With production hot and heavy on our annual "Best of Memphis" issue — always our biggest of the year — I wasn't able to get down to Grizzlies' media day. But my Memphis magazine colleague Frank Murtaugh was there to take in Allen Iverson and Zach Randolph's tag-team act. Go here for Frank's press conference notebook.
Apparently eager to show off their newly acquired toys, the Grizzlies have announced today that they are expanding their preseason "open practice" schedule from the annual FedExForm event and holding a couple of other open practices at other venues.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES TO HOST FOUR OPEN PRACTICES AS PART OF ROUND TOWN TOUR
MEMPHIS, Tennessee— As part of the Memphis Grizzlies Round Town Tour, the Grizzlies are opening the doors of FedExForum again for their annual free Open Practice, but this season they’re not stopping there, as the team is set to host three additional practices at different locations that will also be open for fans to attend.
The Open Practice at FedExForum that is set to take place on Saturday, Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. will not only give a glimpse of the excitement that new Grizzlies Allen Iverson and Zach Randolph will bring to the young core of Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but will also allow fans to partake in the Grizzlies Fan Fest prior to and after the official practice.
During the Grizzlies Fan Fest, fans will be able to get autographs and ask questions of their favorite Grizzlies players, coaches and front office members. The fun doesn’t stop there though, as fans in attendance will also have the chance to shoot free-throws on FedExForum’s floor, meet Grizz Girls, enjoy inflatables, face painters and balloon artists. Additionally, fans will have the chance to check out great seat locations for Grizzlies Season Tickets and 11- and 22- Game Power Packs.
Grizzlies fans will have two chances to see the team in person in Memphis for free before the fun even gets started at FedExForum, as they are set to host Open Practices that are open to the general public as well at East High School on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Memphis University School on Monday, Oct. 19 from 6-8 p.m. Space is limited and will be based on a first come, first serve basis at the Open Practices at East High School and Memphis University School.
The team will also be holding a practice at the conclusion of next week’s training camp on Sunday, Oct. 4 at Birmingham-Southern College from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Fans in the Birmingham area wishing to attend the practice will need to go to the Birmingham-Southern College Athletics Office at the Larry Striplin Center on campus starting Tuesday, September 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to receive free tickets to this event. Space is limited, with two tickets allotted per person on a first come, first serve basis. Call the Birmingham-Southern College Athletic Department at (205) 226-4935 for more information.
Doors for each Open Practice will open one hour prior to the start of the practice, with the exception of the practice set at FedExForum, where doors will open at 9 a.m.
Prior to the Grizzlies slate of Open Practices, fans looking to purchase single game tickets to any of the Grizzlies 41 regular season home games will be able to do so starting Saturday, Oct. 3 at 10 a.m. Regular and preseason tickets can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets, by visiting the FedExForum Box Office, by calling (800) 4NBA-TIX or by going online at grizzlies.com. Group, Power Pack, Season Ticket and Corporate Value and VIP Package information is available by calling (901) 888-HOOP or online at grizzlies.com.
Beyond the Arc's trip around the league continues with the Central Division:
We're about six weeks away from the start of the NBA season. Full-scale preview material on the Grizzlies will commence with media day at the end of the month and then with the beginning of preseason. But in the meantime I'm going to post brief previews and predictions on the rest of the league, going division by division at the rate of roughly one a week. First up, the Atlantic Division:
The Grizzlies introduced Allen Iverson at a press conference in the lobby of FedExForum before a large group of local media, civic dignitaries, and excited fans. Even before he took the stage, Iverson proved a uniting force, as Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowry and former mayor Willie Herenton shook hands before taking seats only a few feet apart. (Later, both Lowry and Herenton were introduced to a mixture of cheers and boos, Herenton lustily pumping his fist, shaking the haters off.)
When Iverson did stride up to the dais, wearing jeans, a baggy white shirt, a tilted blue Grizzlies cap, and flanked by coach Lionel Hollins, general manager Chris Wallace, and owner Michael Heisley, the assembled fans went nuts, Wallace beamed in a mix of surprise and amusement, Iverson smiled, and it was on. Periodically throughout the press conference, a fan sitting behind would bellow "A.I.! A.I.!"
Quick, extremely conflicted thoughts on the first day of the Iverson Era:
Even a diminished, 34-year-old Iverson will be fascinating to watch. In a small market with one major-league franchise, the opportunity to watch an all-time great is rare. Whatever my reservations about the signing, I'm genuinely excited to take advantage of that opportunity.
2. Starpower: If the main reason for signing Iverson is to get fans excited and sell tickets, well, those are pretty worthwhile goals. Nevermind the impact on the team's bottom line — the paltry attendance at Grizzlies games in recent seasons has severely hurt the quality of the experience for fans that are there and has seemed to impact the energy level of the players. Iverson will sell tickets. He won't fill the building, but will clearly bring many more people in than would otherwise have been there.
Allen Iverson, one of the most exciting, colorful, and controversial athletes of the past decade or so, will be donning Beale Street Blue this season, accepting the Grizzlies' one-year offer and announcing it on his Twitter feed this morning:
God Chose Memphis as the place that I will continue my career. I met with Mr. Heinsley, Chris Wallace and my next head coach Lionel Hollins
42 minutes ago from web
I feel that they are committed to developing a winner and I know that I can help them to accomplish that. I feel that I can trust them.
34 minutes ago from web
The Grizzlies are meeting with Allen Iverson today in an attempt to iron out a contract agreement, Iverson himself reported via his Twitter account last night:
I am looking forward to meeting the owner of the Memphis Grizzlies on tomorrow, along with his staff. I want to help them develop a winner.
about 14 hours ago from web
The Grizzlies have never seemed like Iverson's first choice — otherwise a deal likely would have been made long ago — but with the offseason winding down, the Grizzlies may be the only team left with serious interest in the former MVP and multi-time scoring champ. ESPN's Marc Stein elaborates:
With the Grizzlies seeking a versatile ball-handling guard to give the team scoring punch off the bench, why wait for Iverson and not make a bid for Sessions, especially when the cost for next season would be roughly similar?
Iverson may well be the better player next season, but how far can the Grizzlies reasonably go next season? For a young team still at least a year away from playoff contention, what would bring more value? A 34-year-old Iverson (18 points and 5 assists per game last season, 15.89 PER) for one season or a 23-year-old Sessions (12 points and 6 assists per game last season, 17.65 PER) for four seasons? And this is without factoring in considerably less risk of turmoil from Sessions and less defensive liability. (Sessions is at least three inches taller)
Good news for pro hoops fans who like to dig beneath the surface of the sport: The "Prospectus" family — creators of the totally awesome Baseball Prospectus — are beefing up their NBA coverage with a full-fledged NBA preview this season.
Pro Basketball Prospectus will be available as both a downloadable PDF and a print-to-order book, writers Kevin Pelton (a friend of Beyond the Arc) and Bradford Doolittle announced online yesterday, with ordering info to come.
With the Grizzlies, Rudy Gay is a reliable Twitter communicator, but rookie Hasheem Thabeet became the team's most entertaining Twitter user almost immediately after being drafted, providing his followers with excellent entertainment in the form of pronouncements on the Memphis weather, shout-outs to his native Tanzania, and loopy "Nighty nighty!" signoffs.
But is Thabeet's online act wearing thin? And does it portend bad things ahead via his on-court performance? A Beyond the Arc reader emailed me a funny and persuasive rant on this subject that I'm going to publish here with his permission: