interested in Derick Rose in the draft may mean that is a bit too optomistic. Kasib Powell, Stephane Lasme and Joel Anthony contribute but JWill's return may be the best news for the Heat. Memphis has probably lost Javaris Crittenton for the rest of the year with his sprained wrist but Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro and Jason Collins are still contributing and offering some hope for next year.
Advantage: Memphis

Relevant blogs:
Crazy from the Heat
Ira Winderman

Other previews:
USA Today
The Sports Network
Commercial Appeal
Grizzlies Message Boards

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

NBA Blogger Awards

I'd say that I hate to do stuff like this, but in actuality, I love it. It gives you, the readers, the chance to vote on who you think the best NBA blogs are in this wondrous series of tubes we call the internet.

Visit Hardwood Paroxysm for the link so that you can vote for the best blogs in each division, conference, use of statistics, commentary, video and humor. Voting ends April 20th. And, of course, vote for 3 Shades of Blue wherever applicable. : )

Michael Heisley Tells It Like It Is - Part Four

This the continuation of the interview 3 Shades Of Blue had with Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley on Friday, April 4th before the Chalk Talk. Due to the length of the interview it is being presented in sections to make it easier to read. Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3 were posted earlier.

3 Shades of Blue appreciates Mr. Heisley taking the time to do this interview.

3SOB: The Grizzlies moved from Vancouver to Memphis. You are now hearing the same story coming out of Seattle moving to Oklahoma City. Do you see any benefits for Memphis in a move like this? Do you see any parallels to what you went though?
MH: My take is simply this. What people don't understand is the way professional sports has evolved in America. There is an idea that on certain levels teams are making pretty good money, but in general in places like Seattle, it becomes essential that you have an arena that has the amenities like skyboxes, restaurants and all these things. The other teams that started this, like Jerry Jones in Dallas, have created ways to create revenue streams. Those revenue streams bring more money into the team which gives them the financial wherewithal to put money back into the team.

I think that Seattle's Key Arena was an old arena. Old by the standards of today. It's like the Pyramid is an old arena. Why was the Pyramid an old arena? Well virtually no skyboxes, one level of amenities, there were things about it that didn't meet the NBA standards. You couldn't generate the revenue that you can out of the FedEx Forum. Now depending on where your market is and what your revenues are you can afford to build one yourself or if you don't have much revenue you have to look for help from the local communities.

I think the situation in Seattle was Shultz, the man who was the controlling owner of the Seattle Sonics, basically sold out because he was losing money and he didn't want to continue to lose money. I think the new ownership that came in, well everyone said they are going to move the team to Oklahoma City. Seattle had the ability to build a new stadium but the city and state decided not to do it. Now there is nothing wrong with that. If I was there maybe I would have said don't do it but then there is nothing wrong...what I don't understand is why then if there is a feeling the state isn't going to do what's got to be done, why is it bad for the person to get up and go to a market that will do what this state won't do? If somebody wants to stand up and help cover my losses then you may move.

Now we came here, we made a commitment to the city and our relationship is nothing like that. We have a contractual commitment to be here for a number of years. No matter what. That's the commitment. And we are going to be here. And nobody has even intimated that we are going to do anything any differently. Do I believe we can be successful in Memphis? Yes. Do I think it's going to be hard? Yeah. When I say successful I mean financially successful. In a small market that means you have to be luckier and better than what somebody does in Chicago. They got 8.5 million people and we got 800,000 people.

So it is a different situation from what the people did up there. So what happened there is the guy from Oklahoma City had demonstrated that they had a lot of interest from Oklahoma City for a professional team. He had gone up there and bought the team. If Seattle and Washington state had agreed to at least build a stadium then they wouldn't have gotten the rights to move out. David Stern went up there and the owners weren't given carte blanche to move. He went up there and said we respect this is your team, this is your city but you have to provide what other cities have done. They chose not to do it so the NBA told the owners they could move. He is now in the process of moving. I don't think that Seattle did anything wrong but now you have people running around Seattle saying can’t you move your team? Any team that goes up there is going to have to get an arena built.

