Saturday, July 12, 2008

Game Recap: Memphis v Hornets

The Grizzlies rookie team made an impressive debut in the summer league. OJ Mayo, Mike Conley, Darrell Arthur and surprising PJ Tucker all scored in double figures and the team was never seriously challenged but the Hornets.

You can geta nice recap of the game over at the Commercial Appeal, read the active game thread on the Memphis Grizzlies Message board and get Chris Herrington's comments over at Beyond the Arc.

The game wasn't easy to watch on the webcast at Poor transfer quality and no announcing with a static view and no replays made it better than nothing but hardly enjoyable.

I would like to throw out a big thanks to the Commercial Appeal for sending Beat Writer Ron Tillery to the event. In the past the CA decided to save some money and not send a reporter to the event or only send one for a short period of time. This left Grizz fans with only an AP writers recap of the games. Thanks to the sports editor for approving the expense instead of saving a few dollars and denying the local fans a first hand account.

Salary Structure for a 3 Yr Plan?

Michael Heisley has repeatedly said Memphis is on a 3 year building plan. Okay. You can agree or disagree on the merits of that plan in general but if the plan is to build over three years and then use cap space to sign the player(s) to help the team make a run for the top why are we not trying to sign our young players to longer contracts?

Darko was signed for three years so he will be a free agent the year before the deadline. I suppose you could say that this signing was before the current plan went into effect so you give them a break. Then how do you explain the Marc Gasol deal which expires the season after the Grizzlies are to be competitive? Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry's contracts are up that summer as well. Conley and Crittenton will be needing to be resigned or at least offered their qualifying offers that season. Arthur and Mayo will be under team options but one assumes those options will be exercised. No one else currently on the team has a contract for year 4 of the plan and that is supposed to be the year we go from competitive to contending.

Could it be that the exact moment reaches competitiveness is the same moment that they have to spend all their cap money just to keep the core together? Will the Grizzlies be able to re-sign Darko, Gasol, Gay and Conley while also signing a free agent capable of taking the team over the top?

Scary thought. Now I realize that the team doesn't want to commit large sums of money on unproven players like Mark Gasol and Darko Milicic. I realize that the team has no control over rookie contracts as their lengths are negotiated in the CBA. I also understand that the team says they will do everything in their power to keep Rudy Gay (after all they wouldn't trade him for Michael Beasley) and at least one of the point guards (probably one of the 3 point guards will be moved for someone, most likely a PF or backup 2/3 type of player) but if Heisley has faith in Chris Wallace as a talent evaluator shouldn't we be locking up some players before the irrational free agent market starts luring our players away with mega-deals?

Do we want to be in Milwaukee's position where they had to offer Andrew Bogut a mega-contract for his 14 pts and 10 boards a night on a losing team?

It has been said that Memphis will struggle to sign big name free agents. Whether or not that is true hasn't been really put to the test yet since this is the first summer Memphis has had a lot of cap space to wield and most people know by now that Memphis isn't going after anyone this summer.

So does it make a lot of sense to keep everyone's contract so short? What kind of stability is the team building when no one has a contract out longer than 3 years?

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Video Update: Today's NBA Summer League Game

The Grizzlies had previously announced that their coverage of the summer league games would be delayed until the day after they were actually played. Apparently this is only true for the evening games and the Grizzlies expect to have the broadcast up tonight on their website.

For those able to watch while at work, the game will be broadcast live on webcast as well.

Bad News from the Head Bear

I'll start this off by apologizing. I am about to rain on your parade. As someone who really, really loved the acquisition of O. J. Mayo. I was really on cloud 9 after the details of that trade were leaked by The Memphis Flyers Chris Herrington. I thought the shackles were finally off of GM Chris Wallace and the Grizzlies were going to become an aggressive team builder. Unfortunately, just when you think things are about to make a turn for the better with the Grizzlies, Michael Heisley shows up and reminds you that any hope for success under his ownership is and will always be an exercise in futility.

What I am referring to is his debut of The Three Year Plan (TYP). Being caught up in the euphoria of Mayo-to-Memphis, I almost was fooled. I mean, in theory, it sounds real freaking good.

"We're committed to putting a contending team on the floor," Heisley said, "and the target is three years. I'm looking for -- three years from today Memphis to have a team than contends and then turning that team into a team that competes for championships."

Sounds good on the surface doesn't it? However, when you look at the statement, it makes absolutely no sense. In three years Heisley wants a team that contends and then turn that team into a team that competes for championships. Uh...say what? So in three years, what exactly will the Grizzlies be Mr. Heisley?

I think most fans that have bought into this "plan", have done so on the notion that in three years the Grizzlies will be where New Orleans and Utah are today. Heisley even brings up the Hornets when speaking about his plan:

I'm thinking if we get guys like New Orleans' (Chris) Paul and (David) West; if we get our two guys then I could basically go out there and hire free agents to move forward toward winning a championship.

So aren't Rudy Gay, Michael Conley and O. J. Mayo supposed to be our Chris Paul and David West? I guess not because we are not even considering making a move to hire any free agents this year. Now I am not saying it is a must to spend our cap room this summer but I think a team with a plan would at least be looking...that is unless year one of the plan involved saving money and having anothe sub 30 win season.

