Wednesday, February 21, 2007

'Rookie' Mistakes Doom Grizzlies

Living in the Bay Area, I don't get to see many Grizzlies games live. So far this season, the only Grizzlies game I've attended was Fratello's last, a disappointing loss to the Bucks during the holidays.

This game was also disappointing, but in a different way. Whereas during the Bucks game, the Grizzlies looked like they didn't give a rat's ass about winning basketball games, during this overtime loss, with the exception of Mike Miller, they looked like they were too inexperienced to pull out a victory. (Okay, Swift still looked like he didn't care.)

Rudy Gay had six turnovers and missed a fast break three pointer that he should have taken to the basket. However, I liked his aggressive play, and I don't fault him for missing the 3. At this point in the season, it's better for Rudy learn on the floor than disappear from games as he was apt to do earlier in the season.

Kinsey looked like a 12th man and Junior Harrington looked like somebody brought up from the D-League on a 10 game contract. I have no idea why Chucky Atkins and Dantay Jones didn't play instead of these two inexperienced guards. They could have contributed solid minutes, and the Commercial Appeal and CNNSI don't offer an explanation of their absence.

Atkins could have spelled Stoudemire as well. Damon looked terrible. He only turned the ball over 3 times according to the box score, but it seemed like more than that, probably because of his 5-13 shooting.

Finally, Pau Gasol was the biggest disappointment. He had 6 turnovers, as many as the rookie Gay. Most turnovers occurred when Gasol pulled the ball across the lane where three Warriors were swiping at it. After five years, you'd think Gasol would've learned to take care of the ball in the post. Even worse, Gasol missed two free throws that would've tied the game (after Warrick made two in virtually the same situation).

If Gasol was auditioning for another team before, he certainly isn't now. Isn't he the franchise player who demanded to be traded because the Grizzlies haven't put him in a situation to win games? He couldn't have asked for a better position: down by two with the opportunity to tie the game. Instead, he provided evidence that he's not the clutch, franchise player that deserves a maximum contract.

On a brighter note, (and there were other bright notes: Rudy Gay's aggressiveness and Hakim Warrick's consistency) Mike Miller was unconscious. The Warriors fans around me were disgusted whenever he was left open, and he made them pay. He has been a consistent and effective offensive weapon the entire season, and he would be extremely valuable on a winning team. The last of the Grizzlies' 'rookie' mistakes was not finding him in the last possessions of the game. You could see recognition of that mistake all over Miller's face.

The highlight of the game for me was the Warriors fan who found my friend, Evan and I in the upper bowl. He had to leave to catch a flight so he gave us his tickets on the 14th row at halftime. Thanks to that guy, and thanks to him for not noticing my Gasol jersey.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ByeBye Tsakalidis

The Grizzlies traded Jake Tsakalidis for Scott Padgett.

Besides a brief stint at the end of last season where Tsakalidis strung together several double-double performances, Jake has been a disappointment. He was supposed to be the big body that would provide rebounding, defensive, and muscle next to Gasol. His biggest contribution this season is that his 3 million dollar contract expires this season.

Padgett won't make much of a contribution either. He's a poor man's Brian Cardinal. My friend, Curt's reaction highlights the impact Padgett will make. When Curt learned that Padgett was becoming a Grizzly, he was excited...until my friend Jordan pointed out that Scott Padgett and Scott Pollard aren't the same player.

I can only hope Padgett's contract also comes off the books this year...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Swift and Jones for Magloire?

The Commercial Appeal is reporting that the Grizzlies may trade Swift and Jones to Portland for Jamaal Magloire's expiring contract.

It's tough to get excited about a trade that's primary benefit for the Grizzlies is long-term financial flexibility. Though Swift hasn't lived up to expectations, he's a solid veteran who can provide quality minutes off the bench. Magloire is similar, but it's hard to imagine he'd be a Grizzly after the season, if that long. Losing Swift would be similar to losing Bobby Jackson and Lorenzen Wright, veteran roles players who know how to help their team win.

Trading for Magloire gives the Grizzlies about six million more this summer than they'd have if they kept Swift. (Dantay Jones' contract expires this season like Magloire's.) This extra cash, along with the cash from Eddie Jones' and Jake Tsakaleidis' contracts could potentially help the Grizzlies lure a star player. However, as I've written before, there aren't any big name free agents worth pursuing this summer.

A few names that aren't that list (Vince Carter for example) may become available if they opt out of their contracts, but it's hard to imagine a player like Carter would opt out of his contract to come to Memphis and play with a bunch of rookies and sophomores. Trading Swift is part of a strategy that sets the Grizzlies a few years away from playoff contention.

Swift is certainly replaceable, but the only 'big' players the Grizz will have signed through 08 are Gasol, Johnson, Warrick, and Cardinal. (Hopefully they can re-sign Lawrence Roberts.) They'll have to get additional big men somehow, and talented big men are rare and aren't cheap.

This trade puts additional pressure on the Grizz to get the #1 pick, and select Greg Oden.

Another downside of this trade is that the Grizzlies lose Dantay Jones, who's shaping up to be a nice player, if not a starter. That said, Jones may be on his way out regardless. He's an unrestricted free agent, and the Grizzlies would be smart to take advantage of his value if they don't plan on/can't re-sign him. In fact, if he isn't traded with Swift, Jones could be a sweetener in the Gasol trade. After all, the Bulls will need a shooting guard to replace Ben Gordon.