As I mentioned in the draft workout blog, yesterday I was an invited guest at the Grizzlies workouts with Omar Casspi, Devon Jefferson and Charles Rhodes.
I felt like a fish out of water. Like a child among men. I didn't exactly feel comfortable if you get my drift.
Here I was sitting next to Chris Herrington and Chris Vernon, just a few seats away from Ron Tillery, Jarvis Greer and a slew of other well-known journalists and media personalities watching these big, young men getting put through the ringers and thinking "what the heck am I doing here?" I write a blog after all. I am not in these guys league.
I have said many times that I don't really know how to judge talent coming out of college. Well in college at least they are playing the game of basketball. What these guys did looked more like some medieval torture drill or Navy Seal training exercises. What the heck can these people determine from watching someone running up and down the court dribbling a ball as fast as they can? How can they determine who is going to be able to play in the NBA this way? I can dribble the ball up and down the court and not lose control of it with either hand AND I CAN'T PLAY BASKETBALL!
I'm serious. I couldn't make my high school team. I did make the final cut once but these guys are supposed to be slightly better than that yet watching the drills I couldn't tell you who was better among the three men much less whether or not they could make it in the NBA. They were running from drill to drill, alternating from a rapid fire shooting exercise from the perimeter, to one on one 'contact drills' which was an understatement to say the least. Professional wrestlers don't make as much as much contact as these guys did.
And it never really slowed down. One drill ended and another began and I was trying to see something that would make me say 'AHA. That is what I want to see in someone trying to make the Grizzlies.' It never came. Sure I saw some incredible plays by all three of the players but whether that makes them more interesting than a Casey Jacobson or Andre Brown I have no clue.
It really is more art than science. Sure guys took measurements and kept times and supposedly the players took a psychological profile test earlier in the morning but Chris Wallace, Gene Bartow, Tony Barone Jr and Sr were watching these drills intensely. They weren't chatting with the media or talking on the phone. They were watching and looking for clues from how hard the players drove the ball to how hard they charged for a rebound to how many free throws they could hit and I have no idea what they are using as a comparison and how anything I saw could help them make a decision.
Then it got worse.
The workout ended and we were told the players were now available for interviews. What they heck was I going to ask Omar Casspi who plays in Israel? Chris Herrington asked if he had to complete his military service. I didn't know he had military service. Damn what should I ask? I just stood there like a slug on the sidewalk.
What was I doing here?
When Chris Wallace came out to field questions I suddenly found myself surrounded by cameras and microphones. Probably intelligently I stepped out of their way before I was run over. They asked Chris a number of questions about the recent comments from Heisley (Mr. Heisley is free to say what he wants but I am happy with the trade and believe the team got the best deal offered), how he thought the players did (all of them worked hard and showed us a lot. None of these players were being considered for the #5 pick but all could be taken in the draft) and the such.
It was very surreal.
I want to thank Chris Vernon, Chris Herrington, Chris Wallace and especially Dustin Krugel for helping as much as possible to make me feel welcome and at ease. It didn't help a lot but it was nice of them to try. I really am not sure I belong at these events. I have nothing to add. Maybe if MemphisX or Zack were there they could garner something from these workouts but I sure didn't.
Not that I won't be back on Monday watching Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan, Joey Dorsey and Javale McGee battling it out. I may be a fish out of water but I'm not stupid after all!
Thursday, June 5, 2008
As I mentioned in the draft workout blog, yesterday I was an invited guest at the Grizzlies workouts with Omar Casspi, Devon Jefferson and Charles Rhodes.
I just finished reading Chris Vernon's blog, where he basically says that we here at 3 Shades of Blue are in Michael Heisley's back pocket because we defended him, rather than taking Adrian Wojnarowski's column at face value. I don't think that's a fair label, given that we have been vocally critical of Heisley's tenure as owner on several occasions since starting this blog. Allow me to go step-by-step in offering a rebuttal to Verno's post.
I am mentioned as giving Adrian a forum so that he could get his "fifteen minutes." Adrian is an award-winning journalist who has worked for a lot of newspapers, espn.com, etc. He is also the author of one of the greatest sports books ever "The Miracle at St. Anthony." At 3 Shades of Blue they assume that Adrian is some blogger trying to make a name for himself and by misquoting Heisley it makes it hard for other legit bloggers. Hahahahahahhahaa. Oh for goodness sakes. The guy has been on the NY Times Bestsellers list and he is trying to make a name for himself talking about the freaking Grizzlies? Come on. 3 Shades trash Adrian and stick up for Heisley.
