Tag:Marc Gasol
Posted on: December 11, 2011 11:44 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 12:21 pm
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NBA Free Agency: Opening weekend winners & losers

Posted by Ben Golliver

nba-winners-losers

Deals, non-deals, endless rumors and more. It was a wild opening weekend for the abbreviated 2011 NBA free agency period. Here's an extended look at who won and lost over the first 72 hours. Let's break it down: from the biggest moves to the smallest signings, from the trades that weren't to the guys who remain unsigned.

The Biggest Deal

The NBA came to a standstill when a proposed 3-team trade between the New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets that would have sent Chris Paul to L.A. fell apart twice thanks to vetoes from NBA commissioner David Stern.

Winners: Orlando Magic

This fiasco was even uglier than the lockout, which is saying something. All the key parties wound up losing one way or another – see below -- but the Magic slide in as winners because the Lakers emerged from the weekend without acquiring a second superstar to pair with Kobe Bryant, and with both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, two excellent potential trade chips for Dwight Howard, still on the roster. The Magic win whether L.A. ends up pairing those two in a deal for Howard or if the idea of such a deal simply sits out there as a potential offer against which Howard’s other suitors must match up. Orlando needs a bidding war in the worst way and the Paul failure ensures that L.A. still has plenty of motivation, and attractive pieces, to actively bid.

Losers: Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets

Paul was seemingly inches from an NBA second life and a brand new level of fame. Instead, he returns to a camp with a roster in tatters and the news that longtime running mate David West is Indiana-bound. His future couldn’t be more uncertain amid the confusion and he’s now forced to deal with questions day after day with no short-term end in sight. Sounds awesome! Thanks, boss.

Hornets GM Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams, meanwhile, are left with a frustrated Paul who obviously still wants out, a barren roster and serious questions about their autonomy as a basketball operations group, not to mention the fact that the league-owned situation could result in another franchise sale at some point in the near future. All this for a team that -- less than a year ago -- was a dynamic playoff force that gave the Lakers a run for their money. The ground fell out from under them.

Monumental Loser: David Stern

It wasn’t just the tremendously questionable decision to veto the trades that makes Stern a loser. It was the way the process unfolded. On what should have been the most exciting time on the NBA calendar following months of petty bickering during the lockout, the spotlight wound up back on Stern. Vetoing the trade directly alienated his league’s most important team, completely undermined the team he operates, and handcuffed the poor Houston Rockets, who were in the middle of a critical strategic time in their franchise’s post-Yao history. The delayed explanation for the veto led to a virtual standstill in other moves, as everyone around the league waited for the largest domino to fall. The eventual attempts at explanation were vague and way too late, leading to an open season of criticism of Stern and talk of walkouts from training camp. One player, Lamar Odom, was so upset by the trade talk limbo that he followed through on that threat, finding himself dumped to the Dallas Mavericks for virtually nothing. Now that it’s all said and done, the Hornets can look forward to worse offers for Paul and/or the prospect that he walks from the team as soon as free agency allows. Nice.

Other Big Deals

Winners: New York Knicks and Tyson Chandler

It’s great when solid matches come together fairly cleanly. New York made no secret of its desire for Chris Paul but was smart enough not to waste precious time on what ended up being a sinkhole. Targeting Chandler and making the necessary moves to acquire him – amnestying Chauncey Billups and trading Ronny Turiaf – took creativity and guts, and the eventual payoff is the best 3-4-5 combination in the NBA. Chandler fills New York’s biggest need and comes in at a reasonable $58 million over four years, a deal that will carry him through the rest of his prime years.

Chandler manages to cash in his new-found respect from the 2011 title team with an excellent pay day from a marquee franchise that is clearly on the upswing. Knicks fans will love his game (as long as he stays healthy, of course).

Losers: Golden State Warriors and DeAndre Jordan

Kudos to the Warriors for doing the right thing with Charlie Bell by telling him to stay away from training camp after he showed up drunk to a court hearing following his second DUI arrest in under a year. It was time to take a stand and they took it. That stand didn’t need to include burning the team’s amnesty clause to release Bell’s paltry $4.1 million salary. With David Lee, Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins all on the books for big-time money, the amnesty is a critical protection against injury for the Warriors. With a bunch of promising youngsters in place, it will be a shame if an unforeseen, devastating injury slows the organization’s ability to wheel and deal because they burned the amnesty toon soon and wind up crippled when it comes to cap flexibility.

Why did the Clippers bother to amnesty Bell? For the right to make a substantial offer to Los Angeles Clippers restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan, a player that team consultant Jerry West appeared to question in an interview this weekend. Clippers owner Donald Sterling is impossible to pin down but his management team is highly motivated to retain Jordan, and will almost certainly match the offer given, leaving Golden State with nothing except $4 million of cap room to show for their misguided efforts.  

