Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pole, Pole, Hasheem Thabeet

I'll bet you haven't been to Makongo Secondary School on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Either East Africa is out of your way or you were discouraged when you found AK-47s at the entrance.

Well, Makongo is where Hasheem Thabeet began his journey to beat Ricky Rubio in the 2009 draft, and luckily for us, Nathan Stormzand toured the campus on September 10.

On his tour, Stormzand learned that Hasheem Thabeet wanted to quit basketball 30 minutes into his first practice.

The coach at Makongo (now deceased) told Thabeet "pole, pole" which translates literally to "slowly, slowly" and is also an idiom that means "You're 7'3."

Here's the hoop where Thabeet first quit playing basketball.

When Stormzand arrived at Makongo, he was greeted by armed guards with AK-47s protecting Makongo's stockpile of future second string centers.

Like anyone in this situation, Stormzand announced that he was reporting for one of the top Memphis Grizzlies fan blogs and was quickly introduced to Makongo's Headmaster (Mr. Silus M.), PE Teacher (Mr. Kapanda), and Athletic Director (Mr. Bogoyu).

This is one of five photos that Stormzand was not required to delete. Please do not use it to sabotage the school.

Surprisingly, the school officials were happy to talk at length about Tanzania's most famous Twitterer.

They told Stormzand that Thabeet transferred to Makongo because of it's academic reputation. However, when Thabeet arrived, he was already taller than any other student or teacher. As a result, Makongo, whose Alumni play basketball, soccer, and volleyball professionally around the world, quickly researched sports where height is an advantage.

This is what "Cooler than Memphis" looks like.

Though Makongo's team was never great while Thabeet played, Thabeet steadily improved, according to the Athletic director, and by the end of his time at Makonga, Thabeet was asked to play for a regional team in Kenya.

A few years later, UConn posters hang on the walls of the Headmaster's office.

Makongo staff consistently allowed Stormzand to keep pictures of this hoop.

As Stormzand left Makongo, the school officials asked Stormzand to sign the guest book and to please send basketballs when he returned to the US.

As Stormzand signed his name, he saw Thabeet's signature from a visit three weeks earlier. As part of Thabeet's campaign for Unintentional Comedy All-NBA First Team, Thabeet listed Springfield, MA as his home.

You can see that the rough surface of the court slowed the development of Thabeet's ball-handling skills.

Nathan Stormzand would like to thank the entire staff of Makongo for being far too forthcoming, a shady yet entrepreneurial taxi driver named Idi for conveying him safely around Dar, and ketchup-sized packages of Konyagi for inspiriation.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Abdul-Jabbar + Barkley

First, the Grizzlies hire Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a big man coach. Then, they hire Charles Barkley as General Manager.

I must be in heaven.

Ok, so neither is true, but can't a Grizzlies' blogger dream?

Abdul-Jabbar is one of the 5 best centers, may be a top five player, and has a track record of success as a big man coach.

Abdul-Jabbar was the Sully Sullenberger of 1980.

Barkley is my favorite all-time player, and would definitely improve Chris Vernon's weekly segment with Chris Wallace. Plus, I am in with his Grandmother.

He could definitely coach some of the Grizzlies on how to commit humiliating and criminal public acts while maintaining a positive reputation. Who else can drive under the influence of alcohol, commit adultery, and still be considered a serious candidate for state governor?

Charles Barkley. My Hero.

Couldn't the Grizzlies, widely considered to be the laughingstock of the NBA, learn something from the NBA's all time greatest public relations mogul?

As an added bonus, Barkley and AI have a long standing feud. Barkley for GM is out only option.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Bench

“We got off to a good start, we played well, we were focused, and our defense was good,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. “We moved the basketball and we started subbing and we didn’t get the same play from our bench.”

This is a quote that Hollins will be able to use in 60+ games this season.

On a related note, sometimes I feel like I am too negative about the Grizzlies.

Then I read John Hollinger's player profiles or ESPN's 'expert' predictions or SI's Scouting Report.

That's when I realize my views are aligned with the the 'experts'. They hate almost every player on our team and every move we make.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Anticipation of the Grizzlies' Upcoming Season as Compared with that of Star Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith

As the Grizzlies embark on another journey to the lottery next week, I am reminded of another important time in my life: the release of Star Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.

When The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, there was excitement. Fans lined up in anticipation. But after ten or eleven viewings, a disturbing feeling that this movie might not be good began to set in.

A similar disappointment followed the excitement prior to previous Grizzlies seasons.

Many analysts predict Thabeet's career, much like Jar Jar's, will end soon after it begins.

When Attack of the Clones was released 3 years after Phantom Menace, my excitement was mitigated by a nagging feeling that Star Wars prequels might actually suck. Nevertheless, I hoped that replacing Jake Lloyd with Hayden Christensen would save the series.

Today, that premise seems as laughable as our hopes that Marc Iavaroni would save the Grizzlies.

