Tag Archives: Hasheem Thabeet

Profile Paroxysm: Hasheem Thabeet And Jimmer Fredette: Thabeet Goes On / Just BYU It

By @AnthonyBain

By @AnthonyBain

 

THABEET GOES ON

Hasheem Thabeet doesn’t like talking about the past. You can’t blame him. To call the first few phases of his NBA career underwhelming would be a polite understatement. Before signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 7’3 center averaged 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in 10.5 minutes per game. This year, the numbers aren’t noticeably better — the difference is in the absence of DNP’s and disappointment. The No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft started 13 games in his first season with the Memphis Grizzlies, none in his second. He fell out of favor in Memphis, was forgotten in Houston and scarcely saw meaningful minutes in Portland.

“He hasn’t had a lot of success for probably many reasons,” said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. “He was on teams that didn’t really need his services or need his skills at that particular point and he probably wasn’t ready to give them the type of minutes they needed.”

When poor play is coupled with extreme expectations, the result is relentless criticism. It can’t be easy to stay grounded through that. It can’t be easy to keep going. But the only way for Thabeet to be a regular in a rotation was to be strong enough to sacrifice and believe in himself. You can get a glimpse into his positive thinking if you follow his Twitter feed full of caps-locked affirmations and motivational phrases.

“EVEN THE DARKEST NIGHT WILL END… AND THE SUN WILL RISE.”

According to David Thorpe, Thabeet’s head coaches in Memphis and Houston never gave him much of a chance. As a Rocket, he played 27 minutes from February of 2011 to March of 2012. “He was young,” said Kevin Martin, who starred for the Rockets while Thabeet didn’t exactly blossom on their bench. “It takes a right group of coaches to get young players going and maybe he just really wasn’t feeling his whole Houston era, but it’s totally different here. Just like he doesn’t really probably want to talk about Houston, I think everybody moved past that. He’s just been so positive here.”

In the summer of 2011, Thabeet spent time at Thorpe’s Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Florida. Martin, Thorpe’s client, who is now playing for Oklahoma City, called Thorpe in November and told him the Thunder version of Thabeet was reminiscent of what he was like back then.

What was similar about that Thabeet and this Thabeet? “Just actually liking to play the game of basketball,” Martin said. “He came in every day happy, wanting to work hard and that’s kind of what he has done here. That’s a credit to the coaches and his teammates here, getting him in a mindframe to want to continue his basketball career on a high note.”

If you’re trying to rejuvenate your career, knowing you connect with your coach and have a chance to contribute can’t hurt your cause. Brooks and Thabeet talked about his troubled times shortly after he signed in July. “Sometimes you gotta explain to people so they get to know you before they even get to spend time with you,” said Thabeet. “That’s what I did, I had a few minutes to talk to him and he understood my situation and he just said he’d work with me. Since then, we’ve just been good like that.”

“We have him at a good time,” Brooks said. “He’s been in the league for four years now. He works hard. He has great enthusiasm for the game and I enjoy being around him. I enjoy pushing him and challenging him and figuring out ways for him to get better.”

Thabeet started working out with Oklahoma City’s assistant coaches at their practice facility immediately after signing in July and he hasn’t stopped. “He’s working hard after practice every day and coming in even when we have days off and getting work in,” said Martin. “He’s just a different guy right now.”

Part of the reason the proverbial sun has risen for Thabeet is that he’s getting along with the group. “Great guys, man,” he says of the team’s leaders — Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins — who have welcomed him on and off the floor. “They just compete, motivate, they just want to win. When you have a great group of guys, young guys that compete every night, you just gotta work hard for them. If they trust you, you gotta do something with that.”

“NEVER MAKE YOURSELF MISERABLE TRYING TO SATISFY OTHERS”

Thabeet called the team a “big family of big kids”. This family earned a remarkable reputation and record by grooming superstars who stay steady in the spotlight and surrounding them with responsible role players. Thabeet is asked only to be the latter. “They don’t expect me to come in and give them 20 every night. [They just ask] me to be a part of the team and do what I do, which is rebound and just be the force in the middle on defense. That’s what I do.”

“The best thing he does is he’s active, he rebounds, he blocks shots,” said Thunder forward Nick Collison. “But his skillset is not to be a back-to-the-basket scorer and I think when you’re taken at that pick, people expect that all of a sudden. If that’s not who you are, and you have those expectations, you’re not going to be able to live up to them. I just think people have to look at players for who they are regardless of where they get picked. And as an individual player you can’t get caught up in that, either. You have to do what you do and that’s who you are in the league.”

Martin agrees with Collison’s assessment. “As a player you just have to, especially in his case, you just have to worry about the task at hand and not the story somebody’s trying to write or frame on you,” he said. “The story lasts for one day, but developing into a player, that’s 365 days a year, so you gotta just focus on that.”

On a roster where even the most tremendously talented players are totally team-first, it’s no accident Thabeet is finding his way. “I think what we like to try to do is take everybody in and everybody does the work,” said Collison. “That’s what we focus on is doing the work. I think instead of him trying to live up to some sort of expectation, because you know he’s a high pick, we’ve taken that away and just said, ‘Do your job every day. That’s all you’ve got to focus on is doing your job every day and you can help us. That’s what we want you to do.’ And I think that kind of shift in his mindset has helped to where every time he makes a mistake he’s not thinking he’s letting everyone down. It’s just a mistake, that’s all it is. Everyone makes them.”

Oklahoma City is 26-8 on the season and will send two or three players to the All-Star game. Relieving Perkins off the bench, when Thabeet makes a mistake it hardly makes a mark. This isn’t what anyone anticipated when he was drafted, but now it’s easy to envision him swatting shots in the Finals. After three trying seasons, two trips to the D-League, three teams and four coaches, Thabeet has finally found a home.

“This is just a different opportunity,” said Thabeet. “I’m happy to be a part of it now and that’s what my focus is on.”

By @AnthonyBain

By @AnthonyBain

 

JUST BYU IT

While “Hasheem Thabeet bust” is the second thing that pops up when you type his first name into Google, “Jimmer Fredette bust” is only the third for his.

The Sacramento Kings drafted Fredette No. 10 in 2011 after he averaged a ridiculous 28.9 points and 4.3 assists per game in his senior season at Brigham Young University. No one thought the guard would come close to those numbers —  or his almost absurd averages of 20.7 field goal attempts and 8.5 from behind the 3-point line — as a professional, but his rookie season still left much to be desired for his fans, his team and himself.

“He wasn’t ready to play in the NBA yet. Everyone thought he was,” said Kings head coach Keith Smart. “He wasn’t ready for the NBA yet. I’ve seen a lot of guys come in with the college way of how they play from a guard perspective and you’re dealing with a lot of talented guards in the NBA every night. And when a young guy comes in, the speed of the game is the biggest adjustment.”

It wasn’t just the meager 7.9 points and 1.4 assists per game, it was the fact some familiar draft day criticisms seemed so sound. Fredette had his moments, but most of the time he seemed a bit slow, a bit small, unable to consistently get his game off the way he did in college. It was no shock he couldn’t defend his position right away, but he was supposed to score. He was surely supposed to manage more than a 38.6 percent mark from the field.

Smart replaced a fired Paul Westphal just seven games into the season. Adding to that turmoil was last year’s lockout. Fredette couldn’t speak to the Kings’ coaches in the summer. He couldn’t develop in Summer League. There was an abbreviated training camp, two preseason games and a schedule that hardly allowed for any practice time. On a team lacking veteran leadership and proficient passing, these things matter even more. “He just got thrown right into it,” said Smart. “‘Play, Jimmer,’ — that was it.”

On a handful of occasions, “play” wasn’t even it, as Fredette didn’t see the floor for a single second. On many more than a handful, he saw the floor and seemed simply subpar. He looked like a different, far less confident guy than the one whose name, story and shooting stroke converged to create a national phenomenon at BYU. Thanks to “Jimmermania” or “Jimmer Fever”, Fredette had supporters and detractors in higher volume, voicing opinions at higher volumes than any other No. 10 pick in recent history. When everybody has something to say, it’s best to try to tune most of it out. Fredette took some advice, though — from his family, and from those he trusts.

SOME SAGE ADVICE

Los Angeles Clippers color commentator and BYU alum Michael Smith sauntered to Sacramento’s court before the Clippers played the Kings back in March. He saw Fredette shooting. The two briefly shook hands once before, at a Utah-BYU football game in September — “I just wanted to meet him, I never met him. He’s the one who broke all my records,” said Smith — but had never sat and shared stories. When Fredette was done with his warmup, Smith approached him, reintroduced himself and the two got to talking. “I obviously knew who he was because he’s in a lot of the record books in BYU. A very good scorer, played in the NBA,” said Fredette.

Fredette’s previous month included just one double-digit scoring game and one 20-plus minute game. Smith noticed some shaky signs in a recent performance, so he asked Fredette how many times in his senior season he looked over his shoulder and back at the bench after a miss. Fredette said he never did; Smith said to stop doing it. Smith asked him how many times he took a shot the year prior and wondered if it was a good one. Fredette, again, said never. Smith said to stop it. Smith asked if he ever thought, as a senior in college, that anyone on the court was better than him. Fredette said, ‘Nope,’ and Smith said to not think it now.

