Training Camp Entrance Themes for Every Memphis Grizzlies Player

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIOctober 1, 2012

Training Camp Entrance Themes for Every Memphis Grizzlies Player

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    Each Memphis Grizzlies player has something grand on which their eyes are set this season. The franchise's first championship is a given. Notwithstanding, all 13 players who have guaranteed contracts have something more that they want to achieve.

    Indeed, many of the players are still looking to improve their play since most are under the age of 30. Marc Gasol is trying to rise up among the elite centers in the game, while Mike Conley is trying to enter the elite ranks at his position.

    Meanwhile, Zach Randolph needs a big season to regain his footing as a high-end post player.

    Each player has a story to tell this season. In this slideshow, that story will be told in a song for each player.

    Follow along to see how each player's career should evolve through his story and related song.

Rudy Gay: 'Everybody Talks' by Neon Trees

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    Essential line: "Oh, mama, everybody talks, everybody talks, everybody talks...too much."

    Rudy Gay has been a significant topic of conversation this offseason. First came the warranted discussion of his missed last-second shots in the series against the Clippers.

    Next came the trade rumors, which had at least four teams vying for a chance to swing a deal for the swingman, according to Hoops World. Those were quashed by Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley, who told The Commercial Appeal that the organization wasn't looking to trade Gay.

    Through the rest of the offseason, the two running themes surrounding the six-year veteran were his ability to play with Zach Randolph and his desire to be a big-time playmaker.

    The first is based on the fact that each one missed a significant part of a season in the last two years and the idea that both are high-scoring players who like being stars. This construct foolishly assumes that the Grizzlies' scoring line can always be upheld with just one of these two players leading scoring for the low-scoring team.

    Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated pointed out in March that during the 2011 conference semifinals, Thunder defenders abandoned the perimeter to swarm on Randolph and Marc Gasol with no Gay out there.

    The second has been a knock on Gay since he was at the University of Connecticut. However, as time has worn on, the stigma has worn off. Gay has become more assertive every year. Last season, he put the team on his shoulders and carried them to the playoffs while leading the team in shots per game by more than five.

    Gay surely knows that, as the song conveys, everybody talks. Trade rumors are the low-hanging fruit of sports talk. Also, people like to fantasize about drama between stars, even if it doesn't exist.

    Fans would hardly be able to live vicariously through players as they like to do if they couldn't wonder whether a player would play up to his ability.

    Gay will try to shake off the talk and be the playmaker he's capable of being. Hopefully, he'll score 25 points more often, but even if he doesn't, the Grizz still have a spectacular playmaker.

Zach Randolph: 'Gorgeous' by Kanye West

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    Essential line: "Ain't no question if I want it. I need it. I can feel this slowly drifting away from me."

    Zach Randolph lost most of a valuable year of his career. He saw his age-30 year drift away after he suffered a partial MCL tear. He worked his way back into good condition before coming back in March.

    Still, he was missing a beat until the playoffs came around. Lionel Hollins decided to keep him on the bench down the stretch because, as USA Today noted, the team was more effective with Marreese Speights in the starting lineup and Randolph on the bench.

    Randolph's numbers in the regular season weren't on par with his Memphis norm. He shot 46.3 percent from the field, the lowest in his three years with the Grizzlies. Also, he averaged 15.9 points per 36 minutes, four points lower than each of his two previous seasons.

    His offensive rebounding was a touch off. He averaged 3.8 per 36 minutes, half a rebound less than the season before.

    After the playoffs had begun and he had adjusted to his return to the lineup, Randolph became vividly aware of what he needed in his game. He started to bring his game back to a characteristic level. He had four games with at least 15 points, as well as four with four offensive rebounds and four with nine total rebounds.

    There's no question that Randolph wants to return to being the forceful, productive inside man who can be counted upon for 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. He finally evaded the undeserved label of a lazy malcontent in 2010-11 and was recognized as a premier player, as shown by his All-NBA Third Team mention.

    He can't let it slip away now, especially when he and his Grizzlies are chasing the incredible dream of an NBA title. Randolph will have to maintain his offensive rebounding dominance that he showed in the previous two seasons, placing in the top two in the category.

    He'll also need to re-up his scoring for this fledgling offensive team.

Marc Gasol: 'The Rising Tide' by the Killers

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    Essential line: "There's a mystery underneath the neon light before the life and the dream collide because the life and the dream are gonna cut me open and you can't escape the rising of the tide."

