Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Report: Grizzlies to Sign Marcus Williams

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 5:10 PM

b399/1248905348-marcus-williams.jpgPro Basketball News is reporting that the Grizzlies have found their long-sought back-up point guard in journeyman and former UCONN star Marcus Williams:

Marcus Williams had a banner NBA Summer League. And it made a difference.

Williams' agent, Calvin Andrews, confirmed to Pro Basketball News on Wednesday afternoon his client will sign with the Memphis Grizzlies within the next few days. The point guard will get a one-year deal for the NBA minimum of $855,189.

Williams averaged 6 points and 3 assists on 39% shooting in the past three seasons for the New Jersey Nets and Golden State Warriors, but he put up nice numbers in a five-game run for the Grizzlies in the Las Vegas Summer League, an arena in which quality performance is not always an indicator for future NBA success.

A five-man-unit of Williams, rookies Sam Young, DeMarre Carroll, and Hasheem Thabeet, and second-year forward Darrell Arthur went 5-0 in Vegas, but as the probable second-unit for the Grizzlies against real NBA competition it's a lineup light on proven performance or scoring ability.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Warrick Qualifying Offer Rescinded

Posted By on Sat, Jul 25, 2009 at 11:06 PM

410d/1248580594-hakim-warrick.jpgThe Grizzlies announced today that they have rescinded their qualifying offer to Hakim Warrick, making the incumbent forward an unrestricted free agent. It was a slightly unexpected and curiously timed move.

Trying to make sense of this decision requires wading into some pretty detailed material regarding league contract rules, so try to follow me.

There are essentially three types of free agency that apply to Warrick. By issuing the qualifying offer (a one-year contract offer I estimate at $2.7 million based on league rules, but which has been reported at $3 million) to Warrick earlier in the summer, the Grizzlies made him a restricted free agent. This meant that Warrick was free to negotiate with any team in the league but that the Grizzlies had the right to match any contract offer. Warrick could also negotiate any contract with the Grizzlies. Warrick could also sign the qualifying offer and play next season on a one-year deal for that amount. (This is what ended up happening with Stromile Swift at the end of his Grizzlies' rookie contract.)

By pulling back the qualifying offer, the Grizzlies have made Warrick an unrestricted free agent. Warrick could still negotiate a contract with the Grizzlies, but now the Grizzlies no longer have rights to match offers from other teams and Warrick no longer has the one-year qualifying offer as an option. My understanding (I'm admittedly slightly uncertain about the first part) is also that the cap hold (the amount that counts against the team's salary cap until an actual contract is signed) for Warrick increases from the qualifying offer to an amount equal to 300% of his salary last season (approximately $6.3 million).

The next step could be to renounce Warrick. In doing this, the team would lose Warrick's Bird Rights (the ability to exceed the salary cap in signing him) but would remove the cap hold, thus maximizing the team's available cap space. (It would seem intuitive that by renouncing a free agent a team would lose the option of using them in sign-and-trade scenarios, but apparently this is not the case.)

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

International Incident: Haddadi Shows a Mean Streak

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 12:10 PM

Check this video of Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi getting into it with a member of the Jordanian National Team. This game happened today, as part of the "Jones Cup" tournament. Apparently the ensuing near-melee lead to the Jordanian team leaving the arena, forfeiting the game to Iran.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Z Day" Notebook

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2009 at 7:06 PM

44c0/1248221054-picture_3.pngBefore Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace could introduce Zach Randolph as the newest member of the Memphis Grizzlies at a 2 p.m. FedExForum press conference, he had to deliver a different message:

"Before we start, the Grizzlies would like to send out our prayers to Antonio Burks," Wallace said, in reference to the former University of Memphis and later Memphis Grizzlies point guard, who had been shot Monday night in a robbery while observing a dice game outside a South Memphis home, according to a Commercial Appeal report.

