Allen Iverson has agreed to a $3.5 million dollar deal with the Grizzlies. My last post was sort me being an AI apologist, but I'm serious when I say that the Grizzlies will be a fringe playoff team next year. On top of that, it will bring the Grizzlies out of their financial slump and the owner Michael Heisley will be able to recover some financial loss he has suffered over the years from the team. There are two reasons I love this deal for the Grizzlies.
The first reason this deal is awesome is because the Grizzlies get a player that made about $21mil last year with the Pistons and Nuggets for 1/7 of that price. He still has some of what allowed him to be one of the best players in the NBA at one point. Here is the best part about the deal for the Grizzlies. They get some offensive production with veteran experience who plays a very similar game to the Grizzlies' up-and-coming star, OJ Mayo. AI will undoubtedly rub off on Mayo and that can only help Mayo. One of the things that people may be worried about AI being the mentor to AI will be the lack of work ethic that has followed AI throughout his career. Ever since Mayo came into the league, one of the highest praises of Mayo was his relentless dedication to working out and putting in the effort to make his game better. Mixing AI's skills into OJ's game will make OJ a better player in the end. The negative characte influence, if any, will come from Zach Randolph, not AI.
The second reason I like this move is for Memphis' balance sheet. AI is going to be a huge draw. This is a Grizzlies team that was losing about $300,000 a game last season. AI is the biggest name player to ever come to the Memphis Grizzlies. Huge for the franchise and the fans in Memphis. If you think about it, the Grizzlies have a really exciting team. A team with a very strong core of talent. All of their current starters, not including AI, average about 11ppg or more. They have a young core and if Zach Randolph can get his act together and play something close to defense, the Grizzlies will be an improved team. If Randolph decides he still doesn't want to play defense, the Grizzlies have the shot blockers of Marc Gasol and Hasheem Thabeet who should be a dynamic inside duo. The Grizzlies have an extraordinarily fast back court with the trio of Mike Conley, OJ Mayo, and Allen Iverson. That is going to be tough for defenses to prepare for. Lets just stay on the safe side for now and predict that the Grizzlies have improved 7 games from last season with Allen Iverson and will finish 10th in the Western Conference while being a real competitor for the 8th spot the entire year. They have a lot of weapons, so lets not count this team out.
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One of the worst parts about being a professional sports fan is watching a former great player in the later part of his career struggle. When I say struggle, I mean struggle to find his old step, his old skill, his spot on the team, etc. This is what has inspired this post. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the situation for AI isn't as bad as it seems. Here is an explanation why.
Yeah, AI is coming off his worst statistical career, but he is an incredible athlete and can still make an impact on a team this year. It has already been reported that AI isn't going to the Knicks, but the Bobcats, Heat, Clippers, and Grizzlies are still on the table. However, AI's biggest offer is coming from Olympiacos in Greece for $10million over 2 years.
I'm all for AI going to Greece and joining Josh Childress, Linas Kleiza, and most recently, Von Wafer, but it won't be the same for AI as it is over here. The life of a Euroleague player is far from the royal treatment players get in the US, but if AI is looking for the money, Greece is the way to go. He'll most likely get a great house, a private car, driver, chef, etc. all paid for by Olympiacos, but the coaching will be much different than it is in the NBA. They will most likely run few plays for Iverson, and will look for Iverson to be a distributor first. That will definitely be a problem for AI's scorer's mentality. I think that the biggest problem for AI is his perception of the competition. AI believes that he can play at the highest level for a few more years. Is it really about the money for him now? The Euro ball will be a good experience, but Iverson believes he can help any NBA team he signs with compete for a championship. If I were Iverson, taking a Euro contract would be basically conceding that my career in the NBA is over and that I'm settling for second best. Not going to fly with AI (rhyme not intended).
