Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pacifiying the Fan Base

Out of nowhere Friday, the Memphis Grizzlies signed the most dynamic player on the free agent market to a 5 year/$58 million offer sheet that was immediately matched by his hometown Atlanta Hawks. Josh Smith was the prototype for the power forward position in the offense that Iavaroni wants to run.

The funny thing is that I don't think I read a single account by a Grizzlies fan that actually thought that Atlanta would not match that offer sheet because it was reasonable. So why would Chris Wallace and Michael Heisley even waste their time with the offer? Why wouldn't they do like Philly and trade some of their young talent to clear out cap space to make an offer to Smith that Atlanta would not match? IMO it is because Memphis finally has a GM that knows what he is doing.

The Memphis Grizzlies are on The Three Year Plan (3YP) for better or worse. The first year of this plan is going to be real painful. I am not sure most fans have a realistic concept of the type of frustration they will experience this season. As such, the pressure to "do something" will be hard and heavy once the 2009 NBA trade deadline approaches and the Grizzlies are in dead last in the Western Conference. So Wallace (and Heisley) need to buy time. And that is just what the Josh Smith offer sheet did for them.

Why waste their time with the offer to Josh Smith? Why not? Josh Smith would have been a great fit for the Grizzlies long term and his talent would have mitigated the lost draft position that they would have missed on with the better record. He actually would have allowed the Grizzlies to potentially complete their future starting lineup a year in advance and thus accelerating the 3YP into a two year plan.

Why not make moves to sign Josh Smith to an offer sheet that Atlanta would not match? Although I have previously advocated making an inflated offer to Josh Smith because I think his future production will justify the salary, the Grizzlies just could not do so with their current roster. If the Grizzlies pay Josh Smith based on what they project his production to be in the future, what do they do next summer when Rudy Gay comes up for an extension? The Josh Smith offer sheet establishes the Grizzlies as a market level contract giver. Giving Smith an inflated deal would have painted them in the corner of giving Gay a near maximum extension even if he just reproduced this past season's production. That is a bad precedent to set.

So in the end the Josh Smith saga was a one day break from the offseason hibernation that the organization is experiencing. It came out of nowhere but it does reveal the motivations behind the 3YP. The Grizzlies are on the lookout for an impact player at power forward. Also, there will likely be no rumors of what the Grizzlies plan on doing until it is essentially a done deal. Sucks for us bloggers and message board folks but is good business for the Grizzlies.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Josh Smith Signed the Offer Sheet

According to Chris Wallace, Josh Smith officially signed the offer sheet on Friday before 6:00 PM.

Atlanta matched immediately.

This does show the Grizzlies, once again, are willing to take chances. Nothing great comes to those that wait. These are not your old Jerry West Grizzlies who would promise great things and deliver nothing. Under Chris Wallace's leadership Memphis has signed Darko Milicic, traded for Juan Carlos Navarro, traded Pau Gasol, traded Mike Miller and draft pick Kevin Love and now signed Josh Smith.

Not a bad 14 months on the job as far as shaking things up on the Grizzlies even if Atlanta does in fact match the offer.

3 Shades of Blue hopes to have an interview with GM Chris Wallace over the weekend so keep checking back.

Celebration Day! Griz Sign Josh Smith...or Offer Contract to Smith? Either Way, Grizz Brass Come to their Senses


The great Ron Tillery is now reporting that the offer sheet has yet to be signed and might not be signed until tomorrow morning.

Sheesh, can anyone get something straight. Tillery's earlier piece had the feeling of him not knowing what the hell he was talking about in it. Then the AJC piece seemed to fill in the blanks and make it all legit. Now this.

Tillery also says that Atlanta is prepared to offer more than the Grizzlies. A 6 year deal. Why would they not just match our deal? Is that extra year worth it? Tillery called it a bidding war. Has a team with restricted rights on a player ever got into a bidding war before? That doesn't make sense either.

Oh ya, the sham site Hoopsworld says Atlanta will match.

At this point, I don't care what happens. Tillery says we have been debating signing Josh Smith for 3 weeks, which makes me happy. And makes me feel pretty smart too...hehehe...ok, enough gloating over this.

Please Atlanta, let us have our future PF.......stay tuned for more....


The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting the offer sheet is signed. The waiting game now begins. It will probably by 7 days before we know anything (IMO).

Herrington thinks the sign/trade route makes the most sense. Can't say I disagree.

Gay/Mayo/ out...


I interrupt this Josh Smith Celebration for a second.

It has been brought to my attention that the Ron Tillery article is confusing. At first it says we sent a contract offer to Josh Smith. Has he signed it? Will he sign it? Why is Ron Tillery so vague? I don't have these answers.

But later on, Tillery says the Hawks have 7 days to match. Which implies it has been signed.

Why is Tillery so vague? Has Smith signed the contract yet? We need answers. Which means we need Herrington.....

Below is my original post

I am in disbelief. That THUD you heard was half of Memphis falling out of their chairs at work.

Ron Tillery is reporting that the Grizzlies have [EDIT] sent a contract offer[/EDIT] to Josh Smith for 5 years, 58 Million Dollars. The Hawks have 7 days to match [EDIT] if Smith signs it.[/EDIT]

This deserves more of these:


So much for saving our cap space for next season.

Actually, we will still have cap space next season even with Josh Smith. About 9 million if my calculations are right. As for this contract, it looks like this, again by my calculation.

Year 1: 9.9 Million
Year 2: 10.69 Million
Year 3: 11.54 Million
Year 4: 12.46 Million
Year 5: 13.46 Million

Those numbers are rounded.

Anyway, I don't know what to say, except for more screaming.


Josh Smith, if he doesn't get matched, will be our starting PF. Many, even a pair of disbelievers on this site, don't think Smith can play PF.

Hogwash, I say. He will be the perfect PF for our team. He is athletic. He can play great defense, in the post, but also on the perimeter. He is the NBA's premier perimeter shot blocker. He will lead our team in rebounds, steals and blocks. Oh, and dunks. He can't shoot a lick from the outside, but who cares.

From my perspective, this fits perfectly with the 3YP. I know about 60% of the Griz fan base disagrees with that. How do I know that? Because Josh Smith has been the sole topic of conversation on Griz Messageboards for about 2 months now.

I wanted us to trade Pau for Smith. So, naturally signing him with cap space created from trading Pau makes me ecstatic.

It seems Heisley and Wallace finally came to their senses and made the move that was obvious from the beginning.

Will the Hawks match? I have no idea.

Could this turn into a sign/trade? Maybe.

For the 60% of the fanbase that believed Heisley was telling the truth about not spending any money this summer, I'm sorry, but you have to believe me that this is for the best.

We will be back later with updates and everyone else's take....for now, you get more of these:


Celebration Day, Memphis....rejoice!!!

Drink a beer for lunch.....Go dance around the office.....Call into Verno at 3 and just start screaming....It's Friday, we signed Josh Smith and things could get no better (except, maybe if I had this paper already written, which makes this news not the best timing, but who cares....celebrate!!!!)

Can Memphis Survive a 3 Year Plan?

There will always be a part, and always a very large part of every community, that have no care but for themselves, and whose care for themselves reaches little further than impatience of immediate pain, and eagerness for the nearest good.
- Samuel Johnson

That's a depressing perspective on society.

At first I thought I disagreed with this position but as I thought it over I came to realize the truth in the statement. The large majority in a community choose to sit on the sidelines and demand that others do their best rather than joining in the battle themselves. They want instant gratification and have zero tolerance for any sacrifice.

In many ways that describes the problem with the Grizzlies in Memphis. So many fans demand immediate gratification to earn their loyalty but that loyalty will only exist as long as the team continues to gratify. They have no patience for the inevitable pain that comes with rebuilding. These members in the community want instant moves, instant wins and instant gains. Anything less and they turn their backs on the team.

This is very different from other parts of the world. Take football (soccer) fans in England. Most people in Memphis have heard of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. More than a few hear the word Arsenal and don't immediately think of their gun rack. These are traditional powerhouses of the English Premiership. They have a world-wide support. However the league would fail if those were the only teams that fans supported. The Premiership has Wigham, West Ham and Fulham also. These teams have loyal fans that pull for their teams even when the odds are hopelessly against them ever competing for the championship.

