I'm not yet live at FedExForum for tonight's Grizzlies game, but will be heading down there pretty soon and can hopefully make it in time for the tip. I liked how the Twitter feed worked in the last game and will try it again here. I will also have a post-game report up later tonight.
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I spent this past weekend in deepest, darkest Arkansas, in the internet-free zone that is my mother's house, and when I finally returned to town Sunday night it was into a lengthy to-do list of on- (and, um, past-) deadline Flyer and Memphis magazine work. This is all to explain why I am the very last person with any reason to comment on the latest twist in the Allen Iverson saga to get around to doing so.
The one benefit of coming in last is being able to gauge the general reaction. The bad part is that pretty much anything worth saying on the subject has already been said. So I'm going to try to keep my commentary brief. (Warning: When it comes to basketball, I always fail to live up to this promise.)
Predictably, the local media reaction has seemed to be a matter of choosing sides, assigning primary blame to Michael Heisley, Lionel Hollins, or Allen Iverson. But I refuse to choose sides in a debacle in which everyone comes out looking bad. A pox on all their houses.
Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears has an interview with Allen Iverson today and also includes this nugget about why Iverson did not sign with the Los Angeles Clippers this summer:
A.I. almost a Clipper?
Iverson can ponder what might have been when the Grizzlies visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. Back in July, the Clippers seriously contemplated offering him a one-year contract paying up to $4 million so he could be a “Vinnie Johnson-type” player, a source with knowledge of the talks said. Denver Nuggets assistant Tim Grgurich, who was considered for a job on Mike Dunleavy’s staff over the offseason, also strongly recommended Iverson to the franchise.
The Clippers, however, were concerned about how Iverson’s addition would affect the development of second-year shooting guard Eric Gordon, along with other chemistry issues. The Clippers cooled on the idea after Iverson told Dunleavy in a phone conversation that he would have a serious problem with coming off the bench.
The possibility of signing Iverson became a dead issue once the Clippers acquired guard Sebastian Telfair and swingman Rasual Butler. But had A.I. been fine with coming off the bench, he could very well be with the Clippers now.
1. Slow it Down, Pound it Inside: The Grizzlies three most dynamic scorers are O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, and Allen Iverson. But the team's most efficient scorers have been interior tandem Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Randolph is averaging 20 points a game on 56% shooting. Gasol is averaging 18 points a game on 60% shooting. Each player is averaging four offensive rebounds a game and shooting better than 78% from the foul line. They have also established quick chemistry together, hooking up on several high-low plays.
With Randolph so-far correcting the sloppy shot selection that had grown to infect his game in recent years and a slimmed-down Gasol making a mini-leap as an offensive threat, the Grizzlies suddenly have one of the best offensive frontcourts in the league. On most nights, this is where the team's advantage will be and the team has been at it's best when exploiting it. But with all the firepower on the perimeter, it's been too easy for the team to neglect feeding the beasts on the block. Wednesday night, in losing to the undersized Golden State Warriors, Randolph had only nine field-goal attempts, with 6 of those coming in a first half in which the Grizzlies were only behind by one point.
Slowing the game down a little and focusing on the interior game could also help the team's porous defense as the Grizzlies don't have great depth and have been losing track of outside shooters in up-and-down games.
Iverson's post-game public reaction to playing 18 minutes off the bench — “I had no problems (with the hamstring). I had a problem with my butt sitting on that bench for so long.” — was not a surprise, but was still preposterous.
Two specific reasons:
1. Even if his role were not in question and it were clearly established that he were going to be a starter, in his first game back from an injury after a dormant offseason and not a second of game experience with this team, Iverson was going to come off the bench and play limited minutes. It was inevitable that Iverson would complain about a bench role if the team tried to keep him there. But to complain about it after this game is an act of extreme self-absorption.
2. The comical "my butt hurts" quote has understandably gotten the attention. But I'm more bothered by this:
“If we’re winning games with me in that (reserve) role, I would be a (jerk) for fighting that,” Iverson said soon after pointing out: “I came off the bench and we still lost.”
Iverson cites this game as evidence that the team is better with him as a starter? Not only is this one game, but it's his first game back from injury, it's the second night of a back to back on the road, and the team lost in overtime. And this is somehow definitive proof of how he needs to be used and gives him license to be outwardly disruptive after the game?
Would like to do a preview for tonight's game but don't have time on a paper-production Monday, so some quick takes on Griz issues du jour:
Rudy's Extension: The Grizzlies and Rudy Gay have until midnight tonight to agree to a contract extension and have made some progress according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:
Gay, a 6-foot-9 forward, has been seeking an extension comparable to the five-year, $60 million deal the Indiana Pacers gave Danny Granger(notes) last year. Memphis has offered $50 million over five years in recent days, sources said, but will still need to close the gap before the NBA’s deadline on Monday.
One league source says a shorter contract — three years for $33 million-$36 million — has also been discussed with Gay’s reps from Octagon.
My take: If the Grizzlies are offering 5 years and $50 million, Gay should snatch it up. I think that's a little too rich for what he's proven. Anything beyond that is silly. I like Gay, but he needs to upgrade his defense and integrate his offense into the team context a little better before he'll be worth a contract averaging eight figures per year.