Wes Welker’s trash talking and in-your-face attitude would fit in well with the NBA’s best team.
The Memphis Grizzlies are not winning very many games this season. Their record now stands at a paltry 9-23 after succumbing to the Celtics Friday night at The Garden, the encore of a horrific, NBA-worst 22-60 campaign last year. But, if you ask me, things are looking up for the Grizz.
They feature three solid building blocks on their roster in PG Mike Conley (I’m a huge, huge Conley fan), SF Rudy Gay (in the midst of a break-out year), and PF Pau Gasol (his numbers are way down, but look for him to rebound next year if not sooner), as well as some nice role players such as G/F Mike Miller, G Juan Carlos Navarro, F Hakim Warrick (who they choose not to play for some reason), PG Kyle Lowry, and F/C Darko Milicic. This group will only get stronger next season, after the addition of another top lottery pick and more time together to mesh.
They have one truly horrendous contract to deal with in the form of 3 more years at $5.85 million per season of Brian Cardinal, and one more contract they would like to rid themselves of–Damon Stoudamire’s 2 year deal worth $4.35 million each year. Stoudamire could actually help a team like the Celtics, and has value because his deal expires soon enough.
The team currently finds itself actually literally at the cap limit, and with Stromile Swift’s contract coming off the books and some smart maneuvering, the Grizz could quickly create enough cap space to sign a quality player to help take them to the next level.
This is a team that isn’t far off, and with a few good moves and the right selection in this summer’s draft could find its way on the fast track back to relevancy.
The star of the night was undoubtedly Tony Allen (20 points in only 26 minutes), who looked like he should be the starter with Ray Allen coming off the bench…coincidentally I have suggested this before, but not because I think Tony is better than Ray, but because lessening Ray’s minutes would be a nice way to keep the 32-year-old fresh for the play-offs and the remainder of his career with the Celtics. By the way, it was great seeing the crowd come to its feet when the Grizzlies fouled Ray in the waning seconds of the game, giving him a chance to avoid his first scoreless outing in more than a decade.
The starting back court of Allen and Rajon Rondo struggled against Memphis, combining for 6 points on 2 of 18 shooting and 9 turnovers, but their putrid play had no effect against a lesser opponent as Pierce and KG did their thing with the bench and Kendrick Perkins contributing solid performances as well (Big Baby dunked! It might have been the first successful dunk of his pro career). Rajon and Ray must rebound Saturday night against the Pistons if the Celtics hope to beat their biggest rivals at the moment. If the Pistons can hold home court they certainly will have established themselves as the team to beat at this juncture in the year, especially after the beatings they’ve handed out of late to anyone who has dared cross their path.
On an unrelated note, according to ESPN.com’s David Thorpe and my own eyes having watched opponents’ “chippiness” against the C’s, the rest of the NBA doesn’t like KG’s new team very much. Thorpe says players have told him that the Celtics talk a lot of trash, which always goes over well when you’re getting annihilated. As Lamar Odom demonstrated, players take note of this.
If you listen to the audio on the Odom clip above, you’ll notice Garnett yells “Get that shit out!” when he blocks Lamar’s shot, and two seconds later Ray Allen is on the floor. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The fact that Paul Pierce screams “block party” every time someone drives to the basket and KG has any chance of blocking the shot, certainly can’t endear the team to the rest of the league either. Additionally, Garnett’s insistence on blocking every shot taken after the whistle and slapping the ball from opponents’ hands in order to more quickly inbound the ball after a stoppage in play add to the league’s dislike for the 28-3 Boston Celtics. Keep an eye out for further retaliatory action as the season wears on.
Readers of Bill Simmons already know that Wes Welker famously picked up a first down to clinch a game earlier in the Pats’ undefeated regular season, and promptly yelled in his defender’s face, “You fucking suck!” The Boston Celtics may have a team full of Wes Welkers.