Friday, August 15, 2008

The Mike Conley Bowling Challenge

Via, we're proud to present the Mike Conley Bowl-N-Bash. Click the link for full details, but here's the quick and dirty version:

September 27th, 12:00-3:00 PM Funquest, Collierville Entry fees: Five-man team: $300 donation or $60 per person. Each bowler will receive a t-shirt, autographs, and a photo opportunity with Mike Conley.
For those unfamiliar with Conley's love of bowling, allow me to present this video:

Now, I'm something of a bowler myself. I own my own ball, bag and shoes -- you know, the whole bit. So I'm going to do something that can only be described as incredibly foolish. That's right! I'm calling you out Mike Conley! You name the time and the place, and I'll take you down a pin or two. Yeah, you might be a professional athlete, but I've been hanging out in stinky, smoke-filled bowling alleys since.....well, never actually. You see, the place I frequent is non-smoking and actually smells quite pleasant. But they do serve beer, so it still has that bowling alley feel to it. Well, that is, unless there is a kid's birthday party going on or something. Or if they decide to break out the midnight bowling black lights, even though it is the middle of the day and there is sunlight streaming in from the doors. But other than that, it is totally hardcore!

So I'm throwing down the gauntlet -- or dorky wrist guard thingy that bowlers wear, as it were. Are you man enough to step up MC? Or are you gonna duck my challenge and put one in the gutter? Just so you know -- I've been practicing this shot:

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ok, let's talk about team photos

By now, you have undoubtedly seen the picture and heard the outrage and indignation caused when the Spanish men's national basketball team took a picture for an advertisement in the Spanish newspaper La Marca. Because Marc Gasol is a member of the Memphis Grizzlies (and Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro are former Grizzlies), I feel compelled to mention it, but at this point, I'm not sure what else there is to say. No matter what the intent was at the time, I think that we can all agree that it was a dumb, ill-conceived idea that should have been stopped by any number of people along the way. The team and the courier company for whom the ad was created should apologize, rather than offering a feeble defense about their true intention of it being a friendly wink to their Asian counterparts -- whether or not they truly believe an apology is in order. That way we can all move on from it and the P.C. Police can go find something else to set their sights on. I think most of my own thoughts are echoed in Henry Abbott's take on the matter, so be sure to check that piece out.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Trade Talk

Since the Josh Smith offer sheet was matched by the Atlanta Hawks, it seems that most of the talk surrounding the Grizzlies making another acquisition this offseason has centered on potential trades. Plenty of names have been bandied about on the Grizzlies Fan Boards and on websites/news papers around the country. Let's take a look at who has already been mentioned and find a few more that might prove to be interesting.

Zach Randolph for Darko Milicic/??? - Ron Tillery mentioned him in a brief, one-line comment after the Hawks matched the offer sheet. It caused quite a stir among Grizzlies and Knicks fans when they saw it, but now that comment has been removed from the online piece where it originally appeared (which is why I don't see the point in linking to it).

My thoughts on Z-Bo are quite simple. He's a talented PF and he's a knucklehead. Yes, he puts up good stats, but he doesn't play well in a team concept, plays no defense and is a certifiable black hole on offense. He's a cancer -- and I don't throw that term around loosely. On top of all that, he has the exact same contract that Pau Gasol has, which the organization and its fanbase were so eager to get rid of. He's a glorified role player with a max-level contract, which means that the Grizzlies shouldn't consider him for any reason.

Matt Harpring/Jarron Collins for Darko Milicic - This one popped up in the Salt Lake Tribune column that we linked to earlier in the week, as Steve Luhm answered a reader's question about Darko's ability to fit in with the Jazz. This isn't even a real rumor, as Luhm even labels it a "hypothetical trade" in the column, but it is interesting. On the one hand, Harpring does give the Grizzlies that veteran backup SF that they desperately need behind Rudy Gay. On the other, Jarron Collins is known as "Collins the Lesser" among my circle of NBA friends. That's right, he's not even as good as his brother, Jason, who we fans had the pleasure of seeing last year. Not to mention that this would thrust Marc Gasol directly into the starting lineup when we don't have a clue as to how well he's going to adjust to the NBA. I don't have a problem with taking a calculated risk (Rudy for Shane, Mayo for Love, Miller for Gooden), but this seems to be a needless chance to take just to acquire a SF who will probably only be needed for 10-13 mpg this year. I think that Darko has more value than this trade.

