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Tag:Shane Battier
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. 
Posted on: February 24, 2011 3:10 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 4:31 pm
 

Trade Tracker: Grizzlies trade Thabeet to Rockets

An updating list of trades at the NBA Trade Deadline. Posted by EOB staff. 

The Memphis Grizzlies trade Hasheem Thabeet and a first round pick to the Houston Rockets for Shane Battier

Memphis receives: Shane Battier and Ish Smith
Houston receives: Hasheem Thabeet and a first round pick


Analysis: Hasheem Thabeet, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, has so far been a bust. He's a huge, young and raw player that needs hours and hours of player development work. Trading for him and his fairly large (for a rookie scale contract) salary is a bit of a gamble, but the Rockets need to address the middle given the uncertain future of center Yao Ming. Shane Battier has long been regarded as one of the league's best defenders but his contract is expiring this season and would be a solid, veteran asset for a title contender next season. The Rockets add to their stockpile of picks and give up Ish Smith, a seldom-used guard averaging 2.6 points and 2.3 assists in 11.8 minutes off the bench. The Grizzlies do this to cut bait on Thabeet and avoid paying the rest of his contract, turning instead to the futures of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Posted on: February 21, 2011 9:33 pm
 

Report: Celtics discussing deal to land Battier

Posted by Royce Young

According to ESPN.com, the Celtics and Rockets are discussing a deal to send Shane Battier to Boston. Not only is Battier a productive veteran with applicable tools, but he's got that always attractive expiring contract as well ($7.4 million).

This one seems unlikely and I'm only passing it on because it's out there. And because it also illustrates how hard Boston is working to find another perimeter player. With Marquis Daniels out for at least a few more weeks because of a bruised spinal cord and the unpredictable health of Delonte West, the Celtics are certainly buyers right now.

The problem for the Celtics is though that they don't really have lucrative trade pieces to interest Houston that much. I doubt Semih Erden and Avery Bradley really strike Daryl Morey's fancy all that much. And again, because of the contract situation with Battier, he's all the more attractive. Meaning other teams can call the Rockets and offer something much better than the Celtics.

The Celtics have also reportedly inquired about Cleveland's Anthony Parker, which would be a deal that's a lot more probable than landing a valued piece like Battier.
Posted on: February 15, 2011 1:39 am
 

That sound is the wheels on the Nuggets ...

... coming off.
Posted by Matt Moore

On Monday afternoon, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reported that the Nuggets were still examining scenarios involving trading Carmelo Anthony, but they were also focused on finding improvements.  Berger reports that the Nuggets feel good about where they're at in the season: 


Though Denver has lost four of its last six, team officials privately are expressing optimism about how well the players and coaching staff have weathered significant injuries and the Anthony firestorm. With two games left before the All-Star break and three before the trade deadline, the Nuggets are tied for the sixth seed in the West -- with struggling teams all around them. Utah, Portland, Memphis, Phoenix, Houston and Golden State all have issues of their own, and none has proved demonstrably better than Denver when the Nuggets are healthy.
Some high-ranking personnel in the organization believe that without injuries to Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen and Chauncey Billups -- not to mention the persistent trade rumors and the games Anthony missed due to the tragic death of his sister -- the Nuggets might very well be as high as third in the West. Team officials also are pleased with Anthony, who is averaging 29.5 points per game since the Nets walked away from the negotiating table -- including a 50-point game and a 42-point game. Given the circumstances, and the added value of home playoff dates with a lockout looming, the best course of action might be to keep Anthony and find ways to improve the roster without taking on future money.
via Trade deadline should resolve Melodrama - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.


And then tonight happened

Make it five of their last six. Okay, no big deal. Seven of their last ten. Hey, it happens. One game is nothing to get worked up about. 

But 121-102 to the Houston Rockets on top of everything else? There be trouble in the land. 

Just because the Nuggets are mired in a slump at the same time as all this is going on doesn't mean anything. After all, they were in the same situation with Melo when they were winning games left and right. But of course, the Nuggets have now fallen a half game behind injury-ravaged Portland and self-destructing Utah to the 8th seed in the West, with the Grizzlies just a game back and winners of 8 of their last ten. The Nuggets may have believed that without their injuries they'd be in a better position, but they've gotten everyone back to full health and the results are actually worse. They've regressed back to a struggling defensive unit, as they entered the night the seventh worst defensive club in the league. The chemistry is bad. Relying on Kenyon Martin is not a sound strategy. And for whatever reason, the close knit attitude that had been there seems to coming apart under the strains of the trade situation. 

