Sunday, November 2, 2008

Apparently my last post wasn't clear enough for everyone. There will be no further posts here on Instead we have moved our entire operation over to, so update your favorites, bookmarks and subscription links to that site. That is where you will get all the latest Grizzlies news, commentary and analysis from now on.

Go Grizzlies!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pack Up the Truck -- We're Moving

No, this isn't another poorly informed piece about the Grizzlies leaving the Bluff City for Seattle, Las Vegas, Kansas City or Piedmont, North Dakota.

3 Shades of Blue is moving from our suburban home on Blogspot to our new palatial estate on the ESPN's TrueHoop Network.

Now you can get all your updates on the Memphis Grizzlies at We'll be making some adjustments as we familiarize ourself with the new website, but we promise to keep up our tradition of providing you with all the latest news, commentary, analysis and poorly crafted jokes.

We look forward to seeing all of you over at the new location!

3 Shades of Blue

Opening Night of the Season

Memphis at Houston - 10.29.08

Memphis enters Year 2 of the Iavaroni years with a far different perspective than the previous year. Gone are Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Stromile Swift, Damon Stoudamire, Andre Brown, Tarence Kinsey, Juan Carlos Navarro and Brian Cardinal. In are O J Mayo, Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur, Quinton Ross, Marco Jaric, Hamed Haddadi, Javaris Crittenton, Greg Buckner and Antoine Walker. Turnover on this scale rarely leads to quick starts for a team. The Grizzlies are also expected to start two rookies (Mayo and Gasol) to partner with Conley (one year), Rudy Gay (2 years) and Darko Milici (5 years). Experience isn't a strong point of this Grizzlies team but the team is building for three years down the road and if the bulk of this youth movement remains together the future is very bright.

Houston is going in the opposite direction and their fans couldn't be more pleased. The Rockets are considered serious challengers for the Division crown and possibly the Western Conference. Veteran teammates Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady are joined by Ron Artest to give the Rockets an experienced core of players that rival the best in the league on paper. Combined with an experienced bench the Rockets are back in the mix of elite NBA teams assuming their stars can remain healthy and co-exist. However, there are questions about both of those issues. Tracy McGrady is questionable for this game with a sore knee that has hampered him all pre-season and Artest's issue with conforming to team needs is legendary.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Rafer Alston
Alston has struggled in the pre-season but that should be expected a bit from the veteran. His shooting percentage can't be expected however. Just above 30% from the field and the arc has to be distressing a bit to Adelman but that is an improvement from where these numbers were just a few weeks ago. Looks like Alston is roundng into shape. Conley has won the starting PG role despite a strong late challenge from Kyle Lowry. After seeing each other play twice already this season Alston will be prepared for Conley.
Advantage: Houston

Shooting Guards: O J Mayo vs Tracy McGrady

Tracy McGrady may not play tonight as his gimpy knee may force him out. I hear it is more mental than physical with the knee. T-Mac has never been one to push himself when the need isn't present. O J Mayo had an impressive pre-season and seems to be gaining confidence in his shot as well as his role on the team. If McGrady can't go then possibly Von Wafer will start. That is quite a change from expectations he wouldn't even make the team. Wafer had a great game in Memphis during the pre-season.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Ron Artest

With Shane Battier sidelined for at least the first few weeks of the season, Artest has been getting the lions minutes at SF. His shooting was off in the pre-season but who really thinks he was trying hard in pre-season. Artest is truly a two way player excelling offensively and defensively. Rudy Gay seems capable of turning it on at any moment to lead the Grizzlies. The staff infection that bothered him at the end of pre-season shouldn't be a problem now. Being able to turn it on is nice but what he needs to do is leave it on for the Grizzlies. Rudy is learning to do that but it doesn't come naturally for him.
Advantage: Houston

Power Forwards: Darko Milicic vs Luis Scola

Darko won the starting PF position in training camp by showing a bit more muscle at the PF position than Warrick was able to muster. Darko's shooting started to come around at the end and his rebounding was solid all pre-season. Most frequently noted this year has been the dramatic improvement in Darko's conditioning this summer. Scola will be a tough test. Luis is older, more experienced and more grounded mentally than Darko. However Darko can give Scola difficulty matching his size. Should be an interesting test but Scola's tougher mental attitude should make the difference.
Advantage: Houston

Centers: Marc Gasol vs Yao Ming
Gasol has looked a step slow against quicker Rasho Nesterovic! No one is saying Yao Ming is fast but he is starting to round into form and should give Marc Gasol all he wants. The amazing thing so far is that Gasol, despite his bruising style, hasn't gotten into much foul trouble. That is very promising since most rookies struggle to get respect from refs. If Gasol can stay on the court for 30+ minutes and contribute then the prospects for the Grizzlies is looking much brighter.
Advantage: Houston

Benches: Memphis vs Houston

Houston had to make some tough decisions to just get down to 15 players including 'retiring' Dikembe Mutambo which leaves Joey Dorsey as the primary backup to Yao at center. Somehow Steve Francis made the roster despite not playing at all in the pre-season. The question off the bench in Houston has to be who is going to sit and who is going to play. Luther Head for one seems buried behind Brent Barry. Von Wafer was a star in pre-season but is he an answer? What about Aaron Brooks? So many bodies and so little clarity. Memphis' problem are different but still problematic. Will Warrick handle coming off the bench and still be a reliable point scorer? Can Arthur continue to build on his positive pre-season performance? Will Ross, Jaric or Crittenton emerge as a reliable backup player? Can Lowry raise his level of play after a lackluster pre-season? Memphis' bench was terrible in pre-season but a shorter rotation may iron out those problems somewhat.
Advantage: Houston

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Northwest and Southeast Division Previews

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Denver Nuggets
Jeremy: Pickaxe and Roll
Nick Sclafani: The Nugg Doctor

Minnesota Timberwolves
Derek Hanson & Staff: TWolves Blog
Andrew Thell: Empty the Bench
wyn: Canis Hoopus

Oklahoma City
xphoenix87: BallerBlogger
Zorgon: Blue Blitz
Royce: The Thunderworld

Portland Trail Blazers
Mookie: ...a stern warning
Benjamin Golliver: Blazers Edge
Coup and SJ: Rip City Project

Utah Jazz
UtesFan89: The Utah Jazz
Basketball John: SLC Dunk

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Atlanta Hawks
Matt McHale: Basketbawful
Hoopinion: Peachtree Hoops

Charlotte Bobcats
BrettL: Queen City Hoops
Ziggy: BobcatsPlanet

Miami Heat
Darren Heitner:
Gregory Broome: The Peninsula is Mightier

Orlando Magic
Ben: Third Quarter Collapse

Washington Wizards
Rashad: Hoops Addict
HoopsAvenue: HoopsAvenue
Mike Prada: Bullets Forever
Truth: Truth About It Dot Net

Also see links to all the previews at

Monday, October 27, 2008

Grizzlies Roundtable Discussion

On Friday October 24th two of the writers at 3 Shades of Blue met with local media personalities Chris Herrington (the Memphis Flyer and writer of Beyond the Arc), Eli Savoie (radio personality at WHBQ Sports Talk radio), Chris Vernon (730am Fox Sports radio personality) and Geoff Calkins (Memphis Commercial Appeal Sports Columnist). The discussion covered current topics about the Grizzlies, expectations for this season and the future. It was a fascinating hour long conversation and I hope everyone enjoys listening to it.

