Sports 56 WHBlog Q

November 28, 2009

Johnson made the right call

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg Gaston @ 6:36 pm

I don’t know how the decision went down. I don’t know if Fred Smith caved in or was in full support of Larry Porter. I still don’t understand the whole Jerry Gray thing. Bottom line is R.C. Johnson made the right call.
Of course I don’t have a Crystal ball that can tell me how the team will do under their new head coach. I just think this one was a no-brainer. I said weeks ago that Porter should be the head coach, and will be the head coach. Did I think I was wrong the past few days when everyone seemingly had Gray penciled in as the new coach? Yes I did. However, there was still the thought that it wasn’t over especially when my contact in D.C. told me Gray had not been offered the job yet. This was one that R.C. was taking plenty of heat for, and he hadn’t yet made an announcement. I think Johnson heard the negative chatter and used common sense in his decision making.
There is no need for me to talk again about the two candidates resumes. Gray was a Pro Coach and Porter a College Coach. It was that simple. Porter was a Memphis alum, Gray an alum of Texas. One recruited, the other didn’t. Should I go on?
I know Gray is a good football coach and an even better teacher of the game, but this one was an obvious choice. On the day after Tommy West was fired, I proclaimed on my Radio Show that there were two choices for Memphis. One was Gus Malzahn, the Auburn Offensive Coordinator, who I said would not be interested. The other was Porter who I not only said would take the job, but I would be shocked if he wasn’t the next Tigers Coach.
This one will sit well with the fans and the alumni. This one will sit well with former players who have felt alienated over the years. And this one will certainly sit well within the African-American community as the Tigers hire their first black Head Football Coach.
Congratulations R.C. I don’t know how you came to this conclusion, but you came to the right conclusion. Now let’s see what happens.

November 13, 2009

What Happens Now?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Will Askew @ 3:46 pm

We’re nine games into the season, and for all intents and purposes, the Memphis Grizzlies’ season is over.  The team sits at 1-8, showing an alarming lack of defense in most games, and a shocking inability to play offense in others.  The team shows no outward signs of having any chemistry whatsoever, and the makeup of the roster is flawed to the point where it is almost comical to watch.  The starters score in bunches but can’t play a lick of defense, and the bench has no scoring; DeMarre Carroll is counted on to be the best offensive option.  Allen Iverson wasn’t told about coming off the bench before he got here, and then acted shocked when Lionel Hollins had the absolute nerve to not start him in game 1 after Iverson had not played basketball in eight months and was coming off a hamstring injury.  The Grizzlies are an absolute comedy of errors so far this season by players, management, and coaching.  So what must be done?

1.  Trade Rudy Gay and Mike Conley

The Grizzlies face a vital question at the end of the season: do you extend Rudy Gay for $10-$12 million dollars?  The Grizzlies can’t afford to pay nearly max money to a guy that isn’t worth it again…that’s the same mistake they made with Pau Gasol.  Try to trade Rudy (and include Conley in any deal) while Gay’s value is at its highest.

Rudy Gay is having his best offensive season statistically, averaging almost 21 points and 6 and a half rebounds a game.  This is no surprise, since Gay’s contract ends after this year and he’s angling for a huge payday.  Gay’s value will never be higher, and I don’t believe he is vital whatsoever to the future of this team.  He too often drifts into one-on-one play, taking ill-advised shots that are nearly impossible, and it doesn’t appear that he has any chemistry with O.J. Mayo or anyone else that is part of the core.  Mike Conley, meanwhile, can’t play.  He is not a starting point guard, will never be a starting point guard, and needs to be added to any deal with Gay.  Conley will never succeed here, mainly because he was a #4 overall draft pick and hasn’t turned out to be any better than the guy that was here when Conley arrived, Kyle Lowry.

2.  Move O.J. Mayo to the point guard

It’s very clear that Conley does not have the skill set or the demeanor necessary to be a starting point guard in the NBA.  O.J. Mayo has made it very clear that he would like to play point guard.  I’m not sure he has enough quickness or ball-handling skills to do it, but you do know two things: Mayo cannot guard twos in the NBA, and he can most certainly score.  Whether or not he is a point guard remains to be seen, but at this point, what do the Grizzlies have to lose seeing if their franchise player can play the point?  His size would give most point guards problems…but will he be able to defend their quickness?

