Posts Tagged ‘Commercial Appeal’

We Lost A Hoops Legend In Williamson

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In basketball circles there are a handful of people whose faces are not recognizable to the casual fan but are instantly recognizable for insiders, players, scouts, coaches, executives and pundits alike.

Only a select few of those recognizable faces can travel the globe and retain that instant credibility in gyms from New York to New Delhi, a man whose voice carries and attracts all of the movers and shakers in attendance.

The Memphis Grizzlies, the NBA and the basketball world lost one of those men today when Kenny “Eggman” Williamson died after a long battle with cancer.

An assistant general manager with the Grizzlies for six seasons, Williamson, 65, spent three-plus decades immersed in the game from the grassroots level all the way up to the NBA. He is survived by his wife Nicole, their five children and four grandchildren.

A Harlem native and a staple at Rucker Park, Williamson spent 21 years as a college assistant, with stops at St. John’s, Louisville, Seton Hall and Columbia. He worked for the Charlotte Bobcats for three years before joining the Grizzlies and also worked for the Knicks for six years.

“Anyone who ever met ‘Eggman’ will never forget him,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement released by the team. “He had a huge personality and was extremely well-respected, both professionally and personally. Kenny was as true and committed a friend as one will ever have. He deeply cared for his friends and the youth of Memphis and of every community he touched. He was the greatest people person I have ever known. Every place I ever traveled with him, from Argentina to Turkey and throughout the U. S. he made an indelible impression and made countless friends. He was well-known is all basketball circles, both domestically and internationally, and his presence will be sorely missed.”

Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins knew Williamson well, having dealt with him in previous stops before they worked together with the Grizzlies.

“I took a high school basketball team to Germany once and Kenny was there. Everybody knew him,” Hollins told Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal. “I interviewed for the Charlotte job and Kenny was working for the Bobcats at that time. And then when I come here and get the head coaching job, there’s Kenny sitting as the assistant general manager. We were very close.”

My encounters with Williamson began years ago, when I was just starting out as a reporter and would run across him in gyms around the country. One night you’d see him at an AAU game in Las Vegas. Weeks later you’d spot him at a pro-am game in Washington D.C. And a few years later I walked to my seat on press row at Staples Center and he was sitting in the scout’s seat next to me.

Anytime he sat next to or near me after that, I knew it was best to just close my laptop and open my ears for a few lessons on the game.

The rule, as I learned from others that new him much better and much longer than I did, was that you listened while he worked the room and made sure to heed his advice when it came to players, places and anything else he said because few people knew their way around the basketball world better than “Eggman.”

Rest in Peace Kenny Williamson!

Rudy Gay Ready To Break Out

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When you produce at the level Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay has on a nightly basis over the course of the past five seasons, the idea that Gay could be poised for a breakout season in the sixth year of his ascent might strike some people as a little strange.

But that’s exactly what Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins is expecting from the mercurial talent as he enters his seventh season in the league; Gay started 43 games his rookie season but didn’t move into the starting lineup until his second season.

Since Gay plays for our adopted team here at the hideout, we’re a bit biased. We’ve been huge proponents of his for years, dating to the 2007-08 season when he averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and showed off the talent that led many to rank him as the No. 1 prospect heading into his final college season at UConn.

His talent was undeniable then. It was strictly a matter of whether or not he could be a consistent force. And he proved that in the following seasons, even if he was overshadowed a bit by Zach Randolph and now Marc Gasol in Memphis.


Hang Time Grizzlies On The Edge

HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — The uneasy feelings started around here in Game 1, when the Hang Time Grizzlies squandered that 24-point fourth-quarter lead and allowed the Los Angeles Clippers to snatch a tone-setting victory away from the home team.

Everything that’s happened since, even the one win our Grizzlies managed in this series, didn’t produce the sort of cosmic confidence expected or even seen during last season’s magical playoff run that included an upset win over the top-seeded Spurs in the first round. The same finishing kick that paved the way for that run a year ago has evaporated.

The Grizzlies have been brutal in the fourth quarters of three of the four games played in this series against the Clippers and should not be surprised to find themselves on the ugly end of a 3-1 ledger that sets up Wednesday night’s Grind-Or-Go-Fishing Game 5 in Memphis.

“It’s a shoulda, woulda, coulda deal when you look at the film,” Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said before Monday night’s overtime loss in Game 4. “Sometimes you just don’t know how we lost. We’ve got to find a way to correct our mistakes because we’re right there. We can still win this series.”

Forget the film young fella.

We’ll just give you the raw numbers. The aggregate score so far in this series is Grizzlies 289, Clippers 284. But the fourth-quarter scoring, on the other hand, is Clippers 87, Grizzlies 58.

The glaring defense down the stretch of these games has been Chris Paul. The Clippers have the player who rises to the occasion repeatedly at winning time while the Grizzlies can’t seem to get themselves together at crunch time.


Mayo, Grizzlies Get Back On Their Grind


What we saw from the Memphis Grizzlies in their Game 2 win over the Los Angeles Clippers is the Grind House style their fans have become accustomed to and playoff fans everywhere demand from the grimiest team in the league.

