Friday, August 1, 2008

The Trouble with Being Earnest - Part 3

My response to Zack's post below, which was a response to Chip's post earlier in the week.

We are committed to building around Pau. If that was a lie, then why did the team sign Darko Milicic, aka the big man Pau had been requesting for years, and trade for Juan Carlos Navarro, Pau's best friend? The team attempted to build around Pau, albeit briefly, and the results were not pretty. They decided to ship Gasol out before he became a potential problem or lost any value.

We aren't trading Pau for cap space. It it true that Kwame Brown's expiring contract was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Pau to the Lakers. However, it also gave the Grizzlies 2 additional first round draft picks (one that became Darrell Arthur this summer), as well as the rights to Marc Gasol (who could be the starting center this year) and the services of Javaris Crittenton, who has shown a lot of potential. They didn't trade Pau for only cap space, as they could have if they had traded him to Miami for the expiring deals of Jason Williams and Ricky Davis. The deal was criticized by many, but so were the deals that saw Vince Carter and Baron Davis get traded. Their former teams are doing just fine now and so will the Grizzlies.

We need 50 games to properly evaluate the roster. The team had played 45 regular season games at the time of the trade. Of course, they had also played 8 preseason games prior to that, meaning that the front office and coaching staff actually had 53 games to evaluate the team.

A lie is something that is told when there is an intent to deceive. The front office probably believed all of those things when Wallace and Iavaroni were hired last summer. Circumstances changed their viewpoint, so rather than stubbornly sticking with what they said months before, they decided to try something different, something drastic. In any case, they didn't lie to the fans, because I've already pointed out that each of those things could be shown to be true. They did change their strategy though. And that is something that we should all be thankful for.

BallHype: hype it up!

The Trouble with Being Earnest...Part 2

The eternal optimist Chip wrote a post earlier this week called The Trouble with Being Earnest.

The cynic is here with a rebuttal.

Bottomline: Don't trust what pro sports management say.

Rewind to a year ago...heck 9 months ago...

Here was the company line from Heisley/Wallace/Iavaroni:

--We are committed to building around Pau.
--We aren't trading Pau for capspace.
--We need 50 games to properly evaluate the roster.

Now for the reality:

--Pau was traded and rebuilding without him began.
--Pau was traded for cap space.
--Pau was traded before the 50 game mark.

So, in my humble opinion, take what Heisley and Wallace say with a grain of salt. Being earnest is only going to force them to lie.

BallHype: hype it up!

Links: Thank Goodness It's Friday Edition

Let's kick it off with CelticBlog's continuing series of nominating the best 5 players in each franchise's history: Runnin' Fives: Memphis Grizzlies. You'll find commentary from CelticBlog, as well as 3 Shades of Blue and Nation of Grizzlam as they discuss who they believe the best player is at each position in the Grizzlies brief history.

Yesterday, there was an interesting back-and-forth between Steve Kyler (Hoopsworld) and Chris Herrington (Beyond the Arc) after Kyler posted something stating that the Grizzlies were intent on shedding even more salary, going so far as to suggest that they were looking to trade Kyle Lowry and/or Javaris Crittenton for another player's rights that was overseas in an obvious cost-cutting move. After Herrington called Chris Wallace, who completely refuted the report without hesitation, and posted a rebuttal, Kyler posted a retraction of sorts. Things got a little heated, as Kyler even posted a comment on Herrington's 2nd post on the subject with his email address and a request to contact him. While this received some interest on the Grizzlies Fan Boards, I didn't feel it deserved a response from us at 3SoB, as it was obviously a poorly researched column that merely fed into what many media-types have been saying about the Grizzlies being in an extreme cost-cutting mode. The fact that Kyler wasn't aware that the New Jersey Nets could not trade Nenad Krstic without him being signed to another NBA contract is rather inexcusable from where I sit, given that I am a lowly fan blogger and he is purportedly a credentialed member of the established media. I'm tempted to give him our "Sam Smith Award" for blatantly making up things to stir up interest, but I think that Herrington has done a fine job of putting him in his proper place.

Lastly, we come to our "Blazer's Edge" section, as Dave has put up 4 quality posts recently that I give my highest recommendation:
Blogs and Credentials Part 1 and Part 2
Writing Nerds - A Conversation with Bethlehem Shoals

Blog of the Day: Ridiculous Upside - your source for the latest and greatest D-League news and commentary.

BallHype: hype it up!


With the greatest respect to Rudyard Kipling and his famous poem 'If' I present...

the Grizzlies If of 2008.