3.  Play Hasheem Thabeet

One of the few bright spots for the team this season has been the play of Marc Gasol, who is averaging a double-double and showing heart, which is more than could be said for most of the rest of the team.  The Grizzlies desperately need defense, though, and barring injury or foul trouble, Thabeet should provide that.  I am not a fan of Hasheem Thabeet.  He is a project, and the Grizzlies can’t afford a project at this point, especially when guys like Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, and Jonny Flynn are making immediate impacts at a position of need for the Grizzlies.  You drafted the guy with the #2 pick in the draft, so play him and see if he has potential to be what you thought he was.

4.  Reshuffle Your Rotation

It’s very clear that the rotation as it is currently constructed is not going to win.  The starting lineup is all offense, no defense, and the bench is all defense, no offense.  The bench desperately needs Darrell Arthur, and I can’t even believe I just typed those words.  At some point, you’re going to have to make a move to even things out, or both the starters and the bench will continue to be liabilities.

5.  Don’t worry about Allen Iverson

The Iverson signing was doomed to failure from the start.  It was the brainchild of an owner more concerned about whether or not his wife was a big fan of the guy than how Iverson would fit in on his basketball team.  It’s hard to blame Iverson for being Iverson, but it’s also impossible to defend a guy who had only worked out with the second team and hadn’t played in a game in eight months complaining about coming off the bench.  The Grizzlies don’t owe Allen Iverson anything but a paycheck every two weeks.  Leave the sense of entitlement at the door, please.  Iverson left about a week early; if he had waited until it became clear that Mike Conley can’t start and he got back in basketball shape, Iverson probably would have cracked the starting lineup.  That being said, the Grizzlies can’t worry about what Iverson does…he’s not part of the future of the team and his opinion should matter very little.

6.  Hire a basketball person to do basketball things

This is by far the most important but least likely of the six steps.  Chris Wallace is a nice guy, but is essentially a mouthpiece for ownership that has no real power.  Wallace is the sacrificial lamb to the media when all of the ridiculous moves Michael Heisley makes invariably go wrong.  What this franchise needs (in addition to a new owner) is a bright basketball mind that has the power to go out and make decisions and moves to improve the team.  The history of the Memphis Grizzlies has been dominated by the egos of two men: Jerry West and Michael Heisley.  Those two men have done what they wanted, when they wanted, damn everyone else’s opinion.  Jerry West never listened to other people in basketball operations because he thought he was brilliant.  Heisley, if he is going to be a legitimate owner, needs to put the mess Jerry West left the team in behind him, check his ego, and hire a bright basketball mind to make decisions.  Heisley is a businessman, not a basketball guy, and he needs to stop trying to be Mark Cuban and just be the guy who signs the checks.

To be sure, this is an organization with massive issues.  I’m not 100% sure that the team will ever be competitive for championships as long as Michael Heisley is the owner.  It’s been demonstrated over and over again in sports (Clippers, Cardinals, Raiders, etc.) that incompetent ownership breeds a losing culture, and until Heisley eases his stranglehold on basketball operations and stops being so involved in every decision, the Grizzlies are never likely to be championship caliber.  Here’s hoping that Michael Heisley is a little less Mark Cuban and a little more Dan Rooney.

November 9, 2009

The Calipari Jinx

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg Gaston @ 11:41 pm

Those of you who know me understand I had a good relationship with former Tigers Hoop Coach John Calipari. They also understand that I am one of the rare people who is still singing his praises for what he did while here in Memphis. Yes, the way he left wasn’t good, but that’s not going to tarnish what I think his tenure meant to the program. With all that said I think Calipari has indirectly put the whammy on the University of Memphis Athletic Department. Some would say he did it on purpose, but I’m not convinced of it.
Since Cal’s departure, the University of Memphis was placed on probation by the NCAA and had their entire 2007-08 season stricken from the record book. The Tigers lost basically every recruit that was headed to Memphis, and than New Head Coach Josh Pastner had players leave for the riches of Professional Ball (Latavious Williams) or go down with season ending injuries (Martin Ngaloro, Angel Garcia). After that came the Football season and what a disaster that has been. Head Coach Tommy West was fired Monday after nine seasons at the helm. The team has won two, count em, two games and talk of a BCS Conference may be a pipe dream at this point. Also Monday, former Tigers great Chris Douglas-Roberts, now of the New Jersey Nets, was diagnosed with a case of swine flu.
What in the wide, wide, world of sports is going on around here? Well, it’s simply the Calipari Jinx? I don’t have a cure to fix it or a way to diagnose the problem. It’s here to stay and that my friends is frightening.

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