Memphis Grizzlies: Playoff fixture, Title Contender – Mo Betta Blues #memphisgrizzlies #grindhouse

Once upon a time there a pro basketball team in Memphis that always came in a distant second to Coach Calipari and his Memphis Tigers which had come within a free throw of winning a national title. Five years and four playoff appearances later the Fedex Forum are now always sold-out and the city of Memphis are fully behind this resurgent franchise that continues to show the nation and the league that they ain’t your daddy’s griz grindhouseGrizzlies.

When the Grizzlies traded the cornerstone of their franchise Pau Gasol many believed that Memphis had been bamboozled getting two broom sticks, a rusty nickel (Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, and Aaron McKie), and a vertically challenged little known big man and second round pick Marc Gasol. Although the janitorial appliances yielded little fruit as many expected the lesser known Gasol has become the franchise’s new cornerstone, ‘whose the dummy now?’

griz front courtWith his frontcourt mate, Zach Randolph fully recovered from a knee injury the Grizzlies embody the toughness and swagger of their two big men who can’t out jump an ant but constantly outwork and out hustle their more athletic counterparts. The toughness of this team is further fortified by defensive stalwart Tony Allen who was named to the NBA All-Defensive first team.

When Lionel Hollins was named coach at his disposable he had a collection of former lottery pick prema-donnas who only seemed to be concerned with their stat line and not with winning games. However, Hollins quickly cleaned house disregarding draft selections and only putting the players on the floor who exhibited toughness, hustle, and selflessness. Promising first round lottery picks Xavier Henry, OJ Mayo, Darrell Author found themselves riding the pine while second round after thoughts logged major minutes in the clutch.

It may have taken a while for young stars point guard Mike Conley and swing-man Rudy Gay to buy in the success the Grizzlies are experiencing can be largely attributed to the growth and maturity of these two. As early as high school Rudy Gay has only shown glimpses of the dominant that everyone knows that he is gay n conleycapable of. Gay has slowly come into his own become a match up nightmare that is reliable in the clutch.

Once only known as the robin to former number pick Greg Oden, Mike Conley has become more than just a facilitator finally living up to his early first round draft selection. Early in his career Conley was viewed as an offensive liability in the clutch due to a poor free throw shooting and a non-existent jump shot. Although he may never get selected to an All-Star due to the deep stable of talented point guards in the Western Conference his play during the NBA playoffs has left no doubt that he belong in the discussion of elite point guards.

force to be reckoned withAlthough the Grizzlies were on a 3-game losing streak there is no doubt in the minds of many that come playoff time this team would certainly be one to be reckoned with. Often lost in the discussion of NBA title favorites the Grizzlies have already logged impressive wins over the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunders, and the New York Knicks. See a pattern, although the Memphis Grizzlies may never make a grindhouseSportscenter highlight, do not be surprised if the Larry O’Brien trophy calls the House of Blues its new home. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

Dwight Howard – ailing back, 4th quarter liability, questionable work ethic = Max contract?? #dwightmare

Last night Dwight Howard record his fifth consecutive double-double, but what did it matter if the Los Angeles Lakers continued their losing ways with a dismal 2-8 road record. Although Dwight has already been voted to his 6th consecutive All-Star game the question must be asked, has he reached his ceiling? Have we alreadysuperman rises seen the best of what he has to offer? For nearly nine seasons fans have witnessed Superman run like a gazelle and dish out punishment leading the league in rebounding and block shots.

But after off-season back surgery fans have only seen glimpses of the dominant force who clearly is not operating at 100%. Although his early return may be for the good of the team in the long run Dwight is only doing himself and the Laker franchise a disservice. Dwight is currently averaging career lows in a contract year and after a disastrous last season which ended with his exit more than his performance will be used to determine who enters the Dwight-sweepstakes and what will be the final asking price this summer.

d12Yes, Dwight is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds but have anyone ever left you so unimpressed because the player was truly capable of doing more especially judging by his performances in season’s past. Although D-12 may never be considered a mediocre player averaging twenty points per game does not automatically make you elite or does it automatically give you entry into the NBA Basketball Hall of Fame.

When compared to the other big men who dawned the purple and gold Dwight ranks in a distant seventh at best when compared to the other Laker big men:

  1. Wilt Chamberlinlaker big men
  2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  3. Shaquille O’Neal
  4. George Mikan
  5. Bill Walton
  6. Pau Gasol
  7. Dwight Howard

The big men ranked ahead of Dwight were dominant big men who took pride in their craft whose games and skills expanded and improved each year while they were in the NBA. Although Dwight’s legacy has yet to be determined in its entirety an ailing back and a continued lack of maturity may end up being his demise.

