A Tale of Two Rosters...Rather Two Tales of One Roster

So the news has hit everywhere (just check your national NBA source) that Allen Iverson is becoming part of the regurgitated  uhhh...rejuvenated Memphis Grizzlies roster.  For those who are counting, this is the second major veteran acquisition of the summer for the Grizz, the first being Zach Randolph.  The obvious question:  What does this make Memphis?  The obvious answer:  A coach's nightmare.  And not the opposing coach either. 

This is like trying to load up a stable of prize fighters and ending up with Butterbean and Kimbo Slice.  One used to be good.  One was considered good but failed to prove his worth when he got the chance.  No matter what either has left in them, this is not going to end well.  You're going to get picked apart by opponents who also have talent but know what they're doing.  And don't even start talking about the chemistry issues.  Ugh.  Plus you've got these guys as the veteran leaders for your young players?  I don't know about you, but everything in the fiber of my being says these signings were a mistake.  You can't short-cut your way to greatness this way.  If everything goes exactly right you're probably buying yourself a low playoff seed and a first-round exit.  But even if that happens (and mind you, the words "everything going right" haven't been associated with Iverson and Randolph for a long time) you know you're working against a doomsday clock before it all gangs agley.

That said, you also know there are people in Memphis view this as a master-stroke of genius.  One of the things I'd like to ask today, besides the obvious "How do you think Memphis will do?", is for you to imagine yourself being a Grizzlies fan right now.  You've seen the passion people put into the Blazers.  You know how the scripts run.  If we were all Memphis fans I'm pretty sure we'd be hearing some version of this:

This is amazing!  Iverson is an All-Star, has scored 30 in a season, has taken teams to the finals, and can dish the ball like crazy.  Zach Randolph scores everything he touches from anywhere this side of halfcourt.  They're going to play off of each other incredibly well.  And think of this:  we STILL have Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo!  That's four potential 20-point scorers in the lineup!  Oh, and did I mention Mike Conley?  He started for us last year and is poised to break out.  We haven't talked about centers yet either.  Marc Gasol was one of the biggest surprises of 2008-09 and we have the second overall pick in the draft backing him up!  This team is incredibly DEEP!  I would put us immediately up there with the Portlands and Denvers and possibly surpassing San Antonio too...if not this year then certainly next.  And I think it could be this year!

Careful now...I am not slamming Memphis fans in particular here.  As a whole I'm sure they are no more or less brilliant than any fan base. I'm sure there are many who wouldn't agree with the above paragraph.  Rather I'm pointing out that it's possible to spin any situation to look more positive than it is and all fan bases do so, even under the most suspicious of conditions. 

The paragraph above is a possibility I suppose, but it's an extreme one.  The questions the Grizzlies will have to confront are enormous.  Besides chemistry, they also have to solve the riddle of how all of those promising young guys will continue to produce, let alone evolve, when Iverson and Randolph dominate the game night after night.  On paper they have depth but almost every one of those scorers and point guards need the ball to be effective.  Mike Conley is an obvious example.  Last year he flourished when the team was turned over to him and struggled when it wasn't.  Will the team still be his with AI on the court?  If so, will Iverson continue to produce?  Will Gasol ever touch the ball again?  Will Thabeet be able to carve out a spot?  Will anybody defend? 

There's a huge difference between a stacked theoretical roster and a functioning, cohesive unit on the hardwood.  Spin it whichever way you want (and people will).  Odds are it isn't going to add up to be 100% positive or productive for all involved.  The real lesson is that if you have to spin in the first place you still have issues and that's not a good sign.

Basketball isn't simple addition.  You can't keep piling on players and end up with a better team.  It's more like cooking a souffle.  The ingredients and techniques have to be solid.  You can experiment, sure, but if you're ham-fisted this thing isn't going to turn out right even if the components seem high-end.  Your lobster-cheescake-fois gras-saffron mixture is probably going to end up competing with itself.  Throwing it in the oven and slamming the door isn't going to help.

Where on the spectrum do you sit with this?  Do you believe the Grizzlies will see a significant jump because of these moves?  Or are these acts of desperation doomed to fail?  If you were a Memphis fan would you find yourself spinning this positively?  Can you think of ways to do so or are the warning signs too obvious?  Weigh in below.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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