Friday, August 29, 2008

Anniversaries, Milestones and a Marriage of Thoughts

What a week this has been! First Zack earned his doctorate this week and now is officially refered to as Dr. Zack. Second, 3 Shades of Blue is about to celebrate their first anniversary. Well not exactly an anniversary of the site since it was up originally in March of 2007 but an anniversary of when we launched out into the world's attention. On September 14th we posted the blog Class in Session with Chris Wallace. Henry Abbott at TrueHoop actually wrote a blog about our blog meeting Chris Wallace and the rest is internet history so to speak.

Three Shades of Blue also just passed the 250,000 unique hits mark this week. Thanks so much for all of our readers for thier support in reaching this milestone.

and as many people may have already noticed, two of the most respected blogs covering our Memphis Grizzlies have joined forces here at 3 Shades of Blue. Nation of Grizzlam bloggers Kirk, Zac and HPTMatt are now official bloggers at 3 Shades of Blue. This seems to be the perfect marriage of two of the leading blogs on the Memphis Grizzlies. Zac and Kirk will continue to speak for the average fan with their slightly irreverant style. We are not asking or expecting them to change a thing they do. We just are happy to have them doing it here now.

I hope everyone else is excited about this news as we are.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who's Your Haddadi? Grizzlies Sign Iranian Big Man

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images


The Memphis Grizzlies signed free-agent center Hamed Haddadi pronounced (ha-MED ha-DAHD-dee), who led all 2008 Olympians in rebounding and blocks, Grizzlies General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations Chris Wallace announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

So Haddadi will join the internationally flavored frontcourt pairing of Marc Gasol (Spain) and Darko Milicic (Serbia) at the center position this season.

This is a solid signing, even if it will be viewed as Wallace attempting to "catch lightning in a bottle" once more from some of the more pessimistic fans. At the very least, it provides Memphis with another big body to throw out there in case Darko's Achilles injury is more serious than anyone thinks or if either Milicic or Gasol suffer an injury this season. His shotblocking and rebounding skills make him a worthwhile gamble for this young, up-and-coming team.

No word on whether or not he's bringing a camel with him though. I'll keep you updated on that front as information becomes available.

RUMOR: It has come to the attention of the bloggers at 3 Shades of Blue that Hamed Hadadi's contract is multi-year and similiar in nature to a 1st rd draft pick's contract (no idea where in the first round that contract would fit but it probably is somewhere between 20 and 30. This has not been confirmed yet but the source is reliable. It is believed that Ron Tillery will have the details more precise in print very soon.

This makes sense to lock him up for at least 3 years. If he develops at all then the Grizzlies have his Bird Rights. If he doesn't then someone else will gladly take a chance for an inexpensive big man. As has been mentioned on the radio lately, there just aren't a lot of big men around these days.

BallHype: hype it up!

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Congratulations to one of the original bloggers at 3 Shades of Blue for receiving his doctorate today. Zack is now officially Dr. Zack.

I'm serious. He received his doctorate in earhtquake stuff or something. I don't know since I don't speak latin!

Seriously, Zack has worked hard for this degree (and the financial rewards that will accompany it).

All of the 3SoB nation is proud of you Zack for a job well done.

BallHype: hype it up!

The Boys are Back in Town

Guess who's back, back again.......Digglers back, tell a friend.
First off, THANK YOU to 3SoB creators Chip, Spartacus, Zack, and Memphis X for inviting us to join the team here. It is truly an honor to join such a top notch blog.

Welcome guys! No, you aren't delusional, seeing things, or messed up in the head. The NoG boys have been invited to join forces with the fellows here at 3SoB . Still not a believer? It is more than true my friends. My very own blogger friends Zac and Matt have already posted their maiden blogs on the site. Therfore, Grizz miscreants, the former staff of the NoG is here to stay, and do anything we can to help the 3SoB team in any way we can! We still continue to get emails daily from you guys, and will respond to them ASAP, but you can now email the 3SoB email, and and we will begin to help them in any way we can.

For all the followers of the NoG, turn your sights now to the 3SoB, the boys are back in full effect on the site. We have changed NOTHING, other than the language we sometimes previously used in our blogs. Got to clean up for the kiddies and all.

We, as fans of the Grizz, are very happy of the offer extended to us, and will strive to provide you guys with blogs that are on par with the standard of the 3SoB.

Grizzly growl my friends.

BallHype: hype it up!

