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

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

Man Down

Grizz Nation always loves their team in the national spotlight. Any coverage on ESPN is good coverage, especially leading up to the playoffs right?

Ehhh…. this isn’t what we had in mind. 

Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy

 

No word from Calathes on Twitter yet, but he has come out with a statement.

In a phone interview with USA Today, Calathes says,

“I deeply regret my actions and apologize to my teammates and the organization for my poor judgment. Let me be clear: I never too any medication whatsoever for a performance-enhancing reason. I don’t agree with this outcome, and I will come back a better player and person when I return.”

Here’s the science-y part:

Tamoxifen is the drug found in Calathes’s system. The funny thing about Tamoxifen is that it is typically used by athletes to reduce the side effects of steroids. More commonly, its used to treat breast cancer. SO many questions.

Just when we were getting comfy with Calathes. #smh

Calathes was named the 5th best rookie this season by ESPN’s Power Rankings. The NBA confirmed Calathes’s suspension Friday night- it’s 20 games, so virtually the whole post season and then some (assuming we don’t make a wild run for the Finals).

Here’s a statement from a lawyer representing Calathes according to ESPN.com:

“Our tests identified tamoxifen in a supplement Nick used for a legitimate medical condition and our tests confirmed that Nick did not have testosterone or any other PED in his body- thereby rebutting the presumption that he used tamoxifen to offset the side effects of testosterone use,” he said. “Despite this irrefutable, objective scientific evidence, the NBA’s response was, ‘Oh well.’

 

Photo cred- hoopshype.com

Photo cred- hoopshype.com

 

 

 

We know, Nick. It hurts.

 

 

 

-Casey Black

Heat can’t stand Grizz, West race tightens

In the hours following Wednesday night’s Grizz-Heat slugfest, punctuated by a Tony Allen slam cementing his return to form (Grizz fans hope and desperately pray), Geoff Calkins nominated the contest as a candidate for best regular-season game in franchise history.  I’ll leave rankings to individual preferences, but it had all the necessary ingredients.  Importance?  Immeasurable.  Highlight plays?  Myriad.  There were antics that only the Grizzlies can perform in a season saving game and yet still emerge victorious.  From Marc Gasol’s feisty Spanish temper convincing him to engage Lebron in a one man full court press, to Tony Allen’s steal turned behind-the-back pass, not to be outdone by what Yahoo Sports’ Ball Don’t Lie editor Dan Devine perfectly described as “one for the pantheon of missed Tony Allen layups”, this was a game that deserved a national audience.  The Grizzlies summoned enough heart, grit and grind, outlasting Lebron’s 37 points and rim rocking jams to remain alive in the savage and cannibalistic Western Conference playoff race.

There was also this absurd sidewinder pass from Marc to Courtney Lee:

SBNation

SBNation

And heres that full court press:

courtesy @mattyp90

courtesy @mattyp90

Something or someone pissed off ZBo as he got started early and often, connecting on all 8 of his first quarter attempts.  Among those included a 36 second span in which he hit a three pointer from the top of the key and dunked off a Marc Gasol assist.  Yes, it was the kind of night on which one might spot a unicorn underneath a blue moon while the calendar read February 29th.  Much of Zach’s damage came at the expense of Shane Battier, whose final appearance in Memphis was about as appropriate as the response the Grizzlies delivered.  With Hubie Brown announcing, Penny Hardaway sitting court side, and Mike Miller donning Beale Street Blue once again, Battier scored all 9 of his points on three first quarter 3-pointers to satisfy the cravings of Memphis basketball fans that span three decades.  It was a special night indeed.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

When ZBo’s scoring production faded, Mike Conley found his stroke hitting three fourth quarter 3’s, including two assisted by Nick Calathes on fast break opportunities.  The line up of Conley, Calathes, Allen, Randolph, and Gasol has performed well together, closing out games (4/4 vs Denver comes to mind) with the requisite amount of ball handling and security, defensive prowess, and of course, enough bruising and badass-ness from TA, ZBo, and Big Spain.

 

 

The Grizzlies won a game they had to have, as the Suns fought off New Orleans to remain a game ahead of Memphis.  After San Antonio took care of business against the Mavericks, fans will continue to back the Spurs in tonight’s game against Phoenix. The Spurs overcame Tony Parker’s absence and held their collective Tex-Mex breath during a scary moment when Tim Duncan’s knee bent in a way which no human being’s should. Timeless Timmy made his way to the locker room, but returned to log 39 minutes, scoring 20 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.  He was just fine, but admittedly scared in the moment.

How will Pop handle his starters, up 3 1/2 on OKC? (AP Photo/LM Otero)

How will Pop handle his starters, up 3 1/2 on OKC?
(AP Photo/LM Otero)

It remains to be seen if Gregg Popovich will rest the likes of Duncan, Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard in light of this near nightmare.  Granted, Pop can simply plug in an obscure foreign import and expect the same of them as he does his Hall-of-Fame trio.  The scary part is that they usually perform at that same level.  From Australia’s Patty Mills, and Canada’s Jeff Ayres, to the more recognizable Brazilian Thiago Splittler, the Spurs are capable of finding talented, egoless pieces from any continent.

What do these developments mean for the Grizzlies playoff chances?  They now control their own destiny to capture the 7th seed, and could conceivably steal the 6th spot with help from Golden State.  The Warriors screwed around and blew a 20 point lead to the same Denver Nuggets team that the Grizzlies struggled with twice in a just over a week’s time, but managed to defeat on both occasions.  Last night, however, Kenneth Faried’s brutish Greco Roman strength bulldozed Draymond Green deep into the paint, and released an attempt so lacking in fundamentals that George Mikan turned over in his grave.  No matter, the shot found its way through the basket, and Stephen Curry’s would be heroics were rendered meaningless.

Tonight, the Grizzlies take on Philadelphia in Memphis’ penultimate home game before traveling to LA and Phoenix.  The finale, of course, is another nationally televised game against Dallas which will conclude what has been a historic playoff chase and sparked discussion of revamping the entire format.  Whoever is left on the outside looking in will boast a record good enough for 3rd in the East, while the two qualifiers will aim to conquer the Spurs and Thunder.  Luckily, the Grizzlies don’t have to rely on others, and will need to look no further than the mirror should they not make the cut.

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

 

-Travis Nauert

Bench helps the Grizz through the dark

Hate to say I told ya so.

We’re watching the greatest era of Grizzlies basketball. Period. We’ve just had a few speed bumps along the way. This time it was injuries, and they needed some time to get healthy. Things got iffy there for a while. Now, we’re looking at a real chance of not only making the playoffs but giving the rest of the West a run for their money. Here are a few reasons why I think the Grizzlies will remain an elite team as we approach the playoffs.

100 is the magic number

It’s all about offense. In the last nine games, Memphis has broken a score of 100 six times. To my dismay, the Atlanta Hawks took precedence over the Grizzlies game in Knoxville tonight, so I missed yet another stellar Grizz domination. This time it was against the Charlotte Bobcats who, while nursing a sub-par record, did beat us just two weeks ago. We’ll take every win we can get at this point in the season.

Coming off the bench

The past four seasons (including the current one) have collectively been the best in franchise history. One issue we’ve always had: finding a good backup center to relieve big man Marc Gasol. I mean just take a look at Gasol’s backups over recent years: Hamed Haddadi, Hasheem Thabeet and Leon Powe. Let’s just say they left us with much to be desired. Kosta Koufos has been all around solid, which is just what we need in this spot. I’ve been hearing the nickname “Kosta Coast,” and I like it. It’s nice having a back up center to root for. 

(Photo Credit to David Banks/USA Today Sports)

(Photo Credit to David Banks/USA Today Sports)

I don’t like to get negative on this blog, but I vividly remember when Nick Calathes was booed in the FedEx Forum just a months ago. This month, you can call him Mr. Rookie of the Month for February. Calathes averaged 28.6 minutes, 4.6 assists and 10.7 PPG in February. Not too shabby for the new guy, huh?

Jon Leuer is getting playing time again, and he isn’t wasting a moment. Each time Leuer gets significant minutes, he makes a case for the the backup spot. He’s averaging 13 PPG and 2.5 rebounds in March. Ed Davis who? But really, to be blunt, he hasn’t brought much to the table lately. 

I always say we’re the team no one wants to play. Why? Well in part because we’ve got James Johnson and the Grindfather himself, Tony Allen, coming off the bench. These are two guys we can count on to relieve the starters, put up tough defense and attack the basket. Bottom line: they’re intimidating. 

(Photo by Nikki Boertman)

(Photo by Nikki Boertman)

The home stretch

We play Portland in the Grindhouse on Tuesday night before heading off on a relatively easy road trip.

Wedesday, March 12 @ New Orleans Pelicans (25-37)

Friday, March 14 @ Toronto Raptors (34-26)

Saturday, March 15 @ Philadelphia 76ers (15-47)

The real challenge will come when the Grizz fly to South Beach to take on the out-of-conference Heat, and then they return to Memphis to play the Indiana Pacers who are straight up terrifying. We’ll take a look at the rest of the season at a later date.

Enjoy the big win tonight, Grizz Nation.

-Casey Black

State of the Grizz – All Star Special

Priming for Playoff Push

The Grizzlies have reached the unofficial halfway point of the season.  52 of 82 games have been played, so my college level-ish math skills tell me 30 games remain.  The break comes with opportune timing.  Marc Gasol aggravated his left knee sprain last Wednesday at Orlando in an 86-81 win over the magic.  Mike Conley continues to nurse a sprained ankle, and Tony Allen nears his return from a nebulous wrist injury that has sidelined him for 20 consecutive games.

Spruce Durden – USATODAY Sports
Marc no like injury

The injuries have been a nuisance, and fans wonder where a healthy Grizz team could be in the playoff race versus where it currently stands.  At 29-23, Memphis trails both 8th seed Golden State and 7th seed Phoenix by 1½ games, and 6th place Dallas by 2 games. Furthermore, the Rockets, Clippers, and Trailblazers claim the 3, 4, and 5 seeds respectively, with all three holding a 6½ game cushion over the Grizzlies.  This means Memphis is well within striking distance of a number of playoff scenarios and match-ups, all contingent on performance and of course good health.