Memphis Grizzlies Media Roundtable

As this is 3 Shades of Blue's first attempt at Podcasting is has not been without some difficulty to get this to work. Usually we just transpose the conversations into print but the length of this makes that impractical at this time. I apologize to our foreign readers for any difficulty you have in understanding what was said.

Pre-Season ReCap

By Chip Crain

Well we are just two days away from the start of the regular season and I hope lots of people are having troubles with butterflies like I am. At times are start thinking about how exciting this season can become if the team gels together quickly. At other times I am faced with the reality of the team having a starting lineup with no one over 23 years of age, with 8 players new to the roster this season and with three rookies and I cringe.

Still the pre-season should give some people optomism about the talent on the roster, even if they aren't very experienced. As has been my custom I review the pre-season performances of each player on the final roster. So without further ado here we go:

Rudy Gay:
46.8 FG%, 75.0 FT%, 3.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.83 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 16.8 PPG
Commentary - Rudy showed everyone he is nearly unstoppable on offense. His points were only contained by his lack of playing time (27.8 mpg). Rudy also showed he isn't really a very good passer or dribbler (2.67 TOPG). Rudy's defensive intensity has improved however. If he continues on this path Rudy will be an ESPN highlight show on a very bad team. Rudy needs to become an on-court leader by improving his ball control and his passing to become a superstar. In the meantime I suppose people will at least be entertained by his athleticism.

O J Mayo:
45.8 FG%, 62.5 FT%, 3.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.75 SPG, .25 BPG, 15.4 PPG
Commentary - O J Mayo showed everyone just how ready he is for the NBA compared to most rookies. O J had two big scoring nights, shot a far higher percentage than anyone should expect from a rookie perimeter player and proved his defensive reputation was well earned. He also showed he settles for too many outside shots, has poor ball-control and doesn't seem to have the outragious athleticism expected of top NBA picks these days. One thing is certain, O J is going to be an emotional on-court leader on this team.

Mike Conley:
45.8 FG%, 89.5 FT%, 4.10 RPG, 3.1 APG, .38 SPG, .13 BPG, 9.8 PPG
Commentary - Conley has shown flashes of what he is capable of doing on the court once he matures. He has also shown he hasn't matured yet. Conley too often remains passive when he should be forcing the issue. His shooting has improved since last summer and his physical shape is greatly improved but he needs to be more insistent on forcing the issue ala Tony Parker at San Antonio. Once Mike gains the confidence to force his game on the opponents his assists and points will improve. Until then he will suffer from up and down nights.

Marc Gasol:
46.5 FG%, 81.8 FT%, 5.90 ROG, 2.3 APG, .88 SPG, .88 BPG, 7.3 PPG
Commentary - Marc has been a very physical presence in the middle during the pre-season and surprisingly hasn't been the target of the officials whistle like most big men are their first season in the league. Gasol has struggled scoring the ball which is probably attributable to his slow first step. One thing is for certain, Gasol is not the same player who left Memphis years ago as an over-weight perimeter shooting big man. This Gasol is strong and big and not afraid to use his size.

Darko Milicic:
44.7 FG%, 60.9 FT%, 6.00 RPG, .8 APG, .50 SPG, 1.67 BPG, 8.0 PPG
Commentary - Darko has returned to his natural position of PF in the pre-season and seems much more at ease there. Unfortunately he still hasn't learned how to use his right hand, has struggled scoring the ball and seemed lost on the court at times. What Darko has done is lead the team in rebounding and blocked shots. Darko will need to focus on those two strengths to keep the Grizzlies interior tough defensively.

Hakim Warrick:
42.9 FG%, 71.1 FT%, 5.10 RPG, .6 APG, .50 SPG, 1.13 BPG, 11.0 PPG
Commentary - That's not a misprint. Hakim Warrick averaged over a block a game during pre-season. The 10 blocks is compared to a career high in the regular season of only 30. Has Hak made the turn on defense? Possibly but he hasn't learned how to pass the ball yet and at 26 it is doubtful he ever will. That was expected however. The surprising thing about Hak's pre-season was his poor aim shooting the ball. Hak has always been a high percentage shooter averaging over 50% in his career. As the player expected to lead in scoring off the bench Hak needs to find his range quickly to keep the bench from being a major weakness this season.

Kyle Lowry:
22.7 FG%, 56.7 FT%, 2.40 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.38 SPG, 4.6 PPG
Commentary - There was no more disappointing player in the pre-season than Kyle Lowry. This may be a good time to remind people that this is only pre-season. The games don't count yet. Still everyone would have been a lot happier if he had shown he worked on his game over the summer. Kyle still pushes the pace, creates mayhem on the court and won't be playing with the odd collection of players he had to work with in pre-season. All of these things should improve his play once the season gets serious. The only question appears to be will his attitude accept being a backup PG.

Darrell Arthur:
55.6 FG%, 4.50 RPG, 0.0 APG, .17 SPG, .33 BPG, 9.8 PPG
No player improved thier standing on the team during pre-season more than Darrell Arthur. The late first round pick came into town under some question marks that weren't exactly answered with his summer league play and being tossed out of the Rookie Camp. Apparently those unfortunate experiences changed the rookies attitude as he has been more aggressive and effective. Arthur averaged more rebounds than he did in the summer league (4.5 to 3.8) despite playing significantly fewer minutes per game (17.8 to 27.4). He nearly averaged double figures (9.8). In college Arthur was known as a player who played great one game and disappeared in the next. Only time will tell if that describes his rookie year or not.

