Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Griz Owner Robert Pera to be Introduced Monday

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 2:22 PM

New Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera.
  • New Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera.
The Grizzlies put out an official release this afternoon to announce the completion of the purchase by a group led by Robert Pera, who will be introduced locally at a 10 a.m. press conference on Monday.

The full text of the statement:

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES SALE TO ROBERT PERA-LED INVESTMENT GROUP COMPLETED
Introductory Media Conference to be held at 10 a.m. Monday, November 5 at FedExForum

Memphis, Tenn. — The Memphis Grizzlies announced today that the sale of the team to a group led by Robert J. Pera has been formally completed. Pera, founder and CEO of Ubiquiti Networks, a publicly-traded next-generation communications technology company, has officially assumed control of the Grizzlies and leads a group of well-respected investors.

“The Grizzlies are here to stay in Memphis,” new Memphis Grizzlies Chairman Robert Pera said. “We are thrilled to assume ownership of the Grizzlies. We see enormous potential and understand the role the Grizzlies play in bringing Memphians together. We are committed to building a winning team with a best-in-class organizational culture, finding new and creative ways to engage with our fans, and making a positive and meaningful difference in the community.”

“Owning the Memphis Grizzlies has been one of the most rewarding business endeavors of my career,” Michael Heisley said. “I am confident that the franchise will continue its development toward being a perennial championship contender and an important member of the Memphis community. I am particularly gratified that we have put together a team which is poised to continue its improvement. In Robert, we have a new owner who has expressed a total commitment to build on our success in Memphis. Although my time as owner has come to a close, I will remain a part of Grizz Nation and will continue to support this franchise that will always hold a special place in my heart.”

An introductory media conference will be held at 10 a.m. this coming Monday, November 5. Pera and members of the new ownership group will be on hand for their first event at FedExForum to tip-off a new era in Memphis Grizzlies basketball and both media and the general public are invited to attend. For those members of Grizz Nation unable to attend in person, the press conference will be streamed in its entirety online at grizzlies.com.

The Grizzlies open their 2012-13 regular season home schedule against the Utah Jazz that evening at 7 p.m. Fans are encouraged to arrive early and enjoy the Opening Night Plaza Party. Beginning two hours prior to tip-off the Plaza Party will feature music, inflatables, face painters, balloon artists, official Grizzlies merchandise, sign-making stations and an interactive video game trailer. Other highlights include appearances from Grizz, the Grizz Girls and Claw Crew. Also, the first 10,000 fans through the doors will receive a Grizzlies T-Shirt presented by First Tennessee Bank.

Fans who want to support the Memphis Grizzlies and purchase tickets to Opening Night, 2012-13 Season Tickets, or 10 and 20-Game Packs can do so by calling (901) 888-HOOP or going online to grizzlies.com. Tickets for the Plaza IV and Terrace IV sections are already sold out.

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Game 1 Preview: Grizzlies at Clippers

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 7:11 AM

The season begins where the last ended: With Z-Bo and Blake Griffin battling on the block.
  • LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • The season begins where the last ended: With Z-Bo and Blake Griffin battling on the block.
Revenge game? Nah. The Grizzlies can't do anything tonight in their regular-season debut against the Clippers (9:30 p.m. tip) that would make up for those devastating Game 1 and Game 7 home playoff losses to the Clippers last spring. But that doesn't mean they won't be particularly amped for this one. And I do wonder if the Clippers, even in their home opener will have the same intensity given that probably half of their potential rotation — Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Hollins, Willie Green — are new additions who didn't participate in that series.

I probably won't be doing many standalone game previews this season, but an opener with this kind of wattage deserves one. So here are three subplots I'll be keeping an eye on tonight:

1. Zach Randolph vs. Blake Griffin: In last season's Griz-Clips playoff series, an increasingly banged-up Griffin averaged 18 points on 53% shooting, while a significantly diminished Randolph averaged 14 points on 42% shooting. Given how close most of the games were, it isn't much of a stretch to say that Randolph equalling Griffin's offensive production would have tipped the series. So this opening night provides a very good first test for how far back to All-Star level Randolph is. For the Grizzlies to be a contender this season, they need a Randolph that's roughly on the same level at his position as Griffin.

2. Mike Conley vs. Chris Paul: And speaking of good opening tests ... Mike Conley looks fabulous in the pre-season — stronger, quicker, more confident. I was impressed enough that I tabbed him to be a top contender for the Most Improved Player award this season. So how about seeing the New Mike Conley stacked up against the best point guard in the world?

3. Jerryd Bayless vs. Backcourt Pressure: When last we saw the Grizzlies in a game that mattered, anyone not named Mike Conley was struggling to transport the ball safely up court against the defensive pressure of Paul and Popeye-armed back-up point guard Eric Bledsoe. This crippling problem, an even bigger pothole on the Grizzlies post-season path than three-point shooting, is something the acquisition of Bayless is meant to correct. Bledsoe has been even more of a beast in preseason and Paul is Paul. Bayless is likely to be checked by one of those players most of the time he's on the floor. Let's see how he handles it.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NBA Predictions 2012-2013

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 9:30 AM

The race for the Larry Obrien Trophy begins tonight.
  • The race for the Larry O'brien Trophy begins tonight.
The Grizzlies begin their season tomorrow night in Los Angeles, but the NBA proper tips off tonight with a three-game slate.

We'll get back into the Grizzlies specifically tomorrow, but for now it's once again time to go on the record with how I see the whole league shaking out this season.

I did over-under predictions on all 30 teams last week on The Chris Vernon Show, alongside Verno, producer Jon Roser, and Grizzlies radio play-by-play man Eric Hasseltine. Even though circumstances have changed for a few teams and my opinions have shifted on a few others, I'm including those over-under picks here as is for the sake of posterity.


On with the predictions, conference picks separated into tiers:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Miami Heat (61.5 — OVER)
After the breakthrough comes the victory lap. I think Lebron James is about to run wild over the whole league.

2. Boston Celtics (50.5 — OVER)
I know, they were a 48-win equivalent team last season and now Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are another year older. And they're totally focused on a post-season rematch with Miami. But I think they got younger and deeper around a still-elite three-man core and the best coach in the conference. And I think they're hungry. A 55-win team.

3. Indiana Pacers (50.5 — UNDER)
4. Atlanta Hawks (43 — OVER)
5. Brooklyn Nets (46 — UNDER)

I see all these teams in the 44-50 win range. The Pacers were unusually healthy last season and are already seeing warning signs on that front from top scorer Danny Granger. I think their offseason moves to shake up their bench were lateral at best. “Lateral at best” is how I see their season.

The Hawks are my Eastern sleeper team. They lost Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams — which will hurt their wing defense more than anything — but made up for it by loading up on ballhandlers (Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Lou Williams) and shooters (Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver, Williams) to surround the dynamic frontcourt duo of Josh Smith and a returning-from-injury Al Horford. This should be a fun and surprisingly good team.

In Brooklyn, I love the Deron Williams-Joe Johnson backcourt, but don't love the defense and depth. But they'll win the All-City title and fight for homecourt in the first round. This was one of the tougher over/under calls for me.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Griz Sale to Pera Group Approved

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 12:20 PM

The NBA just announced the approval of the sale of the Grizzlies from Michael Heisley to the group led by Robert Pera. Completion of the transaction is still pending a final agreement between the two sides, which should come in the very near future.

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The NBA's announcement:

NBA BOARD OF GOVERNORS UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES SALE OF MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES TO ROBERT PERA


NEW YORK, Oct. 25, 2012 — The NBA Board of Governors has unanimously approved the sale of the Memphis Grizzlies to an investor group led by Robert Pera.

“We are delighted that the NBA’s Board of Governors has approved Robert Pera’s purchase of the Grizzlies,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern. “Robert will no doubt bring great energy and passion to the franchise. He has assembled an ownership group with very strong local ties, and we anticipate that their commitment to the Memphis area will greatly benefit both the team and the community.”