Iavaroni's love for Padme was his undoing.

After 1 and 2, we knew 3 would suck, but there were still certain events we had to see. We had to see Obiwan Kenobi fight Anakin Skywalker. We had to see the transformation of Anakin into Darth Vader. And we wanted to see Darth Vader kick Jedi ass across the galaxy.

By now, we had a large enough sample to know that George Lucas was going to fuck it up. We just didn't know the extent or exactly how.

For example, we didn't know he was going to make all the villains look like pussies, limit Darth Vader's screen time to 5 minutes, destroy 30 year old plot lines, and undermine his own efforts to transform a 900 year old muppet and a 7 foot tall, bipedal dog into serious characters.

Similarly, even though we know the Grizzlies will suck, there are certain events with have to see this season. We have to see how AI and Z-bo will fit in. We have to check in on the development of Mayo and Gay. We need to assess how skinny Marc Gasol compares with thick Gasol, and we need to learn if Thabeet is a bust.

As with episode 3, we don't know exactly how it's going to play out. This team is unlike any to wear a Grizz uniform before.

However, we do know that the guy in charge is likely to screw it up.

Just as George Lucas showed his hand when Jar Jar first uttered: "Ooh mooey mooey I love you!", so did Heisley reveal the Grizzlies' fate when he traded Pau Gasol for money.

Which elderly, rich man has done more to ruin his respective franchise?

There is one difference between Revenge of the Sith and the upcoming Grizzlies season. When the credits rolled at the end of the Sith, we knew it was over.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

An Open Letter to Ron Artest

This is an open call to The Real Ron Artest.

To the Ron Artest that Laker fans are hatin on. The Artest that hangs out with Hamed Haddadi. The Artest that doesn't kiss ass. The Ron Artest that curses out Laker fans and makes them apologize.

You listening? Good. Let me be the first to say that we, as a Grizzlies fanbase, have faith in you.

There's a reason I'm writing this letter to you. You could single-handedly blow up the Laker Championship team. Talent-wise, this is one of the most gifted teams in Laker History, which puts them in the running for the most talented all-time.

Translation: We need you to kill the flavor in this chili so that the Lakers fall somewhere in the low 20s or high teens in next year's draft. We need this because the Grizzlies own the 2010 draft pick of the LA Lakers (top 6 protected).

There are hundreds of fans and dedicated followers that are holding their breath on your performance. In return, all past transgressions will be forgotten, and you will be warmly welcomed into the arms of the NBA legends.

Which is something I believe all three of us can agree on.

PS If you could somehow involve JR Smith, that would help as we also own the Nuggets draft pick (lottery protected).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Memphis Grizzlies, Season 9

Season 9 of the Memphis Grizzlies kicks off Tuesday, and my excitement is peaking.

Like every year, I'm extremely excited to see the Grizzlies in action. Like every year, I will probably be terribly disappointed by Christmas.


1. The Grizzlies have made significant upgrades at the power forward, 6th man, and Head Coach positions.

I worked out a quick formula to show this:

Arthur + Warrick + Iavaroni < AI + Z-Bo + Hollins
To provide some more color, here are a few things more successful than Iavaroni as Head Coach:
  • The Sextortion of David Lettermen
  • The 2009 Detroit Lions
  • The Jay Leno Show
  • Jon & Kate's Marriage
2. The Grizzlies didn't lose any significant pieces.

3. Several members of the core group have demonstrated a commitment to improving.

4. Few teams made significant upgrades.

With the exception of the Spurs, Blazers, and Clippers, which Western teams improved? Did the Nuggets, Mavs, Rockets, Hornets improve? How about the Thunder or Jazz?

The Warriors biggest offseason acquisition was locker room discord. The Wolves traded their only two shooting guards for "** - Unsigned Draft Pick". And the Suns promoted Eric Dampier to second-worst starting center in the West.


Curt is probably going to call me some obscene names in the comments section below for writing this, but I hope he remembers this list in December.

1. No one who observes basketball professionally thinks the Grizzlies will be good.

2. Early indications suggest that the Grizzlies are struggling to play together.

3. Iverson's expectations aren't aligned with reality.

Let's just say Iverson is prone to frustration when things don't go well. He thinks the Grizzlies are competing for a championship.

This might not go well.

4. Star Power.

None of these players, or anyone close to that level, plays for the Grizzlies. The best hope for success is Gay or Mayo's emergence as Alpha. More than anything else the Grizzlies need an Alpha (not named AI).

5. Depth. Curt, Hamed Haddadi does not count as depth.

6. Passing, Rebounding, Defense.

These are the fundamentals of basketball, and none of the Grizzlies have demonstrated these as a strength.

As you can see from the above chart, I am excited for this season. There's nothing I want more than for the Grizzlies to win.

But if you asked me to pick a number, it would be 30, and that's about what I picked this time last year.