Sports 56 WHBlog Q

May 29, 2009

The case for R.C.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg Gaston @ 4:21 pm

University of Memphis Athletics Director R.C. Johnson has been in Memphis for about as long as I have, 14 years. We have a very good relationship. We also have mutual respect for one another. It doesn’t make me happy when I say that a termination may be in order. Let me emphasize….”may”.
I am far from the judge and jury but I can certainly layout the pros and cons of his tenure at the U of M. Does the good outweigh the bad?
Johnson has been able to bring in donations like nobody before him, and likely nobody that will follow him down the pike. Yes, plenty of the success in fundraising is due in part to Calipari and the Basketball Bonanza, but Johnson was the one who brought him to Memphis. He is charming, well liked, and able to get most of the Memphis bigwigs to open up their wallets and purses.
Johnson has served on several National committees and helped push the Memphis brand forward. The success of the athletic program under his tenure, is probably the best run in the history of the school.
His relationship with Memphis city and county officials is strong. He has the support of both Mayors and other area political figures.
Johnson is usually very accessible to the media and willing to chat about the state of tiger athletics.
He also did everything he could to keep Calipari, and in fact, may have kept him from going to N.C. State several years ago. Now I know people today may think that’s a bad thing, but let’s remember how worried fans were when losing Calipari became a strong possibility.
Now let’s look at the other side of the ledger. Johnson’s dismissal of former hoop coach Larry Finch is still considered one of the ugly moments in Memphis sports history. His choice to replace the “Legend” withTic Price, was a disaster. Price became one of the most infamous figures in Memphis history.
Memphis unsuccessfully attempted to get into the Big East Conference although in my opinion I don’t think there was much they could have done to beat out the schools that were eventually chosen.
Johnson turned a deaf ear to the cry’s for an on campus Football Stadium although the timing may not have been right.
And of course, the NCAA investigation into alleged violations in the Men’s Hoop and Women’s Golf Basketball programs.
The major beef from fans was why was the NCAA notice of allegations not made public? And why was new Head Coach Josh Pastner not apprised of the situation, or at least, made sure he clearly understood the serious implications, before he signed on the dotted line?
This is not everything, but it highlights the ups and downs of R.C.’S tenure at Memphis.
I would now love to hear your opinion.

May 20, 2009

Grizzlies at #2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Eli Savoie @ 4:44 pm

So the NBA’s draft lottery was held last night and the Grizzlies got a little lucky by landing the number 2 overall pick this year. I have to say, I got extremely excited when it came down to the final two and the Grizzlies were still in it. I had visions of Blake Griffin in a Grizzlies uniform dancing through my head. Oh, how sweet that would be, but the Grizzlies had to settle for number two and I was disappointed. I absolutely love Griffin and to get that close to him and come up short really hurt. Going into today’s show I was still a little down about the whole thing, but I have to give our listeners credit, they sold me on how good of a position the Grizzlies are still in at #2 and I’m now feeling much better. The way I see things, there are five options the Grizzlies have with the #2 pick and I’ll present them from best to worst as I see it.

1. Trade down in the first round to pick up a proven player and another pick to address the need at power forward and depth issues. (This is definitely my favorite scenario. I think there will be enough teams that covet Ricky Rubio that you could get great value in a trade for the pick.)

2. Draft 18-year-old Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio and keep both him and Mike Conley. (I wouldn’t mind this because the point guard position would be in good shape and you could trade Conley later in the year if Rubio pans out the way you hope. At worst, you have two good point guards and you can address the power forward issue in free agency or with the other first-round pick.)

3. Trade Conley and draft Rubio. (If Rubio truly is as good as many people think he can be, then I could see trying to make a trade with Conley before the draft and turning the position over to the kid. Maybe Portland would give up Travis Outlaw for Conley or you could package him in a bigger deal.)

4. Put together whatever package it takes short of O.J. Mayo to move up to #1. (This would be great, since I’ve already said how much I love Griffin, but I think it would cost too much and is a little unrealistic so I rank it 4th. Having said that, I would at least call the Clippers to feel them out.

5. Draft Hasheem Thabeet or someone else. (Wrong answer! I just am not sold on Thabeet enough to take him at #2 when you could get a lot of value for the pick with Rubio available.)

One other thing to remember is that it could cost up to $8 million to buy Rubio out of his Spanish contract. So if you’re going to draft him and keep him, you have to be prepared to pay that.

The Grizzlies record drafting second is not great. The last time they won the second pick in the lottery they had to give the pick to Detroit from a stupid past trade and lost out on Carmelo Anthony. Before that they drafted the dubious Stromile Swift and the infamous Steve “I’m not playing for that franchise” Francis at #2 in 2000 and 1999 respectively. The year before those, in 1998, the Grizzlies did have success taking Mike Bibby at #2. Let’s hope this year it works out more like ’98 than ’99, ’00, or ’03.

Now a couple tattoo related NBA questions:

1. Is there any more lucrative tattoo artist job in the country than being the Denver Nuggets team tattoo artist? There has to be at least $1 million in tattoos on that team.

2. Why don’t foreign players in the NBA get tattoos? I just don’t get this. I assume it’s a cultural thing, but you’d think that when they get over here and see all their American teammates with them all over their bodies, that at least some of them would get some ink. Is there no tattoo parlors in Europe?

Finally…Some Buzz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Will Askew @ 9:17 am

The Grizzlies finally had some luck in the NBA Draft Lottery last night, and while it wasn’t quite everything Grizzlies’ fans hoped for, the 2nd pick in a draft that’s 2 players deep (in my opinion) is a good thing.  The actual decision on draft night comes down to whether you take Ricky Rubio or Hasheem Thabeet; I hope to everything sacred they take Rubio.  Now, the Grizzlies have a few options here.

Take Ricky Rubio: This, I would think, is the most likely scenario and one that opens up the most possibilities for the team.  I would love Ricky Rubio to be on this team next year.  He is a superb playmaker and is a tremendously talented point guard in a league that’s becoming more and more about the point guard.  Here is a short YouTube video that doesn’t have any cheesy music behind it from when the Spanish national team played Russia:
In this video, you can see that the kid has supreme court vision and awareness and an extremely high basketball IQ (I hesitate to even say that because of Jerry West’s love of basketball IQ).  Plus (perhaps most important of all to me), he’s 6’4, which presents much more of a matchup problem than Mike Conley does.  He’s only 18, which means he still has a lot of upside to his game; however, he’s clearly already talented, because he played key minutes for the Spanish Olympic team that finished with the silver medal…when he was only 17.  Based on what I’ve read and seen, he’s kind of similar to Jason Kidd–great playmaker, great in transition, good defender, but has a questionable jump shot.

Now, if the Grizzlies do take Rubio, it gives them a ton of options.  They have lots of cap room, so they can try and package Rubio and a player/their second 1st round pick for a true 4 player, which is obviously an area of need. They can take Rubio and keep him and then try and deal Mike Conley and a pick/player to another team for another draft pick/a 4 player.  They can take Rubio, let him back up Conley for a couple of years to develop his game, and then let him start.  The Suns drafted Steve Nash (a similar player to Rubio, apparently) and let him back up Jason Kidd.  They then traded him to Dallas, where he flourished…hopefully the Grizzlies would leave that part out.  In this scenario, the Grizzlies would have to address their need for a four and some shooting with their cap space or their late first round pick.  Or, they could do the thing that I dread, and…

Take Hasheem Thabeet: Some people say that the Grizzlies are very high on Hasheem Thabeet, and may take him.  I hope not.  You can’t teach 7’3, and he is a very good shot blocker.  He is a pretty good rebounder, although it’s kind of difficult to evaluate a kid’s ability to rebound against NBA centers when he’s 6 inches taller than everyone else in college.  What he would do is provide a defensive presence in the paint which has been sorely lacking for the Grizz since they came here…hell, since Big Country left.

However, a couple of things concern me about Thabeet.  First of all, he has very little offensive ability.  If a guy who’s 7’3 in college goes essentially 5 for 8 on average, that tells you he’s not a very good offensive player.  I mean, if a dude is 6 inches taller than everyone else, I’m throwing him the ball all the time…the fact that UConn didn’t do that last year tells you a lot.  He got a lot of his baskets on offensive rebounds and put backs.  Secondly, he doesn’t like contact, and if you’ve ever sat down low at an NBA game, there’s a lot of that.  In the biggest game of the year for UConn, he was knocked to the floor by a much shorter Michigan State team 12-15 times, and repeatedly boxed out by much smaller players, to the tune of 16 offensive rebounds for MSU.  He had only 3 defensive rebounds in that game.  I know it’s silly to evaluate a guy on one game, but he got owned by DaJuan Blair in two games also, and DaJuan Blair is 6’6.  Thirdly, he’s already 4 years older than Rubio is, and some people question if that’s even true.

Thabeet would have been a great pick…when Pau Gasol was here.  He would have given them that defensive presence/rebounder where they had the post scorer on the other side.  Now that they don’t have that, you would be left with less offense than you already had, and four 7 footers on your team.  Thabeet is a boom or bust pick…I tend to believe the latter.  I’m not taking a guy who can’t create anything on offense with the second pick in the draft.

The Grizzlies should take Rubio.  It opens up the most options and has the most potential.  There is an issue with Rubio, however.  His buyout is believed to be in the area of $8 million, of which the Grizzlies could pay $500 k.  The issue may end up in an international court, because Rubio’s signature is not actually on the contract he signed with DKV Joventut.  Now, Rubio’s name in spanish actually means “blonde,” so it opens up some interesting marketing possibilities…Mr. Rubio?
mr blonde

The good thing for the Grizzlies is that regardless of how this shakes out, the franchise has some buzz for the first time in a few years.  The Grizzlies need the city, and the city needs the Grizzlies.  Here’s hoping the Grizzlies take advantage of the momentum created last night.

