Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pack Up the Truck -- We're Moving

No, this isn't another poorly informed piece about the Grizzlies leaving the Bluff City for Seattle, Las Vegas, Kansas City or Piedmont, North Dakota.

3 Shades of Blue is moving from our suburban home on Blogspot to our new palatial estate on the ESPN's TrueHoop Network.

Now you can get all your updates on the Memphis Grizzlies at We'll be making some adjustments as we familiarize ourself with the new website, but we promise to keep up our tradition of providing you with all the latest news, commentary, analysis and poorly crafted jokes.

We look forward to seeing all of you over at the new location!

3 Shades of Blue

Opening Night of the Season

Memphis at Houston - 10.29.08

Memphis enters Year 2 of the Iavaroni years with a far different perspective than the previous year. Gone are Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Stromile Swift, Damon Stoudamire, Andre Brown, Tarence Kinsey, Juan Carlos Navarro and Brian Cardinal. In are O J Mayo, Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur, Quinton Ross, Marco Jaric, Hamed Haddadi, Javaris Crittenton, Greg Buckner and Antoine Walker. Turnover on this scale rarely leads to quick starts for a team. The Grizzlies are also expected to start two rookies (Mayo and Gasol) to partner with Conley (one year), Rudy Gay (2 years) and Darko Milici (5 years). Experience isn't a strong point of this Grizzlies team but the team is building for three years down the road and if the bulk of this youth movement remains together the future is very bright.

Houston is going in the opposite direction and their fans couldn't be more pleased. The Rockets are considered serious challengers for the Division crown and possibly the Western Conference. Veteran teammates Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady are joined by Ron Artest to give the Rockets an experienced core of players that rival the best in the league on paper. Combined with an experienced bench the Rockets are back in the mix of elite NBA teams assuming their stars can remain healthy and co-exist. However, there are questions about both of those issues. Tracy McGrady is questionable for this game with a sore knee that has hampered him all pre-season and Artest's issue with conforming to team needs is legendary.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Rafer Alston
Alston has struggled in the pre-season but that should be expected a bit from the veteran. His shooting percentage can't be expected however. Just above 30% from the field and the arc has to be distressing a bit to Adelman but that is an improvement from where these numbers were just a few weeks ago. Looks like Alston is roundng into shape. Conley has won the starting PG role despite a strong late challenge from Kyle Lowry. After seeing each other play twice already this season Alston will be prepared for Conley.
Advantage: Houston

Shooting Guards: O J Mayo vs Tracy McGrady

Tracy McGrady may not play tonight as his gimpy knee may force him out. I hear it is more mental than physical with the knee. T-Mac has never been one to push himself when the need isn't present. O J Mayo had an impressive pre-season and seems to be gaining confidence in his shot as well as his role on the team. If McGrady can't go then possibly Von Wafer will start. That is quite a change from expectations he wouldn't even make the team. Wafer had a great game in Memphis during the pre-season.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Ron Artest

With Shane Battier sidelined for at least the first few weeks of the season, Artest has been getting the lions minutes at SF. His shooting was off in the pre-season but who really thinks he was trying hard in pre-season. Artest is truly a two way player excelling offensively and defensively. Rudy Gay seems capable of turning it on at any moment to lead the Grizzlies. The staff infection that bothered him at the end of pre-season shouldn't be a problem now. Being able to turn it on is nice but what he needs to do is leave it on for the Grizzlies. Rudy is learning to do that but it doesn't come naturally for him.
Advantage: Houston

Power Forwards: Darko Milicic vs Luis Scola

Darko won the starting PF position in training camp by showing a bit more muscle at the PF position than Warrick was able to muster. Darko's shooting started to come around at the end and his rebounding was solid all pre-season. Most frequently noted this year has been the dramatic improvement in Darko's conditioning this summer. Scola will be a tough test. Luis is older, more experienced and more grounded mentally than Darko. However Darko can give Scola difficulty matching his size. Should be an interesting test but Scola's tougher mental attitude should make the difference.
Advantage: Houston

