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Know Thy Enemy: Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies: 49-33, 5th in the Western Conference
Big Gains:
Drafted Alexander Johnson and Kyle Lowry, traded for the rights to Rudy Gay along with Stromile Swift, resigned Chucky Atkins.
Big Losses: Shane Battier, Bobby Jackson, Lorenzen Wright

By now, those of you who have followed the blog know I'm a big fan of Shane Battier.  While I understand the logic behind Jerry West's decision to move the former Dukie to Houston- Rudy Gay has enormous potential, moving Battier helps open up some serious cap space heading into next summer, and the Grizz needed to get younger at key positions- in the short run it will not make the Grizzlies a better team.  Nor, really, does importing Stromile Swift for a second go-round in Elvistown.  He'll replace Lorenzen Wright, at least in roster slotting terms.  Frankly, I get those two confused all the time.  Lanky dudes who have never really fulfilled their potential.  It's an easy mistake to make.  But with the young talent they added in Gay, Kyle Lowry, and Alexander Johnson (who, for what it's worth, looked like a seriously bad man in SPL play) to go with Mike Miller, Eddie Jones, and Damon Stoudamire, losing Battier might be something Memphis could overcome.

After all, they've always got Pau Gasol. 

Oops.  What's that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men?

No, Gasol is not out for the year, but the four months he'll be on the shelf after breaking his foot playing for Spain at the World Championships will be more than enough to knock the Grizzlies down a peg or two (or three) in the West.  After all, most good teams suffer when they lose their best player.  When that player leads the team in scoring (20.4 ppg), rebounding (8.9), blocks (1.4), field goal percentage (among those who played legit minutes, 50.3%), mountain man beards (#1 in folicle density) and is second in assists at 4.6 a game (behind Stoudamire's 4.7), it means the Grizz are set up to suffer more than most.  Not that he was a scorer, but this is just the sort of storm that a guy like Battier could help a team weather by picking up the slack in other areas.  Oh well.  By the time Gasol comes back and is at full strength, say Decemberish or perhaps into January, there's a good chance Memphis will have some serious ground to make up, and an even better chance that the fifth seed they held last year will be out of reach. 

The silver lining?  Gasol's injury will undoubtedly give more PT to Mike Fratello's kiddie corps.  Lowry and Gay are #1s this year.  Johnson could see time, as could Lawrence Roberts and Hakim Warrick.  The early playing time could hasten their development and make them stronger once Gasol returns.  And it won't hurt for a team that has been seen by many as Gasol and a cast of invisible parts to stand up and distinguish themselves.  But that's just a silver lining.  Which means clouds, which likely means rain, and considering the top to bottom strength of the Western Conference, rain is bad. 

Even with Gasol on the shelf for the first months of the season, Memphis still has enough talent to compete for a playoff spot.  Miller, Jones, and Stoudamire, along with some talented young players should keep them afloat.  Unfortunately, they'll need a strong inside performance from Swift, who is not known around the league as a glass eater.  Quick development from their trio of rookies (okay, just one, two if they want to be greedy) will help, but you can never count on that in the NBA.  Put all that together,and a team that likely would have won 50+ last year had it not been for the tremendous incentive both Memphis and the Clippers had to lose near the end of the season, is going the wrong way in a tough Western Conference.

FINAL VERDICT: The Grizz were probably a game or two weaker after the Battier deal.  Losing Gasol for a couple months will make it nearly impossible for them to equal their win total from last year.  By the end of the season, they could be a pretty good team, but they won't be one with a better record than the Lakers.

BK 

 
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The lamar show.
I m in the fantasy,sorry guys but i got the coolest name and i dont think u r gonna have a problem knowing wich one is me ,but only 20 how are we gonna have the entire blog in,btw help out faith coz we need her in ,edwin laker tom mike baywood,all u guys go for it .
The lamer show thanks for the invite man.

well 20 is already max and i think that's already too many. its best with like 12-14 ppl so you're picking up garbage players that you normally wouldnt play

If this league gets full, I will make another league. We'll see what happens and whos interested.

I stand corrected Jay Jay. Though like Xodus said...it was implied (in my mind lol). And yes at the end of the game, if I need someone to guard the Lebrons, the Wades...It's Kobe all the way. While Artest might be a scarier, tougher defender...Kobe just refuses to lose, and if it comes down to the last possesion...you know he's gonna lock down.

LOL AK...on the Wafer thing. Dude you need a new fan club cause there ain't no way Wafer will be on the roster...if he is I'LL join it lol.

