More C-USA awards for Tigers

The Memphis Tigers received three awards from Conference USA on Tuesday as senior D.J. Stephens was voted Defensive Player of the Year, guard Chris Crawford was selected Sixth Man of the Year, and Shaq Goodwin was named to the All-Freshman Team.

Stephens led the league in blocks. Crawford elevated his game during C-USA play, shooting 44 percent from 3-point range. Goodwin averaged 7.9 points.

Player of the Year and Coach of the Year will be announced Wednesday in Tulsa, site of the league’s postseason tournament. Earlier, Joe Jackson was named first-team All-C-USA and Stephens, Adonis Thomas and Geron Johnson made third-team All-C-USA.

Tigers’ Joe Jackson earns C-USA First-Team honors

Tigers guard Joe Jackson has been named All-Conference USA first team and three other Tigers were selected to the third team.

The league made the announcement on Monday, March 11, and Geron Johnson, D.J. Stephens and Adonis Thomas were all third-team choices. Coach Josh Pastner was happy Jackson made first-team, saying there was “no doubt” about that decision, but he was miffed more players did not earn first-or-second-team honors and that Chris Crawford was not recognized.

In fact, Pastner interrupted Jackson’s interview session with media at the Finch Center Monday to say that if Crawford is not the league’s Sixth Man of the Year there should “be a Congressional hearing.” He also said Shaq Goodwin should be Freshman of the Year, Johnson Newcomer of the Year, and Stephens Defensive Player of the Year. He stopped short of saying he should be Coach of the Year but Thomas did that work for him.

“Most definitely,” Thomas said of Pastner as the league’s Coach of the Year. “Coach has done a great job this season.”

The league’s major awards will be announced Wednesday in Tulsa, site of the C-USA Conference Tournament. Memphis begins play Thursday night.

New-look Grizzlies begin home portion of post-Rudy era with a victory

Just 24 hours after the Rudy-less and shorthanded Grizzlies got thumped in Oklahoma City on national television, they beat the Washington Wizards 85-76 Friday night before one of the smallest crowds of the season at FedExForum.

While fans and media have been debating all the Grizzlies’ changes under new ownership — the trade with Cleveland that sent out three players and a protected first-round draft pick, and the anticipated but still shocking trade of Rudy Gay to Toronto — those on the inside have turned the page because that’s what professional players and coaches have to do.

“We won,” coach Lionel Hollins said when asked his reaction to Friday’s game with several new players. “I’m happy.”

The most recognizable name and face in the contingent coming to the Grizzlies — 11-year Detroit Pistons veteran Tayshaun Prince — introduced himself to Memphis with 14 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting performance. He moved within the flow of the offense and defense like he’d been here two months, not two minutes.

“Marc Gasol was directing me every time Mike (Conley) called a play and that helped,” Prince said. “It was tough, but I tried to keep it as simple as possible for the first game.”

All of the change has been tough on the entire team but Conley, who had a game-high 18 points, said he felt a bit of normalcy returning on Friday night; the victory improved their record to 30-16.

“We’re not all the way there,” Conley said. “We’re just now coming out of the smoke, the haze of that trade. But tonight, for the most part, it felt like we were back.”

The Grizzlies’ next game is at home, on Tuesday, Feb. 5, against the Phoenix Suns.

 

Rudy Gay trade makes sense, if you’re the one signing the checks

Wow.

That was Mike Conley’s one-word tweet not long after the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors Wednesday afternoon in a three-team deal that, more than anything, signifies change is going to be the one constant for a while under new majority owner Robert Pera and right-hand man Jason Levien.

For Grizzlies fans who were tempted to think the earlier deal that sent Mo Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a protected first-round pick to Cleveland and saved the team more than $6 million in salary and a $4 million luxury tax bill meant the team had achieved its short-term goals, the trade of Gay had to be a shock (center Hamed Haddadi also went in the deal).

Certainly, Conley’s tweet communicates shock. But truthfully, we shouldn’t be that surprised. The Memphis NBA franchise is now in the hands of people who really have little or nothing in common with the old-guard NBA and they have to operate the team in a new-world economy where the luxury tax is ever more punitive. That’s not palpable for a new owner in a small market.

We all deal with financial realities we don’t necessarily like in our daily lives. Only our decisions are typically on a much smaller scale. If we have to cut back, we drive the car an extra year or two and maybe downsize the next vacation. But if you’re Robert Pera, tough decisions are bigger. You bring in John Hollinger, the analytics expert from ESPN, and his metrics tell you Gay may be athletic and graceful but ultimately is only an average NBA player. Yet he’s making more than $16 million this year and is due more than $37 million over the next two seasons. That’s not average pay. That’s not logical if you’re one the signing the checks.

So whether Grizzlies fans like it or not, the deal makes a lot of sense from where Pera sits. We won’t go into all the details of every player involved the trade now, but veteran Tayshaun Prince comes from Detroit and several things are immediately apparent: he’s older (almost 33), cheaper (around $7 million per season), a better 3-point shooter, a more tenacious defender, and less athletic. At worst, it looks like a push. Plus, the Grizzlies are getting a couple of young forwards. And yes, that may mean the larger plan could include parting with Zach Randolph after the season. But that’s a “wow” for another day.

Z-Bo NBA All-Star Again

Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph leads the NBA with 27 double-doubles. Now, he has doubled the number of his NBA All-Star Game selections. Randolph, who is second in the league with 11.6 rebounds and is averaging 16.1 points per game, was chosen by coaches to be a Western Conference reserve player for the Feb. 17 game in Houston.

The Grizzlies now have had four All-Star selections: Z-Bo twice and brothers Pau and Marc Gasol once each.

Dansette

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