|Preview: Celtics at Grizzlies||11.13.10 at 10:00 am ET|
In advance of Saturday night’s game between the Celtics (7-2) and Grizzlies (4-5) in Memphis (8 p.m.), we caught up with Chip Crain at the “3 Shades of Blue” blog. He answered our six most pressing questions on a young Grizzlies team …
1. The Grizzlies took a big step forward as a team last year. Do you expect them to take another one this season?
Well, we can always hope that the maturation of the team alone will be enough to get them over the hump, but honestly that’s about all the team has.
Will it be improved? Yes, I think they will. Will it be enough? It doesn’t look like it to me.
The problem with the Grizzlies is not their starting five but the bench. They simply are too inexperienced off the bench, even with Tony Allen in the fold. Xavier Henry, Darrell Arthur and even Hasheem Thabeet have shown some promise, but they aren’t ready to contribute, which puts too much of a strain on the starters to see it lasting for 82 games.
2. What’s the general feeling on Rudy Gay in Memphis? Does his new contract affect the way fans feel about him?
People complained about Rudy Gay‘s contract when he signed it, but no one is complaining now. Rudy has always had a ton of talent, but for the first time he seems to be applying it to more than just scoring.
3. Has the play of Marc Gasol helped fans get over the Pau Gasol trade? Or is there still bitterness?
Yes and no. Marc Gasol‘s play has won over many fans, but people still believe that the Grizzlies could have gotten more. After all, no one would trade Pau for Marc straight up. The Grizzlies got Javaris Crtittenton (out of the league), the draft pick that brought in Darrell Arthur and the draft pick that became Greivis Vasquez in the deal, so talent-wise the city is still sore about the trade.
However, that trade also allowed the Grizzlies to acquire Zach Randolph with the cap space, so Arthur, Randolph, Vasquez and Marc in return for Pau was a great trade in Memphians eyes.
Of course, it’s still a sore subject for the fans of teams that thought their team would have won the title if the Lakers hadn’t gotten Pau.
4. Chris Wallace became a bit of a punchline in Boston after his deal for Vin Baker. How do Grizzlies fans feel about him?
Chris Wallace is very fortunate. His owner has made so many blunders no one has really focused on the poor decisions Wallace has made. Everyone points at Michael Heisley making the calls and forgets who’s whispering in his ear.
Thabeet was a horrible pick that Wallace was against (if you believe the rumors) but Heisley insisted on. That got Wallace off the hook. The problem is that DeMarre Carroll was Wallace’s pick, and he didn’t get his third-year option picked up. Wallace passed on DeJuan Blair three times, and now the team is thin at power forward.
Arthur’s fast start this season has made people forget what a disappointment he’s been his first two seasons, and Conley’s fast start has helped him avoid criticism on that deal. The Kevin Love for O.J. Mayo trade has been a financial noose around the team’s neck as well, with the Grizzlies still owing Marco Jaric money while he babysits Adriana Lima‘s child. Mayo straight up for Love would be questionable now, and with the bad contracts the Grizzlies ate to acquire Mayo it looks really bad to me.
5. What’s a realistic expectation for Tony Allen this year?
I see his upside as starting shooting guard to allow Mayo to move to the bench as the designated scorer, while Allen becomes the defensive stopper in the starting rotation. The downside is he loses his playing time to Henry and Sam Young, and he joins the list of questionable Wallace moves I just mentioned.
Realistically, he should be one of the guys off the bench who contributes on some nights and never gets into games on other nights.
6. Is Hasheem Thabeet a bust, or is there still hope?
There is always hope, but the buzzards are circling just the same.
|The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (3 of 7)||10.25.10 at 2:31 pm ET|
NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.
ON THE MAVERICKS: Dallas is still a relevant feature in the Western Conference landscape (they’ll likely be on par with the rest of the conference’s quasi-elite), but their ability to contend leans on a rather substantial “if.” The only way that the Mavericks have access to the same exclusive contender’s club that the Celtics call home is if a certain team on the West Coast experiences some kind of monumental collapse.
