Tagged: Memphis Grizzlies

tonyallen

5 Teams That Will Be Hurt the Most After the Lockout

1) New York Knicks

The arrival of first Amar’e Stoudemire and the Carmelo Anthony at mid-season made the garden come alive in ways that it hasn’t since the late 90s.  Knick fans were even talking about a title for the first time since the Patrick Ewing era.  Title or not, with as much clout that James Dolan/Cablevision this current Knicks squad was a surefire goldmine entering the 2011-2012 season.  Now, the longer this lockout drags on, the longer that it will take for Dolan to be able to really capitalize on all of the marketing/revenue generating potential of his two superstars across Cablevision’s various platforms.

2) Memphis Grizzlies

Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley must’ve been salivating at the prospect of a year filled with arena sellouts and increased luxury box revenue.  For the first time in the franchise’s history the Grizzlies made it to the second round of the playoffs and this group of “blue collar” players led by Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol resonated with fans in Memphis in ways that no previous Grizzlies team had ever done.  The goodwill curried between fans and the organization this year will gradually come apart over the course of the lockout. And instead of reuniting fans with their beloved playoff contending Grizzlies in 2011-12, the Grizzlies front office now has to pray that fans aren’t too bitter to return once play resumes.

3) Indiana Pacers

Unlike the Grizzlies, Pacer fans have experienced playoff success in recent memory so a strong showing in the first round of this year’s eastern conference playoffs wouldn’t have necessarily bowled them over.  That said, you couldn’t undersell the allure of a bunch of unassuming basketball players in Indiana.  There are no superstars on this Pacers squad.  Nor are there the mischievous sorts whose antics sullied the franchise in the early part of this decade.  Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansborough are players whose games and personas are lifted straight out of Hoosiers, and Darren Collison is one of the most underrated perimeter players in the league.  There’s nothing not to like about this group of guys.  Unfortunately, most fans tend to see the lockout as a millionaires versus billionaires squabble.  This perception is bad PR for the players in the short-run, but in the long run, when franchises like the Pacers have to work overtime to win back fans, the owners will realize that the players aren’t the only ones to lose out from this situation.

4) Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have worked very hard this past year on building their brand.  And you know what, it’s hard to brand yourself as an NBA team when there’s no NBA season.  With no record of recent success to harken back to and virtually an entire roster on the trading block, once play resumes the Warriors will have to work even harder to prove to fans and sponsors that they’re not just scrimmage partners for teams like the Heat, Lakers, and Mavericks.

5) Chicago Bulls

Carlos Boozer is my personal pick to be this lockout’s Shawn Kemp, the player who returns out of shape and dooms his team’s chances at contending.  Looking at all the contenders you’ll be hard pressed to find more of an outlier in a team’s nucleus than Boozer.  The other Bulls stars Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were all Bulls’ draftees and metaphorically speaking came up through the Bulls system together.  Boozer is the big star that was meant to get them over the hump.  Thing is though, this team is not really built around Boozer.  The Bulls need his 20points, but you also get the impression that other than that, they pretty much need him to stay out of Derrick Rose’s way.  A regular off season would give head coach Tom Thibodeau time to work with this group to make sure they learned the appropriate lessons from the Indiana and Miami series, and more importantly to get on the same page.  If they have to rush through the pre-season, I am hard pressed to believe that this Bulls squad can take another step forward.

rudygay

Grizzlies Reaffirm Committment to Keep Rudy Gay

Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley recently made it clear to Memphis Commercial Appeal writer Geoff Calkins that Memphis has no intention of trading Rudy Gay. According to Heisley:

“No disrespect to Oklahoma City, but if we had had Rudy Gay, we would have won the bleepity-bleep series going away. I really believe that.”

 

This may all very well be true, Memphis might have beaten Oklahoma City with Gay in the lineup, and the team likely does not intend to trade Rudy Gay.

However, intent is a very funny thing in business and the NBA.  Teams intend on doing the best by their fans and players but as we all know things do not always work out that way.  Moreover, when an owner makes such a strong statement as Heisley does in professing his commitment to keeping Gay, it may be less a matter of Gay or a similar player’s value to their particular team, but more about their value around the league.  And at this point few players are as hard to assess as Gay.  He’s a young talented scorer entering his prime who defends and who’s growing as a leader.  On the other hand, he’s a max contract player whose team almost made it to the conference finals without him playing.  Given this conundrum Heisley has no other option but to say he won’t trade Gay because there’s no other way of raising his trade value around the league, especially since under the best of circumstances Memphis would be hard pressed to get equal value back for Gay in any trade.