Each year in the league his current teammate Kobe Bryant added something new to his repertoire in his questdunking dwight for greatness. Since coming into the league straight from high school what new has Dwight Howard added to his game beside the occasional dunk and swat. Those who are great are always working on their games, its apparent that the same cannot be said about Dwight Howard who seems to be more concerned with becoming an actor and promoting his new Adidas shoes.

d12 decisionDwight will certainly become a wealthy man because of the game of basketball but once he can no longer run faster or jump higher than his peers what legacy will he leave. In the NBA there are many tells of ‘shoulda, coulda woulda’s, if Dwight does not grow up he will end up on that list and not in the Hall of Fame. As the season progresses he future with the Lakers and his play will be watched closely. Will he be a Laker next year? Another True Hollywood Story, stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Los Angeles Lakers: From first to worst? Another true hollywood story #lakernation

Last night the Los Angeles Lakers reached a new low as they were run out of the arena by the Cleveland Cavaliers bringing their abysmal road record to 2-7. At the start of the season the Laker faithful envisioned a return of the Showtime Lakers but so far this season it seems like Kobe has been the only one who is showing up for games while his peers look like their just collecting checks. The personnel on the court clearly do not fit the system that D’Antoni wants to run and with the front office already strapped for cash the question many will ask is what do they do now?

An 82-game season has already cost the Lakers their starting point guard Steve Nash the first quarter of thed12 brick season, due to age and nerve damage in his shin his return continues to be unknown. In his quest for the big stage among the stars of Hollywood Dwight Howard has consistently folded under pressure, proving to be liability and deflecting blame for his poor play in crunch time. (9-21 from the stripe against his former team the Orlando Magic).

Too make matters worst the wear and tear of 16 year pro career in addition to his yearly commitment to the Spanish National Team has finally caught up to Pau Gasol who is currently collecting DNP (do not plays) due to arthritis in his knees. Although he has struggled to assimilate into D’Antoni’s offense the contributions of a career 18 pt 10 reb has certainly been missed.

laker best losersWith the Laker front office having large contracts and no desirable assets outside of Kobe Bryant it looks like a long season of unmet expectations appears to be in store. As the frustration continues to mount expect there to come a time when Kobe reaches his breaking point like he did back in 2007 when he demanded to be traded.  Although Phil Jackson is somewhere laughing at the current state of the Lakers it is critical that this team exhibit some resilience or they risk missing the playoffs all together.

If the Lakers went from title favorite to not even sniffing the playoffs a once proud franchise would be in a phil chipcomplete state of embarrassment and total disarray. At this rate its safe to assume that Gasol and Metta World Peace have played their last season in a Laker uniform as their contracts are likely to be bought out at season’s end. The fate of Dwight Howard remains unknown but judging by Coach D’Antoni’s man crush it appears that the Lakers are committed to making Dwight their franchise player.

Despite failing to meet expections the Lakers have been anything but boring so far fire dantonithis season. As D’Antoni’s former team the New York Knicks continue to thrive his Lakers continue to lose using the same broken system that cost him his job in New York. Who would have imagined that the Lakers would have to settle with the Knicks sloppy seconds. If only the Lakers front office had a reset button the season may have turned out so different. As the drama and suspense continues stay tuned. I know I will – A. Denmark

Road2Final4: Louisville Cardinals, second in the state but favorite to win NCAA title #louisvillecardinals

The state of Kentucky is home to one of the most heated rivalries in the country, longtime friends and familyhouse divided members often do not speak when the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals battle for state supremacy. Since Coach Calipari’s arrival to the Bluegrass State the Wildcats have dominated the rivalry, attracted the nation’s top recruits, and won conference and national championships.

However, only a few miles away another Hall-of-Fame coach was slowly building an elite program by developing final four cards talent with diamond in the roughs who did not appear destined to shake the hands of Commissioner Stern after playing one year of college basketball. The talent that Rick Pitino has assembled in Louisville finally looks ready to not only to regain state supremacy but also bring another national championship back to the state of Kentucky.

