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Memphis Grizzlies

Who are they building around? Toronto Raptors Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Kyle Lowry, SG DeMar DeRozan, SF Rudy Gay, PF Amir Johnson, C Jonas Valanciunas
Key Bench Players: G/F Landry Fields, SF Terrence Ross, PF Tyler Hansbrough, F Steve Novak, PG DJ Augustin, C Aaron Gray
Offseason Additions: F Steve Novak
Offseason Subtractions: PF Andrea Bargnani, F Linas Kleiza
FACT OR FICTION: Jonas Valanciunas is more important to this Raptors team’s future than Rudy Gay.
FACT. And it’s not even close.
In Toronto, the name on this Raps team (…if there’s a name at all), it’s Rudy Gay. He’s a career 18 ppg scorer, to go along with 6 boards and a steal every night. Gay can break opponents off the dribble and at any particular moment could shove it down his defender’s throat in a dunk that screams “two million views”. Most importantly, he’s still just 26 years old, despite starting his eighth professional season.
However, with the advent of advanced stats and daily video breakdowns, it’s become apparent (to some) that Rudy Gay is more flash than substance. If you thought he was a franchise building block, I wouldn’t blame you: he looks like the perfect prototypical basketball star. 6’9” with a massive wingspan, jaw dropping athleticism and a stunning mix of speed and explosive quickness. Gay isn’t afraid of being the first option on offense, as evidenced by his career 15.3 FGA per game. On paper, or even quarter to quarter, Rudy looks like a star.… Read more...

Can They Do It Again? Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview

Tony Allen knows no mercy.

Starting Five: PG Mike Conley Jr., SG Tony Allen, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Zach Randolph, C Marc Gasol
Key Bench Players: SF Mike Miller, SG Jerryd Bayless, SF Quincy Pondexter, C Ed Davis, C Kosta Koufos, SG Nick Calathes, F Jamal Franklin
Notable offseason additions: SF Mike Miller, C Kosta Koufos, F Jamal Franklin (#41 overall in the NBA draft), Coach Dave Joerger
Notable offseason subtractions: PF Darrell Arthur, F Austen Daye, G Keyon Dooling, Coach Lionel Hollins
FACT OR FICTION: The Grizzlies will take a step forward in a crowded Western Conference.
FACT. The Grizzlies have their work cut out for them in a loaded Western Conference playoff picture. Although Denver did everyone a favor with their timed implosion, the Grizz will have to contend with the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets, and even Warriors for playoff position in 2013-14. So why am I confident that they can do it?
The Grizz are coming off of their best season in franchise history, winning 56 games (just 4 short of the #1 seeded Thunder) while making it to the Western Conference Finals. To get there, they had to beat a very good Clippers team and take down a hobbled Thunder squad. Although the Grizz have changed head coaches, their pecking order and identity as a defense juggernaut haven’t changed a bit.… Read more...

MAMBINO’s Western Conference Finals Preview

2) San Antonio Spurs vs. 5) Memphis Grizzlies
Why do the Memphis Grizzlies take the series in 6 games?
KOBEsh: Like a phantom deep out of the nightmares of children all over Southwestern Texas, the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies have come back to haunt the San Antonio Spurs. Again. And everyone knows it.
In a strange turn of events, the blogosphere has pejoratively completely ruled out the 58-win Spurs from having any chance of winning this series. In an informal poll of all the hoophead nerds at MAMBINO, only one writer even suggested San Antonio could win this series … and that it would take 7 games to do so.
How can the Grizz be favored like this?
1) In a tightly contested Western Conference, the Grizz won 56 games—just two back of the 58-win Spurs
Their first round opponents, the fourth-seeded Clippers, finished the season with the exact same win total, but won home court advantage on a conference record tie-breaker. The third-seeded team, the Denver Nuggets, won 57 games—just one game ahead. The Spurs meanwhile, took home a 58-24 record. Though this is a 2-5 matchup, the difference between the two teams isn’t nearly as lopsided as the deceiving seeding positions would suggest.… Read more...

