Saturday, May 24, 2008

Getting Defensive: Grizzlies Set To Hire Kevin O'Neill

According to the Commercial Appeal, the Grizzlies will be hiring Kevin O'Neill to be the new lead assistant to head coach Marc Iavaroni. O'Neill was previously an NBA assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy and Rick Carlisle, as well as the head coach of the Toronto Raptors for the 2003 season. He also has a lot of head coaching experience in the college ranks, having run the programs at the University of Tennessee, Marquette University and Northwestern University, as well as the interim coach for the University of Arizona last season. His reputation is that of a defensive expert, which is a good thing, since the Grizzlies were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season by every statistic in common usage.

28th in Opponents' PPG
29th in Opponents' FG%
27th in Opponents' FGA
30th in Opponents' FGM
27th in Opponents' APG
27th in Opponents' RPG

In other words, this team doesn't defend well enough to beat much of anyone consistently. If people want to see the Grizzlies run and win, then it will start with defense. Defense creates turnovers, which leads to easy baskets. Defense leads to contested shots and perimeter attempts, which lead to blocks and long rebounds, which lead to fast break opportunities. Defense leads to running, if that is what a team truly wants to do. I realize that the Suns and Warriors don't play much defense and are able to execute a running style and win games. But they aren't able to win against teams that have a committment to run and defend when necessary, like the Spurs or Pistons. Spurs/Pistons = 5 recent titles; Suns/Warriors = 0 recent titles. Guess which one I'm leaning towards...

Back to O'Neill. I remember him well as the coach of both the Vols and Golden Eagles, and saw the job he did with the Wildcats this season, too. His reputation as a screaming tyrant is deserved, but I accept that from an assistant more readily than from the top dog for some reason. Players need a "players coach" as the head man, which means that they need a disciplinarian or two amongst the assistants to help keep order. O'Neill should be that guy, who will help the team develop sound defensive practices, while ripping the youngsters (and maybe a veteran or two) a new one when it is deemed necessary. Welcome aboard K.O.!

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Realignment of the Stars

I came across this post by Warriors' play-by-play man Bob Fitzgerald (via TrueHoop) about a realignment of the NBA, which of course is something I have been advocating for a few seasons now. Fitzgerald's reasoning is that it will cut down on travel and promote geographic rivalries. His recommendation is to keep the 6 divisions and make 3 conferences, instead of the current 2. That would give the NBA an Eastern, Central and Western Conference. Each team would play their own conference opponents 4 times and the teams in other conferences 2 times in the regular season. That results in a 76-game season (36 Conference games, 40 Non-Conference games). Here is his proposed plan:


I like the concept, but I hate to see teams in the Central and Atlantic split up, considering that there is so much history between those teams. Bulls-Knicks, Celtics-Pistons, and so much more in terms of longstanding rivalries that would be greatly reduced with this new setup. That's why I propose the following change to the setup:

With this setup, travel can be reduced just as much, while maintaining the traditional Eastern Conference rivalries and helping to bring about a few new ones among the teams in the new South Conference.

The other change that Fitzgerald recommends is to seed the playoffs #1-16 based solely upon regular season record, which I heartily endorse as well. There is no reason that a 50-win team in the West should miss the playoffs so that a below-.500 team in the East gets in. Let's do away with "locked-in seeds" for division winners and truly reward the best teams in the league in the postseason.

Of course, none of this will ever happen, because David Stern cannot allow writers, fans, pundits to think that they have any control overy anything, but it certainly makes sense. Doesn't it?

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Number Five is Alive!

A few thoughts on the draft lottery, if you will.

I know that several fans are unhappy with the results of Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery. I'm not among them. In fact, when Chip asked me what my preference was prior to the lottery taking place, I told him that I wanted the #2 or #5 pick. My reasoning for the #2 is simple and should be obvious: With the #2 pick, the Grizzlies get to select whoever remains from Michael Beasley/Derrick Rose. I know that most teams (other than Minnesota, who doesn't need a PF like Beasley) would be happy with either of those players, despite what Pat Riley has intimated about trading the pick if Derrick Rose isn't there (total poppycock, by the way -- more on that later).

If the Grizzlies had been fortunate enough to receive that pick, then the decision would have effectively been made for them, similar to how Seattle recently wound up with Kevin Durant, after Portland selected Greg Oden #1 overall. Of course, having the #1 pick would have had a lot of extra pressure given that Derrick Rose is Memphis' favorite son after leading the Tigers to the national title game less than two months ago. The Grizzlies selected Mike Conley with the #4 pick last year and took Kyle Lowry with the #24 pick the year before that, so they have some quality PG's already on the roster. At the risk of drawing Zack's ire, I'll also mention that both Javaris Crittenton and Juan Carlos Navarro are capable of filling in at PG if needed, in my opinion. So if there is one position that the Grizzlies shouldn't be looking at when assessing their draft needs, Point Guard is that area. I know that some people will clamor that there is no way you can pass up a "potential Hall of Famer" just because you have a good, young player already at that position. I agree with that stance -- I just disagree that Derrick Rose fits that label. (Ducking beer bottles being chucked at me by Tiger fans everywhere.) My evaluation of Rose is that he will be a great player in the league for the next decade, but I do not believe that he will be the Top 5 player overall that so many fans have rated him to be already. I'll gladly go point-by-point on his strengths and weaknesses in my pre-draft rankings that will be coming soon, so save your howls and jeers for that future post.

Now that we have that out of the way, let me explain why I wanted the #5 pick, instead of the #3 or #4. There are two players currently being rated in the Top 10 by many draft sites and experts that scare the ever-lovin' crap out of me: Brook Lopez and O.J. Mayo. I said in a previous post that when I look at Brook Lopez, I see a solid starter, but nothing special -- certainly nothing transcendent that is worthy of a top five selection. Lopez's game is based upon achieving great positioning around the basket. He was able to do that in college due to having superior size to many of his opponents, but the NBA is full of guys that are every bit as big and strong as he is. He won't be Michael Olowokandi, Eric Montross, Cherokee Parks or Jerome James, as he does possess some quality basketball skills, but he's not going to be David Robinson either. I see him being a solid big man like Zydrunas Ilgauskas as a best case scenario. If he can concentrate on rebounding and develop the wide range of offensive moves that Big Z has, then he could wind up matching his career averages of 14.5 ppg and 7.9 rpg, which is a very solid career indeed.

I also said that when I look at O.J. Mayo, I see Steve Francis. Stevie Franchise was a great player at one time -- but he was never a "winner". He put up tremendous stats for the first 7 seasons of his career, but the fact remains that Houston got markedly better and Orlando got noticeably worse after the Francis for McGrady trade. I see several of the same attributes in Mayo that I witnessed in Francis, both in terms of skillset and personality. With the right mix of players and coaches surrounding him, Mayo could turn out to be a tremendous, MVP-level player. But unless that "perfect scenario" happens, I don't see it happening and would rather not have this franchise set back by making the wrong choice with another high lottery pick. We already selected Steve Francis once -- remember?

Earlier, I said that Riley's assertion that he would be open to trading the pick if Rose wasn't available, because "they have a pretty good PF" already was ludicrous. Here's why: Shawn Marion is a great all-around player, let there be no doubt about that. Even if he doesn't opt out of the last year of his contract, Shawn Marion just turned 30 years old this month and there have been whispers about his athleticism starting to wane, which is a very bad thing for a player whose game is predicated on being more athletic than an overwhelming majority of his opponents. Furthermore, why wouldn't a team want to take the talented Michael Beasley, who appears to be capable of playing either forward position, meaning that the Heat could trot out Wade/Beasley/Marion in the same lineup if they desired. Of course, I fully expect the Chicago Bulls to take Beasley at #1 overall, so Miami will likely get the player they appear to covet, which will (as usual) render all my ramblings meaningless. The point is, either Pat Riley is full of mularkey or he truly has gone insane and believes that he'll be able to duplicate what the Boston Celtics did this past offseason in turning the worst team in the Eastern Conference into a title contender practically overnight. At this juncture, I'd make that bet a 50-50 proposition, since the hair gel has to be affecting his brain waves by now.

