Tag:Grizzlies
Posted on: December 9, 2010 8:01 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2010 10:17 pm
  •  
 

The problem with Memphis

Why the downturn on Beale Street? We try and get a handle on the Memphis problem. Posted by Matt Moore



And things were going so well.

The Memphis Grizzlies made no substantial changes to their lineup this year, banking on the continued development of their core, mostly made of young players, to get them to the next level.  After all, last season they greatly exceeded expectations, going from what was widely considered to be one of the worst teams in the league to a near-playoff team. I mean, sure they were dependent on a core of players none-of-whom are considered league wide to be stars and their bench was the rough equivalent of a beached whale, but hey, no team's perfect. With projected improvements, it wasn't beyond belief to consider the possibility of the Grizzlies matching last year's success, if not exceeding it.

Only, that's not happening.

The Grizzlies are 9-14, even after a Rudy Gay buzzer beater to force overtime led to a solid win over the Suns on the road Wednesday Night. Mike Conley is playing much better than we thought he would. Rudy Gay has legitimately made the jump to franchise player, improving in nearly every statistical area and taking and making huge shots such as last night. The Grizzlies added Xavier Henry for offense, Tony Allen for defense, and Darrel Arthur looks like a real pro finally.

So then, what's the problem?

There's an idea that the problem is the offense, which has been 2 points worse in offensive efficiency this year, while the defense remains largely unaffected. The following table outlines the difference in this year's stats from last year's stats for those players who have played both years in Memphis. We're going with pace adjusted stats like rebounding percentage and PER which will also help us with the per-minute issues, though not all of them. All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com .

Player PER TS% eFG% TRB% AST% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg
Marc Gasol -1 0.043 0.034 -1.8 1.9 3.7 -2.1 2 -1
Rudy Gay 2.9 0.034 0.036 0.4 2.8 1.3 1 2 -1
Mike Conley 3.8 0.025 0.016 0.6 5.2 0.9 2.3 1 -3
Zach Randolph -1.7 -0.009 0.01 1.1 -1 0.8 -1.8 -5 -1
Darrell Arthur 4.3 0.102 0.089 -0.8 -1.2 0.7 1.8 10 -1
O.J. Mayo -3.6 -0.06 -0.054 -0.4 -3.2 -0.8 0.1 -12 -1
Sam Young -1.5 -0.04 -0.039 -0.9 0.1 -2 -3.3 -8 -8
Hasheem Thabeet -8.3 -0.109 -0.121 -6.8 -0.8 7.4 -2.1 -27 3
DeMarre Carroll 5.9 0.01 -0.063 6.6 1.2 -8.9 0.6 17 -2
Hamed Haddadi -2.5 -0.267 -0.387 13.1 2.4 3.7 -4.9 -34 -11


Okay, before you freak out, Hasheem Thabeet is averaging a mere 8.4 minutes per game this year, so that Offensive Rating (team points scored per 100 possessions while the player is on the floor) being 27 points worse isn't that bad (it's not good either, but let's move on). There's no way getting around it. The plummet of O.J. Mayo is a problem for this team. He's shooting worse, distributing less, rebounding at a lower clip, and using roughly the same number of possessions.

The move to the bench hasn't been phenomenally better for him but has slightly improved things. What's been odd is that coach Lionel Hollins elected to move Mayo to the bench, which he's obviously not big on, instead of supporting him through the slump. Zach Randolph also hasn't been his normal self, but he also dealt with early season injury issues. Let's try not to start directly at Hasheem Thabeet's numbers for fear they will sear all hope from our souls. That's a number two overall pick, ladies and gents.

The good news here is that Mayo's slump is unlikely to sustain over the course of the season. Even with a bad year, it's more likely that he'll find himself back on track. However, Mayo's body language has been pretty terrible, and you have to wonder if he's not trying to work his way out of town.

