I was able to watch the Grizz 95-80 victory over the Washington Wizards tonight.
Here are some of my thoughts:
First, the good:
Hakim Warrick was really aggressive in the paint. He demonstrated a variety of moves. Hopefully he can become consistent enough to be the Grizzlies' #2 go-to guy behind Pau. Having two guys who can both maneuver in the paint against big bodies, and get to the whole from the free throw line will make the Grizz a tough team, especially with the outside shooters waiting for the kick out.
In addition, the two point guards, Atkins and Stoudemire, were able to score throughout the game both by creating their own shots (Other Grizzlies save Warrick weren't able to do this.) and by hitting the open shot in half court sets. Atkins in particular displayed an explosiveness, getting to the rim easily as he's done in previous game. He's preventing Fratello from second-guessing inserting him in the starting line-up.
Finally, our role players made solid contributions. Notably, Cardinal picked up from where he left off in the last game, hitting the outside shot. Also, D Jones followed up with another strong performance at both ends after playing terribly earlier in the season.
On the downside, Swift still looks a step behind, even against the likes of Etan Thomas and Brenden Haywood. He isn't the strong defensive shot blocker that I hoped would return from Houston. That said, he looks like he has the desire. He jumps at every shot and takes the ball to the front of the rim. He just can't quite get the block and can't finish around the rim.
Second, Warrick played only 32 minutes, 2.5 minutes more than Swift and 12 minutes fewer than Miller. Fratello seems set on keeping his rotation set instead of allowing Warrick and Atkins to play when they're dominating the game. I can't help but think that Warrick and Atkins would've put up All Star numbers if they had played All Star minutes instead of 6th man minutes. Perhaps, Fratello knows something about their conditioning or the teams chemistry that I don't, but on the surface it seems that those players deserve more time when their having games like Friday nights'.
Miller, on the other hand, (with the exception of his impressive three point shooting) is barely putting up better numbers than when he played 7 minutes fewer last season. Tonight, he matched last years' statistical output but needed 13 more minutes to do it. Furthermore, he looked terrible during several defensive sets, and allowed DeShawn Stevenson to double his point average. He did have a few impressive finished around the rim, but still relied heavily on being set up for an open look from outside (where he is consistent and effective).
Finally, I wish Gay's offense would come together. Like Swift, he's aggressive, and he's attacking defenses in a number of different ways. However, he's still not finishing consistently. Tonight, he demonstrated a number of difficult shots, which he converted, but still shot a poor percentage.
Friday, November 24, 2006
I was able to watch the Grizz 95-80 victory over the Washington Wizards tonight.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Since my last post, the Grizz have played 4 games. They dropped 2 against Dallas, defeated Orlando, and lost by three to the East's best team.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to watch any of the games, but I was impressed to see Warricks performance against the Magic.
Lowry and Jake also had solid games, but Warrick's play so far makes me wonder what the rotation will look like once Pau returns.
Here's my proposal:
With Gasol at center, this line-up sacrifices some size., and rebound may be an issue. Still, centers in the NBA are getting smaller, and many teams would play their best defender on Gasol regardless of whether he plays center or power forward.
Warrick is demonstrating that he can play with power forwards in the league, and Gasol will benefit from having another consistent scorer in the post to whom he can pass.
Other questions about this line-up include whether Miller will be a defensive liability. Without Swift or Jake defending the lane, perimeter defense will be a higher priority. Gay will be a huge asset here. Lowry will also help when he spells Atkins.
In fact, the point guards may be interchangeable depending on who is performing at the highest level. Atkins is barely edging Lowry currently, and Lowry is providing a huge lift off the bench.
The biggest problem with my proposed starting line-up is that it leaves a bench of:
G E Jones
G: D Jones
Fratello will undoubtedly (as he's done so far) play all these players, but there's not room for all of them to contribute consistently at a high level. Once Gasol returns, Fratello will either need to establish a pecking order that eliminates the playing time of some contributors or trade some players for draft picks or a combination of players for fewer.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
The presentation was excellent. The crystal clear HD picture in 106 inches and 5.1 surround sound was stirring.
But everything about the game was terrible. The Grizzlies didn't look like a team.
Stromile Swift tries to be aggressive. His effort is there. He doesn't st but it appears that he just doesn't have the ability to get the job done on offense or defense.
Rudy Gay, who is hasn't yet won any votes for Rookie of the Year, showed some athleticism on defense, but looked to pass first on offense.
Mike Miller proved again that he can shoot the three.
The three most effective players all play the same positions. Chucky Atkins, Damon Stoudemire, and Kyle Lowry all made solid contribution, though not consistently throughout the game.
This frustrated me because a historic problem with the Grizzlies is that they have opted for several above average contributors rather than a few excellent players. Teams that have been successful have a strong starting five that include 2-3 players that can create their own shot and 2-3 strong contributors off the bench.
The Grizzlies have 12 players who are talented enough to play in the NBA but can't excel enough to lead a team. They should trade many for a few. They don't need three point guards. They don't need Miller, D Jones, and E Jones at shooting guard. They don't need Brian Cardinal and Jake to contribute 10-15 minutes a game.
There are many good players who can contribute that time. They should trade a combination of these players to acquire players who can contribute at a high level every night.
Too bad they can't trade anyone until the pending sale is resolved. Shortly after that, Jerry West will step down according to ESPN. Though Jerry West has made solid contributions to this club and should have his number retired for giving life to this franchise, I can't help but think 'fresh eyes' may help the Grizz. (No one could have done so much with so little in such a short time.)
For example why not trade Eddie Jones, Chucky Atkins, and Mike Miller for Paul Pierce or another proven star on a struggling club? The Celtics would never go for that specific trade, but multiple teams can help the Grizzlies get a lot done, and their players have a lot of appeal. Atkins is probably at the peak of his game, and Jones is in the last year of a huge contract.
Finally, what was Fratello thinking when he took Atkins out of the game? This directly demonstrates my point that the Grizzlies have too many players that warrant playing time. (Still, let the man play when he makes 10 of eleven shots.)
You can't create a cohesive team when no one can create a shot and the line-up is a revolving door.
Monday, November 13, 2006
To add insult to injury, I lost 2 bucks to a friend/Lakers fan/Borat impersonator.
Mike Miller hit a lot of threes, but was pretty one dimensional. The entire offense looked terrible. They couldn't get anything done. Stromile couldn't do anything against Andrew Bynum, and Eddie Jones looks terrible.
I have tomorrow night's game DVRed. It's in HD, we're playing a pretty bad Sacremento team, so hopefully we'll pull out the second victory.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Geoff Calkins, sports editor of the Commercial Appeal, wrote an article that compares Gay to Battier.
He compared their stat lines:
Throw in Swift:
and consider that Battier had over twice as many minutes as Gay, and it seems like Memphis got the better end of the deal.
Granted, a player's value can't be reduced to his stat line. Chemistry and intangible contributions also make the difference between a win and a loss.
Still, we can make some judgement as the season goes on by comparing their averages. My main question after looking at this stat line echoes a subtle point Calkins makes: Why did Gay play only 17 minutes?
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
The Grizz lost their 3rd game to the Rockets though they had opportunities to win.
I only saw the last 4 minutes on NBA League Pass, but the Grizz made defensive stops only to miss on the offensive end.
When the Rockets weren't stopped, Yao was dominating the Grizz interior. Particularly bad, was a possession where Brian Cardinal tried hopelessly to deny Yao the ball. Yao easily scored on a lay-up.
Also disappointing were Swifts attempts at the offensive end. Even with good position, Swift couldn't get the ball over Yao. Still, it was good to see Swift aggressive at the offensive end late in the game and even better to see him in the game at all.
I can only hope that his 2 rebounds in 22 minutes were the result of getting back into shape.
Miller and Stoudemire continue to have mediocre games, while Gay and Jones had decent games.
Monday, November 06, 2006
The Official Grizz site has a preview of Tuesday night's game against the Rockets.
The article points out that Eddie Jones has had a rough start to the season.
What's more important is Swift's return. Without his shot blocking, Yao should dominate the paint. However, his return keeps getting delayed.
With a losing record after 1 week, the Grizz have moved down in both ESPN and CNNSI's power rankings. They moved from 20 to 22 in CNNSI's rankings, and from 23 to 28 in ESPN's rankings.
Both power rankings were optimistic about the Grizz young players.
The ESPN rank is ridiculous. There's no way the Grizz are worse off than the Warriors, Kings, etc...
The Commercial Appearl published an article about the Grizz frontline's strong performance in the absense of Pau and Stromile.
Hakim Warrick has played particularly well which raises questions about what his role will be once Pau returns. Hopefully, he won't be put in a situation like Drew Gooden where his minutes are diminished and he's forced to play out of position.
Hopefully, he can adapt to playing some time at small forward, or Pau can play center.
I finally got to watch the Grizz play thanks to NBA league pass.
I saw the second half of the Grizz win over the Bobcats and the entire loss to the Pistons.
Mike Miller Redeemed his performance in the opening game with a strong performance against the Bobcats, and the Grizzlies kept pace with the Pistons until the fourth quarter.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The Commercial Appeal has posted an article about Lowry's outlook on the season and Gay's strong performance in Game 1.
Gay made a strong case for starting over Miller who Fratello went with due to experience. Gay played particularly well in the clutch when Miller struggled, and Lowry made a veteren play preventing Crawford from ending the game early.
ESPN and CNNSI released Power Rankings just before the season began.
ESPN has the Grizz at 23, while CNNSI places the Grizz at 20. With a loss to the dismal Knicks, they haven't proven either team wrong.
Still, the Grizz' season looks better than the Kings, Bobcats, and Bucks. Of course these power ranks predict a Gasol-less Grizz team.
The Grizz lost their first game at home. The trailed by a lot late, but came back to send it to overtime, 3 times. They had all but won at the end of the third overtime, ahead by one when Atkins lost the ball to a steal to Jamal Crawford. Miller missed a last second shot. It wasn't the first he missed.
Even worse than Miller's sad performance (picking up where he left off in the playoffs) was the fact that it wouldn't have been close if the Grizz had shot a reasonal FT percentage.
Also, Swift didn't play do to injury though the Commercial Appeal reports that he's still progressing.