Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First-Half Bets Are Back!

Thursday I depart for my semi-frequent trip to Vegas, staying at the Signature MGM Grand.

My goal: channel Tim Donaghy and win ~$20 betting on Grizzlies first half scores. The Griz play the Bobcats at home on Friday and the Knicks in NYC on Saturday. Please comment with any inside info.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lakers-Grizzlies: Live DVR Blogging

Pau returning to Memphis. Kobe's first game back. NBA TV HD. First time trying the new Dominos Pizza. Watching the game 2 hours late on the West Coast.

That's the perfect combo for Live DVR Blogging. Let's get to it.
McHale is wearing a Marc Gasol jersey, and Jose has put my order in the oven. This is shaping up to be a good night.

Conley just put the worst Laker FG shooter on the free throw line 13 seconds into the game. He continues to amaze.

The commentators are Pete Pranica and some guy named Hank. Where is Sean Tuoy? By the way, Pete is heating up: "Conley playing hide-n-seek." or " Conley rings the bell." or "Nothing but sweet string music for Mayo."

Lots of cheers for the Kobe Bryant after the free throw. These fans make me sick.

4 minute mark: Conley missed layup count 1.

End of First: 27-16 Lakers
Haddadi sighting. Assist, block, scores. Already playing as well as any Grizzly not names Gasol.

9 minutes: HADDADI: and 1. The first of the season?

7 minutes: Farmar alley-oop tp Bynum. The crowd erupts.

6 minutes: Sam Young makes a 3. Don't encourage him.

5 minutes: Haddadi at the free throw line, and the pizza has arrived.

Initial take on Domino's: A step up, but not as good as Papa John's.

Just got a text from reader John: "I want to die." I hope he's talking about Camby's injury. Note ot John: DON'T TEXT ME ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES.

1 minute: Mbenga in the game before Thabeet. Trivia question: Who draft selection what Mbenga?

9 minutes: Conley missed layup count: 2.

8 minutes: Kobe blocked. Mayo with a fast break dunk. The Laker bigs look terrible. This pizza is getting better.

5 minutes: Rudy Gay blocks Gasol underneath, and Fisher gets a 3. Definitely worth it.

3 minutes: Pete's back into it. I think he just said "Bango" after a Mayo 3.

2 minutes: Was just about to compliment Conley for the steals, then he threw it to Kobe. Memphis up 7.

1 minute: Pete informs us the Z-bo has just passed Pau for most offensive rebounds in 1 season.

Grizzlies up at the end of the third. At this point, John's text must be related to something else. There's no way the Grizzlies blow this.


Haddadi picks up the 5th foul on Bynum. Trivia question: What draft selection was Haddadi?

7 minutes: Grizzlies up 9. Almost too nervous to live DVR blog. I was never this nervous when they sucked.

Pau Gasol missed a free throw with less than 5 in the fourth. Is this 2005?

3 minutes: McHale, Webber, and EJ ripping on Artest. 1-9, and a badly missed 3 pointer. Also, Lakers have missed 5 free throws, including 4 straight.

2 minutes: Bryant 3, and Gay drives to the hole, with Bynum fouling out. Gay: 1-2 at the line.

1:40: Technical on Lionel Hollins: "I want to die."

1 minute: Conley missed layup count: 3. (It was more like a 8 footer.) "I WANT TO DIE."

OJ MAYO missed free throws. "I WANT TO DIE."

Laker ball 8.8 left. Down 2. "I WANT TO DIE."

Kobe for 3. Wide open. Mayo still thinking about his missed free throws. The crowd erupts. "I WANT TO DIE."

Mayo misses. "I want to die."
Saddest part of the Grizzlies' season is their 1st playoff win won't come against Pau. They match up as well against the Lakers as any other playoff team: bad point guard, bad 3 forward offensively, bad bench, bigs who play down low, but aren't terribly physical. Would have been a good series.
For those of you looking for audio of the post game presser, where Hollins yells at Jarvis Greer, listen here:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I like the Brewer Trade, but I'm still Disappointed.

The Grizzlies lose in double-overtime at home to the Miami Heat with Dwayne Wade in street clothes, and Ronnie Brewer goes down with a Hamstring injury in his first game as a Grizzly. What a great way to start the weekend.

I wanted to critique the Brewer trade after seeing him play (aka I had plans on Thursday night). Now, I don't even know when Brewer will play again. Brewer is a restricted free agent this summer, so it's conceivable that his career as a Grizzly will be 5 minutes long.

This is what Ronnie Brewer looks like in street clothes sitting on a bench.

Despite the injury, the trade was, for once, about improving the team rather than solely about the bottom line (though it was still conservative from a cost perspective). The Grizzlies took advantage of a team looking to cut costs, and gave up very little in the process. It's like opposite day in Memphis.