NBA Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Predictions

1) Miami Heat vs. 5) Chicago Bulls
How do the champs make this a clean sweep?
El Mariachi: LeBron James.
Can the beat-up Bulls push this to 5 or 6 games?
KOBEsh: There really isn’t any logical reasoning to this prediction. Everyone on the Bulls is either physically injured or seriously ill. Derrick Rose’s brother continues his rope-a-dope with the NBA fan base at large, a sentence which leaves me wondering “Why the fuck are we listening to Derrick Rose’s brother anyway?”
But the most salient point in defense of Joakim Noah and company? The Chicago Bulls have all the ingredients to beat the Heat–extremely physical defenders, capable shot-blocking bigs that can avoid foul trouble and enough three-point shooting to disrupt a usually sterling Heat perimeter defense. To push this to a 6 game series, Da Bulls must outrebound the Heat by double-digits every single game; after all, this sometimes offensively challenged Chicago unit simply doesn’t have the playmaker to outwit superior defenders like James, Wade and Mario Chalmers on game-to-game basis. More importantly, Jimmy Butler, Marco Bellinelli and Nate Robinson have to continue to shoot in the upper-30% on threes in order to open up the middle for Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. The Heat’s perimeter defense is completely predicated on their athletes moving inside-out so quickly, not on size alone. In order to counter-act that, those three perimeter players must hit shots.
Most importantly, the Bulls know they can beat Miami. Being the team that ended the 27-game streak in a raucous United Center, Chicago has that intangible confidence to combat a Heat squad that quite frankly, most oppositions are afraid of. … Read more...

NBA Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Predictions

On Friday, we took a look at our Eastern Conference predictions. Even though one game is in the books, better late than never. Let’s get right to the other side of the bracket, the Western Conference:
1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 8) Houston Rockets
Why OKC takes it in 5 games
KOBEsh: It’s a 1-seed versus an 8-seed. That’s reason enough right there. 
But going further? You’ve got the league’s best and most efficient offense playing a squad with a middling 16th ranked defense, though they’ve certainly improved over the second half of the season. You’ve got two of the NBA’s deadliest scorers in Westbrook and Durant, and no one on the opposition that is at all suited to slow them down. You’ve got an experienced OKC front line that knows how to work advantages against a bunch of first-time playoff virgins, including Serge Ibaka whose mobility and shooting touch should tear up whatever platoon coach Kevin McHale chooses.
This shouldn’t be a contest. No further explanation necessary. … Read more...

What’s at stake during Lakers/Rockets tonight in game no. 82

(My latest over at Silver Screen & Roll)

In Major League Baseball, it’s not uncommon for the season to come down to the last game of the season. After a 162 game marathon, divisions somehow have a way of allowing for two teams to tie going into the last days of September. Now, with the recent advent of a one-game Wild Card showdown with the postseason on the line, there’s a guaranteed “win and in” situation every single year. Thanks to a truckload of injuries, an early season coach axing, chemistry issues and zero breaks, the Los Angeles Lakers face a similar situation: one day with everything on the line.


With so many moving parts, let’s break it down piece by piece:


If the Lakers win: They’ll qualify for the postseason as the 7th seed and a first round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are locked in as the 2-seed no matter if they win or lose tonight against Minnesota. Houston has clinched a playoff spot already, so if the Lakers beat them, they’ll finish as the 8th seed and face the 1-seed Oklahoma City Thunder. Even if the Utah Jazz win tonight, a LA victory sends them fishing.


If the Lakers lose AND the Utah Jazz win: The Lakers do not qualify for the postseason, while the Jazz will be the 8th seed. Houston will finish with the 7th seed. Everyone cries in Southern California.


If the Lakers lose AND the Utah Jazz lose: The Lakers finish as the 8th seed will travel to Oklahoma City this weekend. The Rockets will be the 7th seed. No matter who else wins or loses, a Jazz loss would put LA in the playoffs.


If the Rockets win AND the Golden State Warriors lose: The Rockets finish as the 6th seed and avoid both the Spurs and Thunder. The Denver Nuggets are no treat, but certainly a more appetizing match up than facing the first two seeds. The Warriors would be the 7th seed and IF the Utah Jazz were to lose on top of this, the Lakers would be the 8th seed.