I think that AI's best opportunity is in Miami. They are a mid-level team in the East and have a core of young talent. The one thing that is preventing the Heat from pulling the trigger is salary cap. AI would cause the Heat to incur a harsher luxury tax penalty than they are currently paying. The only other way to avoid this would be to start cutting players. Udonis Haslem and his $7.1 million would probably be the first to go and then down the line from there. From a basketball standpoint, AI would give them a boost in the back court. It would allow Mario Chalmers one more year to develop into a solid point guard, and also allow Quentin Richardson to play with another guy who would open up space for Richardson to shoot. AI and D-Wade would be a nightmare for teams to match up against, and if Jermaine O'Neal could put together anything resembling a decent season, the Heat might be in good shape. I think it is something the Heat front office should seriously consider.
Before I leave, I just wanted to repost the "Stephon Marbury Barbie Girl" video because it is an instant classic.
2009 will be marked as the year social media networking became mainstream. Facebook has become one of the most popular websites on the internet and everyone is getting on the site to communicate with their network of friends. The more instantaneous communication bridge is twitter. Everyone from politicians, to athletes, to college professors are getting on twitter to communicate to whoever will listen. As I've watched what NBA players are doing on social media these days, I've started to think about how it has revolutionized how fans are connecting with players in a new way. Whether these players know it or not, they have become pioneers of social media, and are becoming more accessible to fans than ever before. The mystique of the professional athlete is being slowly unveiled through the new options for creative exposure on the internet.
Lets start with Shaq. He is one of the most marketable athletes in the history of sports and it is due to his affable and unpredictable personality. Shaq's twitter is always a treat, but the reason I put Shaq at the top of this is because of his new reality show. His show is a great idea in theory, and we will all undoubtedly watch because watching Shaq step out of his element and challenge other top athletes is going to be hilarious. But lets really think about why we enjoy this, and why twitter has become so popular among celebrities. It is the connection that a common person can share with them. To know that Shaq is actually mortal in an athletic endeavor is a comforting and relatable thing. In essence, it is like Shaq is one of us. What Shaq will do on a field that is not a basketball court is very similar to what you and I would do against these athletes. We can appreciate that Shaq, the 7'1 325lbs Superman, is making himself vulnerable. (It is also worth noting that T.O's reality show is achieving the same effect as Shaq's show in opening up allowing us to relate to him better.)
Love him or hate him, Stephon Marbury is doing some great stuff online. His 24 hour webcam was outrageously entertaining. For all of the flak Marbury was taking in the last few years, we have to respect a guy who opens up his life to us and unabashedly entertains us for no good reason other than to be a clown. As fans, we want that exposure and connection to an athlete. It is more than a chatroom that some PR rep for the player is undoubtedly responding on while the player is watching a movie on a 60+ inch flat screen tv. Marbury was not only responding to chatroom messages, but honoring requests from chatters. In one instance, a chatroom messager told Marbury that his chains were making too much noise and Marbury playfully removed the chains. It was a stunt by Marbury that I hope catches on around the league.
The last player who I can't get enough of recently is Ron Artest. Artest has taken this social media deal to another level. The guy posts his phone number on twitter and starts taking calls from fans. How great can it get? Can't we take comfort in the fact that Artest willingly did a telethon with fans without being forced by his agent? Artest used a bit more of an innovative way to connect with fans, but it isn't for everyone.
The bottom line is increased exposure and willingness to connect with fans translates into more marketing potential for the player. These players get it. Put yourself out there and people will start to look at you as more than a basketball player and one of their friends. That is how you move your brand. I won't be surprised if this becomes more mainstream among athletes who decide to become more innovative in the way they use social media. These campaigns by these players are a way for them to show us a side of them off the court in a setting where the player isn't trying to sell us a product. They are just showing us who they are, and that is something we can hang onto.
The Lakers finally retaining Lamar Odom with a 4 year deal that could be worth as much as $33 million when it is all said and done is a huge piece for the Lakers as they start their journey for a back-to-back title run. I was a huge pessimist about keeping Odom, and I said that if the Lakers did not keep Odom, the Lakers would not have a chance at winning the championship. LO's signing instantly propels the Lakers to the favorite to win the championship, but besides the championship implications of LO, I started thinking about what kind of impact this is going to have on the Lakers as a whole, but Ron Artest specifically.
