Grizzlies admit they were wrong about 2009 draft, still completely miss the point

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The Grizzlies have learned! They admitted a mistake! An NBA front office actually admitted a draft mistake! Good times are on the way! We can learn!

Or not.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Geoff Calkins has an article today leading with a fine quote from the man in charge of the Grizzlies, Michael Heisley. If you thought the answer to that question was General Manager Chris Wallace, you’re looking for the “basketball teams run sensibly” class down the hall. Heisley leads the article admitting that the Grizzlies made a huge mistake in last year’s draft. Having begged the Grizzlies not to take Hasheem Thabeet, this was an especially sweet moment of closure for me and…

Wait, what?

PSYCH!

Turns out Heisley completely glosses over the highest pick to ever be assigned to the D-League who still looks two to three years away from being able to contribute even meaningful, much less impactful minutes, and instead decides to throw the 27th overall pick DeMarre Carroll under the bus in order to praise DeJuan Blair. From the Appeal:

“We should have taken him,” Heisley said. “He was 15th on our list. But
sometimes, in the heat of the moment, you get derailed. We got swayed by
some discussions with the doctors. This year, we’re going to take the
guy who is next on our list or someone is going to have to do a very
good job explaining to me why we’re not.”

Oh, okay, I see what you’re doing there. You’re making a joke. You’re saying that instead of your big mistake last year being the drafting of a seven foot pogo stick who had to be assigned to Dakota for 10 days in order for him to start even knowing where he was on the floor with the #2 overall pick in a loaded draft, that it was really you taking a hard nosed defender with upside over a guy who 29 other teams passed on due to his considerable injury history. All of this while retaining Mike Conley. I get it. Very funny, Mike. Such a kidder.

But, of course, because the world is a cruel and dark place, Heisley is not kidding. Look, let’s be clear. Yes, passing on Blair was a mistake. He’s shown in his rookie year that provided the super-glue and duct-tape holding his major leg joint together remains intact, he can definitely contribute with fierce rebounding and tough putbacks at the NBA level. And the Grizzlies had one of the worst benches in the league last year. But then again, drafting Blair would have meant this is what the Grizzlies’ frontcourt would have looked like, in terms of viable options:

Zach Randolph,Marc Gasol, DeJuan Blair, Hasheem Thabeet, Hamed Haddadi

That’s a lot of big guys to distribute minutes to.

Now, let’s look at their real, honest to God, viable backcourt rotation:

Mike Conley (kind of, sort of), O.J. Mayo

Right, because it’s really that 27th pick that hurt you. Let’s try that last part again with any of several combinations.

Tyreke Evans, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley
Stephen Curry, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley
Brandon Jennings, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley
Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley

The list goes on. I’d even throw Jonny Flynn in there.

I appreciate that Heisley is admitting that mistakes were made, which is an important part of rebuilding a relationship with your fans. But the Grizzlies continue to try very hard, and yet somehow completely miss the point. Drafting DeMarre Carroll was certainly not a brilliant move, but not because they could have had DeJuan Blair. This is all beside the fact that as Heisley says this, he’s simultaneously damaging the team’s relationship with Carroll who can still contribute (and who they’ll need if he doesn’t want to pay out the wazoo for Rudy Gay) and glossing over the fact that they had another pick in front of him!

The Grizzlies had him 15th, and passed on him at 27 . But what about selecting Sam Young at 36, after you’d just drafted a highly identical player at a position you’re loaded at? Heisley makes it sound like the low-hanging fruit was right there, they had their hand on it, and pulled it way. But the truth is they walked right back around to the fruit again, and still decided it had worms in it.

Blair has been a force for the Spurs, in very limited minutes, and while he certainly projects to an All-Star, the knees are legitimate concerns. That’s why the Grizzlies weren’t alone in passing on him. But if they’re looking in the mirror to try and learn from their mistakes, it’s not that pick that should haunt them. It’s the cavalcade of all-rookie team selections that followed immediately after the player they went with after their rare lottery luck landed them the second overall.

As usual with Memphis, the right idea is there, the execution isn’t. Close, but no cigar. And by cigar, I mean Tyreke Evans.

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

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For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.