It's just like Cleveland. if you know years ago the Browns were in Cleveland. Cleveland refused to build a stadium for them. So the Browns moved to Baltimore. Immediately Cleveland was incensed and the NFL gave them another team back. Here's what they did. They went out and built a new baseball stadium, a new football stadium and a new basketball arena and they revamped the whole downtown area of Cleveland and it is fantastic. It doesn't even look like anything it was before.

I'm not recommending people do it. I'm simply saying that is the way finances work in professional sports; we could never have come to Memphis without this arena. We would not be here. We would not have moved here if they hadn't committed. Not because I am trying to steal people's money. I put more money into this move to Memphis than the state and city have put in together. Moving the team here has a cost, the cash flow necessary to get the team established, etc., etc.

People say well they built you an arena. Well they didn't have to build me an arena. There were three other cities willing to build me an arena. I'm not trying to be arrogant. I'm just trying to be factual. If you want a professional sports team you have to have either the population, like Rich Daley, Mayor of Chicago. You know what he told the Chicago Bears. I love him. The Chicago Bears said they wanted a new stadium. Rich Daley says you can't have it. You're going to play in Soldiers Field. They said we're going to move to Addison, IL. Richard Daley said move to Addison. There will be another team that wants to move into Chicago with 8.5 million people and he was right. Guess where they went. They went to Soldiers Field. They didn't have to build him a stadium. They didn't have to because they had a population base that made it so the McCaskey's could make money and still help build the arena.

If I had somebody that could come in here and say to me the State and the City will come in here and guarantee you 18,000 people every night, I would have built this arena and I would be way ahead. But nobody wants to hear this stuff. Now I don't expect you to get all of this stuff out and I'm not doing this because of that. I told you I would talk to you and I've given you a broad outline. I'm going to be interested as hell to see what becomes of this.

To be continued...

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Conley receives some Tough Love

Hat Tip to Hardwood Paroxysm, who alerted me to this post on The Love of Sports about rookie PG Mike Conley. In it, the author takes Conley to task for what he perceives as "laziness" and just collecting a paycheck. Normally, I am loathe to do this, but I'm going to take this column point by point and offer a rebuttal. The original article in black and my responses in blue:

Tough Love for Mike Conley
I believe some guys should get a bit of counselling from a solid mediator before turning pro.

Why do you make such a statement, Mr. Tough Love?

Well, I’ve been watching Mike Conley all season long, and from his poor defense play and failure to distribute the basketball, it has me thinking I’d rather have Sasha V-chick from the Lakers running my team than Conley right now.

Wow. So you can say with a straight face that you'd rather have Sasha Vujacic, a 3rd year guard, playing point guard for your team than the player who leads all rookies in assists per game? For the record, Vujacic is averaging 8.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.0 apg and 0.7 TOpg this season in 17.5 mpg. Conley posts averages of 8.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.1 apg and 0.7 TOpg in 25.5 mpg. That's right, Conley is outperforming Vujacic in every category. As for his "poor defense play", perhaps it appears that way in comparison to the bundle of intensity that is his teammate, Kyle Lowry, but in case you haven't noticed, other than Lowry, Darko Milicic and Jason Collins, nobody on the team is exactly a defensive stalwart. Players almost always take time to adjust to playing solid defense at the NBA level.

College ball really does help these kids grow into solid players AND great men. They have a chance to be coached and mentored by some of the greatest coaches that exist in the sporting world. Guys who will tell them the truth and look out for their best interests.

This is not always the case in the NBA. I understand that Conley was drafted fourth overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, and that he deserves to make a buckeroo.

So, he is insinuating that Conley wasn't ready to make the jump to the NBA, but did anyways just because of the money? He's also intimating that the person who "pushed" him to make that decision didn't have his best interests in mind. Oh, by the way, that person was his father.

