The Grizzlies hung with the methodical Portland Trailblazers for one half tonight only to be picked apart in the second half for a depressing and dull loss that brings the team to 1-7 on the season. Three quick thoughts on the game:
1. No Iverson: This should have been Allen Iverson's home debut for the Grizzlies, but apparently he's only interested in playing basketball if everything is on his own terms. So instead of helping his team, he made a cool $35 grand or so sitting at home stewing. In a game where the team struggled to score and the backcourt rotation outside of O.J. Mayo combined to shoot 6-22 from the floor, even a petulant, freelancing Iverson would have been helpful. Then again, so would Hakim Warrick or any number of less flamboyant free agents the team could have signed instead.
2. Ownership Imbalance: Coincidentally, ESPN.com today published a piece called "future rankings," where they rated the competitive health of every NBA franchise based on which teams are best equipped to improve and compete over the next few seasons. The Trailblazers ranked first on this list. The Grizzlies ranked 25th. Of the five elements of team health considered, which was deemed to be the biggest difference between these two franchises? "Management," with the Blazers ranking 3rd and the Grizzlies 29th.
The real difference here is ownership, of course. The two teams ranking ahead of the Blazers on the management chart? San Antonio and Houston. How are these organizations different from the Grizzlies? Their owners aren't constantly quoted in the newspapers as the primary source for stories on player personnel matters. And you know why? Because they simply hire good people, give them the tools to succeed, and stay out of their way. Michael Heisley has seemed to have a thing for chasing league trends in recent years. Maybe he should chase the current league blueprint: Hire smart people and let them do their job.
The Blazers didn't really get much from their bench tonight, but that's an exception for them. One sign of a serious organization is quality depth. The Blazers come off the bench with good veteran role players such as Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez, Joel Przybilla, and Martell Webster. When the Grizzlies were a playoff team, they came off the bench with players like Earl Watson, Shane Battier, Bonzi Wells, Bo Outlaw, etc. One constant during the teams three-years-and-counting of ineptitude is that the bench is made up almost entirely of rookies and journeyman.
3. Through the Wire: About a minute and a half into his first quarter appearance tonight, Hasheem Thabeet's chin collided with Zach Randolph's noggin and Thabeet crumbled to the floor like a loser in Mike Tyson's Punchout. The early word was a fractured jaw, but upon further review the injury doesn't appear to be too bad. Thabeet has a "ridgeline fracture of the mandible" and did not make the trip to Houston for tomorrow night's game, but as of tonight his absence is expected to be counted in days, not weeks. I thought Thabeet played pretty well off the bench against the Clippers and was looking forward to seeing him against Greg Oden and Przybilla tonight. Even though the injury doesn't appear to quite warrant the reference, I'm still sending this long-distance dedication out to the big guy. Nighty, nighty, Hasheem. Get better, big fella:
The Jacob Riis Report: LaMarcus Aldridge picked the Grizzlies apart early, nailing one mid-range shot after another and then finding open shooters when the Grizzlies finally started double-teaming. I've never loved him because of his lack of physicality at the position, but if Oden can keep developing into something, Aldridge might be able to be a second option on a title contender after all.
Mike Conley continued his dispiriting start to the season with arguably his worst performance of the season. The Grizzlies have lots of problems right now, but Conley's stagnation is one of the biggest ones.
The Grizzlies have shown some modest defensive improvement over the past two games, with Rudy Gay in particular seeming more attentive on that end. (There was nowhere to go but up for Rudy.) But tonight the team's previously productive offense deserted them, a game-long series of missed lay-ups and tip-ins matched by 1-10 three-point shooting.
I'm not sure who had a better block on rookie Sam Young: Greg Oden or the rim. A rough night for Young.
The one bright spot: Marc Gasol continued his terrific early play, going for 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks against a very tough defensive center tandem.