In the interim, the team is going to have to either improve defensively or find a more consistent option on offense. Xavier Henry has shown flashes of why he was drafted in the last five games, but Tony Allen's favorite album is the Tony Allen ISO Project's "Throw It Up and See What Happens." If the team were to figure things out, there's no reason this team can't compete for the playoffs. But as Grizzlies blog 3 Shades of Blue points out, that time may have already passed: 
To guarantee a spot in the Western Conference playoff picture a team has to win 50 games. To reach the 50 win plateau the Grizzlies would have to win just under 75% of their home games 30-11 and win 50% of their road games 20-21. So far the Grizzlies are 6-5 at home. That means the team has to go 25-5 the rest of the season in the half full FedEx Forum to reach the home win mark. The team that has lost 5 home games out of 11 this season still has to play San Antonio twice, Dallas once, New Orleans twice, Oklahoma City twice, Denver once, Portland once and Utah twice. Thats 11 tough home games and the Grizzlies can only lose 5 of them to reach the 30 win total for home wins.
via Are the Playoffs Already Out of Reach? | 3 Shades of Blue .

With Heisley already making noise about "changes" should the team not be on pace for the playoffs, what seemed to be a rising team could be headed for the scrapyard before it even got out of port. It's not the first time a team has looked to be on the path up only to fall backwards into oblivion. The concern has to be in the $180 million the team gave out to Rudy Gay and Mike Conley in the past six months. If this isn't the path, what is?
Posted on: December 6, 2010 9:35 am
 

Shootaround 12.6.10: The Brad Miller Engine

Miller drops his man, Gortat is a soccer nut, Z-BO for USA, and the worst half of basketball ever, all in today's Shootaround.  Posted by Matt Moore

Knicks blog Posting and Toasting says Danilo Galinari needs to make Landry Fields his hero: "Gallo has returned to chilling around the three-point arc and waiting for kick-outs. Even there, his conversion rate has been uncomfortably low. One way he might see more opportunities is to do what Chandler and Landry Fields have been doing and dive in diagonally or along the baseline when Stoudemire receives the ball around the free throw line. It's not like Gallo's hurting the team (5 assists, 4 boards, and decent enough defense on the perimeter), but he can do much more to help them. 2-7 isn't the kind of output you expect from someone with Gallo's scoring ability."

Zach Randolph wants to play for Team USA. I'm curious as to whether Zach realizes that the traditional block concept is nearly absent in international play. 

Marcin Gortat was a huge soccer fan and played it almost exclusively until he was 18 when he found basketball. Add him to the list of guys you'd put on a soccer team from NBA players with Steve Nash being the obvious first overall choice. 

Behold: The worst half of basketball ever.

Brad Miller dropped the man coming around his screen this weekend. Unfortunately, it was his own man

Ben Wallace is so good even at his age that bloggers know they're taking him for granted: "I don’t spend much time writing about Wallace anymore because, frankly, he’s just so consistently good that I don’t think it needs pointing out. But he, along with Hamilton and Prince, was part of the “retro” performance I alluded to in the headline. Wallace had 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and a steal. He was an imposing presence inside and a huge reason Cleveland’s guards shot poorly. They may have been getting penetration, but Wallace blocked or altered several shots in his 24 minutes and he continued to show that he’s a great high-post passer and someone the Pistons can comfortably take advantage of on offense."

A lockout would be devastating on so many fronts, but here's another: Kevin Garnett may retire

Our own Ben Golliver on what was memorable from last night's Blazers win over the Clippers, the violence: "This game will endure for its random acts of violence. First, and most memorably, Blazers center Joel Przybilla, who was greeted with a standing ovation upon his entry to the game, was flagrantly fouled by Brian Cook with 4 second remaining in the third quarter. The mid-air hit, which sent Przybilla flying to the ground, wound up earning Cook a Flagrant Foul 2 and an immediate ejection. It also set off a tussle under Portland's basket, with Clippers point guard Baron Davis getting into Blazers forward Nicolas Batum's chest, and Przybilla and Clippers big man Craig Smith apparently getting after it as well. All four were assessed technical fouls, and the sequence resulted with Przybilla splitting the free throws awarded him for Cook's flagrant foul, for his only point of the game."

If Brad Miller is the fuel for your offense? You may need to get a new engine.

Glen Davis, meet medicine ball
Posted on: December 1, 2010 2:51 am
 

The Mike Conley apology post

Matt Moore does some self-criticism in light of Mike Conley's emergence as a legit point guard following the Grizzlies' win over the Lakers Tuesday night.
Posted by Matt Moore


I.... overreacted .

