Thursday, October 9, 2008

Interview with the Enemy: The Lakers Nation

Last week, we exchanged questions and answer with The Lakers Nation, a great blog that follows the Los Angeles Lakers. Our answers are up on their site right here. Here are the queries that we had for their lead writer, Jonathan Somers-Harris.

3 Shades of Blue: If Kobe, Lamar, Pau and Bynum all expect to participate in the offense, how do you think the attitudes/egos will mesh?

The Lakers Nation: Well, I think it will be easier than most people think. Kobe is the undisputed top dog, there's no question about who's taking that final shot. Pau is a very good 2nd option, and in fact you could probably argue that he's more comfortable in that 2nd option role than as a first option. That just leaves Lamar and Bynum. Lamar would be happy averaging 10/10/8, scoring or not scoring isn't going to hurt his ego. The only problem i can see would be Bynum. Right before he got injured, he was showing great promise as an offensive option (not just put-backs and alley-oops). He was regularly scoring in the 17-25 point range while picking up 13-16 rebounds leading up to the injury. (No center, no matter how good, scores 17-25 points a game on put-backs and alley-oops alone)

He may turn out to be a pretty selfless guy, and he shoots such a high percentage that he may not need a whole lot of touches, but he's the one guy that i can see having a problem being the 3rd option in his contract year. (I wouldn't be happy either if a 5year/80M contract was on the line)

3SoB: If Kobe's finger forces him out during the season, will the Laker faithful be kind to him or not?

TLN: Lakers faithful: we're faithfully fickle. The same people who are praising him now for his "competitive spirit" or whatever they want to call it will be cursing his poor judgment. I don't think it will stop us from loving him though. I will liken the situation to that of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United. before he came back from Injury, people were saying how they wouldn't cheer for him anymore. However, as soon as he was ready to start warming up for his first game back from injury. (even before he was introduced as a substitute) the crowd went crazy for him.

In the same way, we might grumble a bit about the surgery, but in the end, we need him to much to not be kind to him.

3SoB: Last year the Lakers bench was critical to the team's success, but disappeared in the Finals. Is there any concern that the bench won't live up to that level with so many big name players in the starting lineup now?

TLN: This all depends if Lamar comes off the Bench or not. if he doesn't come off the bench, our projected "bench mob" will be

PG: Farmar
SG: Sasha
SF: Ariza
PF: Powell
C: Mihm

The only real difference between this year and last would be Powell replacing Turiaf (I will miss that man) and Mihm replacing Mbenga. Either way, Gasol is still expected to see some time at C and Lamar is expected to see some time at PF too, so there's not a whole lot of drop off from this year as there was last year. A bigger concern for the Lakers is that if both Lamar and Ariza are playing the SF position, then Kobe won't be able to slide over the the SF slot, and the three guard lineup that was so effective last year (Farmar/Fisher, Sasha, and Kobe) won't get a lot of court time.

3SoB: When do you expect Jordan Farmar to claim the starting PG role? Is it Derek Fisher's spot for the foreseeable future?

TLN: It's up to Farmar to claim the starting PG role. Fisher performed far beyond expectations the last year, but the Lakers cannot continue to expect that from him, as age will have to affect his performance at some point. That being said,Farmar needs to make the next big jump in his game in order to take the starting gig from Fisher outright. Farmar had a great first 60 or so games last season, and during that time he was getting about 24MPG. For whatever reason though, his production tailed off dramatically after that, and Fisher was forced to play upwards of 30MPG for the rest of the season/playoffs.

I think we'll see Fisher average 20MPG this season as a starter, and the probably the transition will happen in the 2009-2010 season

3SoB: Should Lamar Odom start at SF or come off the bench as a 6th man this season?

TLN: He should definitely start, if only so that the Lakers can see how a big, yet fast, line up works. If the "Lamar as a starting SF" experiment fails, then we can move him to the back up PF roll. there won't be a huge learning curve there because Odom has played the PF position for the Lakers for the best part of 3 years now, plus he's usually the only starter playing the the bench players during line-shifts, so he's already used to having to run the show/being a first option.

Speaking of big line ups, if you will indulge me for a second, I've been really excited about the possibility of Sun Yue (6'9") winning the starting PG spot at training camp this year. Imagine a starting line up where your shortest player was Kobe Bryant at 6'6"?

PG: Sun Yue. . . . . . . 6'9"
SG: Kobe Bryant. . . . 6'6"
SF: Lamar Odom. . . 6'10"
PF: Pau Gasol . . . . . 7'0"
C: Andrew Bynum . . 7'1"

It probably wouldn't work, but its exciting to think about.

3SoB: Which team in the Western Conference concerns you most as a potential playoff opponent next spring?

TLN: New Orleans, without a doubt. Fisher does a good job staying in front of bigger guards like Deron Williams and Jason Kidd, but Chris Paul is an absolute nightmare. I'd like to think that Gasol and Bynum gives us too much size for them to cover, but that won't matter if we can't stop Chris Paul.