Mike, Kyle Lowry is outplaying you right now, and he has been the entire season. You look lazy on the court, and your game doesn’t look polished.

This subject has been the source of much conversation among us at 3SoB, as one of us is a very big fan of Kyle Lowry and the way that he plays the game. However, I don't think that the vast majority of Grizzlies fans would say that one young PG has clearly outplayed the other one this season, especially if you are judging them as "Point Guards". He doesn't look "polished"? What rookie PG does?

Mike Conley: 8.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.7 TO, 0.8 spg, .422 FG%, .301 3PT%, .726 FT%, 25.5 mpg
Kyle Lowry: 9.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.6 TO, 1.1 spg, .432 FG%, .246 3PT%, .713 FT%, 25.2 mpg

How can you not distribute the ball to scorers like Rudy Gay and Mike Miller and Hakim Warrick?

He can and does. However, one has to realize that these players often score off one-on-one dribble-drive plays, which means that the PG who initially set up the play doesn't get an assist or any resulting credit. Conley is perfectly adept at setting up teammates -- something that Summer League teammate Rod Benson noted on his blog, when he said that Conley would find Osama bin Laden if he was open.

Get your game together, bud!

TOUGH LOVE goes out to Mikey Conley for not realizing he’s getting paid to perform.

As someone who has watched over 90% of Conley's collegiate and NBA games, I think that Tough Love is way off base for failing to recognize that he's (IMO) unfairly disparaging a rookie making the transition into the NBA at the toughest position to adapt to. There have been no complaints about Mike's level of effort this season, even as he struggled through "The Rookie Wall" and he has done a good job at learning from his mistakes. Mike Conley is performing to the level of his pay, and to say otherwise is patently ridiculous.

BallHype: hype it up!

Michael Heisley Tells It Like It Is - Part Three

This the continuation of the interview 3 Shades Of Blue had with Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley on Friday, April 4th before the Chalk Talk. Due to the length of the interview it is being presented in sections to make it easier to read. Part 1 and Part 2 were posted earlier. Part 4 is up now as well.

3 Shades of Blue appreciates Mr. Heisley taking the time to do this interview.

3SOB: Moving away from the business side for a moment, you made some incredibly nice comments about Pau after the trade. One thing in particular I remember was your saying you were really glad that you could trade him to a team that was competing and could appreciate his skills. Pau came out 3 or 4 days ago and said some particularly disparaging remarks about the team. How did that make you feel?
MH: Well it doesn't make me mad. You see I realize who made the comments. I don't expect Pau to be a general manager. He's just a player. I think he speaks from his experience. His experience was with a world champion with Spain. He was the Olympics champion with Spain (sic). He'd won championships and he came here with a team that basically never made a charge at winning the championship.

And that happens to people. Charles Barkley never won a championship. So I think his point of view is that it is a lot easier for Los Angeles to win the championship than it is in Memphis. You know what. He is absolutely correct. You know what. It is a lot easier. They can afford to go into the luxury tax. Pau could cost them, if they don't cut some other players, $30 million next year because of the luxury tax, but they can do that. So my point is that I think Pau's viewpoint is one that he isn't right. New Orleans is a prime example of that. Cleveland is a prime example. If we got LeBron James, if we got one turn of the ping pong ball, we would have had LeBron James. We wouldn't be seeing 4000 people in the stands. We'd be seeing sold out crowds. When I looked at buying the Vancouver Grizzlies, the Cleveland Cavaliers were for sale and they had 70% of their skyboxes empty. They were having 3-4000 fans in the stands. When they got LeBron James they started selling out the arena and went all the way to the NBA Championship. That's what one player, and in this game with its dispersion of talent across being such a huge thing, that one player can make so much of a difference.

