Over the past couple of weeks, NBA blogger Kelly Dwyer (of Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie) has done a smart, entertaining series of posts ranking the top 30 NBA players at each position. I took a particular interest in this not only because I'm a fan of Dwyer's work, but because I had done this little exercise myself just a couple of weeks before as a way to get a feel for how I thought the Grizzlies' talent stacked up against the rest of the league.
Seems worth a post to highlight Dwyer's rankings and go on the record about where I think the team's starters fall in the positional hierarchy.
Dwyer ranks Conley 27th among point guards. I've got Conley 26th on my own cheat sheet, so that's pretty much a wash. And I agree with his Conley commentary:
Even though he doesn't turn 23 until this October, does Mike really seem like a guy who is just waiting to take a big step forward? His game, and sometimes middling quickness, just don't seem suited to it. Which is fine, for a sound backup or starter in the pinch. Trouble is, the Grizzlies seem la hotshot point guard away from being a real player, and though Conley's youth should encourage, for some reason it doesn't. Hopefully Mike makes me look a fool with his play this season.
With exhibition play out of the way, the FIBA World Championships officially kick off tomorrow, with three Grizzlies players in the mix — Rudy Gay with team USA, Marc Gasol with Spain, and Hamed Haddadi with Iran.
Saturday, August 28th:
USA vs. Croatia — 11 a.m. (ESPN Classic)
Spain vs. France — 1 p.m. (NBA TV)
Brazil vs. Iran — 1:30 p.m.
Notes: Gasol will tangle with a couple of NBA-caliber bigs in the former of Boris Diaw and Ian Mahinmi, while Haddadi could struggle against what might be the tournament's best frontcourt duo in Anderson Varejao and soon-to-be Spurs-rookie Tiago Splitter.
Sunday, August 29th:
USA vs. Slovenia — 8:30 a.m. (ESPN2)
Spain vs. New Zealand — 1 p.m. (NBA TV)
Iran vs. Croatia — 11 a.m.
Notes: Slovenia features flamboyant Suns backup point guard Goran Dragic, who is coming off a terrific NBA playoff performance and has a chance to elevate himself even more with a good tournament here.
Reviews are pouring in for Michael Heisley's Chris Vernon Show interview, and they aren't good. At least not for Heisley: On ESPN's True Hoop blog, Henry Abbott questions Heisley's thoughtfulness and wisdom. CBS Sports calls it an "abject trainwreck." At Fan House, Tom Ziller first compares Heisley to Donald Sterling and then comes back with a few tips about other collective bargaining agreement clauses Heisley might want to check out.
I waded through the first half of Heisley's Chris Vernon Show interview here. Let's now finish it up:
Vernon: Why are you responsible for making the basketball decisions?
Heisley: Why? I'll tell you why. Because I'm the guy who makes up the difference between what we bring in in revenue and what we put out to pay for players. And believe me, kid, that is a lot of money.
Vernon: But you would admit that's not your expertise?
Heisley: What's not my expertise?
Heisley: I know as much about basketball as most people. I've been a pro sports basketball fan for longer than most of these people have been alive.
This is a common refrain whenever Heisley gets pushed on Grizzlies-related issues, bringing it back to financial issues even when the questions are not related to financial issues. A year or so ago, after a "chalk talk" with fans, Heisley held an informal press conference. I asked him three different times about issues relating to the team's organizational structure — his increased and increasingly public role as decision maker, the lack of input his general manager had in assembling most of the team's basketball staff, the rare-if-not-unprecedented 1.5 year contract his coach was then working under. None of this was at all related to spending and yet, each time, Heisley started barking defensively about how people said he hasn't spent, but he'd spent plenty.
Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley appeared on The Chris Vernon Show yesterday afternoon and submitted to a 37-minute interview. It was noisy and combative in part because Vernon, always animated, asked tough questions and backed them up with a solid understanding of the way the NBA works, a combination Heisley rarely confronts in his local media appearances. The tenor of the interview was also a result of Heisley's seeming inability to control his tone when challenged.here or also on iTunes, where the show is now available for download. The audio reveals much more than mere words can suggest.
Rather than go through the entire interview — and really, there's enough there to warrant that — I'm going to jump around and pull out a few exchanges and assertions that demand commentary. Even being selective, this is too long for one post, so I'm breaking it into two posts.
With one cut left to be made, Rudy Gay seems certain to make the final squad and given how well he's played in exhibitions so far (a team-high 19 points off the bench against France at Madison Square Garden last week), should be in line for significant rotation minutes. This should be a great experience for Gay as he seeks to climb a tier among the game's elite in wake of his near-max contract.
Meanwhile, barring another bout of back spasms, Marc Gasol will be the starting center for the Spanish team and probably the best true big man in the entire tournament. Center Hamed Haddadi will star for Iran, which will join the US team in Group B when official tournament play starts August 28th. (The US and Iran will face off on September 1st.)
USA and Spain are the tournament's two top teams. They'll face off this weekend in exhibition play, and hopefully we'll get to see some Gay and Gasol on the court together. The U.S. team plays three European exhibition games before heading to Turkey to start the tournament. All games are televised:
Sat. Aug. 21 vs. Lithuania (Madrid) — 2 p.m., ESPN
Sun. Aug. 22 vs. Spain (Madrid) — 2 p.m. ET, NBA TV
Wed. Aug. 25 vs, Greece (Athens) — 11 a.m., ESPN
There will also be multiple replays on NBA TV.
Here's Gay interviewed recently on the USA Basketball site.
And here's Gay with a couple of breakaway dunks against France:
I didn't think Law was much of an NBA prospect when he was starring at Texas A&M and becoming a lottery pick with the Atlanta Hawks, and haven't been surprised by his struggles so far in his pro career. However, given the certainty of the team signing an insurance point guard in the wake of O.J. Mayo's summer struggles at the position and unsigned rookie Greivis Vasquez's ankle surgery, and given that the Grizzlies had only a league-minimum contract to offer, I thought the Law signing was fine.
Given those parameters, what were the other options? A 35-year-old Chucky Atkins? Bobby Brown, Chris Quinn, Royal Ivey, Kevin Ollie, Travis Diener? Among the cheap, end-of-the-bench point-guard fodder available on the market, Law seems like as promising a bet as any of them.
After an unplugged vacation and another week of playing catch-up on more pressing matters, I've missed a lot of Grizzlies news over the past couple of weeks. I'm going to try to get up to speed over the next few days with a series of (hopefully) small posts, starting with the mess that is the Xavier Henry situation.
Salaries for first-round picks are on a scale based on where players are selected, but with some negotiation room: Teams are allowed to play players up to 120% of the scale, a practice that has been commonplace since the league introduced the rookie scale. Typically, teams set up minor requirements — participation in Summer League, reporting to camp on time, offseason workouts, etc. — for players to meet to get the 120%. This is what the Grizzlies have always done — until now.
The Grizzlies have been demanding performance incentives in order for Henry to obtain the full 120%. According to the Commercial Appeal, these meeting one of three goals: playing in NBA rookie/sophomore game during All-Star weekend, earn an all-rookie selection, or averaging 15 minutes in at least 70 games.