Friday, September 12, 2008

Who's Been Naughty and Who's Been Nice?

by HPTMatt

That's right, only 952,000 shopping days until Christmas, and it's never too early to start thinking about which teams have made themselves likely to find things that sparkle in the stocking and which are looking at some nasty lung irritation if they were to breathe in the contents of said stocking.

Houston is the team that comes to mind first for me as far as those who could take steps onward and upward. Yes, yes, I understand that I sound like "the boy who cried West champs" again, but Ron-Ron (Artest, not Tillery) could very well be that hackneyed cliche of "missing piece". If Shane Battier thinks that playing against Ron inside is "like trying to push an oak tree", Captain Headcase should really be able to help the Rockets shut folks down like Sturgis after a DEA sweep. The potential contributions of Brent "who took the tennis balls off my walker" Barry should not be underestimated-he can still sink a well-timed dagger, and needless to say, he's not exactly short on winning experience. I feel quite sure, however, that newly-bestowed Dr. Zack will be upset that he'll not get to see the infamous Bobby Jackup do that Jackie-Chan-esque leg kick whilst tossing a lump of baked clay in the general direction of the basket.

Wait a minute-I forgot about TMac's back and shoulder and Yao's legs.

Houston may very well=first round fodderage again. It'll be a shame, 'cuz they're a team I do like to watch, but the injury bug by which they seem to be perpetually bitten is about the size of the ants in the original movie "Them" (younguns, look it up-great old cheesy horror film).

Portland. Boy, could they be really, really good. Could be the team I'm jonesin' to watch the most (except my Grizz, of course). This Fernandez cat has to learn to use his size to his advantage in the NBA and Bill Russell Sr. has to keep that knee intact, and look out world. Added Bayless and Batum, Diogu can score a bit inside (which they'll need, BTW), they still got some guy named Roy somebody-or-other.

And they got rid of Jarrett Jack. That ain't gonna hurt either.

The Sixers. Elton. That's all I gotta say there. Except "Mareese Speights". He's got some size, and he'll be learning from one of the best currently around.

Now, for my favorite of the lump-of-coal group:

Denver. Now I'll put it right out there that I don't like their attitude as a team, but from as objective a perspective as my feeble mind can muster, they're looking about as good as an Amy Winehouse lung x-ray. Nene and Kenyon put together do not possess the structural integrity of the Erector Set "skyscraper" I built on my carpeted livingroom floor in 1977. Lost one of the best one-on-one interior defenders of this era (sorry Grizz fans, I don't mean Bobby Jones) and their own Mr. Hustle, the Enforcer from south of the border, Eduardo Najera.

And they signed Dahntay and the Birdman of Bogota. HURTIN.

Enough spewing for today. I've gotta blow this joint (certain players who cannot be named, don't get so excited-that's just a figure of speech) and go remove all the sharp objects from Spartacus' dwelling in case the Randolph deal actually transpires (which, BTW, I think it will not).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

By MemphisX

It seems that New York Knicks President Donnie Walsh has thrown some cold water on the hot trade rumor sending Zach Randolph to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for the Serbian duo Darko Milicic and Marko Jaric. There have been some strong opinions on this deal within the Grizzlies fanbase and on the Internet in general. The general consensus has been that Zach Randolph is an unstoppable force of basketball horribleness, doomed to infect any team he goes to with some sort of plague. So many among the Grizzlies were happy to read that Walsh considered this deal "dormant". They have been wishing for this deal to hit a snag every since Ron Tillery first mentioned it a month ago. Be careful what you wish for...

I know that acquiring Randolph is not the last or only possible deal out there. That does not change the fact that camp opens in about three weeks. One of the biggest things for a young team is continuity. So making a big trade during camp or midseason that disrupts roles puts a lot of added pressure on a coaching staff that is already on the hot seat. You definitely should not bring in someone like Randolph during the season until roles are clearly established among our core players. So that means that more or less, the Grizz roster now will likely be what we will see on opening night. Be careful what you wish for...