Hopefully, for Grizz fans sake, Heisley is just trying to recoup some cash before he sells the team. Between the lower payroll, cash via trades, and cash from the teams paying the luxury tax this season I suppose the Grizzlies have been profitable or at least break even for the first time in Memphis and this year will likely lead to an eight figure profit. Maybe at this point Heisley will finally be able to find a buyer with the cash to purchase and the sense to understand that Memphis can be a profitable market if the fans are given a worthwile product to follow.

Chico's Bail Bonds anyone?

BallHype: hype it up!

Why Do We Have a Summer League?

The Baby Grizzly Bears are on the way to Las Vegas to match games against the diapered squads from other NBA teams to determine who has the best street game among the rookie and sophomore players in the NBA. 10 fouls before fouling out is slightly generous even for a street game after all. You almost expect an AND 1 team to be represented in the league. Last year the Chinese National team did compete after all. Why not AND 1? They may even be more competitive than Chinese were. Definitely more entertaining than the Chinese last season. Well maybe on par with the Rudy Gay facial on Yi Jianlian.

Admit it. That is what the summer leagues really appear to be isn't it? So why does the NBA do it? It's not like the league can't find a reason to go to Orlando, South California or Vegas whenever they want. It's not a great money maker despite the NBA TV broadcasts. It doesn't even draw a large crowd. Outside of the hordes of NBA Execs, Assistant Coaches and Head Coaches who is there? A few people desperate to avoid the heat, a few girls hoping to become groupies or preventing their man from picking up new ones and a few passionate fans who would travel to Alaska to watch their boys play so SoCal or Orlando is no pain at all. I myself considered going to Vegas this year to see the to speak.

Do the execs and coaches learn anything about these players? Not much probably. Sure occasionally you will find the rare nugget waiting to be polished up but that is an extremely rare exception. The camps don't exist to find the exceptions. The camps are to integrate the 'drafted' rookies into the NBA way of life. They get to develop relationships with the coaches and the staff. They get a taste of the NBA life in a easily digestible amount. They start to live the NBA life without having their confidence destroyed by veterans who are years ahead of them in knowledge of the game. That is stage 2 of the development of an NBA player. In stage 1 the players get a little softer start.

So is the rookie camp worthless? No. It was explained to me by one insider that the camps are like the NFL Mini-camps but the league isn't allowed to bring in the entire roster so the rookie camps are the next best thing. Obviously the team would prefer to have the veterans in with the rookies for a week in the middle of summer to work on everyone's issues and to see who has been working on deficiencies in their games but the Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn't allow for that.

Instead the teams take what they can get. In some ways that may be better.

The rookies didn't have an end of the year meeting with the coaches. The rookies haven't seen how they stack up against players with even one year of NBA experience They get a taste of this at the rookie camp. The coaches get to see them in a system the team runs to check out how they fit in that system. It's a first step on the road to success. A baby step for sure but a step just the same.

So enjoy the games. Relax and watch what is basically a step above a pro-am league game but don't start scouring the lineup for the next Bruce Bowen, Ben Wallace or Jameiro Moon. This really isn't likely to be the place you will see them. Don't be wowed by some late 1st rd pick scoring 40 points or some 2nd rd pick grabbing 15 boards. It will happen but it isn't like doing it in the NBA for 82 games.

As someone told me at the scrimmage Tuesday night, Dan Dakitch shut down Michael Jordan in the 1984 NCAA tournament. Dan was recently relieved of his coaching duties at Bowling Green while Jordan is...well Michael Jordan. One game doesn't make a career and Dakitch's game was in the NCAA tournament not the NBA Summer League.

Good thing to remember as we gear up for Over-Hype Vegas Style 2008.

For more information on the summer leagues and how to approach them I suggest you read Eric Musselman's blog about How Hubie Brown Ran His Summer league.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The 'Toine Factor

While there has been a ton of hours logged discussing the various aspects of the draft night trade that saw O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love change franchises, most of it has focused on those two players and sharpshooter Mike Miller while ignoring the other pieces in the transaction. Jason Collins should be a solid backup for the T'Wolves, while Brian Cardinal fills the need for a "token white guy" at the end of the bench. Just kidding BC -- you know we love you and think that you'll make a great coach after your playing career is over. For Memphis, Greg Buckner will supply solid defense on the perimeter and Marko Jaric will bring one of the hottest women on the planet to our fair city. What's that? Jaric can play 3 positions? Bonus!!!

The one guy that seems to have slipped through the cracks as nothing more than a throw-in salary that will likely be unceremoniously bought out and left to the winds of free agency is Antoine Devon Walker.

You remember this guy, right? Talented, easy-going, fun-loving.....and in shape. Now just think about what could happen if he showed up in Memphis with that same mindset, that same hunger and desire to win. A tantalizing dream, isn't it? Not only could he start at PF, but he could also be a veteran influence who knows how to win on the biggest of stages. That would be quite a coup for a team full of young players that need someone who has already been through the pains and struggles of climbing the mountain. I'm not saying that 'Toine will turn into a shining example of leadership overnight, but if he wants to play in the NBA beyond this season, then he's going to have to prove to the league that he hasn't become satisfied since winning a title with the Miami Heat in 2006.

Of course, perhaps he has reached the top of the mountain and feels that there is nothing left to accomplish. Even people who know him well have hinted that Walker isn't focused on playing and just seems to be going through the motions -- coasting, as it were.

