I recently hooked up with Spartacus from the superb Memphis Grizzlies blog: 3 Shades Of Blue , for a little question and answer session leading up to tonight’s game at Target Center. We face off against our cellar-dwelling Western Conference Associates with not much to play for other than pride (and for some people, lottery balls.)
Again, I’d just like to thank Spartacus and urge you guys to check out 3 Shades Of Blue , if you don’t already. I’m obviously not a Grizzlies fan, but I still peruse the blog every now and then… as they have some very quality content.
College Wolf: In regards to the Gasol trade: do you think Chris Wallace did his due diligence by negotiating with all interested parties, to get the best possible deal in return for Pau? Would you have been more or less interested in some sort of trade package with the T-Wolves? For starters, let’s say something along the lines of Theo Ratliff’s Expiring Contract, Craig Smith, the future Miami Heat 1st round pick owed to Wolves, and the Twolves second round pick in this year’s draft. You could also have had Gerald Green if you’d even want him.
Spartacus: I think that Chris Wallace made the deal that ownership (i.e. Michael Heisley) allowed him to. There were too many reports from other GM’s about proposed deals that fell on "deaf ears" that included a lot of young players with contract extensions on the horizon for it to have been coincidence. The only rumors I’m discounting are those that came out of Miami, because we all know that Pat Riley is, in fact, the spawn of Satan.
I like that deal every bit as well as the one that was accepted, but not more. Getting both picks up front is nice, as is the fact that the T’Wolves first rounder is certain to be much higher than the two they will receive from the Lakers. However, the front office seemed to be high on the potential of Javaris Crittenton and I get the sense that they believe the rights to Marc Gasol could be a valuable trade piece down the road.
(Click "Read More…" for the rest of his questions, as well as my responses to his questions for me.)
College Wolf: What are your thoughts on “tanking” games in the attempt to improve a team’s lottery chances? Is it beneficial to tank, or should a team always try to win as many games as possible? In your opinion, should Memphis be tanking the end of this season and/or have you seen any signs of tanking yet?
Spartacus: I don’t think teams should ever stop trying or encourage their players to give less than 100%. I said the same thing when the Grizzlies and Clippers were in line to get the 5th or 6th seed in the playoffs two years ago, which led to another first round ouster against the Mavs while the Clips beat the Nugz to advance. At the same time, I have no problem with teams resting valuable players (i.e. a Mike Miller or a Dwyane Wade) when they are banged up and the season is obviously a lost cause. They are two separate things in my mind.
College Wolf: What do you think of your cluster of young “up & coming” point guards? Who would you like to keep? Who’s expendable? What are their pros & cons?
Spartacus: Right now, I think they are all young and inexperienced. Yeah, I know — thanks for the hard-hitting news there. Seriously though, that’s what crosses my mind every single game I watch them.
For me personally, I’d like to keep Conley and Navarro, and then trade Lowry and Crittenton. Conley is the future of the team and JCN is a more-than-capable combo guard for this team.
Conley – Pros: Solid facillitator and playmaker with great quickness and speed. Makes smart plays over flashy plays consistently. Cons: Lack of size and the possible health issues that come with that. Also, he needs to look to score more often, rather than always deferring to his established teammates.
Lowry – Pros: Endless energy, intensity and toughness. He really is a bulldog on defense. Willing to do whatever is necessary to win. Cons: Somewhat reckless. He also needs to become a better playmaker for his teammates, as he looks to score too often to be a quality starting PG in the NBA.
Crittenton – Pros: Good size and athleticism. Cons: He’s a very raw product right now. That makes him a gamble for this team, as they will have to make decisions about this backcourt each of the next two offseasons. Really, he’s more of a SG than a PG.
Navarro – Pros: Experienced and savvy veteran. Very good playmaker and scorer with good range on his jumper. Capable of playing both guard positions. Cons: The refs hate him. Seriously, they try to make him look bad every single night.
College Wolf: What’s the general consensus on Hakim “ThaStunna” Warrick? Is he putting up big numbers just because someone has to, or is he a legit baller?
Spartacus: There is no consensus. That’s what is so maddening about him for the second straight season. I call him "Zach Randolph Lite" for every reason you can think of. He’s a solid scorer out to 18 feet with an array of moves in his offensive repetoire. He’s a good rebounder for his size. But…he’s not a good ballhandler, does not play consistent defense and can be a black hole on offense. In other words, he’s just like a skinny Zach Randolph.
College Wolf: What is your personal #1 off-season priority/change/hiring/firing/trade/FA signing/etc that you think should be done to improve the future of the Memphis franchise?
Spartacus: I’m big on the "to make a good soup, let it simmer for hours" approach to building a good basketball team, so my #1 priority isn’t earth-shattering. I want the Grizzlies to sign Mickael Pietrus to a free agent contract for something around $5-6 million a year. In the draft, I want them to draft Nicolas Batum and Kevin Love. That’s it. No "sign Ellis/Okafor/Deng/Iguodala to a max deal", no "trade Miller for Player X" demand. Just make a few smart basketball moves and let this young, talented team develop.