Winners: Memphis Grizzlies and Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol, like Chandler, was one of the premier names in this weak free agent class. He will reportedly cash in to a similar degree: receiving a 4 year, $55 million offer sheet from the Rockets that the Grizzlies are expected to match. Retaining Gasol was a critical momentum move in Memphis, as the miracle playoff run to defeat the San Antonio Spurs would have been a distant memory if Gasol was allowed to walk and leave a major hole in the middle. Instead, it’s back for more fun for one of the grittiest, most underappreciated groups in the game. Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley answered the questions about whether he would step up and pay to play, inking Gasol, forwards Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay and guard Michael Conley to big-time extensions. Good times in Tennessee.

Losers: Los Angeles Lakers and Lamar Odom

Surely seller’s remorse is sinking in after an emotional rollercoaster of a weekend in L.A., which saw the Lakers immediately grant Odom’s trade request, shipping him out of town for nothing more than cap relief and a heavily protected first round pick. The fact that he lands on a major conference rival makes this a very meaningful talent swing and the Lakers are capped out to the point where replacing his many contributions will be exceedingly difficult in the short-term. It’s no surprise that Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher weren’t all that psyched about this move. The Lakers couldn’t have gotten less for Odom and he couldn’t have gone to a worse destination, other than maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder.

On the other hand, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban emerges as a major winner, having flipped a simple trade exception acquired from New York in the Chandler signing for a top-flight, versatile player still in his prime years who happens to be on an affordable, flexible contract. All in less than 24 hours. Meanwhile, a similarly massive trade exception created by LeBron James’ departure still sits unused by the Cleveland Cavaliers and owner Dan Gilbert. Please advise.

Dwight Howard Saga

Winner: Dwight Howard

It might come with a public relations price, but it probably feels like a huge relief for Howard knowing that the world now gets where he stands: he’s formally requested a trade and has been in contact with teams on his wish list. No more goofy games or beating around the bush. He’s a major step closer to a certain future. The scrutiny will surely increase but at least people, especially Magic fans, have a better idea of where he’s coming from and how they should manage their expectations.

Loser: Otis Smith

It doesn’t get any worse than watching your CEO drunk dial Howard and then promptly resign. Oh, wait, yes it does. Your franchise announces major layoffs and Howard tells the world that he hasn’t had any contact with you since requesting a trade and that you never listened to him when he made personnel suggestions. Oh, yeah, you can also make an illogical 4-year, $25 million commitment to Jason Richardson, a veteran wing on the precipice of decline, when everyone knows you should be looking for any possible way to reduce payroll. Brutal. On the bright side, as mentioned above, at least the Lakers are still in play to help the Magic save some face.

Medium Deals

Winners: Indiana Pacers and David West

The Pacers land West, one of the biggest and most proven names on the free agent market who fits in nicely to a well-balanced, fairly deep roster that has talent at all five positions. A nice mix of veterans, youngsters and some solid bigs make this a group that might just compete for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs next season. The price for West – 2 years and $20 million – is totally reasonable and hedged nicely against possible deterioration from his recent knee injury and aging. West scores a ticket out of a totally shipwreck in New Orleans, a solid pay day and the chance to hit free agency one more time in two years before his value starts to really diminish.

Losers: Sacramento Kings and Marcus Thornton

You can be as high on Thornton’s upside as you like: it’s very, very difficult to justify spending $31 million over four seasons on a guy who has the same skillset as the two players that you’re most heavily invested in, Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette. With one of the lowest payrolls in the league and a need to up that number in a hurry, it’s not like Sacramento spent its way into a corner here, but there’s simply no way to maximize the effectiveness of Evans, Fredette and Thornton at the same time. Evans and Fredette are 22 and Thornton is 24. Thornton doesn’t meaningfully help you win now and he necessitates a stunted or unorthodox development pattern for Fredette and will almost certainly wind up in staring contests over shot selection with Evans. The money had to be spent and at least it wasn’t spread over five years, but $31 million should solve problems, not create new ones.

Having A Plan

Winners: Miami Heat

Getting Mario Chalmers, a quality point guard who was headed for free agency, for 3-years and $12 million, with a team option on the last year to boot, is an excellent value. Getting Shane Battier for the mini Mid-Level Exception is downright ridiculous. By the way, the Heat brought back James Jones, brought in Eddy Curry and managed to retain Mike Miller. Simply amazing. Miami emerged from the weekend as the overwhelming title favorites.

Losers: Portland Trail Blazers

During a Monday press conference, Portland announced its intentions of starting Brandon Roy and spoke excitedly about the prospect of Greg Oden’s return. By Friday, Roy had decided to pursue a medical retirement, apparently without giving the team any notice, and Oden had suffered yet another medical “setback” that puts his 2011-2012 into jeopardy. Then, with executives scrambling to pursue contingency plans, franchise forward LaMarcus Aldridge was forced to undergo a heart procedure that is expected to keep him out up to two weeks. The Blazers salvaged the weekend by signing veteran Kurt Thomas to fill a much-needed hole, but wound up giving a 2-year deal to a 39-year-old. After all of that, the team is still weighing whether or not to amnesty Roy. That’s a tough stretch.

Minor Deals

Winners: Washington Wizards

The Wizards scored a draft pick and Ronny Turiaf for virtually nothing thanks to the cash considerations included by the Knicks for their work in facilitating the Chandler trade. Filling a roster hole for free and grabbing a future asset is always a win.

Loser: Chauncey Billups

Billups compounded a tough situation – getting amnestied by the Knicks without much warning – by flipping out publicly in the hope that he would scare off potential bidders for his services. He could quickly change from loser to winner if his nuclear strategy works and he winds up getting to pick a contender to latch on to, but for now a guy who was always known as a class act sure looks like a jerk. How many times do you think Billups has said “the NBA is a business” during interviews? 10,000? How do you forget all of that so quickly and threaten to disrupt a team’s locker room? He crossed a line.

Winners: Phoenix Suns

They weren’t flashy moves, but re-signing veteran forward Grant Hill back for just $6.5 million and snatching up former Lakers guard Shannon Brown for $3.5 million were very nice value plays that addressed needs. Of course, the Suns have made their fair share of mistakes in recent years, so value plays were about the only moves at their disposal.

Loser: J.J. Barea

Who is going to pay this man? Have we figured that out yet? Had there not been a lockout and had the old Mid-Level Exception system been in place, he likely would have seen a monster financial bonanza off of his impressive NBA playoffs. Instead, he waits and wonders. He could very well still get paid, but something says this free agency process didn't play out quite like he expected. Update: On Monday morning comes word that Barea will get his money, $19 million over 4-years, but is signing with the 17-win Minnesota Timberwolves to do it. From first to worst. Ouch.

Posted on: December 11, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 8:50 pm
 

Rockets ink Gasol to offer sheet, Grizzlies match

Posted by Royce Young

UPDATE: According to NBA.com, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley follows through on his promise and the team intends to match Marc Gasol's offer sheet from the Rockets for four years, $55 million.

“We’re keeping Marc,” Heisley said. “We can’t afford to let him go … Marc and his agent have to decide what they want to do. But we would definitely match that if that came up to us.”

Gasol tweeted late Monday: "I'm proud to say that we have reached a tentative agreement with my team @memgrizz, can't wait to get on the court with all my teammates!"

---

It's been a whirlwind week for the Houston Rockets but come hell or high water, Daryl Morey is getting himself a new big man to replace Yao Ming.

First, it was going to be Pau Gasol, possibly combined with Nene. Now that neither of those things appear to be happening, Morey and the Rockets are going to try and get their Gasol anyway. But in this case, the younger, fuzzier version that's also known as Marc.

According to multiple reports, the Rockets are preparing a four-year, $55 million offer sheet for Marc Gasol. The thinking is, if the Grizzlies don't plan to match the offer sheet on Gasol who is a restricted free agent, Memphis would work a sign-and-trade with the Rockets.

But they're totally going to. No doubt.

Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley has said the team plans to do everything to keep Gasol and recent reports indicated Memphis would match "any offer" for Gasol. But even if that offer is a max deal? Heisley said this in May:

"Marc will decide whether he wants to be here. We will aggressively go after him," Heisley said. "He's a restricted free agent, so we can match whatever's out there. But obviously if Marc wants to leave, I'm going to have a different attitude than if he wants to stay. I hope he wants to stay. And after what we've done in the playoffs, I think he will."

There's a chance Gasol just wants to leave Memphis and if he resists the Grizzlies matching, that's where the chance of a sign-and-trade comes in. I think you be sure the Grizzlies want to match, but it's just a matter of if Gasol wants to be there or not.

Of note: That was before Gasol had an outstanding postseason and upped his value by a couple of million. If the Grizzlies were planning on matching this offer, that means they'd have pretty much every penny they have to spare tied up in Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Gasol. Like I, and others have said, is that the type of long-term core you can win a title with? It's a fine team, no doubt, but with pretty much all your eggs in those four players' baskets, are you too committed to it?

What this could mean is Gay is expendable. Because it's hard to see how they can have three max deals, along with Conley's $9 million per season and keep it all together.

The Commercial-Appeal reports the Grizzlies have already offered Gasol a five-year deal for presumably somewhere in the $60 million range. And if he's already resisting that, that could be a bad sign for Memphis.

The Rockets are trying to pick up the pieces after their blockbuster three-way trade for Pau fell through over the weekend. Without a big man and the fact Chuck Hayes has already signed with Sacramento, Morey is scrambling to try and do something. Offering Gasol is a bit of a long shot, but it's a shot Morey is kind of forced to take at this point.

The Grizzlies will likely do everything they can to match. Heisley wasn't just blowing smoke -- the organization loves the younger Gasol, especially with the fact he's just 26 and likely could be trending into an elite big man group. His 2010-11 season was a bit underwhelming in terms of stats (11.7 points, 7.0 rebounds per game), but you pay for good seven-footers. And Gasol is certainly one.

