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.

Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis still not talking off court

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The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

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So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

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The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.