Rest assured, we'll have plenty of player evaluations, mock drafts and the always entertaining "what Team X should do/what Team X will do" posts for the next month. And, of course, I'll be sure to talk endlessly about who I think the Grizzlies should select with each pick or if they might be better off trading down. Make sure to vote in the polls on the right-hand sidebar so that we know who you think the "right" pick is and, as always, let me know what you think in the Comments.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Get Rid of the Ping Pong Balls

No, not the lottery system ping pong balls used by the NBA (although I wouldn't be against that either). I am talking about the damn Styrofoam ping pong ball antennae tops that the Grizzlies used for luck last year. For some reason known only to God and the Grizzlies marketing team they were brought out last night for the lottery parties. It wasn't enough that last season they didn't work. Maybe this season the reasoning was that they had learned from their mistakes and the luck would work this time.

It didn't. It's time to write that off as a bad idea.

The sad thing was that the Grizzlies otherwise did a great job hosting the lottery parties. ESPN was downtown showing the party nationwide, Grizzlies luminaries including Marc Iavaroni, Eric Hasseltine and some dance team members were present. Coach Iavaroni actually made a point of talking to just about everyone at the event personally. He didn't just sit down and make people come to him either. He walked around introducing himself and being as friendly as anyone could be with so much riding on his career. The team gave away lots of fun prizes from T-shirts to hats to trinkets of all sorts. Everyone there had a great time.

Until the 5th pick of course.

What was somewhat surprising was the apparent lack of understanding about how the lottery would work. Memphis got the pick they were most likely to get. Just like last year by the way. Yes the Grizzlies got the worst possible pick last season but they had a greater probability of getting the 4th pick than the first. This season the team had the greatest probability of picking 5th and that was where we ended up. Memphis wasn't unlucky or screwed. It is the system that is broken not the team.

Speaking of the team, we at 3 Shades of Blue have been saying all year that Wallace was the right man for the job since he is the most experienced GM at scouting and evaluating players entering the league. Well now I can't help but remember that saying 'Be careful what you wish for, you just may get it.' Chris Wallace will be given the opportunity to put that reputation to the test. Picking 5th means tough decisions will need to be made.

So another lottery has come and gone and Memphis is still waiting to find that franchise changing player. Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting the players that the Grizzlies bring in to workout and hopefully have a little bit more insight into the mind of Chris Wallace.

In the meantime I think I am just going to go back to bed and cry.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Good Luck Tonight!

In China the word for good luck is FU.

I am not making this up. I'm not smart enough to make up something like that. Somehow that dichotomy works in the NBA with good luck and FU being linked together. Sort of the yin and yang of the lottery. China also believes the #8 is the luckiest number. How lucky? Well consider this: the Beijing Olympics opens on August 8th. That date is 08/08/08 for the mathematically challenged. It may just be a coincidence but the players drafted by the Grizzlies will be playing in the team's 8th season in Memphis this coming year. That has to be lucky right? I mean 1.3 billion people can't be wrong can they?

In ancient Rome the philosopher Seneca wrote that 'Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." Well Memphis has been preparing for this opportunity for quite a while. The city is due some good luck and tonight might just be the opportunity people have been waiting for. Italians believe that the bulls horn is a sign of luck. It supposedly protects you from the 'evil eye.' It is doubtful that Spaniards see the horn as being quite so lucky. With the Grizzlies' connection to Spain perhaps the horn isn't the best good luck charm for tonight

The Irish are legendary for their luck. Memphis has never really had a strong connection with Ireland (outside of a few excellent Irish pubs) but we do have Chris Wallace now who worked with the Celtics for quite a few years. Perhaps he has some Irish in him. We need him (and not Rudy Gay) to be lucky. Chris will be seeing the results first after all. He represents the Grizzlies when the actual lottery drawing is held.

I also believe Jackie (my new favorite Dance team member) has a little Irish in her family tree. Maybe I will get lucky and see her at the lottery party!

Whatever you believe in, Memphis needs some luck tonight. I hope everyone will use whatever talisman they think will help so the Grizzlies fortunes can change for the best. Remember that the Grizzlies will be hosting lottery parties at the Downtown Flying Saucer and the Cordova Flying Saucer. Festivities begin at 6:00 pm and the lottery scheduled to occur sometime between 6:30 and 7:30 pm. Trivia challenges, prizes, dance team members and Grizzlies personnel are all supposed to be at the events.

Sixthman's Cheat Sheat:

Prior to the 7th pick:
-0 teams skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th.
-1 team skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th or 7th.
-2 teams skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th or 7th.
-3 teams skipped: we pick 7th.