Initially in critical condition, Burks had been upgraded to stable by the time of this afternoon's press conference. But the coincidence of Burks' shooting and Randolph's introduction presented a stark reminder that it can be difficult for people — and not just basketball players — to extricate themselves from dangerous environments, even after they've achieved the means to do so.

Randolph, as has been well-documented (here and, more recently, here), has as long a track record of off-court issues as any player in the league, which is the primary (though not only) reason he has been moved so often for so little return despite his considerable production. And though both the frequency and severity of his troubles have waned significantly since leaving Portland in the summer of 2007, he has not put his record behind him. So, even as Randolph was insisting today that he didn't want to talk about the past, the subject was inevitable.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer League Notebook: Games 4 & 5

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 1:07 PM

The Grizzlies JV team completed a 5-0 run at the Las Vegas Summer League over the weekend, crushing the Phoenix Suns 90-67 Saturday, and then squeaking by the San Antonio Spurs 76-75 last night.

I was out of town over the weekend and unable to watch the Saturday game until yesterday, so I'm going to combine to two games into one final summer league entry:

f9e1/1248113235-thabeet_portrait.jpgHasheem Thabeet: The play of #2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet was always going to be the primary story of the Grizzlies' summer league, which makes it harder to be enthused by the 5-0 record. Though summer league is only a small step in any player's evolution as an NBA player, clearly Thabeet's play in Vegas was discouraging. He even gave himself a (generous) "C" via Twitter.

The big man finished up with 10 points (3-7 shooting), 7 boards, and 0 blocks in 26 minutes against the Sun and 9 points (4-11 shooting), 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 26 minutes against the Spurs. He had three missed dunks in the Suns game and 8 fouls (you're allowed 10 in summer league) against the Spurs.

Essentially, Thabeet should leave summer league with the following mantra ringing in his mind: "Get stronger. Play harder. Get stronger. Play harder." The Grizzlies should make him a tape and let the refrain sing him to sleep each night, because those two things — getting stronger and playing harder — would probably be sufficient to make Thabeet a valuable player.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer League Notebook: Game 3

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2009 at 10:15 AM

Despite the explosive first-half exploits of top overall pick Blake Griffin, the Memphis Grizzlies summer squad beat the Los Angeles Clippers team 85-68 to move to 3-0 so far during their five-game Las Vegas Summer League run.

My player-by-player notes:

7493/1247843690-carroll2.jpgDeMarre Carroll: Let's start with the good news. Late-first-round pick Carroll continues to impress, registering 16 points (7-9 shooting) and 3 rebounds in 32 minutes. Carroll seems to play with a relentless pace, consistent intensity, and defensive mindset reminiscent of James Posey and Shane Battier during the Grizzlies' 50-win season. Only seconds into the game, Carroll was already hitting the floor going after a loose ball. And he made those kinds of plays throughout the game, saving a ball to a teammate while falling out of bounds, swooping from out of the frame to pick off a pass, disrupting the Clippers offensive with quick, aggressive defensive rotations, getting offensive rebounds and contested putback buckets, etc.

Carroll scored many of his points in transition (in one case on a breakaway after his own steal). And what seems to make Carroll so effective in the open court isn't his pure speed. It's that while everyone else on the court is running, he's racing.

What makes Carroll more promising is that there seems to be enough skill to go with his effort. After a couple of early misses (including a Shane Battier Memorial Baseline Jumper — gotta hit those!), Carroll found his stroke, hitting a pull-up jumper in transition and even a floater off the dribble. And his ball-handling again looked solid. If this summer-league is any indication, the Grizzlies search for a good back-up small forward is over, to say the least. More than that, one hopes that the intensity Carroll brings to the game (in conjunction with holdover Marc Gasol, who will enjoy having him around) will rub off on teammates.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yahoo on Iverson: Sad But True (And a Bit About Boozer)

Posted By on Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 10:59 PM

2847/1247716683-allen-iverson-picture-1.jpgYahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski has a great piece up about the Allen Iverson situation. It's mostly about the Clippers, but Wojnarowski's deservedly sour commentary on the situation applies to the Grizzlies even when he isn't directly addressing the franchise.

Choice bits:

Why would the Los Angeles Clippers want to thrust Allen Iverson(notes) into the life of gifted young guard Eric Gordon(notes)? The answer is as simple as it’s flawed: box office over basketball. The worst owner in sports, Donald T. Sterling, believes A.I. can do what No. 1 pick Blake Griffin has been thus far unable — sell tickets. Perhaps the Clippers could give winning a chance, but Sterling is hell-bent on dysfunction.


Iverson is a bad investment for the Clippers. Iverson is a shell of himself now, and worst of all, he’s the last to know.

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Summer League Notebook: Game 2

Posted By on Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 11:39 AM

590a/1247676203-85491558_10.jpgThe Grizzlies Vegas Summer League squad moved to 2-0 yesterday with a 90-86 win over a Knicks team featuring first-round picks Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas.

Despite racking up another win, however, yesterday's performance was less promising for most players on the Griz team. My player-by-player notes:

Darrell Arthur: After a decent performance in Game 1, Arthur stepped up his production even more in Game 2, finishing with a game-high 22 points (on 8-15 shooting), 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 28 minutes. Arthur was the best player on the floor and impressed with his energy and effort on both ends of the floor. (Example: After turning over the ball at the top of the key, Arthur raced back to disrupt a 2-on-1 break, blocking the shot, then saving the ball to a teammate while falling out of bounds.) For Arthur to become the kind of pro he's capable of, he needs to do two things in particular: Bring consistent energy defensively and on the boards and shoot effectively from mid-range. Yesterday was a good performance on both counts.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer League Notebook: Game 1

Posted By on Sun, Jul 12, 2009 at 10:56 PM

The Grizzlies summer league squad got off to a good start Sunday night with an 86-57 demolition of the Oklahoma City Thunder summer team. The Grizzlies started four players certain to be on the team's regular season roster — rookies Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll, and Sam Young and rising second-year forward Darrell Arthur — and one with at least a puncher's chance — free agent point guard Marcus Williams. The Thunder also countered with a roster that included at least seven probable NBA players, including the team's likely starting backcourt next season — Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

You shouldn't put too much stock in summer league, especially after only one game. But all info is good info, especially when trying to evaluate players that haven't yet logged much NBA time.

My notes on the players that mattered:

4642/1247457220-picture_1.pngHasheem Thabeet: The number-two overall pick in last month's draft showed up with a slick fro-hawk, but that was probably the only flashy part of his pro debut. In 20 minutes, Thabeet registered 9 points (all in the first half) on 3-4 shooting, only 2 rebounds (though that seemed like a low count watching the game), and 1 block. Thabeet clearly needs to add strength, particularly in his rather slender upper body, to be a significant NBA player. He was weak setting picks and struggled to maintain his ground and control the ball in the post against collapsing defense. That strength is not going to be gained quickly, which is why I'll be surprised if Marc Gasol isn't the significantly better option next season (if not beyond).

On the good side, Thabeet impressed with his mobility and quickness off the floor. This will help not just with contesting shots, but rebounding and scoring off putbacks and catch-and-dunk plays (where most of his points came in this game). In an on-air interview, Lionel Hollins stressed this as well, praising Thabeet's mobility and ability to get to the rim and finish. Hollins said Thabeet would be used a lot in pick-and-rolls next season but wouldn't be expected to do much in the post. I wouldn't be too concerned about his meager block total: He was not being challenged very often, which is itself a strength.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Real Attendance Last Season: 7,570

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2009 at 11:10 AM

Published NBA attendance reports don't count actual attendance. The universal formula is "tickets sold + comps used." The true count of "butts in seats" is always lower than the reported number.

Apparently, CBS Sports has gotten ahold of a report that gives the real numbers, and which puts the Grizzlies' real attendance last season at a league-low 7,570. I think anyone who went to a lot of Grizzlies games last season would find this number plausible.

There's lots of great stuff in this CBS Sports story — and lots of important issues related to the league's recent memo projecting a steep salary cap decline next summer. I wish I had time to try to put a Griz-specific spin on some of it, but that won't be possible until later next week, at the best.

Until then, if you've got a stomach for financial minutiae, this story is well worth a read. A choice selection:

While the NBA claims that its arenas were at 90.4 percent capacity last season, that figure doesn't account for comp tickets and people who don't show up. According to the league data, an average of 14,072 fans actually attended NBA games last season, putting average arena capacity at 73 percent.

Paid tickets are good, but teams prefer to fill seats with people who are paying for parking and concessions. The teams that struggled the most to get people through the turnstiles last season were Memphis (7,570 per game), Minnesota (8,969), Charlotte (9,404), Indiana (10,057), Sacramento (10,188), Milwaukee (10,884) and Washington (11,030).

If a certain number of tickets can't be sold, Grinstead said teams prefer to give them away — or "comp" them — in the hopes that those fans will show up and spend money on food, souvenirs and parking. But too many comp tickets can also mean lost revenues. Three teams shared the dubious honor of handing out an average of more than 5,000 free tickets per game last season: the Hawks (5,616), Nets (5,213) and Timberwolves (5,205).

RELATED: Here's a piece I did about a year and a half ago for Memphis Business Quarterly on NBA economics.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Aldridge Report: Iverson Deal Not Imminent

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2009 at 10:58 PM's David Aldridge talked to Michael Heisley tonight, who was apparently blunt in acknowledging that the team is exploring a deal with Allen Iverson but made it clear that a signing is not imminent:

Heisley didn't say that the Grizzlies wouldn't ultimately sign Iverson only that such a decision has yet to be made.

"More or less, we're going to have discussions initially with his agent," Heisley said. "But it's very, very early. I don't want people to think there's more to it than that. It's very, very early and it's nothing more than exploratory."

The Iverson Rumor: Heisley Preparing to Make Mockery of His "Three-Year Plan"?

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2009 at 5:38 PM

The Allen Iverson to the Grizzlies rumor that first surfaced last week popped up again this morning. I'd heard some scuttle throughout the day that the deal was still being discussed, but nothing solid enough to report.

Now it seems to be tumbling out. First, ESPN's Chris Broussard, putting the potential deal in what I consider to be its proper context:

The Memphis Grizzlies appear to be the club with the most interest in Allen Iverson. I'm told the chances of Iverson going to Miami are miniscule. But for reasons that are as much about money as about basketball, the Grizzlies are contemplating adding Iverson to their club. That doesn't mean it's going to happen, but it could.

Neither party's motives are the purest. Memphis, which often has as many empty seats as filled seats at its games, knows Iverson is a huge draw and that's a big part of this. Iverson, on the other hand, is hoping to land with the Grizzlies solely because they're the only team willing to consider paying him more than the midlevel exception.

Iverson has been humbled a bit. He realizes that interest in him is low and that he's in for a severe pay cut. But he's also motivated. His mentality right now is that he'll take a one-year deal, play his butt off to re-establish himself as an elite player, and then cash in next summer.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Randolph: Reasons it Might Work

Posted By on Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 10:00 AM

cbca/1246890798-act_zach_randolph-thumb-270x240.jpgI'm on record as being opposed to the Grizzlies impending trade for Zach Randolph, and I'm not backing off that: I think his track record makes him too big of a gamble for a young team; I think his black-hole offense makes him a bad fit for a team trying to develop O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay as primary scorers; and I think his stationary defense will present match-up problems against the more mobile fours that are becoming the norm for the position.

Beyond that, a couple of other factors about the deal bother me: I think the Grizzlies gave up too early on a free-agent market that could start looking more and more like a buyer's market as options dwindle. And I hate that the Clippers were able to hold out for a better deal (Quentin Richardson rather than Marko Jaric) for a player they had to get rid of and apparently no one else wanted.

All that said, I don't want my skepticism to be mistaken for the arrogance of certainty. There are reasons to believe this deal might work out for the Grizzlies. Here are six of them:

1. Creeping Maturity?: Last week on The Geoff and Gary Show, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski suggested that Randolph has matured. Could it be? Though Randolph's on- and off-court rap sheet is long and colorful, most of it, including the most serious entries, happened earlier in his career while he was in Portland. True, Randolph's Clipper tenure was marred by both a DUI arrest and a suspension for punching Suns' forward Louis Amundsen. But the frequency and severity of his problems seems to have waned since leaving Portland. Hopefully the trend will continue.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Randolph: A Clipper Assessment

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 8:10 PM

The sharp Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog offers a parting assessment of Zach Randolph:

I’ve been rough on Zach Randolph, so I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a more rational critique of him as a player. Is Randolph is a bad guy? I’ve had several conversations with him, but I generally hold the position that a series of locker room encounters tells us precious little about the inner life of athletes. There’s enough evidence to suggest that Randolph has applied lousy judgment throughout his professional life. On the court, he’s a statistical beast, but there’s a body of work that reveals tendencies which aren’t conducive to the formula the NBA demands at this moment for a successful franchise. Randolph was born about a decade too late, and would’ve been a much more helpful pre-2001, before the revisions of the hand-checking rules produced a more perimeter-oriented game more hospitable to face-up 4s. His defense would’ve been less of a liability in an era when “taking up space” was a more essentially defensive quality, and Zach certainly does that. But today’s game presents insurmountable problems for Zach. Defensively, he simply can’t defend the collection of athletic 4s who dominate the league. When his man works his way down low, Zach has a horrible habit of bailing out, leaving a basket defender like Marcus Camby as the last line of defense. That’s an excusable tactic for a perimeter defender who’s gotten beat, but power forwards have certain responsibilities down low and, unlike front line defenders, they can’t hide from those.

Offensively, Randolph is a black hole down low. If we’ve seen nothing else since April 18, the ability of bigs to move the ball can’t be overstated. It’s no longer merely a luxury; it’s a prerequisite for longterm success. On Monday, John Krolik of Cavs the Blog composed this pithy axiom: “Simply put, some guys create shots and plays offensively while other guys finish them.” Randolph is undoubtedly a one-on-one finisher — and a pretty good one. But that’s not what the Clippers needed in 2008-09, or or necessitate going forward. They need guys who can create for others. Even Dwight Howard, he of the so-called (and mischaracterized) one-dimensional game, became an effective post-and-kick man for Orlando. Yet, Clippers fans went days without seeing Randolph make a smart pass to set up a shooter.

That’s our final word here on Randolph. Maybe he’s capable of giving the Grizz a jolt in a frontcourt that needs a productive one-on-one scorer. Who knows?

Notes: Randolph/Iverson React, Vernon Show, Summer League

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 2:16 PM

What the hell is going on? First this:

Now this?

I was probably too measured in my off-the-cuff comments last night. I'm hoping for the best out of the Zach Randolph trade, but I don't see much reason to expect a variation on the pattern: Everywhere Randolph's played the negatives have outweighed the positives.

As for Allen Iverson: I'd be extremely surprised if he ended up in a Grizzlies uniform next season. He's long been one of my two favorite players to watch in person (along with Kevin Garnett), but I don't see how any reasonable person thinks it would be a good idea to add Zach Randolph AND Allen Iverson to this team. Unless you think the transition from irrelevant to compelling sideshow is a big step up. The concept would be funny if the franchise's status in the city weren't already so fragile.

On a related note: Be sure to check out the Chris Vernon Show this afternoon. Chris will be re-playing the astounding interview Geoff Calkins and Gary Parrish did this morning with Portland columnist John Canzano, who has lots of interesting stories about Randolph's tenure with the Blazers. I'll be on with Vernon during the 4'oclock hour, where we'll probably be taking calls on all of this mess.

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