They pushed the Clippers around again last night, but they didn’t let up this time (making sure they did not repeat their sins from Sunday night’s epic Game 1 failure) and evened their series at 1-1.

A little inspiration always helps. And Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins provided exactly that before the game. More from Ronald Tillery of the Comercial Appeal:

With their leader wearing the championship ring he won as a member of the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers, the Grizzlies delivered an inspired performance — this time, over four quarters — and left with a 105-98 Game 2 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night in FedExForum.

Hollins said he simply found the ring after misplacing it and wore the piece of jewelry with no intent to send a message. But players noticed.

“He did it (won a title) in his second year,” Griz guard O.J. Mayo said. “Why can’t we?”

Either way, Memphis evened its Western Conference first-round playoff matchup at 1-1. The best-of-seven series resumes Saturday for Game 3 in the Staples Center.

“We had great focus from start to finish,” Griz guard Tony Allen said. “They (the Clippers) came in here and took care of business. We just need to have that same mentality on the road.”

After blowing a 27-point lead in Game 1, the Griz knew they couldn’t afford to go down 0-2 with at least two road games in front of them. Instead of tightening up in the fourth quarter like they did Sunday, the Griz were the aggressors.

They dove on the court, increased defensive pressure on Clippers point man Chris Paul and made clutch baskets.

No one made more of those clutch baskets than Mayo, whose work off the bench last night showcased all of things Mayo is capable of as one of the true sixth-man game-changers in these playoffs (along with James Harden, Louis Williams and Jason Terry).


The Best Bargain Of This NBA Season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The first victim of the amnesty clause in the new collective bargaining agreement will have yet another distinction before this NBA seasons ends.

And we’re calling it right now: Gilbert Arenas will be the best bargain of this NBA season. After signing with the Grizzlies, Arenas is being welcomed into the Hang Time family with open arms. And it makes it even easier to show him love when you realize that the Grizzlies are paying him $300,000 for the remainder of this season.

That’s a minimal investment (by NBA standards) with the potential for some ridiculous rewards, if Arenas still has some of that old Agent Zero magic left in him.

He certainly fills a glaring need for the Grizzlies, as Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal points out:

It’s a move that was called a win-win proposition for both parties as the Griz prepared to face the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night in the Power Balance Pavilion.

“We need shooting and that’s something he’s been able to do throughout his career,” forward Rudy Gay said. “He’s somebody that’s battle tested who can help us out.”

Reserve guard O.J. Mayo worked out with Arenas in Chicago about two years ago. Mayo learned two things about the 30-year-old Arenas.

“He’s a hard worker and he wants to win,” Mayo said.

The Griz are also confident that Arenas understands the situation. He’s being added to spell backup point guard Mike Conley and occasionally play shooting guard off the bench.

Arenas, a 10-year veteran and three-time All-Star, expressed a willingness to play a limited role. And there is no fear in the Griz front office, on their bench or in the locker room that Arenas will balk at being a reserve.

If Arenas is willing to be a role player, he’ll be one of the few capable of the exploits he’s shown he can accomplish throughout his career. And for a playoff team — any playoff team — to have a lethal scorer coming off the bench whenever they need him, that’s a luxury everyone wants.

Arenas On Grizzlies’ Radar

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In their season-long pursuit of another long-range shooter, the Memphis Grizzlies have turned their attention to free agent option Gilbert Arenas, according to the Commercial Appeal.

They also need a quality backup point guard. And Arenas could potentially fill both roles, if he’s in game-ready shape (or close to it) right now. More from the Commercial Appeal:

Arenas, 30, remains unemployed after the Orlando Magic made him one of the first casualties of the amnesty clause provided in the NBA’s latest collective bargaining agreement. The Grizzlies can add Arenas because they employ a 14-man roster. Teams can carry 15 players.

A source said the Grizzlies are in a conditional pursuit of Arenas. Memphis wants to see Arenas in a private workout before making a decision. The Griz originally sought to sign Arenas to a 10-day contract but the veteran combo guard is looking for a guaranteed deal for the rest of the season.

Grizzlies Randolph Out Up To 8 Weeks


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph could miss the next eight weeks of the season with a slightly torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee, according to The Commercial Appeal.

The report confirms fears that the injury Randolph suffered Sunday in Chicago, when teammate O.J. Mayo inadvertently fell into his leg in a loss to the Bulls, was more serious than initially expected:

The injury will not require surgery and doctors will re-evaluate Randolph in two weeks.

Randolph was believed to only have a bruised MCL. He did not travel with the team for its road game tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He remained in Memphis and is wearing a knee brace.

… Last season, Randolph missed four games after suffering a deep tailbone bruise in the season-opener.

This is obviously a huge blow to a Grizzlies team built around the frontcourt tandem of Randolph and center Marc Gasol, the catalysts for the Grizzlies surprise run to the Western Conference semifinals last season.

The Grizzlies are already working on a contingency plan for the meantime, having agreed in principle to the terms of a three-team deal with the Hornets and 76ers that will bring 76ers center Marreese Speights to the Grizzlies, per Marc Stein of  The deal, on course to be completed later Wednesday according to Stein, would also send Grizzlies swingman Xavier Henry to the Hornets and two second-round picks to Philadelphia.