This is a tricky subject, but starting off with that makes it sound like I'm trying to get around the subject. I'm not. I will be telling you, in pain-staking, crow-eating, I-screwed-up fashion why and how I was wrong in my outright evisceration of Mike Conley, at least through the first month of the season. But I also can't approach this as simply a "Mike Conley has made the leap and everything I said was wrong" instance. I wasn't, about some things. This also isn't meant to be an outright capitulation of my opinion. But unlike a lot of sportswriters, who are justified in their approach, I don't believe it hurts me to admit when I'm wrong. My job is to try and entertain you and occasionally give you some level of insight into the league. To say that I'm never wrong is to buy into a culture which abhors the idea that we all have more to learn about the game, or that these players we watch and nitpick over can't surprise us. And they can. Mike Conley has.

Here's what I got right, still, at this point.

The 5-year, $40 million extension to Mike Conley was foolhardy, penny wise and pound foolish. In committing the money to Conley before he had played more than five games, the Grizzlies denied themselves the opportunity to see what the market would bear out for Conley in restricted free agency this summer. They bid against themselves and still managed to lose. They still likely overpaid in the  long run considering his importance in the long-term success of the team. Furthermost, it's still hard to see, despite assurances from Heisley himself to some of his favorite media outlets, how he's going to justify spending the money necessary to keep the core of this team together, the same core which took down the Lakers in impressive fashion Tuesday night despite a near-loss.

Doing so would require likely overspending on Zach Randolph, which is a much more justifiable over-expense than Mike Conley was back in the first week of November. It means finding a reasonable value for Marc Gasol, who is arguably the most important and second best overall player on the team behind Rudy Gay. And then it means still finding enough left to invest in O.J. Mayo, who despite his struggles, still has the capacity to light up teams for 35 on any given night, and whose clutch play down the stretch against the Lakers, particularly in his defense of Kobe Bryant's pull-up to tie (which forced a jump-pass to Ron Artest which was blocked) was an example of the performance he can give. Re-signing all those players seems unlikely, especially with a second overall pick used on Hasheem Thabeet and another first rounder taken on now-starter Xavier Henry.

I can't say that the money invested in Conley was wise at the time, or in the context of building towards the future in Memphis, no matter how relatively painless the extension may be to swallow . It was yet another example of Michael Heisley's misguided leadership and meddling in the affairs of a relatively shrewd talent evaluator in Chris Wallace.

And that about sums up what I got right. Wrong? I'm going to FJM myself now, if you don't mind (which I'm sure is nicer than some of the other things Grizzlies fans want me to do myself).

In the long history of terrible moves by the Memphis Grizzlies, mark my words, this one will reign supreme.

Worse than drafting Hasheem Thabeet .

Okay, stop, right there. Two sentences in, just stop. This was not nearly as bad as drafting Hasheem Thabeet. Know how I know? Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, Darren Collison. Thanks.

Mike Conley is the worst starting point guard in the NBA. That's including Derek Fisher , who is at this point both a defensive signpost and a superior point guard.

Given the improvements Conley's made to his game (which we'll get to, don't worry), it would be ludicrous to assess him as the 30th worst point guard in the NBA. He's not a top 10. He is solidly in the 18-12 range, depending on the night and the matchup. He's still obliterated by the elite point guards in the NBA, but blaming him for that would be like blaming a cow moose for not outrunning a gazelle from the cheetah. It still has a better chance than the heifer grazing blissfully. Also, if you wanted evidence of Conley's superiority over Fisher, look no further than Tuesday's matchup where it wasn't just the numbers Conley put together (28 points, 3 assists), it was the vast array of ways he destroyed Fisher's "defense."

Conley's biggest problems involve things which are extremely hard to identify in the box score. His turnover margin is acceptable, if not stellar. He was 24th in the league last year in assist rate among point guards who played 25 minutes or more. That's not good, at all, but it's not horrific.
Okay, so he's only up to 23rd (going into Tuesday night's games). Considering his usage is at a career high, we can live with that.
Every point guard in the National Basketball Association is able to probe the defense. It involves stepping inside the arc, towards defenders, and maintaining your dribble to see how the defense reacts to penetration. It allows the point guard to evaluate spacing and set up the correct set of decisions. Mike Conley cannot. He will routinely turn his back to a post maneuver, just to avoid losing the ball. This is because he has tremendous difficulty in splitting defenders.
Yeah, all this is gone. While I know Conley read the piece I wrote about him, he no doubt didn't care or adjust his game based on my analysis. Players don't do that, because a. what do we know? And b. you can drive yourself nuts doing that. That said, it sure seems like he's almost deliberately showing off this ability with every game. His probe-dribble has become deadly, with a hesitation just inside the arc forcing defenders to close before bursting through and to the rim. It's gone from a massive struggle for him to a significant advantage against slow or inexperienced guards.
He struggles in the pick and roll according to Synergy Sports, averaging just a .79 PPP in the pick and roll and shooting 44% which is a great Field Goal %, but not in pick and roll.
He's raised his Points Per Possession to .812, shooting 46%. It's not worlds better, but it's an improvement from "bad." Likewise, his spot-up shooting has become brilliant with an adjusted field goal percentage (factoring 3-pointers) of 53%.