Unlike myself, Chip does not read every single piece of NBA-related information that passes across the tubes we like to call the internet. This is probably because he has a life and I don't. However, because of this, he was completely unaware of who Wojnarowski was (or who he even wrote for) and went with the description that Heisley gave him...because Heisley believed that Wojnarowski was a blogger just like us at 3SoB. That's right -- Heisley had no idea who Woj2 was when conversing with him a few days ago. I know who Woj2 is and even mentioned having previously had a great deal of respect for him in my response to his column yesterday morning. I have read his columns for years and own copies of both The Miracle of St. Anthony (currently in my library) and Jimmy V: The Life and Death of Jim Valvano (pre-ordered on Amazon.com). Rest assured, I know who the man is. However, I also knew that Heisley is prone to speaking off-the-cuff about things in a manner that could very easily be perceived in a manner out of context with how he actually intended them to be conveyed. That's why I was willing to step out there and take issue with the column, even though I knew it wouldn't be a very popular move. I saw things being presented in a light that was the opposite of what we had been told upon interviewing Heisley not that long ago and wanted to point that out. I didn't see it as "sticking up for Heisley" so much as sticking up for journalistic integrity (something most bloggers don't consider often enough) and making sure that the truth was being represented. If that makes me "Heisley's boy", then so be it. Unlike Chip, I've never met the man, so I can say that he hasn't had any direct influence on me. Also, I hate for Chris to paint all of us on 3 Shades of Blue with the same brush, given that there are 4 writers (and one fantastic genius) with distinct and unique viewpoints. That's something we're proud of here -- we offer opinions from every viewpoint, rather than just one.
I am not writing anything that I have not already talked to Chip from 3 Shades about. Do I believe that Adrian misquoted Heisley or took him out of context? No. Do I agree with all of the opinions Adrien had in the article? No. Do I think that Heisley regrets what he said? Yes. Do I know that the CA will soon come out and defend him too? I would be shocked if they did not. What I told Chip is that just because Heisley says something does not mean that it is true and that you have to stick up for him. In fairness, maybe they believe him (Lord, I hope not).
What would be so bad about believing Heisley? What has he been dishonest about during his time in Memphis? Again, I'm not defending his moves and direction of the team as the owner -- I'm just wondering why it is that everyone has painted him as an evil person who will lie, cheat and steal to achieve some sinister goal. I haven't seen any evidence of that to this point -- but if someone has such evidence, I will surely be more than willing to examine it.
You may not get the access if you call him out, I get that. I understand not biting the hand that feeds you. It is a legimate concern for anyone that reports on things. You have to weigh what is more important, access or objectivity? I struggle with it too. Now Heisley has the best Grizzlies blog and the local paper pumping his PR and sticking up for him. I am a big fan of the 3 Shades blog and have mentioned that many times, not to mention that I have met most of the authors and they all seem like nice guys (and they have been pretty nice and fair with me). Sad day I say. Heisley is killing the franchise, Adrian Wojnarowski isn't.
He is speaking the truth here. If we start blaming Heisley for everything that goes wrong with the franchise -- as Verno has been known to do in recent history -- then we might not get the same level of access to him and he almost assuredly won't be calling us from halfway across the world to give us the "real story" first. Of course, the only reason he agreed to be interviewed by us in the first place was because he disagreed with something we wrote and wanted to set the story straight on that issue. That's right -- he let us interview him because he didn't like us, not because he particularly enjoyed our little corner of the internet.
Verno says that Heisley is killing the franchise. I say that what is really killing the franchise can in no way be blamed on just one man. After all, did Heisley do something to make fan support start to dwindle after the magical 50-win season? Did Heisley convince Jason Williams, James Posey and Bonzi Wells to become overwhelming distractions on a playoff team? Was Heisley responsible for Pau Gasol's injury in the World Championships or Damon Stoudamire's knee injury? Did Heisley handpick who we drafted and signed over the past 7 years? Did Heisley create the "Memphis Mentality", where everyone wants everything given to them on a silver platter and believes that they are entitled to a title contender immediately without having to suffer through any of the normal growing pains? I'm fairly confident that the answer to all of those questions is a firm "No".
With that said, is Heisley completely blameless for the disconnect that fans feel with the franchise or with the below average product that has been put on the floor the past two seasons? No. But that's a post for another day -- and believe me it will be coming soon. I just wanted to illustrate that just because we don't believe that Michael Heisley is the second coming of Goldfinger doesn't mean that we don't disagree with things he has said, suggested or ordered. If Chris really wants to find out how true that is, then he knows how to get in touch with us and I'll be more than happy to spend a few minutes on his show explaining just what those things are.
The Grizzlies held their first private workout today with Israeli Omri Casspi, Davon Jefferson and Mississippi State's own Charles Rhodes.
I have never attended an NBA workout before and was very impressed with how physically taxing the hour long session was. They really put the players through the paces and tested everything from their shooting range, stamina, physicality and determination. While I was asked not to reveal the actual drills I can tell you I was beat from watching and all three players were very tired at the end of the workout.
Noticeably absent from the workout was Head Coach Marc Iavaroni but Coach Joerger, Coach Davis, Chris Wallace, the Barone's and Gene Bartow were all there as well as a lot of other Grizzlies personnel. Coach Iavaroni had a previous engagement and is expected at the other workouts. I wouldn't put too much stock into his absence. The private workouts are important but not as much as the totality of the work the players have produced in their careers.