The reason I bring this up is because Walker's mindset and approach to this season will probably determine who truly got the better end of the trade. Minnesota received two starters (Miller and Love) and one contributing role player (Collins). Memphis got one starter (Mayo), two contributing role players (Buckner and Jaric) and one big question mark (Walker). If that question mark becomes an exclamation point, then the Grizzlies can confidently say that they "won" the trade. It's your move 'Toine -- will it be a Shimmy or a slow dance?

BallHype: hype it up!

Updated Summer League Roster - Leaving for Las Vegas

There were some last minute changes to the Grizzlies summer league roster. Here is the final roster according to the Grizzlies.

#15 Alan Anderson: A 6-6 G/F who played collegiately at Michigan St and last season played with Vitrus Bologna in Italy

#00 Darrell Arthur: The second Grizzlies first round draft pick and first draft pick acquired from the Pau Gasol trade. Arthur, a 6-9 power forward, played on the national champion Kansas Jayhawks last season

#5 Malick Badiene: Malick's rights were acquired in a draft deadline trade involving New Orleans and Houston. The 6-10 Senegalese center/forward has some impressive athletic ability but lacks the skills needed at this time to be a force in the NBA. Last year Badiene played at St Vallier in France.

#6 Steve Burtt, Jr.: Burtt, a 6-1 point guard, is the son of a former NBA player (Steve Burtt Sr) and followed his dad to Iona for college. An impressive scorer in college Burtt will need to show he possess true PG skills to make it in the NBA. Last season Burtt played at Ashkelon in Israel.

#34 Brian Butch: A last second replacement for Aaron Pettway who came up injured, Butch was impressive enough in his workout with the Grizzlies to be invited in to play for the summer league team. A decent perimeter shooter Butch will need to show the physicality top play in the NBA. Last season Butch started for the Wisconsin Badgers who made the NCAA tournament.

#11 Mike Conley: The #4 pick in the 2007 draft, Conley is back for his second summer league with the Grizzlies after starting 46 games last season with the Grizzlies. Battling injuries for most of the 1st half of the season, Conley is showing off improved upper body strength while hoping to maintain his quickness this summer.

#3 Javaris Crittenton: The first player to appear in a game with the Grizzlies after the Gasol trade Javaris is hoping to show enough his point guard skills in summer league to enter the discussion for backing up Conley. Last season Crittenton may have been the best perimeter defender on the Grizzlies and that should hold him in good standing with new defensive assistant coach Kevin O'Neill.

#7 Marcus Dove: A 6-9 G/F from Oklahoma St, Dove is the 2nd surprise name to make the roster. Dove is razor thin and at 23 will have to show he is capable of putting on weight to make an NBA roster. Dove is considered a force on defense with improving offensive skills. He will need to show both to make the Grizzlies.

#25 Ebi Ere: No player impressed me more with his shooting at the summer league practice than Ere. Perhaps he is motivated by the fact that his former team in Brisbane Australia folded so he has no fall back position at this time. Ere has a great shot and can get it off extremely quickly.

#32 O J Mayo: Does anyone really need to read any more about OJ? He has shown in practice the ability to be a playmaker from both the PG and SG positions, can hit the big shots, understands when to take players inside and when to shoot over the top instead. Basically he is nearly a complete offensive guard. The one problem that reared its head when I watched was turnovers. At just over 6-3 in sneakers OJ will have to cut down the turnovers if he wants to be a point guard in the NBA.

#23 Brent Petway: The reigning NBDL Slam Dunk Champion Petway, 6-8, is actually considered more of a defensive player than offensive force. The former Michigan Wolverine is a team player who is not comfortable creating in the offensive flow of the game despite his incredible athleticism. Petway is probably headed back to the Idaho Stampede unless a perfect situation opens up for a defensive player with no offensive skills.

#55 David Simon: Simon is a 6-10 PF/C who played last season in Dijon France. Simon had two knee injuries in college (IPFW) which slowed his development but has worked through these setbacks to garner an professional career. Whether that career will extend up to the NBA has yet to be determined.

#1 P J Tucker: PJ has been one of the more impressive players in camp so far but his effort has been overshadowed in part by his lack of size. The 6-5 F from Texas struggles with quick SF's and is overmatched by taller SF's and almost every PF. Still his heart keeps him involved and he makes plays despite his height limitations.

BallHype: hype it up!

Dave Berri Responds to 3SOB's Response

Dave Berri over at Wages of Wins wrote a rather depressing article about the Memphis Grizzles titled The Memphis Mirage to which I had to reply in the blog Answering Dave Berri's Memphis Mirage Piece.

So naturally the good professor couldn't let a student of his have the last word. His reply to my reply is titled More on the Memphis Mirage

I don't know if anything more needs to be said on the subject.

One thing I did learn however. Never argue with the teacher in his classroom!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Interesting Conversations - Post Gasol Press Conference

I tried to tape the entire press conference introducing (or should I say re-introducing) Marc to Memphis but the quality was terrible and you can listen to everything said during the conference over at the Grizzlies web site so why bother?

What I did get that no one else probably has is some private time with Michael Heisley, Kevin O'Neill and Marc Gasol after the press conference where I could fill in some blanks from both this conference and the previous one introducing O J Mayo and Darrell Arthur to town.

First up I wanted to talk to Mr. Heisley. As usual once you get Mr. Heisley talking you know two things. He will answer your question to the best of his ability and he will tell you what he wants you to hear. With that in mind her is what Mr. Heisley and I talked about.