As for the perimeter defender...I think if there ever was a position defensively that got robbed by, or is getting robbed by the "new no touch, really no touch" rules...it's the perimeter defenders. So this season it won't be so much how good we play it, but how cleanly we play it. Outside of Kobe and Evans...in my opinion this is our second weakest defensive spot...the perimeter (first being the 3, cause in it we have Luke, who is great but really is more a guard without the speed, Cook, who is great at taking the charge, but is usually a defensive liability otherwise, and Vlad, who let's face it, isn't known for it---though Evans can play a lil 3, I think he's mostly going to be spelling Kobe---and none of them really great rebounders). All I know is, we better see Smush actually putting his hand in front of the offensive player's face...not going for too much steals by just letting them go by, and going for the suicide...and Sasha not fouling too much 50 feet from the hole.

I hope that chomping at the bit...Kobe was saying with all the players practicing at 6 am...includes defensive sets lol.

JJ,

1. The Lakers defense through the first 4 games of the PHX series was playing tough team defense. What they did was close out on 3 point shooters and limit the Suns' driving to the basket and limiting their fastbreak opportunities by slowing everything down on offense and getting back quickly on defense. The only player that routinely got to the basket was Nash because Smush couldn't keep him in front of him. I just downloaded Game 4 off of google.com a few days ago and Nash made 4 or 5 easy lay ups in the first half alone. They defintely weren't funnelling guys into Kwame Brown so he could contest shots (ala Shaq in the championship days) because Kwame's never proven to be a shot blocker and off the ball defense has never been his strongsuit. Which leads me to my next point....

2. I don't think saying Kwame needs to continue to develop is putting undue pressure on him. When you're 6-10 and you're as strong as an ox there are going to be expectations. And I believe that asking him to pull down 10 rebounds and 12 points is not much to ask of a former #1 pick. If asking him to do this can send him back over the edge and return to being a total bust do we really want this guy to be a key member of the Lakers? I'm not calling him out, just hoping that he works on his game and lives up to some of his limitless potential.

3. Whether the death of his child is spoken about or not it's going to be a concern because that has to have been the most traumatic moment of his life. There's no way it can't be a concern. Does that mean his play will suffer? I don't think so, but whether or not we as fans choose to acknowledge it or not it's very important.

Zakee,

I don't understand the excitement over which one of those 3 will make the team. NONE of them will get much playing next season if any. Kobe will be ready by opening night and he has a solid backup in Evans. I see no need for any more help at shooting guard.

Xodus,

1. I guess I wasn't watching the Lakers/Suns series because I thought for sure that I saw Nash trying to drive to the basket and throw up one of those rainbow runners and getting stuffed by Kwame. I thought for sure that I saw him other times trying to drive and in turn having to dribble all the way back out because he couldn't get a shot off. As for Smush, I guess somebody else picked Nash's pocket down the stretch of Game 4? To say that he needs to become consistent would be a true statement. However, to act as if he isn't equipped or hasn't demonstrated an ability to be a strong perimeter defender would be wrong. The main concern with Smush is staying focused. However, it is simple to understand how a player that has never had extended minutes regularly needs time to adjust to playing extended minutes. It isn't nearly as difficult to focus for 3 or 4 minutes, as it is for 25 or 28.

2. I'm not saying that Kwame should get a free raign to do whatever with no checks or balances. I'm not saying that he is so fragile that he can revert to some earlier time before. All I'm saying is that there is more than one way to get the most out of a player. MJ tried one way and it was totally ineffective. Phil is trying another and it is gradually working. Let's see if it keeps working before we jump down hard on him as if it isn't. Some of you have a tendency to jump down hard on someone because they haven't completely arrived, while at the same time not noting the fact that they have made some decent strides to arrive. And another thing....this whole talk of potential urks me. Only God knows the full potential of a person. Because you look at a players skills and deduce that they should be able to do xyz, doesn't autmatically mean that they can. Kwame didn't draft him self at No. 1. He was drafted. People are highly criticial of Mike O. right now because they feel that he is a waste of talent. Perhaps he is. Or perhaps he had some talent but because he never reached the level some thought he should, he failed to meet the level that he could.

3. All I'm saying about Lamar is let the man do what he's going to do and don't talk about it so much. I can just see it now, the media is going to bring up his child all season long and that is wrong. Why make it an issue before you find out if it really is one???

Niketh Kannan, Love the enthusiasm.

JJ,
"3. I'm tired of hearing about Lamar and his child that passed. Talking about it or making it an issue for concern won't help anybody including Lamar. Besides, he is a professional and I believe that when the ball is bounced and the whistles blow, he will be the player he is capable of. Furthermore, for all we know him losing his child may cause him to play with new found motivation and lead to his best season ever."

I agree, it's Lamar's personal pain and I think all conversation should end on offering our condolensces and wishing him the best. And what we definately shouldn't be doing is trying to psycho-analyse how this will affect him or his play on the court. While it's true it will affect him in some manner, I just think it's kind of callous to engage in that conversation. Any one reading my posts knows i got nothing but love for Kobe and the Lakers, but if Lamar could have his kid back in exchange for the lakers never winning another championship and Kobe never playing basketball again, I'd say yes. Not that it's my call to make, or such a call is even possible, but point being Lamar's pain is a huge one and basketball pales in comaparison.

In Kobe we Trust,
Go Lakers

JJ,

i have to agree with Xodus on the point of Kwame's shot blocking ability. You made a great point that the Lakers defense when Shaq was manning the middle was about funneling the defense inside. Well, Shaq was a pretty good shot blocking presence inside and that is definitely not one of Kwame's strenghts. Over the course of the season last year he didn't even average 1 block per game. Kwame has shown to be an excellent one-on-one defender, using his strength and quick feet for position, but it's frustrating to watch his rotations and ability to get off the floor quick and challenge shots.

As for potential and calling someone a "bust", I think it's fair to the point where Kwame or Mike O. showed the physical abilities to be exceptional, but never the work ethic or desire to capitalize on that. Those two guys showed great athleticism and ability coupled with size, yet something between the ears has caused them to come up short. Kwame still has time to redeem himself, so we'll see. He made progress towards the end of last year, so he needs to build on that. Time is up for excuses for that guy.

Taliq and JJ,

I think it's fair to mention the tragedy Lamar suffered this offseason when trying to speculate his level of play this coming season. In the same way it's fair to discuss Kobe's knee surgery. These were two major events that happened to guys who will determine the success of our entire season. We'd be remiss to sit back and think that both guys can just pick up where they left off as if nothing happened.

I do think his losing a kid will have an affect whether some choose to acknowledge as much or not. I can't imagine something like that happening and trying to have a head about a game (family > basketball) apples/oranges. Whether he uses it to become the 2nd best player for the lakers is another story that we will just have to hope unfolds as such. He is obviously still playing for the Lakers so he will be ready come time to play. And hell, I cannot wait. I have a hunch our backcourt will be off the meatrack this year! MARK MY WORD!

Taliq and JJ,
This forum is dedicated to the Lakers performance, so anything that could impact that performance is appropriate subject matter, whether it be the tragedy of Lamar's child or the impact of the accusation against Kwame, as long as it is discussed in an appropriate manner.

http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/5984620

Kobe gets props on a national level. Fox Sports Mark Kahn gives him the top shooting guard slot!

T-Woody

Laker Tom...

Have got to strongly disagree with you about the Giambi vs. ARod dynamic. Jason has absolutely no right to portray himself as some sort of clubhouse leader. Show me the World Series rings that he has collected in the Bronx. You can't because there aren't any. When Giambi came to the Yankees, his insistence on playing first base cost the team the services of Tino Martinez and possibly another one or two World Series victories. Jason Giambi is a self serving mercenary who came to the Yankees primarily for the money. Alex was already paid. He came to win. Your comparison of Derek Jeter to Kobe is very apt. Both men are proven winners with championship pedigees. But I see ARod in much the same light as I do Lamar Odom...a tremendously talented player who is feeling his way along and learning how to be a winner at the highest level. It isn't that easy. Giambi has no right to call out Alex or any of his teammates. He is just a steroid using phony whose track record is no better tha ARod's on the big stage. For the Yankees to get where they want to be, they are going to need ARod AND a total team effort.


bronxlakerfan whose love for the yankees came first.

Back to basketball....

I was really amazed by Kobe's admission in the AP article as to how much his knee bothered him last year. It puts an already amazing season in an even more remarkable light for me. I can't wait to see the latest version of the Lake Show on the court.

Oh, and LT...

Just because I disagree with a specific post of yours doesn't mean I don't respect your opinion...anyone who loves the Lakers and Yankees as much as you do is alright with me! LOL!

My point about Lamar is that you are taking the negative side of it as if his challenge is going to be playing through it.