The most interesting thing I can write about came from Chris Wallace who opened up the workouts by announcing there is no truth to the rumor that Memphis is struggling to get top players in for workouts. The list of people who are excluding Memphis are few and most have good reasons. Derick Rose and Michael Beasley don't expect to be available at #5 (you have to assume that is a safe bet too). Jerrod Bayless doesn't want to workout but that isn't surprising given the makeup of the team and the likelihood he won't be around at #5 either. Brook Lopez is only working out with the top 4 teams right now but I have a feeling that could change over the next couple of weeks. Danilo Gallinari hasscheduled only one workout in NY and his father doesn't understand why any more are needed. Apparently Italians don't do things like the NBA does. OJ Mayo has not scheduled any workouts anywhere while he decides on who his agent is going to be. Expect Lopez, Mayo and Gallinari to all work out at sometime before the draft. Here is the schedule so far:
Monday, June 9th: Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan, JaVale McGee, Joey Dorsey, Kyle Weaver and Jeremy Pargo-
Wednesday, June 11th: Richard Hendrix (Alabama), David Padgett and Robert Dozier
Thursday, June 12th: DJ White, James Mays and Trent Plaisted
Friday/Saturday, June 14-15th: The team is going to Oakland, CA for a large group workout involving most of the late lottery to 2nd round picks like CDR, Darnell Jackson and Courtney Lee. There will be around 24 guys at this workout attended by most of the NBA teams.
Monday, June 16th: Courtney Lee, Sonny Weems, Will Daniels, Anthony Randolph and Darrell Arthur
Wendesday, June 18th: JR Giddens, Bill Walker, James Palacio and someone else who's name escapes me.
This list is not inclusive and people could be added or dropped. It is very fluid right now as players expect to go higher than they probably will end up being drafted. I anticipate more names coming in as the draft gets nearer. Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon are still working out when they can fit a workout in with their schedules. Three weeks and 30 teams is a lot of workouts for these guys to attend especially having to travel all over the country.
Michael Heisley called me from Kuala Lumpur. He is pissed off at Adrian Wojnar-who-ski or whatever that blogger from Yahoo's name is. I am not linking to that trash but I am sure you can find it if you look around. The truth is exactly what 3 Shades of Blue wrote earlier this week. Adrian had an agenda and took comments out of context and ignored statements that completely contradicted the tone of the article he wanted to write.
This is the message Mr. Heisley wants Memphis fans to hear and understand.
Michael Heisley is in no way unhappy with Chris Wallace. Michael Heisley approved the deal with LA and it accomplished what Mr. Heisley wanted. If anyone wants to be upset about the deal they should be upset with Heisley not Chris Wallace.
I wish I had exact quotes but I didn't have a tape machine with me when he called and I honestly wasn't expecting a phone call from Mr. Heisley at 8:30 in the morning at my office. I mean does anyone expect a phone call from a billionaire at anytime in the morning?
Anyway, Heisley said when he conducted the interview he was about to walk into a meeting and assumed the blogger would do an interview like 3 Shades of Blue did and simply report what he said. If he had realized that instead it was going to be a 'hatchet job' where statements were going to be taken out of context and misrepresented he would have been far more wary of what he said. Mr. Heisley isn't a media savvy man who spins what he says. He is brutally honest. He tries to tell the truth which leaves him susceptible to tricks like this blogger used to forward a position the writer wants.
Mr. Heisley isn't saying that everyone has to love the deal he made. However, you should understand the deal he made. He tried for over a year to get a deal done where he received back what he believed to be equal talent. All the other teams in the league knew this. No one was offering anything close to fair value. Once the decision was made to go with a youth movement and acquiring cap space relief the Grizzlies again approached teams about acquiring Gasol. He made public the negotiations with Chicago but that doesn't mean there weren't negotiations with other teams. Only Los Angeles was willing to provide a huge salary cap savings, 2 #1 draft picks and young talent that the Grizzlies wanted. No one else was coming to the table with comparable offers. Mr. Heisley made the decision to take the LA offer and it was his decision alone. Any team now pretending to not know Gasol was available is not telling the truth. Memphis contacted many teams but they did not conduct an auction for Gasol. You can't do that in the NBA. Any team could contact the Grizzlies and many did. Memphis also initiated contact with many teams.
It is blogs like that one that really hurt the efforts of people like us who are trying to educate fans about the team. When we write our opinions we do so where it is clear that this is what we are thinking or feeling. When we quote other people (like we have in the Heisley interview and others) we don't slant the comments to fit our agenda. We simply lay it out there and let the readers decide what to think. If the Yahoo blogger had done the same thing the blog would have had a decidedly different feeling to it.
Of course he wouldn't have been interviewed on Chris Vernon's show and been linked to stories all over the country either. So congrats Adrian for getting your 15 minutes of fame. Too bad it had to come at the expense of the truth and the Memphis Grizzlies.