We've never been successful at getting the #1 pick although we've been one of the worst teams for years. It's crazy this system they have. It isn't just that we didn't get it last year. I mean what is the sense of it? It's devastating to a team, the worst team in the league, and all of a sudden you have a chance to get a player like Oden, who everybody says is going to be an impact player in the league and something happens and they are picking 4th instead of picking 1st.

And if you go around and ask fans they assume that if you have the worst record you will get the first pick. And why? Because the NFL does it. Major League Baseball does it. I mean that is the way it generally works. If luck were to come to us which is what we're hoping for we might be 5th. I did a statistical study of every year and every team and where they picked and what happened and position 5 has gotten twice as many top 2 picks as position 1. So we're in position 5! So I don't know. Are we going to have a chance? Knowing our luck we'll probably end up in position 8.

So I don't agree with Pau. Am I upset with Pau? He is a wonderful person. It never gets reported but Pau's mother does volunteer work at St. Jude's Hospital since she was here. They've been active people in the community. They're wonderful people. Pau never gave us a bit of trouble. The worst thing he ever did to people, sometimes criticized by people for playing for Spain. I was the guy who was killed with it. I was paying him when he wasn't playing but a lot of people were upset that 'Pau was injured and didn't play and then asked to be traded.' Nobody was in the room. How could the guy insist it? I never said it. I don't know how people got that, but someone went and talked to some reporter and the reporter put it in the paper and they put it in that Pau's asking to be traded. That's not what happened. Pau said if I get traded would you trade me to a championship team?

Did I try to trade him to a championship team? I tried to trade him to the best team for us. Was I happy he went to LA? I was ecstatic. Why? I was going to get the best deal for me, but at the same time if I could do something for a young man, an outstanding individual who never did anything but the best he could for the Grizzlies, I was happy for him too. That's the whole net end of it. I didn't trade him to take care of Pau. I didn't trade him because the fans were down on him. I traded him because the coach, the General Manager, all of us, sat down and we said we're not going to get there with this team. We're going to have to break this team up, try to start from the ground up and build a team. Pau is young. He's 27 but I can't get there in two years I didn't think and therefore Pau, who is injury prone and so on. So the point was now was the time to basically trade him and get value for him. Young value.

All of these coaches around the league - they all knew, they read it in the paper, everyone knew he was on the block - none of them stepped up. Then we went to Chicago. We tried to trade for dollar by getting an expiring contract. They didn't want to go into the luxury tax. Then we went to LA. They were willing to do it. So we traded him to LA.

Everybody thinks how can Heisley be so stupid. The point is we're trying to make this work. Will it work? If it does somebody is going to be writing about me like I am a genius. If it fails they are going to be basically beating me up.

That's what it means to be a sports fan. I am a fan and a fan buys tickets or they watch on TV. Part of being a fan is being able to bitch about everything. What makes it so interesting is that every fan including me truly believes they could be the General Manager. Otherwise we wouldn't have fantasy leagues. They really truly believe they can do this. They know who you should draft. They know who you should play. They know who you should trade for right now but the interesting thing is when they make a pick and it is an absolutely horrible idea and it turns out if you had done it would have been a disaster you never hear of it again.

Let me tell you, I'm not so sure the professionals have that much more going for them than the fans have going. A lot of it really turns out to be luck. How many trades do you make that turns out horrible because the guy gets injured and he hardly ever plays for you? How many trades do you get where the guy goes out or beats his wife or basically gets thrown in jail or something or gets suspended from the league. There's so much that goes into this thing and so much mystery involved, that's what makes it so exciting. And that's why playing fantasy basketball has so much appeal to the common man.

