Posts Tagged ‘Darrell Arthur’

Grizzlies GM Envisioned A Future With Marc Gasol As A League Laughed

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Memphis Grizzlies’ six-year rise from bottom-of-the-barrel in the West to playing for the conference crown is a story of intuition, perseverance, patience and, some might rightfully say, vindication for general manager Chris Wallace.

“I never looked for vindication. That’s not something that motivates me,” Wallace said. “Winning takes care of all issues in this league. We felt we had to take chances.”

Hired by former Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley to remake a 22-win team that was of no competition, popularity-wise, for John Calipari‘s Memphis Tigers, Wallace put his vision in motion. When the team takes the court Sunday afternoon to begin the Western  Conference finals against the old standby San Antonio Spurs, the Memphis roster will include not one player from the day Wallace took control.

Rudy Gay, the last survivor, was dealt to Toronto in late January.

The first move for Wallace back in 2007 was drafting Mike Conley, now considered one of the most underrated point guards in the league. Conley was the No. 4 overall draft pick after Portland selected Greg Oden and Kevin Durant fell into Seattle’s lap and Atlanta tapped Al Horford.

The next move came on Feb. 1, 2008 and will go down as the franchise’s moment of truth. At that moment, however, it was perceived more like the moment of ultimate doom.

Wallace agreed to a trade that unleashed shockwaves of ridicule from, yes, the media, but also shockingly from within the league. The backlash, Wallace said, was so fierce that it damaged the team’s ability to conduct business in its own city as it set out to sell critical sponsorships and arena suites for the following season.

“People [potential clients] would list off all the big-name people [in the NBA] that had ridiculed us,” Wallace said. “It was like running the 100-meter dash with a 20-pound leg weight.”

Everyone knows the deal: Pau Gasol to the Lakers for his chubby, unheralded younger brother Marc Gasol, bust Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and a couple first-round draft picks. Stunning criticism crushed Wallace for getting fleeced while being backhandedly credited for handing the post-Shaquille O’Neal Lakers the keys to certain championships.

“I expect the media to shoot from the hip and not study the deal. That’s to be expected,” Wallace said. “I just shook my head. I had never seen that kind of response from inside the league. I don’t deny that was the assist for two Lakers championships, but we had to shake things up. We had never won a playoff game. We had been in the 20s [wins] and there was complete apathy in our market. Calipari and the Tigers were roaring at the time.

“When we went around the league, we weren’t going to get a tit-for-tat deal. We wanted to bring our salary structure down, get assets and draft picks. And no one else had a Marc Gasol.”

Marc Gasol attended high school in Memphis as Pau was becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. At 18, he returned to Spain to begin his professional career in the Spanish ACB league, largely considered the world’s second-most competitive league. In 2007-08 he was tearing it up.

“He was trending up so much at the time. He was on pace to be the ACB MVP,” Wallace said. “I said it at the time, I felt like the little boy crying wolf. There was no question Pau was going to flourish next to Kobe and could win several titles, but this deal couldn’t be judged for several years.”

Wallace said what puzzled him most about the barrage of criticism was the lack of knowledge among media and league insiders regarding the 7-foot-1 Marc Gasol, who went on to become the MVP.

“It’s not like he was playing in Mongolia,” Wallace said. “He was playing in the ACB.”

Gasol, about 20 pounds lighter these days at 260, blossomed into a 2012 All-Star and is the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year. He’s become an offensive force, honing a dangerous post game with an old-school mid-range set shot. He’s averaging 18.3 ppg and 7.9 rpg while averaging 40.3 mpg during the franchise’s most successful postseason run.

Gasol’s low-post partner Zach Randolph came next in a deal in 2009. Wallace was in the right place at the right time, nabbing Randolph for Quentin Richardson. Randolph, who had had his issues at previous stops,had become expendable after just 39 games with the Clippers because L.A. was set to draft Blake Griffin with the No. 1 pick and wanted to clear out the power forward position.

Tony Allen was picked up in the summer of 2010. Darrell Arthur has been a constant presence off the bench since being acquired on draft day in 2008. Greivous Vasquez, the 28th pick in 2010, was flipped for key reserve Quincy Pondexter. Sixth man Jerryd Bayless was signed as a free agent last summer.

“We were winning 20 games a year just four or five seasons ago,” Conley said. “Management did a great job getting guys in, guys that care. We’ve worked every day, kind of fell down the radar and now we’re here.”