The Case for Zach Randolph

Every since the offer sheet for Josh Smith was matched, the news of the Memphis Grizzlies being interested in New York Knick power forward Zach Randolph has been cooly received by the Grizzlies fan base. After Isaih Thomas tenure, it seems everything he wrought is deemed toxic and unfit for consumption. So when Memphis Commercial Appeal Grizzlies beat writer Ron Tillery blogged that the Grizzlies were still considering trading for the troubled power forward, I took notice.

This topic has been discussed thoroughly on the Grizzlies message board and my initial reaction was pre-rehab Whitney Houston: "Hell to the Naw!" However, after digesting the potential deals, I think there is a deal out there that makes sense for the Grizzlies (my only care in this matter).

Now I admit that any deal that brings in Zach Randolph is a very big risk. Zach Randolph has never played significant minutes on a winning team. Being a member of the deteriorating Trailgangsters and the end of the Isiah era in New York, this might not be all due to him. Randolph has simply been reared as an NBA players in two of the most toxic locker rooms in recent NBA history.

His teammates that went .500 in Portland were as follows: Rasheed "CTC" Wallace, Bonzi Wells, Damon "Tin Foil" Stoudamire, Jeff McInnis, Derek Anderson, Ruben Patterson, Darius Miles and Qyntel Woods. Is there any wonder why he is a knucklehead? This was the season in which Portlands fans and ownership had seen enough and they started breaking up the gang to rebuild into the team they have today. (Interestingly, the Blazers have missed the playoffs 5 years during their rebuilding.) The issues in New York are well documented and ongoing and just like the Blazers, they pre-dated Randolph's arrival. So it isn't like he was the primary cause of the pitiful teams, he just did not resist the awful cultures that were in place.

The current Grizzlies are an entirely different animal. The team is free of knuckleheads with the exception of the recently acquired Antoine Walker. So if the Grizzlies do trade for Randolph, I expect Walker to be part of the trade or immediately bought out. Having both is a recipe for disaster. In fact, the Grizzlies are probably one of the tamest teams in the NBA. The majority of our core guys would be considered gym rats and rather vanilla besides Mayo. So if Randolph continues with his history of assimilating, he might just go with the flow and be a productive member of our up and coming team.

The deals I would do for Zach Randolph are as follows:

(1) Darko Milicic, Antoine Walker for Zach Randolph

(2) Darko Milicic, Marko Jaric, Adriana Lima for Zach Randolph

(3) Darko Milicic, Antonie Walker, Marko Jaric for Zach Randolph and Jared Jeffries

The best deal for Memphis is #2. This is the deal that I prefer and for sake of this article, this is the deal that I will be assuming that Chris Wallace will negotiate.

Now let's consider Zach Randolph the player. Randolph is a legit 20 point/10 rebound per game player in the NBA. At 27 years old and with 3 years left on his contract, it means the the Grizzlies should be getting the best three years of Randolph's career. Should Randolph come in dedicated to restart his career, his play could lift the Grizzlies out of the Western Conference cellar into the middle of the pact. Think 10th through 12th in the West unless we go on a miracle run like the Blazers of last year.

Offensively, Randolph is not just a low post threat, he is an elite scorer when motivated and in shape. He has a dependable jumpshot out to 18 feet and unfortunately started extending his range to the 3pt line in New York. He is almost impossible to contain one on one, even by great defenders. His combination of post moves, strength and ability to play angles makes him a load to stop. His down fall is that he does not make quick decisions with the ball as of late and stalls the offense as he "goes to work" on his defender. Sometimes he gets to caught up in the individual matchup.

Defensively, Randolph does not exert much energy. He is slow to get back on defense and not much help blocking shots. He is grounded mostly thus most of his help on defense will come in the form of finishing off an opponents possession by securing the defensive rebound. For the Grizzlies, this has been a problem almost since the day the team arrived. So if Hadadi and Gasol can provide adequate defense (which is doubtful) then the Grizzlies could actually have an improved defensive front. So you are not acquiring Randolph with the hopes of him developing into a defensive stopper, no more than you would acquire Reggie Evans and expect 24 points on offense per game. Randolph is a turbocharged version of Hakim Warrick.

So Zach Randolph, at the right price, could provide a cheap upgrade for the Grizzlies and keep them competitive next season while maintaining their youthful core. It would be a $48 million gamble which essentially takes the Grizzlies out of the free agent market in the future but it could pay very big dividends, if Zach Randolph wants to play.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Grizzlamist Assimilated

hello all...HPTMatt here, and I'll proudly count myself among the "miscreants" (I've never been called that before now, and I'm somehow honored that I made it to 39 years of age before being called such...but I'm just as honored to be called it finally...) picked up from the WAAAYYY cheap end of the FA pool from the dispersal/dissolution/whatever of NoG. "Cheap end" as in "Casey Jacobsen got signed before I did".