    Marc Gasol is the rising tide. He's among the forerunners of the young Grizzlies who are rising among the ranks in their respective positions. Gasol has risen quicker than either of his under-30 compatriots, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay. Gasol broke out last season, becoming a premier shot-blocker and a terrific interior defender in general.

    He also became a reliable target for Conley on the inside. The Spaniard started knocking down shots from the inside with ease. However, he did so with greater accuracy at home than on the road. He shot 51.3 percent from the field at home, compared to 45 percent on the road.

    He shot just 38.5 percent against .500 teams on the road.

    Surely, those numbers will improve during his fifth season in the Association. The life and the dream have already started to collide for Pau's younger brother. He averaged 15 points and 11.4 rebounds per game in the 2011 playoffs and had big performances late in the series against the Clippers.

    He showed signs of growth in the last year. He was able to hold his own in the post when Zach Randolph was injured. His strength became formidable for anyone trying to drive the lane against the Grizz.

    With this sharp development, Gasol rose into the top five among centers. He could rise even higher in the ranks as he continues to fiercely patrol the post. If Gasol continues to raise his game, opponents won't be able to escape the rising of his tide.

Tony Allen:: 'I Wish You Would' by DJ Khaled

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    Essential line: "One, two, them boys is comin' for you. Three, four, better lock your doors."

    Tony Allen has made his mark in the last two years as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. He was fifth in steals the last two years with 1.8 steals per game both years. He had the second-best steals rate at 3.6 percent in 2011-12.

    Allen, the leader of the Grizzlies' "Grindhouse," goes after the ball and defends passing lanes like no other.

    Now, as he readies his teammates for the new season, the Chicago native sets his eyes on the new offensive stars of three of Memphis' divisional opponents. Former Orlando Magic sharpshooter Ryan Anderson will aid Eric Gordon as Gordon prepares for his first full season with the New Orleans Hornets.

    Jeremy Lin arrives in Houston to try to lead the Rockets offense.

    O.J. Mayo left Memphis for a starting job with the Dallas Mavericks.

    Each of these players will have to reckon with the defensive prowess of Allen, as well as the Grizzlies' other star perimeter defender, Mike Conley. Mayo was brought up in the grit 'n' grind, but will now struggle to tame his old master.

    Lin, a turnover machine, will wonder why he bothered to leave New York when he finds himself with the dreadful living nightmare of playing the team that forces the most turnovers four times per year.

    Allen will work to cut off passing lanes that would allow for Anderson to find open perimeter shots.

    That's only part of the plan for Allen. He'll have to ensure consistent defensive play in the postseason for a Grizzlies team that wasn't always on key in its series against the Los Angeles Clippers in the spring.

    The Clips put up more than 110 points per 100 possessions in three of the first four games of the series.

    Memphis needs its defensive guru to propel the team to stronger defensive performances in order to go deep in the playoffs. The essence of the "Grindhouse" is challenging opposing ball-handlers with a look that says, "I wish you would."

Mike Conley: 'Each Day Gets Better' by John Legend

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    Essential line: "Where do we go? Who knows? But each day gets better. I just can't let her go."

    Mike Conley has become better with each year in the league. He has improved his steals and assists per game figures in each season. He rebounded in the free-throw department, going from 73 percent in 2010-11 to 86 percent last season.

    Also, he's become more efficient with time. He's improved his assist-to-turnover rate each year. Last season, he had a career-best rate of 3.1.

    Grizzlies fans can only wonder where Conley will take his game now. He could control the ball a little more, although that could depend on whether he and Tony Allen decide to push the ball in transition as much as they did previously.

    He could improve his shooting stroke. His field-goal percentage dipped a bit from 44.4 percent in 2010-11 to 43.3 percent last season. He's a decent shooter. Still, he could hit shots at a significantly better rate.

    His playoff performance could also use some improvement. Conley wasn't on top of his game against the Clippers this spring. He fouled more and turned the ball over more than he did in the regular season. His defense wasn't as sharp as usual.

    Conley isn't that far from being among the very best among the point guard ranks. With a few adjustments, he could make that elite group.

Marreese Speights: 'Any Way You Want It' by Journey

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    Essential line: "Any way you want it, that's the way you need it."

    The Grizzlies used Marreese Speights in various ways last season to varying degrees of success. In his first eight games in the rotation, he averaged 9.9 points and 7.5 rebounds in 24.9 minutes per game. In the next 10 games, he declined to 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game.

