Saturday, October 17, 2009

Southeast Division Preview

Posted By on Sat, Oct 17, 2009 at 6:53 PM

This little project got sidetracked by other work, but I will finish, although the last batch might not come until after the season tips.

1. Orlando Magic
Conference Rank: 1
Forum Date: Monday, January 25th

Vince Carter: Better than Hedo Turkoglu over the course of a season. But what about when it matters most?
  • Vince Carter: Better than Hedo Turkoglu over the course of a season. But what about when it matters most?
Notes: Last season, the Magic won 59 games, were the best defensive team in basketball, and made it to the NBA Finals. This year, if they can stay reasonably healthy and avoid complacency, they could be even better. The biggest difference for the Magic is adding Vince Carter while letting Hedo Turkoglu go. This seems risky given the memory of Turkoglu's playoff heroics, but Carter is the superior all-around basketball player — a better defender, a better one-on-one scorer, and a better three-point shooter last season. Coming along with Carter is Ryan Anderson, a second-year forward who is an underrated pickup for the Magic, I think. A versatile 6'10", 240-pound forward, Anderson was a decent rebounder (14.1 rebound rate to Rashard Lewis' 8.9) and a solid three-point shooter (37%) as a rookie. He can give the Magic a little bit more conventional toughness at power forward while maintaining their ability to spread the floor around Dwight Howard. Anderson and Brandon Bass (another new acquisition) give the Magic some interesting looks at that position when Lewis is on the bench or back at his original small-forward position. The Magic will also have Jameer Nelson back at the point. I've never been a huge Nelson fan, but there's no denying his breakout regular season last year.
Pivotal Player: How much better can Dwight Howard get? The reigning defensive player of the year and a legit MVP contender, Howard is the magic's lynchpin at both ends of the floor. His ability to shut down the paint defensively allows the Magic to guard opposing shooters closely and his ability to dominate in the paint offensively frees up the Magic's own shooters. And he's 23. For the Magic to break through and win a title, Howard might need to take a final step forward offensively — moving his sub-60% free-throw shooting closer to 70% and becoming a more polished post player.
Griz/Memphis Connection: After sitting out last season rather than join Zach Randolph with the Clippers, Jason Williams flirted with the Knicks (Randolph's prior team) and with a return to the Grizzlies (Randolph's new team) before signing on to stay home and play for the Magic. Here he'll compete with Anthony Johnson for backup minutes behind Jameer Nelson and, if things go well for Orlando, probably won't be used much.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Three Questions with FoxSports.com

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 8:49 PM

I did a phone interview this morning as part of a preview series for FoxSports.com. I answered three questions about the team. You can listen/watch here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Around the Web: Reviewing the Previews

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 3:53 PM

As I get ready for my own Griz preview stuff over the next couple of weeks, let's start with a survey of other Griz previews around the web:

John Hollinger:

Hollinger's team preview is on ESPN Insider, so you won't be able to read it without those privileges. But he projects the Grizzlies to go 27-55, deriding both the team's offseason moves and the decision-making process that went into them. Hollinger wonders how the addition of shot-happy scorers Allen Iverson and Zach Randolph will really help an offense that was 28th overall last season and a distant last in percentage of assisted baskets.

Hollinger also makes a point that I made in my Lindy's preview and will make again in my upcoming Flyer preview: That even in winning a mere 24 games last season, the Grizzlies were unusually fortunate in the health department, the top five players on the roster missing a total of 3 games. That was unlikely to repeat itself this season even before the Grizzlies added an aging (and already injured) Iverson and a relatively injury prone Randolph.

I think Hollinger makes a good point about the depth and diversity of the team's frontcourt rotation and how it could potentially be used against different kinds of match-ups, though he points out that the slowness of a likely Randolph/Gasol starting pairing could cause problems defensively. This is something that was on display last night against the Hawks.