A lot of people are surpised that I don't say the Rockets, but in truth, they don't worry me as much, and here's why. Unless they're going to effectively slap Shane Battier in the face and make him Ron Artest's back up, the Rockets are going to lack some defensive size. If they play all of T-Mac, Artest, aand Battier at the same time that limits the minutes that Luis Scola gets, and by extension valuable players like Carl Landry won't get time either.

3SoB: Your thoughts on Coby Karl, who looked like a future Hall of Famer in his Summer League game against the Grizzlies?

TLN: How did you know that Coby Karl was my favourite Lakers player? Honestly, If Sasha had left the Lakers I would have been fine with it, because I felt Coby Karl could replicate most of his production. I think he has a great career as a solid back-up in this league. Personally, I'm hoping he has the balls to ask for the No. 8 shirt coming into camp this season, because that would be the most amazing thing since. . man. . that would just be awesome.

3SoB: What were your expectations for Pau Gasol last year and how much have they changed for the upcoming season?

TLN: I expected him to be a lighter, more versitile Andrew Bynum on the S/R's with Kobe, everything beyond that was a bonus. this year, I'm expecting to see more of his short/mid-range game obviously. I think we underutilized him last year, hopefully this year we can incorperate more of his offensive skill set into the game plan.

3SoB: True or False: Jerry West is the best SG in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers.

TLN: In finished History, true. by the time Kobe is done, we might have to revisit this question. (see how i dodged that bullet? haha)

3SoB: If the Grizzlies and Lakers were to switch divisions, how much would that affect each of their records for the upcoming season?

TLN: Oh man. well, between not having to play Spurs, Hornets, Mavs, and Rockets that extra 1-2 times each (4-8 games) as well as being able to play the Clippers and Warriors that extra 1-2 times (2-4 games) or vice versa. I'd expect the Grizzlies to win about 5-8 more games, and the Lakers to win about 2-3 less (The Lakers had a great record against playoff teams in the West last year). It would definitely lower the winning percentages of all the teams in the Southwest division, and they would probably all still qualify for the playoffs. . that's just crazy to think about.

We want to thank Jonathan and The Lakers Nation for doing this interview and would love to be able to wish them the best for the upcoming season....except that it is the Lakers, so we'd rather die a slow painful death than to wish them anything but misery and doom. We can't help it -- it is ingrained in us to hate them with every fiber of our being.

Guest Post: Don't Call DeShawn Stevenson "Soulja Boy"

When Heckling Opponents Goes Wrong

by Mario Latilleon

I am a Memphis Grizzlies fan. I grew up a Memphis Tigers fan, and I take pride in the fact Bob Huggins once called us the most obnoxious fans in America. Last night at the game against the Wizards, I guess my rambunctious antics went too far. I got under DeShawn Stevenson's skin. When I got under DeShawn Stevenson's skin, I got on the wrong side of the law as far as Washington Wizards security saw me. I did not plan to heckle DeShawn Stevenson, it just happened. As I pondered the things I would yell at the opposing team for fun, right before the game, I remembered Lebron James' slam of the decade on a loquacious DeShawn Stevenson like Dave Chappelle recalling Negrodomus during his ride with Wayne Brady:

"That would be like Jay Z saying something back to Soulja Boy...there's no point."

So along with my warnings to Etan Thomas of calling Brendan Haywood after fouling Grizzlies players, tons of fun with Darius Songalia of the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars, and one comment to Antawn Jamison about looking like Midget from "New Jersey Drive"; I spent most of the first quarter calling DeShawn Stevenson "Soulja Boy" everytime he was within earshot. When Stevenson got a rebound or played defense, I kept at it with the Soulja Boy chants. When the Grizzlies shot free throws, I really got at it: not only would I scream Soulja Boy, I would stand and hop back doing the superman move from the song/dance. With three or four minutes left in the 1st quarter, it finally seemed like I got DeShawn Stevenson's attention. On the bench, Deshawn Stevenson started yelling something at me; unfortunately I could not hear what he was saying. Etan Thomas, sitting next to Stevenson was yelling at me too, but I really could not make out what they were saying. Within a minute of them yelling at me, a Damon Stoudamire look-a-like doing security for the Wizards came over with an police officer and asked me to stop heckling Stevenson. Since I was wearing a Damon Stoudamire jersey at the time, I thought he would give me a little more love. When I asked the security guy what I said that was wrong, he told me that he didn't want a back and forth between Stevenson and me to escalate into anything. My response was I didn't say anything vulgar or offensive so I was within the NBA fan code of conduct, but he told me I was ruining the experience of everyone around me by yelling the whole game and he would stitch to NBA security and have me removed. I asked him to provide the NBA Code of Conduct and the rule I was breaking, he promised he would bring it to me. I got adamant that I was not saying anything offensive; the guy got more threatening and said, "Okay... You keep it up... you'll be outta here." One couple next to me cheered the security guy because I guess I was ruining their peaceful, reflective experience at a sporting event, but the people behind me, whose view I would have actually obstructed doing the superman part of the Soulja Boy told me I was okay when I apologized if I was ruining their experience.