My only wish is that the Grizzlies had done more. The Grizzlies are rumored to have tried to acquire longtime David Loves the Grizzlies man-crush Monta Ellis, further evidence that Chris Wallace has turned to fan blogs since firing his scouts. Though I still favor trading Gay over Mayo, Ellis is exactly the caliber of player the Grizzlies. Almost as important, he plays for a terrible team that should be looking to cut costs.

I can't fathom why the Grizzlies would trade their best long range shooter for a guard that penetrates and creates shots for outside shooters. This is another example of poor player evaluation on the part of the Grizzlies. (One other example might be the #2 pick in the 2009 draft, but hey, you can't teach height.)

Speaking of which, I have two final thoughts:

#1 When will Lionel Hollins learn the make strategic substitutions in a late game situations? What makes him think that Zach Randolph should guard Michael Beasley when:
  1. Zach Randolph is a poor defender.
  2. Zach Randolph is a poor perimeter defender.
  3. Zach Randolph was getting torched by Michael Beasley.
  4. Zach Randolph had 5 fouls.
  5. Other teams have taken advantage of Zach Randolph in late game situations. (eg Charlotte)
  6. The Grizzlies could have called a timeout to get Zach Randolph back in the game on offense.
#2 Mike Conley is done. I don't understand why the team won't admit this. Why would you want the worst player on the floor handling the ball and initiating the offense? Why would you want a guard whose supposed strength is quickness handling the ball when he can't finish at the rim or penetrate and dish?

I like the Brewer trade, but I'm still disappointed. The Grizzlies didn't move Conley. They're shopping the wrong wing player, and they didn't make a big move like some many other teams did. I want to be excited about the Brewer trade, but I don't feel like it's enough.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I Am Embarrassed To Have Bought This Hat

Dear Michael Heisley and the Memphis Grizzlies,

I bought this hat from Amazon in celebration of your great success this season, and now, with your recent struggles, I am embarrassed. Please rectify the situation. For example, One idea is to make a trade before 3 PM EST Thursday that at least appears, partially, to make basketball sense, sort of.

Another idea would be to acquire a point guard that makes layups.

Please don't tell me you are saving money to pay Rudy Gay this summer. We are not going to get better with the same players minus Steven Hunter next year. And we are not going to be better next year when you tell us you can't afford more players because you are paying Rudy Gay $15 million per year.


PS Dorell Wright does not count.

PPS I heart Hasheem Thabeet.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A New CBA That Could Help The Grizzlies

One of the last places where unions and employers still negotiate the terms of employment is professional sports. (It turns out that most employees in America can be replaced more easily than LeBron James for example.) During All Star Weekend those negotiations heated up as the players and owners sat down to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement.

The previous agreement led to $40 million contracts for the likes of Marko Jaric. As you can imagine, when you're busy paying Marko Jaric $40 million, you don't have time to worry about details like whether your costs exceed your revenue. However, owners have decided this isn't such a good idea, and they want to make more teams profitable. Believe it or not, the players, on the other hand, don't want to give up their diamond studded swimming pools just so a few billionaires can make a buck.

Of course, not all franchises are unprofitable. For a number of reasons (poor management, small markets, bad luck), some franchises are more likely to lose money. Large TV markets, savvy basketball people, and/or luck can make a franchise profitable even with enormous expenses. (Or their billionaire owners are willing to subsidize losses in which case, who needs a budget?)

Here are three possible outcomes of the CBA that could help (or not help) more franchises become profitable:

1. Remove the salary cap and let franchises pay whatever they want to players. (For example, baseball) NBA owners have shown they aren't capable of restraining themselves when it comes to giving players excessive contracts so I'm not sure how balance sheets would improve if the current restraints were removed. I imagine Isiah Thomas would have signed Eddie Curry to a $500 million dollar contract if there was no salary cap.

Still, let's imagine the owners are able to spend only what they can afford. That wouldn't be good for the players. On average, they may get a share of revenue equal to what their getting now, but the premium contracts (in theory) would be reserved for a few roster spots in the biggest markets. Welcome to the New York Yankees.

2. Lower the percentage of profits paid to players so that even franchises with small revenue can turn a profit. Basically, force all owners to pay what the least profitable owners can afford to pay in player salaries. This is what the owners are reportedly proposing.

The result would be that more teams would turn a small profit, and a few teams would turn an even bigger profit than they do today. On the other hand, the overall amount of money going to the players would be smaller.

3. What's best for the players and for Memphis is a third scenario: Take profits from the most profitable franchises and distribute them among all the franchises. If some of the Lakers' profits were distributed across the league, then fewer teams would be unprofitable, and players could still get a large percentage of revenue. (Though some reports say that the total amount of player salaries must come down slightly for the league to be profitable as a whole.)

