For the first time in awhile, somebody from the mainstream media stopped by the Grizzlies training camp. Of course the apple of their eye was Allen Iverson, not the Grizzlies, but we'll take what we can get. Also over the jump is some Commercial Appeal coverage of camp, and some season previews from my esteemed colleague Bethlehem Shoals over at 'The Baseline.'
Here's the wrap from Allen Iverson's interview with Scoop Jackson of ESPN:
You never heard of anybody before that in my whole career ever saying anything about Allen Iverson coming off the bench. You never heard anybody out of the blue say, "Allen Iverson should come off the bench." You never heard anybody mention it or anything, like ... this is the first time ... . Look, Scoop, you've been following my whole career. You never heard anybody say anything about me coming off the bench or anything like that until the situation happened in Detroit. Now it's in everybody's mind. Now people are thinking, "Oh yeah, he should come off the bench."
I don't think A.I. could make it any more clear after that one--sounds like he plans on starting this year for the Grizzlies. But that doesn't mean he isn't going to be willing to give up some shots. Clearly the guy has a solid understanding of the team dynamics already, and it's refreshing to see that A.I. doesn't just outright deny the criticism that the Grizzlies have too many scorers:
When I was in Denver, and I was third in the league in scoring, that's because it was just me and Melo carrying the offensive burden. Nene was hurt. [There] wasn't no Nene. There was no Chris Anderson. And in all my years in Philadelphia, you know we didn't have [another] big-time scorer. So when you look at my stats, and you see the numbers are going down, recognize that I'm playing with better personnel. Just like this year, we have Rudy [Gay], and we have O.J. [Mayo]. And we have Zach [Randolph]. So knowing that, how in the [expletive] am I going to get 25 shots a night? But people don't look at it that way, Scoop. They don't look at it that way.
All in all I just want to comment that, while I've pulled out a few of the headscratchers, this interview was absolutely incredible. Allen Iverson brings himself to the media as honestly as any man alive, and I'm glad that ESPN put this out with no filter. The man speaks for himself, so he should be allowed to speak for himself.
Moving into the Commercial Appeal coverage, today focused primarily on the rather skinny looking Marc Gasol. Marc apparently lost his weight at the behest of the team, he hints to this but never outright mentions it, hoping that the young Gasol brother will fit better in an up-tempo offense after shedding a few pounds.
The physical results have been nothing short of stunning.
Griz strength coach Jason Biles put Gasol through a conditioning test on the first day of training camp. That meant Gasol had to run the length of the court twice.
Last year, the 24-year-old Spaniard's best time was 62 seconds.
"My goal was to get him down to 60 seconds," Biles said.
Gasol ran the drill in 58 seconds.
Good to hear that the loss of 25-35 pounds of weight has made Gasol a significant bit quicker. Four seconds doesn't sound like much, but that can be the difference between a dunk and holding up the running of offensive sets. On the flipside, however, Marc's ability to defend larger, stronger centers in the post might be somewhat diminished this season. While technique and strength are important, weight is also extremely important. Why can't Dwight Howard dominate Kendrick Perkins in the post when he is faster, stronger, and has better mechanics? Because Perk outweighs Howard by a bunch (note: Howard has added about 25 pounds this offseason).
And finally to Bethlehem Shoal's preview at the Baseline. Well there is really no summing this one up. It doesn't have wins or losses or really anything concrete, but it's humorous and occasionally rather insightful. Definitely check the link, but here is the Sparknotes for the road.
However, we've gotten used to thinking of the Grizz as a simultaneously intriguing and demoralizing black hole. They've had talent and some interesting coaches; the problem is, nothing seems to have stuck for more than a month or two...
A team with this core, plus Iverson, should be the favorite against almost any lottery team, even if they're headed there themselves...
Because all psycho-dynamics aside, there's a chance this team could sniff the playoffs, make Iverson look a whole new kind of heroic, and bring out some really unique basketball approaches out of raw necessity. That's the best-case scenario, but hey, you'll be watching anyway because of Iverson, and every expenditure of time demands some kind of optimism. Otherwise, you're just a jerk expecting to see the train wreck you expected, the undoing of Mayo and Conley, and this half-there franchise as proverbial Charon for Allen Iverson.
Maybe you'll also get Zach Randolph caught with anthrax and the team bought by Iran. That would make you happy, wouldn't it? Shame on you.
Zach Randolph and domestic terrorism, priceless.