Centers: Marc Gasol vs Yao Ming
Gasol has looked a step slow against quicker Rasho Nesterovic! No one is saying Yao Ming is fast but he is starting to round into form and should give Marc Gasol all he wants. The amazing thing so far is that Gasol, despite his bruising style, hasn't gotten into much foul trouble. That is very promising since most rookies struggle to get respect from refs. If Gasol can stay on the court for 30+ minutes and contribute then the prospects for the Grizzlies is looking much brighter.
Advantage: Houston

Benches: Memphis vs Houston

Houston had to make some tough decisions to just get down to 15 players including 'retiring' Dikembe Mutambo which leaves Joey Dorsey as the primary backup to Yao at center. Somehow Steve Francis made the roster despite not playing at all in the pre-season. The question off the bench in Houston has to be who is going to sit and who is going to play. Luther Head for one seems buried behind Brent Barry. Von Wafer was a star in pre-season but is he an answer? What about Aaron Brooks? So many bodies and so little clarity. Memphis' problem are different but still problematic. Will Warrick handle coming off the bench and still be a reliable point scorer? Can Arthur continue to build on his positive pre-season performance? Will Ross, Jaric or Crittenton emerge as a reliable backup player? Can Lowry raise his level of play after a lackluster pre-season? Memphis' bench was terrible in pre-season but a shorter rotation may iron out those problems somewhat.
Advantage: Houston

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Northwest and Southeast Division Previews

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Denver Nuggets
Jeremy: Pickaxe and Roll
Nick Sclafani: The Nugg Doctor

Minnesota Timberwolves
Derek Hanson & Staff: TWolves Blog
Andrew Thell: Empty the Bench
wyn: Canis Hoopus

Oklahoma City
xphoenix87: BallerBlogger
Zorgon: Blue Blitz
Royce: The Thunderworld

Portland Trail Blazers
Mookie: ...a stern warning
Benjamin Golliver: Blazers Edge
Coup and SJ: Rip City Project

Utah Jazz
UtesFan89: The Utah Jazz
Basketball John: SLC Dunk

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Atlanta Hawks
Matt McHale: Basketbawful
Hoopinion: Peachtree Hoops

Charlotte Bobcats
BrettL: Queen City Hoops
Ziggy: BobcatsPlanet

Miami Heat
Darren Heitner:
Gregory Broome: The Peninsula is Mightier

Orlando Magic
Ben: Third Quarter Collapse

Washington Wizards
Rashad: Hoops Addict
HoopsAvenue: HoopsAvenue
Mike Prada: Bullets Forever
Truth: Truth About It Dot Net

Also see links to all the previews at

Monday, October 27, 2008

Grizzlies Roundtable Discussion

On Friday October 24th two of the writers at 3 Shades of Blue met with local media personalities Chris Herrington (the Memphis Flyer and writer of Beyond the Arc), Eli Savoie (radio personality at WHBQ Sports Talk radio), Chris Vernon (730am Fox Sports radio personality) and Geoff Calkins (Memphis Commercial Appeal Sports Columnist). The discussion covered current topics about the Grizzlies, expectations for this season and the future. It was a fascinating hour long conversation and I hope everyone enjoys listening to it.

Memphis Grizzlies Media Roundtable

As this is 3 Shades of Blue's first attempt at Podcasting is has not been without some difficulty to get this to work. Usually we just transpose the conversations into print but the length of this makes that impractical at this time. I apologize to our foreign readers for any difficulty you have in understanding what was said.

Pre-Season ReCap

By Chip Crain

Well we are just two days away from the start of the regular season and I hope lots of people are having troubles with butterflies like I am. At times are start thinking about how exciting this season can become if the team gels together quickly. At other times I am faced with the reality of the team having a starting lineup with no one over 23 years of age, with 8 players new to the roster this season and with three rookies and I cringe.