Of course international sports have a much different reason for being supported locally. Failure to succeed at the basest level could have your team relegated out of the top league. Could you imagine that happening in the USA? Sorry Miami. You had the worst record in the league last year. Next year you are in the NBDL and the Iowa NBDL team is taking your place in the NBA! The Kansas City Royals would be out of the major leagues and playing AAA ball next summer.

So three year plans to return to competitiveness don't work too well in English Football. With relegation comes far less revenue and the good/expensive players are shipped out immediately to other Premiership teams and replaced with younger, cheaper alternatives. Teams can return in a year but they inevitably spend their anticipated largess from the Premiership promotion on more experienced players in an attempt to avoid relegation again.

This doesn't happen in the NBA. Teams are not relegated to lesser leagues for on-court failure. Teams can attempt to rebuild for longer term success. That is what the Grizzlies say they are attempting to do this year. With a team full of players barely out of college (4 players aren't even old enough to drink yet) the Grizzlies are attempting to build a team that can be successful for a long time. Combining a large number of draft picks with expiring contract veterans allows the Grizzlies to put together a core of the team that will mature together. The Grizzlies want a dynasty type of development not a Miami Heat/Boston Celtics two year run.

Will this community support the team enough to see the fruits of these efforts? Memphis is a small market and if the majority of people have no care but for themselves and their immediate gratification then what hope is there for the team to survive. Memphis doesn't have a large population to absorb the fallout of the disinterested majority. Is the so called three year plan a smart one in the River City?

There are numerous factors that contribute to attendance numbers but there are two prime factors. First is the success of the team. The more successful, in general, the better the attendance. The second impact is the longevity of the franchise. The more entrenched the franchise is in the community the better the attendance. Fans grow up going to games with their parent and continue to go as adults with their children. Outside of these two factors their is star power, competition from other events and more but the main two factors contribute the most to attendance.

Unfortunately Memphis has neither factor in their favor currently. They are not winning, don't have a great expectation of winning soon and have not been in the community long enough to have a large core of fans. The one factor that binds the team to Memphis right now is a contract. That is never a good sign for franchise stability.

In the NBA alone there have been three franchises relocated in the last 9 years and another that will move shortly (New Jersey to Brooklyn). That means over the last decade a team has moved every 3 years or so. Coincidentally Memphis' owner has put the team on a 3 year plan for success.

Teams move for financial considerations. The only way to minimize the risk of a small market losing its team these days is to make it financially unprofitable to do so. That means fans have to come to games to make the franchise more profitable. The theory that the fans are owed a winning product simply doesn't mean what it used to. If people have learned anything from the recent moves it is that owners of NBA teams will follow the money to wherever they can find it. Owners don't want to move franchises but they also don't want to lose money.

The good news is that the contract with the city is iron tight right now and lasts for more than three years. Hopefully the franchise will become successful over the next three years so that fans will want to come to games to see the team play. It is highly unlikely that anyone would move the team while the franchise has such a heavy penalty hanging over its head. However as the contract becomes less punitive the likelihood would rise if attendance isn't improved.

Fans follow winners but franchises don't always win. The Grizzlies need to engage the indifferent majority before it is too late. Winning is the simplest measure to do that. Playing exciting basketball is another. Memphis needs to do both soon.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

2008/2009 Schedule or Stu Jackson Strikes Again!

Well, the NBA released the 2008/2009 schedule yesterday. You can view the Grizzlies schedule in its entirety right here. I'm not gonna lie to you -- this year's schedule is best described as tough. Taking a note from something we did on the Grizzlies Fan Boards, I'm going to look at the season in 7-game increments, just like if it was set up into playoff series.

Set 1
Oct 29 (Wed) @ Houston
Oct 31 (Fri) vs Orlando
Nov 01 (Sat) @ Chicago
Nov 03 (Mon) vs Golden State
Nov 05 (Wed) @ Sacramento
Nov 07 (Fri) @ Golden State
Nov 09 (Sun) @ Denver

That's 3 games against playoff teams, 2 games against a team that just missed the playoffs in the West, 1 game against a team that should have made the playoffs and 1 game against the rebuilding Kings. Yikes! Not to mention that only 2 of the 7 are at home. Only one back-to-back though, so that's a positive.