3SOB: Mr. Heisley, a question came up recently about some comments you made at the last press conference about wanting the Grizzlies to be competitive in 2-3 years. What exactly does competitive mean to you.
Mr. Heisley: Well it means to me that hopefully we will be a threat to be in the playoffs or in the playoffs and more importantly we will have the nucleus of the team in place so we can add to it that nucleus to be a championship contending team. We take the young players and they develop that is the basic nucleus of the team. Then when we get into that position and we have the salary cap room we hope to have then we can bring in one or two free agents and we could be a good force. That is my idea. Three years I expect to be in the playoffs. In three years I don't expect to be national champions.

Now maybe I'll be wrong but I would say that if people want to see the Grizzlies come out and I think you are going to see a totally different team. I brought in Kevin O'Neill. Kevin O'Neill is a fantastic defensive coach. He's involved in the practices down here now. He's making a world of difference. I feel we're in a place where we might be young, we might get beat but I want people to not want to come in here and play. That's the kind of team I want. The type of team that Boston was, that Detroit has been for years, that Michael Jordan and the Bulls were, people think of Michael Jordan as a scorer but he was probably as good a defensive player as there was in the NBA. There were two or three guys who were almost as good as he was [defensively], so when they played in the playoffs teams didn't get 80 points. It wasn't hard to beat them.

That's what I'd like to see. I'd like to see a team that first of all starts with a great defense and then has good offense. This idea that you are going to have an offensive team that is going to outscore every team in the NBA is becoming more and more a fallacy. Maybe some fans like it but I think fans enjoy winning a hell of a lot more. Now I don't want to see a dull team. Did you think it was dull watching what Boston did to LA this year? I didn't think it was dull at all. When you saw them shut down Kobe, I didn't think that was dull at all. I thought that was pretty spectacular.

That's the kind of thing I'd like to see. Now you can add scoring to that but if you are going to try and be a winner in the playoffs of the NBA then it's pretty obvious you are going to need to play defense. Phoenix finally recognized that and gave up on it.

So that's my philosophy. I hope 2-3 years from now we are a playoff contending team. One of the younger teams in the league with a nucleus of players that has the ability to go on to get good players.

3SOB: You had a meeting with Iavaroni at the end of the season and basically said you expect to see improvement over the next 12 months. With a 3 yr outlook to becoming competitive, how does that fit with him and his situation?
Mr. Heisley: Marc's going to have to show he can run this team. It's that simple. Last year was not acceptable and Marc will tell you that. I wasn't happy with it. I think Marc understands that. I think with Kevin O'Neill working with Marc on defense, and Marc has a lot of talent, he's got a lot of knowledge, he's just got to put it together. Remember last year was his first year as a head coach ever. At any level. And we had some bad nights. When I met with him I wanted to see what he has absorbed from last year.

My point is that it's 3 years. We aren't there yet. That's not just Marc that's everybody. Period. Now there won't be any decisions in the press. I am committed to this. It's what I said after the draft.

I think this is great. Everybody thinks that Pau Gasol was so terrible. Well now we have Darrell Arthur. Okay? He ain't bad! And if his brother turns out to be as good as we hope he can be...Now I am not going to say he's going to be the best center in the league but I really do hope he can be a contributing center in the league so now you have two pieces. Plus you got the cap room. So we don't look so stupid (as we did a few months ago).

The point is Gasol comes from the same family as his brother did and yet he's a totally different player than his brother but if he can be as good as his brother I would be ecstatic. My point is that he's not going to be. He's a different player. I think his game is rougher. I think he's more of a traditional post up, back to the basket center. I think he's more of a rebounder, more of a defensive player but like his brother he's a good passer and quite frankly he's a good quality kid. He comes over with an advantage Pau did not come over with in that he's been in the United States. He knows the country and the people. He spent two years of high school here plus his family is here.

So I am really intrigued to see what he turns out like. He'll get every opportunity and if Darko doesn't step up then he'll be able to get a lot of minutes.

The talks with Kevin O'Neill and Marc Gasol will be posted later.

BallHype: hype it up!

Marc Gasol's Press Conference

Well the worst kept secret in Memphis this year has finally become a reality as Marc Gasol was introduced to the Memphis media today as the newest member of the Grizzlies. You can listen to the entire press conference over at the Grizzlies Web Site.

My impression of Marc is that he is a lot slimmer than I expected even after hearing how he had really improved his conditioning. I think he looks to be in better shape now than he was playing in Spain. He's very soft spoken and yet you can tell this was a day he had dreamed about for a long time. Marc could have accepted far more lucrative contracts to play in Spain but the desire to be an NBA player overwhelmed the monetary benefits of remaining overseas.

I'll have a lot from the press conference later including some interesting private Q&A with Michael Heisley, Kevin O'Neal and Marc Gasol.

BallHype: hype it up!

Press Conference Scheduled Today

There will be a press conference at 1:30 pm today. No reason was given but I can't believe anyone who has followed the Grizzlies or the Spanish League can't imagine what this is about.

I will try and attend the Press Conference to get up to the minute information but I can't promise anything. I do have a real job after all!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Afternoon Workout

I'll make this quick (as much as I can) about the 2nd workout on Tuesday.

First off Randolph Morris and Luke Jackson were both at the workouts today. They are not going to be part of the Las Vegas team barring injury. Both players wanted to show the coaching staff how they are playing. I didn't get to talk to Morris (he was still shooting when I had to leave) but Jackson told me he hopes to be back tomorrow because he feels he is a good fit on the team and would like to be invited back to training camp. As a former top 10 lottery pick, Jackson has struggled in his career but he showed today he can still hit the long ball when open. I don't know if he will be invited to training camp however.