The Cardinals are led by senior point guard Peyton Silva and slasher Russ Smith silvawho each spent the summer improving their games and ignored the lure of the NBA Draft. Silva was once known just for his scoring but each year he has continued to refine his skills by getting his teammates the ball.  Not known to see a shot he did not like Russ nicknamed ‘Russ-diculous’ by Coach Pitino has finally begun to play within the offense and seldom goes rogue unless a scoring punch is needed (scoring a career-high 31 points against UMKC.)

The frontcourt is led by Gorgui Dieng an import from Sudan who brings a defensive presence to the Cardinal not in my housefrontcourt that makes opponents think twice before coming into the lane. His partner in crime Chane Behannan who despite being an undersized forward is a monster on the boards who has finally shook the injury bug that plagued him last year.

Pitino appears to have the pieces in place to make some noise in March, there is very little drop off from the second unit who are led by sophomore guard Wayne Blackshear and two former Parade All-Americans, sophomore guard Kevin Ware and former Virginia Tech commit forward Montrezl Harrell.

card swagExpectations in Louisville could not be higher and although the Cards have lost their defensive intimidator in Gorgui Dieng to a broken wrist until December 19th their play in his absence has truly been impressive. Coach Pitino has used the absence of his defensive stopper as an opportunity to build depth and get minutes for his talented but inexperienced big men who he will need come tournament time.

Although it has taken Pitino longer than expected to build another title contender armed with the experience from last year’s final four run the time to crown a new king of Kentucky may be fastcard big east champs approaching. The Cardinals have the senior leadership and the talent to contend, but will they finally win when it counts? The battle for Kentucky on December 29th will determine more than just a ‘W,’ but bragging rights, recruits, and maaybe even a number seed in the tournament. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Lin-who? Lin-what? Lin-plz?: New York Knicks, a contender to remember? #nyknicks

148 days and $25 million dollars ago fans of the New York Knicks was unsure of what the future held for their promising franchise. The anxiety felt by the Madison Garden faithful was understandable due to the many questionable off-season moves the Knicks front office had made in the past. With those memories still fresh in the minds of many, the Knicks front office decision to part ways with Jeremy Lin a break star who had become a global icon and over-night sensation. But eighteen games into this season the decision to pass on Lin-sanityfelt so good looks like a brilliant move that has not only saved the franchise millions but also gave them the flexibility to sign point guard Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd at bargain prices and also retain their two 3-pt marksmen, JR Smith and Steve ‘discount-double-check’ Novak.

After two convincing wins over the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat the Knicks are entering themelo defense jokes unchartered territory of expectation. Projected to finish no better than fifth in the Eastern Conference the New York Knicks currently sit in first place. What makes the Knicks ascension so impressive is that the Knicks have yet to play a game with their full arsenal of players ( Shumpert out with knee & Stoudamire out with knee). Coach Mike Woodson has done a remarkable job of instilling a tough defensive mentality in players who used to be only concerned with scoring. Although Carmelo my never contend for defensive MVP the effort that he has begun to exert on the defense has set a tone of unselfishness and sacrifice required of a star if he wants to contend for a NBA title.

jr smithOnce only known for scoring it appears that Carmelo has finally came into his own as the leader of this franchise. His growth as player may largely be attributed to future Hall-of-Fame point guard Jason Kidd who became a Knick this off-season. With Melo out due to a laceration on his shooting hand Coach Woodson continues to build depth and solidify a solid second unit that will become an asset during the playoffs.

At this point it appears that the entire Knicks franchise has bought into the Woodson philosophy but everyone will hold their breath to see if Amare Stoudamire and Imam Shumpert follow suit. As the season progresses the expectations for the New York Knicks will continue to mount. It has been nba titlenearly four years since Madison Garden was home to an NBA Champion. They have the star in Carmelo, the defensive stalwart in Tyson, the bench and defensive minded coach to contend for a title. As the season continues NY loyalist will prepare to be disappointed but hope to be proven wrong. Stay tuned… I know I will. –  A. Denmark

Road2Final Four:Kentucky Wildcats, unranked today, title tomorrow?? #bbn

For the first time during his tenure at Kentucky, Coach Calipari and his band of diaper dandies find themselves in unknown territory. unranked and exposed. For the first time his band of freshman are not playing future lottery picks in next year’s draft. Despite their exceptional size in the front court with supposed defensive ace Nerlens Noel and the 7-footer Willie-Cauley Stein. Although each of these ballyhooed freshman have yet to live up to the hype of their predecessors the poor play of the guards has been hard to stomach.