May 13, 2009

Heisley Ranking Unfair

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg Gaston @ 2:38 pm

In my humble opinion, Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley is an average Sports Owner. He’s not great nor is he horrible. He’s average. In the opinion of SI.Com he is one of the worst.
Sports Illustrated recently came out with a story ranking all of the owners in each of the “Big Four” Sports. In their NBA ratings, they placed Heisley at 3rd from the bottom. Only the Clippers Donald Sterling and the Knicks James Dolan ranked below the Chicago Billionaire.
Now I understand subjectivity. This is obviously a story that reflects opinions. The problem is that within the opinions they introduce facts. Or what they believe are facts.
In the Case of Heisley they have either done shoddy research or blatantly refused to look at the Organization’s three year playoff run. After the team’s relocation to Memphis and their eventual move to FedExForum, Heisley dumped millions of dollars into team payroll. In fact, the team went over the Luxury-Tax threshold. The SI.Com story indicated Heisley never came anywhere near the Luxury Tax number.
Heisley is heavily criticized for making the Pau Gasol trade. A trade that certainly saved him plenty of money. The trade however is ever changing. Pau’s little brother Marc, who came over in the deal, has turned out to be more than a serviceable player. And with the money they took off the books, perhaps a free agent will help take this team back to the post season. Now the argument from Heisley’s detractors would be “O.K. let’s see if he does you the money to get a big time player”. Certainly a legitimate question, but to say this guy is ONLY about saving money is incorrect. There is no owner who wants to lose money. Heisley would be the first to overspend if you could guarantee him a winner. Problem is you can’t. That is why he has bought into this three year plan hoping to rebuild a one time playoff team into a contender through the Draft, Trades and Free Agency.
Would Heisley like to sell the team? Yes. But that’s to be expected from a businessman who is losing money. The fact is he has promised to never move the team out of Memphis while he is the owner. Of course that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t sell the team to an ownership group that would.
With all that has been said, the positives and the negatives, this is why Heisley is a middle of the road owner. As I said he’s not great nor is he horrible. SI.Com has the right to rank him anywhere they want, but you better come with the right ammo if you want to shoot down this particular millionaire.

May 11, 2009

This & That

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg Gaston @ 5:20 pm

-Vikings President Mark Wilf says the team is very interested in future Hall Of Fame Quarterback Brett Favre. That sure is a nice vote of confidence for newly acquired Q.B. Sage Rosenfels. Basically Wilf is saying that a nearing 40 year old, past his prime Favre, is still a way better option than Rosenfels, Tarvaris Jackson or John David Booty.

-You can blame Antoine Wright for not fouling Carmelo Anthony hard enough but the bottom line is that officials need to blow their darn whistle when a foul is committed. I don’t care when in the game it occurs. I’m not saying Dallas would have automatically won Game three of their playoff series with Denver, but they certainly should have been given the opportunity. The official knew Dallas had a foul to give. Next time Wright should slap Anthony across the face and start a fracas. That would solve everything!

-I love Nascar’s “No Tolerance” policy concerning the use of illegal drugs. With that said however, I still think something smells fishy about Jeremy Mayfield’s recent positive test. Is the guy on Roids so he can race a car faster? No. I don’t know what the drug in question is so I should reserve any judgment, but unless it’s cocaine or weed or heroin than I see a possible innocent mistake. Mayfield is an Owner/Driver and he knows all about the stiff penalties from Nascar if caught. Why would he jeopardize all that? A drug problem is the only answer unless of course it’s an accident. Baseball and Football players take certain drugs to get an advantage. I don’t see how a Nascar Driver does.

Darius Washington is auditioning for the Memphis Grizzlies. The story of D-Wash remains one of the more sad tales in recent years. Now I’m not comparing his story to those with tragic endings,(Career ending injuries, criminal activity, deaths etc.), but it still is a sad account of a young man who was ready to set the world on fire but found the road a bit rocky. As a Memphis Tigers star guard Washington became the Greek Tragic Hero with his Free Throw Line meltdown during the Conference USA Tournament IN 2005. He proceeded to leave school early for the riches of the NBA, only to find his dream wouldn’t come that easy. He has played for different NBA Summer teams and has been invited to several camps, only to be told thanks but no thanks. He has played in the NBDL and all around the world, but his goal remains the same, make it to the NBA.
The story of D-Wash is far from over and maybe just maybe, this young man will write a new chapter to his life. The chapter entitled “Never Give Up”. And perhaps that chapter will have a familiar background, as in the city of Memphis.

May 4, 2009

For Mississippi State basketball fans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Eli Savoie @ 2:43 pm

I know Mississppi State basketball fans are excited about high school star and top recruit Renardo Sidney signing to play with the Bulldogs, but if you want to know exactly what type of risk Rick Stansbury is taking, take a look at this LA Times article about Sidney and his family. If the NCAA cares at all about violations of atheltes receiving benefits as high schoolers, they will certainly be looking into the case of Sidney.

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