Mike Conley is still looking big like I reported after the draft night party. He also looks far more in control at the point than either Crittenton or Mayo. Mayo isn't going to light up the league as a rookie judging from what I saw today but he is going to be very solid and has no fear taking big shots. Playing with a shot clock in the scrimmage it seemed Mayo searched for the ball and took most of the shots at the buzzer. He didn't make a lot but I loved seeing him want the ball in those situations. He also made some excellent passes. He just struggled with ball control when running the point. To me he seems like a more natural shooting guard who can play some point guard instead of a natural point guard who can play the 2.

P J Tucker was very energetic and made his presence felt but looked very short to play the 4 and too limited to play the 3. He is a great player but not a great NBA athlete in other words. Ebi Ere really made an impression on me. He looks to have true NBA range, is comfortable playing the physical game and has all the tools neccessary to make it in the league. I don't know if that will translate to real game action but he was raising eyebrows this afternoon. Malick Badiene was more impressive offensively than I expected but still needs to put on some muscle weight. He is probably best served waiting overseas another year or two and try to develop more strength. Brent Petway is a good defensive player and while I didn't get to see him dunk the ball he has some serious hops. Unfortunately his offensive game is no where near NBA caliber. I doubt he will be invited to camp.

Aaron Pettway is off the team because of injury but no one seemed to concerned about that. One member of the staff joked 'Poor Aaron, we hardly knew you.' Replacing his spot is Brian Butch from Wisconsin. Maintaining one of the worst kept secrets in the league, another insider with the team mentioned he was going to the airport when he left. I wonder what he was going to be doing there?

Darrell Arthur showed everything that has been written about him today. He got a surprising amount of boards but disappeared at other times. Maybe he is just feeling his way around instead of trying to impose himself on the action or maybe the rumors about his motivation are true. I don't know yet but he definately didn't look like someone ready to replace Hakim in the starting lineup yet. Also disappointing was Javaris Crittenton who really had trouble running the point.

For an excellent recap of the morning workout I suggest you read Chris Herrington's blog or Ron Tillery's recap in the CA.

BallHype: hype it up!

We Got Their John Hancocks

OJ Mayo and Darrell Arthur are officially members of the Memphis Grizzlies. Both players inked their contracts today.

Details haven't been released and there is no news as of yet on when the press conference will be held but I bet it will be between practices tomorrow and there will be a big man on the podium with them.

Answering Dave Berri's 'Memphis Mirage' Piece

As I mentioned in the links post this week, I am a big fan of David Berri and his book The Wages of Wins. However I recognize certain problems with his system and it seems that many of these problems came together in his blog 'The Memphis Mirage'.

Here is my reasoning for disagreeing with the conclusions Mr. Berri drew in his blog.

I realize that usually success on the basketball court translates to success at the box office but Memphis' attendance woes began when the team was winning 49 games and reaching the playoffs not when the back to back 22 win seasons occurred. To say simply that winning is the only tonic needed to increase attendance flies in the face of Memphis' experience with the Grizzlies. Memphis fans were disenchanted with the product on the court and drastic changes were needed.

Mayo provides a demonstrable attempt to address that problem in Memphis. Whether or not he turns out to be the elite player he was at the end of the college season and the Grizzlies hope he will be or the average player he was at the beginning of his college career isn't as important as the idea that Memphis is willing to take some risks to provide the city with a winning team.

The feeling in Memphis has been that the owner has no desire to field a winning, entertaining team and would rather cut costs to the bone to pocket as much money as he could probably before selling the team (and Seattle has been mentioned a lot in that regard). The Mayo trade showed the city that this wasn't entirely the case and that Heisley was serious when he said he was going to rebuild with youth for three years at which time he would make whatever moves he needs to make to have the franchise win the championship. The team may fail in that regard but the idea that the team is attempting to get there is in itself a positive sign.

But enough on Berri's issues about Memphis' attendance woes. I also feel that WinScore has difficulty making predictions with rookies, college players and especially internationals. The system is predicated on the continuity of player’s performances. Over the life of a player's career his numbers tend to average out better than most of the other major sports and that consistency allows for a strong correlative aspect to predicting the future performances of players. However a rookie to 2nd year to 3rd year player is extremely volatile in his production. Right now Memphis' top players all have fewer than 5 full years of NBA game experience making the law of large numbers very shaky in regard to the predictions. Mayo, Arthur and Marc Gasol (the reigning MVP in the Spanish League and Pau's brother) all have very low correlative expectations. They could be poor players and they could be excellent ones. There is not a large enough amount of information to predict how they will play in the NBA. That means that three potential starters on the Grizzlies have no reliable data to base an opinion on.

Conley and Lowry, the returning point guards , play one of the most difficult positions in the NBA and have a combined 145 games of NBA experience between them. Crittenton may have been a PG in college but he has never played that position in Memphis. Mayo played SG in college as well but Mr. Berri lumps all four players into the PG mix for his appraisal. Naturally if you take all four players and classify them solely as PG's then there would be a major problem. However if Crittenton and Mayo play the positions they played last season then the problem is somewhat alleviated and that is the current plan of action. I fully expect one of Conley, Lowry and Crittenton to be moved this summer to address other areas of need on the team as well.

