Monday, September 28, 2009

Media Day: A.I. & Z-Bo Tag Team

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 3:04 PM

With production hot and heavy on our annual "Best of Memphis" issue — always our biggest of the year — I wasn't able to get down to Grizzlies' media day. But my Memphis magazine colleague Frank Murtaugh was there to take in Allen Iverson and Zach Randolph's tag-team act. Go here for Frank's press conference notebook.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Griz to Hold Three Local Open Practices

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Apparently eager to show off their newly acquired toys, the Grizzlies have announced today that they are expanding their preseason "open practice" schedule from the annual FedExForm event and holding a couple of other open practices at other venues.

The deets:


MEMPHIS, Tennessee— As part of the Memphis Grizzlies Round Town Tour, the Grizzlies are opening the doors of FedExForum again for their annual free Open Practice, but this season they’re not stopping there, as the team is set to host three additional practices at different locations that will also be open for fans to attend.

The Open Practice at FedExForum that is set to take place on Saturday, Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. will not only give a glimpse of the excitement that new Grizzlies Allen Iverson and Zach Randolph will bring to the young core of Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but will also allow fans to partake in the Grizzlies Fan Fest prior to and after the official practice.

During the Grizzlies Fan Fest, fans will be able to get autographs and ask questions of their favorite Grizzlies players, coaches and front office members. The fun doesn’t stop there though, as fans in attendance will also have the chance to shoot free-throws on FedExForum’s floor, meet Grizz Girls, enjoy inflatables, face painters and balloon artists. Additionally, fans will have the chance to check out great seat locations for Grizzlies Season Tickets and 11- and 22- Game Power Packs.

Grizzlies fans will have two chances to see the team in person in Memphis for free before the fun even gets started at FedExForum, as they are set to host Open Practices that are open to the general public as well at East High School on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Memphis University School on Monday, Oct. 19 from 6-8 p.m. Space is limited and will be based on a first come, first serve basis at the Open Practices at East High School and Memphis University School.

The team will also be holding a practice at the conclusion of next week’s training camp on Sunday, Oct. 4 at Birmingham-Southern College from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Fans in the Birmingham area wishing to attend the practice will need to go to the Birmingham-Southern College Athletics Office at the Larry Striplin Center on campus starting Tuesday, September 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to receive free tickets to this event. Space is limited, with two tickets allotted per person on a first come, first serve basis. Call the Birmingham-Southern College Athletic Department at (205) 226-4935 for more information.

Doors for each Open Practice will open one hour prior to the start of the practice, with the exception of the practice set at FedExForum, where doors will open at 9 a.m.

Prior to the Grizzlies slate of Open Practices, fans looking to purchase single game tickets to any of the Grizzlies 41 regular season home games will be able to do so starting Saturday, Oct. 3 at 10 a.m. Regular and preseason tickets can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets, by visiting the FedExForum Box Office, by calling (800) 4NBA-TIX or by going online at Group, Power Pack, Season Ticket and Corporate Value and VIP Package information is available by calling (901) 888-HOOP or online at

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Central Division Preview

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 11:36 PM

Beyond the Arc's trip around the league continues with the Central Division:

Ego Trippin: Shaq looks to take credit for another young turks title.
  • Ego Trippin': Shaq looks to take credit for another young turk's title.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
Conference Rank: 3rd
Forum Date: Tuesday, December 8th
Notes: By adding Shaquille O'Neal to Lebron James, the Cavs now boast two of the five most famous active basketball players on the planet and arguably the two grandest personalities in the game. This will make for high ratings and good copy, but will it actually make the Cavs a better basketball team? Shaq had a bounce-back season for the Suns last year, but at age 37 and with ever-present conditioning challenges, the wise money would be on his falling back into the natural decline that was evident before last season. For the Cavs, the questions are two-fold: Can Shaq hold up well enough to be a positive contributor come playoff time, particularly in giving them a bigger, stronger body to put on Dwight Howard in a potential rematch with the Magic? And can Shaq be deferential enough not to disrupt the team's strong on- and off-court chemistry? If those questions are answered in the affirmative, then the Cavs will be a title contender as long as Lebron James — a.k.a., the best basketball player in the world — is healthy.
Pivotal Player: Shaq will garner the headlines, but a relatively obscure off-season addition could be equally crucial. Last season, the Cavs struggled with pick-and-roll defense, which Shaq won't help, and against taller perimeter scoring threats (most notably Hedo Turkoglu in the playoffs). Free-agent signee Anthony Parker, a 6'6" swingman who played with Toronto last season, will give the Cavs another wing player with size to flank Lebron. And as a career 40% three-point shooter, Parker could be a big asset on both ends. Given incumbent two-guard Delonte West's offseason troubles, Parker could be asked to start and play big minutes for the Cavs this season.
Memphis/Griz Connection: Maybe the real obstacle to the Cavs' title quest last season wasn't Dwight Howard or Hedo Turkoglu, but the presence of not one, but two players the Grizzlies let walk: Lorenzen Wright and Tarence Kinsey. The Cavs will this year embark on a their quest with a roster free of former Grizzlies.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Atlantic Division Preview

Posted By on Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 4:44 PM

We're about six weeks away from the start of the NBA season. Full-scale preview material on the Grizzlies will commence with media day at the end of the month and then with the beginning of preseason. But in the meantime I'm going to post brief previews and predictions on the rest of the league, going division by division at the rate of roughly one a week. First up, the Atlantic Division:

If healthy come May, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will lead the Celtics back to the title.
  • If healthy come May, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will lead the Celtics back to the title.
1. Boston Celtics
Conference Rank: 2nd
Forum Date: Monday, December 14th
Notes: Be still my heart: I only own two sports jerseys. One is a Kevin Garnett Timberwolves jersey. The other is a Rasheed Wallace Pistons jersey. So I guess I'll be rooting for the Celtics this season despite spending my first decade as an NBA fan rooting against the old Larry Bird Celtics. If this team is healthy come May, then they're my pick to take back the title. A frontcourt rotation of Garnett, Wallace, Kendrick Perkins, and Glen Davis has a chance to be the league's best — physical, versatile, experienced. Combine that with two playoff-tested shotmakers (Paul Pierce and Ray Allen), a dynamic, penetrating lead guard (Rajon Rondo), a multi-positional sixth-man type (Marquis Daniels) to keep the vets fresh, and a proven coach (Doc Rivers), and this team has everything it needs to be the last standing.
Pivotal Player: Rondo is a potential question mark because of a bumpy offseason and the lack of a strong backup. But the real pivotal player here is Kevin Garnett, who has an unusual number of miles on his odometer at age 33 and is coming off a season-ending knee injury. If Garnett can get back to 90% of his pre-injury self, he'll ignite what can again be the league's best defense and potentially keep volatile teammates such as Rondo and Wallace on the same page. If Garnett can't make it back, the Celtics can still be a top 4 seed in the East, but would have little chance of going all the way.
Griz/Memphis Connection: The Celtics spent the 58th pick in this summer's draft on Lester Hudson, the Memphis native and UT-Martin grad who was a dynamic scorer at the college level. Hudson is probably a longshot to make a loaded, veteran Celtics team, but he'll take a shot over the next six weeks, and there are few prospective pros more worth rooting for. Hudson tells part of his story — including financing his college education partly through loans, just like a lot of us — to the "Celtics Town" blog.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Preview Mag Plug

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 2:20 PM

The NBA preview magazines are on the stands now and I need to put a personal plug in for the Lindy's NBA annual, in which I wrote the Grizzlies preview. The piece was written before the Iverson signing, which makes some of my comments — about the bench and the point guard position — no longer totally applicable, but the rest serves as a starting point for my own analysis of this year's team, a take certain to evolve as we get into training camp and preseason in a few weeks. Chris Paul's on the cover of our regional edition, so look for it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Iverson Press Conference Notebook

Posted By on Thu, Sep 10, 2009 at 1:35 PM

The Grizzlies photoshop the future.
  • The Grizzlies photoshop the future.
The circus came to FedExForum today, and unlike Ringling Brothers, this one promises to stick around awhile.

The Grizzlies introduced Allen Iverson at a press conference in the lobby of FedExForum before a large group of local media, civic dignitaries, and excited fans. Even before he took the stage, Iverson proved a uniting force, as Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowry and former mayor Willie Herenton shook hands before taking seats only a few feet apart. (Later, both Lowry and Herenton were introduced to a mixture of cheers and boos, Herenton lustily pumping his fist, shaking the haters off.)

When Iverson did stride up to the dais, wearing jeans, a baggy white shirt, a tilted blue Grizzlies cap, and flanked by coach Lionel Hollins, general manager Chris Wallace, and owner Michael Heisley, the assembled fans went nuts, Wallace beamed in a mix of surprise and amusement, Iverson smiled, and it was on. Periodically throughout the press conference, a fan sitting behind would bellow "A.I.! A.I.!"

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Allen Iverson: Three Up, Three Down

Posted By on Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 11:42 AM

Quick, extremely conflicted thoughts on the first day of the Iverson Era:


The Good A.I.: The rare chance to see a true star up close.
  • The Good A.I.: The rare chance to see a true star up close.
1. A Rare Opportunity: Whatever else the addition of Allen Iverson means for the Grizzlies, one thing is clear: This provides an opportunity for Memphis-area sports fans to watch one of the most compelling and charismatic athletes of his generation, up close, for as many as 45 games. In my seven years of covering the Grizzlies, my two favorite NBA players to watch in person have been Iverson and Kevin Garnett: Both play the game with palpable passion and both are unique athletes — Garnett a 7'1" basketball ballet dancer who covers the entire floor and doesn't need to score to dominate; Iverson a scoring machine who attacks with a geometrical feel few possess, as if he's on ice skates while everyone else is in sneakers.

Even a diminished, 34-year-old Iverson will be fascinating to watch. In a small market with one major-league franchise, the opportunity to watch an all-time great is rare. Whatever my reservations about the signing, I'm genuinely excited to take advantage of that opportunity.

2. Starpower: If the main reason for signing Iverson is to get fans excited and sell tickets, well, those are pretty worthwhile goals. Nevermind the impact on the team's bottom line — the paltry attendance at Grizzlies games in recent seasons has severely hurt the quality of the experience for fans that are there and has seemed to impact the energy level of the players. Iverson will sell tickets. He won't fill the building, but will clearly bring many more people in than would otherwise have been there.

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Iverson Tweets "Yes"

Posted By on Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 9:50 AM

Allen Iverson, one of the most exciting, colorful, and controversial athletes of the past decade or so, will be donning Beale Street Blue this season, accepting the Grizzlies' one-year offer and announcing it on his Twitter feed this morning:

God Chose Memphis as the place that I will continue my career. I met with Mr. Heinsley, Chris Wallace and my next head coach Lionel Hollins
42 minutes ago from web

I feel that they are committed to developing a winner and I know that I can help them to accomplish that. I feel that I can trust them.
34 minutes ago from web

Monday, September 7, 2009

Grizzlies Closing in on Iverson

Posted By on Mon, Sep 7, 2009 at 10:31 AM

The Grizzlies are meeting with Allen Iverson today in an attempt to iron out a contract agreement, Iverson himself reported via his Twitter account last night:

I am looking forward to meeting the owner of the Memphis Grizzlies on tomorrow, along with his staff. I want to help them develop a winner.
about 14 hours ago from web

The Grizzlies have never seemed like Iverson's first choice — otherwise a deal likely would have been made long ago — but with the offseason winding down, the Grizzlies may be the only team left with serious interest in the former MVP and multi-time scoring champ. ESPN's Marc Stein elaborates:

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Wolves Ink Sessions; Griz Wait on Iverson

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2009 at 12:51 PM

The Grizzlies await an Answer that could come today.
  • The Grizzlies await an Answer that could come today.
While the Grizzlies continue to wait for an answer from free-agent guard Allen Iverson, the Minnesota Timberwolves today signed restricted free agent Ramon Sessions to a reported offer sheet of four years and $16 million.'s Chris Sheridan suggests that the Bucks — with point guards Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnour under contract and with luxury tax concerns — are unlikely to match the deal. Under this offer, Sessions' salary next season is likely to be very close to the $3.5 million the Grizzlies are reportedly offering Iverson for next season.

With the Grizzlies seeking a versatile ball-handling guard to give the team scoring punch off the bench, why wait for Iverson and not make a bid for Sessions, especially when the cost for next season would be roughly similar?

Iverson may well be the better player next season, but how far can the Grizzlies reasonably go next season? For a young team still at least a year away from playoff contention, what would bring more value? A 34-year-old Iverson (18 points and 5 assists per game last season, 15.89 PER) for one season or a 23-year-old Sessions (12 points and 6 assists per game last season, 17.65 PER) for four seasons? And this is without factoring in considerably less risk of turmoil from Sessions and less defensive liability. (Sessions is at least three inches taller)

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

The "Return" of Pro Basketball Prospectus

Posted By on Thu, Sep 3, 2009 at 11:30 PM

Good news for pro hoops fans who like to dig beneath the surface of the sport: The "Prospectus" family — creators of the totally awesome Baseball Prospectus — are beefing up their NBA coverage with a full-fledged NBA preview this season.

Pro Basketball Prospectus will be available as both a downloadable PDF and a print-to-order book, writers Kevin Pelton (a friend of Beyond the Arc) and Bradford Doolittle announced online yesterday, with ordering info to come.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Tweets of Thabeet: A Dissenting Voice

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 11:52 AM

Hasheem justs wants to say nighty-nighty to his peepo.
  • Hasheem justs wants to say nighty-nighty to his peepo.
The NBA is, by far, the most Twitter-friendly sports league, full of young, charismatic, funny, and sometimes seemingly slightly crazy tech-savvy athletes. Minnesota's Kevin Love has become almost as known for his wry, news-breaking tweets as for his on-court play. Shaquille O'Neal has brought his larger-than-life personality fully into cyberspace via the format.

With the Grizzlies, Rudy Gay is a reliable Twitter communicator, but rookie Hasheem Thabeet became the team's most entertaining Twitter user almost immediately after being drafted, providing his followers with excellent entertainment in the form of pronouncements on the Memphis weather, shout-outs to his native Tanzania, and loopy "Nighty nighty!" signoffs.

But is Thabeet's online act wearing thin? And does it portend bad things ahead via his on-court performance? A Beyond the Arc reader emailed me a funny and persuasive rant on this subject that I'm going to publish here with his permission:

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