It's just a matter of who is going to be doing the paying here -- Memphis or Houston?
Posted on: December 3, 2011 12:10 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 10:05 pm
 

Free Agency Buzz 12.3.11: Howard eyes L.A.?

 

Posted by Ben Golliver

On a shortened schedule with the conclusion of the NBA lockout, free agency is going to be fast and furious. To keep track of all the wheelings, dealings, rumors, and reports, check Eye on Basketball daily for the Free Agency Buzz. 

Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011

9:51 p.m.
  • DraftExpress.com reports that 19-year-old Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, will not be released by Lithuanian club Lietuvos Rytas so that he can join the Toronto Raptors during the 2011-2012 NBA season. The Raptors selected Valanciunas knowing that they might need to wait a year for contract purposes but a report surfaced earlier Saturday that said Toronto would investigate his potential availability now that the lockout has ended.
6:39 p.m. 
  • The Oregonian reports that Portland Trail Blazers restricted free agent center Greg Oden will undergo a medical evaluation on Thursday that could lead to him being cleared for contact. Oden is expected to return to the court no earlier than January following a Nov. 2011 microfracture surgery. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft hasn't played in an NBA game since Dec. 2009.
2:27 p.m.
  • ESPN.com reports that the Toronto Raptors might hold off on making a free agency splash until next summer because they don't have a chance of landing Memphis Grizzlies restricted free agent center Marc Gasol and because they would need to amnesty someone to be able to make the big-dollar offer. 
  • The New York Post reports that the New Jersey Nets have a "quiet confidence" in their ability to sign Denver Nuggets free agent center Nene Hilario, with the Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets seen as the top competition for his services.
  • HoopsWorld.com reports that he Indiana Pacers would investigate a sign-and-trade for Memphis Grizzlies free agent center Marc Gasol with center Roy Hibbert to dangle as bait. The site also reports the Pacers have interest in free agent guard Jamal Crawford.
11: 50 a.m.
  • SI.com reports that the trio of top-flight big men that are free agents -- Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler and Denver Nuggets center Nene Hilario -- are all looking for the biggest payday possible: "According to sources, Nene, Chandler and Gasol all set their early asking prices in the neighborhood of maximum-contract territory, starting at $14.8 million for Gasol, $17.7 annually for Nene, and $20.7 million for Chandler. There is plenty of crossover in their respective lists of salary-cap-friendly suitors, with the Nets, Rockets and Warriors appearing to be the hungriest shoppers, and the Pacers and Trail Blazers strolling the big man aisles as well."
  • The Boston Herald quotes Billy Duffy, agent for Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, in response to recent trade rumors involving his All-Star client: "It’s just disturbing. It’s disturbing for everybody. It’s disturbing for me. It’s disturbing for him, because it makes one think, ‘Where do I stand in this relationship?’ Particularly because he’s a darn good player, and this is a very successful franchise, and he’s one of the key players on the franchise. When the uncertainty of your situation becomes a prominent topic — not just within your household, but on a national basis — it is a bit challenging."
  • The Boston Globe reports that David Falk, agent for Celtics forward Jeff Green, "hopes" he can reach a new deal with the Celtics and that his client "feels like he has unfinished business in Boston."
Posted on: December 2, 2011 9:22 am
Edited on: December 2, 2011 8:42 pm
 

Free Agency Buzz 12.2.11: Howard trade sooner?

 

Posted by EOB Staff

On a shortened schedule with the conclusion of the NBA lockout, free agency is going to be fast and furious. To keep track of all the wheelings, dealings, rumors, and reports, check Eye on Basketball daily for the Free Agency Buzz. 

Friday, Dec. 2, 2011

7:57 p.m.
7:09 p.m.
  • ESPN.com reports that at least eight teams have expressed interest in free agent forward Josh Howard: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, New Jersey, New Orleans, San Antonio and Washington.
4:51 p.m.
  • Via the Arizona Republic: "Grant Hill, after a lengthy workout at US Airways Center, said there are "good chances" of him re-signing with the Suns."
3:36 p.m.
  • Via the OC Register, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak expects Shannon Brown to get a better FA deal away from Lakers. Neither Theo Ratliff nor Joe Smith will return.
  • Underdog for Marc Gasol? The Indiana Pacers, at least according to ESPN.com. "One team that really hasn't been mentioned as a potential suitor for the Spaniard -- rates Marc Gasol above Nene Hilario and is strongly weighing whether to slap an offer sheet down for him."
1:41 p.m. 
  • Check out the Friday 5 with Ken Berger to get the latest from CBSSports.com's NBA Insider.
  • The Washington Times reports that NBPA vice president Roger Mason says the union will ratify the new Collective Bargaining Agreement on Thursday, one day prior to the opening of training camp and free agency.
12:15 p.m.
  • The undisputed prizes of free agency are Marc Gasol and Nene. Everyone agrees. But No. 3 might surprise you. According to ESPN.com, Arron Afflalo is the third most coveted free agent. The two teams that want him most? The Bulls and Lakers. He's a restricted free agent though and Denver loves him so it'll take a hefty offer to move him out of Denver.
8:45 a.m.
  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace told reporters Thursday that failing to re-sign restricted free agent Marc Gasol is "not in (his) wildest dreams." The Grizzlies are expected to match any offer for Gasol. Expect a team like the Pacers to offer up to a max offer for Gasol in an effort to pry him away. Michael Heisley's promise to spend to win is going to be tested.
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:52 pm
 

Grizzlies to match any offer sheet on Gasol?

