Posts Tagged ‘Xavier Henry’

Defensive-Minded: Success For Grizzlies’ Allen’s A Mix Of Trust, Belief, Resiliency

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Long before Tony Allen became a fixture on NBA All-Defensive Teams and back when the Oklahoma City Thunder still belonged to Seattle, some Oklahoma basketball fans cheered a hard-scrabble Chicago kid who serendipitously landed in rural Stillwater and has never stopped surviving.

Those Oklahoma faithful might now wish the most influential father figure in Allen’s life, a career college basketball assistant coach named Glynn Cyprien, had never left Oklahoma State to later wind up at the University of Memphis. Because the man who delivered the little-known junior-college guard with a knack for finding trouble to Eddie Sutton’s Oklahoma State Cowboys in 2003 also greased Allen’s free-agent signing seven years later, leaving the championship-caliber Boston Celtics for the then-middling Memphis Grizzlies.

“We never would have gotten him without Glynn,” said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, who also has longtime ties to Cyprien. “Tony helped put us over the top.”

Named to a third consecutive All-Defensive Team on Monday and a second consecutive First Team selection, Allen is tormenting overtaxed Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant and breaking the hearts of Thunder fans in this semifinal series the Grizzlies lead, 3-1.

Allen and the Grizzlies return tonight to Oklahoma City (9:30 ET, TNT), about an hour drive southwest of Stillwater, to try and close out the reigning-but-wounded Western Conference champs in Game 5.

Memphis had never won a playoff series before Allen signed in 2010. It hadn’t made the postseason since 2006. But this blue-collar bunch, epitomized by Allen’s tireless and genuine grit, is one win away from the team’s first conference final in its 18-year existence.

Allen’s story is all about timing, trust, belief and resiliency. Start with beating back life’s hard knocks — a father in prison, an adolescence set up to be knocked down like bowling pins — with an unbreakable spirit. He’s scraped away at a nine-year NBA career that’s finally in full bloom, having persevered through season after season of seemingly two steps forward, one step back. His is an evolutionary journey of constant self-improvement and forever proving his worth — through six seasons in Boston and, even initially in Memphis under coach Lionel Hollins — just to play.

In his second season at Oklahoma State, Allen carried the Cowboys to the 2004 Final Four as the Big 12 Player of the Year just two years after getting kicked out of his first of two junior-college stops. But that misfortune landed him at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill. That’s where Cyprien was dispatched by Sutton, not to recruit Allen, but to bring back a stud named Antwain Barbour, who would eventually sign with Kentucky and never play a minute in the NBA. It was Allen who kept catching Cyprien’s eye.

“Tony’s statistics weren’t great, but he had an overall good game, he played defense, he ran well and bottom line he was just real tough,” said Cyprien, now an assistant coach at Texas A&M. “When the game got late, he made tough plays.”

It’s his NBA calling card. And Durant and the Thunder are witnesses. Allen tilted the razor-thin margin in this series when Hollins finally called upon the 6-foot-4, self-proclaimed “junkyard dog” to sic the three-time scoring champ in the final three minutes of a nip-and-tuck Game 2. The call could have come in Game 1, when Durant scored 12 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter including the game-winner with 11 seconds to play. But Hollins was sticking to his original declaration that Allen would be no match for the impossibly long Durant.

Allen shrugged and suggested Hollins got desperate as the Grizz were in jeopardy of falling into a 2-0 hole against a team playing without its All-Star point guard, Russell Westbrook.

Yet maybe that’s just the way it’s supposed to be for Allen, nothing ever coming without outside doubt, nothing ever certain, always having to prove himself over again. Even to his coach of three seasons, unless, as Allen was asked after the Game 2 win when he held Durant scoreless in those decisive final minutes, maybe Hollins was trying to inspire him.

“I don’t play mind games. I just go out there and do my job,” Allen said. “My confidence is always sky-high. If you try to limit me, then you limit me. But I will continue to show you that I work and I continue to get better each and every day. Whatever your limitations are on me, I am always ready to prove you wrong.” (more…)

Grizzlies Randolph Out Up To 8 Weeks

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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 ESPN.com.  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.

Memphis holding out on rookies

Remember the rookie holdout? Remember when the likes of Jim Jackson, Billy Owens and Glenn Robinson refused to ink that first NBA contract until they squeezed every nickel possible out of their teams?

Robinson was essentially the last of that breed when the Big Dog attempted to highjack Milwaukee for $100 million in 1994. Those days went the way of the underhanded free throw the following year with the implementation of the rookie salary scale.

The scale has undergone modifications over the years, but the essence remains the same. Rookies know almost to the penny what they’re going to get based on Draft position. It pretty much eliminates the guesswork of negotiations, making sure those NBA neophytes are signed and sealed long before training camp.

That brings Hang Time to the curious cases of Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez, Memphis’ two unsigned first-round picks. The two guards, taken 12th and 28th, have yet to come to terms in an almost unprecedented display of hardball.

But instead of the players holding out for better deals, the Grizzlies are standing firm. The rookie salary scale allows each pick to sign for up to 120 percent of their slot figure. In the case of Henry, the slot is $1.68 million for this year. The starting amount for Vasquez is $863,000.

Most teams usually just go with the 120 percent figure and wrap up a contract. The Grizz aren’t opposed to going there, they just aren’t guaranteeing it. Memphis wants that last 20 percent to be tied to performance bonuses, such as playing 70 games and averaging 15 minutes for Henry.

The contract dispute has put the sharp-shooter out of Kansas behind in his early preparation for this summer, as Henry didn’t take part in Summer League. Still, about six weeks remain before training camp. Vasquez did play on the Grizzlies’ summer squad.

Henry’s agent Arn Tellem isn’t too thrilled with Memphis’ stance. Tellem told the Associated Press that only one player out of 450 drafted since the rookie scale began 15 years ago has agreed to performance bonuses. The Grizzlies apparently want to triple that figure.

“Basic fairness and equality are fundamental aspects of every positive organization-player relationship, and those concepts are totally absent from the Grizzlies’ current proposal to Xavier,” Tellem said.

Sounds like some good ole fashioned negotiating. We just don’t see it with rookies anymore. The Big Dog can relate.