Yes, the Grizzlies should have enough playing time available for all of our young players to develop. However, that is part of our problem. Conley and Lowry both think they should be starting and both of them can make a case for it. Mayo and J Critt at shooting guard but both of them really want to play point guard. Warrick and Arthur at power forward but neither of them like the post or rebounding. Darko, Gasol, and Hadadi at center and all three are either limited, inexperienced, or both. So other than Rudy Gay, there isn't another proven NBA talent on the entire roster. Be careful what you wish for...

So I was up for the trade. I wanted the Grizzlies to acquire a veteran capable of taking some of the scoring pressure off of Gay and Mayo. As is this team is going to be real easy to defend. Most of our scoring will be coming from the perimeter via our guards and Gay. None of the Grizzlies truly require a double team and our point guards and bigs are not experienced enough to utilize the pick and roll. So if you think defense is going to be our biggest problem, I simply can't agree. You can manufacture a decent team defense by scheme or effort but scoring in the NBA takes talent and mismatch advantages. The Grizzlies have very little of either. Be careful what you wish for...

Yes, acquiring Randolph was a risk. However, with a team devoid of low post scoring and really with only one other proven scorer on the entire roster, I think it was a risk worth taking. Randolph has his negatives. He is not a great or willing passer, he is a below average defender, he loves the strip club scene, and he has an entourage that is somewhat menacing. However, his two assets (interior scoring and rebounding) are the two things the Grizzlies need most. So it would seem that he would have to help the Grizzlies right? careful what you wish for...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Suggestion to Micheal Heisley

by Chip Crain

I was reading Eric Musselman's blog (which I recommend all of our readers do as well) the other day and he mentioned an article in the New York Times. In the Talking Business section was the story "Leaving Boardroom for Skybox" and it was about Home Depot founder Arthur Blank and his travails as owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Mr. Blank made two keen observations that I hope Mr. Heisley will take to heart as well. First, Mr. Blank made a clear distinction between the business side of the team and the sports operation side for lack of a better term. Mr. Blank associated well with the business side of the operations but has yet to make similar inroads on the field.

So how did Mr. Blank make the inroads on the business side? Quite simply he developed strong relationships with his associates (his word for employees) and then he listened to his clients (i.e. the fans). He took over a franchise that rarely sold out games and turned that around simply by conducting surveys of the fans, listening to what they wanted and expected and implemented changes to address those concerns. Notice that he didn't give lip service to them, he actively got involved to change what was wrong while maintaining what was done properly.

The result has been remarkable. The Falcons routinely sell out games now and actually have a waiting list for season tickets. He did this despite the Falcons failure to produce on the field. The team has only made the playoffs twice since Mr. Blank took over as owner. Last season the Falcons were one of the worst teams in the league.

Mr. Blank also looked at the team and quickly came to the conclusion that, while he may understand the business side of the franchise intuitively, the sports side was a totally different animal. He dabbled in coaching hires and the like but he recognized that he doesn't have the skills to determine what makes a good coach like he can determine what makes a good manager. They are different animals. He admitted to himself that he wouldn't have a clue about personnel decisions either. So he hired the best people he could to make those decisions and then let them do their thing. He didn't look over their shoulders or demand to be given the final word on any deal. He hired people he felt knew how to manage a team and let them do their job.

In contrast, Mr. Heisley has been getting more and more involved in the team decisions while seeming to lose interest in attempting to appease his clients. As he said in our interview:

I'm not so sure the professionals have that much more going for them than the fans have going. A lot of it really turns out to be luck. How many trades do you make that turns out horrible because the guy gets injured and he hardly ever plays for you?

Does that sound like someone who believes there is a difference between managing a business and managing a sports team? Does that sound like someone who doesn't believe he can do as well or better than the people he hired to do the job?

