Breaking: Michael Beasley in the Bluff City

It’s been a while, Grizz Nation. With this first post of the 2014-2015 season, I bring some breaking news.

Michael Beasley will join the Memphis Grizzlies at training camp on a non-guaranteed contract.

Michael Beasley

There’s been a good bit of speculation around Michael Beasley as he’s made his way around the Western Conference this offseason. The free agent has openly worked out with the Spurs, Lakers and while less publicized, also the Grizzlies.

An anonymous, very close source filled in some of the missing pieces to the story. In classic Memphis fashion, Beasley met with Chris Wallace at Gus’s Fried Chicken today. But, it wasn’t his first time in the Bluff City. In fact, it’s the second time he’s worked out with the Grizzlies in the last 30 days. Beasley landed in Memphis again one week ago, but somehow, it remained underwraps.

Beasley chose Memphis because he will have a good opportunity to join the Grizzlies roster as a backup power forward.

I’ll know more details as the story develops, and you’ll be the first to know.

Grizzlies waive “Grindson” Jamaal Franklin

Well, that didn’t last long.

Jamaal Franklin, the 41st overall pick in the 2013 draft, was waived on Sunday.

Some fans had conjured images of Kawhi Leonard, but it turns out playing for San Diego State is all they have in common. Dubbed the Grindson, Franklin was lauded for his length and defensive prowess. Fans saw him, and they saw Tony Allen, and assumed, “what the hell”? He’ll be the next TA.

I don’t mean to be too harsh on the guy, he never really got a chance with meaningful minutes. But most of the time, you earn those meaningful minutes. And even in garbage time, he was, well, garbage. Again, I don’t mean to be too hard on him.

I watched a few games of the Orlando Summer League in which the team participated. Franklin rebounded and defended adequately. But his offensive game was a nervous wreck. His shots were uncomfortable, forced, and awkward. Rookies Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes impressed, while Franklin’s inter monologue went something along the lines of, “I’ve got the ball, don’t screw up. Oh shit the shot clock is about to run out. Please, God, get in the basket…not again…”. But, I don’t want to be too harsh.

So cheer up Jamaal, like 95% of Grizzlies that leave go on to do pretty good things. James Posey won a ring in Boston. And Pau in LA. So did Jason Williams in Miami. Even Tony Wroten put up a triple double for Philadelphia last year. Granted, those players could run and pass and shoot without defecating in their pants (Wroten had his share of suspect moments). But, I don’t want to disrespect the man.

In fact, the reason Franklin was waived has to do with Nick Calathes. Or his hairline. On the eve of the playoffs last season, it was announced that Calathes would be suspended for violating the league’s steroid policy. He had come into his own as a backup point guard, and with deceptive size at 6’6″, was succeeding on defense and at attacking the rim. His untimely exit left the Grizz shorthanded as Beno Udrih was thrust into the action. Eventually, Mike Conley’s leg gave out, and game 7 was too tall a task without ZBo, a healthy Conley, or Calathes’ receding hairline. What’s that about his hair?

David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel says:

“he’s going bald and doesn’t like it. So he took Rogaine or minoxidil or some sort of baldness treatment. It contained tamoxifen, a prescription drug normally used to treat breast cancer. It is one of approximately 140 items on the NBA’s banned list.

For privacy reasons, nobody has publicly said Calathes’ “medical issue” is baldness. But all you have to do is listen to the whispers and take a look at him.

“He’s going bald at 24,” one person said. “Nobody wants to do that.”

Nobody wants the world to know they’re slathering on Rogaine, either.”

 

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Now, the Grizzlies must fill their roster with a third point guard until Calathes returns, hence Franklin was waived. Beno Udrih resigned with the team earlier this summer, and the wings are crowded with Tony Allen, Courtney Lee, Tayshaun Prince, and now Vince Carter all available. Plus, Quincy Pondexter is returning.

The season needs to get here, because I feel like i’m getting a little critical.

 

-Travis Nauert

Grizzlies fill out coaching staff, front office

It’s early August, the MLB is going, happening, occurring…I guess. Or as Hank Stram would say, matriculating down field, or the calendar. The NFL preseason has begun and College Football starts at the end of the month. Yet, the Grizzlies keep surfacing in sports news.

Through a series of additions and promotions, the front office and coaching staff are set moving forward. A press conference last week announced the following:

Coaching/Development


Jeff Bzdelik is now an assistant coach. He has 17 years of NBA coaching experience, including seven seasons under Pat Riley in both New York and Miami.

Trevor Moawad has been brought on as mental endurance coach. In a Chip Kelly like move, Robert Pera is tapping into a relatively untouched area of the game…Dieting aside, because let’s be honest, Tony Allen needs his Waffle House.

TA WH

You mean you don’t get your best thinking done around 5 in the morning at the nearest Waffle House? The shower? What?

Pera pointed specifically towards Moawad’s ability to help players through shooting slumps and during tough travel schedules. Moawad was most recently with the Florida State and Alabama football programs, winners of the last three national titles.

John Townsend has been named director of player development. He was previously with the Raptors and Trail Blazers as shooting coach, and will focus on shooting with the Grizzlies as well.

Front Office


Chris Wallace’s interim tag has been removed as he re-assumes his role as General Manager. Wallace is clearly a fan favorite, both in media relations and organization operations. He is responsible for bringing Tony Allen to Memphis among other things…like assembling the team as we know it. This was a big step towards fans placing more trust with the owner. Had Pera screwed that one up, there would have been a shit storm of complaints.

Ed Stefanski has become the Executive Vice President of Player Personnel. What the hell does that mean? Anything from scouting players at the college, d-league, and international levels, to scouting other teams and players for potential trades. Stefanski played under Dream Team coach Chuck Daly in college and has worked with the Nets and 76ers. He will be based out of Philadelphia, giving the front office a deployable on the east coast. While this may sound odd, it can be advantageous for reaching certain college games (specifically ACC competition). 

Realistic words from Robert Pera:


“You look at a place like Memphis, we’re not going to be able to build a championship team by going into free agency and getting super stars…we’re going to have to find pieces, we’re going have to become the best team or one of the best teams in the NBA at player development and developing the pieces.”

jackie-moon

It seems long ago that rumors of Mike Miller assuming the Jackie Moon role of player / coach floated around. Or Dave Joerger acting as a meat puppet with a headset and taking orders from the man upstairs. Robert Pera has slowly but surely gained confidence from the fan base, both through personnel and staff moves, and becoming more transparent. His most recent press conference was one of very few public appearances made in Memphis. You must admit, the Twitter Q&A session was absurd, but pretty cool. Granted, it allowed him to pick and choose which questions to answer, and in at most 140 characters, but it’s still a step in the right direction. 

-Travis Nauert

Vince Carter joins Grizzlies, sparks childhood memories

The early stages of a sports franchise are bound to be brutal. Either a league is expanding, birthing a new team into competition, or an existing franchise is unable to draw requisite support in its current market and must relocate.

Obviously, the latter of these two was the case when the Grizzlies came to Memphis. What kept fans coming back during these maturing years, other than the hope for improvement, was a chance to see superstars.

During the inaugural ’01-’02 season, thousands of Memphians paid good money to come see their new team. And other players too. Kobe and Shaq were marching towards what would eventually become a three peat. Jordan was back…with the Wizards. But a new star had been born. Someone who brought the dunk contest back into style. Someone who attacked the rim with such malice that it was worth the price of admission, even if it only happened once.

So there I found myself, a Grizzlies fan, wearing a purple Vince Carter jersey inside the Pyramid. Going for the Grizzlies, but going for Vince Carter. I was probably getting jeered left and right, but I was 9, I didn’t care.

It was getting late, and the Grizzlies were winning, which was good. But I had not seen what I came see. Vince Carter dunking the bejesus out of the ball. Not good. Then it happened, a breakaway one on none. He elevated like he rarely does nowadays, and the crowd held its collective breath. Then, as if he new what the people wanted, Carter deprived a new NBA fan base of a signature “I was there” moment.  He simply placed the ball above the rim with two hands and delicately dropped it through the basket.

What the hell was that? Boos rained down. The city’s team had the game in hand, but they too wanted the rim’s durability to be tested.

Now, some thirteen odd years later, Carter will don Beale Street Blue as a Grizzly himself. Although he is no longer the league’s top dunker, it is a dream come true for me. It’s rare that your favorite player of all time ends up playing for your favorite team. Especially as Carter was established before the Grizzlies called Memphis home.

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Not only is it special that he will be playing for the Grizz, he will be a key factor in determining how the team performs this year. Mike Miller’s exit left a need for a veteran leader who can score, especially from three. Carter, the league’s 7th leading three point shooter of all time, will fill that void nicely. Furthermore, he can attack off the dribble and play more than capable defense. At times last year, Miller had to be hidden against a weaker offensive opponent, creating a mismatch for another player. Additionally, Coach Joerger praised Carter as “a top 5 pick and roll player in the NBA”.