Gearing Up: Season Preview, Sorting Out the Guard Rotation

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 8:57 AM

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My annual Grizzlies-season preview for the Flyer's print edition hit the streets of Memphis yesterday and is online this morning. This year, colleague Frank Murtaugh and I teamed up, with his annual University of Memphis men's hoops preview paired up with my Griz piece, while Hannah Sayle and Susan Ellis highlight some choice downtown pre- and post-game dining options. Basketball season's here, y'all!

In the piece, I riff on five defining issues facing this year's team, make five fearless predictions, and put the spotlight on seven high-profile home games. Check it out.

Guard rotation yields options: While the season preview is already out, preseason action, regretfully, is still going on, and it seems like everyone with the Grizzlies is ready to get the real thing started. But that didn't stop the Griz from dispatching the woeful Orlando Magic 115-100 last night at FedExForum, playing something approximating a regular-season rotation and with most everyone who saw court time giving performances in the decent-to-good range.

As the regular season nears, the only real rotation question seems to be in the backcourt, where Mike Conley is set for probably 32-36 minutes a night at point guard, leaving roughly 60 minutes to fill out each night. Tony Allen is the presumptive starter at scoring guard, but has been held out of most preseason games to rest his knee after offseason surgery. Last night, even with Allen active, Wayne Ellington remained in the starting lineup. The team hasn't made any announcements about a starting lineup change, and I still expect Allen in the lineup for opening night, but this does bear watching.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Season Preview — Nowhere to Go But Up: How the Grizzlies Could be a Better Three-Point Shooting Team

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 7:59 AM

Three-point shooting — okay, and back-up point guard — is to this successful iteration of the Grizzlies what a true “big man” was to Jerry West's version: That elusive target, constantly pursued, never obtained. The back-up point guard job seems to have been shored up this summer, while personnel moves related to outside shooting seem, on the surface, to be lateral at best. What are the chances the Grizzlies could actually improve their three-point shooting this season? Let's sort it out.

The Way They Were

Last season, the Grizzlies were among the NBA's least prolific and effective three-point shooting teams, finishing 25th in three-point field-goal percentage (.326) and 28th in attempts (12.9 per game). And these lackluster shooting numbers weren't outliers. This has been the norm in the three seasons since the Grizzlies, abetted by the Zach Randolph-Marc Gasol post tandem and Lionel Hollins on the sidelines, have clawed back to NBA relevance. In the team's 46-win 2010-2011 campaign, the Grizzlies were 27th in percentage (.333) and last in attempts (11.3). The prior season, in which they broke out of the basement on the way to 40 wins, they were 26th in percentage (.337) and last in attempts (12.4).

Though Hollins does not emphasize three-point shooting, these struggles have been much more a matter of personnel than strategy, the result of rosters heavy on post scorers and slashers but without anyone you would consider a significant three-point specialist, and more significantly, without multiple good shooting options with which to spread the floor.

Last season, the Grizzlies built their lackluster team three-point performance from this, with negligible contributions from Gilbert Arenas, Jeremy Pargo, Josh Selby, Sam Young, and Josh Davis:

O.J. Mayo — 36% on 4.2 attempts per game
Rudy Gay — 31% on 2.7
Mike Conley — 38% on 2.6
Quincy Pondexter — 30% on 1.1
Tony Allen — 31% on 0.4

Continue reading »

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Season Preview — Mike Conley's Mission: Play Less, Do More

Posted By on Thu, Oct 11, 2012 at 8:32 AM

Conley_on_the_move.jpg
When we last saw Mike Conley in a game that counted he was huffing and puffing through of a flu-addled 2-13 shooting night comprised of short jumpers and contorted lay-up attempts.

Up to that point, Conley had been, arguably, the Grizzlies' most consistent performer in last spring's first-round playoff series against the Clippers. But, in Game 7, he didn't have it. Yet Conley was forced to play nearly 40 minutes anyway. Even a dramatically diminished Conley was more likely to safely transport the ball down the floor against defensive pressure than the team's other alternatives.