Now the security and FedExForum staff I spoke to about everything told me they didn't see anything wrong with what I did as long as I wasn't cursing or threatening the players. A little later in the game, a Wizards player heckled me when the Wizards were shooting a free throw and I was still silently soothing from my encounter. I had one final discussion with the Wizards security guy during halftime when he saw me asking the original escorting officer for clarification of how my behavior was excessive enough to be removed from the game. As far as I was concerned, this security guy was so agitated with me that anything I yelled could have been crossing the line. The security came over and argued with me like he was a Damon Stoudamire looking Mike Fratello. Since I didn't appreciate the threats, I calmly told him that I was going to be a fan whether he liked it or not. I wasn't going after Stevenson or any other Wizards player for that matter. I stopped the heckling, but became sarcastically supportive of the Wizards for much of the 3rd quarter. Oddly, I think yelling "Go Wiz" is more offensive than "Soulja boy Tell'em!"

I spent the 4th quarter doing more yelling at the Grizz than the Wizards. When the game was over, the Wizards left the bench and were walking across the court fifteen feet away from me. While I was looking at my cell phone responding to a text, I saw a hand towel flying towards me out of the side of eye. The towel was soaked in ice cold water. I did not see which Wizard was the thrower, but I originally thought it was Caron Butler because I noticed he was grinning at me. There he was, sneaking around Butler with Roger McDowell like stealth was Soulja Boy himself, Deshawn Stevenson. The most telling fact of the wet towel was the hit was below my calf on my leg. With a shot like that, Stevenson had to be the thrower. Soulja Boy is not only no Lebron James, he's no Big Shot Bob either.

I don't think I crossed the line calling him Soulja Boy. Though I know NBA team personnel is sensitive after the Detroit event, maybe instead of going after me, the team needs to teach these players to grow up and overlook it. I wasn't calling Stevenson anything dirty or personal. I referred to him as something from a well publicized feud.

I will continue doing what I do, which is heckling opposing players. I try to be sensitive to other fans, but I yell most of the game, and participate. I am energetic and can be obnoxious, and I make no apologies about it. If yelling at an opposing player takes them out of their game, I'm down for doing it. I would not say anything I would not want children to hear.

And I note something from the NBA fan code of conduct...

Guests will enjoy the basketball experience free from disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language or obscene gestures.

So at what point are you disruptive at a sporting event? I guess if the people around you cannot enjoy themselves, but you could be bothersome to someone near you for yelling "DE-FENSE" everytime the home team played defense chant music. In addition, what does Deshawn Stevenson do if he's got 15,000 fans chanting "Soulja Boy" every time he touches the basketball? Does he get angry with each of them? Will Damon Securamire have the Wizards play before an empty hostile arena?

I feel like Kramer.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wizards @ Grizzlies, 10/8/08

Memphis Grizzlies v. Washington Wizards, 10/8/08, Memphis, TN.

This will be the second night of a back-to-back for both teams. It will be a gracious-as-a-back-to-back-can-be introduction to the rigors of an NBA season for the rookies, with both teams having flown from Texas the previous night. Same timezone, at least. Sure, there will be a ho-hum factor to this game, as there is with any preseason game, but the overnight travel will give both sets of coaches an early (some might say nearly meaningless) glimpse at how the players for each team will respond to two nights in a row. I'll be missing this one in person....for the best reason ever...Hudson Graham Noe, 9lbs3oz, 7:34 PM on Oct. 1st :). Yes, he's doing fine, and thanks for asking :).

Ok. Enough proud papa stuff.

On to the game.

Point guards: Mike Conley v. Antonio Daniels

Sadly, it looks like AD might be doing a bit more than keeping Gil's spot warm, as the "arthroscopic washing" that Arenas just received is gonna keep him out for a while. "Injury history" is becoming a very important phrase when discussing Gilbert Arenas, and it's a shame, because he's one of the truly exciting players to watch in the NBA. Sure, he's not afraid to let you know that he knows just how exciting he can be, but that doesn't diminish his status. Daniels, however, is not exactly chopped liver. He is very physically strong with the ball and without it and is a good defender. He's not gonna shoot the lights out, but he can score at a reasonable level and can use his strength to get close to the hoop. It should be a good (preseason-style) test for Conley to see if he can blow by AD a time or two. Conley's much-heralded increase in physical strength over this offseason will be key in this matchup, and if he has trouble blowing by AD, we'll also get a chance to check out whether Conley's shooting work this summer will help him out. Should be quite fun to watch, but Daniels is very physically strong, and Conley is still learning to use his tools.
Advantage: Washington

Shooting guards: OJ Mayo v. DeShawn Stevenson

Ah, OJ. Save us, OJ. Ah, the ballyhoo, the hype, the seventh grader playing for the varsity team. Time to show us where it's at, OJ. I personally think that he's going to come out of the gate firing. He'll be looking forward to being the second option on offense and has already looked to assert himself as a leader. Will he try to do too much? Or will he try to play within himself and the team? Finding out the answers to those questions will be fun for Grizzlies fans. DeShawn Stevenson is an undersized two who can intermittently play the one and can hit the three, although Ray Allen he ain't. Decent ballhandler but not a worldbeater. If Mayo can keep himself moving, he could take this matchup on talent and drive.
Advantage: Memphis