Conley surrenders a .96 PPP in Isolation, giving up free throws over 16% of the time. In pick and roll, a .82. It's not horrific. It's just miserably average-to-subpar. This at the most important position on the floor. Bear in mind that Conley plays in a high-octane, weapon-loaded offense that allows him to get out in transition and get easy buckets. Yet he turned the ball over in transition 16.7% of the time.

Okay, so not everything's improved. He's still turning the ball over 16.2% of the time in transition and is now surrendering a .95 PPP in the pick and roll. Rome wasn't built in a day.

Advanced stats don't look much better. Conley has never posted a +15 PER, the benchmark of an average player in the league.
Conley entered the night with a 15.70 PER . And that's after a mini-slump. And it's likely to rise after a high-efficiency, high-usage night against LA.


But none of these things can encapsulate the real improvements in Conley. He's made the jump to being a legit starting point guard who you can rely on to set the offense, make the right decision, and execute the play. He's no longer overwhelmed with pressure. On the Grizzlies' last possession, he navigated the Marc Gasol pick, and swung short to drive. His move was to lob the pass to Marc Gasol. Pau Gasol raised his boat-oar arms and snatched it away. Upon first watch, it looked like your run-of-the-mill Conley turnover. But his decision was sharp, it was correct, the move precise, the pass on target. Pau Gasol just made a great defensive play. Considering the disaster the Lakers ran in their final possession, it looks like a dream.

Mike Conley is not an elite point guard, but he's also not paid like one . But for a player who was decimated by fans and media, and most especially by me, after his extension, he's made good on it. He's become a starting-caliber point guard, and has been a huge part of why the Grizzlies find themselves... well, 8-10. The bench is still terrible. But point guard is no longer a position of need, at least right now, for the Memphis Grizzlies.  This can surely change as the months stretch on to become a season, but it's in our best interest for me to tell you, that provided he does not regress:

I was wrong about Mike Conley.
Posted on: November 26, 2010 1:53 am
Edited on: November 26, 2010 12:43 pm
 

Black Friday: Your NBA Shopping Guide

A list of NBA deals on the biggest shopping day of the year. Posted by Matt Moore




As we speak the hording masses are overrunning exhausted store clerks in a mad Turducken-leftover fueled crush of commerce that we call Black Friday. From sweatpants to hot pants to hi-def televisions and tablets with screens two sizes too small, the countryside is alive with the sound of financial transactions, and everything is on sale.

But what about in the NBA? Surely as your aunt is busy buying you long underwear that looks like it may have been part of Carrot Top's personal brand, there are similar discount deals available across the league, and indeed, we have some. If your team is looking for that perfectly holiday gift to complete their team, here's a few of the bargain Black Friday deals they can find on sale right now.

Expiring Veteran Power Forward, 50 cents on the dollar!
Troy Murphy is healthy. Troy Murphy has a good track record of production. Troy Murphy is not with the Nets. The Nets sent him home to "get in condition" even though he says he's good to go. It's partially because he's having trouble getting up to speed with his injury and partially because Avery Johnson is as temperamental as that dynamite they found on LOST . Just because it's not working out for him so far in New Jersey doesn't mean he wouldn't work fine. He's like that toaster with the beat up box that's sold as-is.

Numbskull Wing, Buy 1, get 1 pick free!
Speaking of Avery Johnson and his endless spring of patience, Terrence Williams is also at home , after being suspended for violating team rules. Now, Ben Golliver thinks Williams is just a knucklehead , and that's certainly possible. But this is the NBA. Knuckleheads make millions of dollars and wind up winning championships. Williams is talented but apparently doesn't have a spot in Averyland. Teams looking to snag a rookie contract with some talent can likely get Williams for a kind word and low first round pick at this point. Throw the Nets a bone with some actual talent and you can likely swing Williams and one of the Nets' picks. That is if Avery doesn't let him go on Black Friday all together.

