Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer League Review - The Players

Yesterday I took a look at the Rookie team as whole without focusing too hard on any one players performance. Today I am going to look at the individuals.

O J Mayo - 18.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.6 apg 1.4 spg, 4.8 topg

OJ was the star of the summer league team and made the highlight plays that got the Grizzlies on Sportscenter but he also shot 40.7% from the field (48% from three point range). Outside of a thunderous dunk in the first game and a 69 ft heave in the 4th game he really wasn't that spectacular. He got people fired up with some nice plays like an up and under reverse layup but overall he didn't really stand out as much as hoped for the #3 player taken in the draft. WHen fresh OJ showed that he was far better than most people in the league but you expect that. OJ also played two positions and that obviously had an effect on his efficiency.

Darrell Arthur - 13.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 50.0 FG%, 0.8 bpg, 1.6 topg

Darrell came to the Grizzlies as the player who fell the most on draft night. He was supposed to have a chip on his shoulder about the snub. Instead his reputation as being a player who has a questionable heart seemed to be true. 3.8 rebounds a game was one fewer than Javaris Crittenton and nearly three fewer than PJ Tucker. Arthur did shoot a high percentage from both the field and the three point line (50%) but often seemed to be more in the background than imposing himself on the action. When playing hard he was impressive. It just didn't appear that he had the motor running every night and that was before the fatigue factor was supposed to set in. In many ways Arthur was more impressive when the rest of the team looked tired.

Mike Conley - 11.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 2.67 topg

Conley was out of sorts at times playing with O J Mayo who also fancies himself a PG. It seemed Conley was more interested in allowing OJ to be the star then he was in establishing himself as an up and coming player in the league. He did shoot 45.8% from the field and 44.4% from the arc but he didn't seem to take advantage of his speed to force defenses to react to him. Missing the last two games seems like a smart idea. He had a tough year last season and there is no reason to expose Conley to a potential injury do to a ridiculous schedule.

P J Tucker - 10.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.6 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.8 topg

If one player played himself into an invitation to training camp it had to be P J Tucker. PJ led the team in rebounding despite his diminutive size (supposedly 6-5). Basically a power player Tucker gets by on hustle and intelligence. He has high skills for an interior player but at his size less skilled players should have no problem defending him anyway. Tucker still manages to score by simply outworking his opponents. His 65.2% FG shooting also shows that he doesn't force too many shots, a trait that would serve him well to remember if he is invited to the camp.

Ebi Ere - 8.2 ppg, 48.3 FG%, 42.9 3pt%, 1.0 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.6 spg

Ere reminded me of the Richard Gere role in 'An Office and a Gentleman' when asked why he wouldn't quit screamed "I got no place to go!" Ere's Australian team disbanded this year and he has no place to go. An excellent shooter from the perimeter, Ere showed little else in the summer league. He worked on defense but failed to come up with turnovers. If the team decides to go with a pure outside shooter (along the lines of Eddie House but cheaper) then Ere may have a chance to come to training camp.

Javaris Crittenton - 8.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.8 rpg, 38.5 FG%, 4.0 topg

If there was a player who needed to prove he had a future on this team it was Javaris Crittenton. The jury is still out on whether or not he achieved that. Crittenton led the Grizzlies in assists, was second on the team in rebounding, 2nd on the team in minutes played and 6th in scoring to go with some pretty good defense at the SF position. JCritt played 3 different roles on the team and if his shooting was better would have been the feel good story of the summer. Unfortunately he didn't shoot the ball well. He didn't even shoot adequately. Rumors have swirled that JCritt is still on the block and they seem justified right now.

Steve Burtt, Jr. - 6.3 ppg, 64.7 FG%, 33.3 3pt%, 2.3 apg, 0.8 spg

The son of a former NBA player with the same name, Burtt showed that he can shoot the ball. He is the looks like the typical shoot first PG but his 2.3 apg looks pretty good when you consider he only played 13 minutes a game. Burtt's play may have earned him a second look from other NBA teams but with the depth in the backcourt the Grizzlies have it is unlikely he will be invited back to training camp.

Alan Anderson - 4.4 ppg, 23.8 FG%, 20.0 3pt%, 1.6 rpg, 0.8 spg

Anderson is a good defender who can't shoot a lick. That type of one sided approach to the game isn't good enough in the NBA anymore (if it ever was). Anderson has a nice way about his game but it just isn't productive enough at this level and this level isn't the NBA.