Small forwards: RU-DEE Gay v. Caron Butler

In the regular season, this matchup would be a primo fix for an NBA junkie such as myself. In the preseason, it should still be good, but probably limited in terms of minutes, since both of these players is well-cemented in his respective starting lineup. Caron Butler has a nice-sized arsenal of offensive weapons,and is not a putrid defender either. He is strong, and can play and bang inside well for a 3. Can he stop Rudy? We'll have to see about that. If Rudy makes a leap this season similar to the one he made last year, the NBA at large could be in trouble. Let's not forget, however, that Rudy has a ways to go defense-wise, and playing against Caron, even in preseason, will surely test his D to its current limit. If these guys match up for any decent number of minutes in this game, it will be reason to watch (as if it were going to be televised, dangit). Rudy will have more to prove in this game, and will play as such.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: It doesn't matter v. Antawn Jamison

The Grizzlies are in all sorts of trouble with this matchup, depending on how much Jamison plays in this game. Sure, Jamison is not exactly a lockdown defender, but offensively, he can explode at will (but his twilight time is coming). Darko Milicic, Hakim Warrick, Antoine Walker, Derrell Arthur...none of these four guys is going to stop Antawn. He has the height to spot up on them, and can blow by them if needed. Could work out ok if a Grizz PF gets hot from the perimeter, but still doesn't look good for the Grizzlies.

UPDATE: Jamison left the game at Dallas 10/7/08 with a sprained knee. Any basketball fan hates to see any player injured any time of the season, but especially now. Looks like my man Blatche may get more playing time in this game than Eddie Jordan might have originally intended.
Advantage: Washington

Centers: Marc Gasol v. Etan Thomas

Enemy or not, I'm rooting hard for Etan Thomas. It will be great to see him come back from a major heart ailment and long rehab. Marc Gasol, while a rightfully recognized international talent, is a completely unproven quantity NBA-wise. Good size,and as much as some Grizz fans might not want to acknowledge it, there's basketball talent in that DNA. We'll see if he can keep his hands on the ball and not fumblerooski around the paint. Etan Thomas is staring straight at a ton of minutes with wrist surgery unfortunately seeming a part of Brendan Haywood's all-too-near future. Pretty good interior defender, can block some shots, but does not particularly excel at any facet of the center's game. No real threat offensively. Gasol, however, will certainly still be nowhere near finding his footing in the NBA by only his second preseason game.
Advantage: Washington

Andray Blatche is one of my very favorite up-and-coming NBA players-he should see fair time in this game. He must learn to use his size while maintaining control of himself physically and mentally, and he'll become a well-rooted regular in the NBA. Dominic McGuire has received accolades for his offseason work and should see minutes, at least in the preseason, to see if he can garner a rotation spot. If Darius Songalia can keep healthy, he knows how to play hard and can hit the open shot. Memphis' bench does not suffer from the precipitous dropoff in talent that one might think-Antoine seems to really want to play, Kyle Lowry could scare off a pack of starving Staffordshire terriers, and Quentin Ross is a very good wing defender, as is Greg Buckner. Haddadi is certainly a project, but thankfully knows a lot more about rebounding position than he does about the English language. Jaric, perhaps Arthur, perhaps Milicic will be out for this game, which does make the Grizzlies bench shorter than a Paris Hilton trip to a buffet line.
Advantage: Washington

If this game can be as close as the MEM/HOU game was on the previous night, those who make the trip to the FEF should see some pretty darn decent NBA ball.

Preseason style, of course.

Quick Hit Links

Matt Moore (Hardwood Paroxysm, NBA Fanhouse, Ridiculous Upside) interviews Mike Conley about entering into his sophomore campaign with raised expectations. He follows that up with an interview with Javaris Crittenton. Quality reading.

The Grizzlies did not pick up the option on Hakim Warrick's contract, effectively making this a contract year for the former Syracuse forward.

Hoopsworld projects O.J. Mayo as the top rookie this year. Who am I to disagree with that?

Wizards Insider (Washington Post) profiles the Grizzlies before tonight's preseason game.

2008/09 Memphis Grizzlies Preview

Memphis Grizzlies
Last Years Record: 22-60
Key Losses: Mike Miller, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jason Collins (Minor Losses: Brian Cardinal, Andre Brown)
Key Additions: O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur (Minor additions: Antoine Walker, Hamed Haddadi, Quinton Ross)

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
The Grizzlies revamped their roster in the offseason, completing what had been started with the trade of Pau Gasol during the season. On draft night, they traded away the last of the contributors from the squad that made 3 straight trips to the postseason when they sent Mike Miller and Brian Cardinal to Minnesota along with Jason Collins and the rights to Kevin Love in exchange for the rights to O.J. Mayo and the contracts of Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric and Greg Buckner. They also acquired Darrell Arthur in exchange for Donte Greene and a 2nd round pick.

Then they signed highly touted draft pick Marc Gasol to a contract to compete for the starting center position. They followed that up by signing Hamed Haddadi and Quinton Ross as well, to shore up the roster depth at some areas of need.

The biggest move that was made this offseason was the choice to allow Marc Iavaroni to remain as head coach of the team after rumors swirled about his possible departure. Ivy will get a second chance (as he should, IMO) to show that he can coach this young team to success.