Slumping Sub-Star, 75 cents on the dollar! O.J. Mayo is in a slump. He hasn't hit a wall, he's not regressing, he is still the third best player on the Memphis Grizzlies. But he's hit a slump. And instead of the endless amount of patience spent on Mike Conley over the past four years (which is working out brilliantly for the Grizzlies, despite my being a moron and blasting him as the worst point guard in basketball which is no longer true), apparently all those games O.J. helped win them mean less as he's been jerked to the bench. Lionel Hollins says it's just because he wants scoring punch off the bench . But Xavier Henry is now starting, despite him being approximately as prepared as a 9th grade pothead for organic chemistry. With Mike Conley's (totally reasonable!) extension, and Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph also due extensions, moving Mayo would simplify matters significantly for the Grizzlies. But they have to do so while he's in a slump. Trading a brilliant scrorer while he's lighting it up just won't do. Get 'em while the Mayo's... nevermind.

"Off-Limits" Superstar, Super-Secret Bargain Find! Denver's 8-6. Which ain't bad. It's also not great. And while there have been times when Denver looked decent, there have also been times when they look like they're inches away from utter implosion. and still... Melo doesn't have an extension.

And without an extension, he's still on the market. Denver's holding out hope, but they're also swaying. It just takes the right set of pressure applied to the right time to get a crack. And from there, you've got Melo. The idea of needing him with extension is fading as teams start convincing themselves they can convince him at season's end. So the trick is to apply the pressure and get Ujiri at the right moment before the offers start increasing, driving the value up. Melo's not off the table. And as long as he's not locked down, he's for sale.

Mega-Star Up for Grabs, Inquire For Availability
. Chris Bosh can't be on the market. Right? I mean, he can't be. He just got there. But if there's one member of the team that best represents the failures of the team's promise, it's Bosh. Bosh, who never waned to play center specifically because he's not made of steel and brawn, has been seen as a failure because he isn't those things on a team that needs it. He's less of a power forward and more of a grace forward. At least LeBron's got the numbers; Bosh has a few nice games and that's all.

Moving Bosh would be nearly impossible even if the Heat wanted to, due to the fact that right now he looks like a weak-willed third wheel with a massive contract. But if some team really wanted a superstar and had a package of talented bigs to offer, it's hard to see Pat Riley not at least writing the figures down on a notepad to kick around later.

Vintage Antique, Will Accept Best Offer. Juwan Howard is easy to make jokes about at 37 years old. But he got it done for the Blazers last year and wasn't the worst Heat player this year. If your team needs a big with experience, Howard's got it in spades. Just make sure you wipe the dust off the bottle.

Posted on: November 2, 2010 2:46 am
Edited on: November 2, 2010 9:41 am
 

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Grizzlies point guard granted 5-year, $45-million extension for mediocrity, continued inconsistency.Posted by Matt Moore

In the long history of terrible moves by the Memphis Grizzlies, mark my words, this one will reign supreme.

Worse than drafting Hasheem Thabeet.

Worse than trading Pau Gasol for Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown, and cash.

Worse than re-signing Rudy Gay for $80 million.

This, this right here, is not just the worst move in the history of the Grizzlies, but it is the shining golden cap on the mountain of terrible moves made by NBA owners over the past 2 years. It is this, exact move, that nullifies any argument the owners can possibly make that they spend their money responsibly inside the current CBA. It is this contract that overshadows Joe Johnson's contract, Amir Johnson's contract, Darko Milicic's contract as the single worst contract handed out in 2010.

ESPN's Chris Broussard and the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reports that the Memphis Grizzlies have agreed to a 5-year, $40-million-plus extension for Mike Conley.

There is really nothing more to say. But here's something anyway.

Mike Conley is the worst starting point guard in the NBA. That's including Derek Fisher, who is at this point both a defensive signpost and a superior point guard. People often wonder why it is I consider this to be so. The reasons are numerous. It's not that Mike Conley is not a good basketball player. He is. He's a career 44% shooter, and 38% from the arc, which isn't bad at all. As a spot-up back-up combo guard, he wouldn't be bad at all. Mike Conley is not a bad NBA player. But there are three things this contract supposes that he is not. He is not a starting caliber point guard. He is not worth $45 million dollars over 5 years. And he is not worth the longterm damage this contract does to the Memphis Grizzlies franchise.