I’ll leave you with some of the glorious images that made Vince Carter into Vinsanity, Half-Man Half-Amazing, and Air Canada:

Every kind of dunk imaginable from his days in high school, to college, in Toronto, New Jersey, for Team USA and even charity events and All Star Games. Windmills, Alley-Oops, Alley-Oop windmills, out of bounds alley-oops, 1 handed 360’s, 2 handed 360’s, tomahawks, baseline drives, fast breaks, drive-by’s, facials, posterizations, 1 handed put backs, 2 handed put backs, off the back board to himself, reverses, and 1’s. Seriously, every kind.

vince-carter-dunks

Between the legs off the bounce

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Honey dip

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360 windmill

 

le dunk de la mort

le dunk de la mort

 

-Travis Nauert

OKC Eliminate Grizz

Game 7

In the end, the league’s MVP rose to the occasion. Faced twice with a game deficit, once at 2-1 and again at 3-2, Kevin Durant willed his team into the Western Conference semifinals.

For the Grizzlies, a season filled with nausea and injury, ecstasy and myocardial infarction has ended. No shame, no regrets. A first round series worthy of the Western Conference Finals concluded after seven games, 4 overtimes, 3 4-point plays, a nationally broadcast Tony Allen defensive clinic, a Nick Calathes suspension, a subsequent Beno Udrih emergence, a Joey Crawford spaz-attack, the least efficient triple double in history courtesy of Russell Westbrook, a wooden hat worn by Mike Conley, a Zach Randolph punch, a subsequent Zach Randolph suspension (not without controversy), and an untimely Mike Conley hamstring injury. Surely I missed something.

photo by Nikki Boertman

photo by Nikki Boertman

Many (outside Memphis) predicted the Thunder in 6 or 7, and the latter was the result. For Grizzlies players and fans, countless what ifs come to mind, specifically regarding games 4 and 6. But as the great philosopher Tony Allen said “if ifs were fifths, we’d all be drunk”.

Today, Kevin Durant was dubbed Most Valuable Player, and in games 6 and 7 he showed why. In games 1-5, however, he was effectively shut down regardless of point totals. He was relegated to a corner decoy, as Westbrook and Reggie Jackson did their best to shoulder the load of creation and instigation.

It’s over, in the past, and time to move on.

Looking to 2014-15

With a full season including an epic playoff series under his belt, Dave Joerger will look to build on a positive first campaign at the helm. When chosen to replace Lionel Hollins, mixed feelings were abound. In truth, much of the protest was not directed towards him, his philosophy, lack of professional head coaching experience, or willingness to embrace analytics. Rather, it was the failure to renew Hollins’ contract after a decade of service to the franchise (dating back to Vancouver), a resume of improving success, and an attitude of I don’t give a damn where you’re from, what you’ve done before, what you’re up against now, finish the job. His mantra goes, “Everyday life throws a knife at you, how do you respond?”

It’s safe to say that mentality was engrained in the heads of Allen, Conley, Gasol, and Randolph, and now lives on through the new regime. Faced with countless obstacles this year, no excuses were made. Even in the face of overwhelming adversity (suspension, injury), the team jumped out to lead the Thunder in game 7. There was simply no gas left in the tank, and not enough fire power in the arsenal.

The outlook is positive for the Grizz, but major questions loom.

Contracts and Personnel

Clearly the biggest question is what will become of Zach Randolph. A player option is on the table for $16.5 million in the upcoming season. He could also opt out of the current contract for a multi-year deal in Memphis or elsewhere. Should he opt out and renegotiate with Memphis at a lower rate, there will be a lot more flexibility to sign a wing scorer which the team desperately lacks as the offense is still prone to snoozing.

Names have been thrown around like Thaddeus Young, Gordon Hayward, Trevor Ariza and others. Ariza and Hayward could demand higher level money, which would eliminate the Grizz as they need to remain below the luxury tax. A player like Hayward, however, fits the mentality of the team, has played well in a small market, and could accept less for a chance at title contention. Thaddeus Young is an interesting option. A New Orleans born turned Memphian (he played high school ball at Mitchell), Young is long and atheltic. He can attack the basket and play above the rim. He would also add to our stable of lefties. Ariza would be best in terms of outside shooting, but has played so well for the Wiz in the playoffs that he may no longer be in reach.

For one of these pieces to be added, of course, someone will have to go. Tayshaun Prince is a likely candidate, if a package/trade partner can be found. Quincy Pondexter could be on the chopping block as well. Despite his heart filled Conference Finals performance two years ago, a season ending injury in addition to a series of exchanges with Dave Joerger during an early season game against Brooklyn could see him voted off the island. James Johnson brought good energy, but was only on a season long contract, and received little to no playing time down the stretch due to his Tony Allen trick or treatish nature.