Houston's a solid offensive team, if the mirror image of Denver. Both are terrible defensively but Monday night it was the Nuggets stepping down from the challenge. They went down by 31 points at one point. 31 points, to a sub-.500 team after a disappointing loss to the Grizzlies the night before. Back to back and all that, but this game sure felt as one of those type games that can push a club to the precipice. 

Then again, this is Masai Ujri we're talking about. Apparently he can't be pushed to the precipice even if there were giant man-sharks with laser swords. 

For his part, you really do have to commend Anthony, although taking your hat to him is a little absurd, for his consistency. It would have been easy after any of these losses, to go to Ujiri and have a detonation. To overreact and compromise his leverage and public image. But Anthony has remained calm, cool, and collected. He doesn't overreact to any win as a reason to stay or any loss as a reason to throw a tantrum. He continues to play his cards close to his vest, go out, and play ball. 

But the storm clouds are gathering, as Jeremy might say, and if things keep going down this road, the Nuggets will have no choice but to pull the trigger. But what are their options for improving the team, as Berger asserts they are considering to try and convince Melo to stick around? 

Several players on expiring contracts who could help Denver are expected to be available in the coming days. According to league sources, Portland is expected to entertain offers for several of its older players, including Joel Przybilla, who would provide some much-needed depth on Denver's front line. Same for Indiana's Jeff Foster, as Pacers president Larry Bird has publicly stated that he will explore cashing in expiring contracts for assets as opposed to waiting for free agency. The Rockets, one of the few teams willing to take on money, could make Shane Battier available if they can upgrade their talent. Battier would give Denver coach George Karl another dependable and versatile wing defender.
via Trade deadline should resolve Melodrama

Really? Really? Jeff Foster? Joel Przybilla? Shane Battier? Battier I can kind of see, he's a defensive stalwart. But Przybilla isn't even relevant on a Portland team happy to have any center with cartilege left (and Joel just had his heal) in their knees. Foster's not a game changer, not with Nene already on board alongside Anderson and Kenyon Martin. Those players are overrated, but Foster's not going to suddenly make their second unit better. You're talking about decorating the Titanic at that point. 
So we continue to wait, and watch, and pray that this endless saga finally gets resolution one way or another. 
Posted on: November 29, 2010 12:38 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2010 12:39 pm
 

Video: Russell Westbrook says hi to Shane Battier

Posted by Royce Young

Here's Russell Westbrook. He's 6'4, athletic, really fast and likes to dunk all the time. Did I mention he's a point guard ? And here's Shane Battier. He's the charge-taking, no-stats-All-Starring, glue guy that plays great defense and does little things.

What happens when they meet in the lane? One flies through the air like a missle headed for a small city and the other just has to watch it. Observe:



The irony of Westbrook's massive cramjob is that Battier, in very Battier-like fashion, turned around and hit three crucial 3-pointers for the Rockets almost immediately after. Battier has been struggling from deep on the season, but went 4-6 for Houston Sunday to really key the Rockets 99-98 win over the Thunder.

So he may have been abused both physicaly and emotionally by Westbrook, but Battier responded. Typical. I'm sure Dick Vitale is somewhere nodding right now.
Posted on: September 23, 2010 4:38 pm
 

Preseason Primer: Houston Rockets

Posted by Matt Moore

The Rockets finally have Yao Ming healthy. They finally have Tracy McGrady out of their hair. They finally have the pieces together to make another run. But can any of the pieces fit together? Are they really as dangerous as everyone says they are? Does speaking in rhetorical questions make you want to read this, our next selection in our Preseason Primers ? Let's find out as we talk about the Rox.


Training camp site: Houston, TX (Hidalgo, TX in early October)

Training camp starts: September 25th

Key additions: Brad Miller (free agent), Courtney Lee (trade), Patrick Patterson (draft)

Key subtractions: Trevor Ariza (trade), David Andersen (trade)

Likely starting lineup:
Aaron Brooks (PG), Kevin Martin (SG), Shane Battier (SF), Luis Scola (PF), Yao Ming (C)

Player to watch:
Patrick Patterson. Assuming the Rox don't go all nuts and acquire Carmelo Anthony during camp, their starting lineup is pretty well set. But Patterson is a rookie who comes out of that ridiculous Kentucky class and could wind up being the kind of flex player that makes a big impression on Rick Adelman. He's versatile, strong, has a good mid-range, and can work inside of a complex offense. He's got a great opportunity to make an impact for the Rockets during camp.