This was an illness-influenced, spotlight-focused representation of much of Conley's season. It was his best yet in many ways. He showed more consistency and leadership than ever before. He notched a career-high 16.8 Player Efficiency Rating (15 is league average, 20 is All-Star territory). His trademark blend of offensive steadiness and defensive dynamism continued to flower, resulting in the league's eighth best pure point rating — a stat devised by ESPN's John Hollinger to gauge playmaking — and the second highest steal average in the NBA. Conley and the Clippers' Chris Paul were the league's only point guards to actually register more steals than turnovers on the season.

But Conley seemed to wear down.

Mike Conley, Shooting Percentage by Quarter (NBA.com/Stats)
1 — 47%
2 — 49%
3 — 46%
4 — 29%

The Grizzlies made a big mistake prior to the season, jettisoning second-year point guard Greivis Vasquez (who was among the league's most improved players in New Orleans, with a five-point leap in his own PER) and entrusting the back-up point guard spot to a pair of rookies, Jeremy Pargo and Josh Selby, neither of whom proved ready. This forced O.J. Mayo into minutes at the spot, where he confirmed, conclusively, that he doesn't quite have the ball-handling ability to log significant minutes at the position.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Preseason Notes Game 2: Bulls 92, Grizzlies 88

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 6:13 AM

The Grizzlies lost to the Chicago Bulls, 92-88, Tuesday night in their second preseason game. With this one broadcast by NBATV, we weren't restricted to the box score to try to learn something from the game.

With Mike Conley getting a night off and the team playing against a much better defense than in Game 1 against Real Madrid, the Grizzlies' starting-lineup offense wasn't clicking quite as nicely. But in a game where Lionel Hollins decided to play out the string with bench players and non-roster free agents from the middle of the third quarter on, there were a few things to take away:

Tony Wroten's debut: After getting a “DNP” in the first preseason game, rookie point guard Tony Wroten made his preseason debut and showcased his raw talent — with a strong emphasis on both of those words. Wroten did a lot of stuff. Some of it was bad — he shot poorly (2-7) despite taking all but one attempt in the paint, he had 3 turnovers. But a lot of it was good: In 19 minutes, Wroten routinely got into the paint, drew three shooting fouls, had 4 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 steals, and dished 4 assists. He should have had at least five, but one first-half drive ended in a slick shuffle pass that resulted in a missed lay-up by Hamed Haddadi. For a teenager making his debut in an NBA uniform, on the road, against lots of veteran, high-level players, I thought it was pretty impressive.

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Postgame Notebook: Grizzlies 105, Real Madrid 93

Posted By on Sat, Oct 6, 2012 at 10:54 PM

The Grizzlies opened their preseason with a win tonight over Spanish League franchise Real Madrid, playing something close to a regular-season rotation and looking further along than perhaps they ever have this early in the process.

I had been hearing more positive, early chatter from team insiders than I can ever remember, and you could see why.

“Yes, we are further along,” Lionel Hollins acknowledged after the game. “That's what happens when you have continuity and a core group that's been together.”

In lieu of the traditional regular-season post-game notebook style, a few quick observations from tonight:

Starters looking sharp: All five Grizzlies starters looked ready for primetime, both individually and as a unit.

Zach Randolph's increased quickness and lift was evident during his pre-game shooting routine and carried over into the game, where he twice pinned a taller defender under the rim and finished easily over him.

After the game, Randolph was so bouncy and animated it seemed like he was ready to play another game immediately. I told him he looked like he was back to his pre-injury form. He smiled, put his finger to his lips and said, “Shh. It's a secret. It's coming. I'm getting back to the old Z'Bo.”

Tony Allen looked fine physically coming off his summer knee surgery, though he told me after the game, with both knees packed in ice, that he'd have a better feel for things in the morning.

Rudy Gay (game-high 27 points on 11-18 shooting) scored easily, in the flow and all over the court, while handling and moving the ball at a higher level than has been his norm.

And Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, in particular, looked in top form, both in terms of conditioning and sharpness. Gasol dominated the defensive boards and was decisive on offense (16-16-6 stat line), while Conley (18-5-8) seemed quicker than ever despite adding a little more bulk over the summer.

Continue reading »

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