The Lakers aren’t just the defending champs. They’re also the most complete team in the league. They won the title last year for a reason, and that reason depends less and less on Kobe Bryant‘s individual brilliance. Naturally, Kobe still matters a great deal to the Lakers’ success, but Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest have never been more relevant.
It’s those players that make L.A. a transcendent team, and it’s those players that make the Lakers into the Western Conference’s seemingly unconquerable threshold. All teams in the West must go through the Lakers, and while the Mavs may have plenty of excellent pieces and a few beneficial matchups, they pale in comparison to L.A.’s grandeur.
It looks to be another successful season for Dallas. They’re shooting for their 11th straight year of 50-plus wins and seem poised to make a deep run into the playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki is still highly productive and efficient; Jason Kidd continues to defy time itself with every jump into the passing lanes and perfectly threaded pass; and the team has some fantastic young pieces in Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and Ian Mahinmi to complement a deep and impressive cast of veterans (Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler).
Put it all together, and Dallas is an awfully impressive team. Just not impressive enough to join the Lakers on their pedestal.
ON THE CELTICS: It’s tough to determine who will sit where at the top of the Eastern Conference seating chart, but the Celtics are undoubtedly among the conference’s elite teams and among the league’s true contenders. Walking into this season with last year’s roster alone would have put them near that distinction, but it’s Boston’s heavily active offseason that makes them an even more intriguing team.
The C’s are stacked at virtually every position, and that depth will certainly come into play as Boston looks to stay competitive throughout the year while still resting their veterans as much as possible. As I mentioned before, it’s still tough to pin Boston to a particular seed in the Eastern Conference race, not only due to the variance of the East’s other contenders but also because Boston’s lackadaisical run through the 2009-10 regular season provides us more reason to question their in-season motivations than ever.
Will the Celtics do more of the same, taking their time while working into a rhythm? Will they now approach the regular season with the same urgency that marked their 2007-08 campaign? No one can say for sure, and I’m not sure there’s necessarily a wrong way for them to go about it. Last year’s method turned out pretty well for Boston, as did the breakneck pace of the 2008 season, and this year should yield more of the same: A successful playoff run after a good regular season, sprint or not.
They’re probably not the best team in the East, but that doesn’t mean they can’t force their way to the Finals through the conference’s equivalent of rock-paper-scissors (Miami-Orlando-Boston). With the right matchup, Boston can be right there in June, and no one should be surprised.
ON THE ROCKETS: The Rockets, as usual, are relying on good health to prevail throughout the season, especially once May rolls around. They’ve got plenty of talent, if healthy, to make a run for a Western Conference title. They’re deep, they’re experienced and they’re capable of beating anyone.
It remains to be seen how a balanced team can proceed through the playoffs, but if there’s any team that can make it happen, it’s this squad. Yao Ming will need to be healthy, the defense will need to actually exist (and be top-notch, at that), but it’s possible. Keep an eye on Courtney Lee: He could make a big difference. Predicted record: 51-31.
ON THE CELTICS: Last season, Boston showed everyone why winning in the playoffs is a different art than grueling it out for 82 games. With added veteran presences in Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal, along with a presumably healthy Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics should be ready and able to make, perhaps, one more title run before age gets the best of everyone. I’ve got Boston in the Finals once again. They’re that dangerous. Predicted record: 52-30.
ON THE GRIZZLIES: The Grizzlies are the mirror image of the Celtics. They are young and talented with nearly no experience. Built via the draft and a few opportunistic acquisitions by former Celtic GM Chris Wallace, not one player on the team is expected to be over 28 to start the season.
Former Celtic Tony Allen was signed in the offseason to bring experience and defensive intensity to the team. The starting five for Memphis is very strong with all-star Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but the bench is full of question marks.
If Hasheem Thabeet, Darrell Arthur, Allen, Sam Young, Xavier Henry and Acie Law IV can form a cohesive enough unit to give the starters some rest during games, the Grizzlies should be a strong candidate to return to the playoffs.