Malick Badiane - 4.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 33.3 FG%, 0.2 bpg

The book on Badiane was that he needs more time to develop. That was made perfectly clear in the summer league. One of only 6 players to play in every game Badiane's performance started adequate and deteriorated from there. His offensive game is terrible and he doesn't play good enough defense especially blocking shots as his wingspan would imply he should. Badiane also had more fouls than rebounds. That is never a good sign.

Brian Butch - 2.7 ppg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 rpg 33.3 FG%

A last second fill in for injured Brett Petway, Butch showed exactly why he was available as a last second fill in. Not much to say about Butch besides good luck in Europe or the NBDL.

Aaron Pettway - 2.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0,5 bpg

The reigning NBDL Slam Dunk Champion has amazing hops, plays great defense and can't score at all. A peculiar combination of talents. Pettway looks like he will be back to defend his slam dunk title next year. The Grizzlies love his defense but loathe his offense and like I said about Anderson, you need to play on both sides of the court in the NBA.

David Simon - 1.0 pgg, 1.3 rpg, 0.2 bpg

That isn't bad production considering he only played 9.5 mpg. If you move that to a per 40 minutes average you get 4 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 1 block. On second thought maybe that is pretty lousy and that is why he didn't play much.

Marcus Dove - 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg

What can I say. He didn't play much and that was probably a good thing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summer League Review - The Team

Well now that the Rookie league team has completed play I suppose we can look back and try to discern what we learned about our players and the team in general.

It is hard to be too critical of rookie play since the team had two a days on Tuesday and Wednesday, flew to Las Vegas on Thursday and then played four straight games and 5 games in 6 days. Fatigue had to be an issue for everyone on the team. However the few bright spots the team did exhibit were quite bright. Defensively the team held their first opponent to a mere 35.9% shooting for the game. Their second opponent didn't fair much better only hitting 40% of their attempts. The impact of Kevin O'Neill and the defensive focus was readily apparent. The Grizzlies shot respectable as a team those first two games as well.

Then fatigue set in and the defense sagged while the shots stopped falling. It is ridiculous to assume this shouldn't have happened also. Yes these are professional athletes but when you are facing teams who haven't played as many games as you have in such a short period of time fatigue is the enemy you can't defend against. Overall I wasn't displeased with the team's performance.

The team looked about as good as you would expect under the circumstances they were thrown into. The better players on the team didn't play every game including Mike Conley missing the last two games. It seemed the team had found out everything they wanted to know about the veterans on the team and the last games were more about preparing the drafted rookies for the rigors of the NBA and trying to find out if anyone else on the roster was worth a second look.

There is no truth to the rumor, as far as we can find out, that Heisley requested that the team play their 5 games in 6 days so that he wouldn't have to pay for extra days in the hotel.

BallHype: hype it up!

If You Show It, They will Come

The Grizzlies rookie campaign ended Wednesday night with a matchup against Al Thornton and the LA Clippers and on WPXX (PAX 50 - the local TV station that covered the Grizzlies rookie league games last summer, you were able to watch...reruns of the Family Feud!

Memphis is sooooo not ready to be a major league city.

Of course this isn't the only time when the Memphis Grizzlies rookie team's games weren't televised in Memphis. The team used to play in the Long Beach Rookie league or whatever it was called. That league had something like 4 teams participating and was not televised anywhere. In 2007, the Grizzlies joined the Las Vegas Summer League and had all of their games televised either on NBA-TV or WPXX. This season, with the addition of OJ Mayo exciting the local fan base and the team being in the midst of a general revival of interest local fans were again blacked out except for the one Sunday night NBA-TV game.

It was unfortunate NBA TV chose the Grizzlies-Lakers rookie came to be a national TV broadcast since the Grizzlies were playing their third straight game and obviously the legs were a little tired. Still the stands were full of fans anxious to see Mayo, Conley and Darrell Arthur for the Grizzlies. The Lakers are a big draw in Vegas too. Apparently the folks running NBA TV thought the game would draw more interest than re-runs of the 1966 Celtics-Lakers championship series. In Memphis the decision is different. It's not like the Grizzlies are like every other team in not covering the summer league either. The Lakers broadcast everyone of their summer league games in LA.

Why did the Grizzlies not get broadcast this season?