Rudy Gay's numbers were hurt by being forced into playing PF for stretches last season as well. No one can expect his performance to remain constant going forward. Rudy was one of the more improved players in the NBA last season raising his WP48 (read the book to understand what this is saying) from -0.045 to +0.055. That correlated to an increase in 6.3 wins from his rookie to sophomore years. The 3rd year in the league is when the largest increase in productive play usually occurs. How he and the point guards respond to their experience, more defined roles and other factors will have greater impact on the team's performance than I believe this system can approximate much less project at this time.

Then there is the wild card. Antoine Walker has played terrible the last two seasons especially last year. This season his contract will likely not be renewed so he is in effect a free agent after this year. His performance needs to resemble his career averages if he wants another NBA contract. Consider that in 2006-07 Antoine Walker had a 0.107 WSPM (Win Socre Per Minute) and in 2005-06 a mark of 0.164 WSPM. Has any work been done to judge how differently a player performs in a contract year to the years preceding? I would expect the results would be different than an average year. Will Antoine continue his decline or make improvement back toward his career numbers in this contract season? At 31 Antoine is hardly too old to return to his previous levels of performance according to 'average' which is very important to statistical evaluation.

Will the Grizzlies be successful this season? I doubt it but that isn't being expected in Memphis either nor even desired. Memphis wants and needs another high lottery pick to continue to build a strong base of NBA talent so that in three seasons the playoffs can be talked about with a straight face and the fans know this. The people purchasing tickets now see a team trying to become competitive again and not content on being doormats forever. They are interested in watching that young talent develop into a quality team. That is why tickets are being sold and it took acquiring a personality and big name player like OJ Mayo to convince people that are in fact what the team is trying to do.

This isn't a mirage. It is more of an opportunity to give the community something to believe in that has been lacking since a story was leaked a year and a half ago that Pau Gasol was demanding a trade. People have hope again and that was missing for the last two seasons, especially at the end of last year.

As I said previoulsy, I really respect Mr. Berri's work and strongly suggest everyone read his book Wages of Wins (now out in paperback by the way but I prefer the hardback). It is easy to dismiss his work because it flies in the face of conventional wisdom often but without reading his discussion you are judging out of ignorance. I believe the easy answers don't tell the whole story about the Grizzlies this coming season but that doesn't mean the book is worthless. It isn't.

I hope Mr. Berri will take the time to respond to this blog. I will gladly post his reply (or reference it if he chooses to put it on his blog instead).

Addendum: In referring back to the article I saw a reference to the 2007 season when the rebuilding process began. I think everyone should read Losing to Win in 2007 and relate that to the 2008-09 season. Memphis could win more games this season making different moves but they couldn't be competitive. By rebuilding the way the team is now they hope to be competitive in the future.

BallHype: hype it up!

What is the New Cap Number Going to Be?

Tonight the NBA releases the Salary Cap figure that all NBA teams are supposed to adhere to. Of course only a small number of teams actually use that figure as a cap (Memphis being one of them this year). What is important about the cap number however is not what teams will spend in salaries on their team but what number can teams use to make trades with the three teams under the cap.

If I lost you there I understand because it gets a little confusing. Let me explain. First off you need to know why there is a cap. Larry Coon who writes the excellent website NBA Salary Cap FAQ, describes a salary cap this way:

A salary cap is a limit on the amount teams can spend on player contracts, which helps to maintain competitive balance in the league. Without a salary cap, teams with deeper pockets can simply outspend the remaining teams for the better free agents. The basic idea is that a team can only sign a free agent if the total payroll for the team will not exceed the salary cap. So a team with deep pockets is playing on a level playing field with every other team.

The evidence bears this out: For the 2001-02 NBA season, the correlation between team payroll and regular season wins was about 0.13. In other words, there is nearly no correlation between salary and wins. By comparison, MLB (with no salary cap) had a much stronger correlation of 0.43 for its 2002 season.

That means that there is very little correlation between a team's payroll and their success in the league. That may come as a bit of a shock to those people who believe the Grizzlies can't be competitive with a low payroll. However the NBA doesn't have a hard cap (meaning teams can not go over the cap). The NBA uses a 'soft cap' and in fact very few teams actually stay under the cap at all.

So most teams are above the cap. What does that mean? Well when teams are above the cap they are limited to how much additional money they can spend on free agents. These 'exceptions' allow teams to sign free agents despite being over the cap. However they are not able to pay market value for those free agents.

Let me take a step back here for one second. When I say free agents I am not talking about a team's own free agents. Teams can resign their own free agents for any amount up to their maximum salary. This is to prevent teams stars from jumping ship simply because their former team couldn't match an offer by another team. This was closed in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Gilbert Arenas provision. It is called that because under the previous CBA a team could only offer their Early Bird Free Agents an average salary contract. Washington at that time was under the cap and offered nearly twice as much. Golden St could do nothing about it but as I said that loophole was closed. So when I refer to free agents I am referring to another team's free agent.

Of course there are exceptions to the cap (otherwise it would be a hard cap). The exceptions are relatively well known but if you would like a refresher course I suggest you reference Larry Coon again. What is important to know in general, and to Grizzlies fans in particular, is how teams can trade players to teams under the salary cap. Teams over the cap can trade players as long as the salaries of the traded players match to within certain parameters. Those parameters are explained here.

