Tag:Rudy Gay
Posted on: August 23, 2011 9:35 am
Edited on: August 23, 2011 9:35 am
 

New 'league' forming at Impact in Las Vegas

By Matt Moore

Since the lockout began, there have been discussions of the question, "Why don't the players just form their own league?" After all, the players' belief is that they are  the league, so why not just start your own, make some money off of it, and force the owners off their hardened fortress wall? We've seen organized exhibitions, or at least "organized" exhibitions like "Capital Punishment" featuring Drew League vs. Goodman League last Saturday, but nothing beyond that. However, Impact Basketball in Las Vegas may be taking things to the next level. 

From HoopsWorld:  
Impact Basketball, one of the premier basketball training sites in the world, will launch their own league in the coming weeks. Unlike this summer's popular pro-am leagues that featured a few NBA players on each roster, the teams competing in Impact's league will be made up solely of professionals. Nearly 70 NBA players will compete in the league and plenty of stars will participate.
via NBA AM: New League in Las Vegas - Basketball News & NBA Rumors -.

And this is more than just a claim, HoopsWorld sources Suns forward Jared Dudley as talking about it on the record. There are discussions of streaming the games online and the goal is to make it an NBA atmosphere in terms of game quality with shot clock and official NBA rules. Impact is one of the most popular training sites for NBA players, with stars like Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Chauncey Billups, John Wall, Rudy Gay, and Monta Ellis having worked there.

It's a provocative idea, considering Impact has the ability to not only bring in the top talent organically, but to put it in the best possible atmosphere. The Vegas location is obviously attractive to players, and the facilities are top notch. It won't be a real "league" per say, just teams playing regularly, but it's the shell of one anyway.

If they really want to take it to the next level, Impact should find sponsors to try and profit even more off of it and to improve the quality of the technology for the feed. Either way, this is going to be a rare look at how NBA players have stayed in shape or improved over the summer, and in a competitive environment, should they pull it off.
Posted on: August 15, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 5:56 pm
 

The EOB Elite 100, 40-31: Middle men

Posted by Royce Young



This is the seventh segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. 

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41

Once you break the top 50, you start getting good players. Former All-Stars, solid veterans and some up-and-comers. But the top 40, that's when you start breaking into some legit talent. Last season's Sixth Man Lamar Odom. A young stud Eric Gordon. A new champion in Tyson Chandler. Talents like Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis and Marc Gasol. It's not a list full of superstars, but there's no denying these guys are good. With a bunch of guys that easily could make a leap at any moment.

As such, we march on towards No. 1 with 40-31.

40. Gerald Wallace, SF, age 29, Portland Trail Blazers
2011 stats: 15.7 ppg, 8.0 apg, 2.4 apg, 45.4 FG%, 33.3 3P%, 16.28 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 48, 33, 48


Hard to figure Gerald Wallace sometimes. I'm not sure he's ever really truly found a place in this league. Not in the sense of fitting on a roster, but just in where he lines up with other good players. He's not just a defender. But he's not that great of an offensive player. He's not a star you build around. But he's someone you pay almost like he is.

Wallace is an elite defender, frustrating players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James often, but he also has lit up the scoreboard. His outside touch is a bit erratic and he mainly gets it done by out working other players. He's relentless on the glass, attacks mercilessly in the paint and goes hard at his opponent non-stop. He has the talent, but has never possessed the polish. Still, he's certainly on of the NBA's top 50 players.


39. Monta Ellis, PG, age 24, Golden State Warriors
2011 stats: 24.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 3.5 rpg, 2.1 spg, 45.1 FG%, 36.1 3P%, 18.69 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 35, 48, 42

Oh, Moped Ellis. Such a talented, gifted scorer. But for many a reason, such a frustrating player. He's never seen a shot past the halfcourt line he didn't like. Efficiency isn't exactly his calling card, nor is his defense. He gambles on both ends, plays almost in his own world and takes too much responsibility offensively.