Set 2
Nov 10 (Mon) @ Phoenix
Nov 12 (Wed) vs New York
Nov 14 (Fri) vs Milwaukee
Nov 18 (Tue) vs Sacramento
Nov 21 (Fri) @ Dallas
Nov 22 (Sat) vs Utah
Nov 24 (Mon) vs San Antonio

Start off with the second game of a back-to-back against the Suns, but then play 3 very winnable home games before a tough back-to-back against the Mavs and Jazz, and then finishing up against the methodically deadly Spurs. The home/away situation flips to 5-2 for this set, which should help.

Set 3
Nov 26 (Wed) @ Utah
Nov 28 (Fri) @ San Antonio
Nov 29 (Sat) vs Oklahoma City
Dec 03 (Wed) @ Atlanta
Dec 05 (Fri) vs LA Clippers
Dec 06 (Sat) @ New Orleans
Dec 08 (Mon) vs Houston

Starting off on the road against the Jazz and Spurs is not exactly what I was looking for as a Thanksgiving bonus. But the next two are eminently winnable against the young, raw roster from OKC (when are they gonna get a new name already?) and the turmoil that is the Hawks. I'm still not sure what to make of the Clippers, but their proposed frontcourt of Kaman/Camby/Thornton is sure to be trouble for Memphis. Then they finish it off with talented division foes in the Hornets and Rockets. That is a tough stretch of games, with two more back-to-backs thrown in for good measure.

Set 4
Dec 10 (Wed) @ Oklahoma City
Dec 12 (Fri) vs Chicago
Dec 14 (Sun) vs Miami
Dec 16 (Tue) vs New Orleans
Dec 19 (Fri) vs Charlotte
Dec 22 (Mon) vs LA Lakers
Dec 23 (Tue) @ Dallas

Five straight home games sandwiched by two road games is a nice treat. Playing in OKC will be difficult, as they have proven to be a very boisterous group. Then 3 of the next 4 against the Bulls, Heat and Bobcats should be winnable though. The Hornets, Lakers and Mavs will be tough, although I expect the return of Pau to provide the crowd with some extra energy. Just one back-to-back (with travel), but against two very serious opponents.

Set 5
Dec 26 (Fri) vs Indiana
Dec 27 (Sat) @ San Antonio
Dec 29 (Mon) @ Minnesota
Dec 30 (Tue) vs Phoenix
Jan 02 (Fri) vs San Antonio
Jan 04 (Sun) vs Dallas
Jan 06 (Tue) vs Minnesota

Nothing like coming off the Christmas holiday to face 4 games in 5 days. Sheesh! Two of those four should be winnable, with the Pacers and T'Wolves in the viewfinder. Then they have two more games against divisional foes in the Spurs and Mavs before a 2nd game against the evenly talented squad from up north that sees Mike Miller return to Memphis. Oh yeah, they'll be bringing Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins with them too.

Set 6
Jan 07 (Wed) @ New Jersey
Jan 09 (Fri) @ Toronto
Jan 13 (Tue) vs Cleveland
Jan 16 (Fri) vs Utah
Jan 19 (Mon) vs Detroit
Jan 21 (Wed) @ Charlotte
Jan 23 (Fri) @ New York

Start off with the second game of a back-to-back by traveling to the swamps of New Jersey in what should be a winnable game. The next 4 games don't look too promising though, as they face playoff teams in every one of them, including the Pistons in the MLK Day game, the Grizzlies only appearance on national television. They do get a bit of a reprieve in facing the Bobcats and rebuilding Knicks to finish it off, though.

Set 7
Jan 24 (Sat) vs New Jersey
Jan 27 (Tue) vs Denver
Jan 28 (Wed) @ Oklahoma City
Jan 31 (Sat) vs LA Lakers
Feb 02 (Mon) @ Washington
Feb 04 (Wed) vs Houston
Feb 06 (Fri) vs LA Clippers

They return from NYC to complete a back-to-back against the Nets to get thing started in this set. While Denver is certainly a question mark, they are still a dangerous team. Then they return to the raucous crowd in OKC to complete another back-to-back in what is sure to be a difficult game. The next three are against playoff caliber teams before finishing it off against the mercurial Clip Joint. Another set where 5 of the 7 games are at home, which should help as they head towards the All-Star break.