If you do a brief review of the Grizzlies’ options you’d quickly find there’s not a single player who’d make sense in a straight up trade (a reasonable trade, I’m not talking about Lebron for Gay), nor are there any teams that could offer a good package of players in return. It wouldn’t make sense for Memphis to trade Ga for the variety of swingmen with similar contracts, a list that includes: Andre Iguodala, Brandon Roy or Danny Granger.  Given that they re-signed Mike Conley Jr. earlier this year, a player such as Golden State’s Monta Ellis is no longer a viable option, and Gay is just flat out better than the likes of the Magic’s Gilbert Arenas or the Wizards’ Nick Young.

One possible trade that would work involves moving Gay to the Magic for a package built around a re-signed Jason Richardson, and either J.J. Redick and Martin Gortat’s trade exception, or Richardson and the trade exceptions Orlando received for both Gortat and Rashard Lewis.  Were Memphis to sign Richardson to a 3-year deal at 9-mil per they’d be getting a reasonable player at reasonable rate, and the trade exceptions would give them financial leverage to rebound from over-paying Randolph and Conley. And if Redick is included instead of both trade exceptions, his Duke roots will give Grizzlies another player with southeast roots.

While Heisley’s bout of loyalty is noble, it’s not necessarily the right approach to making sure Memphis stays competitive and financially stable.

-grizz

Grizzlies Step Closer to Ousting Spurs

When Spurs coach Greg Popovich looks at the Memphis Grizzlies it must bring back memories of his old Spurs teams.  Like the Spurs early part of this decade, Memphis features a lane clogging seven-footer with great passing skills alongside a guaranteed 20-10 a night power forward.  On the perimeter is a gnat named Tony Allen reminiscent of Bruce Bowen, and Shane Battier, a spot up 3-point shooter in the vein of a later-stage Sean Elliot.  Neophyte guards Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo are not unlike their Spurs counterparts Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili when they first entered the league.  Given all these similarities it shouldn’t be a surprise that this Grizzlies team is giving their forerunners a tougher challenge than most expected.

One reason that the Grizzlies were dismissed was because of the lingering misconception that they’re a young/in-experienced team.  That may have very well been the case last year when they made a push and eventually lost out to OKC for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, but this is far from the truth.  Even before the mid-season trade that added Battier, Memphis had already acquired 6-year veteran Allen, who was also a member of the 2008 championship Celtics teams.  Zach Randolph, the patriarch of this squad is a 10-year NBA veteran who had playoff experience with the Trailblazers early on in his career.  Even Marc Gasol played professionally in Spain prior to joining the NBA.  When paired with the youthful energy of Conley, Mayo, Sam Young and Darrell Arthur, the Grizzlies wield a potent blend of veteran savvy and young legs.

Moreover, Memphis also falls under the radar because other than the injured Rudy Gay, they lack the high-wire stars who are perennially featured on Sports Center.  The Spurs are probably the only other team who plays below the rim more than the Grizzlies.  What Memphis lacks in showstopping dunks they make up ten-fold in fundamentally sound play.  Randolph and Gasol are not going to be confused with Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard  anytime soon (if you’ll allow a bit of sacrilege they remind me of Mchale and Parrish), but they rebound effectively and both pass well out of the post, especially Gasol.  In fact it’s Memphis’ high IQ post play that led to the banishment of 2009 first-round pick Hasheem Thabeet who was capable of jumping out of the gym, but incapable of making an entry pass from the high post or hitting a cutter.

Striking out on the Thabeet pick is a crucial distinction between Memphis and San Antonio. Whereas San Antonio was able to build a dynasty around their lottery big man, Tim Duncan, Memphis had to cut their losses by adding veterans who can help them win now.  However, given how stocked the west is, it’s hard to imagine Memphis being able to move beyond the middle of the pack with this current roster.  Grizzlies fans should enjoy this spring’s magical playoff run because future playoff triumphs will likely be few and far in between.

 

F-Zach Randolph

Z-Bo Gets Paid. GRIZZLIES WIN (Sort of)

If it could only be so easy for the rest of us, but as Chris Broussard reports Zach Randolph was handsomely rewarded with a 4-year 71million dollar contract extension for leading the Memphis Grizzlies to their first playoff victory on Sunday.