Though I'm not ready to make my own prediction on the Grizzlies' record this season, I think Hollinger's rationale is sound, especially as regards to the Iverson and Randolph signings and the decision to let Hakim Warrick walk

There are a couple of details in Hollinger's preview I take issue with:

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hawks 111, Grizzlies 96 Post-Game Three-Pointer

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 10:41 PM

This was a pretty blah game and I have a cold, so I'm going to make this one reasonably brief:

1. Turnovers Bite Again: Turnovers have been a big story throughout preseason and turnover differential was a key to tonight's last, as the Grizzlies turned the ball over 22 times to the Hawks' 14. I haven't gone back over the play chart, but my memory and game notes suggest two types of turnovers were most frequent tonight. There were a lot of lost-ball turnovers from dribbling in traffic. This problem will hopefully be alleviated in the regular season by certain players getting fewer minutes (I'm looking at you Mike Taylor) and others getting sharper (ditto O.J. Mayo). The other were bad pass turnovers, particularly in the halfcourt, particularly on forced entry feeds. The Grizzlies were the worst assist team in the league, by far, last season. They are trying to correct that, at least in spots, this preseason, but just aren't very good at passing the ball right now.

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Griz-Hawks Game Post

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 6:39 PM

Alright, I'm live courtside at FedExForum for some preseason action after skipping Monday night's game for the Indie Memphis Film Festival.

News for now is that it appears that the Grizzlies will be playing with a full complement of players, minus Allen Iverson.

The league also announced today that Lionel Hollins was fined $25,000 for publicly criticizing game officials following Monday's loss to the Magic.

Once again, I will not be live-blogging this but will have a post-game report up later tonight.

I may chime in here if it seems warranted.

Let's do this.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Grizzlies 99, Thunder 91 Post-Game Three-Pointer

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 11:50 PM

The Grizzlies beat the Oklahoma City Thunder before a small but spirited crowd tonight to win their home preseason opener. I didn't intend to write this much about a preseason game. Really I didn't …

The Iverson Show: Debut delayed.
  • The Iverson Show: Debut delayed.
1. A.I. Out: The Grizzlies announced just before the game that Allen Iverson is expected to miss three weeks after an MRI revealed a partial tear in his left hamstring. Iverson gave a brief press conference prior to the game, saying that he hoped to be back for the last couple of preseason games. I have no particular reason to doubt the Grizzlies or Iverson here, but it's hard not to notice that we are exactly three weeks away from the regular-season opener.

This development taps into my own mixed feelings about the whole Iverson experiment: Here we are at the first home game of the season and the on-court action is obscured by a (minor) controversy regarding Iverson. It should be noted, however, that Iverson was on the bench with the team the whole game and was very animated in encouraging teammates (and questioning calls).

The primary question Iverson's absence raises is how it will impact his role on the team as the regular season begins. Most people I talked to at the Forum tonight expected Iverson to start the season coming off the bench. We shall see.

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Grizzlies-Thunder Preseason Game Post

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 6:52 PM

I'm live courtside for the Grizzlies' first home preseason game. Allen Iverson and Darrell Arthur are not active tonight.

Not planning to live blog this, but may chime in if it seems warranted and will try to respond to questions in the comments section if anyone has any.

I will have a post-game report up later tonight.

Iverson Out Three Weeks

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 6:49 PM

The Grizzlies announced today that Allen Iverson will miss three weeks with a "partial tear" in his left hamstring. Iverson addressed the media and said that he hoped to be back in time for the last two preseason games.

More reaction to this after tonight's game.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Preseason Game 1: Box Score Scanning

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2009 at 11:17 PM

Beyond the Arc is getting off to a slow start this season, what with training camp out of town and tons of activity on my other beats. But that will start to change with tomorrow's first home preseason game

Hamed Haddadi: Iranian Rodman
  • Joe Murphy
  • Hamed Haddadi: Iranian Rodman
The Grizzlies lost their preseason debut tonight, falling 101-92 to the Washington Wizards in Richmond, Virginia. They played without Allen Iverson, who missed the game (and will miss tomorrow night's home game against the Thunder) with a minor hamstring injury.

There's only so much you can learn from a first preseason game, and even less from just the box score, but to deploy my all-time favorite movie quote, that's what I got.

A few observations:

Free-throw discrepancy: If this box score is to be believed, the starters (Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol) combined for 1 free-throw attempt in 109 minutes, while the bench combined for 23 free-throw attempts in 131 minutes. Not sure what to make of that, but it doesn't speak well for the starters' aggressiveness.

Mike Conley was efficient: 12 points (5-8 from the floor, 2-3 from three-point range) with 5 assists, a steal, and only one turnover in 21 minutes. Any sign of carryover from his strong spring is a positive.

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