On the other side Heisley doesn't appear to be pushing the please the clients concept either. This season's Fan Advisory Board hasn't been selected yet despite camp beginning in less than three weeks so it is doubtful the board will have any effect on changing the fan experience this season. How much impact will the board have on this season if they won't even be selected as a group prior to the start of training camp? Services have been cut in the past and perks eliminated but has anyone done a survey to figure out how this was affecting the fan experience?

Last season the team opened up the parking garage for anyone. Club or better level season ticket holders used to be the only one's allowed to park there. Did anyone survey the season ticket holders who were denied the opportunity to buy those spaces to see how they felt about it? Did anyone ask the people who pre-paid for the right to park in the covered lot how it felt to suddenly be forced to park on the roof in the rain because their normal spots were taken? Aren't those people the exact ones the team is lamenting losing lately?

So Mr. Heisley, please pay attention to the owners who have been successful and pay more attention to your clients and less on the basketball operations. You have hired Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni. Now is the time to let them make the decisions that you hired them to make. Focus on the fans who are your clients. Make them feel like you care. Ask for their ideas and then implement the ones that are feasible.

It is just one person's opinion, but I think it is valid.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, September 8, 2008

About that Zach for Darko/Marko Deal . . .

by Lee Eric Smith

Lots of linkety-links, mostly from NY Media . . .

Newsday: Darko would welcome a trade.
TheKnicksBlog: Grizz want a first rounder.
RealGM Message Boards (via translation): Darko's "99 percent sure" he'll be a Knick by Friday.
Newsday Blog: Zach expects to be with Grizzlies this fall.

I know we're just Memphis, smallest NBA market, dealing with NY, the NBA's Biggest, but all I keep hearing about is why NY wants to unload Zach. . . . kind of an addition by subtraction thing.

What I haven't heard is: Why are we doing this trade?

I get it, Zach is a veteran 20-10 guy, a complete bull in the post, and we need somebody we can throw the ball to when the game slows down. And maybe that's all that needs to be said. But somehow, that doesn't seem like enough.

Upgrade? Look at it this way: NBA analysts all over the net are considering Darko a mild UPGRADE in New York, or at least a better fit. Now think about how the consensus on Darko is that he's a bust, and maybe you understand my concern. Why would Donnie Walsh trade a proven 20-10 guy for a promising, but still unproven Darko? Who's really getting fleeced here?

If Zach Don't Fit in NY: Given that Iavaroni wants to run just as much as D'Antoni in NY, and Z-Bo "doesn't fit" in D'Antoni's system, it begs the question of how Z would fit in Memphis.

Defense. Zach's not known for it; Kevin O'Neill will DEMAND IT. If we're trying to IMPROVE defense, why trade our best shot blocker? And do you think there would be chaos in the locker room if O'Neill jumped down Z-Bo's throat for missing an assignment? What would that do to chemistry? Would Zach run over Iavaroni?

What do we already have? Granted Hak is skinny and 'Toine is older, but Hak put up respectable numbers at the 4 in about 23 minutes, as did 'Toine in 19. I'm not saying that either of them is as good as Zach, but together, their production could conceivably add up to Z-Bo's -- without giving up an improving big man in Darko. Besides, if neither Zach nor Hak (hey, a rhyme) are going to play defense at the 4, I'd rather go with the young gun, who probably fits better with our running, swarming style (I hope . . . for both the style and Hak's fit).

The Knucklehead Factor. It's been said that both Zach and 'Toine can be knuckleheads. If that's true, in my mind, the tie goes to the one with the ring: Antoine Walker. He won a championship with Miami in 2006, and has more playoff wins than Zach. Plus, he's adapting to his now-and-future role as an aging player: backup to the younger players -- Hak and Darrell.

Paper. Ah yes, the money. Z-Bo's contract is the same as Pau's was, even expires at the same time (I think). Granted Z is tougher and meaner than Pau, no question, but I'm not sure how he fits the 3YP.