Entering into the season point guard Ryan Harrow was expected to take the reins left by first round pickwildcats2013 Marquis Teague. In addition to making questionable decisions on the court his current undisclosed illness has forced Calipari to lean heavily on freshman scorer Archie Goodwin to play out of position and run the point and former walk-on Jarrod Polson also being a surprise contributor off the bench.

Although titles were never won or lost in December the inconsistent play of Calipari’s future one-and-doners may pose a huge problem if his diaper dandies fail to live up to expectations. The draft stock of Nerlens Noel and his freshman counterparts continue to plummet harrison twinsand if things do not change Coach Calipari will be facing a significant number crunch next season. Next year the Wildcats already have another number one recruiting class waiting in the wings, the Harrison twins and two premiere forwards. Since coming to Lexington a minimum of three underclassmen have left each year which left room for his next collection of 5 stars.

At this rate Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin are the only two wildcats projected to go in the first round, and the more Nerlens gets exposed the further his stock continues to plummet. For the past four years big blue former wildcat guardsnation has grown accustomed to elite guard play and trips to the Final Four. The point guards who led those Wildcats were truly exceptional and all of them have made major contributions at the NBA level (Brandon Knight, John Wall, Marquis Teague, and Eric Bledsoe). Despite have another number one recruiting class the lack of elite pg in this current class is the true source of the Wildcats problems.

As the season progresses the Wildcats will improve because getting worst is far from possible. However, a few wildcats loserealities must be accepted: Nerlens Noel will not ever be Anthony Davis and the Wildcats will only go as far as Archie Goodwin takes them. Talent alone has never won a title, how Coach Calipari and his Wildcats respond to adversity will determine how far they go in the NCAA tournament. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

New York Knicks: Empire State of Mind – Fast start but how will they finish? #knicks

Despite the New York Knicks being in the largest media market in the world they began the season completely under the radar. Many assumed that all was lost when the Knicks parted ways with Jeremy Lin and signed 37-year-old  point guard Jason Kidd who made headlines this summer for his drunken rendition of dance fever in the Hamptons.

After an early exit in the playoffs at the hand of the eventual NBA champions the Knicks entered the off-season with a lot of questions. Carmelo’s return to his hometown had yet to meet the expectations of Madison Garden’s faithful who presumed that his paring with Amare Stoudemire and defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler would yield more than just a first round exit.

Several of the Knicks battled nagging injuries last season but they wisely used the off-season to rest and get stronger. The same Knicks front office that is known more for its blunders than its successes struck gold yet again in signing point guard Raymond Felton whose on his second tour with the Knicks and adding power forwards Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace who will add much-needed veteran leadership to the franchise. The Knicks also were fortunate enough to resign three-point shooting ace Steve ‘discount-double check’ Novak who had the best season of his career leading the entire in NBA in 3-point percentage.

Regretfully the same injury bug that has nagged the New York Knicks struck quickly when starting power forward Amare Stoudemire went down with another knee injury. Since signing with Knicks this talented young man has been a shadow of himself whose fashion cents have garnered more attention that his play on the court. Although his return to the court has yet to be determined The team adjusted almost seamlessly by moving Carmelo to power forward which has been a match-up nightmare for opposing teams.

At 7-1 it finally seems that the entire team has bought into the concept of playing defense led by former Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler. Although the season is still young the Knicks have already collected impressive wins over the NBA’s elite – the Heat and Spurs.

However, only 8 games into an 82-game season the NBA landscape can change quickly. The chemistry on the team appears to be solid but how will things change once Amare Stoudemire returns from injury?  It may be in the teams best interest to bring him off the bench but will the perennial All-Star accept a diminished role. Due to his 5-year $100 million dollar contract and his well documented injury history Amare has zero trade value so if he fails to accept his new role he may be asked to stay home ‘a la Marbury’s $22 million dollar bench role in 2008.

Another development to keep a close eye on throughout the season is the health of the veterans on the Knicks roster, currently they have four of oldest players in the league (Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and Jason Kidd). However, the Knicks will add much-needed depth when guard Iman Shumpert returns after the All-Star break from a torn ACL that he suffered in last year’s playoffs.

Many questions remain for this talented squad but the success of their season will ultimately be determined not by Carmelo’s scoring but by his ability to contribute on both ends of the floor. Although Melo may be the face of the franchise the Knicks will go as far as their leader defensive minded Tyson Chandler takes them. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark