Lakeshow Episode 06: The View from Memphis

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I watched about a quarter of an NBA game with my wife on Friday night. It was nice.

Usually my wife watches Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann and reruns of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report every night while I do the hoops thang, but Friday was different. It was a night when Portland was finally kicking it into gear against the Spurs, for pretty much the first time all year, and her stuff was over so I clicked over the TV in the living room and she pulled up a chair and watched the second quarter.

She knew a few of the Blazer players through osmosis. It's hard to read a Portland newspaper and not know the principal characters, since it's a one-sport city and they do love their Blazers. My wife was curious about whether the players were all unionized, how the salary structure worked in the NBA, how many refs there were in the league and how much they got paid, and so on and so forth. She's pretty much not a sports fan at any level but I did get her into the NFL briefly during the Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle" year. It was a nice little change to get even a little interest and a few rudimentary questions.

The Blazers do have a likable enough team and when they play well they're really fun to watch, so there's some hope. Halftime came and she was down the road to PBS and I was in the other room for the second half, which was fine.

I'm not sure whether it would be good or bad to have a super hardcore sports fan for a wife. I can see positives and negatives. It'd probably be cool, but maybe there would be conflict over which sports or which teams to follow and all that. There's a certain simplicity to the "you do your thing and I'll do mine" approach.

I'm sure those of you who are in relationships with other people will have a few thoughts on this and it might be interesting to hear how many of you in the SS&R orbit have a honey bunny that shares your Lakersism vs. how many have a de facto or de jure spouse that either doesn't give a rip or actively dislikes the basketball thang.

Feel free to chime in on this matter in the comments section at the bottom.

Click on through for more...

Here's what else I've been watching instead of Rachel, Keith, Jon, and Stephen...

Channel Surfing

Thursday, Nov. 5

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San Antonio at Utah. I loved turning this game on, since it pitted two of the Western Conference's principal powers — and the way the NBA works these things, somebody has to lose. Utah are one of the principal divisional foes of my Blazers, so my brain was rooting for them to get themselves blown out, but I also have a fairly unhealthy hatred of Grandpa Bankshot's excruciatingly boring Spurs, the tedious tribe which has subjected us all so many times to a triple scoops of diet vanilla Mellorine™® instead of sumptuous, creamy strawberry ice cream in the post season. My heart wants gooey, smooth ice cream, cholesterol be damned.

The Jazz took a nice little lead at the end of the first quarter and pretty much managed to hold it intact all the way to the gates of the dreaded 4th Frame, scene of Tuesday's 15 point choke job to the Large German Man and his pardners from Dallas. After a collapse of that magnitude, no lead was safe. Still, a 93-80 Jazz advantage going into the 4th had to look quite a lot like a do-over from The Basketball Gods to Jerry Sloan.

Utah had been outscored 78-38 during the 4th Quarters of the 2 previous games. They initially did nothing to help their cause, shooting long clankers and committing turnovers, but no matter how hard they tried to gag, San Antonio just wasn't competent enough to let them. All-Star Deron Williams finished with 27 points and 9 assists, Boozer added 27 more. Jazz 113, Spurs 99. Heart wins, brain loses.

Friday, Nov. 6

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San Antonio at Portland. There was a foul wind blowing in Portland. The Blazers were supposed to be in the Western Conference Championship hunt this year, see, and they came into this game with a record of 2 wins and 3 losses — looking inept doing it, dumping two games at home. The Spurs were on a back-to-back — the aging, overrated Spurs were on a back-to-back... Oh, let me tell you, it would have been far beyond wailing and gnashing of teeth if the Blazers couldn't pull this one out.

Nate McMillan doubled down at the deal, choosing not to make a choice between Point Guards Steve Blake and Andre Miller but rather to start them both, moving Brandon Roy to the Small Forward position. This was a very risky way to shake up a stagnant offense, since any failure would now rest completely on the shoulders of Coach Nate — who has been coming under fire among the Blazer Cult for his bizarre and indecisive substitution patterns.

Luckily for team, coach, and fans, the Blazers came out strong and held a double-digit lead for most of the night. Tony Parker turned an ankle, which sliced San Antonio's odds of a comeback in half. San Antonio did fight back to within 3 in the 4th Quarter, causing little butterflies in Blazer fans' tummies, but it was pretty clear that the tired, older, lesser Spurs sans their sparkplug PG weren't gonna be able to get it done even when they were making their big push.

Brandon Roy took over when he needed to, with honorable mention to Greg Oden for looking halfway decent in the second half. If The Dentist could play against the aging Tim Duncan in the low post every night, chances are he'd be an NBA All-Star, 'cuz if Oden is slow, Timmay is slothful. At this stage in his career, Duncan is an earthbound, bankshooting stiff, to be perfectly honest. Pay no attention to the stats or the games of yesteryear, friends, just use your eyes. Fear not the Spurs. 96-84 Blazers.

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Memphis at Lakers. Coming into this game off of two narrow overtime victories over lesser opponents in a road back-to-back, the sense of parity in the NBA certainly has been growing among many Laker fans. There is no such thing as punching the clock and collecting a gimme — every game is a battle to be fought and won. This particular matchup was oozing with potential nastiness, pitting the high-powered Grizzlies (Mayo, Randolph, Gay, Baby Gasol, Iverson & Co.) against a shallow and depleted Laker squad. Pau was still out of action and Drew was nursing a boo boo on his elbow suffered late in Wednesday's game in Houston. The latter thus had to be kept away from playing against Memphis for precautionary reasons (nudge nudge, wink wink).

Of course, every Laker fan in Whoville, from Little Cindy Lou Who (Age 2) to Granny Gertie Goo Who (Age 102) knows Phil's strategy when dealt this particular hand: get the NBA's most underplayed and underpaid player on the floor, Grandmaster D.J. Mbenga, and let Kobe go cat go.

Check and check...

And then it is up to Ron Ron and LO to be effective and make their presence felt.

Check and, well, sort of a check...

Lakers bumped up a little lead on Memphis but the visitors managed to close the gap. Then midway through the 3rd Quarter, the Lakers went on a run and the boys in blue did what bad teams do — they went down the loo. (Team motto: There's no D in: "Memphis Grizzlies basketball is a complete mess featuring a bunch of selfish offensive guys getting their own shots and making a piss-poor effort to stop the other team.")

Game ball to Josh Powell for his yeoman's effort off the bench. P.J. even played Adam Morrison in an Actual Basketball Situation and lived to tell the tale, proof positive that The Basketball Gods were wearing attractive purple and gold hoodies tonight. (Of course, the team was Minus-7 during The Incompetent One's 5 minutes of burn, but who's counting?) Lakers 118, Grizzlies 98. Tacos for everybody!!!

Now let's see how closely this impressionistic summary typed up at 3:30 in the morning comes to reality, shall we? Please go clicky-clicky on the following link for The Popcorn Machine's GAME FLOW SUMMARY...

Observation 1: From midway in the 3rd Q, the Grizzlies gave up 3 quick Laker runs of 9-0, 11-4, and 10-1. Ouch.

Observation 2: After grinding his starters into a fine pulp during the recently-completed two game road trip, Phil got others into the act for significant minutes: Powell for 21, Luke for 19, and UPS for nearly 10.

Observation 3: Lakers were +12 during Allen Iverson's 20 minutes on the floor. Gee, what a coincidence.

Now, before we get on with the point of the exercise, the party line as decreed by the press and blogs of Grizzliesland, please whip out some cookies and milk and join me in indulging in the latest installment of THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD:

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(1)

Kobe Bryant's 41 Points Lift Lakers by Grizzlies, 114-98

by Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal

LOS ANGELES -- So far, the Grizzlies have been all talk.

Chatter about being a better basketball team this season.

Allen Iverson saying he doesn't like his role.

Promises to play something that resembles defense.

Now, the guy who writes the checks is about to have his say.

Michael Heisley, the Grizzlies' Chicago-based owner, flew to town Friday in time to watch his team lose 114-98 to the Los Angeles Lakers in Staples Center.

But Heisley isn't in Los Angeles for a leisurely weekend getaway. He joined the team for the expressed purpose of addressing some of the team's problems.

Heisley will have several meetings, including a sit-down with Iverson, today with the goal of trying to get a handle on why the Griz are off to a 1-5 start.

Their loss to the Lakers provided a snapshot.

Iverson hasn't meshed, scoring just eight points in 21 minutes off the bench after still sounding somewhat defiant before the game. Memphis then put on a defenseless second half in which Lakers guard Kobe Bryant scored 25 of his game-high 41 points.

"At some point we're going to have to have a conversation — players only," Griz forward Rudy Gay said after scoring a team-high 22 points. "We have to figure out what kind of team we want to be." * * *

 

(2)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar May Help Grizzlies' Big Men

by Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal

LOS ANGELES -- The Grizzlies still are in "serious negotiations" with NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to help coach their centers, according to team owner Michael Heisley.

Abdul-Jabbar visited Memphis on Oct. 25 to attend a practice and meet with Griz players and management. Heisley said both sides are trying to iron out a working arrangement.

"It's a matter of how much time Kareem will give to us," Heisley said. "We're trying to come to an understanding of how Kareem will work. I want to make sure we're getting somebody who will give attention to these kids and help them. He's got a lot of commitments."

Abdul-Jabbar, 62, is under contract with the Los Angeles Lakers after having tutored Andrew Bynum over the past several seasons. Memphis, however, asked for and received permission from the Lakers to speak with Abdul-Jabbar.

"He wants to come and we want him to come," Heisley said. "It's really a question of whether he's got commitments that will keep him away from the team more than we'd like."

The Griz have three centers — two of whom are considered projects — who could benefit from Abdul-Jabbar's knowledge and experience. Marc Gasol, Hamed Haddadi, and rookie Hasheem Thabeet met Abdul-Jabbar for dinner last month. * * *

 

(3)

Why Iverson isn't a Clipper

by Chris Herrington, Memphis Flyer Beyond the Arc blog

Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears has an interview with Allen Iverson today and also includes this nugget about why Iverson did not sign with the Los Angeles Clippers this summer: * * *

There are a couple of bits of relevant news here: One is that the Clippers intended to use Iverson in the "super sub/instant offense" role I've written about. The other is that the Clippers organization clearly discussed this role with Iverson, found out he would not be willing to accept it, and thus did not sign him.

You know it's getting bad when your organization makes the Clippers look professional by comparison. If the Grizzlies had visions of using Iverson in this kind of role — and based on Michael Heisley's public comments published this summer in the Commercial Appeal, that seems to be the case — then why didn't they broach this subject with Iverson in direct terms? And if they didn't have an intent of bringing him off the bench, then why didn't they let Iverson, the team, and everyone else know they intend to start him when he's fully integrated into the team? * * *

 

(4)

Forever Young: Lakers beat Grizzlies 114 to 98

by DJTurtleface, Straight Outta Vancouver (SBN)

In a night with a few upsets, the Grizzlies didn't manage to force one of them. While they did lead at halftime, the Grizzlies were routed by the Lakers last night. To reiterate the point the Lakers were missing two enormous pieces in this game, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, but still slowly figured out how to pick apart the Grizzlies. Remember that championship pedigree thing? It looks a lot like this game. * * *

Rockness Monster—Ron Artest just killed Rudy Gay tonight. You could see the veteran savvy in his fakes and footwork that left Rudy nowhere near passing lanes or challenging shots on the few possessions he made a real effort on defense.

U-Turn— After one good night, Allen Iverson turns in a bad one. He played around 20 minutes, but only managed 8 points and 3 assists. Looks like Conley will remain the starter for the foreseeable future if neither of them can impress against a half-decent defense.

Bitter Lemon— One point I finally noticed tonight is that the Grizzlies offense runs almost completely different depending on if either Conley or Iverson is in controlling the ball. With Conley the offense normally actually runs through Gasol in the high-post, this is something many writers have asked for, but I'm not so thrilled with the reality. The other players aren't running the plays crisply enough for Gasol to deliver them the ball.

With Iverson the offense run better because it is a more tradition isolation setup, which plays better into the Grizzlies personnel, but is likely only going to exacerbate the trouble of having four isolation scorers all craving shots. In other words neither of these is the right way to play.

Sleeping With the Enemy— Now I'm picking up my own sloppy seconds after focusing on Ron Artest as my player of the game, so let me change over to the Lakers bench. Against the Grizzlies these guys looked good again. Luke Walton was dropping reverse layups for heaven's sakes.

 

(5)

Grizzlies at L. A. Lakers — 11.6.09 [pregame]

by Chip Crain, 3 Shades of Blue (TrueHoop)

Memphis is a team in turmoil just like so many experts predicted they would be before the season began.

The good news is that so far the problems have only been half as bad as expected. Allen Iverson launched a bomb shell on the team, the coaches and the fans with his attitude after his first game back from injury but Zach Randolph, the other player the experts expected to cause problems, has been a model citizen.

Still the team is struggling and in ways everyone expected. Their defense is porous at best and their bench is terrible even with Iverson providing a spark. Memphis' offense has been impressive and their strength on the boards encouraging but until the team finds a way to stop their opponents it will all be for naught. * * *

 

(6)

Mamba Exsanguinates Grizzlies in LA

by Matthew Noe, Three Shades of Blue (True Hoop)

The Grizzlies made a Friday visit to to Staples Center, doing, as many teams do, the "LA double", with the LAL one night and the Clippers the next. Based on how the season's gone thus far, it would be easy for one to foresee that neither game would be an easy 48 minutes.

Was there to be any chance that the Grizzlies could integrate the word "defense" into the team's lexicon?

Am I crazy to suggest that such a thing is even possible?

Crazy, sure. But it happened in the first half. The Grizzlies actually, bless their little baby Grizzly heads, played some decent team D. Helping well in the lane, chasing shooters. The odd bit? The Griz were K-I-L-L-E-D on the boards. Slaughtered. Owned. However, the way things have been going, I'll take holding the Lakers under 38% in the first half and give up the advantage on the boards...for the confidence boost if for no other reason. Sure, Kobe did what he does, but the Grizzlies smartly let Luuuuke Walton shoot more than he should have and didn't let Fisher or Farmar get rollin' from outside. * * *

In the third quarter, it became evident that the Grizzlies had poked a sharp stick into a hole occupied by The Black Mamba. Lebron's good, there are some other good players...but there's just no one that approaches the skill/IQ/physical ability level of Kobe Bryant. Nobody. * * *

 

As deadline approached, there was nothing to report from Memphis Blue Bears, David's Memphis Grizzlies Blog, The Growl, GrizzFans.com, Unobstructed View, Beale Street Beat, etc.

 

The Bottom Line:

1. Our Grizzlies are an amazing accumulation of stars of the future and stars of the past. We've got offense to spare, daddio!!!

2. Unfortunately, each of these stars of yesterday and tomorrow is playing their own game on the same floor simultaneously...

3. No worries, after another few weeks the Memphis Tigers begin their season and nobody's gonna pay the slightest attention to these jokers anyway.

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