But man, once he gets going, he gets going. He doesn't exactly play under a defined position (Point guard? Shooting guard? I think Ellis would place himself just as "baller guard.") but wherever he ends up on a given night he's a threat to go for 40. It might come on 31 shots, but he can carry a team on his own. I wouldn't exactly say he's the type of player that should be better, but there's no denying his talent. He's probably about the best player he can be, or at least the player he wants to be. Above average, gifted in specific areas but nothing premier.

38. Danny Granger, SF, age 28, Indiana Pacers
2011 stats: 20.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.6 apg, 42.5 FG%, 38.6 3P%, 17.89 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 47, 36, 37

At a time, it looked like Indiana might have stumbled onto a true building block star. Granger was a low first rounder but broke out in 2008-09 averaging 25.8 a game. He was efficient, shot high percentages and as a result, got himself a nice little contract extension from Larry Bird.

It's not fair to say he regressed or anything -- he's been good the past two years -- but he hasn't exactly continued his trend upward toward a star player. He made one All-Star team in 2009 but since then has just been kind of in that group of "Oh yeah him, he's not a bad player." He definitely didn't step up for the Pacers in the postseason last year against the Bulls, fading into oblivion in the fourth quarter of virtually every game. Granger's a quality scorer and certainly a top 40 player. But it's become pretty obvious that he's not an alpha player.

37. Andrew Bogut, C, age 26, Milwaukee Bucks
2011 stats: 12.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.6 bpg, 49.5 FG%, 44.2 FT%
Composite rankings (random order):
46, 35, 30

Injuries just aren't fair. Not that Bogut would otherwise be an elite center, but injuries have certainly hurt him (get it?). His 2009-10 season was off to an excellent start, as were his team, but a nasty elbow injury sidelined him for the last 13 games and the playoffs. Plus that injury greatly affected him last year.

Bogut is consistently in the top five in blocked shots each year, passes the ball well and plays his position solidly. He's never been a star type of player which is what you might expect from someone drafted No. 1 overall, but Bogut's been good. Not great, but good. He's averaged a double-double for three consecutive season -- injuries be damned -- and still turned in a decent 2010-11 despite playing with one arm. If he gets everything back to full strength, he's one of the East's top three big men. But until then, he's just an above average center.

36. Eric Gordon, SG, age 22, Los Angeles Clippers
2011 stats: 22.3 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.3 spg, 45.0 FG%, 36.4 3P%, 18.56 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 40, 40, 27

Honestly, 37 feels a tad low for Gordon. Last season was derailed a bit by a wrist injury for him because before it, he was off to a pretty torrid scoring pace. Remember: He's just 22. With Blake Griffin as the featured player and someone defenses are forced to focus on constantly, Gordon is clear to bomb away from deep, where he shot a solid 36.4 percent.

But don't think that's all he is. He's really one of the game's most underrated slashers and finishers. He's great with both hands and with his stocky, strong frame, he takes contact extremely well in the paint. I don't know if Gordon will ever be an elite scorer per se, but he's certainly a threat to average around 25 a game for multiple seasons.

35. Rudy Gay, SF, age 24, Memphis Grizzlies
2011 stats: 19.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 47.1 FG%, 39.6 3P%, 17.88 PER
Composite rankings: 39, 34, 33


So he was overpaid last summer. And then he got hurt. And then the Grizzlies played really, really good without him. But don't think for a second Rudy Gay isn't a pretty darn good player. He's sort of Kevin Durant lite -- long, athletic and has a pretty good outside touch. The biggest issue has always been consistency. He'll score an effortless 30 one night and then disappear the next with 12 on 4-13 shooting. There's going to be a question of how he'll respond from a major injury, but he's young and is still a centerpiece for the Grizzlies. He sits at 39 now, but there's no reason that next summer he could leap 20 spots.