Chemistry quiz:
The Rockets have seemed like a team that's liked one another for years. They hung together when Yao Ming went down, and their samurai-like approach last year was noble, even if it fell short. Basically, even without the star talent you need to win in this league, the Rockets were the team you didn't want to run into in a dark alley. They were tough, gritty, and hung together. The addition of Kevin Martin, trying to reassert himself as a premier player in this league could cause issues, and there's no telling if the same goodwill will maintain with as many changes as the Rockets have made in the past two years. But the core elements are in place, and the tone of camp should be fun and focused, instead of contentious and tense. Not having solified expectations due to Yao's injury should help with manners as well.


Camp battles:
Small forward was set to be a huge battle but promising second year man Chase Budinger tweaked an ankle and won't be able to battle old man Battier for the slot left open by Trevor Ariza's departure. Jermaine Taylor, Courtney Lee, and Jared Jeffries should have a good one for the backup role behind Martin. Jordan Hill vs. Patterson should make for a nice one as well, with Hill's scrap versus Patterson's finesse providing contrast in style.

Injury issues:
Budinger's ankle is significant, but other than that the Rockets seem really healthy and don't have any pro...OH, YEAH. Yao Ming is coming back from an injury that's held him out for a year and a half and is trying to just stay on the floor while the rest of the team holds its breath everytime his feet leave the ground. camp.

Biggest strength:
Doin' work. The Rockets put in a full effort every night, a testament to both the roster assembled and Rick Adelman's job. They lacked an identity last year without Yao, but it did help them to adjust to whatever they faced. The Rockets can get out and run, or grind it out. They're really best when they're doing both. They'll battle for every loose ball and every player knows his role. It's a strong team they've put together.

Glaring weakness:
Three point shooting. Brooks isn't an efficient shooter. Martin's three point shooting dropped off a cliff last season. Budinger can shoot, but the rest of the team isn't great from the arc, including backup point guard Kyle Lowry.
Posted on: August 31, 2010 2:43 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2010 2:48 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Can the Rockets jell?

Posted by Matt Moore

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question..

Can the Rockets jell?


Normally the year after you lose one of your biggest stars is supposed to be a tough one to swallow. But the Rockets are liberated after losing Tracy McGrady, and have put that cap space to good use. Tack on the return of their other star in Yao Ming, and the Rockets have high hopes for 2010. They only added three players of note, Courtney Lee via the Trevor Ariza trade, Brad Miller in free agency, and Patrick Patterson in the draft. But those players combined with the assets they picked up through trade last season and the return of Yao Ming are what make people so high on the Rockets.

The Rockets built a roster based on versatility last season but injuries left them scraping things together, and in the meantime, their primary lineup didn't produce as expected. As a result, GM Daryl Morey went even further towards the versatility approach. The trade of Trevor Ariza was the most controversial, essentially starting over after only a year with Ariza. When we look at the lineups, though, that doesn't sound so crazy.

You always have to take plus/minus with a grain of salt, but there are circumstances where you can notice specific outliers. The Rockets lineups are such an example. The Rockets' three most-often used lineups (via 82games.com) all featured Ariza at small forward, and were a combined -19. That's in contrast to their fourth, fifth, and sixth most used lineups (all over 100 minutes), which were a combined +91. That's a big number. It's not conclusive, but it does provide some evidence for why the Rockets elected to ship him out for a backup shooting guard best remembered for a missed alley-oop in the Finals.

Kevin Martin was the other significant acquisition. The Rockets were able to snag Martin at the trade deadline after an injury plagued season was compounded by his inability to gel with Tyreke Evans. Martin wasn't bad with the Rockets but he was far from the instant fix-all for their problems and they lost steam (again with the injuries) down the stretch. But he and Aaron Brooks seemed to be finding their way, despite both of them being heavy usage players.

So the big question for the Rockets isn't one of talent, it's one of chemistry.

"" Yao Ming has been away from the practice floor since May of 2009. Kevin Martin has been with the team only two months of actual playing time. Courtney Lee is completely new. Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry just received new contracts. Jordan Hill is a newcomer, still settling in. Patrick Patterson is a rookie. Brad Miller just hopped on board. And for a team that relies on ball movement and separation like Rick Adelman's, this is a dangerous approach to trying to throw it all together.