Quinton Ross:
41.5 FG%, 57.9 FT%, 2.30 RPG, .8 APG, .63 SPG, .63 BPG, 7.8 PPG

Ross overcame long odds with his excellent defense to become the last 14th player on the team. A natural SG, Ross is expected to see his primary minutes at SF backing up Rudy Gay. Ross has never been a great offensive player but he can hit the occasional 3 pt shot which should help spread the court for others to operate. Ross' offensive production in the pre-season resulted from the lack of a scoring options not improved play. It is anticipated that Ross' scoring will drop off when the rotation gets shorter in the real games.

Javaris Crittenton:
36.7 FG%, 50.0 FT%, 3.00 RPG, 1.6 APG, .80 SPG, .00 BPG, 5.4 PPG

No player was hurt more from the draft night trade for O J Mayo than Javaris Crittenton. JCritt was supposed to be the tweener guard of the future. Suddenly he was a 20 yr old without a position. JCritt hasn't helped himself this pre-season either with his poor shooting and low assist numbers. Barring injury it is highly unlikely that JCritt will see much court time and that will just hurt him that much more in attracting interest for a trade.

Greg Buckner:
37.9 FG%, 75.0 FT%, 3.00 RPG, .8 APG, .40 SPG, .40 BPG, 5.2 PPG

If JCritt may have a diminished outlook on the team but at least he is young and has potential. Buckner is far older and isn't likely to improve. The one thing that could see him on the court is a Rudy Gay injury. Buckner does have a slight advantage over JCritt playing Small Forward.

Marco Jaric:
00.0 FG%, 50.0 FT%, 1.00 RPG, .3 APG, .33 SPG, .00 BPG, .3 PPG

Jaric's pre-season was broken up by a broken nose. Unable or unwilling to play with the protective mask, Jaric's minutes were limited and he was obviously bothered by the mask to the point that he finally shut it down until able to play without the mask. That shouldn't be much longer. It is not exactly clear where Jaric will fit into the rotation right now with the three guard rotation seemingly set with Conley, Mayo and Lowry and Ross backing up Gay.

Hamed Haddadi:
17.6 FG%, 66.7 FT%, 3.30 RPG, .8 APG, .00 SPG, .67 BPG, 1.7 PPG

Iran joined the NBA national registry when the Grizzlies signed Haddadi to a contract. The 7-2 center has struggled adjusting to life in the USA since his english is broken at best. Communication issues aside Haddadi showed some promise as a back up center. His shooting was poor but grabbing 3.3 rpg in less than 10 minutes a night will catch people's attention.

Antoine Walker:
20.0 FG%, 25.0 FT%, 3.50 RPG, .5 APG, .50 SPG, 1.00 BPG, 3.0 PPG

If you want to see Antoine Walker play basketball you better come early to games. Walker has been told by the Grizzlies that he is not in their plans and it would take some form of disaster for Walker to see the court. His conditioning is being questioned but anyone seeing Walker can tell he isn't that out of shape. His shot however is a shadow of what it used to be.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Will Now Pontificate Upon...

By HPTMatt

I will now pontificate on the players I unabashedly deem most likely to achieve higher status than they've previously attained in the NBA this season (insert hackneyed Josh Howard joke here). These guys will not necessarily be MIP candidates, although some certainly could be included in that discussion as well. Most will not be for various reasons....young team, turdalicious team that gets no press (sorry, Mike Conley....but I'll put you on there anyway out of pure, unadulterated homerism), etc. I'll also not mention any rookies, 'cuz, y'know, how can you improve in large increments in the NBA year-over-year if you've just entered the fray??

Let the pontification begin!

1) Andray Blatche
Yep, I've mentioned him previously, and I'm doing it again. The difference with him will, like many things in life, start with his motivation and level of brain usage. He seems to have righted his off-court ship, allowing him to focus on the basketball aspect of things. Great size, great length, improving hands, decent (getting better) shot, some shotblocking, good activity without the ball and on defense. Perhaps the paramount reason that his name will be mentioned more this season, however, is one that I wish I did not have to mention...the injury bug that has bitten and will continue to feed upon the Wizards. I think that Blatche will get his burn even if (and believe me, I hope this is the case, but I'm not optimistic) the Wizards suffer no further major injuries (although Haywood's absence will almost certainly lead to more minutes for Blatche).

2) Mike Conley
HOMER TIME! Ah, hometown subjectivity. Sure, he's on what almost certainly promises to be a sub-30-win team, but his high draft location and great skill level will get him noticed, and his ability to locate and direct teammates will certainly show substantial improvement over last season. He has done his due diligence in the weight room, and his perimeter shot looks worlds better, mechanics-wise and, in a more tangible sense, in the % column as well (yeah, I know it's only preseason). His body control in the lane is very good, but his ability to finish while suffering contact must improve.

3) Gerald Green
yep, I said it. Watched Mark Cuban cheering for him at the end of a game that the Mavs actually choked away. Sure, I am well aware that no amount of Sprite can make this guy a regular contributor just yet, but I do predict that he'll see minutes in Dallas this season. I ain't sayin' this guy is gonna go for 16 ppg in like 24 mpg, but I do believe that he'll get the "more minutes makes me better, and not just 'cuz I'm getting more minutes" thing happening. Now just you wait for this next one..wait for it....

4) Patrick O'Bryant
Hah. Had you for a minute there. Just kiddin'.

...well, actually, he's seen a few minutes this preseason, and maybe...

...naaahh....move along. I'm rootin' for the guy, but we'll have to see.

5) Julian Wright
ok, back on track here. When I heard that Byron wanted to try to make this guy a PG, I knew something weird was gonna go on. Whether this guy gets enough minutes to really make in impact, well, we'll see. But his size is an asset, and the ability he showed at the end of last season to make halfway brainy decisions with the ball has almost certainly endeared him to Coach Scott. If he can work more on his perimeter game on both sides of the ball, his versatility could make it tough to keep him off the floor.

6) Ryan Gomes
I think the Wolves will like this guy very much this season. It won't (shouldn't be) hard for him to get plenty of time to mature on-court, and he's shown good versatility at the 3 spot...but it would well behoove him to get some time in the gym with his new teammate Mike Miller and learn to better flush it from outside. He must use his length to better advantage on defense, which I'm sure he can do (Mr. Brewer, you need to pay attention here as well). Good rebounder, athletic...I think he'll surprise the ten people who pay attention to the T'Wolves this season.

Well, six seems enough for now (well, 5.5 if you give POB half credit),and I'm sure you all think that I'm completely bananas (and, in my defense, there is a three-week-old child in my life :)). Feel free, readers, to comment on any player you think will up his game this season-I'm sure I've missed your favorite up-and-comer :).

Also feel free to completely bust me at the end of the season when a bunch of these cats go for like 1.5 points and 4 fouls in like 4 mpg.....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weekend Update: Links to all Things Grizz

For those that may have missed these articles/blogs on the Grizzlies. ran an interesting article about the potential new stars in each division. Rudy Gay was promoted as the new up and coming star in the Southwest Division. Standing in his way are Dirk Nowitski and David West. Can't really argue with that.

Seems like everyone has a Season Preview out this week. Here is a rundown of the one's we have seen:
- Slam Dunk Central
- Hardwood Paroxysm
- Hoopsworld
- - And no that isn't Pau in the picture!
- - Don't ask me how I found this!
- IblogBulls -Hint: Warrick isn't starting. You should know that if you are going to write a preview of the team.
- LA Times - Why are we the enemy? Didn't we trade them Pau Gasol for JCritt, Gasol, Arthur and another pick? Oh yeah. Never mind.

For those who are out of touch with recent events, here is an article discussing Rudy's staff infection that caused him to miss the last two pre-season games.

For those that don't have a reason to dislike Seattle yet here is an article that may sway your opinion away from the Emerald City. Obviously the person writing this has no comprehension of the contracts involved in moving the Grizzlies.

Anyone remember Will Solomon? Well he apparently remembers Memphis and in a favorable light no less in this interview he gave. You have to sign up to read this and it is a pay service but they give you 7 days free. Just remember to cancel it before the 7 days expire.

Diary of a Happy Grizz Fan: Part Deux

First off, big ups to Chip and Josh for arranging the wonderful tables at the Tip-Off Luncheon yesterday. It was a good time had by all, as well as a notable day for charitable organizations. It is always fun to rub elbows with the players, as well as the coaches and staff. Thanks again, Chip.

To begin, this is the 2nd part of a series that proves to be the anti-thesis of Zac's ever-so-popular blog series. Zac is doing a GREAT job so far, and the feedback I am receiving further cements this claim.

Anyhow, after the Grizzlies luncheon yesterday, I met up with a few friends at the local TGI Friday's in Southaven to have a few adult beverages, and talk about Grizzlies basketball.

After a few cocktails and mind-elevating concoctions I began to peruse the surrounding tables for a viable target to test my theories upon.

Bingo. At a corner table diagonal from the bar, I found two gentleman around the same age as me, both wearing none other than Ole Miss hats/shirts, my alma mater. Target acquired, time to proceed.

I left my friends alone for the time being, and casually made my way to said gentleman's table, drink in hand. After the initial casual greeting, and awkward comment about the misfortunes of the Ole Miss football team, I finally found my opening.

I said "Did you guys happen to go to the Tip-Off Luncheon today?". Of course, I knew the answer was no, but it was my avenue to begin discussion.

The two guys, named Brett and David (thanks guys), asked how the luncheon was, and if I managed to get any valuable autographs (which I did).

Both guys are native Southavenians (is that a word?), but attend the University of Mississippi, Oxford. This of course, limits the amount of time they are able to attend Grizzlies games.

I asked them both what they thought about the Grizzlies past draft, and their answers surprised me. I will quote the gentleman verbatim, from the best of my knowledge.

Brett: I was happy overall with the draft, and the direction of the team as well, but I feel as if we gave up on Mike Miller, and marooned him into a far worse situation in the process.

David: I was ecstatic when we traded "Color me Bad" frontman Kevin Love for O.J. Mayo, and I was more than willing to part with Mike to do so, because you always have to give in order to receive.

Brett: I agree, David, but this team could definitely use Mike Miller's leadership, not to mention his hefty statline and outside shooting this year to help weather the growing pains this team will undoubtedly face.

David: True points on all fronts, but irregardless, you sometimes have to part with fan favorties, lockerroom favorites, and good talent to help build the core of your team. In all honesty, I would love Mike to still be here, but by the time we get where we are going, he will be of little or no use, and past his prime contribution stage.

Me: Great, great points on all fronts. I have to admit I was torn on the issue of trading Mike in the big draft night swap, but I do feel as if it was the best decision long term for this team. It was the right decision, in the same mold ala the Rudy Gay-Battier swap. In my humble opinion, one is paying off now, but both will pay off ten-fold in the future.

Brett and David: Yea man, one thing is for sure..... The Grizz definitely have hope for the future. As long as we make sound financial decisions, and hopefully a draft or two falls in our favor, we will be sitting pretty long term. Then we can quit hearing about the team leaving.

Me: Amen brothers. How 'bout a round on me?

So there ya have it folks. They are sneaky ones, but there are die-hard Grizz fans in and around the surrounding areas in the same mold as you and I.

Until next time, check out my homeboy Zac's upcoming installments, and hopefully I can bring some more good news as well.

Until then, Grizzly Growl my friends.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Our Grizz is Back!

The writers at 3 Shades of Blue have had the great fortune to interview many of the main figures at the Memphis Grizzlies. From Chris Wallace and Michael Heisley to Coach Iavaroni and some of the players we have been informed and educated in the many aspects of the team from an insider's point of view.

Today, we have probably the most moving interview we have had the pleasure to be involved in.

Last season the team's mascot Grizz went absent for most of the season. Eric McMahon, the man inside the bear suit, was struck down with Hodgkin's Lymphoma a very dangerous disease. In an unprecedented move the team refused to replace him with another person and instead became involved with other mascots across the country in an incredible gesture of support by others teams mascots coming and rooting for Grizz and the Grizzlies in his place. Today we bring you the first in depth interview Eric has given on what it has been like for him.

photos by Joe Murphy, NBAE Photos

3SOB: Eric, you are being promoted as returning on Opening Night. How long has it actually been since you worked a game for the Grizzlies?
EM: Yes I am planning on returning opening night! The last game I performed in was on Dec. 17th vs the Golden State Warriors. I had a biopsy on my neck on Dec. 13th performed at a home game the next day then again on the 17th. I then received my results that I had cancer the morning of Dec. 18th and was immediately put on medical leave because there were some very necessary procedures that I had to get taken care of before I could start Chemotherapy which I immediately started a few days later.

3SOB: Can you tell us what that last year of your life has been like?
EM: The last year of my life has been a roller coaster to say the least. My first reaction when I was diagnosed was pure devastation. My doctors did a great job of putting my mind at ease and letting me know that I had a great chance at beating this. When I first started chemo it was tough but I was getting by. That was until I got a bacterial infection in my stomach that put me in the Intensive Care Unit for a month. The infection had gotten so bad that I got blood poisoning, my liver and kidneys shut down and my lungs collapsed.