Prior to the 6th pick, and we're still not on the board:
-0 teams skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th.
-1 team skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th or 6th.
-2 teams skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 6th.

Prior to the 5th pick, and we're still not on the board:
-0 teams skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th.
-1 team skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 5th.
-2 teams skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 5th.

Prior to the 4th pick, and we're still not on the board:
-0 teams skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th.
-1 team skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.
-2 teams skipped: we pick 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.

Prior to the 3rd pick, and we're still not on the board:
-We pick 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.

Prior to the 2nd pick, and we're still not on the board:
-We pick 1st or 2nd.

Prior to the 1st pick, and we're still not on the board:
-We pick 1st.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, May 19, 2008

BBQ, Lottery and Partying with the Grizzlies

The 2007-08 season was disappointing for the Grizzlies at the Forum but the organization is looking to set the tone for a better 2008-09 and they are starting it out with a lot of fun events even before the team gets back together.

The two story structure was conveniently located near the tasting and judges tents practically in the middle of the park.

Last weekend the Grizzlies hosted a huge 'tent' at the 2008 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Limited to only season ticket holders of 5 years or more, Everyone got to meet with the broadcast team, certain executives and the dance team members. It was a great opportunity to rub elbows with the team. You can check out photos of the great partying going on here. Marc Iavaroni was out Friday night and Chris Wallace was there Sunday so it was well represented by the men on top and well as the incredibly friendly staff members! There was no way anyone could have not had fun if they had been there.

Thanks so much to Jackie who allowed me to get a picture taken with her. On a side note, nice earring Eric, but the goatee has to go!

Tuesday night the partying keeps rocking as the Grizzlies host not one but two parties to watch the lottery. Last season the team hosted a get together at the downtown Flying Saucer. This time the Grizzlies will have twice as much fun as they are hosting events at both the Downtown Flying Saucer and the Cordova Flying Saucer!

Some of the Guys from 3 Shades of Blue will be at the downtown location with 730 ESPN radio and the TV cameras (no one denies we are publicity hounds after all) while the Cordova location will have WRBO Soul Classics 103.5 FM to liven up the event. Dance team members will be at both locations. great Grizzlies prizes will be given away and for most people it will be your only opportunity to get on Sportcenter! How can you turn down an opportunity like that?

There is no truth to the rumor that sour face Jerry West will be at either location or the Draft Lottery in NYC.

The Grizzlies will also be hosting a knock out Draft Night party although the exact location hasn't been decided on yet. In the past they have hosted parties at the Pyramid and the Forum.

BallHype: hype it up!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How Do You End a Curse?

This is a repost of an older post. We are still looking for a winner of the contest.

A close friend sent me an email today talking about how Gasol must have escaped the curse by moving to LA. It got me thinking. Does it only take a change of address to end a curse or is there something more to it?

The Chicago Cubs were jinxed by a goat, or so they say, and have never been able to break it. Of course they also haven't changed stadiums much less cities since the curse began.

The Boston Red Sox were jinxed by a trade and it took tearing down a house to break it. Not exactly a change of venue but a move of some sort just the same.

The Grizzlies has been cursed by a lottery machine. No matter how many times the franchise gets into the lottery it never seems to win or even get a fair shake for that matter. Sometimes the machine has just been cruel. Perhaps the Grizzlies need to move the lottery someplace else.

Everyone remember 2003 when a man named LeBron James was in the draft? Memphis could only keep their pick if they won the top lottery spot. Memphis made the first cut to be in the final three positions. They made the 2nd cut to have a 50/50 chance at the top spot. It was so exciting! It was the epitome of going for broke. It was all or nothing for the greatest player out of high school possibly in NBA history.

Memphis got nothing.

Last season was a similar situation. Memphis was guaranteed a top 4 pick in the draft. There were three players Memphis wanted: Greg Oden - the best center prospect since Yao Ming and possibly the best center since Shaquille O'Neal, Greg Oden - a SF who rewrote the Freshman scoring records in the NCAA and Al Horford - a rebounding big man who had led Florida to back to back national championships. The excitement was everywhere. The Grizzlies handed out Styrofoam ping pong balls to put on car antennas, people had watch parties all over the city. It was really exciting.

