Memphis has got the Blues

We take on Memphis Saturday night for the first of a trio of games against teams with poor records.  One of my favorite blogs is 3 Shades of Blue, which features a triumvirate of contributers that churn out Memphis Grizzly content at an obscene rate.(Triumvirate is a cool word.  I need to join one.)  With the Grizzlies entering a rebuilding mode reminiscent of the what the Hornets did a few years ago(the Dark Days of 1 B.C.P.), I wanted to get their take on the future of their team.

Chip Crain has kindly responded to my questions, after thanking Steve Kerr for allowing Chris Wallace to no longer be lambasted as the worst GM in the league not named Kevin McHale or Isiah Thomas.

Hornets 247: Assuming the cap stays about the same, your team will be 20mil under the cap next year, and 40mil the following.  All your important young players are locked up for that stretch.  With all that cash, who would you target to take that 4 spot?  Josh Smith?  Shawn Marion?  Or mid-tier guys and rely on the draft to hopefully land you a star or two?

3 Shades of Blue: I think you are using governmental math here. The Grizz have at best $10-12 million in cap space this summer. Enough to make moves on some second tier free agents but not enough to lure the big names like Shawn Marion, Luol Deng or Andre Iquodala. We also have to decide on what to do with Juan Carlos Navarro. Navarro is one of the best rookies in the league this season but at 27 and only 6-3 in shoes how much do the Grizzlies want to invest in him? That is a tough call since they are on the hook for a while with Washington for a 1st rd pick and don’t want to just lose him to free agency. Hopefully he won’t find any major offers this summer so re-signing him won’t be too difficult. With a top 8 draft pick in the future there really isn’t as much cash available as you would expect.

Hornets 247: When the Hornets rebuilt, they kept a few veterans around to instill professionalism in the young guns we were bringing in.  Do you think Mike Miller will fill that role?  Or is he considered an asset to bring in more youth, and the rebuilding is going to go with all youth wherever possible?

3 Shades of Blue: Excuse me? The Hornets rebuilt in early 2005 with David West (2003 draft pick), Tyson Chandler (free agent signee), Chris Paul (2005 draft), and then added Peja, Mo Pete and BJax the next season. What contributing veteran are you talking about?  They played JR Smith for most of the season as a starter for goodness sake. Sure PJ Brown helped but the Hornets went with youth and then added sensible FA signings of vets to blend with their youth. Hopefully Memphis will get lucky and get a team changing rookie in the draft and surround him with quality pieces too. We have Aaron McKie after all so it isn’t like we don’t have someone to act as coach in the locker room. Just last week he was a coach for Philadelphia after all. Mike Miller may be used in a sign and trade deal this summer for a major free agent but he probably won’t be moved this season. Not that I agree with that philosophy. If you want to rebuild then don’t waste time doing it. Memphis is 3 years away from competing and Miller will be over 30 by that time. I just don’t see him in the big picture. However, if that makes it easier to do a sign and trade with Atlanta or Philly for instance I would be for it.

Hornets247: The Grizz always seem to be mentioned as being up for sale.  Of course, I've heard the Hornets are always up for sale no matter how many times George Shinn has said it's his family business and will never be sold.  So do you think they are on the market?  And will the restrictive lease they have ensure they stay in Memphis?

3 Shades of Blue: It just seems Memphis has been for sale forever because of the FOR SALE sign in front of the FedEx Forum. That doesn’t mean they are for sale however because no one in their right mind would pay the asking price unless they attended Duke. And the Dukies wanted to finance it with an IOU. When Heisley stops pricing the team among the best in the league then I will believe we are truly for sale. Right now Heisley is just looking for idiots or trying to scare the local minority owners into overpaying for the team. Either way it hasn’t worked yet and at $400 million with a restrictive lease and a poor fan base it isn’t likely to be sold anytime soon. The lease should keep them in Memphis for a while but if attendance remains low then there is an out clause. That’s what makes the next two years so important. If the city doesn’t start to rally behind the team they could be gone before they are sold. It would really hurt our blog if that happened.

Hornets247: Lastly, do the Grizz have any willing defenders?  The offense is fine, but is their defense a product of youth or lack of will?

3 Shades of Blue: Willing defenders aren’t the problem. Capable defenders are the problem. Mike Miller works hard on defense but he isn’t very good. Rudy Gay tries hard and he isn’t bad but you can’t expect a 21 yr old to be the team’s stopper and their leading scorer. Darko is recovering from the thumb injury inflicted on him by the dirtiest player in the league (Tyson Chandler isn’t really the dirtiest player but I thought it would be interesting to go around picking fights with the best team in the league- I’m weird that way). When you add in Kwame Brown and get experience at the point defensively then the team will be adequate, if we sign a stopper then so much the better. The main problem is the youth at the point. Memphis has 4 players who can guard the point and none of them have played 60 games in their career. That is inexperience and they routinely get burned by vets driving the lane which forces our bigs to come up to stop them which leaves their men open and you know the rest. Conley, Lowry and Crittenton can defend they just need more experience. When we can slow down penetration then our defense will improve.

I feel for the Memphis fans.  I mean, they might have Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittenton, and . . uh . . . Darko to pin their hopes on, but I can't imagine rebuilding without Dan Dickau.  They need to trade for him immediately.  Dan the Man'll make like aloe and sooth their pain like he soothed ours.

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