LO and Artest go back to their childhood days in Queens on the AAU court together. Few have stopped to ponder what kind of chemistry that could bring to the Lakers. The type of chemistry and understanding LO and Artest have cannot be taught. It is a rare type of chemistry that is always unintentional and never detrimental.
Lamar Odom is the most versatile player in the NBA. As Vic "The Brick" Jacobs says, "He is the walking mismatch." Lamar can shoot, pass, drive, rebound, and play defense. He may not always put all the effort in throughout the season to do all these things, but when the time comes, he has shown that he can step up. Artest has a tendancy to start getting trigger happy or going one-on-one. LO is going to be able to help facilitate anything for Artest. If LO drives, he can dish it out to Artest for his 15-17 foot deadly jumper or LO can stay on the perimeter to help create space for Artest to go one-on-one. It really doesn't matter what Artest wants to do because Odom will be a key player in helping Artest's production go up. Artest is going to feel a new freedom that he has never had in his career.
I was unsure of what Artest's impact was going to be without Lamar, but I'm optimistic about what Artest is going to do. Artest may not be as good a fit as Ariza, and we all know what overloading your team with stars can do, but LO is the glue that will make Artest work in the triangle. I usually explain some statsitics and make predictions as to what will happen to statistics in the next season, but that isn't how LO's impact should be valued. Lamar brings so much to the game that can't be quantified on the stat sheet.
There is one thing we can be sure of about Lamar Odom's impact, and that is it will be a very big positive for the Lakers. Ron Artest seems to have the most to gain individually from LO's acquisition. With a roster that boasts 4 legitimate scoring options in Kobe, Pau, Artest, and LO and a host of supporting role players, the Lakers will be the team to beat this season. The LO signing really does show us as basketball fans how valuable one player can be to a championship contending team. The expectations for the Lakers are no different than last year, and it seems like a lot of the pressure has been shifted from Kobe onto Lamar Odom.
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As the most boring month in the NBA calendar approaches us, we can't help but make something out of nothing. It is consensus that this rookie class is one of the weakest in NBA history, but that doesn't mean we can't check out some of the bright spots in the class. I think there are 3 players, outside of Blake Griffin, who will make an immediate impact who have flown under the radar.
Before we get into the three players, lets take a quick look at Griffin. We all know what this kid is capable of. He is a do-it-all player with great athleticism and a body to complement, but will that translate into the NBA? I think it will for a bit. I think that he will have production similar to what Kevin Love had last year, but Griffin won't translate into instant savior for the team. Griffin is about 3 years away from being the go-to guy on the team. The NBA physical play is something Griffin will need to get accustomed to quickly. The one thing that Griffin does have going for him is his ability to run the floor. With players like Eric Gordon, Sebastian Telfair and Baron Davis at the point, the opportunities for fast breaks will be plentiful due to their street ball style and free flowing offense (I call it free flow because I doubt even Mike Dunleavy knows what it is called). Having a big guy who can run the floor like Griffin will be a great asset.
DeMar DeRozan: I skipped Ricky Rubio because quite frankly, I just have not seen enough tape on him to make a clear judgment. DeRozan is a freak of an athlete. I'd even go as far as to say he is the most athletic player in the class. Do you remember when Vince Carter played on the Raptors and even took them to the playoffs? Carter actually played pretty hard against the Knicks in one of those series. Well, DeRozan is Vince Carter 2.0. DeRozan is a SG who can straight up score. Here is where I've broken it down to. DeRozan had a lot of success in college scoring because he is a power player with a lot of quickness (think Lebron, Carter, Andre Iguodala). He has a powerful first step and protects the ball marvelously. His defense is spotty, but that has the ability to improve dramatically because of his natural ability. DeRozan won't have a problem adjusting to the speed of the game because I'd put DeRozan in the top 25% in the league in terms of athleticism. Where DeRozan could get hurt is playing out of his natural game. DeRozan gets trigger happy and gets the "me vs the world" type mentality after he gets hot. You can't blame the guy. He has been a star since his days at Compton High onto his days at USC. I do think he is going to be a tremendous asset to Toronto this season. I think that he will benefit greatly from the pass happy Jose Calderon. Of course, it is Chris Bosh's team and DeRozan undoubtedly understands that. The key challege for DeMar will be to use his athleticism and improve his basketball iq. I'm expecting DeRozan to be an extremelty coachable player. We know that he is a hard worker and he will acclamate himself to the NBA game quickly. I'm expecting him to average about 12ppg, 6 rebs, and 2 steals a game. His game will surprise you, and his athleticism will awe you. I guarantee it.
