Friday, June 27, 2008
Okay this media access thing is starting to get really time consuming. I am glad the workouts, draft and post-draft events are passed so I can get back to ranting about my thoughts and stop reporting on other people's thoughts.
This is a great day for the Grizzlies and the city of Memphis that we can introduce our draft choices for the 2008 draft.
That was how the press conference opened this afternoon. Well maybe open isn't the proper word. First Wallace introduced the players entourage. You know you have some big time athletes when their entourage are introduced at a press conference. Darrell Arthur brought his AAU coach from Dallas. OJ Mayo brought his advisors and his agent. OJ Mayo's agent also represents LeBron James by the way. Guess which player is supposed to be the bigger star.
But back to the reason for the press conference.
This was rumored to be the draft where the world saw just how dumb Memphis was with the trade of Pau Gasol to the Lakers. After all what value was there in a 2nd round pick and the 28th pick in the draft? Somewhere along the way it turned out a little differently. First Gasol was exposed in the NBA Finals, Marc Gasol turned into a Spanish league stud and now Darrell Arthur who posted a double double in the NCAA championship game. That junk is starting to look like a pretty nice consolation prize. So how did the team go from so dumb to so smart in such a short period of time?
I'll just say that this city has been maligned for not having a lot of luck. I thought we had tremendous luck last night and obviously the basketball staff from the direction of everyone from Mike Heisley on down, we took advantage of that luck to get two lottery talent players in the same draft when you go in with one pick. I thought it was a tremendous job and we were not only good but we were lucky.
Lucky? Sure they were lucky but they were also daring, smart and committed to succeed. Wallace pointed out that once before he had taken a Kansas Jayhawk who had slid in the draft. That pick was Paul Pierce and while he understands Darrell's disappointment in falling, his misfortune was our fortune. Since Paul Pierce just won the NBA Finals MVP the name dropping was understandable.
O J Mayo talked about his surprise at hearing from ESPN that he had been traded to Memphis as Rudy Gay was walking into his draft day party. Either Rudy had some inside knowledge or the coincidence was too remarkable but either way it is nice to know that the two biggest names on the Grizzlies roster are comfortable enough with each other for Rudy to stop by Mayo's party to say hi.
I'm just happy to be here. I want to fit in the best I can, bring a winning attitude and just help out as much as I can. I'm just so happy to be here and to be a part of this organization.
OJ said all the right things, as you would expect from a player that has been under the spotlight since 7th grade. It was interesting to hear that Mayo didn't know anyone from the organization until the Saturday workout in Chicago. Mayo's workout didn't really have a lot to do with the organization wanting to get him. It did confirm that attitude however. Wallace didn't need to see the workout to understand the potential OJ Mayo possessed.
Wallace stated that Mayo was pushed hard for an hour and a half without hardly a break and still was going strong at the end of the workout. That conditioning and attitude is what Memphis wants Mayo to empart throughout the team. That type of performance combined with the background work of the team made this trade simple.
I know the Pau Gasol trade isn't a real popular one in some circles. To get OJ and have to trade Mike Miller is not a real popular one. We are committed to putting a really competitive team on the floor. I set a target, and you have to have a target in the future, of 3 years... and quite frankly we can't use someone as a part of that strategy who will be over 30 at that point. Chris and I made a decision to make these decisions and we aren't going to be swayed by whether or not it is popular or not popular. When we put a winning team on the floor then we will be popular. Until then we put a winning team on the floor we're not going to be popular. That's just the nature of the game.
I know our regular readers have heard me say that Heisley may be blunt but he is honestly blunt. This is a prime example of what I mean. Miller was included in the trade because he was going to be too old to be a major contributor when the team gets to be competitive and it will take a player of OJ Mayo's talent to get us over the hump when we reach that stage. I really liked what Heisley said when asked if it got contentious in the Draft War Room. Heisley said 'I guess I would put a couple of different words: confusing, verbal and intense.' What was surprising to me was how Heisley credited so many other people for their inputs. He said that so many people had their opinions and everyone was allowed to have those opinions heard. Everything was vetted for many hours but in the end Chris and he had to make a final determination and they did. The buck stopped at Heisley and Wallace but a lot of people were allowed to discuss it before that decision was made. It goes along with Heisley's belief that you don't make a hard decision until you have to. Heisley talked about how the draft team was up til 2:00 AM on Wednesday night to make sure everyone got to have their opinions heard.
I'm looking for three years from today Memphis having a team
which is a contending team which can then be built into into an NBA Championship franchise. That's what we're trying to do. Every decision we make should be looked at as how are we doing to reach that goal.
I don't know what else needs to be said at this time.
Guiding star (Polaris): Polaris more commonly known as the North(ern) Star or the Pole Star, and sometimes known as the Lodestar, is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor. It is very close to the north celestial pole making it the current northern pole star. (Wikipedia)
Nearly everyone in the Memphis area has seen the North Star at some point or another in their lifetime. It is the brightest star you can see at night and your attention is drawn to it, almost as if by a tractor beam. It directs you north, even when other stars appear to be dim and hazy, as they change position from night to night. It is the star that the mariners of old used to guide them as they set out on voyages to circle the globe.
It is interesting to note that there is no South(ern) Star. That means that there is no star that will guide you down -- only up. That's how it is in the NBA as well. Real stars lead you upwards, out of the muck and the mire, towards greater things. They don't drag you down into the mud -- they pull you out of it.
Solar flare: A flare is defined as a sudden, rapid, and intense variation in brightness.
Solar flares are rarely seen by the naked eye, but they are very common and have a negligible effect on our weather here on Earth. A flare is violent, but brief -- more of a hiccup than a seizure. Flares vary in their occurrence, as they are very inconsistent, and therefore hard to track unless you are willing to observe the sun relentlessly.
The NBA has had its share of solar flares, as well. Most teams have had "the next great thing" pass through their organization at some point or another. That player might be better served as a complementary piece to a "real star" or he could have other issues that lead him to never fulfill his potential, such as attitude or injuries. Some of these flares focus on individual goals of money and fame (leading to infamy in many cases), rather than team success. Needless to say, there are a lot more flares than stars in the NBA each and every year.
What will O.J. Mayo be in his tenure with the Memphis Grizzlies? He has the talent and potential to be one of the greatest players to ever wear an NBA uniform. He has been profiled in basketball magazines and websites since before junior high school and has been successful (to some degree or another) everywhere he has played. He could be the player that lifts the Memphis Grizzlies out of the backwoods swamp they currently inhabit.
Or, he could play out his rookie contract in Memphis with one eye on the bigger markets of New York, Los Angeles and Miami and bolt when the opportunity presents itself. He could be a franchise's savior or he could be a franchise's coffin nail. make no mistake about it -- trading away the consistency of Kevin Love for the promise of O.J. Mayo is the biggest risk/reward play that Memphis could afford to make in this draft (because there is no way they were trading Rudy Gay for Michael Beasley). This move will likely define the Memphis Grizzlies organization for the next decade.
One last note regarding astronomy: The North Star is actually a cluster of three stars, not just one. Given the success of Boston, San Antonio, Phoenix and others with "The Big Three" in recent seasons, it does give fans hope with the presence of Mike Conley and Rudy Gay flanking Mayo on the roster. As always, we'll have to wait and see what happens to make the final determination. I hope for the sake of Grizzlies fans that our newest star shines bright and true.
I was in the media room last night and when the Love pick was announced most of the media types were sort of ho-hum about it. A lot like the city of Memphis in that regard. Another safe pick and a solid player but nothing to get excited about.
Donte Greene's pick was interesting mostly because the Grizzlies didn't take home town boy CDR. Not a lot of people of the media knew much about Donte Greene and no one thought it was really a great pick. Why didn't they draft the University of Memphis star? Don't the Grizzlies want any fans in the stands? Maybe he's a better player but he won't bring the fans to the game.
I was on the other side of the coin. I thought Love wasn't just the smart pick but the right pick. The kid oozes leadership and class, he was going to be the dirty work player Memphis had never had and I was very excited about his prospect of success in Memphis. Maybe not All-Star success but on-court success for the team. Donte Greene was a brilliant pick in that they filled a need at back up SF with a talented young player that could grow behind Rudy and be used in a fast lineup with Rudy at times.
We waited for the Grizzlies too come out and face the music. And we waited. And we waited. I left after 10:00 pm because I work at a real job and nothing had been announced but their was a quiet buzz going around. Was something up? Why hadn't the Grizzlies come out to discuss the Greene pick? Are they working on something? Are they going to waste another 2nd rd pick to get a player to excite the locals? No one knew what was up but the general feeling was that something was happening. Of course the general feeling was it would be insignificant and there was some grumbling about deadlines and all.
Obviously I should have stayed.
About 10 minutes after getting home I heard that Greene was probably gone and that Darrell Arthur looked to be coming to Memphis. Then the damn broke with Ford's release of the Mayo trade. Suddenly I was wide awake again. Why didn't I stay at the Forum.
So what does this mean for the Grizzlies?
I think the Mayo trade shows Memphis is serious about rebuilding this franchise in a different manner than previous teams had been built but they paid a high cost for that reorganization. Memphis traded away the best rebounder the team has ever had and Arthur, while a solid all-around player, won't be able to do the things off the glass that Mayo can. Mike Miller was never going to be more than he is, which isn't bad but certainly not something that will shake up the fans.
I also hopes this puts to bed the idea that Heisley is only about cutting costs. Buying out Antoine Walker is not cheap. Jaric and Buckner add another year of his contracts that wouldn't exist with Collins, Cardinal and Miller.
It is expensive. It is dangerous. It was the right thing to do for a town that had forgotten the Grizzlies existed.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Just came across ESPN.
Nothing confirmed, but we will keep you updated.
This could be a precursor to a second move that nets Michael Beasley. Perhaps Mayo/Warrick for Beasley/Banks?
Also, I would expect that if this deal goes through that Walker is bought out, as might Buckner, given that neither of their contracts are guaranteed beyond the 2008/09 season according to ESPN, although Buckner's perimeter defense could be very useful.
Update: According to the Commercial Appeal's Ron Tillery, the draft rights to Donte Greene have been sent to Portland for the draft rights to Darrell Arthur. This will help fill that hole at PF. According to Chris Vernon, Arthur was ranked at #11 on the Grizzlies' draft board.
As of right now, the Mayo trade is simply pending league approval, which means that it should be a done deal.
Update 2: Chris Herrington is reporting that a 2nd deal is being finalized that doesn't involve Michael Beasley. No other details at this point.
Update 3: Herrington now says that he misunderstood and that there isn't a 2nd deal. Good night everyone!
Chip's Take: Chad Ford said that Minnesota wins the trade in the short run but in a few years you may look back and say that it was a no-brainer for Memphis.
I have to agree with that if we can keep Mayo happy here. O.J. is the type of player Memphis has always desired. He is a big name player who won't choke under pressure. Combine that with Arthur and Gasol and you have dramatically increased the talent at three positions. If Antoine Walker decides to take advantage of his opportunity and play like he is capable of playing then he could be a real steal in this trade as well. Memphis may also be moving Mayo to go for Beasley which should be very interesting if true. Remember that Miami wanted Rudy Gay before plus the #5 pick so don't get your hopes up too high that Beasley will be here when you wake up in the morning.
Jaric is not a big help but he should be able to help mature the young guns in the backcourt. Bucker brings defensive perimeter help and could be the closest thing Memphis has to a shut down defender. The big question mark is how well the veterans act. If Jaric and Buckner don't provide leadership this team could implode with the egos in the locker room. If they take a roll in being leaders then it could be a great deal. The team won't make the playoffs this season and maybe not next year but the team has made a bold statement that they are wanting to be players again.
If Antoine Walker is bought out then that should ease some of my concerns about team chemistry too. By the way, I think this proves that Heisley was telling the truth when he said there was no reason to believe he wouldn't spend money to improve the team. A buyout of Walker's contract won't come cheaply but it is probably the smart move.
Well tonight I finally got to see what the media sees all the time when covering the Grizzlies. I was got to see the inside of the Don Poier Media Center. It was a very interesting and informative experience. And like any rookie put on the big stage I started off with a fumble. When we were called into the media room to hear Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni's comments about the drafting of Kevin Love I forget my pen and failed to hit the record button on my recorder. Boy did I feel stupid.
Of course no one is interested in what I thought of the media center or how I made a fool of myself. Well some people may like reading that but most people want to know about the draft picks and what the Grizzlies thought about their night.