Ok, so maybe the new contract wasn’t just for Sunday’s victory.  Zach Randolph has been an all-star caliber player for Memphis these past two years.  In fact, it’s inexcusable that both Randolph and LaMarcus Aldridge were passed over in favor of Kevin Love this year. Randolph and  Marc Gasol to form one of the more skilled 4-5 duos in the league.  Now, does this mean I would give him 71million over four years?

Well not exactly.  On the one hand, having already paid Mike Conley and Rudy Gay, and given that he’s undeniably a legitimate 20-10 player, Randolph deserves to get paid like the upper echelon players in the league, especially if you want to keep him happy.  After all, Randolph has as many playoff victories as Joe Johnson in the last two years and Johnson gets paid 30% more.

But here’s the rub, is it really wise for a small market team to max-out a ten year veteran when they’ve already committed so much money to other players, and another one of their key players, Gasol, has yet to cash in on his big payday.  It’s not.  And this is why we might have a lockout.  Too many executives pay their players like point guards treat their teammates–they feed the guy with the hot hand.  By proving that he was capable of stepping up and leading this team to the playoffs even after Gay went down Randolph had one of the hottest hands in the league.

This is a great short-term strategy (and I use that word loosely) for the Grizzlies, but one that’s infinitely dubious in the long term.

 

 

Los_Angeles_Lakers_00b8

NBA Western Conference Playoff Predictions

The western conference is in many ways the antithesis of the eastern conference. While the east is loaded with high wattage superstars consolidated on four teams, the west has a deep roster of quality teams. Guys like Zach Randolph, David West and LaMarcus Aldridge are not going to have any national ad campaigns built around them anytime soon, but they help you win games. And as you’ll see in my predictions, Randolph’s Grizzlies are gonna win a lot of games. Now I know that there will be plenty to take issue with in these predictions, but at the end of the day, I just think that the field in the west is a lot more wide open than people are really saying. Plus, if the Lakers are guaranteed to win this conference, why not design as quirky a path as possible to this inevitable conclusion.

Round One
Spurs vs. Grizzlies

Rest is good, and Popovich is a great coach, but at some point players have to play and it remains to be seen whether the Spurs can still play–at least in the playoffs.  Memphis’ Battier, Gasol and Randolph frontline is designed to give a team like the Spurs fits.  In some ways, they even remind of the old Spurs teams with Battier playing Bruce Bowen’s old role to  a tee.  On the other hand Memphis has nothing to lose, which is why they’re my pick to win. Prediction: Grizzlies in Six.

Lakers vs. Hornets

This isn’t the same Hornets team that took the Lakers to the brink a few years back.  Prediction: Lakers in 4.

Mavericks vs. Blazers

San Antonio established the blueprint for ousting the Mavericks years ago and that gameplan hasn’t changed.  Put a smaller defender on Dirk and make him work for his shots.  You can now place Gerald Wallace in the long line of Dirk agitators that includes Bruce Bowen and Stephen Jackson. I’ll also take a moment to predict that the announcers will remind viewers a million times that LaMarcus Aldridge was snubbed from this year’s all-star team.  Prediction: Blazers in Six

Thunder vs. Nuggets

Most teams have at least one playoff hiccup before they can make the leap.  Denver could very well be the team that makes the Thunder take that step back before they take another one forward.  Here’s why I think Denver can upset OKC, they’re the best team to borrow the blueprint for stopping Dirk and apply it to the Kevin Durant.  Afflalo, Chandler and Gallinari are well suited for pestering Durant into a few bad games.  Also, I can’t see Kenyon Martin backing down to Kendrick Perkins anytime soon.  I wouldn’t be surprised if those two got into a fight and both ended up being suspended for a game.  An absent Perkins in game 7 swings this series in Denver’s favor and I predict Denver over Okc

Round Two
Grizzlies vs. Nuggets

This is the WTH series.  Prediction: Memphis in 6.

Lakers vs. Blazers

Paging Greg Oden.  Greg Oden we need you.  Greg where are you!!!  Seriously imagine if Greg Oden were healthy. An Oden-Bynum playoff matchup would be great.  It would allow for another great head to head battle: Aldridge – Gasol. But without Oden, the Blaers are another run of the mill team loaded with wing players. There’s just a better version of the Rockets. Prediction: Lakers in 5.

Conference Finals

Lakers vs. Grizzlies

Kobe Bryant and Tony Allen will get into a scuffle. Lionel Hollins’ agent is going to break his neck to work out a contract extension.  Zach Randolph will slap his agent for not getting his extension done by now.  Lamar Odom will eat a lot of skittles.  Phil Jackson will fall asleep on the sidelines.  Prediction: Lakers in 4.