My posting might be somewhat irregular (yep, there's two meanings there), as my wife and I are currently awaiting the arrival of our newest little Grizzlies freak/fan :). His arrival will likely curtail my game attendance somewhat, but I'd be willing to make a wager that some of his first words will be "NBA League Pass". :) And as long as the spitting up on the laptop doesn't get too out of control, I should be able to come around and run my mouth/keyboard a bit.

I've been looking around to see who I think has really done well or poorly this offseason, and I'll post some comments over the next little bit about which teams/individuals have helped or hurt themselves in that regard.

Just for a quick thought-the Celtics really should have done more to retain the new reigning Forrest Gump of NBA champions (Robert Horry v.2??), AKA James Posey. That's gonna hurt them more than Doc & Danny might think, I'm inclined to believe.

More importantly, will Posey drop Peja like a sack of European potatoes in practice?

We shall see.

Thanks again for the invitation from the original 3SoB cats-should be a fun season.

BallHype: hype it up!

Grizzly 52 Pick-Up

  1. Darko, pick up an anger management book. Learn to harness your temper, unlike the Serbia-Greece postgame incident, and put it towards your play on the court.
  2. Coach, pick up your pride after last season. Don't listen to those who blasted you, you're a rookie head coach. I've got the faith. There is no I in team, but I want I on the sidelines.
  3. Conley, pick up the weights. I heard you have, but pick them up again. And again. Repeat.
  4. Hakim, pick up the weights. Ditto the rest of numero tres for you.
  5. Lowry, pick up the fact that when you drive through the lane, you need to be a bit more controlled. I love your bulldog-like tenacity, but a little more controlled chaos would be beneficial to the team's overall game.
  6. Rudy, pick up a scouting report on yourself. You are a STUD, my man. Teams adjust their gameplans to YOU. Put this team on your shoulders and become the star I believe you can be, the star some have already annointed you, and the star some think you can never be.
  7. 'Toine, pick up a health and fitness book, report to camp in shape, and hopefully you can get some playing time. I mean, you do have a ring that isn't breaded with an onion inside of it, so I believe you've still got game. Let's see it, because I don't want us to have to spend our "capspace" bolstering our you can sit on it without breaking it.
  8. OJ, pick up some more bowties for press conferences and post-game reports. GQ.
  9. Marc, pick up a mirror. Then you will realize you look like the spawn of Mike Miller and your brother. Of course, if you have a hybrid game of Mike Miller and your brother, then you are going to be worth every bit of your money and then another of your salary on top of that.
  10. Marko, pick up a nice dress for Adriana to wear for opening night. That can be your contribution to the team and the fans.
  11. Greg, pick up a clipboard. You're going to be a player-coach this season anyway. maybe occasionally spelling Rudy at the 3.
  12. Darrell, pick up a head full of steam and barrel through the post using your speed at the 4. I'd like to see you start at the 4, but you will likely have to back up Hakim, so make your minutes count. Use your advantages.
  13. Hakim, pick up your dribble after having the ball for a few seconds, then pass. I hate watching you dribble almost as much as I hated watching OJ Mayo play PG in Summer League.
  14. Marc, pick up rebounds. That IS why we signed you, or it should have been. We never can seem to rebound worth spit.
  15. Kevin O'Neill, pick up Darko's anger management book after he is finished reading it. Turn that book into your Bible.
  16. Michael Heisley, pick up the tab on some players, please. Capspace, Shmapspace. You want a winner, let's build one.
  17. OJ, pick up games with high profile players = good thing. It gets your name out there, gets the word around that you are the real deal, makes you better, which in turn makes us look good as well.
  18. People in the Advertising Dept, pick up on the fact that some of this just isn't cutting it. The "Hello Mayo" poster? Absolutely gorgeous. Where are our billboards, our bus signs, our commercials...something with pizzazz, flash, flair..."just like what the Grizz are going to bring this season."
  19. Casey, pick up my car from valet out front. It's the Crossfire, black. Here's three dollars. The first three you made all night.
  20. Critt, pick up the ball when youre open from the 3 point line, and jack it like a TV from a New Orleans store display. You, along with Toine, Rudy, Mayo and maybe Jaric are our only credible three-point shooters. Man, losing Mike in that aspect hurts.
  21. Coach, pick up your clipboard and draw up some plays this season. Please, no more high-post handoff predictability.
  22. Conley, pick up the speed more, if possible. Not because you're doing anything wrong, but because I'd just like to see how fast you really are. Top 5 in the L, in my personal opinion.
  23. Kevin O'Neill, pick up some throat lozenges for after the game. I have a feeling you will need them.
  24. Rudy, pick up the other team's players (and possibly our own) jaws after you blow past them for a rim-rattling, earth-shattering, mind-altering dunk.
  25. Hakim, pick up a pair of clippers and shave that soul patch if you aren't going to go full beard on us. It's all-in or fold, buddy.