Standings from espn.com

Standings from espn.com

A Note on Tiebreakers

If a tie were to occur between the Grizzlies and any Southwest division foe (most likely Dallas and Houston at this point), the Grizzlies will ultimately lose said tie based on NBA tie breaking rules, which state that a tie between two divisional opponents is first decided by head to head results, and, in the case of a season series tie, record against divisional opponents determines the higher seed.  At 2-11 in the division, and with only 3 Southwest games remaining (New Orleans, San Antonio, and Dallas), Memphis has dug too deep of a hole should that scenario emerge.  Thus, even the season series split with Houston would prove futile when comparing overall divisional records.  Despite the shortcomings against regional rivals, the fact that people such as 5 time NBA Champion Steve Kerr are already dubbing Memphis as “the team nobody wants to play” is a further testament to the competitiveness and quality of the Southwest division.

Steve Kerr

Injuries Have Made Team Stronger

While many people wonder where the Grizz “could be”, I look at where the team is now, and where they began the season. The additions of Courtney Lee and James Johnson improved the roster on both sides of the floor.  In Tony Allen’s absence, Courtney Lee has provided solid defense and reliable, timely three point shooting.  James Johnson appeared out of nowhere, showing an uncanny ability to get to the rim, guard the perimeter, and block shots at will.  Marc Gasol’s early exit provided invaluable experience for Ed Davis, Kosta Koufos, and Jon Leuer.  

Then there is the polarizing topic of Nick Calathes.  Say what you will about the Greek-American and former Florida Gator, but most if not all NBA rookies require an adjustment period, and while there may be too little time left in the playoff race to endure an “adjustment period”, signs point towards Calathes turning the corner.  Since we flipped the calendar to February, Calathes has scored double digits in 6 of 7 games, showing to be more capable from 3 than originally thought.  He is 9 of 22 from beyond the arc in these seven games for a .409 3P%.  His deceptive size (listed at 6’6″ in your programs) can create matchup problems as well.  Again, in February, Calathes has one game with 1 steal, one game with 2 steals, and two games with 3 and 4 steals each. Do the arithmetic, carry the one, and that’s 18 steals in 6 games. Not too shabby. 

Nelson Chenault /USAToday Sports

Nelson Chenault /USAToday Sports

Still, turnovers remain an issue.  6 against Cleveland in a loss, 6 against Dallas in a loss, and 4 against Atlanta in a tight win on the road.  Let’s be real for a second, no one is arguing that Calathes is a starting point guard for this team.  He has been thrust into a starting role for an indefinite but brief period. Mike Conley will return after the All Star Break, so it’s not like the team is counting on Calathes to lead the Grizz into the playoff hunt.  Even then, the transfer window remains open until the trade deadline passes next Thursday, February 20th at 2PM Central time.  So, time remains for possible upgrades if the front office desires to do so.  However, history can be linked between the front office and Calathes.  A Memphis Flyer article from June 2013 noted what would have happened “If Holliner Had Made The Picks”

The Remaining Hurdles – A Look at the Schedule Down the Stretch

Only 13 home games remain in the regular season, and 17 on the road.  The standings graphic above shows the Grizzlies have actually produced results away from home, with a 15-9 record outside of FedExForum.  On the other hand, a 14-14 record in Memphis has left something to be desired.  Home headliners include the second game out of the break, February 21st against the Clippers, where the first 5,000 fans receive the highly anticipated GRIZZLIES fake neck tattoo.  In March, games against the Trailblazers and East leading Pacers loom, in what should be a defensive clinic.  Finally, the season winds down in April with ESPN broadcasted games against Denver and Miami, and the season finale against Dallas which could turn into a 1 game series “play in” scenario.

February 28th will be the first big road test against the familiar Thunder in OKC.  A jam packed March gives way to 17 Grizz games, with 11 coming on the road.  An ESPN game in Chicago comes March 7th.  March 21st brings the first matchup of the year against reigning champ Miami.  Then, another ESPN game in Utah on March 26th kicks off a 5 game road trip that extends into April.  Opponents include Golden State, Portland, and Denver.  Furthermore, games in San Antonio (on NBATV), Los Angeles (Lakers), and Phoenix await.

First 15

courtesy ESPN.com

courtesy ESPN.com

Bottom Line: It’s going to be a long tough road to the finish. 17 of the 30 games remaining come against playoff teams by my count (East and West), and more games on the road than at home as already noted (which could be good if the first 52 games indicate anything).  In my opinion, the Grizzlies boast way too much experience compared to Golden State and Phoenix, teams Memphis has performed well against this year.  With the team looking for its 4th consecutive playoff birth led by an incumbent core, it seems unthinkable that this team would not reach the playoffs.  A stellar stretch run could see the Grizz fighting for home court advantage.  If injuries continue to impose their will, then Memphis in May will seem a little empty this year.

To be honest, I am not concerned about the playoff race.  It will play out, and the best teams will earn their place.  It will be a heated race right up until the spot has been clinched, but confidence is key.  The only thing I am really worried about is what the new growl towels will look like.

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

-Travis Nauert