Fredette’s obviously not going to be the best player on the court at the NBA level, but Smith wanted him to play with the attitude that he was. Fredette entered that game a couple of minutes into the second quarter and missed a 3-pointer on his first possession. A minute later, Eric Bledsoe blocked his jumper. But Fredette didn’t then look over at the bench — he had a mini-explosion, hitting three 3-pointers and dishing three assists in just over four minutes. He had 11 points on 3-for-5 shooting in just over nine first half minutes, but Smart hardly played him in the second half. Unpredictable minutes and uneven performances would mark the rest of his season, but Smith was pleased he saw a glimpse of what Fredette is capable of.

“I went to him after the game,” said Smith. “And I said, ‘That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Do not look over your shoulder. People pick up on that stuff. If you’re looking over your shoulder when you make a mistake, the guys on my team, they’re looking at that. They’re going to attack you. They’re going to sense that you’re uneasy or you’re worried what they’re thinking. They’re going to come after you. People expose that stuff at this level. You just have to be rock solid and fearless.’”

What Smith didn’t say was he could “totally relate to what Jimmer was going through”. The 13th pick in the 1989 NBA Draft, Smith was out of the league after three seasons. Smith said he should have been more of a jerk, and that the only time he felt like he played with the same confidence he did as an All-American in college was a seven game stretch when he started as a rookie.

“In fairness, I did not succeed in my mind … I never became the player I thought I should have been in the NBA,” said Smith. “And I just didn’t want him to go through the same thing.”

BYU: THE VERB

Fredette split last summer between his home in Denver, Summer League in Las Vegas and, of course, Sacramento. Smart took a trip to Colorado for about a week to work out with him and talk to him about what he expected in his second season.

“I’ve told him just BYU it,” Smart said. “Don’t worry about [it] if you take a quick shot. I trust your jump shot. When you take a shot, I don’t worry about any of that stuff.”

This year Fredette’s been not just more confident but far more efficient, which is what improving your 3-point percentage from 36 to 40 percent and getting to the line 5.1 times per 36 minutes instead of 1.5 times per 36 will do for you. The numbers back up his claims of being more aggressive — he is using one of every four Kings possessions when he’s on the floor instead of one in every five.

“I think it all starts with your mindset,” Fredette says of the change in his game. “Going out there and having a purpose when you’re out there to score the basketball. That’s what this team wants me to do when I come into the game: to provide a spark and just score the basketball and be that threat. Whether I’m making shots or not, they still have to play honest and [it] maybe opens other guys up as well. But with having that mindset and being aggressive every single time down the floor and taking shots when you’re open, trying to make opportunities for yourself and your teammates, you just get into a flow of a game and you feel much better out there, much more confident and you just go play.”

After a rough game for Fredette in Toronto last week, Sacramento forward Jason Thompson said it probably would have bothered Fredette if it had happened a year ago. This year, though, he’s mature enough to move on. “You can just tell, man,” Thompson said. “Even when he’s coming off the bench and not playing as much, he’s still coming in with confidence. Not a lot of guys have that and he has that. He’ll come in and shoot a 25-footer unconscious.”

“I’m having more fun this year,” said Fredette. “To play basketball for a living is a dream come true and it’s always fun, but sometimes it can feel like a job if you let it. So you just gotta have fun every single time you play, laugh, joke around. And I’m enjoying myself this year even more so than last year.”

Fredette said it would be fun to impart some knowledge to himself as a rookie. “I would just tell myself, ‘Hey, don’t back down or anything,’” he said. “‘Go out there and play your game, play aggressively and be yourself out there and you’re going to be successful.’”

A certain other ex-BYU star would be happy to hear that.

RTOE: HP Mailbag Roundtable!

Welcome to the Hardwood Paroxysm Mail Bag Round Table Capitalized Compound Word Bonanza!

Thing are happening in the NBA, and there are no better people to answer questions about these things than the HP crew. And there are no better people to ask the questions about these things than you, the fans and readers. Although, sometimes we’re good at making up questions, too. But other times, fans and readers are great. Oh, and reporters. They’re good at asking questions. But DEFINITELY fans and readers (love you guys <3).

Seriously, thanks to everyone who took the time to hit us up on Twitter and Facebook and send in questions.

Roll call: Sean, Eric, Ananth, Jared, Noam, and ParoxyIntern. Trust these men to bring you the answers you not only want, but need.

1) Chris (Facebook): Do you trust this recent trend of NBA teams using the D-League or is it a fad that will go away?

Sean: I think the fact that teams such as the Blazers and Sixers are purchasing D-League teams is going to keep it in the conversation. The real test will come during the next CBA negotiations, when we see if the league and players’ union can come up with a system like baseball’s that allows teams to call up and send down players more freely.