Proposed deal makes SOME basketball sense, little financial sense (unless they hold out for the draft pick), and almost NO "chemistry" sense. . . . to me, anyway. So . . .

Why are we doing this again?

If you got answers, please explain below . . .

HoF Ceremonies Over: Back to Zach Rumors

By Chip Crain

A lot of people, myself included, believe that the rumored Zach Randolph trade was put on hold over the last few days after Memphis gave New York their most recent offer of Darko and Marco for Zach Randolph if New York eats the deferred payments on Randolph's contract. Any action by the Knicks was tabled so that Patrick Ewing could be the center of attention this past weekend at the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremonies in Springfield, Mass.

Donnie Walsh has already admitted the talks are going on and when GM's admit publicly they are looking to trade one of their players a deal is usually already done.

Why an NBA team would take such ceremonies so seriously to hold up a proposed deal of this magnitude is anyone's guess. I mean this isn't the NBA Hall of Fame after all but the generic Basketball Hall of Fame. Dick Vitale was being honored as well after all. We're not talking big time baby! I don't mean to be rude but Vitale is best known as a pimp for the Duke Blue Devils after all. He's one of the most ridiculed announcers in sports since Howard Cosell passed away. Does he really deserve a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame?

Why doesn't the NBA have its own Hall of Fame anyway?

But I am getting away from the issue here. New York has been on hold so that they wouldn't steal the thunder from Patrick and I guess that is as good a reason as any to seriously consider whether it makes sense to unload Zack Randolph for Darko and Marko. I don't believe the money is a serious issue for the Knicks after all. It's not like they don't waste money anyway. This is the team that failed to take advantage of the Allen Houston Rule by waving Allen Houston after all.

So the question becomes does New York want to get rid of Randolph so badly that they are willing to accept two players generally considered trash on one of the worst teams in the league for him? The deal only makes sense if New York seriously wants to unload as much salary as possible to make a run for LeBron James in the summer of 2010. Wouldn't that make the deal a version of the 3 Year Plan so widely criticized in Memphis after all? Sure Darko would strengthen their interior but anyone would strengthen an interior manned by Eddie Curry. Marko would provide depth at three positions as well. Darko and Marko are also both Serbs and would be able to keep each other company. And lord knows Adriana Lima would be happier in the model capital of North America over Memphis but is that alone a good enough reason to swing this deal? I mean it's not like New York has to worry about models drawing attendance to MSG anyway.

One serious concern for the Knicks has to be the pressure that Darko would be under in New York. This is a city not known for the having the most concilliatory fans after all. The pressure to perform will be immense in the Big Apple and Darko hasn't alwasy responded well to stressful situations. One of the main reasons people expected Darko to do well in Memphis was the lack of pressure he would be under here.

The reason the Grizzlies could be interested in Zach is obvious. He is a name player that could sell tickets and he would dramatically improve the rebounding on the Grizzlies roster. He brings experience and a veteran voice to a very young team as well. Zach is capable of averaging 20 pts and 10 rebounds a game and when motivated and focused is a load for any opponent to contain.

The negatives are also obvious. Zach is known as a player more interested in his own statistics than his team's success, is considered a weak defender (and the Grizzlies are supposed to be attempting to improve their defense this season) and has been injury prone over the last 4 seasons most likely associated with his large girth and poor conditioning. I am not saying this is a fact but he was shipped out of Portland and is now being shopped by New York so there may be some truth to these rumors.

And let's not forget the financial terms of his contract which are as large as Zach himself.

Anyway, I expect there to be some news on this front early in the week as the Knicks get back to work after the long weekend honoring Patrick Ewing. Unless the Knicks decide to wait another week of course. Maybe they are scared of stepping on the thunder from Brett Favre's home opener with the Jets while Chris Wallace keeps hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

BallHype: hype it up!