If any of the starters gets hurt for an extended period or the bench fails to be able to hold onto leads for the limited minutes they play, then it will be another lottery experience for the fans of the Grizzlies.
ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics remind me of the expression: “Old age and treachery will beat youth and talent every time.”
The Celtics used this strategy to rest their stars leading up to last season’s playoffs, then unleashed the rested veterans on an unsuspecting conference before finally falling to their archrivals in the finals. The C’s are having to reload this season with some formidable challenges ahead of them.
Perkins’ injury probably cost the Celtics another NBA title last season and could cost them homecourt advantage in the second round this season. The O’Neals, Shaq and Jermaine, were dominant players in their day, but that day has long past. How this will affect the interior defense is unknown at this time.
The loss of Tony Allen as a defensive stopper on the perimeter doesn’t help, either, but the biggest loss could be Tom Thibodeau. The Celtics also added Delonte West, whose off-court issues have overshadowed his on-court play.
The roster is aging but not dead and will likely be a force in the playoffs as the game slows down to a crawl and experience takes precedence over talent.
ON THE HORNETS: The Hornets experienced one of the busiest offseasons in franchise history, no question. There was the hiring of a rookie coach, the draft-day trade, the hiring of a rookie general manager, the blockbuster four-team trade, the flirtations with the unveiling of a rookie owner, all overlaid on top of never-ending Chris Paul drama.
And there’s reason to believe they’ve navigated it successfully. The team essentially turned Darren Collison and James Posey‘s terrible contract into Jerryd Bayless and Trevor Ariza (while Collison’s stock is far higher than Bayless’ at this point, the disparity between the two isn’t really that huge).
They brought in competent rebounders — Aaron Gray, Pops Mensah-Bonsu — for Darius Songaila, who, believe it or not, played the second-most minutes at both power forward and center for the 2010 Hornets.
This is by no means an elite team, but via addition by subtraction (Songaila, Posey) and addition by addition (a healthy Chris Paul), it should be a middle-of-the-pack Western team at 45 to 50 wins.
ON THE CELTICS: One of the biggest keys to Boston’s success will be the team’s ability to work the O’Neals (and, to an extent, Delonte West) into the team’s defensive system, without Tom Thibodeau.
Given the ages of the team’s key contributors, the Celtics are going to need a comprehensive 1-12 effort throughout the season. I do like the team’s summer pickups (and it’s important not to overlook the re-signings, either), but whether the various new pieces will fit is another question entirely.
In the end, I think this is a middle-of-the-pack Eastern Conference team. Let’s say 45 to 50 wins — with a chance to turn it on in the playoffs, a la 2010. But at the end of the day, they’ll be a step below both Orlando and Miami.
ON THE SPURS: Hampered by the new rules surrounding technical fouls, Tim Duncan is ejected from the first 10 games of the season. Eventually, he’s able to stay in games by training himself to replace his incredulous expression with his other one.
Manu Ginobili signs a contract with Rogaine, and with his bald spot now completely gone, he grows out his hair again and averages 15 free throws a game as a result.
Richard Jefferson gets engaged and considers joining the cult his fiancÃ©e belongs to. After returning from a retreat in Death Valley during the All-Star Break, he says he feels reborn and averages 18 points and nine rebounds for two months, until breaking off the engagement on the eve of the wedding and going into a slump.
Regular season record: 55-27. Third seed in the West.
ON THE CELTICS: In November, Shaq re-changes his nickname from The Big Shamrock to The Big Limerick and is fined $50,000 by the NBA when his first poetical recitation includes an off-color rhyme in the final line. O’Neal responds by mumbling something about artistic license.
December finds Justin Bieber singing the national anthem in the TD Garden on Von Wafer bobblehead giveaway night. The singer dies in the figurine avalanche that ensues.
After a January in which Ray Allen fails to make a single 3-pointer, he proceeds to average .850 behind the arc in February.
In the push to the playoffs, KG and Shaq convince the rest of the team to shave their heads for solidarity, but Delonte West (after spending the entire year growing out his afro) refuses, sending the team into a tailspin that lands them the second seed behind Miami.