First off Chris Wallace wasn't high fiving anyone when he came into the media center. He was rather subdued in fact. He spoke matter of factly about the selection of Love and what he means for the team. Wallace feels Memphis has a player that is going to be a great rebounder, an excellent outlet passer and who has a lot to learn about playing defense in the NBA. While he did say Love has to learn a lot he also made a very intriguing comment which really stuck in my head. Wallace said that Love is ready to function in a team defense philosophy. He will be where he is supposed to be on defense and not just 50% of the time but every time. That says a lot about Love's basketball intelligence and also a lot about what he felt about some of the people who were supposed to be playing defense for the Grizzlies last season.
Next Wallace left to return to the draft room as Marc Iavaroni took the mike. Iavaroni was clearly excited about the selection of Love. He talked about his strength of charecter, his desire to be great and his intelligence. Marc is clearly thrilled to be having a leader like Kevin Love with the team.
That isn't to say that Wallace isn't excited. Wallace just looked like he had more work to do. Judging from his selection of Donte Green at 28 I think Wallace knew someone was going to slide in the draft and he wanted to make sure the Grizzlies were ready to pounce when that opportunity came up. Wallace also dealt with the trade rumors about attempting to move up to get Beasley and why Memphis wasn't interested. Miami wasn't asking for Mike Miller plus the pick and point guard. They wanted Rudy Gay! Beasley may be a star in the making but there is no way Memphis should give up that much for the right to find out.
My personal feelings are that Love was the smart pick and the right pick. Love will be contributing right away. He has a learning curve of course but he won't be the type of player who hurts the team when he is on the court. Love will immediately improve the team's pick and roll plays as he can set a mean pick and hit the perimeter shot if his man tries to cover the cutter. He will be the best rebounder Memphis has ever had and will ignite the running game with his outlet passes. There may be other players who have better careers but there won't be many and Memphis couldn't afford to miss with this pick. He should team up well with Rudy Gay and Mike Miller to make the team stronger both physically and mentally.
Donte Green is nothing short of a steal. No one expected, myself included, to find a player with this much potential that late in the draft. Green will step right into the hole that was Casey Jacobsen last season and should be a huge improvement immediately. Unlike Love however Green will need much more maturing to reach his full potential. He has a long way to go on defense (don't all Syracuse players) and his shot selection needs to improve but he should have time to do that backing up Rudy Gay. Most importantly he will need to get stronger.
Speaking of stronger, Mike Conley has developed guns. He is ripped. I got a chance to talk to him as the draft was starting and Conley admitted that he had been lifting a lot of weights while taking a class at Ohio State. I asked Mike about his newfound muscles and he said that he worked for a week with Mike Curtis, the strength and conditioning coach and also Kevin O'Neill. That means Mike realizes he needs to improve his strength and defense and is working on it. He also has been playing phone tag with shooting coach Mark Price and is planning on getting together with Mark to work on his shot in Atlanta during the summer. Mike also admitted being a little concerned about all the trade rumors about him but was very grateful to hear Chris Wallace say Conley was not being discussed in a trade. He likes being with the Grizzlies and doesn't want to go anywhere.
Kyle Lowry was there and he told me that he was planning on spending most of the summer in Philadelphia but he too is going to be working on his shot with Mark Price. Kyle didn't get the trade assurance that Conley did and he said he understands this. It's a business and it wasn't harder this year than it was last year hearing the Grizzlies wanted Conley in the draft. I got the impression that Kyle isn't going to let these things bother him and he will come to camp ready to win the starting job. He just seems to have the attitude that he is using these things as motivation.
Last season started with a front line of Gasol, Gay and Milicic. Backing that line up was Stromile Swift, Casey Jacobsen and Hakim Warrick. Next season it looks to be Gay, Love and Milicic with Donte Green, Hakim Warrick and Marc Gasol backing up. That is a huge improvement on paper. Now it will be wait and see if the paper translates onto the court.
ADDENDUM: Learned another lesson tonight. Don't leave before the Grizzlies tell you the night is over. I left before the news of the Mayo-Love trade and the Greene-Arthur deal was announced. Instead of being in the meeting with the team hearing how they feel about the deal I am lying in bed wondering why I thought it was so important to get home and get some sleep! I guess this shows you are never to old to stop learning.
28. Grizzlies From Lakers
Marreese Speights PF/C
Age: 20, 6'10", 245 lbs.
I realize this is just wishful thinking but it would make me so happy if the Grizzlies somehow managed to pick up Marreese Speights at #28.
I don't normally get too worked up about late round mock draft picks but it would make me so great to draft Speights with the Lakers pick. I doubt he will fall this fall but one can always dream.