Brandon Jennings: If you only know B. Jennings from the Joe Budden video, you better do some more YouTube searches for this kid. He is amazing. I do think that he is the second best player to come out of this draft. Don't let his Euro numbers fool you. The Euro League can really damage a lot of players stats. If you don't believe me, check out Josh Childress' stats. He is averaging single digits over at Olympiakos when he was a 10ppg player in the US. Jennings is no different. He wasn't treated like a superstar, he got kicked out of practices for not practicing hard enough, and his stats took a hit. Jennings can play. The reason I think he will make the biggest impact the quickest is due to what team he is on. Here at DishingDimes we are huge Ramon Sessions fans and if Sessions had a future in Milwaukee it would be a different story with Jennings. The fact is, Sessions is out and Luke Ridnour has never really been...in, so that leaves the door wide open for Jennings. The Bucks are incredibly weak in the back court as it is. With Michael Redd as the only proven consistent Buck, Jennings has a chance to shine. In fact, if he puts together the season that he is capable of, the Bucks could be one of the top 10 back courts in the league. Yes, the combo of Michael Redd and a Brandon Jennings livingup to his potential would equal a top 10 backcourt in the NBA, and there is no question about it. Jenning has a good shot, but it can obviously improve. Like DeRozan, he will start launching ill-advised shots if he is feeling it. This will probably drive Scott Skiles insane, but that will be part of Jennings' growth as a player. He will quickly learn that being a point guard in the NBA is more than making the right pass at the right time, it is something that can't really even be taught, it is just something the elite guards have and others don't. I believe that Jennings has the tools to be an elite guard in the league, and it is just a matter of him getting there. As you can tell, I'm incredibly high on Jennings and I think that he will be a player we will hear a lot from in the coming years. Expect him to put together 15ppg, 4 assists, 5 rebs, and a steal.
Tyreke Evans: There is no question in my mind that he is step two for the Kings to finally get back to their competitive position in the West. Evans has all of tools it takes for a guard to be successful in the league. If Kevin Martin actually starts to live up to his $55million dollar extension and produces like an $11 mil a year player then the Kings might have something here. Throw in the bright futured Jason Thompson and skilled center Spencer Hawes and you have a great young core up in Sacramento. Now, don't get me wrong, we're not talking championship here, in fact, we're not even talking playoffs right now at this point. We are just talking about improving. I think the Kings will get to 30 wins this season which is a 13 game improvement from their 17 last season. They are just missing too much in their lineup and their bench to warrant any other serious consideration. Ty Evans is a big guard who can get to the rim and will make big plays. He will have Kevin Martin to help lighten the load, but the Kings are asking a lot from Evans this season. I think that he will undoubtedly produce to his capabilities. He has incredibly good court awareness. He could dribble the ball up the court and right as he crosses mid court, he would be able to tell you exactly where every one of his teammates was on the court. You can see this awareness very clearly in the way he passes the ball. I also think he has amazing ball control and strength to defend any point guard in the league. It is hard to make any sort of concrete numbers prediction with Evans because the Kings are so sporadic, but I think 10 ppg and 5 assists per game is a safe bet. Pay attention to this kid up in Nor Cal, he will only get better as the season goes on.
Watch for these 3 guys because these 3 guys plus Griffin have the potential to be future All-Stars. This is what we love about sports, the ability to make predictions about players and watch them striving to reach their potential. This year has brought us weaker talent than we are used to, but don't be surprised if there are gems in this class. I think these guys will make a big impact for their teams.
Note: Players are not listed in any particular order.
Posts before July 2009 can be found at dishingdimes.blogspot.com