If Conley can keep his head when all the fans about him
Are losing theirs and blaming it on him,
If Gasol can trust himself when all the fans doubt him
But understand their doubting too,

If Darko can compete and not be slowed by the horrible schedule,
Or being booed, not lower his head,
Or being hated, not give way to pouting,
And yet don't get too worried Or get down on himself:

If JCritt can dream--and not make dreams his master,
If Lowry can pass--and not yet not make passing his aim;
If the Rookies accept both wins and losses
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If Iavaroni can bear to hear the truth he's spoken
Twisted by media types (including bloggers),
And keep the positive message in front of the team

If Mayo can make one shot at the end of a game
And not let previous failures scare him away,
And if he misses, start again believing in himself
And never breath a word about the miss;

If Hakim can force his heart and nerve and sinew
To defend long after he thinks he has to,
And to hold onto the rebound when there is nothing left in him
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If Adriana Lima can talk with crowds and sign autographs,
And the team can finally beat the Kings in that Damn Arco Arena,
If neither ugly fans nor loving friends can affect Rudy's focus,
If the team knows it can count with him, but not too much,

If the Grizzlies can fill the unforgiving shot clock
With 24 seconds' worth of passionate defense,
Yours is Memphis and everything that's in it,

And--which is more--you'll be winners, my boys!

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why Do We Watch?

Thanks to Herm Edwards, we know why they play the games, but why do we, the fans, watch the games? Is it for the athleticism that is turned into artistic grace and poetry, as espoused so eloquently by Graydon Gordian (48 Minutes of Hell, Hardwood Paroxysm)? Is our attention drawn because we grew up watching, as our fathers did before us, so it has become ingrained in us? Do we watch simply to root for laundry, as Jerry Seinfeld once quipped when discussing the prevalence of player movement in the modern era? Do we watch for the purpose of gathering and calculating statistics? Is it merely a team's geographical proximity to our current location? What is it that drives us to become fans of a player, a team, a sport?

Obviously, it could be any one of those reasons or even all of them. Loyalty is developed in different ways for different people. The reason that I am currently pondering this question is because of the cynicism that the Grizzlies fanbase has adopted in recent years. Right now, on the Grizzlies' Fan Boards, there is plenty of discussion about "smokescreens" and conspiracy theories. On many well-known websites and blogs, there have been comments made about the Grizzlies' reluctance to pursue any of the big name free agents, despite their position as the last remaining team with any significant cap space, is a "detriment to the league" and is proof that they "do not intend to be competitive". All of this has been eaten up with a spoon by a large percentage of the fanbase, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why.

If you truly believe that your favorite team isn't making moves to better itself in the future, with the goal of a realistic shot at a championship in the viewfinder, then why would you continue to root for that team? If financial considerations are not only the primary concern of a team, as Chris Vernon has stated, but is, in fact, their only concern, then what would motivate you to continue rooting for that team? If you truly believe that your team's owner, GM, coach, et al, have resigned themselves to losing for the forseeable future, then why would you stay on board a sinking ship?

Is Michael Heisley focusing on losing less money than he has in the past -- and possibly even making some for a change? Absolutely. Does that mean that the Grizzlies are guaranteed to flounder at the bottom of the standings? Nope. The issue I have right now is that it seems that everyone wants to lump both questions into one answer. Even if Heisley is more concerned with the bottom line than a position at the bottom of the standings once again, that doesn't mean that the Grizzlies won't get better. This isn't an either/or situation. In fact, that's something that I believe that Heisley is counting on.

If the team becomes competitive over the next few seasons through Chris Wallace's management of personnel with trades and the draft, then Heisley has a valid reason to spend money on a quality free agent that could put the team in a position to make a serious postseason run. Of course, if the team has done that with "homegrown players" like Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, etc. then they will have to sign them to extensions, which could take a big chunk of that cap space that everyone is talking about right now. If that occurs, then Heisley still has an out for not spending, since the team, which currently has 8 players under the age of 24 that are expected to contribute, could be solidly set at all 5 positions, meaning there isn't a necessity to spend money on a big name free agent. I'm not saying any of this to support Heisley's "Three Year Plan" or the practice of putting finances above wins. However, this is a reality that everyone should consider when they look deep within and ask themselves why they watch.

I watch, because the NBA = entertainment. I watch to see the best athletes in the world, night in and night out. I watch because the jersey says "Memphis" on the front of it and the team plays 20 minutes from my house. I watch because I expect great things from young players. I watch because I truly, honestly believe that this team will continue to get better, whether or not the current owner gives approval to signing a big free agent this offseason or next. I watch, because for better or for worse, I am a fan, even as I view the future of the team with a critical (but not cynical) eye.

Tell me why you watch in the Comments.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If Lowry Returns, Will There Be Hard Feelings?

Early this summer, especially after the OJ Mayo trade on draft night, most people assumed that one of the point guards on the team would need to be moved this summer. Mike Conley was Iavaroni and Wallace's first draft pick with the team, even if Jerry West was still lurking around in the background. Javaris Crittenton was the player Wallace insisted on getting from LA in the Pau Gasol trade. O J Mayo was reportedly a natural point guard who could play the shooting guard role. Marco Jaric has been a swing guard who usually played the point. All of these players have been acquired by Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni since they arrived in Memphis a little over a year ago.

And then there is Kyle Lowry.

Kyle was already in Memphis before Wallace arrived. Iavaroni's experience as an assistant NBA coach almost always was with point guards who were great outside shooters and passers (Mark Price in Cleveland, Tim Hardaway in Miami and Steve Nash in Phoenix to name a few). Defense from the point was nice but not required.

Kyle is not like those point guards in any respect. His outside shot, while improving, has never been considered threatening, his passing numbers were adequate but not exceptional but his defense has been where he made his mark so far. Deflecting passes, stealing the ball and basically being as physical defensively as any point in the league has been where Kyle earned his reputation. He isn't a classic leader on the court as much as a momentum changer and motivator. Kyle doesn't keep you level and running the system. He gets you fired up and believing anything is possible.

So he isn't exactly a great fit with Iavaroni's past coaching experience, he wasn't chosen to be on the team by Chris Wallace and his name has been floated all around the league with almost every team looking to shore up their PG position until recently. Will that have an effect on Lowry's attitude this season?

Attitude was never an issue before last spring. No one assumed Lowry was anything but a team player and would do everything asked of him. Then came the rumored quote where Lowry said he wanted to be a starting PG in the NBA. Suddenly the stories started to spread that Lowry was unhappy. Lowry wanted out. Lowry wasn't the 'team player' everyone thinks he is and he could become a cancer if he returns. Those rumors have been countered by the Three Amigos Story but not put to bed entirely either.

No one provided proof of course. I honestly don't doubt that Lowry is upset at not starting and that he wants to be a starter in the NBA. You don't get to this level without having the drive and confidence to desire being a starter in the NBA.

That doesn't make you a cancer however.

People have told me that Lowry puts on a public face of being a nice guy. However behind the scenes he is far from a Shane Battier poster boy type of person. Supposedly the bulldog personality we see on the court extends into the locker room and beyond. I don't know if there is any truth to these rumors. I have met Kyle and he was very polite and gracious. I haven't personally noticed anything to back up the rumors I have heard but that doesn't mean they aren't being said.

So after a summer of being talked about in trade rumors, a return to the bench behind Mike Conley looming ahead and the possibility of free agency in the not too distant future (Kyle will be unresticted in 2010) one has to wonder how his mental attitude will be this coming season. Will he be the team player or become a distraction as he looks for an opportunity to get more playing time?

Hopefully this won't be a problem this season. Memphis has enough problems already about the coming season. If Lowry does want out I hope he maintains the 'behind closed door' policy so we don't read about in the papers or hear it on TV. Memphis already has a bad reputation around the country. It doesn't need any more bad publicity.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Trouble with Being Earnest

There is nothing inherently better or more certain to spending our cap space at the trade deadline this season, in the summer of '09, or in the summer of '10 compared to spending some of it this summer...
A quote from the Memphis Grizzlies Message Board

This attitude is seemingly spreading around the Grizzlies fan community lately and also among people wanting the team to make more dramatic moves than they have seen so far this summer. Not that trading Mike Miller and Kevin Love for O J Mayo wasn't a dramatic move.

While I empathize with this emotion I also have heard enough times from Chris Wallace and Michael Heisley this summer to realize this isn't going to happen. The leadership for the Grizzlies has been focused almost since the draft that they were not going to be spending the cap space this summer. They were going to focus on developing the youth on the team and when the players proved they could become a .500 team (and what was missing became more obvious) Heisley and the Grizzlies would provide them with what they needed to go the rest of the way.

People may disagree with the strategy but they can't act surprised the team is pursuing this strategy. Lest we forget, the Grizzlies have lost a lot of money over the last few seasons and there is nothing inherently better or more certain spending the money now instead of waiting to see what is available in 2009 or 2010 except spending it now without ticket sales supporting the move will just make the franchise less profitable.

This coming season the team is going to put the rookies into the fire and see what they are made of. The leaders of the franchise realize that this won't increase attendance this season. People will support winners and that is what the team is building toward over the next three seasons. Next summer the team will add another lottery pick and will be forced to spend at least some of the cap space because they will likely be below the minimum salary mark for teams in the league.

There is discipline in sticking to the plan for the future and not make moves that would hamper the teams flexibility. There is logic in developing the young players and then look to attract players who want to be a part of the growth of the team rather than throwing money at players merely interested in getting the biggest payday they can this summer. There is common business thought that you don't want to create expenses that inflows won't pay for.

There will come a time when the wallet will need to be opened and Heisley has stated frequently that when that time comes he will step up to the plate. Heisley knows that failure to invest in a business is a sure fire way for that business to fail and Heisley isn't known as a man who lets business' fail. Heisley is known as a man who turns around bad businesses and makes them profitable and successful.

So just because the business of the Grizzlies actually has some money they can spend doesn't mean the team should empty out the savings account to buy the newest hot thing on the market. Without fully understanding what the future needs of the business will be, it makes little sense to buy something you may not need or desire in the very near future.

I believe that is what Heisley, Wallace, Iavaroni and just about everyone connected with the Grizzlies have been telling people all summer. They have a lot of pieces here but they don't know yet how they will work together and until The Grizzlies brain trust knows what else is needed, it doesn't make any sense to spend the money. They are being earnest in what they are saying. They want to wait and make sure of what they need before the incur the expense of bringing someone in. People may not appreciate or understand this thinking but they are telling the truth about the strategy they are employing.

And that is the trouble with being earnest.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Not Spending Might Cost Grizz in the Future

The 2008 NBA offseason has hit a quiet period for the Memphis Grizzlies. Now don't think GM Chris Wallace is resting on his draft night coup of getting O. J. Mayo and Darrell Arthur in Beale Street Blue. Apparently the Grizzlies are in talks with the Orlando Magic about sending backup point guard Javaris Crittenton to Disney World for J. J. Redick or Keith Bogans plus a 2009 1st round pick. However, this is the vacation period for NBA GMs, so do not expect any deals real soon. I won't speak on the merits of this deal at this time but I think Wallace needs to do something significant this offseason.

Why this season? I know there is a three year plan in place but being frugal this season could cost Wallace and the Grizzlies in the future. My reasoning is that without a major talent upgrade, especially in the frontcourt, the Grizzlies are going to be a non-competitive team for the third year in a row. This would mean that for the entirety of Rudy Gay's career, the Grizzlies will have been one of the three worst teams in the NBA each season. So next offseason in 2009 when it is time to start negotiating a contract extension, I think Rudy might be a little hesitant to commit long term to the Grizzlies organization. That is unless the Grizzlies want to offer him an inflated extension relative to his current value. I know most reading this are aware of the current NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and that even if the Grizzlies and Gay are not able to agree on an extension in 2009, the Grizzlies will hold the right of first refusal in 2010 and will be able to match any offer Gay gets as a restricted free agent. So what is the problem?

The problem is that 2010 is going to be a major offseason for free agency. There will be a lot of major market teams with lots of capspace in 2010 loading up for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. In fact a lot of GMs are getting some career longevity by clearing up caproom for 2010. By this time, if the plan is going right, Rudy Gay should have established himself as a reasonable alternative for an NBA GM when LeBron James decides not to sign with their team. This means that a NBA GM looking to save face for his 2010 plan might be willing to through a maximum contract offer at Rudy Gay. No problem right? The Grizzlies can match that and retain Rudy.

Well, the other inherent problem with Rudy Gay becoming a restricted free agent is that he gets a chance to see the other side. Despite what his other NBA friends tell him, all Rudy knows about the NBA is from the perspective as a Memphis Grizzlies player. Time for some reality: The Grizzlies are not the model NBA franchise. The last thing the Grizzlies want is to let Rudy Gay (and his agent), to get a taste of the possibilities of playing in New York or Chicago especially if we are coming off of four straight lottery appearances in 2010. Restricted free agency is one thing but do you think Heisley wants to invest a MAX contract into another player that voices a reluctance to want to be a Grizzlies player? Unlike other places, there will be no media backlash if Rudy and his agent demand that the Grizzlies work out a sign and trade or not match his offer sheet. It would be reasonable and expected by the national media.

This is the problem with going with a plan that has being a bad team as the focus. The Grizzlies risk alienating the very young players they plan to build around. I imagine that it has to be and will be very frustrating to be a part of so much losing. For the fans and the Grizzlies to expect this not to take a toll on their young players is unreasonable. Not only will it weigh on them but it enhances the perception that the Grizzlies are the Mid South Clippers. If the Grizzlies are serious about this three year plan, they need to put a more solid foundation down at the beginning or anything they build in the future will be unsteady.