2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
Youthful exuberance and determination. This team could achieve quite a bit more than is expected of them simply because they don't know any better. Top draft pick O.J. Mayo has been lauded for his drive to succeed and that attitude has visibly spread throughout the entire team. This collection of players doesn't intend to lay down for anyone, no matter what the odds against them might appear to be. In that way, they remind me a lot of the youthful team that arrived in Memphis a mere 7 years ago. I think that they will win more games than they probably should, just because they don't know any better.

3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
This team lacks experience. In all likelihood, only one starter will be older than 23 at the beginning of the season and the depth behind those starters isn't entirely tested either. The players with real experience (Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner) are on the downslope of their careers and are mostly viewed as contracts moreso than players to the majority of the fanbase. Fortunately, these young guys will get plenty of playing time to remedy that weakness, which everyone hopes will lead to some much-needed maturation. This franchise is on a 3-year plan to return to playoff levels, so talent and experience are the two key ingredients. They are working diligently on the first one, but the second will take some time.

4. What are the goals for this team?
Survival? If not that, then the goal is to display that they know what it takes to win games, even if they aren't quite good enough to do so consistently. They need to play much better defense than last year and to remain in games mentally for all 4 quarters. They have to show heart, since that has been missing from the team the last two miserable seasons. Mostly they need to show that they "get it" and are legitimate NBA talent capable of playing at the highest of levels.

5. Is there a real starting power forward on the roster?
They have 4 players capable of playing the position (Hakim Warrick, Antoine Walker, Darrell Arthur, Darko Milicic), but are any of them a legitimate answer? Warrick is a solid scorer/rebounder, but has limitations everywhere else. Walker spends too much time on the perimeter and not enough in the low post, not to mention that he is not the long-term answer for the team. Darrell Arthur is a rookie who shouldn't be expected to shoulder a tremendous role this year. Darko Milicic is a solid defender, but has issues with his offensive game and his confidence/mental approach is always a big question mark. I believe that the Grizzlies will look to trade either Warrick or Walker (or both), along with one of the young guards (likely Lowry or Crittenton) to acquire a legit PF at some point this season, perhaps a rental like Shawn Marion.

Predicted Record: 28-54

Check out previews for the rest of the NBA at

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

From Behind Enemy Lines: Griz Let Preseason Debut Slip Away

By Zack

(Note - The ever expanding crew here at 3SoB are going the extra yard this year and have installed a road blogger. Ok, ok, so I actually moved to Houston, but for the Houston (and possibly San Antonio) road games, I will be providing a view From Behind Enemy Lines.)

For 3 quarters, the new look Grizzlies reminded me alot of the Grizzlies from last year. Helter skelter half court offense. Defensive breakdowns. Less fast break opportunities than promised. Below average free throw percentage. Poor decisions with the ball.

Then a series of highlight-reel dunks by Rudy and Hak behind a swarming defense energized the Griz and deflated the enthusiastic Houston crowd. The defense started creating and getting loose balls they weren't previously. The fast break opportunity flood gates finally opened up. And the game looked like it was going to be a satisfying Grizzly win.

This energizing sequence was punctuated not by one of Rudy's electrifying dunks and post-dunk shimmy's, but by the originator of the shimmy itself, Antonie Walker, when he dove to the floor for a loose ball and called a crucial timeout. That play, by the teams most experienced player, said alot about the mindset of the willey veteran. Walker, playing Power Forward and surprisingly Center for most of the game, looked focused and team oriented. He even took a charge at one point. I know it is only the first preseason game and the inevitable losses have yet to pile up, but Walker may turn out to be a valuable and versatile contributor off the bench this year. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Rudy Gay, the unquestioned team leader, was a barometer for the team energy level and apparent confidence. For 3 quarters Rudy Gay was in foul trouble, had trouble on offense, looked slow on defense, and all around had a bad game. But like leaders do, he didn't let that ruin his game. In the 4th quarter, it all came together, albeit without Artest in his grill, and Rudy lead the Griz in their most exciting offensive stretch of the game, one that needs to be shown to the team on the flight home tonight so they know what their identity should be. Here is the highlights of that impressive 4th quarter stretch.

--Tonie steals the ball, leading to a Kyle Lowry drive and shooting foul.
--Kyle Lowry steals the ball leading to a Rudy Gay and-1 dunk and shimmy.
--After a few more trips, Rudy aggressively forces the drive and gets a layup.
--Hak blocks a shot which leads to a spectacular Rudy alley-oop.
--Another Griz steal and long outlet pass leads to a clear path to the basket foul on a streaking Mayo.
--Rudy forces another aggressive drive to the basket, not letting himself settle for a jumpshot.
--Lowry goes backdoor on Brooks, getting him back for the previous backdoor cut by Brooks.
--OJ sinks a 3 pointer.
--Another steal and long outlet pass leads to a Hak dunk and another shimmy!
--Mayo steals the ball and on the ensuing trip down the court after a missed shot, Tonie dives on the floor for the loose ball and calls a timeout.
--Lowry follows that up with a hard drive and foul, sinking a free throw to put the Griz up 93-92.