Posted by Royce Young

Last season the Grizzlies were a fun, surprise team. This year, they're a legitimate contender with real expectations.

But that hinges on one important thing: that Marc Gasol returns.

Gasol is a restricted free agent and with Memphis being a small market team that's supposedly a bit conscious of where it spends, Gasol could be a tricky piece to re-sign. Memphis just inked Rudy Gay, just inked Zach Randolph and just inked Mike Conley. That's a lot of money tied up already, so keeping the likely pricey Gasol could be an issue.

Especially since Gasol, along with Nene, might be the top free agent target out there. But he's a restricted free agent, meaning Memphis can match anything offered to him. And that looks to be an important part of this.

According to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, Memphis plans to match anything offered to Gasol.

"People with knowledge of (owner Michael) Heisley's thinking are convinced that the Grizzlies will match any offer sheet Gasol signs with another suitor."

Heisley had previously said back in May that it would be up to Gasol whether or not he stayed in Memphis.

"Marc will decide whether he wants to be here. We will aggressively go after him," Heisley said. "He's a restricted free agent, so we can match whatever's out there. But obviously if Marc wants to leave, I'm going to have a different attitude than if he wants to stay. I hope he wants to stay. And after what we've done in the playoffs, I think he will."

With Memphis's deep playoff run and Gasol in the center of it (literally), you can be sure that only strengthened Heisley's conviction to re-sign Gasol.

The Grizzlies would likely have to adjust in order to keep Gasol as part of the core. O.J. Mayo will likely be packing his bafs (he's a restricted free agent in 2012) and Shane Battier likely won't be re-signed (he's unrestricted). So Mayo, who the Grizzlies tried to trade at the deadline last year, will likely be something the Memphis tries to move at some point this season as well.

Re-signing Gasol means Memphis basically would be putting all its long-term eggs into the basket of Gay, Gasol, Randolph and Conley, which isn't a bad core. But is it a championship one? Eh...

Memphis also could sign Gasol to an extension, and is able to pay him more and for longer than any other team. As for being restricted, remember, under this new collective bargaining agreement, the Grizzlies have three days instead of seven to match. And seeing as how the Grizzlies struggle with deadlines (hello O.J. Mayo trade), someone better be on the ball in Memphis.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 10:52 am
Edited on: October 26, 2011 11:02 am
 

Real Madrid pushing to add Marc Gasol

By Matt Moore

Real Madrid is a major player in Spanish basketball. They added Rudy Fernandez (in all his blind-three-pointer greatness) and Serge Ibaka (who we're pretty sure could block shots blind) just yesterday. A report Wednesday however indicates that they want to pull off the biggest move yet by signing former FC Barcelona and Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. Marca reportsthat the team wants to put in a huge offer for Gasol to try and lure him overseas, as transcribed by Sportando:
Real Madrid is studying the possibility to make a rich proposal to Marc Gasol. The Spanish team wants Marc Gasol to be the franchise player for the future.

Florentino Perez, president of the club, gave his approval to the entire operation. The biggest hurdle is the NBA lockout. Marc Gasol said that he will start considering proposals from Europe and Spain just if the NBA season will be completely cancelled.
via Real Madrid is willing to sign Marc Gasol to a 4-5-year contract | Spain | Europe | Sportando.

First of all, FC Barcelona is the most likely candidate to bring in Gasol, since it could conceivably bring back Ricky Rubio and pull in Pau Gasol should the season go down the tubes. Thats' where their roots are, and they have to be considered the leadres, but Madrid is clearly putting its money where its mouth is. 

But this talk that Gasol could sign for the "future" is insane. Gasol is going to pull in a higher contract than what Kendrick Perkins agreed to with the Thunder. If the Grizzlies are dumb enough to let Gasol walk, which they have shown no intention of doing (Gasol is the one player, even more so than Mike Conley or Zach Randolph, that Grizzlies' owner Michael Heisley has insisted will be with the club long-term), then he's going to get any number of offers from every team with cap space in the league.

Gasol's not a premium scorer, but he's a supremely efficient one. He's not a monster shot blocker, but he's a better defender than most of the shot blockers you'll find. He's able to manage the pick and roll at both ends of the floor, is an excellent pinch post passer, has good footwork and touch out of the post, and no character issues. He's the ultimate non-star.

So, no, I don't imagine that he'll be heading back to Spain long-term considering what he can make in the NBA. Plus, he's spoken repeatedly about Memphis being his home since he went to high school there while his brother was not winning playoff games with the Grizzlies.