34. Tyson Chandler, C, age 28, Dallas Mavericks
2011 stats: 10.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 65.4 FG%, 18.45 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 26, 38, 39

Players like Chandler have taught us that there's a premium on defense. Before the NBA Finals, he was probably a fringe top 60 guy. But after completely shutting off the paint for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade for six games as his Mavs put away a title, his stock skyrocketed. He's no longer just the guy that catches oops and tries to shake the goal around just a little too much on a routine dunk. He's a true defensive enforcer and not just because he blocks shots. He's aggressive, smart and understands help defense as well as any big man in the league.

Chandler's not, nor has he ever been, a big offensive player. He's going to score off of oops, putbacks and easy hoops under the basket. But he's a double-double guy, a defensive stopper and someone that can impact the game -- or a championship series -- in a major way.

33. Lamar Odom, PF, age 31, Los Angeles Lakers
2011 stats: 14.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, 53.0 FG%, 38.2 3P%, 19.50 PER
Composite rankings: 31, 31, 40


Being ranked as the 34th best overall player in today's NBA is a pretty good deal. But for Lamar Odom, that's just horribly disappointing. And that's not to say HE'S disappointing. He just won a well deserved Sixth Man of the Year trophy. But a player with his skillset, he athletic ability and his talent should easily be in the top 20. Probably the top 10.

Odom really is a one-of-a-kind. He can easily slide into three, four positions and sometimes all five positions effortlessly, plays defense, handles the ball, passes, shoots, rebounds, scores -- he's got the total package. Which is pretty stinking rare for a dude 6-10. When he was taken fourth overall in 1999 by the Clippers, people saw him as the next evolution in basketball. A point forward with the ability to do it all. And no doubt, he's always been good. But not quite as good as he should've been.

The fact he's known more for a stupid reality show than his basketball ability kind of says it all. If this were a list ranking the top 100 most gifted players in the NBA, it would be hard to keep Odom out of the top 10. But he's never really lived up to his own talent which is why he settles in at 34. Not a bad place to be, unless, well, you're Lamar Odom.

32. Kevin Martin, SG, age 28, Houston Rockets
2011 stats: 23.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 43.6 FG%, 8.4 FTA per game, 21.46 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 29, 59, 20

Who wants a guy that can routinely score 29 points on 14 shots? What's that, everyone? Martin has kind of become the overlooked scoring star, which started early in his time with the Kings. He's more the guy with the weird shot and skinny frame that puts up 25 a night without much resistance. Martin is that player who hits a 3 in the second half against your team and you look at the box score and see he has 32 and you think, "What the heck, I remember him scoring like twice."

Martin never quite graduated to that next level star though. Maybe it's a fault of his own, maybe it's just a lack of overall respect for what he does and how he does it. But it's hard to make a name for yourself when your calling card is 18 points on eight shots over 30 points on 22. It shouldn't be how things work, but that's just kind of the way it is.

31. Marc Gasol, C, age 26, Memphis Grizzlies
2011 stats: 11.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 52.7 FG%, 16.88 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 41, 32, 26

Here's how you know Marc Gasol has gone from forgotten little brother to a top NBA big man: It's a legit question to ask if he's better than Pau. And not just in a whispered way. It's truly a toss up now.

With him and Zach Randolph tag-teaming inside for the Grizzlies, Memphis went on an improbable run not just into the playoffs, but well into May before bowing out in seven games to Oklahoma City. Gasol's numbers won't blow you away -- 11.7 points, 7.0 rebounds per game -- but it's more about what you see. You see a gifted center that is developing into a go-to option on the block. You see a center who has played just three seasons and is only 26 getting better game-by-game. You see a center that could potentially be All-Star material soon.

I don't really know where to place Gasol's ceiling (15 points, 10 rebounds?) and while he's probably not as good as brother Pau -- and may not ever be -- the fact we're even wondering tells you enough about why he's in the top 35.
Posted on: July 10, 2011 5:22 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2011 5:38 pm
 

What teams risk in a lockout: Southwest Division

Posted by Royce Young



Talk of losing an entire NBA season is a bit ridiculous. But it's a possibility. And with all this hardline talk going on, it seems like neither the players nor the owners are wanting to budge. There's incentive for teams to get a deal done and not just for the money, but because a year without basketball and more importantly, basketball operations, could greatly affect each and every NBA franchise.

