The Grizzlies take on NOOCH (again, thanks to the always-informative and highly entertaining Deadspin for that acronym) tonight down at the Forum. In case you haven't noticed (and judging by the lackluster attendance at Grizzlies games thus far, some of you haven't), the Grizzlies are currently the second-best team in the Western Conference. It is truly remarkable what they have been able to do through the first 17 games of this season. Here are some highlights:
- Over the last four games, they're averaging 32.5 points in the 1st quarter, while allowing just 18.
- They are by far the best defensive team in the NBA, allowing just 85.5 points per game.
- In Hubie Brown's favorite stat, point differential (the difference between points scored and points allowed), the Grizzlies are third, behind only Detroit and San Antonio.
- They're 12-5 despite the NBA's second-worst FT shooting percentage, and lackluster assist numbers.
- Previous records through 17 games: '04-'05 - (6-11); '03-'04 - (9-8); '02-'03 - (2-15); '01-'02 - (4-13)
- The Grizzlies have already won 7 road games this season; the earliest date they've gotten to 7 road wins before this season was January 6th of last season.
This year, things are totally different. With the acquisition of the veterans (you know who they are by now), the climate of the team has changed. All of these guys are winners, all of them have won playoff games and series before, and their confidence and professionalism is wearing off on everyone, especially Pau Gasol. Pau's numbers are up across the board, but the one I want to focus on is assists. Pau's more aggressive on offense, which had led to him getting double-teamed much more often. He's responded by passing beautifully out of the double-team and finding the open man. This team is making those open shots with ease. However, make no mistake: the reason those shots are so incredibly open is Pau Gasol.
I see no reason why this cannot continue. The Grizzlies still have a lot of room for improvement. Brian Cardinal is still out; his return will help shore up the frontline a little bit and ease some of the strain on the rotation. For all of the criticism, some of it definitely deserved, that Cardinal has gotten after signing his big free agent deal with the Grizzlies and producing very little, we must not forget he's been hampered by injuries and has never quite been at 100%. If he can return to 100%, or at least get close, he will be a big factor this season.
So, where are the fans? We talked about this on this morning's show--the fans just don't seem to be responding to the Grizzlies' great start. Why?
1. Ticket prices are high
I think price is always a consideration--NBA basketball is a pretty expensive sport to watch, and disposable income levels in the Memphis area aren't very high at the moment, especially given the high gas prices and high heating costs this winter. Here's the bad part: not much can be done about this; the franchise isn't profitable as it is, and lowering prices isn't likely to make the bottom line better. So, on this note, we'll have to hope people are willing to pay.
2. The team isn't exciting
If this is your beef, and I heard this one more often before the season started than I hear it now, then you aren't a basketball fan. This team is a joy to watch when it's clicking. They pass the ball exceptionally well as a team, move the ball quickly on offense, play stifling defense, and shoot the ball well from the outside. They also have made a habit out of kicking the other team's ass in the first quarter. If that's not exciting, I don't know what is.
3. The gameday experience isn't much fun
This we can work on. The fact of the matter is that it's just not all that much fun to go to a Grizzlies game, at least as far as the gamenight experience as a whole is concerned. The dancers need to get more involved, and get a little bit sexier and edgier; the breaks in the action need to filled with higher energy, and most importantly, NEWER stunts/games, etc; and they need to put more of a Memphis stamp on the gameday experience. Things are so generic and cookie-cutter right now that there's nothing to excite the fans enough to get up and cheer. We've seen the smooch-cam, we've seen the Mazola Moves Dance thing, we've seen the packages drop from the roof of the arena -- it's all been done, and almost nothing that's done in the arena makes anyone excited.
Guess what: the fans are bored. And they're quiet.
The upper deck is the only place where fans even get a little bit rowdy consistently -- those guys can get loud and excited at times. The rest of the arena is like a mausoleum. We need to see some innovation and some originality from the Grizzlies gamenight folks to wake up the crowd. The Grizzlies team itself would respond better with a more excitable crowd. The games need to be an event unto themselves, something that you go home and tell everyone about. There has to be something unique about the arena experience to motivate people to spend their cash and actually show up; they can (almost always) watch the actual game on TV for free and never leave their couch.