I thought the Griz were going to win at this point. I should have known better. The momentum seemed to be in the Griz favor. They were causing timely turnovers on defense and turning them into fast break points on offense. Griz basketball as promised! But nothing really says Griz basketball at its finest than losing a close game on a last second shot. Unfortunately.

Following Lowry's game leading free throw, the Rockets called a timeout and dialed up the Griz kryptonite, aka the pick and roll. With Toine playing Center and Hak playing Power Forward, there was little help on the pick and Brooks made it past Lowry to the basket for a diving layup.

But the Griz can still score to win the game, right? Wrong. I'm not too excited about Iavaroni's play that he drew up with the game on the line. Lowry gets the inbound. Makes a difficult lateral pass to OJ Mayo who has to go 3 feet beyond the 3point line to get the ball. Mayo gets screened by Toine, who then rolls to the top of the key and gets the pass. He then turns around and hands the ball off to Rudy behind the 3 point line. Rudy launches a shot with the clock running down and misses.

That play makes me give Iavaroni an F for his game grade. Only a 1 point deficit and he dials up a play where the ball never goes below the 3 point line? What? A 1 point lead and nobody attacks the rim? No basket cut? No post up? No Lowry out of control drive? The ball doesn't get to Rudy until he has to jack up a 3? Seriously? A bunch of lateral, dangerous passes on the perimeter? That is what you do when you are running out the clock, not trying to score for the win. Iavaroni, you are not installing much confidence in this now Houston-based blogger. You might as well just told the guys to do whatever they wanted to do, it couldn't have been any worse than that junk.

But anways, here are some of my other impressions from the game:

More on Rudy

Watching warmups closely, Rudy has this sense about him. This is his team. He is the leader, the star player. Unlike before, where there was guys like Miller or Damon or Pau that played that role, Rudy is now the guy. Us Griz fans take that for granted I think. But just think back to him falling asleep on the bench during the NCAA tourney and it really is a remarkable transformation. Rudy is one of ~30 Franchise Players in the NBA. Even in warmups, he knows it and is embracing the role.

MIA Players

I haven't heard any word on Darko, but he wasn't at the game. JCritt was there, but didn't play. Is he hurt? Doghouse? I hope we find out something about that. Arthur didn't play either, but given his hurt hammy, that is not surprising. Arthur was the last guy off the court practicing prior to the last locker room chat before team warmups.

Buckner and Ross

The defensive duo got plenty of burn tonight, even playing next to each other. Talk about lack of offense. You can tell defense is a priority when minutes at the 2 and 3 that use to go to Miller and Navarro are now going to Buckner and Ross. Somewhere Frat is smiling. I'm not amused though, the duo stinks and makes our helter skelter offense even worse. At least they can play defense, which is something, I guess, but playing them together for extended minutes is a disaster.

Haddadi and Gasol

Walker played a lot of 2nd half minutes at Center. That should say a lot about our twin international center duo. Gasol looked decent. Slow, but got solid position rebounding and showed off a sweet 18 foot jumpshot. Haddadi on the other hand was bad. Not surprising though. Griz fans shouldn't expect much contribution from the Iranian rookie this year. Without Darko (maybe even with Darko), our front court was outmanned and overmatched, even against the Rockets 2nd string. Gasol will be our starting center at some point this year. Even if Darko is better, he will not be as steady as Gasol.


Conley looked solid. Quick. Got to the rim at will. Missed most of his layups and floaters though. Maybe dribbled a little too much. But overall, had a good game. Conley had a stretch in the 3rd when Rudy and OJ were on the bench in foul trouble where he was on fire. Impressive. But, just like last year, Kyle did enough in the 4th quarter to stay until the end during a close game. Will that be another trend this year or just a preseason quirk? My gut says the former, but most Griz fans are hoping for the latter.


Looked mediocre. Wasn't involved in the offense much. Sweet stroke on his mid range jumper. Showed flashes, but Iavaroni and the Griz have to get the ball out of Conley and Lowry's hands and into Mayo's. Wasn't quite there on defense either and it got him into foul trouble.


Shot the freaking rock nearly every time he touched it. Jeez. I like the thought of Walker off the bench, so I'm looking at Hak improving his shot selection this year rather than being benched for it.

Defense, Blocked Shots, and Kick-out 3's

Yes, the Grizzlies showed some surprisingly stout shot blocking. Particularly Hak. Can that continue? I doubt it, but lets hope. As for the defense as a whole, I was disappointed. Our pick and roll defense was still bad. We didn't rotate that well and allowed the Rockets to penetrate and kick out for numerous 3's that kept them in the game. I guess that is better than layups, but open 3 pointers can be as easy for NBA players as layups, so I'd still prefer contested outside shots rather than wide open ones.

About the Rockets Fans

I was impressed with their enthusiastic fans. Their red rowdy section was cool. Even the small preseason crowd made tons of noise. Everyone wore red. For opening night they are trying to set the record for most painted (red) faces in one place. I'm attending that game and I'll be wearing blue....hahahaha

Oh wait, I can't forget to mention Dorsey's boneheaded technical. It was awesome. He was mad at Gasol (who by the way, has all the same mannerisms of his older brother) and aggressively slapped Gasol's hands away before an inbound. Idiot. I couldn't tell if the crowd was booing Dorsey or the Refs. Bad first impression on the coaches, I'm guessing. He didn't play in the 2nd half.