(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)…

Instant Trade Analysis: Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors get: F Rudy Gay, C Hamed Hadaddi
Detroit Pistons get: PG Jose Calderon
Memphis Grizzlies get: PF Ed Davis, SF Tayshaun Prince, F Austin Daye, Toronto’s 2nd Round pick
The Grizz finally jettisoned Rudy Gay out their hallway this afternoon, shunting off the extremely talented but often disappointing forward off to Toronto in a three-way deal that also involved the Detroit Pistons.
Today’s trade was the culmination of years of speculation. Gay had been on the block for years, ever since he was notoriously absent for the Grizzlies’ greatest run of success in their Western Conference semifinals loss two seasons ago with a shoulder injury. The summer before, Gay had signed a near-max contract extension with Memphis, paying him $82 million. Usually, money like that isn’t an issue with a team–after all, do you think Houston is blinking at the $80 million dollar price tag attached to James Harden’s beard?
The biggest problem with Gay’s contract wasn’t how well the team played without him, but that Gay simply hasn’t improved and shown himself worthy of his massive payday. Since his second season, Gay has remained nearly the same player–an athletic specimen who could use his size, strength and speed to get anywhere he wanted on the court, but simply lacked the outside shooting touch or post game to dominate on all angles. His statistics are extremely telling–season after season, he essentially looks like the same guy. Defensively, he remains an above average player, but offensively there hasn’t been much progress to his game. Just watching against other small forwards like Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng, it’s clear that Gay has more physical gifts than either–and yet, both have the All-Star credits to there name that Gay does not. There’s something to be said about fulfilling potential in this league, even if that player is still providing better than average production. Deng and Iguodala play extremely hard every night, and seem to hit whatever ceiling is in front of them. Gay as still left us wanting year after year.… Read more...


We’re back with THE GREAT PODBINO, Episode #3!

Join El Miz, BockerKnocker and myself, along with the pro cutting of Producer Mags, as we navigate along the waters of the early season NBA. In Ep. 3, we’ll give our Fact or Fiction as to the best records in the league–Memphis, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami–as well as some unexpected win-loss dockets.

And of course, some substantial Knicks and Lakers chatter.


Need Some Rudy Gay – Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview

I didn’t think it was possible for anybody to love my skin more than I do, but the entire race of mosquitoes has apparently descended upon my apartment as if it has exhausted every single host elsewhere. Since early fall weather on the East Coast is clearly the tits, I enjoy keeping one of my bedroom windows open at night. Every evening, I make a cost-benefit analysis, with the cool breeze of September air always winning out.

It was one night last week where the mosquitoes had enough, as if my opening of the bedroom window mocked them, daring them to unleash their fury on me. So I closed the window completely, and went back to some light air conditioning.

The Memphis Grizzlies aren’t particularly old. They certainly aren’t inexperienced. But their window to do some damage in the Western Conference playoffs is about to close because a particular species of mosquitoes residing in Oklahoma City have flown right on through and put their marks on the entire league.

So what has to be done for Memphis to become the force that they were two seasons ago?

On paper, it doesn’t look like roses for the Grizzlies. The Thunder have two of the best five players in the league, two players who may have yet to show us their absolute best brand of ball. The Lakers partook in the summer of LA, acting fast to acquire Steve Nash and slow-playing another hand perfectly to cash in on Dwight Howard. The Spurs will always be good as long as Popovich and Duncan are BFFs. The Clippers, the team that sent Memphis fishing last spring, are run by the smartest front office point guard in the league and will feature an improved Blake Griffin. So in my estimation, that leaves the Grizzly bears at #5, or #6.

Less of this…

There are two types of people in this world: those who know they belong and those who feel like they belong. When it comes to true franchise players, Rudy Gay thinks he’s in category 1, but thus far, he’s in category 2. For the most part, his numbers do his contract some justice, but to lean on those would be akin to being a nihilistic basketball robot. The Grizzlies feature a unique frontline. Not only are Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph All-Star caliber players, but Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur can fill out the box scores in a pinch.

Gay’s skill set can enhance the impact that the Memphis bigs have on a game. With O.J. Mayo suiting up for Dallas next season, the Grizz have lost an energy guard that can attack the rim. Gay can go from 3-point line to the paint area in two strides, but too often he settles for contested jump shots. Case in point: he took almost three shots from downtown per game, but shot at a less-than-average 31% clip. Those Melo-ball type possessions take the offense away from its strength, which is playing inside-out, from Gasol or Randolph back to Mike Conley and Gay.

…more of this.

Attack more, and Gay will earn more trips to the line, where he’s shot about 80% in each of the last two years. Attack more, and help defenders will leave big men and create passing lanes wide enough that even Tony Allen could find them. Gay is far too talented to have a win share of only 6.0 (to compare, the less talented Thaddeus Young of the Philadelphia 76ers produced a win share of 6.3).

On the defensive end, Gay can have an effect without even trying that hard. The aforementioned Allen is arguably the best on-ball defender the Association has seen since Metta World Peace started making regular therapy visits. He routinely matches up against the opposition’s best offensive player, which gives Gay more opportunitie… Read more...

MAMBINO’s Western Conference Round 1 Playoff Predictions

Unlike the electric first round of the NHL playoffs, the NBA’s first round probably won’t go into 16 overtime games, nor will there be the type of seismic upsets like the 8th seeded Kings beating the best team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks. However, amidst the much more predictable nature of the National Basketball Association are some pretty dynamic first round matchups. Other than being entertained by the extra ton of passion that the sometimes lethargic basketball professionals lack from their game, we’ll get 4 series from the Western Conference that could go 6 games or more. This compacted 66-game season created a slightly skewed final finish, with teams seeded lower than you’d think, and every series more about the matchup rather than the seeds designated to the teams. The setting for the ever-enticing upset is ripe. Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year.

Check our Western Conference 1st round predictions, MAMBINO-style:

1) San Antonio Spurs vs. 8) Utah Jazz – San Antonio in 6 games

BockerKnocker: There isn’t a team with more basketball IQ than the San Antonio Spurs. Coach of the Century candidate Gregg Popovich is sure to impose his will over any team, but Tim Duncan is one of the greatest big men in NBA history. He ran roughshod through the league on his superb talent, and has extended his career by understanding his body’s limitations and outsmarting his opponents season after season. The Jazz present a boatload of problems with their bruising frontline, but before people call Memphis on this shindig, Manu Ginobili will (knock on wood) be available to take advantage of Utah’s biggest weakness: their perimeter defense. San Antonio will NOT be embarrassed 2 years in a row. This series is for the NBA nerds: Popovich will attempt a blitzkrieg checkmate, the Utah frontline will try to counter by getting rough, but Utah’s coaching staff will be overmatched.

How Utah can morph into the 2011 Memphis Grizzlies and win this series: It’s a bit of a broken record at this point, but you know how the Grizz beat the Spurs in last year’s playoffs; sheer size. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur blitzed the Spurs inside for a convincing 8 seed vs. 1 seed matchup. However, what everyone forgets is how dynamic their guard play was. Tony Allen locked up Tony Parker and brought him down from 51% shooting during the regular season to 46% in those 6 games. Mike Conley almost outperformed Parker, averging 14/5/6. OJ Mayo shot 40% from the 3 point line!

To win, not only do Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and Enes Kanter have to outmuslce San Antonio, but Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris and CJ Miles have to create havoc on the perimeter both defensively and offensively. Essentially, the Jazz have to play up to their capabilities, as they have the past few weeks. It’s possible.

2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 7) Dallas Mavericks – Oklahoma City in 7 games

BockerKnocker: OKC is going to have a game or two in this series where you’ll doubt their status as a championship contender, and rightfully so. Their offense is incredibly basic, especially in the fourth quarter, when head coach Scotty Brooks’ version of thinking outside of the box means setting an off-ball screen for Durant or Westbrook, instead of an on-ball screen. Dallas is full of cagey veterans and Vince Carter (not a compliment). Dirk will need a herculean performance for the Mavs to win, and with a younger, stronger Serge Ibaka shadowing him all series, it is … Read more...