Eric: This is totally dependent on the success of guys that went to the D-League, honed their skills, and came back to the NBA. If teams like the Thunder are going to send Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb to the D-League, and they come back and start killing it on the NBA level, then teams may look to emulate the OKC Model in the way front offices of rebuilding teams seek to emulate the Thunder’s approach to building a contender. On the flip side, Luke Harangody threw up a double-double in the D-League playoffs last year, but mostly just made fans want to throw up when they saw him play in the NBA level. No surprise the Cavs finally cut ties with him yesterday. The trend of using the D-League will continue if teams see a benefit; it won’t if they don’t.

Ananth: Thanks for the question Chris! Trust is crucial to any strong relationship but unfortunately not that many NBA teams have developed a strong relationship with their D-League affiliate. I don’t think it is a fad though, it seems like organizations are slowly coming around to building a proper minor league relationship with their D-League team. Boston does a good job with their affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, so does the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Philadelphia 76ers are rumored to being the old Utah Flash D-League team and moving the team to Pennsylvania. Hopefully more teams will join their ranks.

I once sat court side at a D-League game and watched a very raw Byron Mullens, who was playing for the Tulsa 66ers. These kids who were sitting next to me kept heckling him and at one point he took the ball out near us and said something to them which shut them right up. No real point to that story but it always makes me smile.

Jared: I want to trust it, but I don’t. Teams have never really used the D-League correctly before, so I don’t see why it would just start being the case now. Until they make it a full-fledged minor league system and stop docking teams an active roster spot when they send a player down, I don’t think teams will consistently use it the way it should be used.

Noam: I definitely don’t think it’s going away. There’s just been too much success with it – the Warriors having multiple callups make major contributions to the team (and eventually sign elsewhere – Dubs be Dubsin’), and Houston sending virtually every draft pick for seasoning and getting clear cut NBA players in return are two strong examples. It may spread slowly, but it will continue to spread.

ParoxyIntern: It is a fad that will go away. Chris, when was the last time, excluding the one and only Gerald Green, have you witnessed a NBA player make an impact after spending time in the D-League? NBA teams are trying to model the D-League after the Minor Leagues, but there is simply more talented baseball players then basketball players in the world.

2) David (Facebook): Have you seen a major impact from the new flopping rules?

Sean: Sure, there’s been an increase in “_________ is getting fined for that one” tweets in my timeline.

Eric: I don’t know if I would go as far as to say major yet, but it certainly hasn’t hurt matters. It’s hard to say whether flopping is truly down this year compared to previous seasons because no one really tracks that, but I will say it does not appear to be an epidemic like it was five years ago or so. Get back to me at the end of the season.

Ananth: Great question David! I personally have not seen a major impact from the new flopping rules but the fact that it is being discussed among players and coaches is significant. It will take some time to actually make an impact but it is a step in the right direction.

Jared: No.

Noam: Not really, and frankly, I doubt we will. Headline-grabbing rule changes tend to disapate once talking heads turn elsewhere (remember the harsher tech rules, or the new synthetic basketball?).

ParoxyIntern: Not really. That is because players will still yell and flop trying to sell the call. That is how they grow up playing. I am 16 and I have played some AAU myself so I know firsthand this flopping technique of selling a call was not learned in the NBA for these players, it was how they were taught. With that being said I do not see much of an impact from the rules.

3) Dan (Facebook) Size up the Bynum acquisition vs. the Bogut acquisition.

Sean: Bogut hasn’t provided close to the comedic value of Bynum’s hair and the bowling thing. Advantage: Philly.

Eric: Awful for both sides, but clearly worse for the Sixers. Bogut is at least under contract for another year so Golden State should, theoretically, be able to salvage something out of the trade. Bynum is a free agent next summer and it is extremely likely that he will never suit up for a single game with the Sixers. Just a dumpster fire of a situation all around.

Ananth: Danny boy, this is a really good question. Both players are 7’0″ feet but Andrew Bynum weighs 285 while Andrew Bogut only weighs 260 pounds.

Bynum has a 7’3″ wingspan but Bogut has him beat as he has a 7’6″ wingspan. So size wise they are pretty similar, but I will give the edge to Bynum and the 76ers because of his afro and Andrew Bogut looks too much like Ashley Simpson.

Jared: I keep going back and forth on this in my head, but I think I like the Bogut acquisition better. When healthy, he’s a top 5 defensive player in the league, and I don’t think you can say the same about Bynum on offense. The Bynum acquisition really changed the entire complexion of the Sixers. They went from being a defense-first share-the-ball team to one that would probably be offense-first and mostly based around getting the ball to one player, and that player hasn’t gotten on the court yet. It’s tough. The Bogut acquisition was really just filling in the last piece of the puzzle. He makes the Warriors roster make sense. He lets Lee do his thing on offense from the high post because Bogut is on the block. He can cover up for the defensive deficiencies of both Lee and Curry, and the stable of shooters Golden State can station around the perimeter is a good fit with his excellent low post passing.

Noam: Oft-injured, offensive cornerstone joins team going nowhere with major offensive issues vs. oft-injured, defensive cornerstone joins team going nowhere with major defensive issues. Pretty darn similar. The difference is, sadly, how oft-injured oft-injured can be. It’s been almost 3 years since Bogut was last an effective offensive player, while Bynum has at least shown short stretches of durability. This topic depresses me. Jrue Holiday! Steph Curry!

ParoxyIntern: They are very similar. Both huge risks. Both out indefinitely. Not a good acquisition for either team NOW, but at the time both looked like great deals for the Sixers and the Warriors. Honestly, I would be more worried to be a Sixers fan at this moment, because Bynum has a longer history of knee injuries then Bogut.

4) David (Facebook) Why is Pablo Prigioni the best? There is no wrong answer here.

Sean: Because he has the same first name as Bob Dylan’s teenage rapping grandson.

Eric: He’s 35 years old so he appeals to the older crowd. He’s a rookie so he appeals to the younger crowd. He runs the pick and roll well in an offense that is shifting away from more than just ISO-Melo. And he’s got a tremendous name.

Ananth:

Jared: ¡Pablocura! He’s pesky.

Noam: HE’S JUST SO HAPPY ABOUT EVERYTHING! It’s almost impossible to find something he doesn’t like. Here, I’ll show you. Pablo, how do you feel about J.R. Smith taking step back 32 footers?

ParoxyIntern: Because he is a 35 year old rookie!

5) Joe (Facebook): OJ mayo coming on strong. Main reason for his resurgence?

Sean: Not having to pretend to be a backup point guard anymore.

Eric: Environmental change? Has there been a player thrown into more Trade Machine scenarios over the past few years other than Pau Gasol and Mayo? He could have been a Pacer two different times but it fell apart in both instances. Maybe all he needed was a change of pace. Whatever it is, it’s paid dividends for the Mavs. He’s finally developed an efficient shooting stroke that’s led to career highs in field goal and three point percentages and his second highest free throw percentage since coming to the NBA.

Ananth: He changed his whole diet in the off-season and it has worked wonders – orange juice and mayo smoothies. Actually, a lot of the credit has to go to Rick Carlise and his system which is allowing Mayo to flourish. Mayo was a stud in high school and had a lot of hype surrounding him when he entered college. He probably will never match that hype but he is a damn good player and it is great to see him develop into a very solid NBA player.

Jared: Unsustainably hot 3-point shooting?

Noam: He’s making 51.2% of his threes. I really want to give him credit for being more aggressive (career high free throw rate, though not by a blowout) and for looking better without Lionel Hollins shackles (isn’t it weird how hit-or-miss Hollins is as a coach? He gets either 300% or 20% from everybody with no in-between), but if he took the same shots and shot his normal 38%-ish fromt three he’s the same guy he’s always been with more opportunities and less depressed glances at his feet.

ParoxyIntern: In Dallas, the guard position is not close to as crowded as it was in Memphis. Memphis had many players who played similar positions to OJ and played similar styles( Rudy Gay, Xavier Henry, and Tony Allen). Currently in Dallas he has no other competition. The fact that Dirk has been out for the whole season so far also makes OJ the number one guy in Dallas which is something he never was in Memphis.

6) @TheDissNBA (Twitter): Is Hasheem Thabeet better than Kendrick Perkins?

Sean: Most people are better than Kendrick Perkins.

Eric: On November 30, 2012, yes. Thabeet has outperformed Perkins in just about every main category (per 36 minutes) like points, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. Advanced stats are in favor of Thabeet too. Oh, and Thabeet is making $7 million less than Perk this year making him a better front office value as well.

Ananth: It’s funny but this is a valid question due to improvement in Thabeet’s play this season. Basically the only claim to fame Kendrick Perkins has is that the Boston Celtics never lost a playoff series with Perkins in the starting lineup. He is a solid low post defender though and am not sure if Thabeet can match up with some of better centers in the league. It is important to note that Thabeet comes off the bench so plays against second string centers and forwards.Perkins still has the edge over Hasheem “The Dream” but if Thabeet keeps it up he could eventually surpass Perkins, the potential is there.

Jared: Thabeet has all the better individual numbers: points and rebounds and free throws per-36 minutes, FG%, PER, TS%, TRB%, STL%, BLK%, O-Rtg, D-Rtg, WS/48, but he still fouls way too much, can’t stop turning it over (~30% of his possessions) and the team is better with Perkins on the floor than Thabeet (though that has a lot to do with Perk playing with the starters and Thabeet only playing with the bench guys). Basically, I don’t know, and I don’t know if that says more about Thabeet or Perkins.

Noam: ………yes? Oh god, Nenad Krstic was the best player in the Green-Perk trade, wasn’t he?

ParoxyIntern: No. His upside was and still is incredible which is why it is good to have a player like that on your team. But to answer your question, he is not better than Perkins. Perkins is much bigger and stronger which helps on the boards as well as defensively against opposing centers.

7) From my friend Mike via text message: Can you get the HP scientists on how Rashard Lewis shoots with a slomo rotation on every shot?

Sean: PEDs

Eric:

Ananth: No science involved. It’s an art.

Jared: It’s all in the hips.

Noam: Rashard actually shoots fastmo. It’s just that his time scale is different than ours because he’s a million years old.

ParoxyIntern: He was taught that way in his early childhood and I guess it has worked for him, so props to him.

8) BONUS (from me): What do you think of Pop benching his big dawgs?

Sean: #TeamPop all day.

Eric: Did it suck for the fans? Yeah. Did it suck for TNT and those who worked on it? Absolutely. But did he have every right to do it? Yes. Shockingly, last night turned into one of the more entertaining games of the season. I was pulling for the Spurs all night, if only to get a Pop post-game press conference where he remixed Shaq’s “Tell Me How My Ass Tastes” rap for David Stern.

Ananth: I love it. This was a controversial topic yesterday on Twitter and even David Stern weighed in on the issue. I believe in the Spurs and am all for them extending their season any way possible. In the long run this is just one game in the first month of the regular season.

Jared: I didn’t care at all until all the moralizing that came along with it. Now I care because everyone’s being so high-and-mighty about it and it’s really annoying.

Noam: I was initially mad at him for ruining my TNT Thursday. Then Nando De Yolo and Tiago Splitter played such a fun game that I didn’t care anymore. Pop is hilarious, scrubs playing basketball is fun, and any talk about Substantial Sanctions is ridiculous.

ParoxyIntern: I am confused. I think this is smart to let them rest, but this is not allowed. This is equivalent to tanking a season but in this case it is just a game. I respect Pop as a coach but I hope that David Stern does something about this because if not, it won’t be good for the NBA.

Breaking News From The Department Of The Grizzlies Making Me Look Like A Moron Again

If anybody should be complemented, though, it’s Hasheem Thabeet. In his second game after returning from the D-League (he DNP-CD’d in the first), Thabeet was practically the Grizzlies 6th man. He saw 26 minutes of court time and, even though his counting stats weren’t impressive, had a +25 for the game for a reason. ‘Our Favorite Mistake” was playing solid defense and offense, using his length to change shots and tip boards.

via What Fight?: Grizzlies Hammer Boston Celtics – Straight Outta Vancouver.

I don’t know what happened in Dakota, but it sure as hell worked.

Hasheem Thabeet, who I have (un)lovingly referred to on a consistent basis as “The Pogostick” was an infinitely better player last night than I’ve seen him be the entire season. And it has nothing to do with the 3-5 shooting for seven points and 6 boards.

Thabeet, for the first time I’ve seen this season, looked like he knew where he should be. His spacing was right. His hands were ready. Marc Gasol murdered the Celtics with the extra pass to Thabeet on several possessions. He was in position for rebounds.

HE CUT OFF THE BASELINE.

It’s these little things that make me jump out of my chair,  now. And seeing Thabeet smartly slide to the edge and deter the Celtics’ penetration, forcing a reset was a big moment. Because before, Thabeet was waiting to make sure he didn’t lose his man, and arriving too late ,then picking up a foul.

His weakside defense, his man-post defense, the whole shebang. The only thing he didn’t do was follow Sheed out to the arc. And I don’t care about that because Sheed’s more than welcome to bomb it away as long as the Grizzlies have a better than 1.5:1 rebound ratio advantage.

I didn’t think there was anything Thabeet could pick up in a week and a half in the D-League. But whatever it was he did while it was down there, it resulted in the best game I’ve seen from him as a professional. Unworthy of a second overall pick? Surely. But a phenomenally solid effort for a defensive cog.

Decisions That Haunt A Lifetime: Hasheem Thabeet

The onus here, though, is clearly on meddling Griz owner Michael Heisley. The basketball people definitely wanted to draft local Memphis standout Tyreke Evans, but were overruled by their boss. For some reason, Heisley bought into the old school theory about the need to draft centers – even longterm projects – even though far superior players were available.

If Evans had gone to the Grizzlies, and Oklahoma City had stuck with James Harden at No.3, I’m confident the Kings would have bypassed Thabeet (whew!) and selected a point guard – albeit, the wrong one. From all accounts, they would have drafted Jonny Flynn, leaving Stephen Curry for Golden State. As Doug Collins noted on TNT&apos;s telecast of the Nuggets-Warriors game earlier tonight, most NBA types failed pegged Curry as an undersized shooting guard and failed to appreciate his pure point guard skills.

via Kings Blog and Q&A: What if the Grizzlies hadn’t outsmarted themselves?.

Okay…

Wait, hold on a second.

There. I feel better now.

You may remember the reason I broke up with Memphis while we were still “dating” before I committed to them this season.

I’ve also made it a habit of whenever Tweeting Memphis Games to make sure after analyzing Mike Conley’s latest unforced turnover and Thabeet’s third foul in four minutes to follow it up with “In unrelated news, (insert Tyreke Evans stat).”

It’s not that it was an obvious choice. I mean, it was. You had an all-world point guard with killer size coming out of the college in the same city. This isn’t rocket science. No, no, what kills is that this rookie class has turned out so well that it was such a difficult thing to do to miss!

James Harden, Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry, Jordan Hill (seriously, the guy gets almost no playing time and was traded for Tracy McGrady and was still a much better draft selection), DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Eric Maynor, Darren Collison, Omri Casspi, Rodrigue Beaubois, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington.

And those are just the guys we KNOW are better! I’d take Terrence Williams, Gerald Henderson, Tyler Hansbrough, Earl Clark, Austin Daye, James Johnson, Jrue Holiday or whatever pieces New York would have given up for Rubio!

The Grizzlies literally could NOT have picked a worse player with the #2 overall. Had the Clippers passed on Griffin, and he still have broken his kneecap, he still would have been a better pick! Two guys who haven’t even played were better selections! I’m reduced to ending paragraphs with exclamation marks!

It’s been that kind of season for the Grizzlies. Finally get a good lottery bounce, waste the draft pick completely. Find yourself in playoff position, don’t find a bench contributor or suitable point guard and watch the playoffs slip away. It’s not the worst that could happen; if the team outright sucked that would be way worse. But it’s just that they had such potential to set themselves up for long-term success, and instead they may hit August and wonder “what happened in the last eight months?”

Pogo-stick.

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One more note. There’s some discussion out there about this being a good thing for the D-League. That’s a lie. He’s there for ten days. The Grizzlies don’t have much to any interaction with Dakota. They’re not devoting time and money into the hybrid system. They didn’t do this back in November when they should have.

If Thabeet dominates, it just makes the D-League look bad by comparison. If Thabeet struggles, it just makes Thabeet look worse (“He can’t even compete with D-Leaguers!”). There’s no long-term development plan. There’s no concentrated effort to develop him slowly on a timeline. They’re just getting rid of him for ten days. There’s no upside to this.

It Could Have Been Better

But the selection of Hasheem Thabeet was a disaster that could haunt the franchise for years, the bench can&apos;t be counted on, and no team should be able to make a playoff run with just four guys who can play.

The Grizzlies need more guys. The question is whether they&apos;ll go out and get them by Thursday, whether owner Mike Heisley will allow general manager Chris Wallace the flexibility to make a move.

So far, it doesn&apos;t look good. Heisley has indicated he doesn&apos;t want the team to take on a player whose contract extends past this year. That essentially dooms the enterprise. It&apos;s also wildly short-sighted for a franchise that is still building for the future. Why spend valuable assets to get a player who won&apos;t help long term?

via Geoff Calkins: A big, fat trade the cure for what ails the Grizzlies » The Commercial Appeal.

There’s a little debate going on about whether it would be better for the Grizzlies to make or miss the playoffs. The argument goes that getting swept out of the playoffs would do no one any good, that this team has already justified Heisley’s maneuvers, and that the draft pick is more important, even if it’s just a few slots.

The problem is that it didn’t have to be like this. Even while the Grizzlies were killing it, I was trying to live in the moment and enjoy it because I was pretty sure there was no way they could keep it up. Making the eighth seed would be awesome, but was far from a sure thing. And now that’s turning out to be true.

But it didn’t have to be like this. If they’d not wasted the second overall pick on the worst player in the first round, a player so bad that Kahn’s decision to draft a guy who REFUSES TO PLAY FOR HIS TEAM looks smarter? They’d be above Portland. They were right on Randolph. Gasol got better. Mayo got better. But they didn’t do the one thing they obviously needed to do. Take the best player, who happened to be a point guard, and make it a competition for point.

I’m not even talking Evans, though to me it was the most obvious choice in the world. The all-world, super-big point guard who played for the local college. Forget that. Take Rubio. Take Curry, for God’s sake! Anyone at point, and anyone but Thabeet.

But instead, you have two massive problems out of one decision. Mike Conley isn’t a starting point guard. And I loathe using this little device, but I can’t help myself here: Period. That’s just it. He’s not. Everyone looks at the blown layups and poor passing, but those aren’t even what bothers me. He can’t dribble!

My favorite (read: most loathesome) Conley-ism is how he “probes” the defense. Usually a point probes by driving straight forward, then backing out. If the defender reaches, he turns his back to him and backs out of it, keeping his vision high for a cutter. If a secondary defender doubles, he immediately splits to where the defender is giving up position. Any guard does this. Not just Chris Paul or Deron Williams. We’re talking Chris Duhon or Lou Williams.

But Conley? He dribbles a foot in, then immediately panics, dribbles low, increasing the likelihood of it getting stolen, and then just sits there. No movement. Doesn’t back it out. He can’t maintain his dribble against any pressure on something simple.

Meanwhile, the bench is horrific, and so Thabeet gets time. But that’s a double problem. You need to get Thabeet minutes, but you also need quality bench minutes. He’s their really ONLY true big bench guy, and he’s a nightmare. It’s a no-win.

I’m with Calkins that a significant trade would capitalize on what the Grizzlies have accomplished. If you buy into the three-year plan, then you’re buying into fool’s gold. It looks shiny but when you get it home you’re disappointed.

Making Soup Stock Out Of Onions

Thabeet’s teammates have tried to keep him pumped up.

Zach Randolph was the first person to greet Thabeet when the final horn sounded on the Grizzlies’ win over the Thunder. Randolph stopped Thabeet on the court. The veteran forward pounded his hand into Thabeet’s chest as he spoke.

“I told him ‘That’s what you’re here for. That’s what you’re going to get paid to do,’ ” Randolph said. “He just has to control that paint. He doesn’t have to score the basketball. He just has to do what he did the last game. It’s the best I’ve ever seen him play.”

via Grizzlies big man Hasheem Thabeet stepping up game» The Commercial Appeal.

And it was.

I make it a point once per Grizzlies game to tweet about something Thabeet does poorly, a missed rotation, a turnover, a missed layup, and then immediately follow it with “in unrelated news,” then list the last awesome thing or line Tyreke Evans put up.

Passing on Evans sent me screaming in my living room. It was something I knew was happening, and yet couldn’t stop it. I was sure, absolutely sure, that Evans was going to be the best pick of the draft.  They needed a legit point guard, even if Conley developed well, you can’t pass up a talent like Evans. They did. And it crushed me, after watching Thabeet throughout the year look completely one-dimensional. People spoke of his ceiling. “Dikembe Mutumbo” they said. “Really?” I asked, “That’s who they’re spending the #2 pick on? A guy who might end up maybe as good as Mutumbo?”

But we’re stuck with him.

And I cannot deny that he was a huge difference maker in the game against Oklahoma City, one I had little hope for a win in. Making plays at the rim is something it turns out this team needs in a huge way defensively. From that angle, I can more easily swallow Heisley’s thinking. This team is  a dynamo (not a juggernaut) offensively, capable of bruising teams with speed and muscle for long stretches, but unable to shut down teams when they take their defender off the dribble. Thabeet provides that.

I’d still rather have Evans in a million ways, but Pogo Stick is proving the value of being a tall guy with long arms.

We Feel Like, Even Though He Wasn’t The Best Pick, He Was The Best Pick. … What?

“Every year people can say that all those guys who were in the top 15 in the draft or the top 10, discussed about where we were or who we should take, Brandon Jennings was probably the least talked about because he had been overseas and hadn’t played very well. But everyone thought that Tyreke (Evans) was going to be a good player, and Johnny Flynn. You had (James) Harden. All the guys who were up there drafted were discussed and debated. With our team the way it was last year, we felt we needed to add some wing players and we needed to add some defensive players. Hasheem was the guy who was blocking all the shots in college and we felt like he would be able to do that in the NBA and still feel that way. He’s probably further behind than all of those guys and you are going to get a lot of debate on us taking this guy or that guy because big guys usually do take a little bit more time. The fact that his inexperience in the games lends for him to be even further behind, but I think that he has come a long ways, he has played well when he is in there. He gets a lot of bogus opportunities, he just walks into the fouls, he pushes people and he’s so big. He commits fouls that in a year or two he won’t be committing. But those other guys are good players, that’s just the way the draft goes and you have to live with the decisions that you make. Hopefully he will pan out the way we think he will, we believe that. He’s not going to be the dominant 30 point scorer, but we think that we had scoring and needed something else to shore up the rest of our game and he’s done that so far.”

via Sports Radio Interviews » Blog Archive » The Grizzlies are On a Roll and It Started Around the Time Allen Iverson Left Memphis.

I don’t think it was wrong to draft Hasheem Thabeet. I think it was wrong to draft Hasheem Thabeet with the number two pick overall with so many impact players available. But what else are they going to say? “No, we definitely screwed up, should have taken Evans/Jennings/Harden/Rubio/ANYONE ELSE? You can’t go down that road. So you’ll continue to hear about them developing the kid, even though he wasn’t anywhere near ready for the NBA game coming out of college.

The Grizzlies are starting to actually play well. Just imagine how good they could be if they hadn’t wasted the #2 overall pick.