My family and closest friends immediately flew out to Memphis to be with me because it was a real touch - and- go situation. Luckily for me I don’t remember much of that time but I eventually got over the infection, out of the danger zone and was released and moved to Arizona to continue treatment at the Mayo Clinic. Once I was moved out there I started getting some strength back, started walking again and my body started to respond to the chemo!

3SOB: So you are totally in remission now?
EM: Yeah, I have been in remission for 4 maybe 4 and a half months now. Of course you are never 'cured' with cancer but I am cancer-free right now. I went back to the Mayo Clinic a little while ago and was given a clean bill of health.

Photos by Joe Murphy, NBAE Photos

Who arranged for the mascots of other teams to come and replace you at the Forum? Did you ever get to see these guys?
EM: Once I was diagnosed I consulted with a few other mascots in the league, they expressed their thoughts and prayers and wanted to find a way to help out the Grizzlies because they felt that the organization was doing something unprecedented by not replacing me. A few of the mascots contacted our Senior Director of Marketing John Pugliese and pitched the idea. From there more mascots from around the league wanted to help in any way and rearranged their schedule to be able to make a trip to Memphis at a shared expense with the Grizzlies!

I was only able to see two of the mascots while they were in town. I was still in the hospital at the time and Rufus Lynx from the Bobcats and his wife stopped by to check on me, and a couple nights later the Coyote from the Spurs dropped in. It was such a nice surprise because I was still a bit out of it and it really helped lift my spirits to have some of my buddies stop by. True to form the Coyote, before entering my room took a doctors coat and mask, put some gloves on and busted through the door asking if I was ready for my sponge bath!

Once I was released from the hospital I was immediately moved to Arizona so I wasn’t able to visit with the other mascots while they were in town.

3SOB: What does being a mascot mean to you?
EM: Being an NBA Mascot is a dream come true, I love being able to put smiles on faces, lift spirits of sick kids and cause havoc around the city. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and I though the Phoenix Suns Gorilla was the coolest thing in the world. I remember going to games when I was younger and watching him fly through the air with no regard for his body. Years later after I graduated from college I was able to perform with him on the Suns dunk team. He taught me everything I know, and saw some potential in me. I am very lucky to have the best mascot in the world as my mentor and teacher. Now I just hope to do for the city of Memphis and the Grizzlies as he did for Phoenix.

Photos by Joe Murphy, NBAE Photos

3SOB: Do you see your return as Grizz as an important part of your life returning to normal?
EM: When I started to get sick, going through all the treatment with all the rigors that go along with it, I would just lay there and think about the day that I would just feel normal again. I took my body and health for granted. Now that I’m in remission I finally feel that my life has some normality again but something has been missing. I have been pushing myself hard in the weight room and doing a lot of cardio to get back in shape. I can’t wait to get in front of fans and perform again on Opening Night. That’s when I really feel that all the pain and horrible times were worth it and my life will be back to normal.

3SOB: How much support have you received from the Grizzlies organization?
EM: The Grizzlies have exceeded every expectation that I ever had! It started with Andy Dolich and picked right back up with Greg Campbell. One of the most devastating parts of being diagnosed with cancer was I thought I was going to lose my job. I called John Pugliese and Andy the day I found out, right away I was assured that I was part of the family and they would do everything in their power to make sure the only thing I had to be focused on was winning this battle. Talking with other mascots around the league they all said that they would have been replaced. For the Grizzlies not to do that and let the city know about my battle was remarkable. I have received hundreds upon hundreds of letters and cards from all over the city and world for that matter with their well wishes and prayers. The city of Memphis embraced me as one of their own and for that I am truly grateful.

3 Shades of Blue has always encouraged fans to come to the games and cheer for their hometown major league franchise. Talking with Eric puts a different perspective on things. I hope everyone who reads this interview will come out for the Opening Night game if not to cheer for the Grizzlies on the court at least for the man behind the Grizz Mask. His turnaround this season is worthy of a huge response from the community.

HDTV is here: The Grizzlies are broadcasting 10 home games in HDTV this season. The games are Friday, Oct. 31 vs Orlando Magic, Monday, Nov. 24 vs San Antonio Spurs, Tuesday, Dec. 16 vs New Orleans Hornets, Friday, Dec. 19 vs Charlotte Bobcats, Friday, Jan. 2 vs San Antonio Spurs, Tuesday, Jan. 27 vs Denver Nuggets, Wednesday, Feb. 4 vs Houston Rockets, Saturday, Feb. 7 vs Toronto Raptors, Monday, Feb. 9 vs
New Orleans Hornets and Saturday, Mar. 21 vs Boston Celtics.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Learning from the Experience of Others

A guest post from Blazer's Edge

Earlier this week I sent out a question to Dave at Blazer's Edge asking him what the Grizzlies have in store since Portland had recently undergone a youth movement of their own which turned out pretty well. I intended to quote him in a blog of my own on what to expect this season. However his response was so perfect by itself that I decided to run the reply as a blog in itself. So without further ado here is Dave's response.

Memphis is going to experience the joys and trials of youth, that’s for sure. Speaking from some experience with the Blazers, it’s a roller coaster.

The joys are great. There’s nothing quite like seeing a guy develop young and knowing he’s yours. Some of these guys could become your next franchise players. Swiping someone else’s free agent just doesn’t inspire passion in the same way. Also young athletes like Gay and Mayo are exciting to watch. There will be plenty of gaffes, but on the nights when everything comes together Grizzlies fans will be buzzing and out of their seats.

The trials of youth are long, however. The first truth Grizzlies fans need to come to grips with is that not all of these players are going to make it. Some will play elsewhere, some won’t play well at all. There are few heartaches like having the guy you pinned your future hopes on not pan out. Every young player is a crap shoot no matter how talented he is. Every night, every season, is like rolling the dice. Teams that roll the dice in the NBA don’t win consistently either. Opposing teams aren’t interested in rolling against you. They just take your dice, pop you in the nose, and tell you to come back when you’re better. Young teams, even young talented teams, lose. Memphis’ veterans right now are Warrick, Milicic, Ross, and Jaric. Are these guys going to be your team leaders? Are they going to impart winning wisdom to the youngsters? Somehow I doubt it. That’s a problem.

Portland has been through all of this. We’ve had our prospective stars who didn’t work out (Sebastian Telfair, for instance). We’ve had our stars who did work out but weren’t winners or right for our team (Zach Randolph). We’ve had veterans who weren’t interested in making the team better (Ruben Patterson). We’ve had youngsters with talent who still haven’t learned how to play winning basketball (Travis Outlaw). We’ve had a lot of losses and a lot of failed dreams. It’s been a long road.