Conley's biggest problems involve things which are extremely hard to identify in the box score. His turnover margin is acceptable, if not stellar. He was 24th in the league last year in assist rate among point guards who played 25 minutes or more. That's not good, at all, but it's not horrific. But if you watched as many Grizzlies games as I have, you'd know certain things. Like, for instance, his dribble probe ability.

Every point guard in the National Basketball Association is able to probe the defense. It involves stepping inside the arc, towards defenders, and maintaining your dribble to see how the defense reacts to penetration. It allows the point guard to evaluate spacing and set up the correct set of decisions. Mike Conley cannot. He will routinely turn his back to a post maneuver, just to avoid losing the ball. This is because he has tremendous difficulty in splitting defenders. This is just one example. He struggles in the pick and roll according to Synergy Sports, averaging just a .79 PPP in the pick and roll and shooting 44% which is a great Field Goal %, but not in pick and roll. Defensively? It's even worse.

Conley surrenders a .96 PPP in Isolation, giving up free throws over 16% of the time. In pick and roll, a .82. It's not horrific. It's just miserably average-to-subpar. This at the most important position on the floor. Bear in mind that Conley plays in a high-octane, weapon-loaded offense that allows him to get out in transition and get easy buckets. Yet he turned the ball over in transition 16.7% of the time.

Advanced stats don't look much better. Conley has never posted a +15 PER, the benchmark of an average player in the league. Conley is only 23, but it would require a monumental improvement in several categories for him to reach the point of actually deserving this kind of contract.

As a comparison? Rajon Rondo makes only $10 million more for his extension than Mike Conley. Rajon Rondo. The guy that just dropped 24 assists in one game for a title contender. That guy makes $2 million more per year, that's it.

But the real problem with this contract?

The damage it does to the future.

Alongside Conley, the Grizzlies needed to extend Marc Gasol, the only real asset they acquired in the Pau Gasol trade. Marc Gasol is arguably the most important player on the team. He is an excellent passer out of both the high and low post. He has a reliable mid-range jumper, is tremendous on the offensive glass, and works his face off on the defensive end. He shows hard and recovers on the pick and roll, maintains low-post position and is active, and continually makes hustle plays. This in a league that is painfully thin on centers. And the Grizzlies have just opened the door for Gasol to walk away in restricted free agency. Zach Randolph has to be re-signed after his contract expires this year, and given the affection the Grizzlies organization has shown Randolph, there's no sign they won't overpay for Z-Bo as well. Which would mean making room for Marc Gasol would be incredibly difficult.

Then next season, you have O.J. Mayo in a similar boat. Looking for an extension. But after the owners' hardline CBA renegotiations get through, how much cap space will they have left? Plus they'll have Hasheem Thabeet coming up soon and a need to justify their drafting of him by waiting for him to develop over the next decade.

So what you're looking at with this extension is the rare combination of a move that's bad in and of itself, and mortgages your ability to win later by most likely expending two of your three best players. You now have $120 million committed to Rudy Gay and Mike Conley over the next six years. That's bad enough, but you'll most likely be losing better players in order to form around that core. It damages you in the short term. This is a player who you have tried to improve upon with Jamal Tinsley, moving O.J. Mayo to point, Greivis Vasquez, Allen Iverson, and I'm pretty sure a clone of John Stockton. But this is the player you have chosen to give $40 million-plus to.

The owners have held the high ground in negotiations regarding the CBA. Even with moves like Darko, Johnson, and the stellar history of Isiah Thomas, the ownership has been able to justify the moves they've made. But this is more damaging than others. This is a clearly B-Level player getting close to $9 million a year.

The Commercial-Appeal reports the decision was largely made upon Conley's strong start to this season. Three games. In a contract year. Featuring a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. This, apparently, is what sets the market in Memphis.

When Ken Berger reported last month that the NBA was considering contraction as a possible solution to its economic woes, I spoke out passionately against it. Small-market fans shouldn't be punished and the overall health of the league nationwide shouldn't be harmed in an attempt by larger market teams to make life easier on them. But after this deal, the question must be raised. Would the Grizzlies be better off if they were simply erased from existence? Is a fan base better off existing in a constant and continual cycle of disappointment and failure, or simply not existing at all?

Mike Conley made $45 million without a single impressive season. And the bizarre, cruel, laughable reign of Michael Heisley continues.



Posted on: October 5, 2010 10:19 am
Edited on: October 5, 2010 10:44 am
 

Shootaround 10.5.10: Giving and Getting

We're getting a new guy, the Grizzlies aren't giving Conley the dough, and the Heat know they have to give to succeed, all in today's Shootaround.Posted by Matt Moore

You'll be seeing a new face around these parts soon as Ben Golliver joins the F&R staff for the season. We're excited to have Ben on board and we know you'll love the coverage you'll get from Ben on the Blazers and across the league. As an initiation, we're planning on forcing  him to dougie like Babbit .

The Grizzlies have no plans to commit to a contract extension with Mike Conley until after this season, the Commercial Appeal reports. After putting too much money into too incomplete a player in Rudy Gay over the summer, and with more important assets Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol also in need of extensions, this is an essential decision. Conley has not proven to be starter worthy despite being given all the starts the past two seasons. Conley's got to prove it.

The buzzword at Heat camp? Sacrifice . Which is exactly what you want to hear if you're hoping for the Heat to accomplish something special with the triad. That's the word that can help rehabilitiate their image, and push their game beyond video game stats and into playoff wins.

Lance Stephenson shwoed up at camp and has been working hard despite his off-court woes. The bad news is that he's such a defensive liability, coach Jim O'Brien says he wouldn't play a single minute in game . Ouch.

Brandon Bass has committed to learning the playbook which could help him, you know, play in Orlando, a problem he had last year.

The last remaining roster spot in Charlotte may be down to Javaris Crittenton versus Sherron Collins out of Kansas. It's a contrast in styles that could lead to a hard decision for Larry Brown, via the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell.

Dwight Jaynes in Portland is skeptical of Nate McMillan's intention for the Blazers to run.

If you're not ready for the John Wall era, read David Aldridge's piece and you will be. I'm an advanced stats guy, and even I know that if your numbers don't support the theory that Wall's going to be incredible , you need to recheck your digits.

Michael Beasley only missed two shots! Woo-hoo Wolves fans! Except the one he made were almost all outside of the paint... oh .

Posted on: September 27, 2010 9:36 am
Edited on: September 27, 2010 9:36 am
 

Shootaround 9.27.10: Taking and Giving

Jazz will take back Fesenko, Conley has to take charge, Dampier will take his time, and Shaq giving quotes as usual, all in today's Shootaround.
Posted by Matt Moore


It's Fesenko time! ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported via Twitter last night that Kyrylo Fesenko had elected to turn down an offer from the Rockets and return to the Jazz for a one-year, $1-million deal. NBA FanHouse's Sam Sam Amick confirmed that same report . Funny thing is, the Salt Lake City Tribune reports that while Fesenko's made up his mind, discussions haven't begun with Utah to finalize. So we're in the 90% range but not a done deal. If you're wondering why you care, take a look around the Western Conference to see how big the West is. Every center matters.

The Commercial Appeal 's Ron Tillery has a look at five things to watch during Grizzlies training camp, and Mike Conley is the big one. The Grizzlies have eliminated all competition for the point guard job in an effort to give him the confidence to be the player they need him to be. Which isn't really the player he's been for the duration of his career.

Guyism has an awesome run-down of the new technical foul violations , as demonstrated by Rasheed Wallace. Here's a question: How's the league going to make up for the loss of revenue with 'Sheed retiring? That's a lot of fine money going out the door. Could it be that's the reason for the expanded tech rules? Conspiracy! (Note: Not a real conspiracy.)

Sam Amick at FanHouse has another interesting story, as he spoke with Erick Dampier and found out Damp has expanded his list of prospective teams , with Portland, Toronto, and Milwaukee joining the list of teams he's considering. Portland's an interesting option, considering they have Greg Oden, Marcus Camby, and Joel Przybilla on roster, even with the injuries to the first two. Would be quite a statement if Portland brought in Dampier.

NIUBall.com, which covers the Chinese leagues, reports via HoopChina.com that either Von Wafer, Rafer Alston, or both could be headed to China . You realize Rafer Alston was starting for a Finals team a year and a half ago? Geez, talk about a plummet.

Among the many, many quotes that Shaq gave ESPN Boston , he says that this is the first time in his career he doesn't have to hold anyone's hand, nor have anyone hold his. Which is kind of ridiculous considering the level to which Dwyane Wade shouldered the load in Miami, having already made the playoffs. And I think it's hard to argue he had to hold James' hand. And he actually damaged Amar'e Stoudemire's confidence to a large degree. But hey, whatever makes the big guy feel good about himself. Also, apparently Glen "Big Baby" Davis is considered a "great player" by O'Neal. ... 'Kay.

Kwame Brown was injured in a pickup game and will be out 4-6 weeks. The Bobcats are going to be insanely short on centers. Bloggers will be insanely long on jokes about this situation.

Primoz Brezec is playing in Russia this season, according to ... himself . Again, see shot #1 here for why that's relevant.

Don't get Brook Lopez started on comic books .... you'll be there for a while.

Disney is now sponsoring Amway Arena , where the Magic now play. ESPN is owned by Disney. Maybe now you'll see Orlando getting the kind of attention respect that Boston and Cleveland have enjoyed from ESPN for... "BREAKING NEWS! The Miami Heat have gone to dinner together! We take you there live!"

Posted on: September 23, 2010 6:03 pm
 

Preseason Primer: Memphis Grizzlies

Posted by Matt Moore
 
Out of nowhere, the Grizzlies rose to relevance last year, nearly making the playoffs in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. Over the summer they bucked up and paid the bill to keep Rudy Gay and became embroiled in a bizarre holdout with their rookies. The team again has low expectations and is flying under the radar. The question most people have is if they can possibly succeed like they did last season, and is that nearly enough? We take a look at where the Grizzlies are as we continue our Preseason Primers...




Training camp site: Memphis Grizzlies

Training camp starts: September 28th

Key additions: Tony Allen (free agency), Acie Law (free agency), Xavier Henry (draft)

Key subtractions: Ronnie Brewer (free agency)

Likely starting lineup:
Mike Conley (PG), O.J. Mayo (SG), Rudy Gay (SF), Zach Randolph (PF), Marc Gasol (C)

Player to watch:
Xavier Henry. Why? Because we haven't seen him since Kansas finished getting eliminated by a massive underdog in the NCAA tournament. Henry was absent from Summer League due to the holdout stemming from Michael Heisley's bizarre insistance that the rookie earn his bonus by doing something extra as far as performance. Like, some sort of bonus performance. Silly man. Eyes will be on Henry, whose play could have multiple impacts on the Grizz. If he solidifies the backcourt rotation, the Grizzlies will finally gain some depth after being one of the shallowest rotations in the league last season. Furthermore, if he can work with O.J. Mayo as a pair of combo guards, it could mean less time for Mike Conley. With Conley coming up on a possible extension, these are relevant questions not just for this season, but going forward.


Chemistry quiz:
How can the frontcourt stay chipper? Marc Gasol, whose overall play may have been better than All-Star Zach Randolph last season, continues to face the fact that the Grizzlies drafted Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall pick. Hamed Haddadi occasionally looks like a player worthy of minutes. DeMarre Carroll needs to compete and compete hard in training camp if he wants to find minutes this year. The Grizzlies aren't deep in the frontcourt, but given the bizarre makeup of the players involved, its a wonder they got along so well last year. But they did. Shockingly, after Allen Iverson departed for the basketball ether, the team became very close, constantly rushing to each other in confrontations and celebrating. The team genuinely likes each other. They're like a peacful commune... that probably smells really bad at times.


Camp battles:
Backup point guard should be a good one, with Acie Law, Greivis Vasquez, and other camp invites vying for the backup slot. Okay, maybe "good one" is a bit much, but it should be competitive, especially given there's not that much of a gap between those players and Mike Conley in the point guard department.

Injury issues:
The Grizzlies are primarily healthy. Marc Gasol looked completely healthy in the FIBA tournament, though the wear and tear may have some impacts. All in all, they're a young team that's pretty healthy.

Biggest strength:
Up and down. The Grizzlies can get up and down the floor and have an efficient offense. They crash the offensive glass especially well with Randolph and Gasol. They hustle and very rarely get caught without an option to create a shot.

Glaring weakness:
Yet again, the answer is defense. The Grizzlies aren't individually terrible on defense, they're just bad within the system. Part of that function is built around their inability to get rest. The starters always play, and they get worn down. Plus, they're young. Put simply, if the team defense doesn't improve considerably, the odds of their record improving the ten games they need to make the playoffs are slim.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com