Since the Grizzlies are under the cap, way under in fact with approximately $12 million of available cap space (which could be reduced by $3 million tomorrow if the Gasol rumors are true) they are able to absorb larger contract without invoking the trade restrictions. Teams can trade for a player who doesn't make as much money (like one of our talented and still under rookie contract PGs) for a player making more money but doesn't fit into that team's future plans. So the Grizzlies are in a sense able to accept a traded player for one of their rookie contract players for up to the salary cap plus $100,000.

Now you see how the salary cap announcement can affect the attraction teams may have in a deal with the Grizzlies. Many teams are over last season's cap number but may not be over this coming seasons number. If they find themselves too far over the cap for this coming season they may desire a trade more. Memphis is one of the few teams that have talented young players, the cap space to absorb a higher contract and the need for both veteran players and specific position players. When two teams with needs get together deals can be done.

What goes into determining the salary cap? All basketball related income (BRI). Last winter was a tough time economically in the USA and there is every reason to assume that the tough economic conditions will have an adverse effect on the BRI which means some teams may find themselves in uncomfortable situations with the cap and therefore may be interested in making a trade to unload some salary. The more teams that feel that economic pinch the better opportunity the Grizzlies have to make a deal.

So pay attention to the number tonight. It could mean something good for the Grizzlies.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Brief Introduction to the Summer Time Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies announced their Summer League roster on Wednesday to a rather universal blah. Outside of Mayo, Crittenton and Conley there are very few big names included and no outstanding bloggers that we know of yet (we still miss you Rod Benson).

Here is a quick rundown of every player invited to play from their height, weight and college or international experience.

Ovinton J'Anthony Mayo - 6-4.25 SG/PG Rookie USC
-If you don't know who this is yet what are you doing on this website? OJ Mayo was the main attraction in the big late night draft trade that sent Mike Miller and #5 pick Kevin Love to Minnesota. A combo guard Mayo provides big name exposure, full court awareness and a nice outside shot to a Grizzlies team that was sorely lacking an identity after the Pau Gasol trade last season.

Mike Conley - 6-1 PG 1 yr exp Ohio State
- Conley's rookie season was filled with injuries that limited him to 53 games last season but he still started 46 of those games. Once established as a starter, Conley averaged double figures in points in three of the last four months. Assists are supposed to be Conley's forte and yet he only averaged over 5 assists per game in one month (not coincidentally the last month Pau Gasol was on the team). His shooting was sporadic as it is for most rookies but he finished strong and is working to improve his shot over the summer.

Javaris Crittenton - 6-4.75 SG/PG 1 yr exp Georgia Tech
- JCritt is the one player who could help himself the most in the summer league. The one player demanded in the Gasol trade (outside of Kwame Brown's expiring contract) JCritt struggled to find a place in the rotation as he tried out as SG most of his time in Memphis. JCritt is extremely young, not turning 21 until Dec 31 so there is a lot of hope he will develop. However it was rumored (and apparently confirmed by video) that he was offered to Philly in exchange for their #1 pick in the 2008 draft. JCritt will probably need a roster adjustment (read trade) to get a chance to play consistently unless he blows away people in the summer league.

Darrell Arthur - 6-9 PF rookie Kansas
- When Memphis last saw Arthur play he was wrecking havoc on the inside in Kansas' OT win in the National Championship game. His 22 pts and 10 rebounds were critical in keeping Kansas close enough to make the last second charge. Arthur was supposed to be a late lottery pick in the draft but rumors of a kidney problem (not real) caused him to drop and Memphis made the move necessary to acquire him with the 27th pick. Frequently players who fall in the draft like this make big splashes early as they feel they have something to prove. Arthur will need to put on weight and muscle to compete at PF but he seems to have the frame to support that growth and the attitude to do what is necessary.

Malick Badiane - 6-11 C/PF Saint Vallier (France)
- Many people have forgotten about the trade deadline acquisition of Malick Badiane's rights for the rights to Sergie Lishuk and his visa problems. Originally drafted by the Houston Rockets out of Senegal Badiane has spent four years in Europe and has played on the Senegal National basketball team. Only 24 Badiane is still a work in progress and with a 7-5 wingspan and 32" vertical there is a lot of potential in his game. However he is still considered very raw by NBA standards and would benefit most by upgrading to a more competitive league in Europe.

Alan Anderson - 6-6 SG/SF Michigan State Vitrus Bologna (Italy)
- A converted PG from college Anderson has struggled to find a spot in the NBA after being waived by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006. Anderson was MVP of the Spartans his senior season after leading the team to the NCAA Final Four. His last season was spent in the Italian league (one of the most competitive in Europe). His NBA career has consisted of 53 games (with 7 starts) and a 5.8 ppg average. Being that Anderson turns 26 before the start of the season this may be his last opportunity to make an NBA squad and should be well motivated to give a good showing.

Anthony Leon Tucker - 6-5 SF Texas 1 yr exp
'P J' Tucker played for the Texas Longhorns alongside LeMarcus Aldridge and some said he actually had a better final season than the eventual #4 pick. He was a Wooden Award finalist and was voted Big 12 all-defensive team his last year at Texas. Size has always been a big concern for Tucker who doesn't have the ball skills or agility to play SG in the NBA. A 2nd rd draft pick for the Toronto Raptors Tucker was eventually released to make room for Luke Jackson after bouncing back and forth between the big club and the D League. Last season Tucker was voted MVP of the Ligat Winner (Israeli Premier League) while leading his club to the Championship and dethroning 14 yr champion Macabi Tel Aviv in the process. Only 23 Tucker has an outside shot to make the team as a backup to Rudy Gay thanks to his defensive ability.