Still the pre-season should give some people optomism about the talent on the roster, even if they aren't very experienced. As has been my custom I review the pre-season performances of each player on the final roster. So without further ado here we go:

Rudy Gay:
46.8 FG%, 75.0 FT%, 3.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.83 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 16.8 PPG
Commentary - Rudy showed everyone he is nearly unstoppable on offense. His points were only contained by his lack of playing time (27.8 mpg). Rudy also showed he isn't really a very good passer or dribbler (2.67 TOPG). Rudy's defensive intensity has improved however. If he continues on this path Rudy will be an ESPN highlight show on a very bad team. Rudy needs to become an on-court leader by improving his ball control and his passing to become a superstar. In the meantime I suppose people will at least be entertained by his athleticism.

O J Mayo:
45.8 FG%, 62.5 FT%, 3.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.75 SPG, .25 BPG, 15.4 PPG
Commentary - O J Mayo showed everyone just how ready he is for the NBA compared to most rookies. O J had two big scoring nights, shot a far higher percentage than anyone should expect from a rookie perimeter player and proved his defensive reputation was well earned. He also showed he settles for too many outside shots, has poor ball-control and doesn't seem to have the outragious athleticism expected of top NBA picks these days. One thing is certain, O J is going to be an emotional on-court leader on this team.

Mike Conley:
45.8 FG%, 89.5 FT%, 4.10 RPG, 3.1 APG, .38 SPG, .13 BPG, 9.8 PPG
Commentary - Conley has shown flashes of what he is capable of doing on the court once he matures. He has also shown he hasn't matured yet. Conley too often remains passive when he should be forcing the issue. His shooting has improved since last summer and his physical shape is greatly improved but he needs to be more insistent on forcing the issue ala Tony Parker at San Antonio. Once Mike gains the confidence to force his game on the opponents his assists and points will improve. Until then he will suffer from up and down nights.

Marc Gasol:
46.5 FG%, 81.8 FT%, 5.90 ROG, 2.3 APG, .88 SPG, .88 BPG, 7.3 PPG
Commentary - Marc has been a very physical presence in the middle during the pre-season and surprisingly hasn't been the target of the officials whistle like most big men are their first season in the league. Gasol has struggled scoring the ball which is probably attributable to his slow first step. One thing is for certain, Gasol is not the same player who left Memphis years ago as an over-weight perimeter shooting big man. This Gasol is strong and big and not afraid to use his size.

Darko Milicic:
44.7 FG%, 60.9 FT%, 6.00 RPG, .8 APG, .50 SPG, 1.67 BPG, 8.0 PPG
Commentary - Darko has returned to his natural position of PF in the pre-season and seems much more at ease there. Unfortunately he still hasn't learned how to use his right hand, has struggled scoring the ball and seemed lost on the court at times. What Darko has done is lead the team in rebounding and blocked shots. Darko will need to focus on those two strengths to keep the Grizzlies interior tough defensively.

Hakim Warrick:
42.9 FG%, 71.1 FT%, 5.10 RPG, .6 APG, .50 SPG, 1.13 BPG, 11.0 PPG
Commentary - That's not a misprint. Hakim Warrick averaged over a block a game during pre-season. The 10 blocks is compared to a career high in the regular season of only 30. Has Hak made the turn on defense? Possibly but he hasn't learned how to pass the ball yet and at 26 it is doubtful he ever will. That was expected however. The surprising thing about Hak's pre-season was his poor aim shooting the ball. Hak has always been a high percentage shooter averaging over 50% in his career. As the player expected to lead in scoring off the bench Hak needs to find his range quickly to keep the bench from being a major weakness this season.

Kyle Lowry:
22.7 FG%, 56.7 FT%, 2.40 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.38 SPG, 4.6 PPG
Commentary - There was no more disappointing player in the pre-season than Kyle Lowry. This may be a good time to remind people that this is only pre-season. The games don't count yet. Still everyone would have been a lot happier if he had shown he worked on his game over the summer. Kyle still pushes the pace, creates mayhem on the court and won't be playing with the odd collection of players he had to work with in pre-season. All of these things should improve his play once the season gets serious. The only question appears to be will his attitude accept being a backup PG.