The end of that road back to respectability only came when we made a few commitments:

1. Every draft pick counts. Use them wisely.

2. “Wisely” means on players who are smart and team-oriented as well as talented. Sacrifice a few headlines, maybe even a few extra wins, now in order to build the right way.

3. Acquire veterans who know how to play and are willing to guide the team either from in front or in the locker room. Do not overspend for quick fixes!

4. Getting fortunate with a Greg Oden-like pick in the lottery doesn’t hurt, but honestly the Blazers would probably still be a playoff team in 2-3 more years without him with the likes of Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Fernandez.

5. Don’t hesitate to get rid of players who don’t fit even if they rack up stats.

Also here are some helpful lessons I’ve learned as a fan of a young team:

1. Anybody can score 20 on a given night. Consistency is the only thing that really matters. 25 on Wednesday and 3 on Thursday is losing basketball. Until it’s 18.5 every night don’t think you have a player.

2. Wins are not always the best barometer of success when you’re young. The team better not be going for anything but wins, mind you, but fans can judge teams incrementally instead of taking a “win or nothing” attitude. Look for improvement in players month to month and year to year.

3. Summer League and Pre-Season are interesting, but ultimately mean little. Even with young guys it only counts when it counts. If you’re going to judge off-season play, you have to compare apples to apples (last Summer League to this, or last Pre-Season to this, for instance) in order to accurately gauge progress.

4. Offense without defense from a player or two can be an effective situational dagger. Offense without defense from a team is losing basketball.

5. Non-scoring aspects of a player’s game are more valuable than you think. Young players who already know what to do when they don’t have the ball or the camera on them are gold.

6. You are not getting better as soon as you think, so chill out with the highs and lows. Over-hyping a player or your team will only lead people to complain about them more when they can’t live up to expectations.

7. It’s not the coach’s fault as much as you think.

Here are some signs that your team might be getting good again:

1. You have a set rotation that nobody is arguing about…you just take it for granted.

2. You’re talking about what players have brought and definitely will bring again, not what they might or could bring.

3. You’re not depending on your latest draft pick or 10th player to come through and set the world on fire. You start thinking about your 10th man like San Antonio thinks about theirs.

4. The off-season starts getting boring to you instead of being your greatest hope.

5. The national media remembers your name every once in a while. They don’t know your team nearly as well as you do but they do tend to notice broad trends and are more objective about them.

6. You have a star who is the first “him” instead of the “Next Somebody Else”.

7. Your team ranks in the middle of the league or higher in most, if not all statistical categories instead of having a couple highs and a couple disasters. A positive PPG Differential is the best single statistical indicator of winning basketball. After that Field Goal Percentage Allowed, Defensive Rebounding, and Turnover Differential are usually good indicators. If you stink in one or more of these four big categories, be careful.

As far as Memphis goes, I think a lot depends on Gay and Mayo right now. Are they the “first thems” that will form the heart of your team? Are their games complete enough? Can they take games over and wring the life out of them, bending them to their will? Can they do all this while playing as a part of a cohesive whole, making their teammates better as well?

Those are the first questions to ask. Assuming an affirmative, then you have to ask who else on the team fits with them. I’m not convinced all of those supporting players do. In fact I’m not sure anybody knows yet what the supporting cast will turn out like…a pitfall of having an all-youngster team. Once the team has talent established and direction, acquiring a couple key veterans will be important. After that, it’s acquiring more talent to fill in the cracks and developing an identity. It’s a multi-season, multi-step process and the Grizzlies are still only halfway through Step 1.

Portland is transitioning through the final, identity step after five years of struggling and we still haven’t made it through. In short, prepare for the long haul, appreciate the small victories while you wait for the large ones, and hope your team commits to doing things the right way instead of just selling more tickets or making headlines.

hype it up!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Diary Of A Mad Grizz Fan Part Four.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

I pick back up with you, at The Grove Grill.

The young gentleman, close to my age and I were talking about the Grizzlies. Yes, that guy. The ONE I have found so far who could hopefully be coaxed into the Grizz fold.

I asked this guy why exactly he was having to be coaxed...Why cant you just get a 5 dollar seat and see what happens. If you want a better view to enhance your time spent, then take the plunge, spend a bit more, yell until your hearts content (just don't do the Soulja Boy dance) and see what happens then.

**Due to the fact that upon hearing the length of his answer, I immediately said I would like to quote him verbatim. I needed his number since I was sans tape recorder, so now that I am over the shock and disgust of actually recieving a man's number at a bar, I will relay his answer to you via a telephone call.**

"See Zac, the reason is simple. I've never been introduced to them. You might think that its stupid, or ******* lame, but I can't get behind something I know nothing about other than tickets are on sale now. Who are these guys? I know who Mayo is because I love college hoops, and I hear Rudy is pretty good. Why should I care? Before I take the plunge, I need to know whats going to be there before I go plunging off, ya know?

Another thing, since Im just getting **** off my chest to ya, is I like what youre trying to do with these blogs. It's like some public awareness type of **** and I can dig it. But Im sure a lot of people feel this way. They have no connection because yeah, maybe they havent tried, but some of these people who are fans of basketball didnt ask the team to come here. They were fine without one. We kind of fans like that dont have to do anything. The team has to make us feel like they want to be here and have us be a part of it, because people like that are indifferent one way or another. I guess apathetic would be a good word.

Let me see some marketing. Let me see them try. Then I'll try. Then I'll market the team by being a fan, and buying up tickets and shirts and all types of ****."

I know this entry is a bit shorter than the rest, but I want his answer to be the last thing that you really read and remember out of this. I'd like to know what the readers think, of this whole blog or if you just catch this series. Im hoping for a flood of comments, perhaps even a friendly-spirited debate between the fans that read this. What can we do to win these people over? What is right or wrong with his statements? I spoke about the listless marketing that I believe this team and city as a whole has in another blog but I think he raises some new and good discussion points. Dig in, Grizz fans.

In the coming weeks, there will be new (thanks to demand) installments of Diary of A Mad Grizz Fan. Bartlett, Raleigh, Collierville, Southaven and South Memphis are up next. Who knows...maybe I will be talking to you. As for Oxford, L.E.S., hey...I say let's do it. Why not.

Until then, spread the word and fill the Forum.

