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.

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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.”

 

tumblr_inline_mnts82lSQD1qz4rgp (1)

 

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

If someone told you…

If someone told you these things following Game 4, which you didn’t see because you live under a rock, what would you say?

  • The two teams combined for 181 points
  • Westbrook and Durant combined for 30 points on 11-45 shooting
  • That 11-45 included just 2-13 from 3
  • The Grizzlies won the turnover battle 13-21
  • The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder in the paint
  • TA, Marc, and Mike Conley all posted double-doubles

Surely, you would think, the Grizzlies won, now lead the series 3-1, and will look to close out the Thunder in OKC. But the basketball gods are of a cruel, rigid, and sleazy variety. They summoned the one, the uncontainable, Reggie Jackson to do their bidding.

It was just another bizarre twist in an already bizarro series. For the first time since 2009 when Boston defeated Chicago (4-3) en route to the NBA Finals, a playoff series saw three consecutive games reach overtime. The Boston series had 4 games go to extra time, including a double OT game 1, won by Chicago in Derrick Rose’s playoff debut, and a triple OT game 6, also won by the Bulls despite Ray Allen’s 51 points. In fact, the Bulls won 3 of the 4 overtime games, but were deemed not worthy by the aforementioned harlots that reign over this great sport. Oh, and that series was a 2 vs 7 matchup as well.

The feeling in my gut is all too similar to that of 2011, when Memphis stole an early game in OKC, came home to win game 3 in overtime, and then dropped a heartbreaking game 4, of course featuring more free basketball. It’s easy to forget how terrible things looked in the second and third quarters last night, and how little business the Grizzlies had being in the game at the end. But that’s why you play all 48 scheduled minutes. And then probably 5 extra minutes. Tony Allen summoned his demigod will power to snag rebounds and ensure that Kevin Durant would not touch the ball down the stretch. Unfortunately, there is only one Tony Allen, while there is also a Kevin Durant and a Reggie Jackson. Westbrook and his 7 turnovers are very fortunate and much appreciated.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Conley kept Memphis in the game, but OKC finally prevailed, ending a franchise record 15 game home win streak.

Jackson scored 32 points in 37 minutes off the bench, while most of the Grizzlies guards and reserves spent the night snoozing. Conley roused late with some key drives and steals, but is now just 2-20 from three in the series. 2-20. 10%. That has to improve if Memphis is going to win two of the next three games. So does free throw shooting, but that’s a perpetual goal of any basketball player in the Memphis city limits: grade school, high school, college, professional, church-league. They all need help. Dare I suggest granny style?

An opportunity was lost, but games 2 and 3 showed the mental toughness this team possesses. OKC knew going down 3-1 was essentially a death sentence, and they responded with the same poise that Memphis did after blowing a lead.

Here’s some fuzzy math. Memphian diets (a function of appetite, and fried chicken + barbeque available per square mile) + Grizzlies playoff basketball = decreasing future life expectancies. This is wearing me out. I’ll leave you with another ode to Hunter S. Thompson via Ralph Steadman. This is how I suggest you watch the remaining games. Jesus! It’s for your health man!

Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman

-Travis Nauert

Grizz Stumbling as Finish Line Nears

Grizz on Life Support

Sunday night stole even more air from the Grizzlies’ lungs as San Antonio swept the season series with Memphis.  This comes after a destructive road trip saw the Grizz lose 3 of 5, including a crushing loss in Golden State.  The magical 10th anniversary season that climaxed with a 4-2 first round win over those same Spurs seems like a distant memory.  Since ZBo entrenched himself in Memphis basketball lore, the Spurs have won 14 out of 16 games against the Grizz and 10 straight inside AT&T Center.  5 games remain for Memphis, with 3 of those coming against Miami, Phoenix and Dallas.  Dallas has all but closed the window on Memphis by holding the tiebreaker advantage, and the Mavericks look primed for a Red-River showdown (ready for college football anyone?) against #2 seed Oklahoma City. 

This leaves the Grizzlies and Suns duking it out for 8th, and Phoenix holding a 1 game advantage.  4 of Phoenix’s last 5 games are on the road, with the 1 home game coming against Memphis.  The Grizz have what appear to be 2 freebies against the 76ers and Lakers, but as last week’s games against the Timberwolves and Nuggets show (granted, both are better teams than Philadelphia and LA), nothing is free this time of year.  Teams eliminated from playoff contention find purpose and pleasure in playing the spoiler role. 