Beyond wing players, momentum is mounting for the return of Pau Gasol. The chance at redemption (not unlike Battier and Mike Miller) plus an opportunity to play with his brother in a familiar setting is well documented as a logical and attractive outcome for Gasol the elder.

There will be much more written in the coming days, and weeks, especially building towards the lottery and draft. The front office will have new avenues open, and others close depending on how the ping pong balls fall and the conclusion of the playoffs.

Until, then stay cool. It’s heating up outside.

-Travis Nauert

3rd Quarter, Game 6: When the Wheels Came off and Caron Butler’s Life Nearly Ended

Well, that was painful.

Admittedly, I was spared Kevin Durant’s 14 point first quarter barrage. I was taking a final exam which started at 7PM (yes, that’s a thing), and perhaps it was an omen that gauging my eyes out Oedipus Rex style (maternal incest aside) would have been less excruciating than watching the 30 minutes that I did. After awkwardly speed walking back to my apartment, I proceeded to curse Ed Malloy, Ken Mauer, and Rodney Mott as they abused the Grizzlies with their whistles.

3rd Quarter

9:45- 2 minutes and 15 seconds pass and I’ve thrown around enough expletives to warrant a visit to the nearest parish. 4 quick fouls on the Grizzlies and none on the Thunder, Dave Joerger earns a technical.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

8:26- A fifth team foul for Memphis sentences them to the penalty. Free throws for the Thunder the rest of the quarter, because you know the calls are coming. Westbrook makes both.

6:13- Tayshaun Prince commits the sixth team foul. Durant sinks the first. James Johnson checks in, much to Joerger’s chagrin. Durant sinks the second. A 15 point deficit has increased to 20.

5:50- Gasol is pick pocketed by Westbrook

5:47- Johnson fouls Durant on the shot. He makes both free throws.

5:20- Perkins is whistled for a moving screen. First Thunder foul of the quarter. Perk gives his best mean mug, but really just frowns regretting his pre-game meal.

S**t Gets Real

5:03- Tony Allen attacks the ball, possessed by the plump Caron Butler. Butler fears for the plastic straw on which he religiously chews. He’s rationing it throughout the game as a gluten free snack. His head snaps back, drawing a foul. He almost chokes, and the strategy nearly backfires. A confrontation ensues involving Butler, Tony Allen, and James Johnson.

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(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Side Note): James Johnson, a second degree black belt, is the son of two black belts, and the brother of 7 siblings (all black belts). He was 18 when he won his first MMA fight in 97 seconds, is 7-0 all time, and 20-0 in kickboxing fights. Don’t screw with James Johnson. Did I mention Tony Allen is also present. ZBo can’t be far either.

Photo by Nikki Boertman

Photo by Nikki Boertman

For more on dojo master James Johnson: (http://grantland.com/the-triangle/they-call-him-bloodsport-james-johnson-kicks-his-way-into-the-nba/)

A double technical is assessed to Butler and Johnson. Nervously chomping down on his pacifier, I mean straw, Butler misses the first of two free throws. He cleans his britches and makes the second.

1:17- Tempers cool, kind of, as almost 4 minutes pass before another foul is issued. #2 on the Thunder, god forbid. Johnson draws the infraction on New Zealand ogre Steven Adams. “Bloodsport” makes both shots.

0:43- Kevin Durant draws a foul, splits the pair from the line.

0:02- Westbrook is feeling left out, and that simply won’t fly on his watch. He draws a foul on Big Spain to close out the quarter, making both free throws.

0:00- End of 3rd Quarter. Thunder lead 82-61.

Fouls in 3rd Quarter

Grizzlies: 10

Thunder: 2

Granted, the final count was 19-19, but the damage was done.

Overall, very disheartening. Despite the lackluster, nonchalant performance with the usual abundance of missed free throws, the Grizzlies still had opportunities to make a game out of it. After the Johnson-Butler showdown, the energy shifted back in Memphis’ favor, but the Grizz never made up enough ground to threaten the Thunder.

Adding insult to injury, or perhaps the other way around, Mike Conley left in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. He tried to return, but was extremely hobbled. In the post game interview, he admitted to feeling pain but remarked “I plan on playing…There’s no chance I miss it.”

The Grizzlies are 0-2 all time in game 7s. In 2011, Memphis lost to OKC in the conference semifinals. A year later, they lost at home to the Clippers in the first round, unable to escape the damage of blowing a 27 point lead in game 1.