Regular season record: 59-23.
Check back tomorrow for Parts 4-7 of this seven-part series: the Eastern Conference’s Central Division.
|First Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. Grizzlies||03.10.10 at 8:10 pm ET|
The Celtics scored 12 points in the first quarter … the entire first quarter.
The C’s shot a meager 25 percent from the floor and were outscored 27-12 by the Grizzlies, who are shooting a comfortable 55 percent from the field. It is the least amount of points the Celtics have scored in the first quarter all season.
Sam Young leads all players with nine points off the Grizzlies bench. Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph have combined for another 14. Ray Allen leads the Celtics with six points, but was sidelined early with foul trouble. Michael Finley made his home debut after Allen picked up his second.
|Celtics react to Grizzlies unexpected streak||01.26.10 at 12:51 pm ET|
If you were told at the start of the season that among the Celtics and Grizzlies, one team would win 11 straight at home while the other would lose three consecutive games on their own turf, chances are you would pick the Celtics to be streaking.
That’d be the wrong answer.
The Grizzlies have not lost at home since falling to the Celtics on December 14, 2009. After winning just 16 games in Memphis last season, they have put together a string of victories that includes wins over the playoff contending Nuggets, Jazz, Suns, and Spurs.
On Monday, they extended the streak to 11 with a win over the Magic, the Celtics’ next opponent, tying the previous mark set by the Cavaliers and Lakers this season.
‘It’s pretty tough,’ Rasheed Wallace said when told of the Grizzlies achievement. ‘You have good teams coming in night in and night out, some top-notched teams and some teams that are lower than you that are not playing on your level. That’s what makes it harder because you want to try to get your ball club to stay on that high level and not stoop down.’
Even though the Celtics have won their last two games at home, they can appreciate the Grizzlies accomplishments. This season they learned how vulnerable they can be on their own court. After posting 35-6 records at the TD Garden the previous two seasons, the Celtics uncharacteristically dropped three in a row this month. The C’s understand what goes into a streak like the Grizzlies.
‘It’s very hard, but I think they’re focused,’ said Kendrick Perkins. ‘They’re playing with a lot of confidence, they’ve got a pretty good coach over there, good young talent, and they’re just sticking together, grinding out games.’
Perkins knows firsthand the obstacles faced by a young team, making the Grizzlies streak that much more notable. He was a member of the 2007 Celtics squad that lost 18 straight during a rocky youth movement.
‘They’re young but their basketball IQ’s a little bit better than how we were,’ he said. ‘They’re playing team ball and tough defense. They’ve got a lot of smart guys.’
The Grizzlies will look to extend their home streak to 12 on Saturday against the Hornets, while the Celtics will try to make it three in a row in Boston on Sunday against the Lakers. The Grizzlies will test the C’s at the TD Garden on March 10.
|Report: Celtics expressed interest in second pick||06.09.09 at 11:58 am ET|
The Memphis Commercial Appeal has reported the Boston Celtics have expressed interest in acquiring the second pick in the 2009 NBA Draft from the Memphis Grizzlies. No word on what, if anything, had been offered in exchange. The Houston Rockets and New York Knicks have also approached the Grizzlies regarding the pick, according to the report.
Spanish guard Ricky Rubio is the projected second pick behind Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin. Once the Grizzlies drew their pick in the Draft Lottery, buzz began surrounding Rubio’s disinterest in playing in Memphis. However Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace met with Rubio’s agent, Dan Fegan, and had a ‘cordial meeting,’ according to the Commercial Appeal.
Rubio is not the guaranteed second pick, though. To start, the Grizzlies already have a young point guard in Mike Conley Jr. and have not committed to drafting Rubio. Secondly, Rubio still has to pay a multi-million dollar buyout from DVK Joventut before he plays anywhere in the NBA. And there are still other attractive prospects out there. According to several mock drafts, center Hasheem Thabeet (UConn), guard James Harden (Arizona State), and forward Jordan Hill (Arizona) round out the top five projected picks.