Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Grizzlies Are Rebounding

Thanks to a horrendous start to the season, the Grizzlies are still below 500 and 3 and a half games out of the playoffs. (It has to be asked: Where would the Grizzlies be if Heisley hadn't taken a dump on team chemistry by signing AI? Yes, I defended the move at the time.) However, despite their early troubles, there's something different about this team.

One noticeable change is that I don't get texts immediately after every Grizzlies victory from all my friends. (Okay, it's just my parents, and they don't know how to text, so they call me.) You know something's changed when victory is so common that it no longer needs to be celebrated via text message. This is especially important for west coast Grizzlies fans like me who watch most games on 2 hour DVR delay. As you may not be aware, games are not as fun when you read "win #5!!! :)" on your phone with 8 minutes left in the third quarter.

Another key change is that days and even weeks go by without open ridicule of the Grizzlies and their plight. In fact, even when the Grizzlies lose, post game comments have taken a different tone.

After a 5 point win over the Grizzlies on Dec 14, Boston forward Paul Pierce said, “That’s one tough team.They’re dangerous. I see them with four potential All-Stars.

Last season, when the Celtics beat the Grizzlies by 4, Pierce responded: "Everybody knew we're playing Detroit on Saturday night, but we had to take care of Memphis. We're preparing for something bigger than the regular season. It's got to be every night."

Added Celtics Coach Doc Rivers after last season's victory: "Probably our worst focus of the year. Could be because of tomorrow night. We might have been looking forward to it. I don't know."

You see the difference? Last year, the defending champions beat us despite playing the worst game of their season. This year, they squeaked by on a lucky last second bounce and three-pointer. And more importantly, they noticed a difference.

This picture hurts my head, but it shows Warrick at the Fleet Center. For all I know it was taken during last year's loss. That's a lie. I see this was taken in 2008.

Last week, when the Grizzlies played the Indiana Pacers, over a thousand residents of Poplar Bluff, MO, hometown to Indiana rookie Tyler Hansbrough, bought tickets to see their hero's Fedex Forum debut. For those of you keeping track, that's nearly 10% of Poplar Bluff's population. Normally, this would be a great opportunity for jokes about the Grizzlies' attendance as compared with the population of Poplar Bluff. But there was one problem: The Grizzlies won the game, and Poplar Bluff High School subsequently retired Zach Randolph's jersey in its rafters.

These stories make watching the Grizzlies games fun. There's nothing I like more than hearing that citizens' of Poplar Bluff have had the hopes crushed by the Grizzlies. If the team keeps it up, people outside of Poplar Bluffs might also attend the games.

Main St, Poplar Bluff, MO, USA

And you know what else is both different and fun to watch? Rebounding.

Until this season, rebounding, which is 50% effort, 30% skill, and 20% size (I made that up.), has been one of the Grizzlies' weaknesses. Now, Zach Randolph, a 6'9 forward who can't dunk and isn't on the All Star Ballot, holds this season's record for rebounds in a game.

Nothing is more enjoyable than watching the Grizzlies get an offensive rebound with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter while the opposition is mounting a comeback. Ranked in order from "fists in the air and shouting" to "nodding silently", my favorite Grizzlies rebounders are Randolph, Thabeet, Gasol, and Gay. You might say, "David, that's the entire Grizzlies front-court", and my response would be "Yyyyyyyeeeeeesssss". That's the whole point. For the first time, the rebounding is a team strength, and the Grizzlies are fun to watch.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Movie Review: The Blind Side

I have a rule: Don't see Sandra Bullock movies.

However, during one fateful Clippers-Grizzlies game, (the infamous "Haddadi-Borat" game, not the infamous "Blow a 20 Point Lead in the Fourth" game) NBA League Pass opted to show me the Clippers' broadcast over the Grizzlies'. When the Clippers announcers weren't offending Iranians, I learned that The Blind Side featured Grizzlies commentator, Sean Tuohy, whose family adopted NFL offensive tackle Michael Oher when he was a homeless high schooler.

Clippers Analyst Michael Smith during a November Broadcast: "You're sure it's not Borat's older brother?...If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I'm going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part."

At that point, I made a decision I would later regret to break my Sandra Bullock rule.