According to George Flinn of Flinn Broadcasting the decision was...well actually he didn't say anyting. He wouldn't talk to me but if he had I am sure it would sound something like this.

3SOB: Why aren't you guys covering the Grizzlies Rookie League Games? Was it because you don't think anyone would watch?

Flinn: No. We didn't think we could sell enough advertising to make it profitable. Selling the ad space to cover the expenses of Family Feud re-runs would be easy. Selling enough ads to cover the expense of the buying the game from the NBA Network would be prohibitively more expensive. We love the Grizzlies and want to maintain....

blah, blah, blah. Business. Money. The Bottom line. Why does it always come down to how much profit someone can make? Heisley wants to make money with the Grizzlies. WPXX wants to make money at the station. Local businesses want to make money too. And why didn't Memphis businesses believe that they could reach enough customers by advertising during Grizzlies games?

I think I know why. And I hope this is going to change. After the Gasol trade last year everyone from casual fans to local businesses to the national media believed that the Grizzlies had quit trying to compete in the NBA. The team had relegated itself to minor league status. No one wanted to be associated with a loser and Memphis was the epitome of a loser franchise in the NBA.

All that changed at 11:00 pm on Thursday, June 26th. That was when OJ Mayo, Darrell Arthur and hope all became a part of the Memphis Grizzlies.

If WPXX had the opportunity after June 26th to broadcast the games they probably would have because the advertisers would support the apparent new direction the team was taking. Alas it was too late. The summer league was only 15 days away and there were two weekends and a national holiday in between. There simply wasn't time enough to get it done.

The message needs to be that 'if you show it, they will come.'

People in Memphis understand building a winner takes time. After all the Tigers may have been thrust into the nation's conscience this past year but most Memphians know it took two NIT appearances, a couple of early NCAA exits and two Elite 8 runs to suddenly burst onto the scene last year. The same is true of the Grizzlies. Basically we just signed Dajuan Wagner. There is a light at the end of the tunnel but it's still a pretty damn long tunnel.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

O. J. Mayo chosen for USA Select Team

According to RealGM, Memphis Grizzlies rookie guard O. J. Mayo was selected to help the USA Senior National Team prepare for the 2008 Olympic games. Mayo will join former Memphis Tiger Derrick Rose as the only rookies on the select team.

More O.J. Mayo Links:

Spurs rookie praised for slowing down O.J. Mayo.

O. J. Mayo assisted The King at LeBron's Skill Academy.

BallHype: hype it up!

Do the Grizzlies Have 'Big' Problems

It wasn't so long ago that the over-loaded front line drew as much criticism from fans as the current over-loaded point guard position does now. Remember when Memphis had Pau Gasol, Stromile Swift, Bo Outlaw, Lorenzen Wright, Shane Battier, James Posey and Theron Smith all on the roster? Bonzi and Miller were really forwards who were forced into guard roles by the shear number of front line players.

Now Memphis has a dirth of frontline players and those they have are not experienced. Rudy Gay is entering his 3rd season and started a grand total of 124 games in his career. Hakim is beginning his 4th season and started a grand total of 75 games. Darko is the most experienced returning player and in his 5 years in the league he has started a grand total of 83 games in his career. Sure Antoine Walker has experience but he'll be 32 this coming season and hasn't player well since winning his ring in Miami three seasons ago. Does anyone feel confident relying on the 'shimmy shaker' to help educate our young players in how to be professionals?

Then we come to the primary backups at PF and C. Two rookies. One, Darrell Arthur, fell in the draft to 27th because of questionable health and heart. No there is nothing physically wrong with Darrell's heart. It just seems he doesn't bring it to the game every night. The other, Marc Gasol, was a fat kid who liked to take 3 pt shots when he left Memphis to return to Spain. This past season he was in the top 5 of the Spanish league in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. Only one other player in the Spanish leagues accomplished this feat...Pops Mensah Bonsu.

WHO? Pops was on the GW team that shocked the world in the NCAA tournament a few years ago. Nice effort guy and he has a high basketball IQ but hardly someone I would say is going to be an impact player in the NBA. Doesn't that seem to trivialize Gasol's accomplishment a bit?

So the Grizzlies have a combined 283 games started total among all of their front line players not named Walker. That is a little bit more than three seasons of games (246). Antoine does have 707 career starts but only 16 in the last 2 years.