Memphis at Orlando - 10.22.08

Memphis wraps up their pre-season schedule with this game and honestly the pre-season couldn't end soon enough. 8 games is a lot of practicing for a team that needs to see how they stack up against real competition in real game situations. The team only wants 13 players on the roster and currently has 14 in camp so there is a sort of battle going on for the last spot. Unfortunately it is a battle with the budget not between players. Quinton Ross, from SMU, is obviously better than some players on the team but doesn't have a guaranteed contract. It will be interesting to see if basketball decisions outweigh fiscal decisions in this regard.

Orlando is gearing up for a championship run this season. With Dwight Howard being the Beast of the East, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu raining in bombs from the perimeter, Jameer Nelson growing into the role of leader at the point and Mickael Pietrus as the big free agent signee to man the wing. It's an eclectic group that will create matchup problems all over the court. Bench play is another issue but more on that later. Honestly I am happy for Stan Van Gundy who was royally screwed in Miami. He had the team dumped on him when Pat Riley felt they were terrible and he took them to the playoffs instead. A couple of years later he had them headed toward a possible title run whem Riley makes up some lame excuse to take the team back. Thanks for nothing Pat. Now up the road from Miami Van Gundy is among the Eastern Conference elite while Pat Riley rebuilds again in Miami.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Jameer Nelson
Jameer Nelson is never going to be a high percentage shooter, never be an elite passer but he is a true leader of this team. Nelson has that certain something that makes him a great leader. What do I mean by that. Consider that Nelson led St. Joseph's to the top ranking in the NCAA. Can you tell me where St. Joseph is located? What conference they are in? See my point. Conley has been up and down as you would expect from a 20 yr old 2nd year point guard but he still has been the best in camp.
Advantage: Orlando

Shooting Guards: O J Mayo vs Mickael Pietrus

Golden St is supposed to be a player's paradise but somehow Pietrus never fit in. Now he is in a fantasy paradise in Orlando and seems to be much happier. Pietrus brings long range shooting and great slashing ability but it isn't his offense that Orlando wanted. He is considered an excellent defender and that stopper mentality was needed. O J Mayo won't be able to out physical Mayo. It is an extremely tough matchup for O J. Mayo has looked like the real deal lately but this will be a major test for the young man.
Advantage: Orlando

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Rashard Lewis

Here is another one of those matchups you don't see in any other sport but basketball. Rashard Lewis has a super sweet jump shot and a suprisingly strong rebounding game that makes him a nightmare to defend. Rudy Gay has explosive leaping ability, gazelle-like court speed and a soft long ball that hits with surprising regularity. It is a matchup of elite athletes going head to head. Lewis has one advantage that Rudy lacks however. Rashard doesn't have to care his team offensively. That freedom enables him to pick his shots to carry the team and to relax at others while Rudy must always be ready on defense and prepared to carry the team on offense.
Advantage: Orlando

Power Forwards: Darko Milicic vs Hedo Turkoglu

Hedo broke out last year to become a big time star. That happens a lot when you are 6-10 and can hit the three with alarming frquency and you are partnered with possibly the best Center in the game and one of the most feared small forwards as well. Darko was supposed to be a star in the league but has struggled with confidence and injuries but he will be back home in Orlando where he finally started to make his mark in the league. It's a difficult matchup for Darko as Hedo lives on the perimeter and loves to dash to the hoop when slower forwards guard him. Darko isn't fast.
Advantage: Orlando

Centers: Marc Gasol vs Dwight Howard

Now why did you want to leave Spain again Marc Gasol? I bet it wasn't for this matchup. The former ACB League MVP will have his hands full trying to stop Dwight Howard from getting to the glass. Howard averaged 14 rebounds a game last season. That's equivalent to Darko and Gasol combined this pre-season plus two more every night. Howard had 31 points and 20 rebounds against the Grizzlies last season. It would be nice if the Grizzlies could contain him to half that number in this game.
Advantage: Orlando

Benches: Memphis vs Orlando

Here is where Memphis has failed the most in pre-season. The bench play has been subpar on good nights. Kyle Lowry has been horrible shooting the ball and with no one else picking up the slack his assists are down as well. Hakim Warrick has not really adapted well to coming off the bench. His numbers were far better when he started. Ross, Jaric, Crittenton have all left much to be desired. The one bright spot has been the improvement of Darrell Arthur. The last few games Arthur has really shined. Orlando's bench is led by JJ Reddock with 9.6 ppg. Courtney Lee looks promising but as a 23 yr old rookie and trapped behind Reddock and Pietrus his biological clock is already ticking. Tony Battie has returned from injuries but is nothing more than a stop gap at PF these days and the same goes for Adonal Foyle at backup C. Tough call but Memphis might actually have an edge here.
Advantage: Memphis

Opposing Viewpoints:
3rd Quarter Collapse
Believing in Magic

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Diary Of A Mad Grizz Fan Part Three.

By Zac

AUTHORS NOTE: Kirk, I find it encouraging that you were able to have that experience at a sports bar. I think you along with my readers will definitely be encouraged by my findings this go-around.

For those catching up here are Part One and Part Two of this blog.

I continued my off day-slash-experiment by trekking into East Memphis to do some shopping. I couldn't wait to discuss the Grizzlies with people here. These were the people who would go to the games just for the social aspect and to see and be seen...The people who have the season tickets and whos companies have the season tickets and skyboxes. Surely there are the most passionate of passionate Grizz fans to be found here!

Errr....Not really. I found one. The other 3 people I talked to weren't that big on the team. One even wished we had a football team instead.

The first person I met was in Macys at Oak Court. I needed some shoes, so I wanted to find a pair of Lacoste tennis shoes. Dude hooked me up with an all-white pair...nice. He started askin me if I played a sport and I said "Nah, these are just for jogging and s*** like that." You're welcome for the censoring, kids.

I told him I couldnt play basketball worth a lick but I enjoy watching it, and that I was a big Grizz fan. This apparently makes people stop in their tracks and ask you why.

"They suck bro...I wouldnt go if they paid me."

I go...and I pay them.

"Well why not man? Basketball is basketball...ya know?"

"Yea, but I like good basketball."

"Mayo and Rudy are pretty good oughta give em a chance."

"Eh, they just gonna leave in a few years cuz noone goes to see em."

Well, with that attitude, yeah. But that someone who doesnt go to see them is you! Cmon man...

I thanked him for the shoes and went about my business. I headed over to Laurelwood and did "Good Man Duty" for the Mrs. and found her christmas present at Joseph. Ladies, respect my prowess. I love my woman AND I can put up with stuck-up snobbery to get my lady what she wants.

Oddly enough, the salesperson ASKED me if I was going to the game against Houston because Joey Dorsey was coming back to town. Since when was Dorsey a marquee player?