  26. Darko, pick up your head if you don't make the first shot. It's not the end of the world, get your head back in the game. I'm tired of seeing your first shot not fall and then watch you get your confidence down the rest of the game and it affect your play. Go hard every minute.
  27. Darrell, pick up a new hairstyle or something, anything but a headband. If Hak takes my advice and shaves the soul patch, I will have no chance of distinguishing you two lanky post players with headbands and no facial hair from all the way up in my section.'re the one who can play defense, right?
  28. Hak, pick up a defensive scheme once in a while. dont...then it would go back to you two being undistinguishable again...noooo....
  29. Conley, pick up a Ja Rule cd cover. It's going to be like looking into a mirror for you, seriously.
  30. Anyone, pick up a Downtowner magazine or an RSVP Memphis mag so we can stuff it down Phil Jackson's throat the next time he wants to say our downtown looks like Dresden.
  31. Marc, pick up a laptop or anything with internet access and read the things that Memphis fans have said about your brother. Learn from it. Play the exact opposite.
  32. Lowry, pick up some Air Jordans or some Nikes with heels. 6'0 my left foot. I'm 6 foot tall, and I was taller than you. Can you imagine Lowry with height on him? Man. Those "Trade Conley" advocates might get a vote from this "independent" on that front.
  33. Rudy, pick up your teammates when they get down, and get on em when they mess up. That's what a leader of a team does.
  34. Michael Heisley, pick up this team and move it, and you will have an entire city chasing you up to Chicago. You don't want that. Crime is already bad enough in Chicago this year without adding angry Memphians in the mix.
  35. To Whom It May Concern, pick up the initiative I propose for opening night. The National Anthem shouldnt be done in person, we should all stand while the video of Isaac Hayes singing the Anthem at a Grizzlies game plays over the jumbotron, followed by a moment of silence for a Memphis Soul Icon. It'd be a classy move.
  36. Coach, pick up your players and shake them from time to time. Don't make O'Neill do it every time. You can still be the nice can be the nice father with a stern hand.
  37. Critt, pick up your speed. If we do trade Conley, or Lowry, you become the backup PG. If we are going to in fact be a running system, we're going to need speed. If we lose Conley the Ferarri, or Lowry the bulldog, we need speed and toughness at the point. You can be J-Critt the Challenger R/T. Speed and muscle. Speaking of that...
  38. Critt, pick up the weights after Conley and Hak are done with them.
  39. Darrell, I'll say it again, pick up a distinguishable characteristic. You are similar to the generic "Create-a-Player" on NBA Live 09. Grow some braids, dye your hair like the Rodman Rainbow, change your name to "Cero Cero" a la Chad Johnson...something.
  40. Lowry, pick up the foul that ISNT an offensive one when you run into the post.
  41. OJ, pick up a local newspaper. There is a buzz for you being here in the M. Take that, seize it, and you and Rudy become a two-headed monster. Maybe one day, the two of you will be ranked on a Dynamic Duo list.
  42. Marc, pick up and absorb everything you learned from FIBA, the Olympics, and even at Lausanne. Apply it on the court here, and you will begin to step out of your brother's shadow. Not here, of course. You can drive through Memphis and see tomatoes and arrows thrown at the ground because a shadow that looked like Pau was there at one time.
  43. Marko, pick up a GQ magazine, flip past that "Mayo Brings Back the Bowtie" article and find you some fashion tips. That way you can look fly on the bench. I kid, I kid. Not every game.
  44. 'Toine, pick up the guts to say No to the Paula Deen Buffet. I know its right past the state line, but resist...RESIST!
  45. Michael Heisley, pick up the WSJ and see if we have a trade embargo with Iran. Maybe if we dont, we can explore trade options for Hadadi and expiring contracts for, you know, capspace.
  46. Hak, pick up some fattening food. I should have listed that first, but eat Eat EAT before you pick up the weights. Otherwise you will turn into a human strand of sinew, muscle and bone from working out. Sorry for not clarifying. Eat, then work out.
  47. Darko, pick up the English language better. That way, if you do go into another tirade, I will be able to understand it without subtitles, and it will give me great entertainment.
  48. Scouting team, pick up a report on Blake Griffin. If we have a terrible season, and we still have no answer at the 4 spot, tell the appropriate people to do everything they can to ensure that we get him.
  49. Sportswriters and Analysts, pick up on the fact that the Grizzlies ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE. You can stop with your X-Files conspiracy theories. It isn't going to happen. Las Vegas doesn't have grizzlies, and they aren't going to have ours either.
  50. OJ, pick up Rudy before one of your pickup games. Do a little two on two. It will establish chemistry with our duo, and get both of you some great experience in the process. The only thing better than it helping you, is if it helps both of you.
  51. Fans, pick up your tickets for the entire season or just a game, whatever you can do. Support the NBA in Memphis.
  52. And lastly, Anyone, pick up the habit of being a Grizzly fan.