Earlier, we took a look at the Southeast, Atlantic and Central Divisions. Let's continue on with the rough and tumble, yet aging, Southwest Division.

New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets easily present the most interesting lockout case of any team in my mind. First off, the league owns them. Secondly, and related to that, Chris Paul is a free agent in 2012. The league took on the responsibility of the Hornets because David Stern wasn't about to see a franchise lost on his watch and wants to do everything he can to keep the team there.

But a prolonged lockout resulting in a lost season really might end professional basketball in New Orleans. Chris Paul would have the ability to walk with the Hornets never having an chance to get anything in return, meaning the one draw the team has could be gone and the already struggling franchise might not have anything to show for his exit. On top of that, David West opted out and is an unrestricted free agent currently. So not only could the roster be entirely turned over, the already suspect fanbase might take another blow.

Now of course if Stern and the owners can negotiate a deal that makes a franchise like the Hornets profitable no matter what, then the league can sell the team and potentially pocket a bit. That's obviously something in the back of Stern's mind. The Hornets really make this lockout all the more intriguing because now Stern has a stake in things directly. He's not just the mediator trying to produce a good system for his league, but he's an owner too now.

Dallas Mavericks

Here's one benefit of a prolonged lockout: The Mavs get to be champs for two years instead of one. Bonus? I don't think they'd think so. Especially because the window the Mavs have to remain serious contenders isn't going to stay open much longer. Dirk is aging, Jason Kidd is like 78 and there are a bunch of questions surrounding players like Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barea.

Mark Cuban is a big market owner, but I can see him as someone leaning toward making sure there is basketball over the owners guaranteeing profits. He's a fan first and foremost and he's tasted the top of the mountain. Granted, he gets the chance to soak it up a little longer, but if he wants his roster to keep going, losing a year might be the beginning of the end for the current Mavs.

San Antonio Spurs

There's no hiding that the Spurs are getting older. A year lost means another year tacked on to Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. A year lost means Gregg Popovich gets a little older and as the longest tenured coach in the league, he might not have many left. The Spurs have a fanbase that will absolutely return in force and Peter Holt is maybe the finest owner in the league, especially in terms of managing a small market franchise, but I'm sure a year of lost basketball isn't something that sits well.

Holt obviously would love a system that levels the playing field a bit and helps smaller markets on the road to basking in the same light the Lakers, Bulls and Knicks get, but basketball is a priority in San Antonio. The window won't be open much longer. Even Tony Parker acknowledged that. And that roster still wants to try and make one more run at it all.

Memphis Grizzlies
Really, Michael Heisley probably isn't all that terrified from losing a season. He's a small market owner who has spent big as of late and saving money on Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley isn't all bad for him. The core of the team, sans Marc Gasol, is all locked up long-term so while a lost season would mean missing out on all the positive movement and momentum from last season, there's still a lot of opportunity ahead for Memphis.

Still, it's a risk to mess with a potentially fragile fanbase like the Grizzlies'. The FedEx Forum has never been known to be full, but during the postseason run, the Grizzlies emerged with one of the most passionate, loyal crowds in the league. There's clearly something working right now and Heisley and the Grizzlies don't want to jade and sour those fans that have come around by damaging all that goodwill they worked so hard to build.

Houston Rockets
Hard for me to guess how the Rockets see this thing. They are an in-between franchise, not necessarily small market but not big either. Their roster is set up to withstand a lockout and return with good pieces intact. They don't have any major lingering free agents of concern.

What I think would scare them a bit though is missing out on the opportunity to compete in the trade market for players like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams all season long though. The Rockets have quality trade pieces and good assets to dangle in front of teams and I'm sure Daryl Morey would have some interesting proposals to make. Sure there's always 2012's free agency but opening it up to that puts the Rockets a bit behind the other, more intriguing, brighter markets. A sign-and-trade might be their best chance to land that superstar player Morey so desperately wants.
Posted on: July 6, 2011 7:01 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 7:15 pm
 

NBA locking out Stephen Curry's wedding?