Keith Bogans/Draft Pick for Javaris Crittenton - I've had a lot of back and forth with an Orlando Magic fan about this trade rumor. I think that it could be a win-win for both teams, but it all hinges on the draft pick. I don't think that a 2nd rounder is enough for Memphis to do the deal, but a protected 1st rounder probably would. I like Keith Bogans game a lot. He's a solid defender who can play the SG and SF positions off the bench. He's only 28, which means that he could still fit into the Three Year Plan if they re-sign him beyond the current deal. I'd much rather send them Kyle Lowry (PG only) in this deal than JCritt (combo guard capable), but getting another 1st rounder and thinning out the "young guard" group would probably prove to be worthwhile.

Al Harrington/Marco Belinelli for Antoine Walker/Hakim Warrick/Kyle Lowry - A Warriors fan who was high on Hak/Lowry sent this one to me the other day. Ummm....where do I sign? I'm not a huge fan of Harrington's SF game at the PF spot, but he has the same price tag as Walker for this year and twice the production. Belinelli (Summer League All-Star!) would be solid as a backup SG and might actually get some playing time in Memphis -- something he hasn't gotten much of in Oakland. They are both in the last year of their current contracts, so if they don't work out, then you don't have to keep them. Honestly, this deal feels like something you should have to wear a ski mask to pull off.

Reggie Evans/Willie Green for Hakim Warrick/Javaris Crittenton/Greg Buckner - The Grizzlies get a proven frontcourt presence in Evans, while the Sixers get some instant offense off the bench behind Elton Brand in Hak. Willie Green is a solid guard off the bench who started for Philly much of last year. Critt and Buckner would be quality depth for a team that has dreams of winning the Eastern Conference next year. Evans (28) and Green (27) are both young enough to qualify for the Three Year Plan, too.

Those are the ones that I'm aware of at the moment, although I'm hearing rumblings of Andrei Kirilenko being available, too. AK-47 is a tremendous talent and was always better as a PF than the SF role he has assumed since the arrival of Boozer/Okur. But, he also has the same max contract that Gasol and Randolph have, which means that it would be counter-productive to trade for him at this juncture. That's really too bad, since the combination of him with Darko/Marc in the frontcourt backing up Conley/Mayo/Lowry in the backcourt would display a fearsome level of defense. C'est la vie.

Be sure to either email us any rumors that you've heard of recently or just leave them in the comments.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Links: Offseason Rolls Along

Great interview with Marc Gasol as he prepared to kick off the Olympics. I've really been impressed with his defensive ability so far and hope that he can be a solid contributor for the Grizzlies.

Be sure to read's interview with Josh Smith in the aftermath of Atlanta matching the offer sheet he signed with the Grizzlies. He talks about why he was interested in coming to Memphis and was willing to sign with them.

Floor Burn Tournament: Round Two: Even though Kyle Lowry came up short against Mark "Mad Dog" Madsen last week, there are still a lot of interesting matchups to vote on, so go over there and click away.

Salt Lake Tribune: Utah fans are gauging interest in acquiring Darko Milicic as a backup center.

Memphis Flyer: Frank Murtaugh links Elvis songs to Memphis sports in honor of Elvis week here in Memphis.

Over on HoopsWorld, Steve Kyler continues to ride the Backtrack Express in the wake of his poorly conceived column from last week. Somebody please tell him to just leave it alone already. What's done is done. I'd hate to for hem to have to let Chris Herrington out of his cage again to deal with him. That could get ugly quick. Rudy Gay spends time in Conneticut at Jim Calhoun's basketball camp and talks about life in the NBA. He also won the MVP of the charity game.

Stay tuned for a few announcements about some changes coming to the blog later this week.

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How Did The Josh Smith Signing Fit Into the 3 Year Plan?

A lot has been made lately about the team not really having a three year plan and that the whole thing is just a smokescreen to cover the fact that the team is cutting costs.

That is a very narrow view of what the 3 year plan is in my mind. There has never been a statement that the team will not make moves while working within the framework of the three year plan. The Josh Smith signing was just an attempt to make a move.

Heisley said on April 4th that he was willing to spend money right now if he could acquire a star talent but that player had to fit within the framework of the three year plan. Heisley wants a team that matures at the same time.

Josh Smith, at only 23 years old, obviously fit that mold.

Heisley also said that he is not willing to spend a ton of money for a player that isn't of star quality. This could be interpreted to mean that the only other player the Grizzlies may get involved with in free agency would be Andre Iquodala but AI doesn't fill a need on the team assuming Mayo is going to play SG for the Grizzlies as it appears he will.

So the Josh Smith signing fits perfectly in the 3 year plan. It is unfortunate that he won't be playing for the Grizzlies next season but that doesn't mean the plan is to be forgotten either. The Grizzlies are building for the future and looking for a myriad of players who could fit the bill. The Grizzlies aren't looking for veterans who will be too old to contribute when the Grizzlies are moving from playoff contender to Championship contender.

If there is one thing the Josh Smith signing should do is put to bed the ridiculous assumption that the Grizzlies are unwilling to spend money to improve the team. The 'smokescreen' excuse promoted by a local radio personality should exposed now for the over-reaction it was. Yes Heisley has hired a replacement for Jerry West for a lot less money. Yes he replaced Andy Dolich for a less money too. Yes he has scaled back operations. That doesn't mean he is not going to spend money on the Grizzlies.

Michael Heisley is now and has been willing to spend money to improve the team. He is unwilling to continue to have the most expensive front office in the league on a team that couldn't win a playoff team existing in one of the smallest markets in the league. That isn't cheap. That is good business and the NBA is still a business.

I am disappointed that the Grizzlies signed Josh Smith since forcing him to sign the Qualifying Offer and becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer would have given the team a better opportunity to sign him in my opinion but I understand the rational behind making the offer as well. I didn't expect it and I disagree with it but I do understand it.

The signing does not mean the 3 year plan is dead or a sham. It just showed that the plan is flexible enough to take chances. Sometimes they pay off. Sometimes they don't.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Talking with Eric Musselman

Eric Musselman was rumored to be high on the Grizzlies list when searching for a Head Coach to replace Hubie Brown. After the team went with Mike Fratello instead the Grizzlies were quick to make sure they kept Musselman on their radar naming him Assistant Coach. Eric patroled the sidelines for two seasons in Memphis before accepting the Head Coaching position at Sacramento. Recently, he has started the Eric Mussleman's Basketball Notebook which is quickly becoming a must read for basketball enthusiasts like the guys at 3 Shades of Blue. After some conversations on some of his blogs Eric was kind enough to do an interview via e-mail with the us.

3SOB: You have been out of the public eye since leaving Sacramento . What are you doing these days?
MUSS: Since Sacramento, I've been visiting a lot with coaches at all levels of the game. I went to Lawrence and spent almost a week with Bill Self at KU. I also spent time with Larry Eustachy at Southern Miss and Derek Thomas at Western Illinois (now Detroit Mercy). All of them are terrific coaches and I enjoyed picking their brains.

I also attended John Calipari and Larry Brown's coaches retreat in Tunica, Mississippi, and went to a few dozen college games around the Bay Area, from Cal to Stanford to St. Mary's, to USF and Santa Clara. I even coached a high school all-star game here in the Bay Area.

And this summer, I went to Athens, Greece, to speak to about 400 Greek coaches as part of a big coaching clinic over there that ran alongside the FIBA Olympic tourney. Great experience, especially since my older son was with me.

3SOB: One of the blogs you wrote on your site titled Does Screaming at the Refs Really Help a Team mentions that you believe that the refs usually get calls correct. However it has been a feeling of mine that a well timed Technical Foul call can often change the direction of a game both by making refs aware of a perceived inequity in calls and also to motivate your team. How does that correlate to your blog?
MUSS: You're right on. A well-timed tech can change the tempo of a game and bring a sense of urgency to your team. I really agree with that.

3SOB: Can you give me an example of when taking a technical helped your team?
MUSS: I think it was my 99th game as an NBA head coach with the Warriors. We had a game at Denver against the Nuggets where we were behind by a large margin , Our guys were playing as if we were tired, so I purposefully got thrown out. This got the team going. They really responded to a new voice in Tom Sterner, one of our assistants. We came back and almost won the game. The story would be better if we’d won, but I couldn't have been happier for the effort the team put out and the job Tom did. What I didn’t like was the fine I got from the league for getting tossed.

3SOB: Another one of your blogs was titled The Role of Your Team's Leaders in a "Team Meeting". You mentioned Shane Battier as a great leader on the court. Do you believe that Memphis ʼ problems of late have to do with a lack of on court leadership on the team?
MUSS: I don't know the inner workings of the Grizz as many of the players who were there when I was an assistant there have changed teams, as so often happens in the NBA. But as with most young rosters, leadership develops over time and it develops organically. That is, some guys naturally step up and fill that role. If they don't, the team usually has problems.

3SOB: Do you prefer an on-court leader to a vocal leader or does a team need both?
MUSS: I think a team needs both types of leaders. It helps if your best players are also your leaders, like Tim Duncan in San Antonio and Tom Brady in New England. When your best players practice and play hard and really compete, it makes everything easier.

3SOB: How is Shane Battier a great team leader? Is he more of a leader by example or is he a vocal leader?
MUSS: Shaneʼs a great leader in so many ways. First, he leads by example, by the way he plays between the lines, how he interacts off the floor in the locker room and how he lives his life away from the game.

Heʼs always on time, pays attention to every game plan and executes game plan, is a positive person, and does all the little things to make your club function as a team. He can also lead vocally when the time is right or when itʼs needed, whether in practice, in a huddle, or on the floor during a game.

3SOB: Leadership, even with Shane Battier on the team, seemed to be a trouble spot for the Grizzlies when you were coaching (Jason Williamsʼ apparent dislike of Pau Gasol and Bonzi Wellʼs displeasure with playing time being examples). What was really happening behind the scenes at that time? Was the team as dysfunctional as it appeared at times?
MUSS: A team's chemistry is a complex thing. Personalities, likes and dislikes, etc. It's like any group that works together, whether it's a Boy Scout troop or a department within a big company, it's always a challenge to manage a group of people.

But ups and downs aside, the bottom line is that Memphis team won games. They reached the playoffs and it's tough to reach the postseason in the NBA.

3SOB: Mike Fratello left Memphis under a shroud of unsatisfied fans and unhappy players. What was it like coaching with Mike Fratello and were those criticisms justified?
MUSS: It's always a balancing act between playing the young guys and trying to be competitive and win games. Coach Fratello can coach uptempo. In fact, his Hawks teams in the '80s really played at a fast pace. I think they averaged close to 110 ppg with Nique, Doc Rivers, Spud, Kevin Willis and those guys.

3SOB: Jerry West has been getting some terrible press in Memphis lately including a blurb about him storming out of the draft room after Gerald Green getting drafted leaving Tom Penn to make the selection of Hakim Warrick. Did that really happen and what was it like working with Jerry?
MUSS: I genuinely loved working for Jerry West. He's a great competitor and has a high desire to win. I learned a great deal from him and he was nice enough to help me with the Kings job. He's always willing to help. I consider him a mentor and someone I can always go to for good advice. He's a pro and he's been around the game forever.

3SOB: You had some success in both stints as head coach and as an assistant coach. Do you plan on getting back on the bench in the NBA someday?
MUSS: Yes, I definitely want to coach again. It's my career, it's something I've chosen to do, but it's also something I really love. At the same time, I've enjoyed this past year, talking with other coaches, learning about the game, watching the game from a different perspective, and spending time with my sons. The last 12 months have been great.

3SOB: What do you think about the Grizzlies point guards. Do any of them show the potential to be ʽa perfect point guardʼ in your opinion?
MUSS: Well, Mike Conley has a bright future. He's developing and could be a good leader I think.

I love Kyle Lowry's toughness. Players really seem to respect him. I think he's a solid back-up who can lead by example. Guys will follow his lead and play hard. That's important, but sometimes gets overlooked or downplayed.

OJ Mayo's a nice combo guard and Jaric is really a 2-guard who can play some point, though he's not a vocal type leader.

3SOB: Do you believe winning is enough in the NBA today? Since it is a business does showmanship and flair mean as much as your record?
MUSS: Ultimately, winning is the most important thing not only in pro sports, but at most levels of sports. Itʼs how youʼre evaluated. I don't care how nice a guy a coach is, even at the high school level, if he loses all of his games, he's not going to be around long.

The object of any competition is to win. Period.

Talking with Eric via e-mail is interesting because the man has such a wealth of knowledge about the game. Eric also wanted me to mention that he loved living in Memphis. There were lots of great people and he is thnkful for his time here in Memphis. Eric has been rumored to be looking for a college coaching position but I hope he returns to the NBA some day. One thing is for sure, Musselman is a teacher of the game.

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