BallHype: hype it up!

The Hottest Free Agent(s) In The Game...Sort Of.

When one thinks of a dominant duo...what comes to mind?

Perhaps this:


Maybe some of you think this:


Perhaps even THIS!


Just kidding.

How many of you said those two fellows from The Nation of Grizzlam? Let's see a show of hands.


Wow. None of you?

Well, you do look too young to have read our site. Perhaps this is Michael Jackson's living room.

The fact is, we were a Memphis Grizzlies related sports blog that touched on trades, signings, and information surrounding our team, with a bit of an Onion-like satirical point of view. We were not, and still are not, averse to questioning the team (or ownership, advertising department, etc.) when need be. Thankfully, our readers demanded that we be back up and blogging, and 3 Shades of Blue were more than willing to pick us up. Thankfully so, because I personally was about fifteen minutes away from begging for a blogspot alongside the homeless "Katrina-men" down on the corner of Beale.

Peace from the Southeast.


New Blood

For those of you longing for the return of Nation of Grizzlam.......sorry, it ain't happening. :(

For those of you longing to hear more from the miscreants that made up NoG.......they're back. :)
3 Shades of Blue used up their salary cap space to sign most of those hoodlums and troublemakers, because quite frankly, we have no concern about our team chemistry and don't think we'll be around long enough for a 3 Year Plan. We also signed a top level free agent named Lee Eric Smith who did some freelance work for us while ignoring his more important classwork in college this past season. We're a bad influence like that.

That means that you don't have to listen to Chip and myself spout out the same opinion day after day after day any longer. In other words, the terrorists have officially won.

Getting airline tickets to midwest airlines is easier than getting on alaskan airlines or the indian airlines, due to less number of flights.

Rumors Cooking . . .

Ron Tillery is blogging over at the Memphis Edge about potential moves for our boys in blue. Most of it involves one or both of the following:

• Trading Mike Conley to Portland for Travis Outlaw and spare parts (Tillery says it's a bad idea, and I agree):

If that’s the case, the Griz would need more than Outlaw in return. But I don’t believe trading Conley is a wise move. Trading Conley would put the Griz back at square one, again searching for a dynamic point guard to compensate for the loss of the GOOD Jason Williams.

And why would Griz give up on a smart, physically gifted point guard so quickly? So that Mayo can handle the ball? Take away Conley’s quirky injuries and remember he’s just 20 years old, and the Griz would be wise to keep him. My guess is that they will given Conley was a deal breaker in attempts to get the right to draft Michael Beasley.

• Trading Darko Milicic to New York for Zach Randolph (also a bad idea, if you ask me):

The Griz are willing to part with Darko Milicic (last year’s big free agent signing) in a package that wouldn’t require a core player (OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, etc). What the brain trust seems to be debating is whether Randolph fits the Grizzlies’ style on and off the court.

Randolph is a bonafide low-post scorer who can shoot along the perimeter and rebound. But he doesn’t offer much on defense, something the Griz desperately want to upgrade and Randolph’s character issues may present a problem.

As I've said elsewhere, I want to see what we have first, before we start making moves. Frankly, I think some of these rumors are just based on folks thinking that Chris Wallace is a sucker after the Gasol trade. I still think that trade is going to bear great fruit for us, and given the way Pau (under)performed in the NBA Finals, some of the sting of that trade has already worn off.