Set 8
Feb 07 (Sat) vs Toronto
Feb 09 (Mon) vs New Orleans
Feb 11 (Wed) @ Philadelphia
All-Star Break
Feb 17 (Tue) @ Utah
Feb 18 (Wed) @ Portland
Feb 20 (Fri) vs Sacramento
Feb 24 (Tue) @ Cleveland

Although the All-Star break should provide a welcome rest to most of our players, the simple fact is that 6 of these 7 games are against probable playoff teams this year (if Portland makes the leap that everyone is expecting), which is an unfortunate reality.

Set 9
Feb 25 (Wed) @ Indiana
Feb 28 (Sat) vs Oklahoma City
Mar 03 (Tue) @ LA Lakers
Mar 04 (Wed) @ LA Clippers
Mar 07 (Sat) vs Philadelphia
Mar 08 (Sun) @ Houston
Mar 11 (Wed) @ Minnesota

Counting the game against the Pacers as one, this set has 3 back-to-backs in it. That's just brutal, no matter how you slice it. The only positive to take from that is that 4 of the 7 games should be seen as winnable. Unfortunately, only one of those 4 is at home.

Set 10
Mar 13 (Fri) @ Boston
Mar 15 (Sun) @ Detroit
Mar 16 (Mon) vs Portland
Mar 18 (Wed) vs Denver
Mar 20 (Fri) @ New Orleans
Mar 21 (Sat) vs Boston
Mar 23 (Mon) @ Miami

Any time a set includes 3 games against the two teams from last year's Eastern Conference Finals, you know that you're in for some punishment. Throw in games against Portland, Denver and New Orleans and it looks downright bleak. When you start looking forward to facing a team with two All-Stars and one of the best collegiate players of recent history when Miami shows up on the schedule, you know it's been a rough patch. Having only 4 games in the month of March will do that to you.

Set 11
Mar 27 (Fri) @ Sacramento
Mar 28 (Sat) @ Portland
Mar 30 (Mon) @ Golden State
Apr 01 (Wed) vs Washington
Apr 03 (Fri) vs Dallas
Apr 04 (Sat) @ Milwaukee
Apr 07 (Tue) vs Portland

Nothing like a West Coast road trip with a back-to-back to finish off the dreadful month of March. Throw in another 3 games against likely playoff teams and suddenly Milwaukee looks like a nice place to visit, despite what Gilbert Arenas says about it.

Set 12 (5 games)
Apr 08 (Wed) @ Orlando
Apr 10 (Fri) vs Phoenix
Apr 12 (Sun) @ LA Lakers
Apr 13 (Mon) @ Phoenix
Apr 15 (Wed) vs Atlanta

To finish off the season, they get 5 playoff teams from last year. Have I mentioned yet that Stu Jackson absolutely hates the Grizzlies? If nothing else, I have hope that they'll be able to beat the Hawks in the season finale at home.

So that's the schedule. I have heard some fans talk of the team winning 35 games this season. I'm as much of a fan as anyone, but if this team figures out how to win 13 games more than last season with that schedule, then I'll show up to next year's Tip-Off Luncheon looking like one of these guys:

I've also heard some people say that they won't even reach the 22 victories they have managed to win the past two seasons. While I'm not quite that pessimistic, with this schedule and the amount of young, inexperienced players on the roster, as well as the fact that there will be a substantial amount of shuffling to figure out the allotment of minutes for everyone, I could see that being an unfortunate reality. I think that somewhere between 20-26 wins is a realistic expectation at this point, but I'll be rooting for them to win every single game, just like every year.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Beale Street BluePrint

One of the most interesting things about the NBA for me is how much of an effect a truly elite player can have on a franchise. The NBA is the only professional league in which almost the entire fortune of a franchise can be driven by one player. My belief in The Superstar Theory was initially established after reading the wonderful article on by Dennis Gallagher. A similar three part study was done on by Robert W. McChesney (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Both authors come to similar conclusions. Without a superstar player (All NBA 1st or 2nd team), an NBA team has virtually no chance at winning a championship.

McChesney identifies who he thinks are the truly elite talents in today's NBA that the Grizzlies will have to contend with when the 3YP is complete: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudamire, Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams and Yao Ming. These are McChesney's Gold Medal superstars. I will add Greg Oden and Kevin Durant to that list. The big question for the Memphis Grizzlies is can Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo or Mike Conley make it it to Gold Medal superstar status. If they can't then it is implorable that they acquire one of the above nine players by any means possible. This is why the Mayo trade was a must do. Although Mike Miller and Kevin Love are good players (Love should be better than Miller), Mayo has a chance to reach superstar status. No amount of good players is worth passing up on a gold medal superstar.