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry says that the NBA might prevent team officials from attending his wedding. Posted by Ben Golliver. stephen-curry

The NBA's lockout is a literal term: players are physically locked out from team facilities and cannot have direct contact with team officials. The league has scrubbed its website and threatened to fine teams that contact players, even through social networking sites.

Apparently, weddings are off-limits too, at least without official clearance from the league office.

Yahoo! Sports reports that Warriors guard Stephen Curry is about to get hitched and isn't sure whether Golden State employees will be able to attend.
Curry also has some other plans for July: He and his fiancèe, Ayesha Alexander, are getting married in Charlotte at the end of the month. He expects eight Warriors teammates, other NBA players like Rudy Gay, Ronny Turiaf and Corey Maggette and members of former Warriors coach Keith Smart’s staff to attend. He’s still waiting to see if Warriors’ front office officials and Bobcats assistant coach Stephen Silas, a former Golden State assistant, can get cleared by the NBA to go. Miami Heat officials were recently given permission to attend Chris Bosh’s wedding.

“They all sent their regards and petitioned the league to come to the wedding, so they’re not breaking any rules,” Curry said. “As of right now, they can’t come. I don’t know how the process is going. If they show up, they show up. If not, I understand why.”
Poor Curry thought it was bad when he needed to ask the bride's father for his daughter's hand in marriage. Now he needs to turn to NBA commissioner David Stern for a second level of permission.

"Does anyone here object to this union? Speak now or forever hold your peace."

"I do," shouts Stern as he emerges from underneath a pew in the church's fourth row. "Silas just slapped Curry's back and whispered 'congratulations' in his ear. That will be one million dollars! Please make the check payable to Adam Silver."

OK, OK, it's not quite that ridiculous. Given the recent, clear precedent established by the Bosh wedding, Curry's nuptials should come off without a hitch and with the entire invited guest list in attendance.

Still, what a hassle. Requiring that these players and coaches formally request permission without rubberstamping it? Terrible. As if newlyweds didn't have enough to stress about.
Posted on: June 1, 2011 12:06 pm
 

Bulls, Grizzlies rumored to want Monta Ellis

Posted by Matt Moore

Monta Ellis has entered into that rather uncomfortable zone where he's not traded, but everyone expects him to be. He's not gone, but it's kind of assumeed he will be. He's still with Golden State, only not really. He's been rumored to have been on the trade block for close to a year now, with Stephen Curry considered the guard of the future.

Now the Contra Costa Times reports that the Warriors are considering trading Ellis again, and more aggressively following the makeover planned by new owners with Joe Lacob leading the charge. The addition of Jerry West to the ownership and front office group only strengthens that idea, with Ellis being considered the bait to kickstart the reshaping of the Warriors in a more defensive-minded structure. The Contra Costa Times' Tim Kawakami lays out both sides of the argument for trading or not trading Ellis, and brings up the Bulls and Grizzlies as those in consideration for a trade:

 
Then there is the matter of getting the right deal for Ellis, who is due $11 million in each of the next three seasons.

After checking with a few NBA sources, two teams kept coming up — both with the combination of potential interest and the right roster pieces to intrigue West and the Warriors.

They were:

Chicago, which might have been a big-time perimeter scorer away from pushing Miami to the brink in the Eastern Conference finals. Would the Bulls think about Luol Deng for Ellis? Could the Warriors sweeten that offer?

And Memphis, West’s old team, which has Rudy Gay at a huge salary and which offered O.J. Mayo for Ellis in the recent past.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy for the Warriors to trade Ellis — emotionally or practically. It will take some guts. But again, that’s precisely why West was brought to the Warriors in the first place.
via Trade Monta Ellis? Jerry West just might be the guy to do it | Talking Points.