Lottery night people sat in disbelief when Memphis got the 4th pick in the draft. Sure they got Mike Conley and he is a promising young point guard but he wasn't what the Grizzlies exactly hoped for either.

This isn't a Memphis phenomena however. How about in 1999 when Vancouver had a chance at Elton Brand but ended up with the second pick. Sure they picked a player who went on to play in the All-Star game 3 times. He just never did it in a Grizzlies uniform.

So once again the Grizzlies and Memphis are gearing up for the lottery. Once again the team has an opportunity to get a franchise changing player. Two chances at a franchise changing player actually if you consider that either Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley could be wearing Beale St Blue next season.

But before that happens we have to break the Curse.

Now Memphis already got rid of the curse of the cast when they traded Pau Gasol to LA for 'future considerations.' We already saw what that did for his career. One can only imagine what the 19 yr old Javaris Crittenton, the $9 million in cap space from Kwame's contract and the two #1 picks from the Lakers will result in but whatever happens it won't be because the Grizzlies auctioned off Pau's stinky cast.

So short of moving the franchise what do the Grizzlies need to do? There is a website that I found to help us. It gave these instructions:

Step 1:
Lose faith in the ability of the curse to cause harm. Curses work on your imagination since no one genuinely has the ability to place one. Curses only work when you believe in them. Stop believing the curse can affect your life and it loses power over you.

Step 2:
Learn about the magic of the person who placed the curse. Superstitious practices evoke curses in different ways. To defeat the curse you must find out how it works and gain its powers. Practicing witches and sorcerers may be able to help you break the power of the curse.

Step 3:
Locate the source of the curse. Find the object that was used to place the curse.

Step 4:
Buy protection from the curse or a curse breaker. Powerful amulets may offer protection against the curse while you are wearing them. Magic potions and herbs could lift the curse when used correctly. You want a source of strong white magic to counteract the dark magic of the curse. Beware of scam artists who will charge you lift the curse. Never pay anyone a large sum to remove the curse.
So step 1 is to stop believing in the curse. Sounds simple enough until you realize this is Memphis. This is the city that runs into UCLA every time we have a great team on the way to the college basketball national championship. When we finally beat UCLA along comes Kansas and ...I still can't talk about it. This is the city that's motto should be 'nothing will ever work out right for us.' How do you convince everyone to just stop believing in a curse?

Step 2 at least was easy in that we know who is cursing us. Stu Jackson is the root of all that is wrong with the Grizzlies. I don't know what kind of magic he has but the only thing more incredible than Stu Jackson taking his resume with the Grizzlies to one of the most influential positions in the NBA's headquarters has been Isiah Thomas' ability to hold onto his job in NY. We are talking about some serious power here.

Step 3 is easy too. We know where the curse is located. In that damn lottery machine that keeps ripping out the hearts of Grizz fans all over North America.

Step 4 is why I am writing this blog. I need the readers to help us out. Find some good white magic amulets and potions. And no it isn't the two-fisted types. Memphis fans (like PMI) has tried those for years with no success.

Which brings us to step 5, my personal favorite:
Step 5:
Curse the curser.

Like I haven't been cursing Stu Jackson's name enough over the last 8 years. The problem is I don't know how to curse someone properly. Apparently using their name in vain isn't what they mean here.

The article has information on how to do this as well. To curse someone take an object connected to the curser and place a curse on it. Ask a witch doctor or some other person who practices curses to place a counter curse. Finally, tell the person who cursed you, and it cancels the curse he or she placed on you.

So does anyone have something owned by Stu Jackson? His scalp would be great but other things may work as well. Does anyone know a witch doctor or even a witch nurse?

And does anyone have Stu Jackson's email address???

What we need something or someone who is knowledgeable about magic to break the curse. We are open to suggestions. In fact we are willing to have a contest. Come up with the best idea on how to break the curse and you will win a Rudy Gay jersey from 3 Shades of Blue. Leave any thoughts in the comments area of the post. No idea is too strange. No potion too alcoholic. We are ready to believe in you!

In the interest of fair and open disclosure our attorneys have recommended we attach this warning.

Even though a curse can be carried out by anyone, a curse from an individual trained in dark magic is stronger.

BallHype: hype it up!