Darrell Arthur:
55.6 FG%, 4.50 RPG, 0.0 APG, .17 SPG, .33 BPG, 9.8 PPG
No player improved thier standing on the team during pre-season more than Darrell Arthur. The late first round pick came into town under some question marks that weren't exactly answered with his summer league play and being tossed out of the Rookie Camp. Apparently those unfortunate experiences changed the rookies attitude as he has been more aggressive and effective. Arthur averaged more rebounds than he did in the summer league (4.5 to 3.8) despite playing significantly fewer minutes per game (17.8 to 27.4). He nearly averaged double figures (9.8). In college Arthur was known as a player who played great one game and disappeared in the next. Only time will tell if that describes his rookie year or not.

Quinton Ross:
41.5 FG%, 57.9 FT%, 2.30 RPG, .8 APG, .63 SPG, .63 BPG, 7.8 PPG

Ross overcame long odds with his excellent defense to become the last 14th player on the team. A natural SG, Ross is expected to see his primary minutes at SF backing up Rudy Gay. Ross has never been a great offensive player but he can hit the occasional 3 pt shot which should help spread the court for others to operate. Ross' offensive production in the pre-season resulted from the lack of a scoring options not improved play. It is anticipated that Ross' scoring will drop off when the rotation gets shorter in the real games.

Javaris Crittenton:
36.7 FG%, 50.0 FT%, 3.00 RPG, 1.6 APG, .80 SPG, .00 BPG, 5.4 PPG

No player was hurt more from the draft night trade for O J Mayo than Javaris Crittenton. JCritt was supposed to be the tweener guard of the future. Suddenly he was a 20 yr old without a position. JCritt hasn't helped himself this pre-season either with his poor shooting and low assist numbers. Barring injury it is highly unlikely that JCritt will see much court time and that will just hurt him that much more in attracting interest for a trade.

Greg Buckner:
37.9 FG%, 75.0 FT%, 3.00 RPG, .8 APG, .40 SPG, .40 BPG, 5.2 PPG

If JCritt may have a diminished outlook on the team but at least he is young and has potential. Buckner is far older and isn't likely to improve. The one thing that could see him on the court is a Rudy Gay injury. Buckner does have a slight advantage over JCritt playing Small Forward.

Marco Jaric:
00.0 FG%, 50.0 FT%, 1.00 RPG, .3 APG, .33 SPG, .00 BPG, .3 PPG

Jaric's pre-season was broken up by a broken nose. Unable or unwilling to play with the protective mask, Jaric's minutes were limited and he was obviously bothered by the mask to the point that he finally shut it down until able to play without the mask. That shouldn't be much longer. It is not exactly clear where Jaric will fit into the rotation right now with the three guard rotation seemingly set with Conley, Mayo and Lowry and Ross backing up Gay.

Hamed Haddadi:
17.6 FG%, 66.7 FT%, 3.30 RPG, .8 APG, .00 SPG, .67 BPG, 1.7 PPG

Iran joined the NBA national registry when the Grizzlies signed Haddadi to a contract. The 7-2 center has struggled adjusting to life in the USA since his english is broken at best. Communication issues aside Haddadi showed some promise as a back up center. His shooting was poor but grabbing 3.3 rpg in less than 10 minutes a night will catch people's attention.

Antoine Walker:
20.0 FG%, 25.0 FT%, 3.50 RPG, .5 APG, .50 SPG, 1.00 BPG, 3.0 PPG

If you want to see Antoine Walker play basketball you better come early to games. Walker has been told by the Grizzlies that he is not in their plans and it would take some form of disaster for Walker to see the court. His conditioning is being questioned but anyone seeing Walker can tell he isn't that out of shape. His shot however is a shadow of what it used to be.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Will Now Pontificate Upon...