Many scenarios can play out, including one in which the Grizz lose that game in Phoenix, but win out otherwise and still find themselves in the playoffs via tiebreaker.  Phoenix is about to embark on a Southwest division foxtrot, facing New Orleans, San Antonio, and Dallas all on the road (San Antonio and Dallas is a back-to-back), followed by the game against Memphis Monday night in the desert.  Things have already gotten hairy for the Grizz, but now they could get furry, as in we will need a fur coat to hibernate through the offseason…Only it’s going to be hot as hell in Memphis during the offseason, so forget the fur coat. You know what I’m saying. 

“Tank” vs Playoff Push

Waking up in agony (exaggeration? sadly no) over this late season free fall, I’ve tuned into the Geoff Calkins and Chris Vernon shows to soak in my own sorrow.  Consequently, I was blindsided this morning when I heard the following idea thrown around: the Grizz should “tank” these last few games to draft (at worst) 14th versus 21st and likely get stonewalled 4-0 or 4-1 by the Spurs.  I heard the arguments in favor.  Why fight for your lives to play a mere 4 or 5 extra games when you could improve your draft position by 7 or so picks?  Sure, the probability of Memphis grabbing the #1, 2, or 3 picks amounts to less than 1%, but isn’t that about the same chance we have of beating the Spurs?  

Honestly, I find this talk disgusting, unproductive, and illogical.  Follow me on this one.  Say, for instance, the Grizz had taken care of business and earned a 4, 5, or 6 seed.  Say we go out and beat the Rockets or Trailblazers or Clippers in the first round.  Then, we go out and beat OKC in the second round, like we did last year.  Then what?  We still play Spurs!!!  It’s the same argument and mentality a team must bring into March Madness.  If you want to win, you have to beat everyone.  You are going to have to beat the best teams, no matter when you play them.  Enter the skeptic who says, “but what if team X (Golden State, LAC, whoever) knocks out the Spurs and the Grizzlies don’t have to play San Antonio?”  Then we still have to go out and win a series against a really damn good team.  It was already fortuitous enough that Russell Westbrook was sidelined with injury and the Grizz were able to beat OKC in the first place last season.  Good fortune always plays a part in navigating a minefield of a tournament like the NBA Playoffs.  

When I think of tanking, something like Philadelphia’s record tying 26 game losing streak comes to mind.  A spell of such abysmal play will actually benefit the 76ers in the end, as they have rigged the odds in their favor to win out out on the Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker/Julius Randle/Joel Embiid sweepstakes (pending draft declaration…but let’s be real).  Tanking the final 5 games in order to improve your draft pick from 21 to 14 (rough estimates of course) will achieve little to no results.  I can appreciate that these people are thinking about marginal benefits, I’m an econ. major after all, but at some point the margins are, well, too marginal.        

Concluding this rant, I will quote Herm Edwards: “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!”  In no way do I mean to insinuate the team is taking this approach.  The fact that some fans and writers are, however, is depressing and probably doesn’t even warrant the energy I’ve just spent writing this, but I digress.  I still find it completely plausible that the Grizzlies find a way in and will be playing basketball on April 19th when the playoffs begin.  As bad as the execution and chemistry has looked, Wednesday night provides the perfect stage for one last stand.  An ESPN televised game against the defending champion Heat looms, a contest that will be played inside FedEx Forum where Memphis has won 11 straight.  The crowd should be close to if not sold out, and the atmosphere will be raucous.  While the Grizz are fighting to make the playoffs, most can agree that Darwin’s theory of natural selection is already playing out, just not in the arena he envisioned.  

Godspeed Grizz Nation.

-Travis Nauert   

 

 

 

Memphis March Madness

March Madness is well underway in Memphis. The Grizzlies head west for a season long 5 game road trip beginning Wednesday with an ESPN televised game against the West worst Utah Jazz. The road trip seems untimely coming so late in the year and the Grizz having won a season high 10 straight games in FedEx Forum. However, the team wouldn’t be in such a good position now were it not for away game success throughout the season. With so many games missed from the likes of Marc Gasol and Tony Allen, combined with an early season home slump, the Grizz have found solace in hitting the road and escaping the pressure of escalating expectations.

The timing of this trip is of course due to the real “March Madness”, the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament which has reached the round of sixteen, also known as the Sweet Sixteen to you plebeians. Overall #1 seed Florida headlines the 4 programs that will descend upon FedEx Forum Thursday night when the tournament continues. UCLA, in addition to double digit seeds Dayton and Brevin Knight’s own Stanford Cardinal, will be present as well. Unfortunately, the hometown Tigers were dispatched by Virginia, who capitalized on the matchup problems many locals feared in facing the Cavaliers. This is the first time since 2009 that Memphis and FedEx Forum have hosted the Sweet Sixteen. Then, eventual champion North Carolina beat Blake Griffin and Oklahoma (so his losing ways in Memphis go deeper than Grizz-Clips) in the Elite 8.