    During those 10 games, he shot a horrid 32.2 percent from the field.

    Then, Lionel Hollins gave him more minutes. In the following eight games, Speights averaged 12.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from the field.

    In the second half of the season, Speights steadied himself, averaging 8.9 points and six rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game while shooting a decent 46.3 percent from the field.

    Speights took on a new role after Randolph returned to the lineup in the playoffs. He played just 14.3 minutes per game, but put up a reasonable 6.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while doing so.

    This season, he could end up playing around 20 minutes per game, backing up both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. With the experience that Speights has had in the many roles that he has served in the last year, he should be ready to perform in whatever way they need him.

Jerryd Bayless: 'I'm Real' by Jennifer Lopez

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    Essential line: "'Cause I'm real. The way you walk, the way you move, the way you talk."

    Jerryd Bayless put up impressive numbers in his fourth NBA season last year. He averaged 11.4 points and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from three-point range. His three-point figure was nine percent higher than the year before, and he scored two more points per game.

    However, this was only in a 31-game injury-marred season compared to 71 games the year before.

    That small sample size was nice, but it can be difficult to project that to a full season. One can scarcely tell how it would have projected to the full 66 games.

    Bayless will have to work through training camp to show that he's as good as last season's numbers suggest. He'll have to be accurate in the preseason in order to merit playing time among the group of unproven young scorers.

    If he gets ahead in the preseason, he has a better chance of showing that he's real. He would be able to get quality minutes early in the season. That would give him the opportunity to find enough scoring chances to distinguish himself among the bench scorers.

    If he can hit his stride early, then he can go on for a strong season scoring off the bench.

Darrell Arthur: 'This Can't Be Life' by Jay-Z

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    Essential line: "This can't be life. This can't be love. This can't be right. There's gotta be more."

    Darrell Arthur had the chance to jump off last season after a nice season in 2010-11. However, Arthur wasn't able to see it through. During preseason practice, Arthur tore his Achilles tendon, which sidelined him for the entire season.

    Arthur worked hard to rehab and steadily returned to good form.

    His good health would be short-lived. Last week, he broke a leg while playing pick-up basketball. According to The Commercial Appeal, Arthur is out for four to six weeks, but could take longer to return to full form.

    He has suffered three significant injuries since being drafted. That isn't a good sign for the lean power forward. Being labeled "injury prone" isn't a good situation for a player who is four years removed from being drafted.

    By this point in his career, Arthur would, under normal circumstances, be pointing himself towards where he should be going in his career. However, with each serious injury, Arthur has been set back by injuries that inhibit his growth. Whether the Kansas product will reach his potential is unclear.

    Arthur must be thinking that it can't be right that he finds himself with another serious injury. He has to believe that there's more to his NBA life than getting banged-up after any period of promise.

    Indeed, he's only 24 and has a few years before he reaches the prime of his career. Still, Arthur probably can't help feeling unsettled.

Josh Selby: 'You're Gonna Get Yours' by Public Enemy

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    Essential line: "So what if the judge charges me for contempt? I'll run my boomerang 'cause you know I'm proud. And I won't even hear him 'cause my radio's loud."

    Just like Public Enemy slid in the side door of the rap game with only mild recognition by mainstream radio with their debut album, Josh Selby entered the NBA quietly in his rookie year.

    Similar to how Chuck D and company made noise in the background with this jam, Selby made his presence subtly felt with sparse shots in scarce minutes with the Grizzlies and big performances in the NBDL.

    Public Enemy would need a second confrontational album to get people's attention. Just the same, Selby is just starting to get fans' attention as he gets ready for his sophomore season. Selby had a big summer league campaign.

    Selby averaged 24 points and 2.4 steals per game in the summer league, which was enough to catch some eyes.

    Still, fans had reason to judge this raw talent from Baltimore harshly because the summer league is hardly a sure measuring stick for what a player will do in the regular season. The five-game performance simply provides fans with hope that he'll produce a good amount of points for the Grizzlies.

    Selby has positioned himself well for the season with his development. Some might not believe it, but he can run confidently believing in his scoring ability. With O.J. Mayo gone, a spot has been cleared for a scorer off the bench.

    As long as Selby can carry over that punch of scoring from the NBDL and the summer league, he'll get his.

Tony Wroten: 'Bigger Than My Body' by John Mayer

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    Essential line: "Someday I'll fly. Someday I'll soar. Someday I'll be, someday, much more. Because I'm bigger than my body gives me credit for."