My guess for the season opener...we are going to get steam rolled by the Rockets when they play Yao more and decide to force feed him the ball in the post. He could have scored 50 tonight if he wanted to. We are too weak on the inside.

UPDATE: For a different view of the game read Ron Tillery's recap from the Commercial Appeal.

Grizzlies at Houston - 10/8/08

Since this is the 1st pre-season game all assumptions on starting lineups are totally subjective.

Memphis enters their first pre-season game with more questions than answers with their lineup. The only completely solid starter appears to be Rudy Gay at Small Forward. Mike Conley, O J Mayo appear to have the inside position to man the other perimeter positions but both are being pushed by their backups. The PF position is a complete mess with returning starter Hakim Warrick appearing to be the winner simply because he fits the youth movement better than Antoine Walker. Center is a battle royal between two 7 foot big men in Darko Milicic and Marc Gasol. There aren't going to be a lot of questions answered in this game either.

Houston has questions as well but not on the level of the Grizzlies. Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest and Yao Ming should all start and likely Luis Scola and Rafer Alston but their positions are still in play. Shane Battier is best as a solid SF but has shown the ability to play PF and SG when needed. That versatility and professional attitude seems to make him an ideal 6th man. The rest of the lineup gets fuzzy for the Rockets. New Rockets Brent Barry, D J Strawberry and Joey Dorsey should find a way to get into the regular rotation along with Aaron Brooks, Mike James and the incredible Dikembe Mutambo.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Rafer Alston
Speed. That is the one common denominator in this matchup. Alston has been considered a fast point guard since his days on the playgrounds of NYC. Conley has the capacity to make Alston look slow however with his incredible burst of speed. The problem is that Alston seems to have a clue how to use his speed. Conley is still learning how to use his most effectively in the NBA. If he has learned that important lesson then his control with the ball could prove to be the difference. Alston has never really adjusted to leaving the playground and playing with any restraint at the point in he NBA despite 9 years of NBA experience. Mike just hasn't shown that he has learned how to use his jets yet.
Advantage: Houston

Shooting Guard: O J Mayo vs Tracy McGrady

Welcome to the NBA Mayo. You may have been on people's radar since 7th grade but nothing you have seen yet can prepare you for T-Mac. McGrady can score at will, is an excellent passer and at 6-8 can easily do either over the diminutive Mayo. T-Mac has the type of game Mayo wants but without the experience or the size it will be a learning experience for O J. Mayo's most reliable talent, defensive intensity, will be pushed to the limit but he should be able to get his shot off against the lackadaisical effort from T-Mac.
Advantage: Houston

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Ron Artest

Two of the most important players on thier respective teams. Rudy Gay must remain healthy and produce at even a higher level than his sophomore season to prevent the Grizzlies from being a joke in the NBA. He is that important right now. If there is one player who could destroy the Rockets dream of a playoff series win then this is the man. Sure T-Mac and Yao are vital but Artest has the mentality to make an entire team basket cases especially coaches. Artest used to be among the best defensive SF's in the league but his athleticism is on the decline now.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Luis Scola

Hakim Warrick inherited the starting role after the Pau Gasol trade and was nearly as effective on offense as Pau was. He averaged 16.6 ppg and 6.9 rpg as a starter but amazingly he was worse than Pau on defense! That won't sit well with new Assistant Coach Kevin O'Neill and showing up to camp looking even lighter than last season won't help Hak improve on his interior game either. Scola was a big surprise among the rookie class last year and should be more comfortable this season. At 28 Scola is entering his prime and benefited a lot from Yao's injury last year. Scola does the dirty work on this team and excels in that role.
Advantage: Houston

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Yao Ming

Yao Ming was the Rockets last season before another season ending injury pushed him to the bench. When healthy there isn't a more complete center in the league. Yao averaged 22 ppg, nearly 11 boards and hit over 82% of his FT attempts last year. Throw in a couple of blocks a night as well as two assists and you can understand why people called Yao the best. Darko however matched up well against Yao when they played. Darko fought injuries all season last year but when healthy early was capable of keeping anyone in check. The problem was that Darko wasn't healthy very much.
Advantage: Houston

Benches: Memphis vs Houston

Memphis has a lot of talent off the bench. Antoine Walker has looked good in camp so far. Marco Jaric is capable of starting in this league and his size makes him capable of playing 3 different positions. Kyle Lowry was arguably the best PG on the team last season. The biggest question mark however is Marc Gasol. Pau's younger brother has been the biggest surprise of the camp so far and he has the type of size that could give people fits this year. Houston's bench is as scrambled as Memphis' but with a lot more experience. Shane Battier should become an immediate player in the league's Sixth Man of the Year contest but everyone else is a question mark. Carl LAndy had a tumultous summer dealing with a new contract. Dikembe Mutambo is probably closer to 50 than 30 although no one knows for sure. Aaron Brooks is a dimunitive PG who packs a big game. Throw in Brent Barry, Chucky Hayes, Mike James, Steve Francis and others and Houston has a lot of weapons.
Advantage: Houston

Monday, October 6, 2008

Jersey Love

The new NBA uniforms have been unveiled for the 2008-09 season.