So do the Grizzlie have a big man problem? Perhaps they do. If Arthur and Gasol don't perform, if Darko doesn't improve, if Walker comes in out of shape and with a negative attitude, if Rudy doesn't continue rounding out a complete game to go with his fantastic offensive one and Warrick continues being a black hole on both sides of the court (can't defend anyone and won't pass the ball) then Memphis could be in big trouble.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Finally A Day Off

I thought the regular season schedule was tough on the Grizzlies. After two straight 2 a day workouts, a travel day to Vegas and then four successive games the Baby Grizzlies finally get a day off during summer league training.

The Spurs game on Monday evening was almost an after thought as the tired Grizzlies limped back to .500 after their brutal schedule. Led by Darrell Arthur who scored 23 point explosion (on 10-15 from the field shooting and a summer league high 6 boards), the Grizzlies took a 3 pt lead into the 4th quarter but were unable to finish the game as fatigue seemed to have an effect.

One player not seemingly affected by the schedule was PJ Tucker who again had a solid performance with 12 pts and 9 rebounds but OJ Mayo shot a summer league worst 5-17 in the game. He did add to his highlight reel with a beyond half court shot (69 ft) to end the 1st quarter however. Steve Burtt Jr has 12 points as well, mostly from the line, and looked nice replacing Mike Conley in the lineup. Conley was given the night off to rest I believe.

Javaris Crittenton got to play nearly 30 minutes of the 40 minute game and most of the time he was running the point. His 6 pt, 6 assist and 5 rebound game was decent but not outstanding. Crittenton's play has been somewhat disappointing this summer. I believe most Grizzlies fans were hoping to see a big step forward in his development but playing mostly as the 3rd guard and guarding opponents small forwards predominantly has taken something away from his offensive game. Hopefully this isn't a trend that will continue into training camp. The Grizzlies need Crittenton to establish himself as a solid backup at either the PG or SG positions to facilitate moves in the roster either for himself or someone else.

Scouting OJ Mayo: 20 Second Timeout has an early scouting report on OJ Mayo after the Lakers game. The article is not flattering and the authors bias is clear throughout but it is a sobering review of the player we traded a lot of assets to acquire. On a more positive note RealGM ran a blurb about OJ's big shot last night.

Combo Cubs?: The NBA Summer league ran a story about the Grizzlies three guards (Conley, Mayo and Crittenton) that is really worth reading but where did they come up with name Combo Cubs?

Blog of the Day: Grab Your Balls

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grizzles vs Lakers: Chalk this up to Stu Jackson

I don't care how teams perform in Summer League games. I really don't.

Having said that I do hate to see the Grizzlies look bad on national TV (even if it is just NBATV. Being that the only game being televised this summer (and I am sure to write a blog about how disappointing that was later) is was a shame that our Baby Bears had to play their 3rd game in as many days against a Lakers team that was well-rested.

I don't know if Stu Jackson actually writes the summer league schedule but whoever it is that does write the schedules obviously has been in touch with Stu. How else can you explain three straight games (and a fourth consecutive game tonight) in a 5 game summer league format? It's not like the entire league is being shortened to 7 days or anything. The Las Vegas summer league runs from July 11th to July 20th but the Grizzlies finish their summer league participation on July 16th. 5 games in 6 days. That is ridiculously tiring for any player much less rookies just getting back into game shape after working on drills to prepare for the NBA draft over the last two months.

Right now traditional NBA whipping boys the LA Clippers and our Memphis Grizzlies are the only teams to have played 3 straight games. LA already lost rookie Eric Gordon to a hamstring pull and won't play Game 4 until the 16th (against the Grizzlies) before ending their summer league participation on the 17th. Coincidence? I don't think so. The more glamourous Lakers won't play game 3 until the 16th.

What difference does it make? Well summer league isn't about the whole team (sorry Ere, Tucker and Burtt to name a few players). It is about getting your high draft picks prepared for training camp. To get them up to speed on the offense and for the known players to spend time with the coaches. Guess which teams is getting more practice time to indoctrinate their rookies. Memphis' rookies are having everything thrown at them in 8 days from start to finish. The Lakers have the pre-tournament practices and then 10 days in Vegas to work on things.

Now I know I am tired and frustrated after watching the game and seeing our tired legs getting constantly beat down the court and failing to establish position but I think I have a point too. I hope this isn't a foreshadowing of the upcoming schedule from the NBA. The Grizzlies would probably play 60 games back to back with travel if the same idiot who wrote the Summer League schedule gets to write the real season schedule this season.