The Grizzlies from all indications have no intention of trading Rudy Gay, despite the team's success without him in the playoffs. Multiple reports have surfaced linking the Grizzlies to trade talks for Gay, but almost all come from media on the other side of the trade, not from Memphis. The Grizzlies would love to have Ellis, as Kawakami mentions the near Mayo-Ellis swap, but Mayo's value is no longer high enough to support such a trade, if it ever was to begin with. As a result, Memphis is an unlikely target.

The Bulls are an interesting fit. Coach Tom Thibodeau has taken players with questionable defensive ability (Keith Bogans, Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver) and made them a part of the best defensive unit in basketball. Could he manage to cover Ellis' defensive liabilities in the same manner while adding a pure scorer to work off-ball with Rose and give the MVP a break from hoisting the offense on his shoulders. This would make a lot of sense from a lot of angles, but giving up Deng is giving up the emotional backbone of the Bulls and a key locker room guy, not to mention their best wing defender. The Bulls would be in a jam were they to make the move.

Still, the odds seem to be increasing that Ellis will not be in the Bay when the NBA kicks back up again.... whenever it kicks back up again.  
Posted on: May 17, 2011 11:23 am
 

Grizzlies owner: No plans for Rudy Gay trade

Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley says the team has no plans to move forward Rudy Gay. Posted by Ben Golliver. rudy-gay

After an unexpected and tantalizing run to the Western Conference semifinals, the Memphis Grizzlies were finally eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 7 on Sunday night. Most remarkable about Memphis' run is that it occurred without injured forward Rudy Gay, who was lost to a midseason shoulder injury.

That Memphis could not only continue to keep pace without Gay but actually win at a better clip -- the Grizzlies were 30-24 with Gay, 16-10 without him -- had led some to wonder whether they might be better off moving him to acquire multiple assets.

On Tuesday, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported that Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley shot down this idea.
Heisley emphatically put to rest rumors that he would be interested in dealing Gay this summer. "He is definitely a major part of this organization's future," Heisley said. "We have no plans whatsoever to trade him."
Heisley went on to say that Gay was missed during the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and that, with him in place, the Grizzlies might have advanced to the Western Conferece finals.
If the Griz weren't the league's fourth-worst 3-point shooting team and had Gay then "it would have turned out differently," insisted Heisley.
The Grizzlies have locked Gay, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph into expensive long-term contracts and will need to pay big to keep center Marc Gasol, who is a restricted free agent, this summer. That's where a lot of the trade chatter is coming from: a base-level skepticism that a small market team will commit a huge chunk of change to four different players over multiple years.

The other cause for these rumors is the renewed play of Randolph, who embraced the No. 1 option role during the playoff stretch, playing arguably the best basketball of his career. Both Gay (16.1 per game) and Randolph (15.8 per game) need their shots, and there's some question whether they are an ideal match as a 1-2 option.

In the immediate future, the Grizzlies would be foolish to break up their core four, a well-balanced group that offers rebounding, low-post scoring, perimeter scoring and leadership. If a roster piece is expendable, it's guard O.J. Mayo who, indeed, was almost traded at the deadline.

With the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers falling by the wayside a bit, and a bunch of key Dallas Mavericks getting closer to retirement by the day, the Grizzlies are well-positioned to be a player in the Western Conference playoffs for the next three or four seasons. Sure, it will cost Heisley tens of millions of dollars to keep Randolph, Gay, Conley and Gasol, but I suspect the thrill of defeating the Spurs in the first round was priceless.
Posted on: April 17, 2011 8:23 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 9:26 pm
 

Report: Grizzlies ink Zach Randolph to extension

The Memphis Grizzlies have reportedly agreed to a four-year contract extension with power forward Zach Randolph. Posted by Ben Golliver. zach-randolph

Fresh off their first playoff victory in franchise history, the Memphis Grizzlies have reportedly locked up power forward Zach Randolph to a long-term contract extension. ESPN.com reports that the Grizzlies and their leading scorer have "agree[d] to 4-year, $71 million contract extension, according to league sources... $66 million fully guaranteed, plus $1.3 million in incentives each year." The site also reported that the final year of the deal is a player option.

A deal had been rumored to be close for nearly a month, as word that the two sides were close first circled in March and then again in early April

Memphis's core is now virtually complete. They've locked up wing Rudy Gay, starting point guard Mike Conley and now Randolph to extensions. The final piece is expected to be center Marc Gasol, who is a restricted free agent this summer. 

Randolph has long been a boxscore stuffer and this season was no exception. He averaged 20.1 points and 12.2 rebounds, the third straight year he's averaged more than 20 points per game and the fifth straight year he's averaged double figures in rebounds.

This contract doesn't come without concerns. Randolph is 29 years old, meaning he will be 33 when the deal completes. While he doesn't rely on overwhelming athleticism to generate his numbers, there's no question his production will tail off during that time period. An average salary of nearly $18 million usually would be reserved for a franchise player. Randolph is likely worth that figure to the Grizzlies next year, but will he be in year four?

Avoiding a fifth year is really the only strength of this deal from Memphis' perspective. At some point, though, it becomes "pay to play" time. Not retaining Randolph would have killed the positive momentum created during this year's playoff run and set the Grizzlies back on a semi-rebuilding course, looking for a dominant low-post player without the luxury of a lottery pick to try to find one. In this case, over-paying is probably better than rebuilding and there's also a decent chance that at least some of next year's salary won't be paid due to a lockout, plus an outside chance that there will be salary rollbacks that could affect the total number Randolph will end up receiving over the entirety of the deal. (It's worth noting that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement plus Randolph's age at the end of the deal makes it very unlikely that he will exercise his player option.) 

Nevertheless, this is a huge win for Randolph, who got his final, big NBA payday before a potential lockout. He gets not only a fat salary but also the peace of mind that goes with continuity in knowing where he will play for the foreseeable future. That's something that he hasns't had playing for four teams in the last five seasons.
Posted on: April 9, 2011 1:47 am
Edited on: April 9, 2011 1:16 pm
 

The Memphis Grizzlies are a playoff team

The Grizzlies clinch a playoff appearance with a win over Sacramento.
Posted by Matt Moore




Three years ago, the Memphis Grizzlies committed to rebuilding. Not the stubborn, slow decline type that buries teams in NBA purgatory for years on end. Instead, the Grizzlies traded their best player, their biggest asset, their All-Star, for what was perceived to be scraps. Expiring contracts, a fringe prospect, the brother of the star they were trading, and a draft pick. That's it. The only player to make roster in 2010 for the Grizzlies from that trade was the brother, who started at center. 

Three years after that trade, the Grizzlies have clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2006 in a 101-96 win over the Sacramento Kings in front of a raucous, yes, raucous, crowd in Memphis, Tennessee at FedEx Forum. 

That the Grizzlies made what will likely be the 8th seed barring a phenomenal collapse by the New Orleans Hornets will be a sidebar, a nice little story, quickly forgotten. It will be ridiculed by fans of juggernauts like those in Boston, Miami, Chicago, and of course, Los Angeles. It will be considered nothing more than a blip on the radar screen. But if you're looking for a sports story that epitomizes what can be great about the NBA, what can be great about sports, the Memphis Grizzlies are a pretty fine place to start. 

Memphis should not be here. Their best overall player, Rudy Gay, has been on the shelf since before the All-Star break in February with a shoulder injury. Zach Randolph, their best remaining player and best offensive weapon, relies on nearly no athleticism, instead out-crafting and out-hustling his bigger, longer, faster opponents on the glass and managing to slip in shots amid a sea of limbs. Randolph was a team killer for a decade before landing in Memphis, and the Grizzlies' acquisition of him was considered in and of itself a joke. Tony Allen was the Grizzlies' big free agent pick-up in the summer of 2010, and he was a player Celtics' fans called out with glee when he was gone. A terrific defensive player that fancied himself an offensive weapon, Allen was so fond of taking the ball and breaking the set in isolation on offense, I took to referring to his escapades as the Tony Allen ISO Project. I imagined a house band tuning up in Allen's head when the leather touched his hands, his mind exploding with the possibilities of ways he could score. This is even more ridiculous considering how the room for Allen was created. The Grizzlies traded a draft pick to Utah for Ronnie Brewer, then a restricted free agent and now a key member of the Bulls' bench mob. Brewer got hurt, then the Grizzlies rescinded their restricted free agent rights for Brewer. They paid a draft pick to watch him walk to the top team in the East. They used that money and roster space to sign Allen. 