My reviews:




The Oklahoma City Thunder: Sheesh. I'm going to try to be as unbiased as I can being from Texas and being classically conditioned to hate all things Okie...but wow. Seattle fans can at least smirk over this. The Seattle Sonics uniforms were classic looking, and a great color scheme. These things couldn't be more flamboyant if Richard Simmons and Clay Aiken were jumping on a trampoline together while listening to Donna Summer. They look like Golden State and the New York Knicks decided to come together, except the Thunder will play worse than either. The colors are so horrible, I cannot even bear to see the future alternate. Avert your eyes, these aren't even worth grading.

Next up...




The New Orleans Hornets: Well I'm sure the die-hard Hornet fans (if there are any left) in Charlotte can appreciate this. When I first saw the uniforms, I expected to see Bobby Phills modeling one; of course, in my amazement at the resemblance between the two unis, I forgot that Bobby Phills was dead. You know what else is dead? The brain cells of the person/people who came up with this. The only thing different is the French-styled block lettering on the jerseys. A big F for unoriginality on this one.

Who's next?




The Minnesota Timberwolves: Meh. I debated even covering this, because outside of the Twin Cities, who cares? The lettering looks cartoony, but their colors are a better fit than the Thunder. I'd give them a C.





Orlando Magic's 20th Anniversary Uniforms: They call it the "evolution" of their first uniforms, except less hideous with no starry basketball on the front of the jersey. I concur. It isn't my favorite of the crop, but at least they masked the retread of the past with a clever "Anniversary" title. Speaking of retreading the past, their retread looks alot like the retread of New Orleans/Former Charlotte's jersey design. So two present-days have to copy from the same team's past. Interesting. I give it a C. It would be lower, but I respect the BS card they pulled with calling it an "Anniversary" jersey.

Let's move to the Alternates...


Toronto Raptors Alternate: Now this one I like. I just like red and black together, and the majority black with the red/grey piping looks sweet. The maple leaf is a nice touch. I'd give it an A-.

Looks good. Don't dissapoint me...


Aww...You did.

Milwaukee Bucks Alternate: WTF. I love the old school style jerseys more than the newer style ones (I hate my beloved Mavs "alternate" designed by P Diddy, that man needs to stick with crappy music, selling hamburgers with trans-fat and creating crappy reality television shows) but this one just sucks. If they trade for Eddy Curry, misshapen as he is, the Bucks will look like they have a Heinz ketchup bottle manning the post. Which would be great advertising if the Bucks were ever to move to Pittsburgh.

I believe that is all of them.

Now what does this have to do with the Grizz, you ask??

It seems that every two years, teams change their uniforms. (Orlando comes to mind.) I guess we're due for a new uniform face-lift any day now. Several people I have spoken to love our away uniforms, but say our home uniforms are a bit plain. Be that as it may, I am fine with our regular uniforms. My question is this:

If every other team can change uniforms and have new alternates every year, where is ours?

Seriously. Where is ours? I think we deserve it. We have/had Spanish night when Pau and Navarro were here, as I am sure we will continue to have it for Marc. Why not throwback night(s)? Hell, I don't even think we should neccesarily create a new uniform for us. Our throwback should be something ABA-styled, or classic NBA styled. Enough with these new jerseys...more of them turn out horrible instead of classic looking. I for one wouldn't be caught dead in any of the re-do's this season. Let's bring back a piece of history.

Presenting your Memphis Grizzlies Throwback/Alternate Jersey:


Hak, this is for you.


I know we have "Pro's night" or "Throwback Night" or wait...that horrible "70's night" where we get to wear the cool jerseys but its masked behind horrible music and cheesy costumes. That's fun and all, but I say we use these as our throwback/alternates. They are cooler than the Golden State's "The City" jerseys, another alternate used that doesnt have their current team name plastered on the front. We should be able to use them, and we sure should.

I mean, this:


looks better to me then having the alternate come out urine yellow with blue and white trim, making Stevie Wonder need stronger sunglasses.

I think we should be able to have an alternate if every other team can have one and change their uniforms seemingly every season. However, let's not create a new one and risk it being Thunder-esque horrible. Let's go with what works.

Love the team or not, they ARE the only Pros in Memphis.

Atlantic Division Previews

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Boston Celtics

Jeff Clark:

Jim Weeks: Green Bandwagon

FLCeltsFan: LOY's Place

John Karalis: Red's Army

Dustin Chapman: Celtics 24/7

New Jersey Nets

Dennis Velasco: About Basketball

New York Knicks

Joey: Straight Bangin'

Seth Rosenthal: Posting and Toasting

Philadelphia 76ers

Dannie & Pete: Recliner GM

Jon Burkett: Passion and Pride

Toronto Raptors


Ryan McNeill: Hoops Addict

Cuzzy: Cuzoogle

Also see links to all the previews at