Has naybody even heard how he is doing right now? How do you know that he isn't doing great? My point is that most of you on here spend all day speculating about the worse possible scenarios instead of dealing with cold hard facts.

JJ,


Lamar's challenge this season is going to be playing through it, that's why it has to be recognized.


My guess is the man isn't doing great. I have a four month old son and if I woke up one morning to find him dead in his crib, I don't know how I would go on doing anything. Couple that with the fact that Lamar Odom lives his life in the public eye and will be under tremendous stress just accentuates whatever emotions he is feeling. I have no idea how he is doing, but he could use the tragedy as motivation to be an All-Star or he could decide to pack it in this season or he could be heckled by a fan and go Ron Artest because of the anger he's feeling. Any scenario is possible and it's solely due to the loss of his son.

As fans of the team on a blog in the offseason I think it's extremely relevant to make it a point of significance.

JJ:

Your response to Xodus regarding perimeter defense was excellent as was your point about chasing offensive players off of the 3-point line and funneling them into Shaq in the paint.

I still have to agree with Xodus, however, that stopping players from penetrating is always the key to good perimeter defense. The reason shooters needed to be chased off of the 3-point line is because somebody allowed their man to penetrate by not playing good perimeter defense, which forced players to switch, resulting in the open shooters.

Stopping dribble penetration on the perimeter is the primary key to playing good defense. It has been the Lakers’ Achilles heel for several years, allowing Steve Nash, Tony Parker, and other quick point guards to have their way with our defense. Once a good point guard has penetrated the defense, it forces other team mates to leave their man to help, which inevitably leads to an open man, either under the basket or parked on the 3-point line. Although it’s still possible for the defense to recover and steal the ball, intercept a pass, or block the shot, penetration usually ends up with the other team scoring or drawing a foul. Make no mistake, preventing penetration is the primary requirement to playing good defense.

Stopping your opponent from penetrating needs to be the cornerstone of our team defensive strategy. I was always taught to force the dribbler into the middle, where there were other defenders who could help prevent penetration. Some defenses try to funnel dribblers to the sidelines or baseline since most point guards prefer to be in the middle of the court so that they have more options. Other defenses will try and trap and double team the dribbler to force him to pass. The key is each case is to prevent penetration by the dribbler.

Until Kwame or Bynum become good interior help defenders, stopping penetration on the perimeter will be the primary key to the Lakers playing good team defense. If we cannot do that with the athleticism of our players, then we will have to do it with our defensive game plan and strategies.

Tom

J.J. -

2. I just lost a whole two paragraphs of a post! Dang!

Anyway, I agree with you about how expectations re: Kwame can cloud our appreciation for what Phil is doing with him. Phil has been setting reasonable goals for him (foot positioning, defense, learning the triangle), has called him out to keep the pressure on (like when he was teasing Kwame for being a "sissy" when Kwame seemed to be milking the hamstring injury), and has reassured Kwame that Phil has confidence in Kwame's ability (like when Phil telephoned Kwame during a particularly bad stretch and told him he was still in the Lakers' long-term plans).

I'm very interested to see what are the next goals Phil has set for Kwame, for this season. If the PJ three-year plan is real, then we should probably expect that Phil's expectations for Kwame this year will be a partial continuing development, rather than the season where Phil expects him to reach his ultimate potential.

JJ

Well as far as I am concerned we don't really know if Evans is the man that is going to back Kobe up. Alll we know right now is that in the presean we will give all theses guys a chance to showcase there skills while playing in the system and whatever guy preforms the best is going to actually not only get he 15th spot, but they will also get Kobe's backup mins. I like this guy Pinnock. Man any man who leaves a Mid school as a Junior has to be nice. I have to give this guy a chnace befroe I can say Evans is going to get the job. Plus he is 6'5 just like Evans.

JJ,

"My point about Lamar is that you are taking the negative side of it as if his challenge is going to be playing through it."

That's because most likely this will have a negative affect on him. Just like Kobe's knee surgery will most likely have a positive effect on him. So we make our estimates accordingly.

At a minimum it will have likely affected Lamar's off-season preparation.

bronxlakerfan:

I can easily understand where you are coming from with respect to Giambi and ARod. My take on the entire situation is that Jason was trying to get Alex out of the terrible funk he was in and get him fired up. Remember that the SI article was based on the reporter overhearing a private conversation between Jason and Alex.