And here’s what Spartacus had on tap for me…
Spartacus: In the off-season, Al Jefferson signed a 5-year, $65 million extension, which was actually less than what he was eligible to receive had he asked for a max contract. It was refreshing to hear a player say that he wasn’t worthy of a max deal. What are your impressions of the young stud in his first season in Minnesota?
College Wolf: I can’t speak for all fans, but I’ve quickly become enamored with him. I’ve followed the Celtics for the past few years as my “other” team, so I already knew a good deal about “Old Skool” (as we affectionately like to call him.) Still, I did not foresee him coming in and immediately producing like he has been all season long. Before the season, if you would have told me that he’d average 20+ points, 10+ boards, and have the second most double-doubles; I would have said “no way.” Not only has his offense been superb, but we’ve seen him grow before our very eyes as a leader out on the court. He’s been much more vocal and passionate as the season has gone on, which is very exciting to see and is exactly what this young team needs in a leader. However, it is not all praise… because until he can improve his overall defense, he’ll never be considered a truly great player in this league.
Spartacus: How has the fanbase adjusted in the post-Kevin Garnett era?
DeROK: I would say for the first half of the season, most Timberwolves fans were still suffering from a KG hangover. The team’s record was horrendous, hovering around the 5-30 mark, and none of the young players we received in the deal seemed to be living up to our expectations of them. There was honestly a point where I felt the Wolves had gotten completely taken in the trade and that Al Jefferson was nothing more than the next Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Then, things suddenly changed. It was right before the Wolves were scheduled to play Boston. As if someone had flipped on a switch, Al Jefferson began to completely dominate games and was consistently putting up the type of point totals we’d see Garnett score every two seasons. The team was able to build off of that momentum heading into the Celtics game and put on one of the best performances of the season. Had it not been for back-to-back meltdowns on inbounds plays, the last-place Wolves would have toppled the league-leading C’s. After the game, Garnett had a celebratory tirade that didn’t sit too well with most Minnesota fans. I think the team’s gutsy performance coupled with Garnett’s post-game reactions were what finally cut the last ties most of us had to the KG era. Garnett’s still my favorite player and can’t wait to see him in the playoffs again, but Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Corey Brewer, Randy Foye – those are "my guys" now. I’m happy with where this team’s going and actually think we got the better end of the trade in the long-term. It really was the best thing for both the franchise and Garnett to part ways. I think almost every Wolves fan realizes this and, as a whole, we’re at peace with the situation.
Spartacus: Rumors are that if Minnesota is looking to draft one of the top level PG’s in the upcoming draft. Should they look to draft their PG of the future or is there someone you think they should trade for or sign as a free agent instead?
College Wolf: This is a big bag of cookies that I’m not entirely sure we can fully dissect at *this point* of the season. There are still some “things” contingent on other “things” happening. I believe the draft is before the free agent signing period, so the front office needs to decide if they will be pursuing Telfair or not this off-season. That in turn affects whether they want to spend our lottery pick on a PG. Do they draft a second tier PG if Derrick Rose isn’t available? I’d say no. Do they draft Rose if he is available? I don’t see how they couldn’t… regardless of what they plan on doing with Telfair and Foye.
It wasn’t long ago that Foye was considered our “point guard of the future.” Who knows, maybe he will still end up becoming so. No one really knows right now. Much further evaluation is needed both upon the guys on our squad and the options available in the draft and free agency.
As for free agent point guards, I don’t really see any guys available (within reason) that I’m too interested in… especially considering our lack of available salary space. I’d prefer we don’t waste the MLE this season either. There’s nothing worse than spending the MLE just to spend it. I enjoy checking out fake potential trades and whatnot every now and then, but it’s largely a waste of time to pontificate about trades because our Front Office is just so unpredictable.*
* That was my nice term for “incompetent.”
Spartacus: Is Marko Jaric still dating Adriana Lima? If not, do you think you can get us her number?
College Wolf: Fortunately for him (and unfortunately for the rest of us)… yes, they are still dating. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but if I had her number I’m thinking I probably wouldn’t share it with too many people. So, no dice. Here are some recent photos of the seemingly happy couple. Extra Credit to Marko for looking like a stud in a flannel shirt.
Spartacus: Who is more maddening to root for: Antoine Walker or Ricky Davis?
College Wolf: I think it’s hands down, Ricky Davis. I think the main reason is that he teases and tantalizes fans with his athleticism and the occasional “outbreak” game, only to revert back to his jumpshot clanging self the very next day. Seriously, RD has got to be towards the top of the list of players that could go out on any given night and either drop 40 points… or go 1 of 15 from the field. On the other hand, you know what you are getting out on the court with “The Toine.” Namely, a 31 year old player that looks like he’s 41, and plays like he’s 61. He can’t really shoot, defend, or do much of anything… hence there are little to no expectations. Anything he contributes is purely gravy. Ricky, on the other hand, is capable of averaging nearly 20 points a game, which has always baffled me. Another thing that made Ricky Avis more maddening to watch was the fact that he was basically our second option for a team trying to compete in the Western Conference. The most maddening thing about The Toine the past month has been his whining about not getting bought out…but I can live with that. I can’t wait to start referring to him as “Antoine Walker’s Expiring Contract” next season.
Thanks again for your time, Spartacus. Make sure to check out 3 Shades Of Blue .