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#IMHO: Playoffs, Veterans and Rookies

by Lang Whitaker | Grizz Gaming GM

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.


From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, February 26, 2019 9:19 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO

Mike:

Most of the league is activating playoff mode right now, getting to the point where they lock in and make their final push at the postseason. Then again, there are some teams who could activate all they want, but they still aren’t going anywhere, except for maybe whatever the opposite direction of the top is.

I thought about this last night watching the Grizzlies thump the Lakers. There are several young, quality players on the Grizzlies who will likely not make a postseason visit this spring, who if the circumstances were different could be contributors on teams making a run into meaningful games. (I’m speaking specifically of guys like Justin Holiday, Ivan Rabb, Delon Wright, Jonas Valanciunas, and even Jaren Jackson.)

All of which got me thinking: Is there a young player out there who will likely not be in the playoffs that you’d like to see in the playoffs? I’ll throw a name out there: Trae Young has been all over the highlights lately, and I think he’s the type who would be particularly fun to watch in the crucible of the NBA postseason.

Anyone you’d like to see do work?

Trae Young

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Tuesday, February 26, 2019 6:25 PM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

To me, Devin Booker is the most exciting young player on a perennially struggling team that’s firmly out of the playoff picture right now. However, if Booker were to magically appear in the postseason, I’m convinced his scoring and deep shooting ability would light up scoreboards and be thrilling to watch. I know Booker’s demeanor and fake tough guy antics at times rub plenty of people the wrong way. But there’s no denying his talent and tenacity when healthy.

Over an eight-game stretch entering the week, Booker was averaging 25.3 points, 7.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 48 percent from the field. On a team headed absolutely nowhere other than back to the top of the lottery. Still, he’s got star potential and superstar swagger.

Lang, there are far too many times when former legendary players have to sell or pawn off personal property or assets because they’ve fallen on difficult times financially. But to read that NBA career scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 71, is auctioning off four of his league championship rings to raise money for youth educational programs in science, math and engineering, I was overwhelmed with pride and joy. Here’s Jabbar’s statement, according to an ESPN report:

"When it comes to choosing between storing a championship ring or trophy in a room, or providing kids with an opportunity to change their lives, the choice is pretty simple. Sell it all.”

What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen/heard a current or former pro athlete do recently?

Kareem Abdul Jabbar

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2019 5:06 PM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

Booker is an awesome call there. The Suns haven’t really been relevant in a minute but every time I catch Booker on League Pass he’s fun to watch. I’d also like to see Luka Doncic on that big stage. Actually, I’d like to see Jaren Jackson, Jr. on that stage, but we’ll cross that bridge another time.

I loved Kareem’s explanation for selling all that stuff, although if we’re being honest I kinda hate that it came to that. I remember when Bob Cousy did something similar a few years back because he wanted to provide for his family. Which is the best reason for doing that. But the sentimental part of me loves the history attached with those old trophies and rings.

I don’t think this counts as recent, but I was telling someone the other day about Warrick Dunn. The former Falcons running back established a foundation upon retiring, and he helped families in need get into their own homes. One of those homes? Went to the family of a kid named DeShaun Watson. Talk about paying it forward.

And we should talk here about Mike Conley, who this morning was presented with the NBA’s Community Cares Assist Award for everything he’s done here in Memphis. He is such a great role model and person, and I can’t think of a more fitting recipient for that reward.

Speaking of Conley, his former college teammate Greg Oden announced today that he was joining the draft pool for the Big 3 league, where a bunch of older players play 3-on-3. Which current NBA player are you most excited to see one day matriculate to the Big 3?

Mike Conley Community Assist Award

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2019 10:54 PM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: #IMHO

That one is too easy, Lang. I'm going with Zachary McKenley Randolph. You know Z-Bo would bring a level of intensity and strike sheer fear into those dudes. And he'd only have to play halfcourt, too! Man, it just wouldn't be a fair fight when he catches the ball in the post. Another guy I'd like to see, for some reason, is Pat Beverley. There would be straight up fights erupting in those Big 3 games with the way he'd get under the skin of so many.

Let's close on this: I'm pretty bummed out that Jaren Jackson Jr. is out indefinitely with that thigh bruise and won't be able to go head-to-head with Luka Doncic when the Grizzlies face Dallas this weekend. In fact, Memphis plays Dallas three times in the final 19 games. If healthy, would Jaren have had any shot to potentially close the voting gap on Luka for Rookie of the Year over the final weeks?

Jaren Jackson Jr.

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2019 8:59 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO

Mike, there are two different conversations to have here. First, of all, I don’t think Jaren would be able to catch Luka in the court of public opinion. For as many highlight plays as Jaren has made, Luka has captured the imagination of the people unlike any other rookie. Reddit loves him, The Ringer is making songs about him, and his game is tailor-made to produce Twitter-length clips of stepback jumpers and cool passes. Now all that said, I also think Luka deserves to be the Rookie of the Year. As talented as Jaren is and as many impactful moments that he’s had for the Grizz this season, I feel like Luka has been more integral to his team’s success than Jaren has been. I think Jaren has a higher ceiling, but right now Luka is at a higher level.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. Their sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and they have no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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