Z-Bo is a bonafide 20-10 bull in the post, but I think we should stay away for another reason than Tillery covers above: His contract is identical to Pau's. I remember this because at one point, I advocated trading Pau for Zach. But given where the team is going, and more importantly, their desire to maintain flexibility for next offseason, I don't see them tying up salary in Z-Bo, because I don't think he's that "difference-maker" that the Front Office wants. Not saying he's not a good player; I just don't see him as the difference maker.

Three other points:

1. As for trading Darko, I know I'm alone on this, but I'm not ready to give up on him yet. I think the main problem is that his past coaches haven't used his strengths as they should. His game has looked weak as a back-to-the-basket center. I still think that the kid can shoot, and has shown an ability to take other centers off the dribble. If they used him as more a Mehmet Okur-type center -- pull opposing centers out of the lane for Conley, Mayo and Gay to drive and score, or drive and dish to Darko for a three -- it would pay HUGE dividends. I'm sure somebody here will take me to task on the Serbian Gangster, however . . .

2. I still want to see what Antoine Walker has left. Consider it a contract year, he still has an NBA championship, and I think the PT is there for him at PF, which is to say that I think he has a decent shot at beating out Hak and Arthur with his play and veteran savvy. The big question is whether or not he's motivated. I'm betting it is, because I can't see him retiring at 31-32, and he'll want to sign with/be traded to a contender later. But this is a great opportunity for him to regain cred as a team player and veteran leader.

3. Ehadadi. Short and sweet: Sign him to a reasonably priced, short contract, see what he can do. If he can snatch boards, defend a little, score on putbacks and finish on drive and dishes from Conley and Mayo, I don't see a downside.

Trades? Unless it's a clear upgrade, I say we stand pat. As I've said elsewhere on this blog, the team needs stability more than anything right now. But that's just me. What do you think?

Post comments below . . .

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Talent: Does Memphis Have Talent?

TALENT: endowment: natural abilities or qualities
-a person who possesses unusual innate ability in some field or activity

Flashback: August 5,2005
-Damon Stoudamire is signed by the Memphis Grizzlies joining Eddie Jones to complete a back court transformation begun earlier when Jason Williams and Bonzi Wells were unceremoniously shipped out of town and Stromile Swift was allowed to walk to Houston without so much as a see ya later.

The new starting lineup for the Grizzlies appears to be Damon Stoudamire, Eddie Jones, Shane Battier, Pau Gasol and Jake Tsakalidis. Major contributions off the bench are expected from Bobby Jackson, Brian Cardinal. Lorenzen Wright and rookie Hakim Warrick. Outside of Warrick the Grizzlies are a veteran team with some playoff experience.

Flash Forward: August 25, 2008
-With the Grizzlies less than one month away from the opening of training camp the team seems to be content to open the season with an extremely young team consisting of Mike Conley at the point, O J Mayo at SG, Rudy Gay at SF, Hakim Warrick at PF and Darko Milicic at the center. Contributors off the bench include Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittenton, Antoine Walker, Marco Jaric, Darrell Arthur and Marc Gasol. Outside of Walker and Jaric, who's contributions are unknown at this time, the team consists of young players with little or no actual playoff experience.

My how time flies!

Was it really only three years ago the Memphis Grizzlies were an experienced team with a few exciting young players mixed in? That team won 49 games (2nd most in franchise history), finished 4th in the Western Conference (best finish in franchise history) and nearly won a playoff game (losing in OT to Dallas). The two seasons that followed produced a grand total of 44 wins and no playoff appearances (although they are tied with the 2005-06 squad in playoff wins).

Where have all those veterans gone? How did the team go from experienced and playoff material to inexperienced and mostly below the drinking age? More importantly, how have the Grizzlies improved themselves for the future doing this?

To quote a favorite animated character of mine: Difficult to see the future is. However, perhaps you can look at the roster and determine if the team has increased the talent level of the squad. If the team upgrades their talent then victories should follow right? Isn't that what Memphis fans have been asking for all along?

So what do we see when we compare the talent of one of the best teams in Grizzlies history (and the last playoff team as well) to the roster is appears the Grizzlies are taking to camp this season?

Point Guards:
Damon Stoudamire, Bobby Jackson, Chucky Atkins*, Antonio Burks, Anthony Roberson
2008: Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittenton, OJ Mayo, Marco Jaric

Chucky Atkins technically didn't join the squad until January of 2006 but he was an integral part of the team so I included him on the roster.