But short-term? The bidding war could get very interesting if we don't have a season in the NBA.

(HT: PBT)
Posted on: September 20, 2011 1:44 pm
 

Year of the Grizzlies



By Matt Moore


To say that every franchise has "that year" that changes everything is just not true. Most franchises take time to develop, to blossom from fledgling to regular to up-and-comer to contender to powerhouse. There are titanic events that shape franchises, to be sure, almost always involving the NBA draft. The Spurs, for example, nabbed Tim Duncan to go along with a recovering David Robinson. That was a game-changer for them, literally. But the Spurs had been a playoff team for years, had been contenders in the ABA and NBA, a team that had developed over time. The Miami Heat had the 2006 year when everything came together, but they had also grown in legitimacy through the Alonzo Mourning era. 

But the Grizzlies?

The Grizzlies are having a year that could remake their franchise as a whole. Okay, maybe it's two years. 

It started with re-signing Rudy Gay in free agency for a max deal. The Grizzlies took a world of flak for the decision, since Gay wasn't considered a max player at the time, nor is he now. But it was a shift for the Grizzlies. It was a change in owner Michael Heisley's previous approach, in that it showed he was willing to spend, and spend heavy, in order to compete. Heisley had taken on water as being cheap since trading Pau Gasol (the last player he gave a significant contract to). There were questions of whether the young, talented roster the Grizzlies had been developing together since that Gasol trade would stay together. Heisley breaking out the wallet signified that if nothing else, Heisley was good to his word. He said he wanted to compete, and that if the team competed, he would spend. Re-signing Gay gave them the opportunity to do so.

Heisley followed that up with what I thought was one of the worst contracts in franchise history, and what turned out to be one of the shrewdest moves in frachise history by extending Mike Conley before he could enter restricted free agency. In doing so, not only did he continue to show he would spend to keep the core together, but he also got Conley for a good value relative to his ability, as the young point guard matured into a floor general and reliable playmaker.

When Gay went down in February, the team had already started to rise. That's what's forgotten in the talk that Gay's injury was the cause for the Grizzlies's surge. the Grizzlies had been playing better since January 1st, going 11-6 in January. They had started to gel before Gay's injury and had Gay stayed healthy, it's not like he was keeping a difference maker off the floor. His minutes were absorbed by second-year player Sam Young, who contributed on both ends of the floor, but wasn't in any way better for the overall team structure than Gay, offensively or defensively.

The Grizzlies made a deadline deal to acquire Shane Battier, dumping franchise dead weight and first-round bust Hasheem Thabeet and an additional pick. They nearly made another deal, but fitting the pattern of good fortune, their deal to trade O.J. Mayo to Josh McRoberts fell through. The result was Mayo sticking around and being a huge part of the Grizzlies' playoff run. At the time, though, it seemed more like the kind of thing the Grizzlies tend to screw up as a habit. 

Nonetheless, the Grizzlies then went on one of the best runs in franchise history, even if the numbers don't bear it out. Consider this. The Grizzlies went 9-5 in March. Not great, but good, right? Here's who they played in March of 2011: Spurs, Hornets, Mavericks, Thunder, Knicks, Heat, Clippers, Knicks, Pacers, Jazz, Celtics, Bulls, Spurs, Warriors. That's eleven playoff teams out of fourteen opponents, with the others the wacky Warriors, the Jazz, and Blake Griffin. To survive that schedule around .500 would have been an achievement. To romp through it with success was what put them over the top and into the playoffs, creating a buffer wide enough to hold off the surging Rockets for the eighth spot.

Then, despite tanking to play the four-time champion San Antonio Spurs coming off one of their best regular seasons in years, the Grizzlies pulled one of the most impressive upsets in NBA history, not only beating the top seed but looking impressive doing it. The first franchise playoff win came in their first playoff game of the season, on the road, on the back of a Shane Battier three.  The Grizzlies would go on to push the mighty and revered Thunder to seven games, proving that the young argonauts were mortal after all. Though the Grizzlies fell, it was in the most respectable manner possible, with the real turning point being a triple-overtime thriller that was decided mostly due to various Grizzlies stars fouling out and not having enough energy left for the rest of the series. 

So that's a pretty great year, right? Except things continue to get better. During the playoff run, Heisley also paid Zach Randolph. Keeping the All-Star of the team on the roster has its ups and downs, considering his later-contract-year money vs. age, but it also provides them with the consistency Randolph's shown for years in being a 20-10 guy, and now a team leader.

But most importantly, this lockout, while harmful towards the franchise's momentum in terms of fan support which has always been tepid in Memphis, could be the best thing of all. A revised CBA could allow for the Grizzlies to keep costs down, stabilizing the franchise's financials and eliminating one of the biggest disadvantages to their efforts, the market inequality that has kept them out of free agency conversations. A revised revenue sharing system would do wonders for the Grizzlies whose television deal pays them a fraction of the larger markets', and even the possibility of shortening the years on existing contracts could help with their long-term financials and flexibility.

