ATLANTA, GA - FILE: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic against the Atlanta Hawks during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 22, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. It was reported that the Orlando Magic have taken Dwight Howard off the market citing that none of the offers were worth pursuing December 14, 2011. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
This is the fifth installment in a running series of dialogues between Marcus Privitt, Kevin Lipe, and Scott "ForeignFlopper" Beatty, about any and all things related to the Memphis Grizzlies. Today’s conversation is on the hectic mess that the 2012 NBA offseason has been and will be.
I know what you’re thinking. "Another article mentioning Dwight Howard?" Yeah, it is. But it’s an article about Dwight Howard that explains how the Memphis Grizzlies play into his grand scheme. Oh yeah, there’s tons of love in it, too.
More after the jump.
Marcus: Well then. First question to you guys.
What's the most intriguing free-agent storyline right now? The storyline that makes your heart drop and your emotions flare.
Kevin: To me, it's our own Ovinton J'Anthony Mayo.
Marcus: Wow, is that his real name? Where’d momma get that one?
Kevin: Yeah, that is OJ’s real name – which is both insane AND insanely awesome.
Why is no one paying him big money? I know the Nets want him, but they're too busy bending the Magic over a barrel trying to get Dwight Howard to Brooklyn. There are so many teams that could use a scorer like Mayo -- including the Grizzlies, if somehow he manages to fall into our price range. I love OJ and I always have. I think there's an irreconcilable personality clash between he and Lionel Hollins, and that if he goes anywhere else he's primed to explode as a starter or a 6th man Ginobili/Harden type.
I'll always be an OJ Mayo fan, no matter who he plays for (unless it's the Lakers or Clippers). I want someone to (1) pay him what he's worth, even if he drove his own price down by playing so poorly in the Clippers series, and (2) give him a chance to shine, and (3) for God's sake coach him properly. He could be so, so good.
Scott: Personally, I don't find this heartbreaking, but it is kind of funny how some of the restricted free agents (Eric Gordon, Nic Batum) have gone to some lengths to talk about how their hearts are in Phoenix or Minnesota, and then they seem genuinely shocked when their respective teams match the offer sheets. Do they not understand how restricted free agency works? Do they want to alienate their fan base?
As for O.J., I have to agree with you on all fronts Kevin. I've really liked him, but if anyone needs a change of scenery it's him. It seemed like he was set for a big payday, but then all the dumb GM's either got fired or used up their cap space. More than likely, he'll end having to settle for a one-year deal and prove that he's worth more. Hopefully, he'll wind up on a team where he can play to his strengths. Phoenix seems like it would be a decent option, so would Atlanta. As much as I love O.J., I hope he doesn't end back here; it's best for both the team and him if they part ways.
Marcus: So how should Grizzlies fans respond to an OJ Mayo departure?
Scott: With relief--that we didn't overpay to keep him.
Kevin: Agreed. With Rudy Gay's contract (and the one just given to Zach Randolph, but I'll be "optimist Kevin" and assume he's going to be back to being himself next season) hanging over this franchise for the next however many years, paying OJ Mayo too much money to keep him on a team where he's not really a good fit -- even though the fan base seems to like him -- would just be another nail in the coffin, pointing the Grizzlies down the treadmill of mediocrity and leading to a blow-up just like the one the Blazers just had and it looks like the Hawks are headed for.
Marcus: I hear ya. It's a shame OJ never worked out in Memphis.
Alright, next up. Let’s go to my personal favorite storyline thus far: Ray Allen to Miami.
Initial thoughts. Go.
Scott: Dan Grunfeld already said everything I wanted to say but better over at the mothersite; however, I'll summarize my thoughts: Boston tried to trade him at every deadline for the past three seasons, they benched him, and before he even made a decision, they signed Jason Terry to replace him. Is that loyalty? Regardless, I don't blame the Celtics and I don't blame Ray. When they considered trading him, they were doing what they thought was best for the team. By signing with Miami, he's doing what he thought was best for his career. That's the whole point of professional sports.
On a sad note, this means that Mike Miller will probably be amnestied. I've said it before--Miller is my favorite Grizzly of all time--here's to hoping he lands on his feet somewhere (Memphis perhaps?)
Kevin: Honestly, I'd be pretty surprised if Mike Miller doesn't retire. He's been hampered by injuries the last two seasons, and even though he shot well, he wasn't exactly playing great basketball in the Finals. His body appears to have mostly forsaken him. Battier doesn't seem to be quite as "done" as Miller did. He's got his ring now, and even though it was weird seeing Battier and Miller in black jerseys that didn't say "Memphis" with teal trim, I'm glad they both won a championship and that they got to do it together. Both guys are class acts.