    Tony Wroten was essentially the same player in high school and college. He was a highly skilled slasher who could put up plenty of points. His 16 points per game in his year at Washington was respectable.

    However, he always had the same issues. He could only drive to his right. He wasn't much of a jump shooter or an outside shooter.  His decision-making hasn't been great.

    As pointed out, his trouble spots "will likely become more glaring at the next level and none of which he's shown much of a learning curve with in his career."

    As Wroten enters his first NBA camp, he has much work to do to improve his game. His offense has been one-dimensional to this point. He can have a little bit of success playing this way in his rookie year, but playing as he has will keep him grounded.

    If he wants to fly, Wroten needs to expand his dribbling skills, open his shooting range and become more self-assured when making passes. Some of these things may take more than just a year to develop to a reasonable extent, but as long as he works towards that end, he'll someday be much more.

Wayne Ellington: 'Reset' by Outkast

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    Essential line: "Start over...again. Everything happens for a reason. Good doesn't happen without pain."

    Wayne Ellington had a breezy first two seasons in the league. He shot 39.5 percent and 39.7 percent in his first and second year, respectively, as he averaged 6.6 points per game each year.

    In his third year, Ellington wasn't quite as reliable from three-point range. He hit just 32.4 percent from beyond the arc, as his scoring average dipped to 6.1 points per game.

    The drop surely wasn't encouraging for the Minnesota Timberwolves, which traded him to the Grizzlies for Dante Cunningham.

    For the Grizzlies, a shooter with three-point potential has arrived.

    For Ellington, it's a chance to start over. He's in a new environment where three-point shooting hasn't figured highly in the offensive scheme, mainly because of a lack of three-point shooters.

    Ellington will have to work through camp and preseason to show that he's started to regain his three-point stroke. If he can show improvement during the season, he may find his niche.

Quincy Pondexter: 'Truth Doesn't Make a Noise' by the White Stripes

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    Essential line: "You try to tell her what to do and all she does is stare at you. The stare is louder than your voice because truth doesn't make a noise."

    The role for Quincy Pondexter in the Grizzlies rotation was defined fairly quickly. He generally played around 15 minutes each game. He only played more than 20 minutes once in his first 23 games.

    Similarly, Pondexter's capability unfolded fairly predictably. He was generally a quiet shooter who occasionally broke out. He had his moments, such as his 7-of-10 shooting performance against the Lakers on Jan. 8 and his 11-point first half in Game 3 against the Lakers.

    However, he was generally quiet, just a decent shooter and a plain defender, even when he stood in for Rudy Gay or Tony Allen in the starting lineup. That was his game. Hollins could have told him to act differently, but the stare of his game as it stood in his sophomore year was louder than a coach's voice.

    The directive for Pondexter as he enters his third season is as simple and soft as any before for this mid-rotation player. He simply needs to continue to improve his shot-making ability after raising his mark from 40.6 percent as a rookie to 45.2 last season, as well as improving on defense and cutting down fouls.

Hamed Haddadi: 'I'll Be Waiting' by Adele

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    Essential line: "I'll be waiting for you when you're ready to love me again. I'll put my hand up. I'll be somebody different. I'll be better to you."

    This deep cut from Adele's most recent album perfectly captures the sentiment that Hamed Haddadi must feel towards Lionel Hollins entering his fifth season with the Grizzlies. Haddadi has sat the bench for the Grizzlies for all but six minutes per game each season.

    When he does get off the bench, he piles up blocks and rebounds, averaging two rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game last season. That's 12.4 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per 36 minutes.

    Haddadi has put in work to improve his game this offseason. Instead of returning to Iran only to get caught in the maze that comes with obtaining a visa to return to the United States from his home country, he stayed in the states.

    In August, Haddadi had elective surgery on his right wrist to address ligament and tendon damage from an injury he suffered before he first signed with the Griz.

    The former Iranian Olympian is already looking better since recovering from the injury. He's done well shooting from mid-range, a previous trouble spot for the big man, as Ron Tillery of The Commercial Appeal tweeted:



    Griz backup C Hamed Haddadi shooting well from mid-range w/ surgically repaired right hand today in FedExForum. Should be ready for camp.

    — Commercial Appeal (@CAGrizBlog) September 21, 2012


    Haddadi is heading into camp strong and will hope to impress Hollins enough to earn at least 10 minutes per game.