Hey, there’s no time like the present right?

Game 7

Saturday, May 3rd

7:00 PM Central

Chesapeake Energy Arena, OKC.

 

-Travis Nauert

Game 5: Overtime, Again

In Historic 4th Straight OT Game, Grizz Prevail

Serge Ibaka’s put back off a Kevin Durant miss came a fraction of a second too late. Literally. A tenth of a second separated a 1 point, 100-99 Grizz overtime win, from a 1 point, 101-100 Thunder overtime win. Were you expecting anything less?

photo by Nikki Boertman

photo by Nikki Boertman

For the fourth consecutive game, the Grizzlies and Thunder played 48 minutes. And then they played 5 more. Because why the hell not? Never before has that happened in a playoff series. But never before has there been a series like Memphis-OKC. I understand that’s circular reasoning, but it’s true. Perhaps these teams will have beat one another to such a pulp that neither can move on to the conference finals, but regardless, this is something special, and we are witnesses…Lebron isn’t using that anymore is he?

It’s Miller Time

While Tony Allen continues to drop TA bombs on Kevin Durant, and thus the Thunder’s offense, the Grizzlies have suffered their own shooting woes. Mike Miller said no más. When Memphis won the Miller sweepstakes last summer, over OKC nonetheless, this is what they had in mind. Playing in all 82 regular season games was just an added bonus. Going 5-8 from downtown, and tying a season high 21 points, Miller led the way for Memphis as the team’s high scorer. A 27 foot bomb late in the second quarter was particularly memorable. Just a hunch, but I bet he likes deep dish pizza.

Below are Miller’s shoes from last night. On the swoosh he wrote “BORN 4 THIS”. Just above that reads, “I CAN’T, WE CAN”.

photo by Nikki Boertman

photo by Nikki Boertman

Joey Crawford Goes Rogue

The highlight package featured by most t.v. stations and websites focuses on an awkward moment, as Thunder coach Scott Brooks put it, when Kevin Durant was shooting two free throws near the end of overtime. With 27.5 seconds remaining, and the scoreboard reading 100-99, what would eventually be the final score, Joey Crawford went Joey Crawford. After making the first, Durant received the ball for his second attempt when suddenly, the [insert scathing adjective of choice] referee blew his whistle and demanded the ball back. He proceeded to approach the scorer’s table and verbally assaulted some poor soul for repeatedly failing to correct an error on one of the video boards in Chesapeake Energy Arena. The issue regarded team fouls…supposedly, but who knows. The 89% free throw shooter assumed to be MVP missed the attempt, when it finally came, and you know the rest. It was an awkward moment indeed, but it worked out for the Grizz. @corkgaines had a little fun, creating this gif.

@corkgaines had a little fun with it, creating this gif

@corkgaines

Westbrook Delusional 

In the post game interview, Westbrook and Durant came out looking like clowns, as usual. Most of the questions were directed at KD, but when Westbrook got a window, he delivered. He boasted that if given a 15 foot (jumper), he’d make it 9 times out of 10. 90% was his self-assessed shooting percentage. In reality, in this series, he has shot a blistering 6-of-23 from 8-16ft. That’s 26%. 90% is not 26%. 26% is not 90%. Unless you’re Russell Westbrook. Furthermore, he is 0-14 in all 4 overtime periods combined, with 1 point from the foul line. Westbrook is a top 10 athlete in the league, even after multiple knee surgeries. He’s clearly not a top 10 mind, though.

We love you Russ. But actually we despise you. But keep shooting.

 

Round 1: Stupid Good

In what is being dubbed the most exciting first round in recent memory, and probably ever, Memphis-OKC epitomizes the equality which has defined round 1.

Miami’s sweep. Not surprising. But then there’s everyone else. 8 seed Atlanta leads 1 seed Indiana 3-1. Brooklyn and Toronto are tied 2-2. Washington has just dispatched Chicago 4-1. Bulls fans, you’re not the only ones missing Derrick Rose. We hope he’s back soon, and better than ever. Then there’s the West.

Grizz-Thunder and Rockets-Trailblazers has contained enough overtime to comprise 48 minutes of a regulation game, or at least enough heartbreak. The Grizzlies lead 3-2 and can close out Thursday, while Portland can clinch tonight as they have a 3-1 advantage. Also tonight, Dallas and San Antonio will break their 2-2 deadlock. The Clippers now lead 3-2 over Golden State, just after Commissioner Silver’s lifetime ban reigned down upon Donald Sterling. This is why we love the NBA playoffs.

-Travis Nauert