Marcus: Mike Miller on the Grizzlies was a good time. But I disagree with you, Kevin - I don't think Miller will retire. Allen coming in will decrease Miller's playing time (maybe looking at a three-man rotation between Allen-Miller-Battier?) and, let’s be honest: Miami is poised to repeat. Miller won't leave.
Kevin: As for Ray Allen, I vigorously co-sign everything Scott said. Everyone's saying Ray's a traitor. Was he a traitor when he left Seattle for Boston? When he left Milwaukee for Seattle? If you say yes, that's fine -- but Miami will be the fourth team he's played for. It's not like he's Bill Russell or Larry Bird. He played well before Boston, and one hopes he'll play well after Boston. The Heat are going to be impossible to guard with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Ray Allen on the floor at the same time. Hasheem Thabeet could play the 5 on that team and do it well. Hell, Big Country Reeves could come back from retirement and win a ring playing as the fifth guy on that lineup.
Marcus: I agree with both of you. The sports world is blowing up (as it usually does with the Miami Heat are involved) and pointing fingers at Ray Allen for betraying the C's. There's no way. With Boston shopping Allen at the trade deadline and signing Jason Terry after the season was over, Allen was kicked off that team long before any "betrayal" happened.
But, to be honest, if I were a Boston Celtics fan, Ray Allen would be betraying my team.
Kevin: What kind of moves do you guys think the Grizzlies are going to make? It appears to me like they're stockpiling players for something, but I don't know what. Sweeteners for some sort of Rudy Gay deal, maybe?
Marcus: Onto the Grizzlies. I know that ownership came forth and revealed they aren't shopping Rudy Gay - but I don't buy it. Rudy Gay is a hot name to other teams...if Memphis management ignores this and continues to put faith into Rudy Gay's performance, the team is going to get hurt.
My hunch? Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala are going to be involved in a Philadelphia - Memphis trade somehow, sometime. Also look for Memphis to go after a guy for the Sixers that can replace Mayo. I’m a Grizzlies guy. I like toying around with this trade. It lines up too well.
Kevin: Tom just posted a piece about Jodie Meeks being pursued by the Grizzlies on the free agency market, too… what about a sign-and-trade of Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo for Andre Igoudala and Jodie Meeks? That solves a lot of problems. Maybe we risk sending Speights back somewhere -- but I think Speights and Arthur stay.
Marcus: I like Rudy and OJ for Igoudala and Meeks straight-up. Will it happen? I don't think so. It's too simple. Who knows...maybe trade deadline 2013 rolls around and we'll be glad Rudy stuck in Memphis.
Kevin: Having both of them means Dante Cunningham gets dealt somewhere, even though he played really well (during the regular season, anyway) and that -- and it hurts my heart to even type this -- Hamed Haddadi might not be coming back. (Let's pause to pour one out for Big Persia.)
I think, though, that as long as Heisley still owns the team, he's going to be stubborn about hanging on to Rudy. Maybe not, though -- he did sign off on the Pau Gasol trade, one which looks better and better with each passing terrible trade of a "star" player (see: the pile of filth and excrement the Nets are offering Orlando for Dwight Howard, the pieces the Hornets got back for Chris Paul). The ownership transition, to me, is what's making the team so vulnerable this offseason. It's like they're striking out on everyone they're trying to bring in.
Scott: Personally, it seems like ownership is committed to this core, which is why I don't think Rudy goes anywhere right now. That being said, if a good offer comes up, they don't think they'll pass on it. I'd imagine things will get quiet on the Rudy front until the trade deadline. This is fine by me, give this core another half season to prove themselves. In the present, we need a shooter for like 15-20 minutes a game. I've championed a number of guys who I think can fill that role--including Meeks--but the key is that whoever we sign it needs to be a cheap, short-term contract. This plays into the weird ownership transition we're experiencing. Presumably, Pera will want to make his own mark on the team, so in the meantime we just need to keep the core contributors locked up and build around the periphery with short-term fixes.
Marcus: This just hit the wire last night: Knicks snagged Marcus Camby in a sign-and-trade deal with Houston in return for Toney Douglas, Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson, in addition to the Knicks' second-round draft picks in 2014 and 2015. Camby is picking up a three-year contract with $13.2 million.
What does that do for the New York Knicks, the East, and Jeremy Lin? Bringing it back home, how does a new-look Rockets team (who the Grizzlies see a lot of during a season, playing in the Southwest division) threat the Grizzlies this year and the future?
Scott: Not at all until they can do something with their 9 power forwards. Memphis is actually in a great position; both the Mavericks and the Rockets have fallen behind, and New Orleans is still a year or two away. Basically, we're, at worst, second in the Southwest by default. In fact, I'd argue that for the most part, the Western Conference has gotten somewhat weaker this offseason. Only the Lakers have really upgraded their roster (they are still old and have no depth, meaning they'll finish 3rd), while everyone else has simply maintained the status quo. If Zach Randolph can get healthy, I see no reason why we can't finish 4th again.
Kevin: What Scott said.
The Mavericks are teetering on the edge of collapse, roster-wise. They struck out on Deron Williams and it looks like they're going to strike out on Dwight Howard, too. (Although at this point, maybe "striking out" on Howard might not be such a bad thing.) The Rockets have been stuck barely missing the playoffs for three years, and it doesn't look like they've yet amassed enough talent to make a serious run. Where is there core? Who is it? Scola and All Time Grizz-Killer Kevin Martin? Lowry's gone, Dragic is gone, Camby is gone, Dalembert is gone.
It looks like the Eastern Conference is heading into a Big Three-triggered arms race, where franchise after franchise tries to get its SuperTeam™ core in place, and the Western Conference (and especially the once-loaded Southwest division, where the Grizzlies used to be the only team out of five not in the playoffs) might be getting a little weaker. That said, I expect the Hornets to be much, much better this season. The Spurs are either going to continue being a dazzling collection of robots operating at peak efficiency. The Mavs aren't going to crumble any time soon; they could probably make the playoffs with Dirk Nowitzki, Roddy Beaubois, and six dead people. Until Dirk's body really starts to give out on him, the Mavs are always going to be a threat.
It all comes down to the Grizzlies, injuries, and the ability of the front office to retool our offensive weapons this summer. It's going to be a problem if we try to drag this roster, loaded with point guards and power forwards, into the season. Currently, there is no balance at all to the way the team is constructed.
Marcus: Yeah. Who knows - maybe the Grizzlies can snag a 3rd spot this year and keep it. As long as we stay as far away from the Clippers as possible. Memphis fans can only boo Blake Griffin so much (sorry...had to bring that back out of hiding. It hasn't been said in a while).
Alright, I hate bringing it up, but I have to. NBA Media's two favorite words the past two seasons. "Dwight Howard."
Where is he gonna go, and what are the best and worst case scenarios for the Grizzlies?
Scott: The best-case scenario for me is one of two things: the first is that he ends up on some terrible team, mainly because I think that would be funny. My second option is that he ends up on the Dallas Mavericks. Admittedly, this would work against us, but I like the Mavericks and everyone in the organization from Mark Cuban (by the way, did you guys catch this? You're my hero, Mark Cuban) to Donnie Nelson to Rick Carlise to Dirk. In my ideal world, Memphis and Dallas are the best teams in the league, but we're just slightly better.
Kevin: Best-case scenario for the Grizzlies is that he ends up somewhere still in the Eastern Conference where we hardly ever have to play against him -- and it'd be hilarious to me if he ends up playing for a terrible team, just as karmic payback for the way he's treated the Magic and everyone around him the last two years. I can't remember a guy less self-aware and more petulant. LeBron may not have realized the full ramifications of The Decision when he made it, but he handled leaving Cleveland 100% better than Dwight Howard has handled… whatever you call what he's been doing. So, really, it would serve him right if he ends up playing in Turkey or Israel next year, but that won't happen.
Scott: The worst-case is easy: LA. I don't think I can suffer through another championship. I like Kobe and Steve Nash, but I can't listen to another Lakers fan tell me with a straight face that Kobe "is, seriously guys, better than Michael Jordan." God, please don't fuel that moronic fire.
Kevin: Worst-case? There are two. Scott's already covered the Lakers, for whom I can barely contain my hatred, so I'll cover my other one: the Houston Rockets. They've got a ton of combo forwards -- Daryl Morey's been collecting them like Pokémon -- they can move for other pieces to put around Howard, and they're in our division, so we'd have to play them very, very often. I think the Grizzlies' frontcourt can handle him better than most, but still. I don't want to be anywhere near Dwight Howard when his saga settles down. He's not the kind of player I want in my division playing for another team.
Marcus: Who knows anymore? Dwight’s gonna move, and we’re gonna watch teams trade away their players of the future for him.
Let’s just keep him out of LA.