3SOB: This kind of goes along with what we've been talking about. Some of these questions actually come straight off the Grizzlies message board from people who couldn't be at your Chalk Talk tonight. Are the Grizzlies going to attempt to bring in a young established player to let the fan base know you are serious about competing in the Western Conference? I know you can't promise to sign someone but are there players out there you are going to be trying to go after?
MH: I don't know if you will be hearing about them or not. I don't know. My answer to you is we're going to try and put this program together. You've got the General Manager, myself, the coaches, we're going to look at it and try to do the best thing. Does that mean we are going to be guided by fiscal responsibility? Yes we are. I don't mean that this is going to be the defining motive but I tell you, I am not going to get myself into the luxury tax or something like that down the pike. I am going to try and have a plan that is laid out that we're looking at: what do we need. How do we fit in. A lot of that is going to be told by how we do in the draft.

So the point is I don't know where we will be after the draft. I don't know who is going to be available. So I don't know what you will be hearing. If you hear a lot of stuff out there I would hope my people are smart enough to be like [Jerry] Krause was in Chicago and that is nobody knew who he was going to draft, nobody knew he wanted to trade for until he did it. And the reason wasn't that he hated the press. It was that it made him a more effective general manager. I would think that's the way we hope we could be. I don't want people to know who I'm trying to get and I don't want people to know who I'm trying to draft because that might send someone to do something I don't want them to do. In the past, and I don't know it we will be do that, too much information went out of this place as to what we were going to do.

Since I am going to have something to do about a deal, if you hear something, then I would say to you probably got partial information because I tell you I'm not going to be telling anybody. So my answer is I can't really tell them because I'm not quite sure what will happen in the draft and who's going to be available. We're going to try and run this team and build a championship team that is going to take us in my opinion 3-5 years.

3SOB: Kind of along this same line here, are you willing to spend $9 million or more on a free agent this summer or in the future?
MH: I don't know. I tell you what. If they give me a superstar for $9 million I'll take it. You think I'm kidding. Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds? My point is that's the problem in these situations. The question isn't am I willing to make a $9 million investment. The question is will I make an intelligent business decision. Am I willing to pay $9 million for a Joe Baknickknack. No way! Do they think Joe Baknickknack is a superstar? Maybe. I don't know but I'm going to basically do the best thing I can do.

If I get a superstar player, you know I said 3-5 years, hell I might be able to get there in 2 years. I might be willing to do what I said I wouldn't do and get an older player so everything changes depending on what the opportunity is. I'm going to tell you point blank we are going to be fiscally responsible. Let me just make a point to you. At our average ticket price, somebody with a $12 million dollar salary I have to sell almost 5000 seats to every game to pay for his salary. People don't look at it that way. You have to put 5000 people in the stands EVERY NIGHT to make it worthwhile. People will say well there are people out there who do this. Well there aren't many people out there selling 4, 6, 8000 season tickets a night going out running into the luxury tax.

No one should ever assume that I didn't pay and didn't make the effort, and may also make the effort into the future to basically build this team by spending money. Because that is never been an issue. Jerry West will look you in the eye and tell you he was never turned down once on the issue of money. Not once. And we basically had at one time the 4th highest payroll in the league. That's something to say for one of the smallest markets with the 4th highest payroll in the NBA. We were trying to get there. We didn't get there by making mistakes. We didn't get to where we are today because when we tried to cut that salary back some of the guys got older. Some were from bad trades. Quite honestly we tried to go forward.

We traded Battier to try and get Rudy Gay in. When we first did it people said it was the worst trade. People in Memphis wanted to lynch me. I loved Shane Battier. I think he is one of the most outstanding guys. When my son and I interviewed him my son asked me what I thought and I said if he wasn't a basketball player I would put him in charge of one of my smaller companies. That's the kind of leadership guy he is. So no one had to tell me who he was. We had a great relationship. We made decisions to try and improve the team because Jerry felt Rudy Gay was an outstanding opportunity. We brought him in and in the first year he was very young. Rudy didn't catch on right away and everyone thought it was the worst mistake. I'm not so sure people don't feel different right now and next year or the year after people might think they like him even more.

Notice I take the ones who turn out good. I can also take the ones who turned out pretty bad...

3SOB: I'm not going to ask this next question...
MH: Why? What is it?