By HPTMatt

I will now pontificate on the players I unabashedly deem most likely to achieve higher status than they've previously attained in the NBA this season (insert hackneyed Josh Howard joke here). These guys will not necessarily be MIP candidates, although some certainly could be included in that discussion as well. Most will not be for various reasons....young team, turdalicious team that gets no press (sorry, Mike Conley....but I'll put you on there anyway out of pure, unadulterated homerism), etc. I'll also not mention any rookies, 'cuz, y'know, how can you improve in large increments in the NBA year-over-year if you've just entered the fray??

Let the pontification begin!

1) Andray Blatche
Yep, I've mentioned him previously, and I'm doing it again. The difference with him will, like many things in life, start with his motivation and level of brain usage. He seems to have righted his off-court ship, allowing him to focus on the basketball aspect of things. Great size, great length, improving hands, decent (getting better) shot, some shotblocking, good activity without the ball and on defense. Perhaps the paramount reason that his name will be mentioned more this season, however, is one that I wish I did not have to mention...the injury bug that has bitten and will continue to feed upon the Wizards. I think that Blatche will get his burn even if (and believe me, I hope this is the case, but I'm not optimistic) the Wizards suffer no further major injuries (although Haywood's absence will almost certainly lead to more minutes for Blatche).

2) Mike Conley
HOMER TIME! Ah, hometown subjectivity. Sure, he's on what almost certainly promises to be a sub-30-win team, but his high draft location and great skill level will get him noticed, and his ability to locate and direct teammates will certainly show substantial improvement over last season. He has done his due diligence in the weight room, and his perimeter shot looks worlds better, mechanics-wise and, in a more tangible sense, in the % column as well (yeah, I know it's only preseason). His body control in the lane is very good, but his ability to finish while suffering contact must improve.

3) Gerald Green
yep, I said it. Watched Mark Cuban cheering for him at the end of a game that the Mavs actually choked away. Sure, I am well aware that no amount of Sprite can make this guy a regular contributor just yet, but I do predict that he'll see minutes in Dallas this season. I ain't sayin' this guy is gonna go for 16 ppg in like 24 mpg, but I do believe that he'll get the "more minutes makes me better, and not just 'cuz I'm getting more minutes" thing happening. Now just you wait for this next one..wait for it....

4) Patrick O'Bryant
Hah. Had you for a minute there. Just kiddin'.

...well, actually, he's seen a few minutes this preseason, and maybe...

...naaahh....move along. I'm rootin' for the guy, but we'll have to see.

5) Julian Wright
ok, back on track here. When I heard that Byron wanted to try to make this guy a PG, I knew something weird was gonna go on. Whether this guy gets enough minutes to really make in impact, well, we'll see. But his size is an asset, and the ability he showed at the end of last season to make halfway brainy decisions with the ball has almost certainly endeared him to Coach Scott. If he can work more on his perimeter game on both sides of the ball, his versatility could make it tough to keep him off the floor.

6) Ryan Gomes
I think the Wolves will like this guy very much this season. It won't (shouldn't be) hard for him to get plenty of time to mature on-court, and he's shown good versatility at the 3 spot...but it would well behoove him to get some time in the gym with his new teammate Mike Miller and learn to better flush it from outside. He must use his length to better advantage on defense, which I'm sure he can do (Mr. Brewer, you need to pay attention here as well). Good rebounder, athletic...I think he'll surprise the ten people who pay attention to the T'Wolves this season.

Well, six seems enough for now (well, 5.5 if you give POB half credit),and I'm sure you all think that I'm completely bananas (and, in my defense, there is a three-week-old child in my life :)). Feel free, readers, to comment on any player you think will up his game this season-I'm sure I've missed your favorite up-and-comer :).

Also feel free to completely bust me at the end of the season when a bunch of these cats go for like 1.5 points and 4 fouls in like 4 mpg.....