However, he is certainly better and more productive in almost every offensive area than he has been, and that bodes well for the Grizzlies. He's more confident, which has in turn led to his being more decisive. He's not hemming and hawing with the ball thus far this year--the pivot and wait, wait, wait technique of years past appears to be all but gone--and that has led to impressive offensive outputs from the big man. His touch is still superb, but his outside shot has improved, making him even more dangerous. His role in the offense is massive now, not only because he can score, but because his passing is even better than it used to be. His teammates trust him, and he trusts them, and that's been evident in the free-flowing offense so far.
Eddie Jones will not keep up his current scoring pace, but his crafty play and solid performances will be relied upon for the entire season. He, along with Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Damon Stoudamire, and Bobby Jackson, will be expected to provide dependable, accurate outside shooting. If the Grizzlies can get that, they will be a tough offense to contain, especially if the opposition gives them an opportunity to utilize Pau at the 5 and go small 1-4. Then things get fun.
Nice to see Ren back on Saturday night. He told me in the locker room that something--he didn't say what--had been weighing on his mind. His implication was that this was the reason for his poor start to the season. He said he prayed about his problem, felt better and more relaxed, and showed it with a double-double. Those will be needed this year, especially the rebounds, as the Grizzlies currently are 27th in the NBA in rebounding, with 39 per game.
Jake Tsakalidis' 3-foot hook shot that hit the SIDE OF THE BACKBOARD was simply stunning. Truly remarkable in many ways. Easily the most embarrassing shot I've seen since Ricky Davis tried to seal his triple-double many years back.
The Grizzlies have already shown the resiliency to respond to a lackluster opener with gusto, and I expect that steady mentality to exist throuhgout the year. This team won't be really high or really low until playoff time, and that should lead to fewer bad stretches like the ones we saw from time to time last season.
Halftime on Saturday night was the Bucket Boys/Beale Street Flippers. I like the Bucket Boys (they're a group of young men who basically play various buckets like drums, if you haven't seen them before), but they're not spectacular, and I've only seen the BSF 850 times in the last two seasons...this was nowhere near the levels of the freak show during halftime last Wednesday, nor was it anywhere close to the better shows of the past. Very average.
2005-06 Grizzlies Halftime Rankings:
1) Balagan (vs. Miami; 11/2/05)
2) Bucket Boys/Beale St. Flippers (vs. Cleveland; 11/6/05)
The standings will be updated with each halftime show. Try to contain your excitement.
The release of this week's AP poll once again cemented the fact that I hate college football polls. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that a team with one loss should be ranked ahead of a team with no losses (assuming both play in D-1, reasonably tough conferences, etc.). Alabama should be ranked in one of the top three positions in the country, since they are one of three undefeated teams. It is a joke that Miami jumped them in that poll.
Too often in college football writers and pollsters are more concerned with the aesthetics of a win or a loss, as if this was some kind of art show. IT IS A GAME OF WINNING AND LOSING. Whether you lose by 1 or 100,000,000, it's still a loss, and a loss is still worse than a win. To these people, sometimes a win is a loss, and sometimes a loss is a win. For example, Notre Dame LOST AT HOME to USC 34-31, yet most people look at that game as if it was a win. Yes, it was an incredible game, and yes, they almost won, but at the end of the day, they flat out lost. Somehow, they were rewarded for losing by not dropping in the polls the week after that loss. I don't get that. Don't we still ultimately keep score in football by looking at a team's record? Meanwhile, Alabama plays like crap, yeah, but still beats Mississippi State this weekend, and drops in the AP poll because Miami scored a huge win at Virginia Tech.
Again, here's your scoreboard:
Miami losses: 1
Alabama losses: 0.
What's the problem, AP voters?
Oh, and incidentally, who has Notre Dame beaten this season that they weren't supposed to? Winning at Michigan was unexpected, but it turns out Michigan isn't all that great this year; they've beaten Pitt (sucks), BYU (average), Washington (terrible), Tennessee (huge underachievement), and Purdue (disappointing). WOW! What an incredible season so far. They've not beaten one team they shouldn't have, and they've lost to one team they should have beaten (Michigan State) at home! I think Charlie Weis has done a great job revitalizing that program, but...has anyone considered the possibility that this team's just a tad overrated? Beat someone worth beating, and then we can talk about that 10 year extension. Charlie Weis and his agent pulled off an incredible business move: start 5-2, beat no one you shouldn't have, lose to one team at home you should have beaten, and still bank 30-40 million dollars of guaranteed money.
Speaking of (former) Patriots, that leads me to this...
I think the one thing you can't understand unless you live somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard between Washington and Boston -- or unless you once lived there -- is the intensity of a big sports event. One of the reasons players love playing here, and one of the reasons guys like Joe Gibbs get drawn back into the game magnetically, is because the games are so electric and they feel so important. I felt it Sunday night at Eagles-Redskins and I'll feel it in front of the TV tonight for Pats-Colts. So much fun. Such a gas.
That's a paragraph from this week's Monday Morning QB by Peter King, and it illustrates perfectly another reason why Peter King bothers me so much. The sheer audacity to write something as egotistical and Northeast-centric as the above passage is appalling. The above mentality is why people usually have so much of a problem with ESPN and other national outlets for their bias towards New England/Eastern Seaboard teams. But to even imply that you can't understand "the intensity of a big sports event" unless you live between Boston and Washington is ludicrous. I guess Tennessee v. Alabama last month wasn't that big or intense. I suppose Alabama v. Auburn, Florida v. Georgia, Duke v. North Carolina (in hoops), Cubs v. Cardinals, Ohio State v. Michigan, or West Coast matchups like Dodgers v. Giants or USC v. UCLA aren't as intense as Pats/Colts or Eagles/'Skins. Please. Peter King, feel free to write some more about coffee or travel or whatever other goofy crap you want to, but don't write foolish garbage like this any more.
One other thing that's been bothering me: the simulated news conferences on Sportscenter, with Steve Phillips serving as some baseball team's GM (thus far, confirming the East Coast bias mentioned above, it's been the Yankees and the Red Sox), is the stupidest idea I've seen in a long, LONG time. Almost as bad as the idea to put Rush Limbaugh on NFL Countdown.
Just do a preview of the winter if you want--don't force your reporters and hundreds of interns to sit there like a studio audience while Steve Phillips (who I think is very good) previews a team's offseason. And certainly don't present it like ESPN did on Sunday night, with terms like "breaking news" and "we'll go live to the news conference" when it isn't even real. How much do you think it irritates ESPN's crew of reporters to have to spoon-feed questions to a collegaue in the middle of a fake news conference when they could be, you know, doing their actual newsgathering job?
Briefly, I have to thank Panther cheerleaders Renee and Angela for fulfilling so many of my fantasies. I would have chosen some hotter girls, and maybe put them somewhere other than a nasty bathroom stall, but other than that, well done.
Some predictable NBA notes:
• Last night, Miami's Jason Williams and Antoine Walker exchanged words and angry glares in the third quarter after a Heat play went awry.
• In the wake of Saturday's 105-100 loss in Milwaukee, veteran point guard Gary Payton questioned some of the offensive tactics of coach Stan Van Gundy. "If I was the coach, I would do it a different way," Payton said after the Heat dropped to 1-2.