3SOB: Well, how are decisions being made now in the front office? Is Chris Wallace wielding the same influence Jerry West was rumored to have? Does Jerry West still have any influence?
MH: Jerry West is a good friend of mine. Obviously, I talk to him all the time. Obviously Jerry gives me his opinion. Obviously I listen to him some because he is a bright guy but Jerry West is not actively involved. He doesn't call me and tell me what he thinks I ought to do. In the course of playing golf together or something he may say something.

Chris Wallace is the General Manager. Chris Wallace is responsible for putting together ideas and so on. As opposed to when Jerry was here, I do take basically either approve or disapprove the decisions going forward involving the team. I am more involved. I don't necessarily come up with the trades. I do basically look at the trades. I can't say I can think of anything that Chris has wanted to do that we have turned down. Most of the player moves and trades it has been Chris that put it together. I did not call LA for example.

To be continued...

BallHype: hype it up!

Rudy Gay Soaring with the Stars

By now many people are probably aware that the Grizzlies are not a very good team this year. Promising for sure but not a winning program today.

But the future is looking bright for the Grizzlies. Juan Carlos Navarro is only 10 3 pt shots made from tying the rookie NBA record for 3 point shots made as a rookie. He is achieving this while playing fewer minutes per game and shooting from a 3 pt line that is further from the basket than the line Kerry Kittles set the record from.

Mike Conley is leading all rookies in assists and was just one point shy of his career high in scoring against the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night. Kyle Lowry has become one of the best backup point guards in the league. Hakim Warrick has averaged Pau like numbers at power forward and even Darko Milicic has shown flashes of becoming the center the team will need to take the next step toward the playoffs.

But all of his pales when compared to Rudy Gay. Rudy Gay is about to join an elite club of players currently in the NBA. With four games remaining on the schedule Rudy needs to score a mere 52 points (13 ppg) to insure that he will average 20 ppg in only his 2nd season. Since 2004 only LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Carmello Anthony averaged at least 20 ppg their second season in the league.

Not bad company for a 21 yr old.

But why cut off the date in 2004? In 2003 only Amare Stoudamire accomplished that feat. In 2002 not one 2nd year player reached the 20 pt plateau. No one did in 2001 either. So since the 2000 draft there have only been 4 players who have accomplished this feat and they are all considered elite if not superstar players.

So where does that put Rudy? Well. nowhere yet but last night's career high tying 36 pt effort was achieved with a dynamic 16 point 4th quarter that nearly brought the Grizzlies back to life. Against Minnesota Rudy scored 11 pts in the final quarter against Minnesota. And who can forget the best play of the season when Rudy beat the Spurs and Tim Duncan with that last second 3 pt shot?

Ladies and gentlemen, meet your closer.

Rudy is not scoring the Pau Gasol plastic points in the first 3 quarters only to disappear in the 4th. Rudy is stepping up in crunch time, demanding the ball and imposing his will on the outcome.

That is what people have wanted for 7 years in Memphis.

Memphis' loss also puts them back in the top 4 worst records in the league thanks to New York's upset over Detroit. Throw on top the Portland win over LA and it was a pretty good night on paper at least for the Grizzlies.

If Memphis can finally catch a break and get a superstar in the draft to pair with Gay they could be in super shape for the future. Now notice that I didn't say win the lottery. That is beyond our control but the Grizzlies with Chris Wallace can win the draft even if they don't win the lottery. This draft is very even talent-wise. Someone is going to establish themselves in the NBA that isn't a top 2 pick.

Heisley's plan of rebuilding with a 3-5 year horizon may not be so far fetched.

Saturday night is Fan Appreciation Night at the Forum. Wouldn't it be nice if the fans showed the team they appreciate them too.

BallHype: hype it up!

Power Rankings 4-7 & 8

Some nice comments about Grizzlies still trying.

Power Rankings for 7 & 8 April '08
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