I told her that no, I wasn't going to the game but that I was a huge fan of the Grizz so I'd be seeing Dorsey during the regular season when I had tix and time.

She goes on to say that she's not a Grizz fan per say, but she couldn't wait to see Dorsey tonight.


Great. Another "fan" not wearing blue and yellow and white in the Forum. Oh well.

I leave, wondering if I was going to ever meet a professional sports fan in this city....and I did.

Trouble was, he was a Titans fan, lamenting the fact that Nashville got them and we didn't get to keep them. I guess he was one of the hundreds sitting in the Liberty Bowl watching the Tennessee Oilers. What was the reason for them not going to those games? Oh yeah, they're just going to leave anyway. That's right.

He launches into why professional basketball would never work in this city, and why Nashville should have gotten the NBA franchise and we should have the NFL. It's more expensive per game, he said, but there are less games.

Less games for people to go to when they werent winning, or when the team had one commercial per year perhaps.

Basketball wouldnt work in this city? Tell that to the Tigers.

This experiment wasn't working out as I had hoped, but it was going all according to what I thought it would be. This city just doesn't seem to care.

Alas, a glimmer of hope....

A guy about my age comes up to me at The Grove and sits down and has a beer. ESPN is on. Gotta love bars and bar areas. Always a good sports crowd. They were talking about Elton Brand's potential impact on the 76ers and I said "Let me guess, youre not a basketball fan either."

"Nah, not really."

I knew it.

"I do like the Grizz though. I think they could get me into this stuff."

Hooray! I found one. This guy lamented the fact that noone seemed to care, and was going to be at the preseason game not to watch Dorsey, but the GRIZZ! I told the guy what I had done today and I said "I know its a bit strange, but I just wanted to see if anyone cared that there was a team here."

His answer was great. Just brilliant. Later this week, I'll tell you his answer, why he must be a 3SoB reader ;) and upon demand from readers that I keep this up, update my Diary of a Mad Grizz Fan series with trips into Bartlett, Collierville, Southaven (hopefully I'll run into the couple that my Grizzlamic brother Kirk ran into) and South Memphis.

Until then, spread the word and fill that Forum.

Grizzlies at Miami - 10/21/08

Memphis struggled in their first road game in a while. Indiana basically crushed the young Grizzlies behind the return of Mike Dunleavy. OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay played well offensively but were the only players who contributed. Defensively the team looked out of sync the entire night. Games like this are going to happen to the Grizzlies as they learn to adapt to each other and the NBA. What should be interesting to watch will be how do they respond to the thrashing. If they pick themselves back up and play better in the next game that will go a long way toward building confidence in the system and each other. Back to back blowouts could spell the end.

Miami seemed to be taking a page from the Grizzlies marketing notebook by opening a practice session up to the public. Instead of doing it on a Saturday morning when a lot of people could attend they decided to do it on a Thursday night instead. Interesting call for a team that won 15 games last year and is 0-3 so far in the pre-season. DWade, Beasely and surprisingly Marcus Banks have looked good so far. Shawn Marion is not pushing himself too hard right now averaging only 9 ppg and 6 rpg but it is only pre-season. Mark Blount has been terrible so far and that leaves a big whole in the middle for Miami and Udonis Haslem isn't enough to fill it by himself. Expect Miami to run small ball a lot this season.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Marcus Banks
Mike Conley had his first bad game of the pre-season in his hometown of Indiana going 0-5 from the field and only 1 assist. Quite a drop from his performance earlier in the week against T J Ford. Marcus Banks has been a pleasant surprise so far this season but rumors of Miami wanting Jamaal Tinsley, one of the Grizzlies PG's and anyone else who can play the point should tell you how much faith Pat Riley has in his point guard.
Advantage: Memphis

Shooting Guards: O J Mayo vs Dwayne Wade
Dwayn Wade was one of the most impressive players on the Olympic team. O J Mayo was one of the most impressive members of the US Select team that trained the Olympic team. O J is going to want to build on the good reputation he got from the pre-Olympics workout and show DWayne what he's got and where he's improved. Dwayne knows how long an NBA season is and won't exert too much effort in this game unless Mayo tries to show him up early. Then he's likely to slap down the rookie and show him what a Superstar can do in this league.
Advantage: Miami

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Shawn Marion
Marion wants a big contract this summer. His negotiation stance isn't that great however with Michael Beasley seemingly catching him off the bench. Marion is from West Memphis and can play PF as well as SF so this may be an audition for Marion. A deal where he gets traded for Darko and a PG could be discused. Rudy has looked great in the pre-season despite not rebounding well. Expectations are for him to continue to coast by on talent until the real games begin trying to integrate his teammates into the offense while focusing on defense.
Advantage: Miami

Power Forwards: Darko Milicic vs Udonis Haslem
Udonis Haslem is not looking over his shoulder worried about Michael Beasley's strong play in the pre-season because even if Beasley moves into the starting lineup it won't be at his expense. He'll just play an undersized C instead. Matching up against Darko is a good prequel to what his season could be like in that respect. Darko was terrible offensively against Indiana and won't find the going any easier against Haslem but in 20 minutes he did grab 7 boards. If Darko can contain himself to rebounding, defense and putback shots he should be effective. If he continues to try and force himself into the offense things may get ugly.
Advantage: Miami

Centers: Marc Gasol vs Mark Blount
If there is a weaker team at the center position than Memphis than Miami just might be it. Memphis has two rookies and a bust former second pick in the draft. And that makes them much stronger in the middle than Miami. Mark Blount is softer than Pau Gasol and won't enjoy Marc's tougher style of play. Gasol had an off-night shooting against Indiana but his 4 assists and 7 boards show the potential he has in being a team player. Despite his physical play Marc is not getting into early foul trouble which reflects his experience.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs Miami
Neither team can boast a strong bench but Memphis doesn't have Michael Beasley coming off of their bench so first thought is Miami has the advantage? But is that really the case? Kyle Lowry, Marco Jaric and Javaris Crittenton should all want to put on a good show to impress Riley to trade for them. Hakim Warrick will want to show Iavaroni he can play defense and still score and frankly Miami's bench is extremely bare after Beasley. Chris Quinn looks sharp at times but is nothing more than a career backup PG. Mario Chambers just may be the best PG on the team despite being a rookie and not highly regarded. DeQuan Cook is deadly when hot but suffers from thinking he's hot more often than he really is. Diawara and Anthony are the only other players contributing and they aren't doing much.
Advantage: Memphis