John Branch

John Branch

…but back to the Association. The Grizzlies are continuing their late season push for higher playoff seeding as Dallas has dropped two of four in the midst of a seven game home stretch. The overtime losses to both Brooklyn and Minnesota put Dallas on the outside looking in with Phoenix in 8th and the Grizz in 7th. These standings will be out-dated by tomorrow, as things change on a nightly basis this late in the year.

Last weekend the Grizz flexed their muscles, showing just how capable they are even when facing less familiar East competition. Splitting a back to back at Miami and home against Indiana is nothing to fret over, although one can easily be frustrated that Memphis did not sweep the two. I watched almost all of the Miami game (except when my stream lost connection and the Tigers finish against George Washington became more interesting than necessary) and the Grizzlies, particularly ZBo, controlled the entire game until the fourth quarter began to wind down. The officials got whistle happy and in the Heat’s favor. Zach was mugged multiple times down low, and when he put a finger near Lebron (literally), it was as if “The King” had been hit by a baseball bat. JA Adande had a front row seat to the best “act” in town:

 

Despite the loss, a great moment was shared among Grizz and Heat fans pre-game when Mike Miller was presented with his championship ring from last year’s Finals.

ZBo got wide eyed upon seeing Mike’s newest piece of jewelry, and you know he fancies one for himself:

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While things went south (beach) in Miami, the Grizz responded with a resounding victory against the Pacers. In the consensus “most complete game of the year”, the Pacers were overwhelmed and visibly frustrated against the league’s best 4/5 combo of ZBo and Big Spain. Jon Roser, producer of The Chris Vernon Show, provided the stat of the night, pointing to Roy Hibbert’s complete lack of presence on the boards:

After taking the East’s best 1-2 shot, the Grizz feasted on a Minnesota Timberwolves team that has seen its playoff chances all but mathematically eliminated. At one point leading by 22, Minnesota coughed up a game against Phoenix that will likely prove to be their death blow.

The Grizz should be able to handle Utah tomorrow, not to look ahead, although that’s exactly what I’m going to do by eyeing Friday night’s matchup against Golden State. The Warriors will have had 6 full days of rest, last playing against San Antonio Saturday in a loss. Splash Bros Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will be locked in to keep their distance from the Grizz as the Warriors become the next team to pass in the West. It is still way too early to think about who the Grizz would “rather play” in a potential first round series, as a mere half game separates Memphis from Phoenix and Dallas. Not until a spot is clinched does creating a favorable matchup even come in to play, and in all honesty, its very possible a spot won’t be clinched until the last game of the season. As you likely know, Memphis’ final two games of the year are in Phoenix, and back home against Dallas. It’s funny how that works out when you screw around and drop games to Cleveland, Charlotte, and other inferior East teams, while also going 3-11 in the division up to this point. Moreover, a final game against the Spurs in San Antonio (NBAtv) looms, as well as a second matchup against the defending champion Heat in Memphis (ESPN).

Every NBA team hopes to play well into April and the best expect to reach May. For those hopes to become a reality, the Grizz must persevere as their home court is taken over by the collegiate ranks. March is almost over, but the madness is just beginning.

 

-Travis Nauert

 

Zach Lowe’s Q&A with Mike Conley and the “Marc Gasol All-Stars”

Zach Lowe, a staff writer for Bill Simmons’ Grantland, caught up with Mike Conley while the Grizz were in Brooklyn last Wednesday. Lowe asked Conley a variety of questions, ranging in topic from Conley’s golf game, to fears of Tony Allen injuring fans (touched on later in this post), Marc Gasol getting caught singing “Call Me Maybe” pregame in Orlando, and the Grizzlies outlook for the home stretch. It’s a pretty entertaining read in light of Conley’s composed no non-sense attitude.

Q&A: Mike Conley on Being Tricky and the ‘Why Not Us?’ Grizzlies     < Click that

GRANTLAND

GRANTLAND

Additionally, if you missed it, Lowe composed a post All-Star break team centered around his favorite players to watch in the NBA. His name for the team, the Marc-Gasol All-Stars. His inaugural team from last season actually featured Marc Gasol as the starting Center (and co-captain along with Dirk Nowitzki). This year, Gasol is not on the team, which sounds stupid. How can Marc Gasol not be a member of the Marc Gasol All-Stars? Well, his MCL sprain not only cost him significant game time, but also a spot on his own team. Nonetheless, it’s badass that a well respected writer took the time to write a 4,000+ word article entitled “The Marc Gasol All-Stars”.

The Marc Gasol All-Stars   < Punch it

GRANTLAND

GRANTLAND

One more thing. The Marc Gasol All-Stars story has a link to the initial team that Lowe created last year, the “All-Fun All-Stars”. Tony Allen is featured on that team along with Marc. The following words come from Lowe’s 2012 article …possibly some of the best Grizz related quotes ever:

The All-Fun All-Stars….super lame name compared to the Marc Gasol All-Stars

FC Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies (Co-Captain)

“I’ve covered this enough in anointing Gasol my mid-season Defensive Player of the Year, and my no. 1 choice of teammate in an alternate world in which I could play in the NBA. I love his shoes, with “Marc” in giant white letters on the tongue. I love his subtle anticipation on defense. I love how he’ll hip-check the shit out of you if it will help Memphis — and if the refs aren’t looking. I love his stand-still set shot. I love the sudden back-to-the-basket baseline spin he unleashes when a defender leans too firmly against him. I should probably stop writing about Marc Gasol.”

G Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies

“Ginobili is really a token starter, since he needs to rest, anyway. Manu deserves the honor of a lineup intro, but Allen is really the most entertaining player in the league, the anchor of this team’s backcourt rotation.

Allen is especially impressive because he’s almost as entertaining on the bench as on the court. He celebrates every good Memphis deed while he sits, and when a teammate does something really spectacular, Allen is liable to step onto the court in celebration and/or toss his towel into the air with no idea where it might end up. He hit an old lady in the face with a towel once last season.

You know about the on-court stuff. He is so physical on defense you can almost feel it through the television, only he rarely finds himself off balance. An Allen fast break is a suspense movie on Blair Witch levels, with a dozen possible endings. He might air-ball an uncontested layup. Or you might fear such an outcome, conditioned by years of avert-your-eyes misses,1 only to have Allen surprise you with an artful drop pass to a trailing player. The best show in the NBA.”

So thanks, Zach Lowe, for recognizing what ESPN and others refuse to acknowledge. The Grizzlies are not only a high caliber team (analysts reluctantly mention the Western Conference Finals appearance and in a somewhat appalled tone like last May was a bad acid trip for them), but they are an entertaining, League Pass worthy team as well. As Lowe put it, “The best show in the NBA”.

Tip off:

Memphis vs. Portland

FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN

8:00 ET / 7:00 CT

-Travis Nauert

Grizz rest on busy Sunday

The Grizzlies cap a short home stand on Tuesday when Lamarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, and the Portland Trailblazers come to FedEx Forum.  After that, Memphis hits the road traveling to New Orleans on Wednesday completing a back-to-back, only to start another at Toronto on Friday, and finish up in Philadelphia on Saturday.

While the Grizz are inactive tonight, three games on the Sunday slate, and two in particular, look to shake up the Western Conference standings…for the time being. Over the last couple weeks, playoff seeding has vacillated as teams, the Grizz, Mavs, Suns, and Warriors namely, jockey for position in the bottom half of the pack.

courtesy espn.com

courtesy espn.com

1. Portland @ Houston (7:00 ET)

Both the 3rd seed Rockets and 4th seed Clippers hold a 1 game advantage over Portland.  Any team would love to grab home court advantage in the first round, but the Rose Garden is a particularly formidable arena to play in should Portland seize a top 4 spot.  With Memphis playing Portland on Tuesday, it would be nice if Houston distanced themselves, defeating Portland and sending them to Memphis a little beat up.

2. Indiana @ Dallas (7:30 ET)

associated press

associated press

This one has the most immediate importance to Grizz fans.  If Indiana knocks off the Mavericks in Dallas, Memphis would take the 8th seed for the evening as Dallas would have 27 losses to the Grizz’s 26.  Dallas won the only previous meeting this year 81-73. Going forward in the playoff hunt, the Mavericks have the advantage of experience…and lots of it.  7 players (Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Samuel Dalembert, Shawn Marion, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, and Devin Harris) combine for a whopping 70 years in the league (all ≥ 8 years).

3. Phoenix @ Golden State (9:00 ET)

Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports

Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports

The team that has kept me scratching my head, but out of respect, is Phoenix.  Quietly, Jeff Hornacek has lead a young team into playoff contention. He’s done so with Eric Bledsoe sidelined for 31 games.  A tweet from the official Suns account said Bledsoe looks to return Wednesday against Cleveland.  A look at Phoenix’s schedule shows that they are beating teams that a playoff squad should beat, and suffering what a march madness hopeful would call “quality losses”.  Outside of two defeats each to Utah and Sacramento, a majority of the Suns’ losses came against the likes of Memphis, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Miami, Chicago, etc… You get the picture.  For weeks, NBA fans have wondered if/when Phoenix will taper out.  Until that actually happens, don’t get your hopes up.

20 Games Remain for Memphis

courtesy ESPN

courtesy ESPN.com

-Travis Nauert