Interesting to note that both squads have 5 players capable of manning the point, at least in an emergency since one of the main criticisms of the makeup of the 2008-09 Grizzlies has been too many point guards. The big difference of course is that Anthony Roberson and Antonio Burks weren't perceived as being NBA talent. All 5 of the Grizzlies point guard possibilities are considered future or present starters in the league. While the Grizzlies don't have anyone with Damon's scoring power on the roster nor BJax's punch off the bench overall the 'talent' at this stage of their careers seems to favor Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry. This is not to suggest that Conley will be hitting clutch 3 point shots in Chauncey Billups face or Kyle Lowry will average double figures in scoring this season. Neither player matches up well offensively with Damon and BJax but Conley is faster and a better defender than Damon and Kyle Lowry is a better defensive player and momentum changer.

Shooting Guards:
2005: Eddie Jones, Mike Miller, Bobby Jackson, Dahntay Jones, Anthony Roberson
2008: O J Mayo, Javaris Crittenton, Marco Jaric, Greg Buckner

Now is a good time to remember we are only talking about talent, not experience. Eddie Jones in his prime was never considered to be as talented as O J Mayo's press implies he is today. Eddie at this point of his career relied a lot on experience more than skill as well. He out-thought players and benefited well from his experience but talent wise he really couldn't hang with the better SG's in the league.

Mike Miller is a workaholic but hardly an athletic specimen. He is slow of foot which makes him a defensive liability. He is not quick getting up and down the court either. Crittenton has the edge defensively and the speed to run up and down the court but his outside shot is atrocious right now. It is difficult to imagine JCrit improving enough from the perimeter to get the nod over Miller as a player but as far as talent is concerned I would say that JCrit is the better talent. Bobby Jackson had already begun his decent from a talented 6th man into role player. Marco Jaric hasn't gotten there quite yet. Greg Buckner wasn't a talented player when he was in his prime which he no longer is but he does have the ability to stick on an offensive player and take him out of his game in short spurts.

The SG position is one where the 2008 Grizzlies seem to have talent but the 2005 team had players. Will that talent mature into superior players is unsure at this time.

Small Forwards:
2005: Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Dahntay Jones
2008: Rudy Gay, Marco Jaric, Greg Buckner

Shane Battier is the consumate team player. A man singularly focused on doing whatever it takes to help his team win. Rudy Gay is one of the most talented players in the NBA. He is capable of dunking over anyone in the league and yet can still hit the clutch three point shots when needed. He speed is not world class but fast enough to lead breaks as well as trail.

The 2008 squad has the more talented player in Rudy Gay but is far behind the 2005 squad in players ready to contribute meaningful minutes at the SF position. This is quite possibly the weakest overall position currently for the Grizzlies despite Rudy Gay's talent. Even a 21 yr old talent like Gay can't go 40+ minutes a night without breaking down and if Rudy breaks down Memphis won't win a game.

Power Forwards:2005: Pau Gasol, Hakim Warrick, Brian Cardinal, Lawrence Roberts
2008: Hakim Warrick, Antoine Walker, Darrell Arthur, Darko Milicic

This is a position where the Grizzlies have definately not improved their talent as yet. Hakim Warrick is not more talented now than he was before and no one has stepped up to replace Pau. Antoine Walker was a talented PF at one time but time has not been friendly to Walker and was a ghost of his former self last season in Minnesota. Arthur could be a strong addition but his talent is not overwhelming. Darko could be effective as a PF if Gasol ends up being a strong C but that is still undertermined at this time. Most likely he will see a large majority of his minutes at the Center position.

: Lorenzen Wright, Jake Tskalidis
2008: Darko Milicic, Marc Gasol

A lot depends on how well Darko plays and how well Gasol adapts to the new league. On paper this is a more talented position than the 2005 season, especially when you consider how Wright's play decreased during the season. If Darko is 100% healthy then he can outdefend Wright and scores about as well. Rebounding Wright has the advantage however due not so much to talent as desire and experience. Gasol is more talented than Big Jake already and could challenge Darko for the starting role if he adjusts to the tighter lanes and proves he is quick enough to handle the NBA centers.