There are drawbacks, of course. A hard cap implemented immediately would have devastating impacts on the Grizzlies considering the money they've already shelled out, much less the money necessary to re-sign restricted free agent Marc Gasol. But it's just as likely that a new system could come out favoring the Grizzlies' as much as any team in the league, from a financial and competitiveness standpoint.  

The final piece of the puzzle is Gasol. Re-signing one of the best young centers in the league, who has stated openly his desire to return to Memphis where he went to high school, cementing this core of players that genuinely enjoys playing with one another, could be the component that changes the Grizzlies from newly-respectable to consistent contender, at least for the playoffs. It gives the fans a reason to buy in, a group of players worth getting behind (as the elder Gasol's Grizzlies team never was), and could get owner Michael Heisley off the punchline lists around the league.

There is, naturally, the concern from fans and analysts of the extreme opposite, however. Once the Grizzlies finished their playoff run, my first thought was to wonder if this was similar to the Clippers' 2006 run. The Clippers made a strong showing in the playoffs, advancing to the second round and a close series with the run-and-gun Suns. But the year after, Elton Brand went down and everything tanked. The Clippers became the Clippers again. This is what seems to happen to franchises in the NBA. You're either "there" or you're not. Then again, we thought the latter about the Mavericks for decades until everything changed. Now look at them.

2010-2011 was a good year for the Grizzlies, a great year. 2011-2012 could wind up being the best yet. From ticket sales to on-court performance to the emergence of Gay as a superstar to being respected and feared as a contender, this could wind up being the point in time where the Grizzlies changed the course of franchise history, and forever altered the face of professional basketball in Memphis.  
Posted on: August 30, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 4:03 pm
 

EuroBasket preview: Spain and then everybody else

Posted by Royce Young



Actual competitive basketball being played in an actual arena with actual NBA players! No, this isn't another Drew League versus Goodman League showdown -- it's better. It's Eurobasket 2011 and if you're completely starved for some quality hoops, then welcome your all-you-can-eat buffet of basketball.

You're probably sick of people trying to convince you how quality the European game has become, and while no, it's not the NBA, it is about as good of basketball as you're going to get. And with the labor negotiations going about as well as Charles Barkley in a marathon, this might be one of your last chances to get competitive basketball.

The EuroBasket tournament features 24 countries all with the opportunity to put away an automatic bid to the 2012 Olympics in London. The top two finishers get an automatic bid while four bids to the Pre-Olympic qualifying tournament (for third through sixth) are at stake as well. But it's not only about the Olympic bids. It's about taking home a title for your country against the top competition in Europe. It's a big deal.

It starts up Aug. 31 and runs through Sept. 18. It's going to be a frantic few weeks of hoops with big names like Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Luol Deng and Tony Parker. Let's take a look at the field.

Group A: Britain, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, Turkey, Portugal
Group B: France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Serbia
Group C: Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Finland
Group D: Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Slovenia, Ukraine

(A heads up: Every game of EuroBasket can be watched free on ESPN3.com.)

THE FAVORITES

Spain -- Pau Gasol. Serge Ibaka. Ricky Rubio. Jose Calderon. Rudy Fernandez. Marc Gasol. If you're looking for your NBA fix, the Spaniards are your team to watch. They're going to play the most fluid, flashy game of anything and with players like Ibaka, Gasol and Rubio, will blend athleticism and skill together nicely.

It's really Spain's tournament to lose. There's just so much talent on the team, not even including the big names. Sergio Llull, recent first round draft pick Nikola Mirotic and the irresistible Juan Carlos Navarro make Spain the can't-miss team and clear-cut favorite.

NBA players: Pau Gasol (Lakers), Serge Ibaka (Thunder), Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves), Jose Calderon (Raptors), Rudy Fernandez (Mavericks), Marc Gasol (Grizzlies)

Lithuania
-- The Lithuanians are sort of a borderline favorite, but they are playing the tournament in their home country, so that's an advantage. Plus, there's talent scattered throughout the team with players like lottery pick Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas and Sarunas Jasikevicius.

NBA players: Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors), Donatas Motiejunas (Timberwolves)

France
-- Quietly, the French have assembled a pretty stellar team. Most aren't listing them as a top tier favorite, but it's hard to ignore the talent. A core of Nicolas Batum, Joakim Noah and Tony Parker make them a squad strong enough to consider. Add in Rodrigue Beaubois (if he's healthy), Kevin Seraphin, Mickael Pietrus and Kevin Seraphin and that's a quality rotation of players.

They don't have the same level of talent as Spain, but if Batum can emerge as a go-to scorer to supplement Parker, the French team could make noise in the knockout rounds.