Addendum: Does ESPN ever get information correct about the Grizzlies? Here is an exerpt from their NBA coverage of last nights game:

The Grizzlies will play their fourth game in as many days on Monday as they play the San Antonio Spurs in the final game at Thomas & Mack.
They were so close to getting that information right. It isn't the Grizzlies last game (they play the Clippers on Wednesday night).

Sunday Night Party: It was a lot of fun seeing everyone at the Buffalo Wild Wings last night. About 20 people showed up including the 3 SOB crowd sans MemphisX (he doesn't like to be seen in public with the rest of us), Memphis Slim, HPTMatt, The NoG crowd of CircleK, Commodore 64, Zac and PMI (I suppose it isn't a shameless plug to promote NoG), NancyW, GrizzLifer, GrizzBoyd, Mr Wright and True Blue (with some beautiful friends by the way), the poster formerly known as Grizzman (who was barely recognizable after losing 70 pounds - Can you say Jarret) and of course the resident Grizzlies experts Chris Herrington and East Memphis Bob. It was frustrating the team didn't play better but the conversation was lively and interesting.

Darko Update: One conversation in particular made me think last night. Someone asked if Serbia was in the pre-Olympic basketball tournament. I said no because I didn't think they were. I now found an article that supports that contention: Pre-Olympic teams. Darko is playing on his national team this summer but in a Euro Cup qualifier not the Olympic qualifier. Hope that helps clear things up.

BallHype: hype it up!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Case for Not Trading a Point Guard

There has been a lot of discussion among Grizzlies fans about the apparent logjam at Point Guard on the team and how Memphis needs to make a move immediately to address this problem. I disagree and for some simple reasons.

First off Conley is only 20 yrs old and has started a grand total of 46 games in the NBA. That is not exactly a ringing endorsement to give him the keys to the franchise. Sure his statistics almost mirror Tony Parker's when he was a rookie and are actually superior to such prominent PG's as Gilbert Arenas, Chauncey Billups and Steve Nash as rookies but that doesn't mean you can stamp the future All-Star label on Mike just yet. Lowry doesn't have much more experience after only playing 10 games his rookie season. Right now it appears Conley will be the superior PG in the NBA to some people but he hasn't shown that on the court yet. There is no reason to rush the decision before someone has clearly won the job.

OJ Mayo is a dynamic player who has stated that he feels his best position is PG. That doesn't mean he is right and from what we have seen so far that is simply not the case. Mayo is a scorer who struggles against quick PG's and makes bad decisions at times when pressured with the ball. He may develop into an excellent PG at some point but right now he is a turnover waiting to happen.

Javaris Crittenton is similiar to OJ Mayo without the outside shot. He has excellent size to be a PG (compared to the dimunitive Conley and Lowry) but his ability to control the ball and run the offense hasn't develop yet. He also doesn't appear to NBA level vision when driving in the lane. A PG can always drive in the lane and shoot but to be a truly effective PG you need to get into the lane and then find the open man as the defense collapses. So far I haven't seen Crittenton capable of making that play.

Jaric can play PG, SG and SF. He is very versatile in that respect. He came over playing PG but last season he was almost exclusively a SG and at 6-7 he has decent size to play SF. Frankly with his lack of foot speed I feel more comfortable playing Jaric as a SG/SF than at the point. Jaric will bring experience and knowledge to the young guards on the team and that is important. His role is clearly more mentor than player at this point.

What's more, Lowry and Conley give the Grizzlies two different PG skill sets that most teams will struggle matching up against. Right now JCritt and Mayo don't appear to take care of the ball well enough to run the point but both can defend well at the SG and allow the Grizzlies to add more playmaking ability to the backcourt.

This doesn't even take into account the serious problem the Grizzlies have had lately keeping Point Guards healthy. In 2005 Damon blew his Patello Tendon out. In 2006 Kyle Lowry broke his thumb and missed the remained of the season. Last year Mike Conley hurt his shoulder and missed a total of 30 games. It isn't like the Grizzlies haven't had a big need for strong backups at the point lately.

At some point in the future I expect at least one of the backcourt players to be moved to fil a hole in another part of the team but that definitely doesn't mean they have to make a move right now.

BallHype: hype it up!