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.

John Stockton working with Bucks point guards at training camp

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 30:  John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz dribbles in Game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Sacramento Kings during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at Arco Arena on April 30, 2003 in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won 111-91.  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: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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The Bucks are coached by one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd. But Kidd invited another legend of the position to camp to work with his point guards. John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was at Bucks practice on Thursday working with Michael Carter-Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Not a bad person to learn from, especially since the Bucks have one of the weakest point-guard positions in the league.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 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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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 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 Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.