The roster goes on and on from there. The Grizzlies' second overall pick in the 2010 draft, a gift from the heavens, was wasted on a pogo stick with no discernible basketball talent who was traded along with a first-round pick for an aging wing defender with questionable shooting numbers. Darrell Arthur was supposed to be a draft bust, plagued by injuries and a lack of discernible role. Leon Powe was a washed up injury-plagued center cast aside by the Celtics after his championship contributions. 

Then there were the guards. I described Mike Conley's $40 million extension at the beginning of this season as the worst move in franchise history. He entered the season as a point guard with questionable handle, decision-making, play-making, and defensive skills. O.J. Mayo struggled as a point guard in Summer League, lost his starting job during a shooting slump, then was nearly traded to the Pacers. But a last minute bit of the trade jitters from New Orleans sacked the deal, and Mayo was stuck on a team that clearly didn't want him. 

How was this team supposed to make the playoffs? 

Randolph turned his entire reputation around, not only delivering efficiency, production, and leadership on the floor, but in the locker room. Randolph is the first to tap up the rebound, first to help up his teammate, first to greet the bench unit in a timeout. Everything you associate with a selfish, stat-hounding, head-case, team-cancer player like Randolph had been categorized as, he's been the opposite of. He set the tone, and the team rallied. Tony Allen came in and became the heart and soul of the team. He battles for every rebound, constantly swipes in the passing lane, helping the Grizzlies lead the league in forced turnovers, and, against all reason, has turned into an outright offensive threat. He finishes much like Randolph, in contrast to all things logical and traditional in offensive basketball form. He just gets the job done. And it's his emotion the team, the city, the fans feed off of. The working man's hero. 

Shane Battier came in and immediately resumed his role as a fan favorite, providing the cerebral balance to Allen's emotional energy. In his first game back in Memphis he was in O.J. Mayo's ear, talking to Darrell Arthur, communicating with the coach. Battier has come to provide the yang to Tony Allen's unstable yin. It shouldn't work, but it does. Arthur all of a sudden is a lock from mid-range, a quality defender in both low-post man and weakside help situations, and able to finish off the pick and roll. Combined with Gasol and Randolph, the Grizzlies host a three-man rotation down low with matchup advantages in skill, size, length, athleticism, and range. Powe is a hammer that does the dirty work and still has quality minutes in him.

At the time, I wasn't wrong for criticizing the Conley deal. It was poorly timed by the team considering his then-upcoming restricted free agent status and what he had shown as a guard. I am now. That's how these things work out, and Chris Wallace and Michael Heisley, along with head coach Lionel Hollins deserve every bit of credit for seeing the future of Conley. Mayo rediscovered his shot, and seems to have found a partner to work with in Shane Battier. Instead of pouting, abandoning his teammates and an organization that didn't want him, Mayo came to work, and produced. 

And now the Grizzlies have made the playoffs. They're in the postseason; they have a seat at the table. And yeah, they'll in all likelihood be ushered out swiftly by the Spurs or Lakers, as championship teams do to 8th seeds. But they have the hope of winning a few games which hasn't happened in Memphis. Ever. It's these kinds of steps that help a team build itself into something more than a fringe punch line, more than a Washington General to the big market bullies. The Grizzlies' road to the postseason hasn't been filled with success after success. It has had its mistakes, its bad luck, its times where the vehicle has slammed into the ditch. But the team has rallied around itself and even without its best player, is headed for the second season. 

Ain't that something? Strike up the band. Memphis has got one more dance in it. 
 
 
 
 
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