"Ultimately, it seems, the union wants to discuss some form of revenue sharing in which small-market teams would be propped up by larger-market teams which have higher television revenue and gate receipts. That would replicate the NFL's model, which has been largely successful because of enormous television revenue."
I can imagine a number of reasons why owners wouldn't want this to happen. Of course, the large markets don't want to give away their money. Philosophically, the idea of subsidizing someone else's business, maybe even someone else's poorly managed business, is probably disgusting for most of the owners. After all, we know that no one subsidized their billion dollar pocketbooks. Every penny was earned by old fashioned blood, sweat, and tears. I promise. Look it up.

I can also imagine opposition from owners who, like poor Americans who vote for Republicans because they lower taxes, want to preserve the possibility of winning the LeBron lottery. If you all of a sudden find yourself with someone who prints season tickets, like LeBron James, you don't want to pay 70% of your ticket sales to Indiana.

Of course, Grizzlies fans should realize that the chances of winning a LeBron-type prize are slim, and even when you come close, you're likely to trade away the consolation prize for Otis Thorpe. Or draft Hasheem Thabeet. Therefore, I respectfully request that Michael Heisley take a break from squandering away opportunities to improve the team via trade, and convince his fellow owners to increase the amount of revenue that's shared between franchises.

It would be good for the players, good for the league, and good for Memphis.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Griz Need Help

Regardless of the outcome of this season, the Grizzlies have developed a style of play with which they can win basketball games. That style is characterized by rebounding, toughness, and inside scoring.

The benefit of having established a style of play is that if you're savvy and you have resources, you can start acquiring players that fit that style. Houston has found success using MBAs to determine who fits their style based on analysis of player stats. Charlotte has found similar success by sheer luck.

The Griz of course have neither the resources to hire MBAs nor luck. This is the team that only has one 'stats geek', they hired him this year, and he's part time. Not to mention they fired all their scouts. Luckily, the Grizzlies have fan bloggers like me to make armchair recommendations:

Who am I to question the judgement of the folks who drafted Hasheem Thabeet when he was a consensus bust BEFORE they drafted him?

1. Don't prioritize re-signing Rudy Gay over all else.

Rudy is by far the most athletic Grizzly, but of the 4 good players, he's the worst fit. The Grizzlies are an inside outside team built on rebounding, scrappy defense, without the benefit of a play-making guard.

Rudy Gay's weakness are scrappy defense, rebound, and ball-handling. The Grizzlies need a spot up shooter at the 3 position who can stay in front of his man. Gasol and Randolph aren't good enough shot blockers / help defenders to compensate for Rudy's defense (though Gasol has shown flashes).

Can the Grizzlies be successful with Rudy Gay? They've demonstrated they can.

Is he their most tradeable asset? Yes, he's the one Grizzly who would likely benefit from a different system. He's the most conventionally talented player on the team, and he's likely to be overpaid this summer.

The elephant in the room for the Grizzlies is that they won't be able to keep all four of the starters due to salary constraints in the long run, and moving Rudy now makes more sense than moving anyone else.

Yes, I said all four starters on purpose.

Rudy Gay, The Knicks' 2011 All Star

2. Take advantage of all the teams that are selling.

It's absolutely ridiculous that the Grizzlies won't accept a contract that goes beyond 2010. They aren't going to acquire a big name free agent. Even the second and third tier free agents will be off the market when New York and New Jersey realize they have nothing left to do but throw max contracts at mediocre players.

The one strategy that can work for the Grizzlies is acquiring players that teams, who are cutting salary, will trade for less than equal value. Remember Zach Randolph? Do that again. Package Mike Conley, Steven Hunter, and even Hasheem Thabeet for a good player on a bad team with long contract.

Did you know that Mike Conley and Steven Hunter for Jose Calderon works? If the Raptors made that deal, they wouldn't be stuck with Jose Calderon when Chris Bosh abandons them. Of course, they won't take that deal because they don't want Chris Bosh to know that they know he's booking it. Does that make sense? I'm not sure.

Did you know that Monta Ellis for Conley, Hunter, and Marcus Williams works? Even though John Hollinger recently called Ellis the most overrated player in the league, I don't care. I'll trade the most accurately rated crap player for the most overrated good player any day.

Now, I'm going to conclude this blog post before I recommend trading for Gilbert Arenas again.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

All Time Top Grizzlies All Stars

I'm not a huge fan of the All Star Game. I just don't care that much, and I'd rather see spectacular plays when it matters. That said, I'd definitely watch Saturday night's competitions if if only 7+ footers were eligible. What, you wouldn't prefer to watch Thabeet vs Mbenda in the Skills Competition?

Anyway, I thought I'd pay homage to Zach Randolph's trip to the All Star Game by listing all the Grizzlies' All Star selections in sequential order.

Player Year
Win %
Pau Gasol 2006
39.2 .503 .689 8.9 4.6 20.4
Zach Randolph