So much has gone right leading to this historic moment for the Grizzlies franchise that it would seem clear-cut that Wallace has a long-term home with Memphis. But with new ownership having taken over at the start of the season, both Wallace and coach Lionel Hollins – a raging success story in his own right as he’s developed an initially young group of players into a hard-working defensive juggernaut emblematic of the city itself — are uncertain of their futures.

Hollins has coached all season on the final year of his deal. Wallace said he has years left, but has no guarantees.

“I hope to be able to stay here,” Wallace said.

Prince: Grizz’s 2011 Playoff Run Without Gay Aided Transition

DALLAS – Want to know why teammates respect and admire Tayshaun Prince? Traded from the Detroit Pistons, the franchise he loyally clung to through the lean, post-championship years, he’s now just days away from beginning his first postseason since 2009 with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Is he excited to be back in the playoffs?

“I am excited,” Prince said after scoring a dozen points in the Grizzlies’ 103-97 win Monday against the Mavericks. “I’m more excited for Ed Davis, and I’m more excited for Austin Daye. Austin’s been with me for four years now. He was with me in the tough days in Detroit. I’m excited for those guys.”

For the third-year Davis and the fourth-year Daye, it will be their first forays beyond the regular season.

Prince, 33, an integral member of the 2004 champion Pistons, is one of the league’s most unassuming, thoughtful and grounded players. He goes to work and gives all he has to give, then does it again the next day and the next day. His 10-year run in Detroit ended in late January with a three-way trade. Memphis dealt the still quite youthful Rudy Gay to Toronto and Davis landed in Memphis along with the veteran Prince and his Pistons teammate Daye.

“I’m one of the last guys in this league that would let something affect me if somebody said why would they trade for an old, veteran guy and this and that,” said Prince, who acknowledged that the deal did take him by surprise. “I don’t care what people say about me. I have fun with it, I roll with it, it doesn’t bother me. At the end of the day, we’ve got some good pieces.”

From a personality standpoint, the old veteran and his new, rather old-fashioned, grind-it-out team have been a near-perfect match with their blue collars raised proudly.

“I love Tayshaun,” Grizzlies center Marc Gasol said. “I love the way he plays, I love what he brings to the team, I love his leadership and the way he approaches the game of basketball.”

And Grizzlies fans have to be relieved and pleased with what they’ve seen after initial apprehension to Memphis’ new ownership group breaking up the long-held core of Gay, Gasol, Zach RandolphMike Conley and Tony Allen before they could make a playoff run as a fully healthy unit.

Last year, Randolph was gimpy into the playoffs following a knee injury, and reserve forward Darrell Arthur missed the entire season. The Grizzlies blew Games 1 and 7 on their home floor and bowed out to the Clippers in the first round. The year before, Gay missed the playoffs with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Without him, the Grizzlies upset top-seeded San Antonio in the first round and took Oklahoma City to seven games in the second round.

Prince suggested that the 2011 run has actually helped boost this team’s confidence as they’ve meshed since the trade. They’ve reeled off 26 wins in 37 games and at 55-26, the Grizzlies have won the most games in a season in the franchise’s history.

“If you really look at it, that’s what made them the team they are. They found out they can play without him,” Prince said, referring to Gay’s playoff absence. “They found out that, ‘Hey, we can still compete at a high level because of the toughness, the team, the camaraderie.’

“So when they traded for me, I believe they were down when the trade first happened because they played with Rudy for so long and they were familiar with him. But I think after a few games, they were like, ‘You know what, we had a while where we didn’t play with Rudy and things were working out well for us. This may not be a bad idea; hey, this might work.’ At the end of the day, it’s all about competing and having fun. These guys are really tough-minded guys.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good chance at doing something special.”

Deal Likely Delays Inevitable For Grizz

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – It’s impossible to determine how much, if at all, trade speculation truly distracts a team. But in the case of the Memphis Grizzlies, it’s fair to speculate that it has a lot.

“Trade rumors have been in this league since they’ve allowed trades,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said in Dallas 10 days ago as rumors of the franchise shopping Rudy Gay — as well as Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol — ran rampant.

Hollins is right, of course, but it doesn’t mean trade rumors are any less difficult to wrap the brain around now than in Hollins’ playing days. It’s actually an impossible argument to make in the Internet age and now with social media fueling speculation by the millisecond.

That night in Dallas was the start of three consecutive blowout losses for Memphis. Monday’s 82-81 home loss to Indiana makes it four in the last six games as the Grizzlies have fallen off the pace of the West’s top three teams and are fending off Golden State for fourth place.

A smaller-scale Cavs-Grizzlies trade consummated this morning gets Memphis under the dreaded luxury tax this season without needing to move any of its key pieces and perhaps gets it back to work with clearer minds.

This group, having grown into contenders together, wanted the chance to remain together and compete for a championship this season.

The reported trade will send young Memphis reserves Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby, plus a first-round draft pick to Cleveland for end-of-bencher John Leuer.

Memphis’ new ownership group wants no part of the CBA’s harsher luxury tax penalties to come. And with Gay, Gasol, Randolph and point guard Mike Conley on the books for a combined $58.7 million next season, Tuesday’s trade ultimately only postpones the inevitable trade of Gay and/or others until the summer. 

As CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger tweeted: “Welcome to luxury taxonomics.”

The new CBA, drafted with the intent to help small-market clubs keep their rosters intact, isn’t really working out that way. Chris Paul was traded from New Orleans to the Los Angeles Clippers before the start of the 2011-12 season. The Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets before the start of this season. And the Grizz will ship out Gay and/or others this summer to align their books with the new economic times.

The trade can be considered a win-now for the Grizz’s key components and fans who didn’t want the core split up before they had a chance to attack the postseason one last time. Remember, in 2010-11, Gay got injured and missed the playoffs. Memphis upset San Antonio in the first round and lost in the second round in seven grueling games to the Thunder.

Randolph injured his knee early on last season, came back late, but never got to full strength. Memphis lost Game 1 — blowing a huge lead — and Game 7 on its home floor in the first round to the Clippers.

“I definitely want to see this team stick together,” Randolph said that night in Dallas. “I’ve been with these guys four years. Rudy’s been here the longest. You want to see us together because we’ve come a long way, definitely.”

The downside to the deal is that the Grizzlies’ bench gets a little lighter. Although Speights’ role had decreased with the return of Darrell Arthur from injury, the 6-foot-10, 255-pounder averaged 6.5 ppg and 4.7 rpg in just 14.5 mpg. Ellington was Memphis’ most accurate 3-point shooter (42.3 percent) on a team that desperately needs that component.

But, at least as the Grizzlies reach the halfway point of their season at home Wednesday against the slumping Los Angeles Lakers, the core remains and they can get back to work with minds more at ease.

Grizzlies’ Arthur Eager To End Double-Trouble Layoff

Eighteen months, one week and one day. That’s how long it’s been since Darrell Arthur played a game in anger, as they say. For his NBA employers, the Memphis Grizzlies, and for his own self.

The Grizzlies look considerably different since that playoff loss to Oklahoma City in May 2011 – O.J. Mayo, Shane Battier, Sam Young and Greivis Vasquez are all gone, as is Michael Heisley as the team’s principal owner. In their place: owner Robert Pera and players such as Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington and an Arthur playalike Marreese Speights. But Memphis’ record (8-2) and status as an NBA contender look good again, same as before, and Arthur is eager to feel a part of that.

Just as long as someone provides the bubble wrap. That shouldn’t be too much to ask in an arena named the FedEx Forum, should it? His unwrapping begins Friday night at home against the Lakers.

If there were “Fragile / Handle with Care” stickers on Arthur before, no one paid much attention to them. The 6-foot-9 forward from Dallas, by way of the University of Kansas, had what would have been his fourth NBA season wiped out by a torn Achilles tendon last winter, then had his comeback delayed by a leg fracture in a pickup game in September. Now, finally, he’s ready to contribute, as Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins explained to Memphis beat writer Ronald Tillery:

“He’s an athletic 6-9 guy who can play the smaller forwards,” Hollins said. “He can shoot the ball so he can spread the court. He can rebound. He plays with a lot of energy and hustle. … I want to get him in the game and give him confidence. When we started the season, I envisioned Darrell and Mo (Speights) playing together with Marc [Gasol] and Zach [Randolph] both sitting on the bench.”

That sort of rotation mostly has been a luxury Memphis couldn’t afford, lack sufficient frontcourt depth. But with Arthur available again – along with Speights, acquired last January soon after Arthur went down, the Grizzlies might not have to ride its stellar bigs quite so hard. Randolph and Gasol again have been averaging nearly 38 and 37 minutes nightly, respectively.

Even when Arthur was out of sight, he wasn’t out of mind for Memphis; the team signed him to a three-year, $9.7 million contract before his Achilles rehab even was complete. But having him on the floor – that is, running, jumping and cavorting on the floor rather than writhing on it – figures to be better still.

Early Run Of Injuries Taking Its Toll


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks signed journeyman big man Eddy Curry out of desperation at the center position with Chris Kaman injured. When he returned, Dallas cut Curry and signed out-of-work Troy Murphy because power forward took top billing on the depth chart with Dirk Nowitzki rehabbing from surgery.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, down four starters and six rotation players to injury, signed Josh Howard off the street Thursday. The Toronto Raptors are reportedly looking into unemployed 3-point shooter Mickael Pietrus to plug into their injury-depleted roster.

Entering just the third week of the 2012-13 season, injuries — many to some of the game’s biggest and brightest stars — are the overwhelming story line as overworked team medical staffs are on 24-hour notice.

Both conferences can field a veritable All-Star team, position-by-position, of players that have recently returned from injury, were injured prior to the season or are injured now.

The West: Steve Nash, Ricky Rubio, Eric Gordon, Shawn Marion, Chauncey Billups, Kevin Love, Nowitzki, Andrew Bogut.

The East: Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Dwyane Wade, Danny Granger, Amar’e StoudemireAndrew Bynum, Nene.

Yet that’s hardly all of the NBA’s wounded. Here’s more of those who have been, still are or just got injured: Gerald Wallace, Gerald Henderson, Mario ChalmersDevin Harris, A.J. PriceNikola Pekovic, Kirk HinrichGrant Hill, J.J. Barea, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Anthony Davis, Steve Blake, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Channing Frye, Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert, Alan Anderson, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Avery Bradley.

When Minnesota came to Dallas earlier this week with five players out (and Pekovic’s sprained ankle in the third quarter would make it six), coach Rick Adelman engaged in something of a “Who’s on First” rapid-fire Q & A with beat writer Jerry Zgoda.

Jerry: Who’s your backup 3 and your backup 2?

Rick: We don’t have a backup 3. I’m going to start Malcolm (Lee) tonight at the 2 and bring Alexey (Shved) off the bench at both spots. And then at the 3, I don’t know, we’re going to slide somebody there.

Jerry: Have to play AK (Andrei Kirilenko) 48 minutes?

Rick: I don’t want to do to that. We don’t need to wear him out, too.

Jerry: Can you get five or six (minutes) out of (assistant coach Terry) Porter?

Rick: I don’t think so.

A year ago, the worry around the league was how an abbreviated training camp following the hasty resolution to the lockout and then a compacted, 66-game schedule would affect player health. With a full, month-long camp this time around and a complete slate of eight preseason games, this spate of injuries is as unexpected as unfortunate.

Entering this weekend’s games, only the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder among the league’s 30 teams boast clean injury reports, and 22 list more than one injured player.

When the Mavericks play the Indiana Pacers tonight, they expect to get Marion back after a five-game absence with a sprained left knee. Nowitzki will remain out as will Indiana’s Granger. For Dallas, it’s been a strange run of not only playing shorthanded, but facing teams with at least one starter sidelined. They played, in order: Toronto (Lowry), New York (Stoudemire), Charlotte (Henderson), Minnesota (Love, Rubio, Roy, Budinger) and Washington (Wall, Nene).

“The league’s not going to stop and wait for you,” Adelman said the other night about his team’s rash of injuries. “A lot teams are having the same issues with major injuries. As a coaching staff you can’t coach the people that aren’t there. You only can coach the people that are there.”

And so it goes in a very strange first month in the NBA.

Rick’s Tips: Waiver Watching


If you’re anything like me, you’ve been watching so much basketball that you almost feel guilty about all the time spent on the couch. But don’t beat yourselves up basketball fans, because we waited five months for this, through a late start and even near cancellation. So ignore the cold shoulders, the honey do’s, and even the cat calls, because you’re an NBA fan, and this is what we do.

I know a lot of you are pretty bummed out about all these DNPs, but get used to them — and their unpredictable nature. I’m a big believer in the law of percentages, what goes around comes around, and all that jazz, so don’t sweat it if you’ve lost a game or two due to excessive DNPs. You have to trust that these random events will even out over time.

The powers that be at NBA.com wanted me to look ahead on the waiver wire for you, which is a great idea because a) it’s the quickest and easiest way to improve your team, b) the waiver wire has never been more important with all these injuries, and c) working the waiver wire is a personal specialty of mine. So let’s get started…

Marreese Speights

Zach Randolph’s knee injury caused the Grizzlies’ front office to trade for Speights, who had 17 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes Sunday against the Lakers. The numbers are pretty good, but what’s impressive to me is that he did it in his second game with his new team.

You have seen the spike in production from Marc Gasol and that trend will continue until 20-10 gets healthy enough to play, roughly two months from now. And when you combine the absence of 20-10 with Darrell Arthur’s season-ending injury, the door is wide open for Speights to play starters’ minutes and rack up the goodies.

Matt Barnes

While I’m not a fan of his game in reality (too many bad passes and too much complaining), I am a fan of his fantasy numbers when he’s rolling — and right now Matt Barnes is rolling. In the last two games he has 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks, three steals, and two 3s, making him viable in any fantasy format.

Barnes was a disappointment for the Lakers last season, largely because of a lingering knee injury. But he’s healthy and making plays in Mike Brown’s non-triangular system. Barnes is probably still on waivers in your league, but he won’t be for long if he keeps playing like this.

Jimmer Fredette

The reigning College Player of the Year is being dropped by impatient owners two weeks into the season. This is a mistake.

The dude can ball, he just needs minutes — and those minutes could come under new coach Keith Smart, who ran a guard-friendly offense in Golden State last year. Smart has played Jimmer only 37 minutes in his first two games as head coach, but coaches change their minds — and their rotations — all the time.

Jimmer is the perfect stash player because he has plenty of upside in assists and threes, typically the two toughest categories to find on waivers.

Toney Douglas

Douglas is being dropped like sippy cups at a birthday party. Fantasy owners are turning their backs on Douglas because of Iman Shumpert’s emergence, and the fact that Douglas was scoreless in 18 minutes over his last two games. Douglas has been dealing with a shoulder injury though, so don’t give up on him just yet.

In fact, check him out tonight on NBA TV and be ready to pounce if he gets back to bringing the MSG crowd to its feet. Douglas is a great source for threes and steals, so keep your eye on his minutes.

Tony Allen

Allen posted back-to-back 20-point games leading into Sunday’s tilt with the Lakers, but he crashed back to earth with four points and four fouls in 13 minutes. That was to be expected, though, as Allen is charged with guarding the opposition’s top wing player — and Sunday it was future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant.

Lionel Hollins is using a committee approach in trying to make due without Zach, and Allen is a big part of that committee. The Grizzlies’ junkyard dog is probably still on waivers in your league, but you need to add him to your scout team and stay ready. One more 20-point game and Allen won’t be on waivers for long.

Dalembert, Others Await Teams’ Call

HANG TIME TEXAS, Y’ALL – Though time is growing late as the Christmas Day tipoff draws near, our friend Chris Sheridan at Sheridan Hoops says there are still several free agents available that should have been signed by now, with Kings shotblocker supreme Samuel Dalembert heading the list.

Lest we all forget, Dalembert was somewhat linked to landing in Miami with the Heat early in the free-agency game. That has since changed as he recently told Fox Sports Florida’s Chris Tomasson that taking the Heat’s $5 million exception “would be tough.” Houston has emerged as a suitor of late, but where Dalembert and several other talented-but-still unemployed free agents end up is a mystery:

Samuel Dalembert should have been signed by now. A shot-blocking and rebounding specialist, the 7-footer would figure to be in his demand simply because capable 7-footers are always seemingly in high demand.

Dalembert had been in negotiations with the Houston Rockets, who have been trying to dig out of the rubble caused when commissioner David Stern dynamited their trade with the Hornets and Lakers, ruining their plans to field a front line of Pau Gasol and Nene.

But now that the news is out that the Kings have voided the contract of free agent signee Chuck Hayes because of a heart abnormality, it makes all that much more sense for Dalembert to re-sign with the Kings, whose owners vowed to keep him at the conclusion of last season.

Yet Dalembert remains idle, as is Kris Humphries, who averaged a double-double for New Jersey last season before marrying and then breaking up with Kim Kardashian.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies made an offer to Bobcats forward Dante Cunningham when they got news that Darrell Arthur would be lost for the season due to a torn Achilles’ tendon.

In the wake of the Kings voiding the four-year, $21-million contract to Chuck Hayes after a physical found a heart irregularlity, don’t think for a minute that his former team in Houston won’t be interested. One thing the Rockets never doubted was Hayes’ heart.

Is there yet an NBA team that can make the right offer to get Andrei Kirilenko to return from his native Russia?

And what about Gilbert Arenas? Isn’t there somebody still willing to roll the dice?