You Wish Your Owner Talked Like This

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Our years of devotion to the (Hang Time) Memphis Grizzlies paid off handsomely last season in a magical run to the Western Conference semifinals.

While most of the so-called punditry were busy making fun of that unwavering allegiance to a team that had never won a playoff game, let alone a series before last spring,  we were hard at work trying to convince anyone willing to see what we saw.

Now that the Grizzlies have taken a bite out of the league, their owner (the real one, Michael Heisley, we just serve as his proxy here at the hideout on a daily basis) is setting his aim a little higher than just making noise in the playoffs.

Heisley didn’t hide his goals in an interview with Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal, stating that he fully expects the Grizzlies to contend for championships in the immediate future with the one of the best young rosters in the league. You wish your owner talked like this:

Q. You recently said for the first time publicly that you’re committed to winning a championship. How close are you to winning an NBA title?

A. The players are going to determine how close we are. I can honestly tell you that I think we have a real chance over the next two or three years to win the NBA championship if we get some breaks and a couple of our players develop into their potential. We’ve got a few years where Zach (Randolph) will be playing at a high level. Rudy (Gay) is young and just beginning to come into his own. (Mike) Conley is young. We’ve got a team that’s young and they like each other. The chemistry in the locker room is good. I’m not sure what is going to happen, but I feel like we have a good, deep team. It isn’t like we have five players and then we drop off a cliff. I’m not telling you we’ll win a championship but I’m saying I won’t be surprised if we make a big run for it. That’s honest. I haven’t gone around saying that my whole career in Memphis. I feel like we have something special.

You have to remember, when the Grizzlies knocked off the San Antonio Spurs and then took the Oklahoma City Thunder to the limit in a thrilling series, they did so without Gay in uniform. Randolph, Marc Gasol, Conley and Tony Allen led the charge then, with plenty of help from a solid supporting cast that included inspired effort from O.J. Mayo.

If Lionel Hollins can harness what this team did in the playoffs and unleash it during this abbreviated season, there could be more postseason fury in store for teams facing these Grizzlies.

And while the championship talk from Heisley is probably a little early, we admire his unbridled ambition. Not every owner is willing to speak so clearly about such things.


Labor Talks: Circling The Wagons?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — While we admire the solidarity message the players’ union has delivered repeatedly throughout the NBA lockout, it’s tough to read exactly how that message has been received.

While the majority of the rank-and-file players have been saying (and tweeting) all the right things about their unified state, cracks in the union’s foundation have emerged (as Jerry Stackhouse displayed passionately). The voices of discontent over this latest standoff are getting louder and louder. And there is a growing sentiment that we could see some sort of significant movement in mood after the union brass and executive committee members gather for a “strategy session” today in New York.

Are they circling the wagons with this pow-wow and gearing up to take another stand against the owners? Or is this the beginning of the end of the “stand united” campaign and the union’s solidarity movement?

Union executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher will find out sometime later today or perhaps this weekend, when the Boston Herald reports that negotiations are set to resume.


Labor Talks: A Glimmer Of Hope?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If 15 mind-bending hours of negotiations are any indication, that little cooling off period seems to have helped both sides in the NBA’s ongoing labor impasse.

After breaking off talks late last week, the two sides have resumed their discussions and the first day (and night) of these latest talks have produced at least a glimmer of hope that a new deal could be in the works sometime sooner rather than later. Of course, caution is needed where these things are concerned. We’ve been here a time or two in the past 119 days, reading the tea leaves and feeling hopeful, only to have the reality of this situation snap us back to attention.

But everyone’s tone has changed dramatically since last week, when NBA Commissioner David Stern‘s absence from federally-mediated talks (the doctors sent him home) coincided with what was the most dramatic detour to date in the progression of these negotiations.

Union executive director Billy Hunter spoke of a potential deal being ready within the next five or six days and Stern even floated the notion of an 82-game season being worked out, provided the sides come to a consensus on a new deal in rapid fashion.

That sets up this afternoon’s bargaining session in New York as perhaps the (latest) most critical day in the process. Another positive day of talks could provide us with more than just a glimmer of hope — (although, the Prime Minister warns that we shouldn’t go dreaming about unicorns and rainbows until we see Stern and Hunter shaking hands at one of these post-session pressers) …

A Deal To Be Done, If Both Sides Are Ready

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes that the time to make a deal is near:

From front-office executives to player agents, optimism is rapidly rising that there’s significant momentum toward reaching an agreement and saving most, if not all, of the 82-game regular season. Union executive director Billy Hunter said he “assumes” the full schedule could be saved if a deal is reached by “Sunday or Monday.” Stern said the league will work with the union to schedule as many games as possible.

The two sides didn’t discuss the split of revenue – a contentious issue in previous negotiating sessions – instead taking Hunter’s suggestion they “park” the discussion while negotiating system issues. Stern indicated the talks likely won’t return to the split until the league and union have finished with the system. League and union officials will continue to meet in small groups Thursday. Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt will brief the owners’ labor-relations committee before talks resume.