McChesney makes this statement:

The moral of the story could not be clearer: Smart GMs, and smart fans, have to always be thinking about how their team can get a hold of a gold medal superstar, or, if it is the best you can do, a couple of silver medal superstars. It is the single most important issue before an NBA GM. Once you have your superstar(s), then your job is to surround him with the pieces to win a title, but that is a day at the beach compared to trying to get a gold or silver medal superstar in the first place.

If this is the foundation of the 3YP, then I am with it. If this is the reason why they did not actively pursue a free agent this summer, I am with it. There is no other philosophy I believe in about NBA team building more than The Superstar Theory. It is the reason why I was so fired up to go get Carmelo Anthony (just missed McChesney's cut). You win in the NBA with elite talents. It is not just about winning an NBA title, you need on of these elite players to even contend for an NBA title. Now I am sure there are a couple of examples that defy the rule but for the most part it has held true for the entirety of NBA history. As McChesney puts it:

On 40 of these 52 teams, the best player was one of the 21 gold medal superstars, the elite of the elite of the elite. In basketball, more than any other team sport, getting a player for the ages is essential for championships. Mere all-stars, even several of them, ain’t gonna get the job done. And 8 of the 11 champions that did not have a gold medal superstar leading it, had at least two players from this list on the team, in their primes, at least one of whom was silver-medal. (The exceptions? Rick Barry’s 75 Warriors, Elvin Hayes’s 78 Bullets, and Dennis Johnson’s 79 Sonics. These champions defeated teams in the finals that were similarly under armed; these were “down” years for the league. The late 70s was almost like a Bermuda Triangle for the NBA. Accordingly these are regarded as among the weaker champions in NBA history.)

It gets worse, or better, depending if your team has one of these guys. It is not just about winning titles; it is about getting within sniffing distance of winning titles. All but three of the losers in the NBA finals since 1956-57 have been led by one of these 80 superstars. (The exceptions? The 2000 Pacers, the 1978 Sonics and the 1971 Bullets.) So dig this: only 3 of the 104 teams that have played in the NBA finals were not led by a player on this list. Teams led by bronze medal superstars account for only 9 of these 104 teams, so even having one of them is hardly a winning ticket.

And over one-half of these runner-up teams in the NBA over the past 52 years have been led by gold medal superstars. That means 21 players have led 68 of the 104 teams that have played in the NBA finals since 1956-57. Considering how short Bill Walton’s effective career was, that really means 20 guys.

To put it in even more stark terms: the 28 finalist losers that were led by gold medal superstars lost to champions led by gold medal superstars 22 times. As a general rule, gold trumps silver and silver trumps bronze and nobody else is even allowed to play.

This is it in a nutshell. When teams are holding on to Shane Battiers, Mike Millers and Tayshaun Princes instead of going all in for one of the elite players, you know the GM does not know what he is doing. In fact, I will go a step father and state that the team building does not truly begin until you have at least a silver medal superstar in the fold. So when Heisley says:

If I get a superstar player, you know I said 3-5 years, hell I might be able to get there in 2 years. I might be willing to do what I said I wouldn't do and get an older player so everything changes depending on what the opportunity is.

I hope he is down with The Superstar Theory and not just blowing smoke. If you are a Grizz fan reading this then you already are aware of my skepticism of the 3 year plan. However, I have to ackowledge that there wasn't a single free agent available this offseason that qualifies as even a bronze medal superstar except for Gilbert Arenas and coming off an injury he got $100+ million. In 2009, there is only one potential Gold Medal Superstar that might even be available and that is Andrew Bynum and my guess is that the Lakers will MAX him out or match a maximum offer if they even allow it to get that far.

So as a Grizzlies fan, our hope lies in Chris Wallace acquiring a gold or silver medal superstar in trade or having on of our own develop into one. Anything else is just wheel spinning in the NBA.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Vote for Kyle Lowry!

Vote for Kyle Lowry in's Floor Burn Tournament. He was our entry into this contest to determine who is the down-and-dirty grittiest player in the league who does all the little things that rarely result in credit. In the first round, he is up against Mark Madsen, so go vote for him in the matchup of Bulldog vs. Mad Dog.

Will the Grizzlies Find Leadership? - Part 2

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say "I." And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say "I." They don't think "I." They think "we"; they think "team." They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.
Peter Drucker

In the first part of the blog I talked about the need for leadership on the team and how the major front office players are viewed as leaders in my eyes. It wasn't exactly complimentary but I did feel it was honest. In this part I am approaching leadership from the players perspective. While strong management leadership is needed on any team, it is ultimately the players on the court who have to take command. Dwight D. Eisenhower may have been calling the shots during WWII but it still took the soldiers in the field to win the war.

The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born -- that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.
Warren G. Bennis

So how do you build leadership? Is it a skill you can develop like a hook shot? If so what lessons are the current Grizzlies learning to develop their capacity to be leaders?

This could be one of the largest roadblocks in developing leadership on the team. Most teams consider their point guard to be the team leader but that is difficult to expect right now on the Grizzlies. Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley share duties and both are inexperienced in the NBA. To be the type of leader who can set personal examples that player needs to be on the court when tough times are happening. By rotating players the message is being sent that the staff doesn't have confidence in one player to fill that role. Leaders can't be on the bench in crunch time. Until Memphis establishes who their point guard is and give him the ball for more than half the game leadership won't come from that position.

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."
Jack Welch

Rudy Gay has been described as the leader of the team in the past. However I question whether that was really the case. It seemed to me that Rudy Gay was still developing his own game more than elevating the game of those around him. That is not to say that Rudy can't become a leader on this team. He has the personality, the looks and the talent to gain the respect of his teammates. He now must learn how to take those talents to the next level and develop the team to a higher level around him.

Rudy Gay will enter training camp as clearly the best veteran player on the team but just being the best doesn't make you a leader on the team. Rudy is going to have to find a way to implement himself into that role both offensively and defensively. Rudy will need to become a better passer, a better on-court communicator and most importantly a better one on one defender. Players don't lead who don't pass, defend or guide the team. Rudy's individual skills may enable him to be the go-to shooter at the end of games but to reach the next level Rudy needs to make everyone on the team better not just himself. He is only 22 and just starting his 3rd season so there is still hope he can become that type of player.

"If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever."
G.K. Chesterton

The only player on the Grizzlies who has a history of being a leader on the court is Antoine Walker. That is a scary thought but it is also true. Antoine Walker was the emotional leader of a Boston Celtice team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals. He was not the leader on the Miami Heat team that won the NBA Championship.

Therein lies the potential and problem of Antoine Walker. At 31 Walker has NBA skills. He has a history of success in the league. He has the ring on his finger. What he doesn't have is respect. Walker is the proverbial bull in the china shop. He has been a whirlwind of controversy at many of his stops. When focused on playing basketball there are few players capable of doing things as well as Walker. The question has always been if basketball is the primary focus of his life.

This is likely Walker final stop if he doesn't show that dedication to the game. On this young team Walker could be a strong influence on the Grizzlies. One can only hope that Walker takes the opportunity to use that influence for the good of the team.

"The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been."
Henry Kissinger

Oventin J'Anthony Mayo has been described as a leader his entire basketball career. He leads by example, working harder than anyone else on the team. He leads by action, being more than willing to set up teammates for success as much wanting to take the shot himself. He leads by his mind, convincing himself that he can be the best by learning from those around him. He exhibits the traits people look for in a leader.

However, he is a 21 yr old rookie in the NBA. Will he be able to connect on a level that others will listen and follow him? O J Mayo was acquired on draft night for that express purpose. Wallace and most of the Grizzlies brass felt O J brought more of the innate ability to lead than Kevin Love or Mike Miller. They are willing to wait for him to grow into that role but they don't feel they will have to wait long. After all OJ Mayo is an adult. He may have just finished his freshman year at USC but he is more mature than many players in the league today (and older than some of his 'veteran' teammates as well). If there is anyone on the team who looks to be the 'natural' leader on the team it is Mayo.

Of course this team's on court leader may come from somewhere else. Darko Milicic, Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur or even Javaris Crittenton could develop into the player that the team revolves around. One thing is for certain, the team needs to find their leader and fast.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Will the Grizzlies Find Leadership?

Fortidunie Vincimus (By Endurance we Conquer)

This was the family motto of Ernest Shackleton, the famed explorer whose leadership during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition prevented a single death of his expedition when he was trapped on an ice flow off of Antarctica for over 20 months. His story was not one of great success but of great leadership. His vision and inspiration that enabled these men to survive an arctic winter is legendary even if the ultimate outcome of his expedition was complete failure.

So what does this have to do with the Grizzlies? Well I was reading Eric Musselman's blog the other day titled "Talent is Never Enough" based on the book of the same title by John Maxwell. The gist of the book revolved around this quote according to Musselman:

"Simple talent will never translate into success unless other factors related to character and attitude are strong as well. The more talented a team is, the more leadership is needed. Teams don't simply come together on their own; that they require leadership to do so."

It got me thinking about the Grizzlies. They have significantly increased the talent level on the team with the additions of O.J. Mayo, Darrell Arthur and Marc Gasol joining the developing talents of Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay. Talent doesn't appear to be the problem on this team. Not many teams in the NBA can boast as much young talent as the Grizzlies can trot out every night. Throw in Milicic, Crittenton, Jaric, Walker and Hakim Warrick and you have extremely talented players two deep at almost every position. What is lacking is leadership.

I want to look at leadership at the Grizzlies. First I will look at leadership at the top. The Front Office people who make the decisions on the make up of the team. In Memphis this is the trio of Michael Heisley, Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni. Each have roles to play in the team and how they lead goes a long way in determining how the team feels. These men are the Generals in the field headquarters so to speak. They aren't in the field but their decisions determine the likely success of those in the field of battle. In the second part I will discuss the actual players on the court or soldiers in the field to continue the analogy.

You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Michael Heisley is definitely providing leadership of a sorts right now. He has laid down the vision the franchise is to take. He has established performance standards that need to be reached while maintaining the ultimate vision of success. That is the primary job of a leader: to focus anxiety on short term objectives while never losing sight of the ultimate goal. The problem many people have with Mr. Heisley is not his vision but rather his lack of inspiration. Heisley hits people over the head with his vision and doesn't appear to inspire them to share in his vision. This blunt approach may work in turning the ship around but with out inspiration it won't convince people to buy into that vision.

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.
Stephen Covey

Chris Wallace has not shown true leadership of this team in his role. Rather than leading the team with his vision, Chris Wallace is merely administering the vision laid down by his superior. Chris Wallace has done what he was told to do but it is not his vision that is being pursued. At least that is not the message that Memphis is getting. It is obviously Heisley's vision and Wallace being the effective manager exercising the discipline to do what the leader has demanded must be done.

Of course there is a theory that to be a great leader, one must first be a good servant. If that is the case Wallace could be exercising his servantship position now to become the leader of the future. Wallace is somewhat hamstrung in how he builds this team, but he is in fact making a large amount of the personnel decisions. What the Grizzlies become will have as much to do with who is here three years from now as it does in the way the team came to be there. Heisley may be determining how much is paid to players but it is Wallace determining who the players are that get paid.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.
Theodore M. Hesburgh

If there was one major complaint about Marc Iavaroni's first season as head coach it had to be his vision of what the Grizzlies should become. Many fans have questioned just what the vision of a Marc Iavaroni coached team is. Does he want the team to run or to control the ball? Does he want the team to focus on rebounding and defense or get out and run? Whatever his vision of this team is, he needs to sell it to the team and the city so they can buy into his vision.

The good news is that Iavaroni is starting his 2nd season as a head coach at any level this year. He knows what he has to do to keep his job. What everyone needs to see from him is a clear vision of what to expect from this team. Not vague platitudes but a clearly stated vision.

What worries me is that Iavaroni still seems reluctant to put forward his vision. He seems to be deferring to Kevin O'Neill's strategy on defense and leaving everyone guessing on offense. You can't lead without a confident steady message that the team can rally their support around. You can't lead saying that you are giving power to your subordinates and washing your hands of the matter. Either this is your team and O'Neill is working your strategy or it's not.

It is time for Iavaroni to stand up and be the leader on the bench.

Next I will look at the players....

BallHype: hype it up!