Steve Burtt, Jr. - 6-0 PG Iona Ashkelon (Israel)
- Son of former NBA player Steve Burtt Sr, Burtt is known as a smooth scorer. Learning the game on the streets of Harlem, Burtt followed his father's footsteps to Iona and now hopes to follow him one step further into the NBA. Burtt was the Iona teams captain and was second team all MAAC after finishing 3rd in the conference in scoring (25.2 ppg). His main drawback at his size has been the lack of assist production (3.3 apg as a senior). Being primarily a shoot first PG on a team deep at PG isn't promising for Burtt. Burtt was a main contributor on Askelon last season playing with former Tiger Chris Massie.

Ebi Ere - 6-5 SG Brisbane, Australia
- Ebi is in the USA trying to find a team...literally. Ebi's former team, Brisbane Bullets turned their license back into the league at the end of the season. Ere was a leading scorer in Australia this past season averaging 27.2 ppg. Born in Tulsa and actually playing on the Sooner basketball team for one season (2002) when the Sooners made the NCAA Final Four Ere has been described as an athletic wing player who can create his own shot and score points in bunches. With the overload of PG's on the team this could be an excellent opportunity for Ere to garner some attention. Like Tucker he has an outside chance at finding a roster spot on the Grizzlies.

Aaron Pettway - 6-10 C Oklahoma State SIG Strasbourg
- Strasbourg was Pettway's third European club. The 2006-07 season he played in Poland averaging 9.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots and was named to the Polish League All-Star team. Born in Mobil, Alabama Pettway only played 2 seasons at Oklahoma State and didn't distinguish himself there in very limited minutes. Pettway has been described as an athletic freak who can block shots, rebound on both ends of the court and run the court well. Of course there are concerns about the level of competition he has faced in garnering this type of praise.

Brent Petway - 6-8 SF Michigan Idaho Stampede (NBDL)
- Petway is long and lean. At only 205 pounds he is not effective inside and yet doesn't appear to have 3 pt range which limits his NBA effectiveness. Petway, not related to Aaron by the way, is an efficient scorer however shooting 54% last season in the NBDL mostly on dunks but only averaged 7.2 ppg as well. His size and quickness could make him an effective defender however as he averaged 1.5 bpg and 0.8 spg. The blocks in particular are impressive as the league isn't known for their defensive play. Petway won the D league dunk contest this season and afterward challenged NBA Slam Dunk Champ Dwight Howard to a competition. The boy has some moxie. Nicknamed Air Georgia, Petway has shown the ability to unleash massive dunks during games as well and ought to be very exciting to watch in the summer league.

Hector Romero - 6-8 SF New Orleans St Montepas (Italy)
- Venezuelan Hector Romero played in the 2002 FIBA World Championship. Romero isn't considered a real threat to be on the Grizzlies roster this coming season after averaging only 5 mpg in the Italian league last season. That is surprising since Romero did draw some attention at the 2006 Vegas Summer league playing for Portland. There is some question about his height (sometimes described as being closer to 6-5 than 6-8) but he is a tough player who can score inside and out, rebounds well and rarely gives up on plays. He plays smart and makes the right pass, is in the right position defensively and can score.

BallHype: hype it up!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Links: Summer Camp, Free Agency and the Seattle Issue

I rarely do the links update but I felt a need to get these stories in front of Grizzlies fans.

Marc Gasol is heading to Memphis to sign a contract tomorrow. This is being reported at The site is in Spanish so a kind poster at the Memphis Grizzlies message board got a translation of it. This is what the translation says "The Spanish international Jose Manuel Calderon and Marc Gasol momentarily leave the concentration of absolute selection of basketball in San Fernando, on Tuesday to travel to Toronto and Memphis and their initial contracts with the Raptors and Grizzlies, respectively, reported the Spanish Federation of Basketball (ELF)."

Most people know I respect Dave Berri's work over at Wages of Wins but this time it is more difficult than normal. His piece titled The Memphis Mirage is accurate but doesn't tell the whole story in my opinion and is based on some information that is questionable at best as to it's relevancy to the NBA. Still everyone is free to make up their own mind.

I don't know who this blogger is but he puts up an interesting list of all-time great players for the Grizzlies. Check it out at Fox Sports.

Sometimes it is hard to laugh at what the media says about our fair city but Nation of Grizzlam puts a great spin on the things with the blog titled Because We're Good Enough, Smart Enough...and Doggone It, People Like Us. has their first edition of the rookie rankings up and Memphis's own OJ Mayo and former Tiger Derick Rose go 1-2 in the list. And people say Memphis never gets any props!

I swear the Memphis Flyer should pay us for the free advertising but Chris Herrington had a few must read blogs last week including Message Board Responses where he cleared up a few rumors and misconceptions.

The Charleston Gazette has an interesting article on Chris Wallace and what he has done with the Grizzlies in trading for O J Mayo.

Seems like a day can't go by before the media blasts the Grizzlies for something. Here is another example of Grizz Bashing This time from Bleacher Report. As usual the article claims to be making one arguement but fails to do what it claims.

Finally, another ill-informed view of the Grizzlies situation in Memphis. Why do people just overlook a 17 yr lease when talking about the Grizzlies moving to Seattle?

BallHype: hype it up!