Q&A: Spartacus from 3 Shades of Blue

The Grizzlies come to town tomorrow night and we wanted to have the good people at 3 Shades of Blue on our show. Memphis's totals right now in the win-loss columns are straight shady, but that doesn't mean hoops junkies should be sleeping on this very solid blog.

After the jump we go into depth with 3 Shades of Blue blogger Spartacus about Coach Iavaroni's new uptempo offense, why Mike Miller is such a Warrior Killer, if the Grizzlies should look to move Pau Gasol, and this team's fountain of youth with Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Darko Millicic, and Juan Carlos Navarro.

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Golden State of Mind: Former Phoenix Suns assistant Marc Iavaroni has brought an uptempo game plan to the Grizzlies this season. However, from their win total it doesn't look like that approach has done all that much for this team. Is Iavaroni's approach a good fit for the current roster personnel on the Grizzlies? Do you see this move towards a higher octane offense benefiting the Grizz 2-3 years down the line?

Spartacus (3 Shades of Blue): The team started off slowly as they implemented new players into their regular rotation and dealt with a myriad of nagging injuries to key players. Now that Mike Conley has taken over at PG, more people are beginning to understand that Iavaroni's system is slowly being implemented and that it is actually working. In fact, in a recent Commercial Appeal article, Ivy said that he got a vote of confidence that truly made him believe that it was working. From that article:

No, as the Grizzlies try to firmly establish an up-tempo style of play with the free-flowing principles Iavaroni learned while with the Phoenix Suns, it was a fast-break expert that reassured the first-time head coach.

Iavaroni recently spoke at length with former Boston Celtics player and coach Tommy Heinsohn -- now that team's television analyst -- and the conversation affirmed the Griz are headed in the right direction.

No matter if the manner in which it is being done seems like a paradox -- slowly but surely.

"He made my day," Iavaroni said. "He said we get used to running first, and then you put in your defense more and more. I feel like my instincts are good. The reason I'm saying this is it's another reason why you can't over-evaluate anybody. We believe we have the opportunity to have three different lineups. We can go small. We can go hybrid with Rudy (Gay). And we can go traditional with Darko (Milicic), Pau (Gasol) and Stromile (Swift). It all takes time."

With Iavaroni being more defensively minded that Mike D'Antoni has been in the past, I see this as more of the style that the Pistons are currently using, instead of what the Suns have become known for. Even D'Antoni has recognized that defense is necessary to advance in the playoffs. The one thing that the Grizzlies need to add is a more capable defender at the swingman position. If he was capable of hitting 3-pointers and starting at SG, that would be the equivalent of having our cake and eating it too. The acquisition of that player prior to next season should be the "missing piece" that GM Chris Wallace makes a priority. Over the next few seasons, I expect the Grizzlies to develop the chemistry and maturity that is needed to make a significant playoff run.


Golden State of Mind:
Mike Miller always seems to give the Warriors trouble. He's showcased his Warrior Killer ways with a barrage of treys, nice passing, and solid rebounding. In his past 3 games against the Dubs he's averaged 32.7 ppg. Why do you think he has so much success against the Warriors? What's the best way to guard him and stop him from going off? (Don't worry. We promise not to forward on your answer to Nellie. Actually- no we don't!)

Spartacus (3 Shades of Blue): One of the reasons Mike Miller has had so much success against Golden State since Nellie took over is that his system doesn't give much credence to defense. If a team's primary concern is "get the ball back so we can score", then quality offensive players like Miller will have big games. The best way to defend Miller is to crowd him on the perimeter so that he doesn't get those few open shots that get his confidence level up. Until he feels like he's in a groove, he won't drive to the hoop with the intention of scoring -- instead looking to pass most of the time. If he hits a few open shots though, look out! That helps open up his entire repetoire of offensive skills and makes him far more dangerous than just the jumpshooter most people see him as.


Golden State of Mind: Pau Gasol has been rumored to be on the trading block for over a year now. Do you think he's a good fit for the Grizzlies rebuilding plans or should they look to move him? Are there any trades involving Gasol that you think have a good chance of actually materializing?

Spartacus (3 Shades of Blue): I'm one of the few that have stated over and over again that the Grizzlies should not move Gasol unless it is for something that obviously makes the team better. That's one of the reasons I've maintained that Chicago doesn't have anything of comparable value, given that the players they are offering either play a position we are set at (SF) or are unproven commodities that are too big a gamble to take a chance on (Tyrus Thomas). I feel confident in saying that Chris Wallace isn't going to move Gasol during the season and is unlikely to trade him this coming offseason either. Whether or not Gasol is a franchise player, he is still a talented 7-footer with range out to 18 fee, who is capable of finishing with either hand around the basket. I think that with the emergence of Rudy Gay as the team's "prime-time performer" and go-to guy in clutch situations, it has allowed Gasol to go back to what he is, which is a guy who can average 18-22 ppg and 8-10 rpg over the next 5 seasons. I don't understand why you would want to get rid of that.

There are two trades that I have seen mentioned that I think have the best possibility of happening: To Atlanta for a re-signed Josh Smith + filler and to the Lakers with filler for Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza. With that said, I highly doubt either of them ever actually develops serious consideration from either side.


Golden State of Mind:
The Grizzlies have some intriguing young pieces in Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Darko Millicic, and Juan Carlos Navarro. Which of these guys if any are keepers? How good do you project them to be 2-3 years from now? Since the Grizzlies don't get much national exposure are there any aspects of these player's games that people are sleeping on?

Spartacus (3 Shades of Blue): Rudy Gay has the talent to be a legitimate star in this league. While I don't know that he'll ever reach true "Superstar" status, I think he can be considered one of the 10 best players in the league 3 years from now. The one part of his game that is underrated is his ability to hit mid-range shots from unbelievable angles. Some of the turnaround jumpers and leaners he hit against the Celtics just made me shake my head. He's a keeper.

Mike Conley has already shown that he's a solid playmaker in only 4 games as a starter. My co-blogger MemphisX says that he'll wind up in the Top 3 is all-time assists when his career is finished. I'm not quite ready to take that leap, but when a guy is so good that another players claims he would "find Osama bin Laden if he was open" (thanks Rod Benson!), then you have to take note of that. He got a rude welcome to the league on Tuesday by Derek Fisher who showed just how far Conley has to go before living up to all that potential. He will have to develop an outside shot to become a complete player. He's a keeper.

Kyle Lowry is going to be an exercise in patience. Right now he is in the throes of hitting the infamous "rookie wall", which is greatly affecting his level of play. Once he completely adapts to the grind that is the NBA regular season, he could be the perfect complementary backup to Conley with his defensive intensity and bulldog-like tenacity as a bundle of energy off the bench.

Darko Milicic has been playing almost the entire season with one injury or another. Either it is a sprained ankle or an injured thumb on his shooting hand or he has flu-like symptoms. That has contributed to what many so-called experts are labeling a "disappointing season". If they look beyond his stats and actually see what kind of effect he is having on games, especially on the defensive end when matched up with players like Tim Duncan and Yao Ming, then they would understand that he has performed very well this season. I doubt that he will ever live up to his draft position, with the likes of LeBron, Melo, Wade, Bosh et al, but he is only 22 years old and has played very well with Gasol in the frontcourt during the limited time they have shared the floor this season.

Juan Carlos Navarro has the potential to be a solid combo guard if he's provided enough playing time. He plays very well when given 30+ minutes per game, but it is hard for any team to give a 6'3" SG that much floor time due to defensive concerns. He has the talent to stay in the NBA for the next 6-8 years if he chooses. I don't know how much of that time will be in a Memphis uniform, unless he improves his play as a backup PG though. If he could play well enough there to make Lowry expendable, then he could stick around Beale Street for awhile.

I'd love to keep all of them, but over the next few seasons, I expect at least two of these players to be in other cities. I cannot see any way that Rudy Gay isn't playing in the All-Star game, and I'd say the same about Mike Conley if it weren't for Chris Paul and Deron Williams both being employed by Western Conference teams.

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The whole GSoM crew wanted to thank Spartacus and the rest of the unshady cast at 3 Shades of Blue. Make sure to head on over to their site for the latest on the Grizz.

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