Despite my disappointment in finding out that Giambi used steroids, I respect that he stood up like a man and admitted it to the Grand Jury. Unlike Bonds, he didn’t lie under oath and try to weasel his way out of it. I was sure Giambi’s career as a Yankee was over then, especially when he came back as a shadow of himself the next season. I was even hoping at one point that the Yankees would be able to void his contract and use the money to get someone else. Then when he refused to accept an assignment to the minors to work out his problems, I was sure he was gone.

We all know what happened then. Giambi suddenly seemed to come alive. He started really getting good at bats, drawing walks, stroking the ball well. He won a couple of player of the month awards and was one of the keys to the Yanks’ success. In the process of turning himself around, Giambi even won back most of the fans. Compared to Maguire and Bonds, Jason suddenly looked like a guy who made a big mistake, admitted it, and then redeemed himself. This was also not unnoticed by his teammates who really respected how hard he had worked and how much he had overcome to restore and redeem his career. In many ways, he has now become one of the leaders on the team and one of its best clutch players. And unlike Jeter, who is not a vocal leader, Giambi was the right guy in my mind to go to Alex and try to get him to see that the team needed more than Alex was giving them and that everything wasn’t OK as far the team was concerned.

As to Tino Martinez, he is one of my all time favorites. Thank God we still have Jeter, Bernie, Jorge, and Mariano. And you are absolutely right that the Giambi, Rodriguez, Matsui, Sheffield, Mussina, and Johnson version of the Yankees has not kept up the tradition. Close doesn’t count and blowing the 3-0 lead against the Red Sox will never be forgotten. But I think we are back on the right path. I love the young guys we have brought up, especially Chien-Ming Wang, Robby Cano, and Melky Cabrera. And I also like the Bobby Abreu trade. We now need Phillip Hughes to make the bigs next year to go with Chien-Ming Wang and restore our starting pitching.

New York Yankees – 2006 World Series Champions.

Tom

JJ,

1. Naming an instance where Kwame managed to block one Nash's shots doesn't make him a shot blocker and doesn't make funnelling players into the paint the Laker strategy. Like LakerTom and Andrew Z said our defensive strategy must be preventing penetration because we don't have shot blockers. Kwame has never been a shot blocker his entire career and we spent all of last season complaining about Kwame's poor defensive rotations?

2. Smush's Game 4 steal on Nash doesn't change the fact that he was abused by Nash. Granted, Nash is the best PG in the league and abuses most PG's, but Smush has had problems keeping guys in front of him all season (why do you think Faith hates him so much lol j/k). No one is saying Smush doesn't have the talent to be a top flight defender, we're saying we NEED him to improve his defense. That's not an insult.

JJ

"Why make it an issue before you find out if it really is one???"

Yea, I guess you're right. The death of one's son ought never to be an issue.

I don't think the point is whether or not Lamar can play with the issue on his mind, but more that such a devastating loss must be recognized. In a way, it would be almost insulting to not ever mention it. You may get sick of hearing it, but it's because people will be pulling for him that they will bring it up.

Hey I'm all for Smush, but JJ and Xodus?

"However, to act as if he isn't equipped or hasn't demonstrated an ability to be a strong perimeter defender would be wrong."

"No one is saying Smush doesn't have the talent to be a top flight defender, we're saying we NEED him to improve his defense."

I must disagree. Small chance you might hear Smush Parker and strong defender in one sentence, no way in hell you will EVER hear Smush Parker and top flight defender together.

Regarding Mike O. He is having trouble staying in the league. At such a point, it is not about reaching potential..it is simply sucking. Bad.

Andrew Z.

I agree with a part of your comment...you are right, a team or 2 was willing to offer A-Rod the cash, and probably like most individuals, he took it. However, he shares a responsibility with other Proffessional Sports Athletes. He is a role model for those to follow. The worst thing that has ever happened to baseball was that it became more of a business than a sport.

Besides, you honestly don't think that if someone like A-Rod dumped his salary & donated his paycheck, that endorsement deals wouldn't bend over backwards to have a ballplayer with as much integrity & love for the game and past time to become a national sponser? Jordan made more cash outside of basketball than the $30 million he was making a year with Chicago. Tiger Woods makes more outside golf than in the PGA.

Remember when Magic took a cut in pay for the Lakers to sign Elden Cambell? Even when he came out of retirement, he took the league minimum. A guy like Magic (though his "extra curicular activities" were not exemplory prior to his retirement) played the game not for the check, but for the love of the game. Michael did the same thing. The difference between what Magic & Michael did, was they delivered every night. A-Rod does not!

 
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