Luckily, egos seem to be sparse in the locker room. Kevin Martin is certainly going to want his chances to score, and he'll get them. There's enough to go around. The rest of the team is largely filling in the gaps. Luis Scola should get a step back since he won't be guarding or guarded by centers with Ming on the floor, and Chase Bundinger and Lee give the team versatility and shooting. Shane Battier is the leader and prime example of the sacrifice this team will need to instill as a virtue in order to make a run in the West. This is not a case of any one player shouldering the load. Morey and Adelman have built a system based on depth and versatility, and they need to use that, exploiting matchups and tendencies where they can.

The addition of Yao cannot be understated. This was a dogged, tenacious, well-balanced team last year that struggled due to injuries and a lack of size. Yao provides them depth (vaunted post-defender Chuck Hayes is now third string behind Brad Miller), unparalleled post offense and defense, and a focal point for the perimeter cuts to work around. He's a willing and able passer, and even Miller works well in the pinch post with those wings slashing around. Consider all the perimeter shooter/slashers they have to work around their bigs:

Aaron Brooks (39.8% from the arc, 47% on 3pt attempts in hand-off situations)
Kevin Martin (44% in spot-up situations)
Chase Budinger (37% 3pt, 40% as a spot-up three-point shooter)
Courtney Lee
Kyle Lowry
Jermaine Taylor

And here are their mid-range defenders:
Shane Battier
Jared Jeffries (.84 points per possession allowed defensively, allowing only 39.2% from the floor)
Patrick Patterson - who can also stretch the floor

And their low-post guys:
Yao
Miller
Scola
Hayes
Jordan Hill

That's just a ridiculous amount of depth, and all of them with multiple skills. Martin can work on-ball or off, slashing or spotting up. Scola can work in the high or low post and has a reliable mid-range jumper. Making it all work will be Adelman's job, and there is such a thing as too much depth. It can cause discontent when players feel they're not getting time. And there's the ever-looming threat of the Big Move.

Daryl Morey has said repeatedly that though they've been successful in finding high value players, you cannot win in this league without superstars. And he clearly wants one to go with Yao's potentially final year with the Rockets. With Jeffries, Martin, Lee, Scola, Hill, and others, along with the picks he's acquired from New York, he has a set of assets to use if he wants to pursue, say, Carmelo Anthony. But that means more changes to the ship. All of this and they have to hope they stay healthy, which is an unlikely scenario given Yao's feet history.

In a perfect world, the Rockets could be contenders for making the Western Conference Finals, and facing a Lakers team they have consistently taken it to over the years. But that's the best case scenario. In the meantime, they'll have to try and integrate all the moving parts into one machine, and see how far it takes them. They've got the parts. They've just got to make them work together now that they're assembled.

(Situation-based data courtesy of Synergy Sports )
Posted on: June 29, 2010 1:24 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2010 1:29 pm
 

Yao Ming will not opt out

Go ahead and cross the big seven foot Chinese dude off your list of free agent hopefuls for your favorite team. Yao Ming isn't going anywhere. Fox 26 Sports in Houston is reporting that Yao Ming will not opt-out for the last year of his contract with the Houston Rockets, a report that is confirmed by General Manager Daryl Morey via Twitter .

Ming's decision was probably equal parts loyalty and realism. Coming off a year that he missed entirely with yet another foot injury (Ming hasn't played since the 2009 playoffs), his value was likely to be downgraded, especially in a year with so many other stars available. But Ming has always been loyal to the club that drafted him, and with the success the Rockets had nearly making the playoffs without him, he has to feel good about making another run with them. Morey is finally getting out from under the yoke of Tracy McGrady's contract and will be able to continue wheeling and dealing.

The Rockets lineup next year, provided they re-sign Luis Scola, is pretty impressive. Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Trevor Ariza, Luis Scola, Yao Ming, with Shane Battier, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, and Patrick Patterson off the bench. Those stretch fours are going to benefit the most from Ming, who will cause doubles and enable them to create space for open mid-range shots, which most can hit.

The Rockets will also still have assets they can move in a trade, and Morey has shown he's never willing to be content. The Rockets have been near the top of the league during his reign and have really only faltered on account of injury. If Ming comes back healthy (as unreliable a prospect as that is), Houston could be right back in the mix of contenders in 2010-2011.

Funny what a seven foot tall Chinese dude with incrdible touch and length can do for you, huh?

-Matt Moore


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com