In that vein, here are some ideas to help make the gamenight experience better:
- Grizz needs to actually interact with the crowd much more often and in much better ways
- The music needs to actually change from time to time (we've heard the same songs over and over)
- The music has to improve; it's very generic at the moment
- The dance team has to get sexier
- Change up the events that happen in the arena (including the order)
- Do stunts/skits associated with the opponent (that are funny/exciting/interactive)
- Increase fan interaction in general
- Do we really need both a T-shirt gun AND a t-shirt slingshot AND t-shirts dropping from the sky on parachutes AND Grizz and the dancers driving around throwing T-shirts to fans? How many more ways are there to dispense T-shirts? Should they add a T-shirt cannon? A T-shirt crossbow, perhaps? How about a T-shirt catapult?
I should point out that the skits need to actually have a punchline, as well. For example, on Friday, the Orlando Magic were in town. They decided to have Grizz dress up as a magician and do a trick during one of the stoppages in play. OK, fine. However, all Grizz did was actually do a regular magic trick ("cutting" a dance team member in half); there was no punch line or clever twist at all. And the crowd yawned, because there was no reason to do anything else. It wasn't clever or exciting in any way. Creativity must improve.
One other thing: the Kings of the Court are very, very annoying. I'm sure there's someone out there who likes them, but I haven't met that person yet. I can only speak for myself, but as a native Memphian, I'm sick of the whole Elvis thing in general. Yes, yes, we're Memphis, and yes, it's Elvis...we know. He lived here. Check. Got it. What do the Kings of the Court do exactly? Why do they need to be dressed as Elvis? Leave the Elvis impersonations to Vegas lounge singers and opposition teams when the Grizzlies come to town. It gets old, and, to me, it just shows that the Grizzlies management still has yet to fully connect with the city of Memphis.
The people behind the scenes at FedExForum are good people. They work hard. I just want to see their hard work go into something that fans will get behind, not ignore.
One huge positive for the Grizzlies: they do a lot of good charity work and have helped this area out tremendously. They are a team full of professional and genuine guys, and the ownership takes philanthropy seriously. That is a credit to them and a boon to the city and county. Tonight's single-game ticket proceeds will go to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Excellent work.
Grizzlies win tonight 105-87, by the way.
Colorado coach Gary Barnett's got cojones for asking for a contract extension after losing his last two ballgames by a combined score of 100-6. Proper timing and intelligent speaking are not Gary's strong points at all -- just ask Katie Hneida.
Speaking of Colorado, it was awfully generous of them and UCLA to lay down and get embarrassed against Texas and USC respectively. Goodness. How sad is the Big 12 North, anyway? That was the BEST team? Really?
Rashard Lewis, remember Bobby Phills next time you want to race down the interstate.
Congratulations to Jermain Taylor for successfully defending his middleweight championship; yeah, it was controversial and it was close, but Hopkins simply didn't do enough to dethrone Taylor. Taylor is flawed and still raw, but he's a star in the making.
This is one of the most unintentionally funny ideas I've seen in a while (thank you again, Deadspin). If you have Erick Dampier's voice as your ringtone, you are officially a very sick person. I have two questions: 1) What does Dirk Nowitzki's ringtone mean? 2) Has ANYONE EVER downloaded Josh Powell's tone? I would love it, absolutely love it, if the Grizzlies did this. Sign me up for a Jake Tsakalidis ringtone right now.
Duke = 1980's "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. Yeah, they're the best team in the nation right now, but, like the Nature Boy, they will use every trick in the book to win. They get every call from the officials, they get all the love from the announcers, and they almost always manage to win. I think I saw Mike Krzyzyzewski pull a chain out of his trunks last weekend. J. J. Redick threw powder at Shawne Williams during the Duke/Memphis game. But somehow, Duke wins, even if it takes a freaking Sean Dockery halfcourt shot. However, unlike Ric Flair, I hate Duke. Whooooooo!!
I know this is late, but RIP Eddie Guerrero. He was one of my all-time favorites. I hope the WWE is serious about their implementation of random drug-testing, because it is sorely needed. Too many have needlessly died.
Here's a quick ranking of local weather coverage:
1. News Channel 3 (Tremendous team; perhaps too much talent)
2. ABC 24/UPN 30 (Brian Teigland is at times bizarre, but entertaining)
3. Action News 5 (Dave Brown is a legend; the young guys are struggling)
4. Fox 13 (Joey Sulipeck. Bowtie. Annoying.)
Be sure to check out Georgelapides.com soon...(the Tigers' "name game" is delightful!)