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NBA AM: Blue Collar Grizzlies On The Rise
Posted By Lang Greene On September 15, 2011 @ 7:47 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
While the current lockout continues to pick up steam behind the premise that small market teams are unprofitable and cannot consistently contend for titles without some sort of hard salary cap in place, it’s important to note the playoff success of the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder last season.
Those two small market squads met up in the Western Conference Semifinals with the Grizzlies coming up one victory short of reaching the conference finals in a classic seven game series.
Of course no one was proclaiming the Grizzlies to be serious contenders for the Western Conference throne at the start of the 2011 campaign and despite the recent postseason success the team likely won’t receive many preseason predictions pointing toward repeating that level of success again.
But whatever destiny the outside world is forecasting for Memphis, shooting guard Tony Allen believes the team is on the rise and is more optimistic than ever the club will continue to improve if they continue to share the same goals and work hard.
“That’s the biggest thing,” Allen told HOOPSWORLD on the importance of the team sharing the same goals. “In past years you look at teams like the Grizzlies and guys [went] there to end their careers. But my focus going there was to get my career off the ground, get into my own lane. I think I did a great job doing that with the help of my teammates, a group of guys who want to see me succeed, a group of guys who look at it like there aren’t any big I’s or little U’s. Everybody is held accountable and I like that about our team because we have a blue collar team.”
Despite possessing an All-Star (Zach Randolph), a Team USA member (Rudy Gay) and arguably one of the five best centers (Marc Gasol) in the game today, the Grizzlies remain relatively unknown on the national landscape.
Allen believes the lack of recognition the Grizzlies receive just makes the team play harder and forces its stars to come out looking to prove their worth in an emphatic fashion – nightly.
“You look at Zach Randolph, he’s an All-Star, but he’s not getting into the All-Star game by being a fan favorite but he gets it [the job] done,” Allen explains. “I like that about Zach because he’s hard working, blue collar and he gets it done. If you add thirteen more guys like that and they’re playing hard and playing together then the sky is the limit. I just like my team.”
Gay was injured during Memphis’ playoff run and the team’s success in spite of his absence has sparked numerous trade rumors centering on the former UCONN product being shipped in order to slash an expanding payroll.
Whatever the front office decides to do with Gay over the long term, Allen feels the small forward is on the same level of some of the league’s elite class.
“When Rudy gets back [from injury] he’s one of those high profile guys like the Joe Johnson’s, LeBron’s and D-Wade’s,” Allen told HOOPSWORLD. “I really believe he’s just as those talented as those guys. I believe once he gets back into our bowl of gumbo we’re going to be a pretty tough team. That’s what I truly believe.”
Allen will be entering his eighth season whenever the lockout concludes and has carved a niche for himself as a strong defender and player willing to do the dirty work. Those roles typically don’t receive love from the casual fan but Allen is satisfied his peers throughout the league recognizes what he contributes to the game.
“I’m always going to get that respect because I get it done,” Allen said. “I’m just not the guy that gets highlighted. I’m blue collar, but everybody in the league knows me. Trust me. I just look at it like I always have something to prove. I learned so much from Paul Pierce it’s ridiculous. The one thing that stood out from him was confidence and that’s one thing I never lost no matter how many times I got injured. I’ve always been a competitor. Once the confidence and the competitive spirit collided – sky was the limit.”
Allen, who has been working out at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, also took the time to loft some unexpected praise on Memphis’ second round draft pick Josh Selby.
The vet belies the Selby will have a long career ahead of him as long as he stays focused.
“I don’t really praise too many rookies,” Allen told HOOPSWORLD. “But this rookie is a talent. I put him in the category of the Jason Terry’s and [Jamal] Crawford, those sixth man guys. I believe he’s definitely going to be one of those rising stars because he scores at ease. As long as you can listen you can learn. That’s what a wise man told me.”
Jermaine O’Neal’s Last Hurrah: One thing that’s inevitable is the arrival of father time. Every year the game’s once elite eventually succumbs to age and the rise of the next generation comes closer to fruition.
Boston Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal has accomplished a lot over the last fifteen seasons, but he has also come to the realization that the end of his career is rapidly approaching.
Even though retirement is on the agenda it won’t stop O’Neal from fighting for a new CBA which puts younger players in a strong financial position moving forward.
“I’m probably in the last year of my career,” O’Neal admitted to J. Michael Falgoust of USA Today. “I’m more concerned about the young guys, the future of the NBA players that’s going to carry the league. My 5-year-old son loves basketball. I’m more concerned about the development of our brand. I’m always going to be alumnus of the league. You’re in a difficult situation, but as a player, you’ve got to stand strong. We are the product. We just want to be fair. We’re not asking for more money.”
As it stands today O’Neal, who only appeared in 24 contests last season, figures to be the Celtics’ starting center next season with the departures of Shaquille O’Neal and Nenad Krstic this summer.
Other NBA News & Notes
- The Golden State Warriors have announced their plans to retire Hall of Fame forward Chris Mullin’s No. 17 jersey on January 20 when the team is scheduled to play host to the Indiana Pacers.
“This is certainly a tremendous honor and one that I will cherish, especially when you consider the few, elite gentlemen who have preceded me,” Mullin stated.
Mullin, a five-time All-Star selection, racked up 17,911 points during his 16 year playing career. He also won two gold medals in Olympic competition (1984 and 1992).
- Jack Sperling, the National Basketball Association’s appointed governor of the New Orleans Hornets, told the media on Wednesday he’s ready to open negotiations with potential buyers of the franchise.
“We have improved the financial situation of the team, and now we’re getting ready to start to talk, to have serious dialogues … with potential buyers,” Sperling said. “The potential buyers out there who I have talked to are aware of what’s going on in New Orleans. They’re very impressed with what’s happened here and they’re very positive about it. So I like our chances.”
Ultimately, the league wants a buyer heavily invested in keeping the Hornets in the state of Louisiana.
- Speaking of relocation, there is still a possibility of the Sacramento Kings changing addresses after next season. But the chances of the team saying received a positive boost yesterday when Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a three-time former All-Star, announced he will seek a second term as the city’s major.
Johnson has been one of the main leaders pushing for a new downtown arena to keep the Kings in Sac-town.
“It’s not because I love politics,” Johnson said to the assembled press. “It’s not because I love the spotlight … I do what I do because I love this city.”
NBA Chats: There is one chat on the schedule today. Joel Brigham is set to run the point at 1:30PM EST. Joel covers the Chicago Bulls and Eastern Conference. Be sure to get your questions in early. You can always find the upcoming chats here.
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