So while expectations for this Grizzlies team are far lower than the 2005 squad I believe an arguement could be made for this team being more talented. Unfortunately talent only means something when combined with intelligent on-court decisions and drive. The 2005 team played intelligently and out-worked thier competition. All teams have talent in the NBA. The difference between winning and losing comes down to determination and intelligence.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Comparing to the Celtics (or Ridiculousness to Pass the Time)

Two seasons ago, the Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics "fought" to the wire for the title of "worst team in the NBA" in order to garner the best shot at the two "no doubt future superstars" in the draft in the form of Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Alas, their "efforts" were all for naught, as both finished outside of the top 3 positions in the draft, slated #4 and #5 respectively. As we all know, the Celtics didn't sit idly by, but were very active, as they traded away their younger assets for the services of two veterans -- Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Those moves helped them to surround longtime Celtic Paul Pierce with enough talent to not only make the postseason, but to do so with the best record in the NBA and go on to win the NBA Championship this year. However, there was also another key acquisition that spurred the Celtics on to title aspirations. That was the hiring of a new assistant coach.

Enter Tom Thibodeau. In his 18 seasons of being an assistant coach in the NBA, his team has finished in the Top 10 in overall defense 14 times. He is a defensive specialist -- that is what he does. Of course, at the time of his hiring, many wondered if he was simply the "coach in waiting" for Doc Rivers, who was perceived to be a lame duck by many. Any of this sound familiar yet? It sure does to me, in light of the way that many people received the news that Kevin O'Neill was being hired for the purpose of bolstering the Grizzlies' defense. There was rampant talk of the move "undermining Coach Marc Iavaroni" and that O'Neill was just in place to be "the next head coach" once Ivy was let go. Unfortunately for all those people -- some of whom just love to stir up trouble -- the fact is that O'Neill was brought in with Iavaroni's full endorsement. We've gone over that issue before, but it bears repeating as we gear up for the season. Marc Iavaroni wants Kevin O'Neill on his staff. Period. End of discussion.

With that out of the way, I wondered if there were any parallels to the champs that we could draw, besides the coaching labels: Doc Rivers = Marc Iavaroni in the "Supposed Lame Duck" category (vastly overstated IMO); Tom Thibodeau = Kevin O'Neill in the "Hard-nosed Defensive Specialist/Coach-in-waiting" category. Since the first two examples were in the coaching staff, I decided to look at it from the perspective of leadership/attitude. So the next few comparisons are based upon that idea, not position, game type or skillset.

Kevin Garnett = O.J. Mayo

KG (or Mr. Intensity) is the unquestioned emotional leader of the Celtics. He is the guy that gets everyone else fired up and has no issue with getting in someone's face and screaming like a banshee if they aren't as into the game as he wants them to be. Rudy Gay is not that guy. Mike Conley hasn't shown that he will be that guy. I believe that Ovinton J'Anthony Mayo just might be that guy though. He has that certain presence that defies categorization beyond the label of "born leader". If anyone on this young team is going to take that initial step towards being the unquestioned emotional leader, I think that Mayo is the most likely choice.

Paul Pierce = Mike Conley

The Truth leads by example. He's not big on displays of emotion, preferring to let his actions speak for themselves. While KG is raw emotional intensity, Pierce possesses a quiet fury that bubbles just below the surface. In that same manner, Conley isn't a guy that gets into his teammates faces (not yet, anyways), but he carries himself like someone who knows what needs to be done and then goes out and does it. He could prove to be the on-the-court leader that the Grizzlies need as they mature over the season. Only time will tell.

Ray Allen = Rudy Gay

Jesus Shuttlesworth is one of the best 2nd fiddles in the league. The fact that he is a 3rd option for Boston makes him one of the best #3 men in the history of the NBA. While he's not a leader in terms of emotion or an "on-the-floor coach", he is an absolute assassin when the need arises. He puts up big numbers when the team needs a lift and has no issue with the ball being in his hands as the clock winds down to 0.0 with the game on the line. Rudy Gay is a lot like that to this point in his career. Whether it is scoring in bunches throughout the game or hitting deep 3's late in the 4th quarter to bring his team back from the brink of defeat, he has shown himself to be a clutch performer so far in his young career. Like Ray Allen, he is best suited to be the sidekick due to his approach to the game, but what a talent to have as the #2 option.

I could go on and on, making further comparisons like Kendrick Perkins = Marc Gasol/Darko Milicic, but I think we've covered the important parts. This is not to say that the Grizzlies are going to even come close to making the playoffs next season, much less contend for a title, but the makeup in terms of personality and attitude is there for them to show some improvement. If their talent level can reach even 75% of the players I have compared them to, they might just reach Tsunami Status a lot sooner than anyone expects. Wouldn't that be a nice surprise?

BallHype: hype it up!