NBA players: Tony Parker (Spurs), Nicolas Batum (Trail Blazers), Mickael Pietrus (Suns), Joakim Noah (Bulls), Rodrigue Beaubois (Mavericks), Kevin Seraphin (Wizards), Ronny Turiaf, injured though (Knicks), Ian Mahinmi (Mavericks), Boris Diaw (Bobcats)

Serbia -- One of Europe's most consistent powers, Serbia features a smooth balance of interior scorers and outside shooters. Nenad Krstic is the anchor but don't underestimate players like Milos Teodosic and Milenko Tepic. Serbia doesn't have anything all that flashy, but it's a team that's stayed together for a while and knows how to play extremely well with each other.

NBA players: None

THE DARK HORSES

Germany -- They have Dirk. That's enough to at least warrant consideration. Now after that it doesn't look extremely strong, but it's Dirk and if we learned anything, the dude can play in big moments. He can carry a team that otherwise looks like a batch of just mid-level players to a higher place and win with them. So I'm not doubting him one bit in this tournament.

Plus there's Chris Kaman and Thunder property Tibor Pleiss there with him, which gives Germany a pretty formidable front court.

NBA players: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), Chris Kaman (Clippers)

Russia -- One thing that constantly intrigues me with the Russian team is coach David Blatt. He's an American coach that played for Pete Carril at Princeton and has been extremely successful overseas with major clubs. The team has some talent, but nothing to get too excited about. It would take a breakout tournament from Timofey Mozgov or swingman Victor Khryapa a huge showing from Andrei Kirilenko for them to truly contend, but they could be medal contenders.

NBA players: Timofey Mozgov (Nuggets), Andrei Kirilenko (Jazz)

Slovenia -- Slovenia's the Atlanta Hawks of Europe. Always solid, never good enough to win. They have some quality players, but lack enough quality size to compete with Spain, Lithuania or France.

NBA players: Goran Dragic (Rockets)

Turkey
-- Last year's World Championship runners-up to the United States, Turkey has most of that team back. It's a good group and one that could certainly get hot and make a run again, but the World Championship run came largely because of a huge bump from a home court advantage. Not happening again in Lithuania.

NBA players: Semih Erden (Celtics), Omer Asik (Bulls), Ersan Ilyasova (Bucks), Enes Kanter (Jazz), Hedo Turkoglu (Magic)

THE MIDDLE GROUND

Greece -- When their fluid passing is leading to open 3s (which they make), the Greeks are a problem for people. But when they're missing, they're a team easy to run over. They're scrappy and will claw on each possession, but reality is, they just don't have enough talent to hang with the bigger clubs. They do have one of the funner players to watch in Dimitrios Diamantidis, so keep an eye on him.

NBA players: Kostas Koufos (Nuggets)

Croatia -- Much like Slovenia, Croatia is a squad that is always in the conversation, but lacks the firepower to truly contend. Hard to figure where the points will come from for them in big spots. They'll be good enough to likely win Group C, but after that, it'll be a tough road to advance.

NBA players: Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets)

Great Britain
-- I'm intrigued by this British team despite it not having any depth whatsoever. Had Ben Gordon been cleared to play, the Brits would've had a dark horse caliber team. Instead, they'll have to fight to get out of group play. Luol Deng is good enough to carry them some with Joel Freeland and Ryan Richards potentially adding some scoring pop from inside.

Don't worry though: They've already qualified for the 2012 Olympics. Because, you know, they're hosting it.

NBA players: Luol Deng (Bulls)

Italy -- There's a little something to the Italian team. Danillo Gallinari, Marco Belinelli and Andrea Bargnani give them some scoring. Problem is, can they stop anyone? It's a decent team and one that can probably make the knockout round, but not much after that.

NBA players: Danillo Gallinari (Nuggets), Marco Belinelli (Hornets), Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)

Montenegro -- Not a powerful team but one with some consistent shooters and a couple decent interior players. Montenegro could very well be every bit as good as Slovenia or Croatia, but their roster doesn't strike you as anything special.

NBA players: Nikola Vucevic (76ers), Nikola Pekovic (Timberwolves)

THE NO CHANCES

Belgium
NBA players: None

Israel
NBA players: Omri Casspi (Cavaliers) -- Casspi's unlikely though because of injury

Bosnia
NBA players: None

Macedonia
NBA players: None

Georgia
NBA players: Zaza Pachulia (Hawks)

Ukraine
NBA players: Kyrylo Fesenko (Jazz),

THE BLOWOUT FODDER

Poland

NBA players: None

Finland
NBA players: None

Portugal
NBA players: None

Latvia
NBA players: None

Bulgaria
NBA players: None

PREDICTION: If Spain doesn't reach the final, it's a massive disappointment and a massive shock. It's really just a matter of who will challenge the loaded Spaniards. I see the final four teams being Spain, France, Lithuania and a dark horse in Germany. A lot of people aren't necessarily on the French bandwagon, but I see a team with a bunch of talent that could possibly put together a little run. The safe bet is to go with a Spain-Lithuania final (this of course assuming the teams match up correctly in the knockout round), but I'm looking at France to fall to Spain in the gold medal game but still earn that automatic bid to London in 2012.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com