The movie may not be as bad as a typical Sandra Bullock movie, but it's also not as good as Oher's story deserves. The writing is cheesy (For example, the Democrat / Republican jokes), and the situations feel contrived (For example, Sean Jr teaching plays to Oher with condiments or Leigh Anne Tuohy instructing Oher during Football practice).

The Blind Side relies too much on cheap laughs and doesn't authentically convey either Oher's or the Tuohys' transformations (and it's not funny or moving enough to go the sentimental family comedy route. Both my girlfriend and my barber Jay said it was no Remember the Titans, and that's saying something.).

We do learn that when Tuohy is not adopting football stars or calling some of the worst basketball games in NBA history, he's operating about 80 fast food franchises. When Sean Tuohy Jr's explains why the family eats Taco Bell for free, Oher responds "Is that why he [Grizzlies Commentator Sean Tuohy Sr] never seems to work?"

Doesn't work? Apparently, Oher hasn't heard Tuohy transform a 20 point Grizzlies loss into Shakespearean poetry.

Once I realized the movie sucked, I resigned to hoping for references to Tuohy's night job, of which there were none. (Let me warn you: Don't attend The Blind Side hoping to play a drinking game where you drink every time there's a reference to the Grizzlies. You're better off watching Grizzlies games and drinking every time someone mentions The Blind Side.)

I also found it curious that no mention was made of Tuohy's struggle to stop Taco Bell employees from raiding the franchises' reserves of Star Wars Episode 1 memorobilia in the late 90s, but I guess they're saving that for the prequel.

This was a deadly combination for Tuohy in 1999.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Shane Battier Workout Video

Remember when Shane Battier played for the Grizzlies and it seemed like he was the hardest-working player and the only player that maximized his talent? Well, I caught up with Battier (AKA I filmed him without his knowledge) during his pregame routine before a game against the Warriors in Oakland. It turns out Battier has the most methodical workout (of the players I saw, including T-Mac, whose workout consists of shooting threes from the top of the key).

Here's Battier Shooting the Shane Battier Memorial Baseline Jumper:

I tried to get Shane Battier to sign page 45 of The Book of Basketball, but I didn't catch him before he returned to the locker room. Also, I was told by security that players would not sign a "hard" object like a book. Apparently, books pose an injury threat NBA players. The security guard did not see the comedy in this.

Here's Battier practicing his elbow jumper:

Here's Battier practicing his left-handed jump hook. See if you can spot Luis Scola:

And here's T-Mac, a few months before the Rockets trade him and/or banish him from the team:

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Paging the Kemmons Wilson Family

I've proposed a few trades recently. (Who wouldn't prefer Monta Ellis over Rudy Gay right now?) But our best chance at turning around 9 straight seasons of failure (unless you count 0-12 in the playoffs as success) is changing the owner. We need a new owner who meets the following criteria:

  • Worth a billion or more
  • Ties to Memphis
  • Passionate about basketball
  • Is able to absord significant financial losses
  • Is willing to let basketball execs make basketball decisions (within reason)
Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who qualifies personally, and the list of Memphis billionaires is short.

However, one name on the list jumps out at me: Kemmons Wilson.

I only met met Wilson once, when I was about 12, and I don't know any of his surviving sons or much about them.

Bob Wilson could play with his Cesnas while someone with basketball experience manages his basketball team.

However I do know these facts:

1. Kemmons Wilson left his sons assets worth about a billion dollars.

2. Spence, Bob, and Kemmons Jr. are all active members of Memphis area organizations, and married to locals. (Spence barely qualifies with a wife from Jackson, TN.)

3. Kemmons Wilson once owned a professional basketball in Memphis with Isaac Hayes when his sons were in their 30s.

4. Wilson Hotel Corporation already manages the most successful part of the Grizzlies, St. Jude's Memphis Grizzlies House.

St. Jude's Memphis Grizzlies House is associated with the Grizzlies and managed by the Wilson Family Business. Is that combo a fomula for success?

Are those three facts enough to guarantee that a marriage between the Wilsons and the Grizzlies would be successful or even that the Wilsons are interested? No.

Would Heisley listen if the Wilsons made an offer? Definitely.

Are Grizzlies fans desperate enough to stop the Wilsons in the street and beg them to buy the team? I hope so.