Tri-State Defender Sport Stories


Serena Williams announces she’s pregnant with first child

By theGrio

Serena Williams is pregnant with her first child! The tennis star announced the big news on Snapchat with a photograph of herself in a swimsuit while showing off her growing baby bump. Williams accompanied the photo with the caption “20 weeks,” which likely refers to how far along she is in the pregnancy. Williams, 35, is engaged to marry Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. The pair announced their engagement back in December.


By Sharon Brown, Special to

Ball is life for coaches of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team the Tri-State Athletic Group. But instilling the fundamentals of hard work and dedication off the court is golden. According to the team website: “The goal of the Tri-State Athletic Group is to lead, develop and support the youth of today, through athletics by promoting responsibility, hard work, sportsmanship, teamwork and fellowship within a safe and positive environment. The organization strives to develop boys into men through athletics; physically, mentally, and spiritually.” The team’s inaugural season began in 2015. It is classified as a 13U team — which means an athlete can be no older than 12 on August 31, 2017 under AAU guidelines. There has been some backlash from former NBA players regarding AAU programs. Kevin Garnett recently commented in an interview on NBATV with Kevin McHale, “Our league now is at a point where we have to teach more than anything. AAU has killed the league.” “We have integrity. We teach our kids truthfulness, integrity. We teach them that they have to earn everything that they do,” assistant coach Tobey Shaw said of The Tri-State Ballers, which operates under the Tri-State Athletic Group’s organization. Shaw wholeheartedly agrees with Garnett to a certain extent. He explained, “I’ve been actually saying that for years and I’ve always said that the AAU is actually a cesspool because of the unfairness at times. “I know for a fact that kids are held back one, two years, so they can shine,” he continued. “Often times a kid that’s 14 years old is playing with 12-year-olds. But with our team, our kids’ ages are our kids’ ages. Their skill level is their skill level. If we feel like they need to be playing up, we’ll tell the parent, ‘Hey, your child, your child needs to be playing up.’ “It’s not about winning with us, even though winning is important. We teach life lessons first and that’s where integrity comes in.” And players must earn their playing time — regardless of how talented they are or how vocal their parents are. “We have 17 kids this year and last year we had 12,” Shaw said. “Playing time was limited. So we told the kids, ‘Hey, if you want to get out there and you want to earn a spot, you go on out there and you show, you play hard during practice. You show us something in the game, and you earn a spot. We’re not going to give it to you because this is an AAU team and your parents pay fees for this team.’ “That’s how we motivate these kids. We reward them with playing time. They make the most of their playing time when they get it.” Head Coach Danny Trezvant knows the importance of giving back while doing it for his son and the community. “I played basketball basically, all my life since I was about six,” he said. Trezvant offered a slightly different perspective regarding Garnett’s AAU comments. “I wouldn’t say that AAU has ruined but I would say that there are some that have taken advantage and caused it to have a bad name,” said Trezvant. “I would say what makes us different is we are teaching the kids the fundamentals, how to do things right. There have been several AAU teams I have been involved with prior to starting our own team and some things that I saw that I didn’t like. Integrity is the utmost and highest with us and that is what we are trying to teach these kids too.” Trezvant has been coaching youth basketball for more than 20 years in the Mid-South. “Basketball is just an avenue to give back to teach kids teamwork, teach them responsibility and then in turn also teach them life lessons,” he added. The Ballers includes a diverse group of kids who spend time together beyond the basketball court. Vince and Sarah Mashburne’s son Eli is a member of the team. They love the family atmosphere. “That’s very important,” said Vince Mashburne. “It’s one of the things that builds a team, not only in sports, but also as you go forward in life, you have to be close to the people who you work with if you want to be successful.” Service . . . with a smile There’s a unique approach to fundraising that the Ballers have developed. You won’t see this team on the street corners asking for money or participating in car washes. Every month, the players work for tips at a McAlister’s Deli in Southaven, Miss. They work four hours in two shifts. For Trezvant, this is a meaningful way for his players to serve the community, to earn money and build a work ethic all at the same time. “We feel like this teaches them more responsibility and how to treat people when you’re working in a work environment,” said assistant coach Barry Jennings. “When you [are] just washing cars or something, you are just washing cars and you get money. Here, you come in, you get the chance to understand how corporate America really works. Hopefully, they’re paying attention and realize this: ‘I have to carry myself a certain way; I have to treat customers the right because they are paying their money and they demand to be treated the right way.” Jennings said they are establishing work ethic for the children. “It’s teaching them that no one owes you anything, especially the older you get. If you want something out there, if you’re not intending to take it, you have to go out there and work for it.” Thirteen-year-old Elyas Peterson loves working for tips at the deli because it helps the team to earn money for out of town trips. “It’s fun going out of town with the team.” Peterson said. He reiterated that working gives him experience for the future. “If I wanted to work at McDonalds or something, when I am older, I will already know how to do it,” Peterson added. Damien Jordan, a 7th grader who attends DeSoto Central Middle School, talked about what he has learned while being on the team, “The team helps us prepare better for life as we get older. It also prepares us for our later jobs in life and how we can grow up as young men.” This team has a distinctive motto which says: Academics First, Athletics Second. Coaches and parents are on the same page, which stresses education as an integral part of success. Parent Kim Terry wholeheartedly agrees with that sentiment. “The team motto really emphasizes what I live by in my household,” she said. “I have certain expectations for my child because I know what he can do academically. “I’m the athletic director at home, because if those grades aren’t right, I’m gonna bench him and everything,” she said. “And so, it is vital for us that the coaches have the attitude you can’t play if you don’t have the grades in school.” Shaw is not only a coach, he is also a 12 year veteran of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. With his experiences as law enforcement, he teaches his players how to interact with the police. Last year, with a stream of officer-involved shootings and hostile encounters, Shaw’s players had questions and concerns about the police. Shaw brought in some of his co-workers to talk to the kids and performed scenarios exercises. After the session, “We changed their attitude as far as how they would act towards the police,” Shaw said. Many of the players have hoops dreams and NBA aspirations. Coach Shaw ended with, “A lot of these kids have basketball, NBA dreams. The harsh reality of it is, none of them will probably ever make it to the NBA, but you teach them life skills and they can take that through their entire lives and for them to live productive lives.” Coach Trevant concluded, “We want to have a positive impact on their lives and that is why we do what we do.” Through sports, the coaches of the Tri-State Ballers aim is to have a lasting impression on the lives of their players on and off the court.

Memphis coach Fizdale blasts ‘unprofessional’ officiating

By Raul Dominguez, Associated Press Memphis coach David Fizdale blasted the officiating in Game 2 of the Grizzlies' first-round series against the Spurs, deeming it "unprofessional...

Can Grizzlies find their grind in Game 2?

By Lee Eric Smith

Too bad NBA Playoff games aren’t 12 minutes long. The Memphis Grizzlies looked great in that first quarter of Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs. Mike Conley erupted for 10 first quarter points, Marc Gasol had it cooking, and Memphis held a 22-9 lead early in the game. Then the other 36 minutes happened, starting with the second quarter. By halftime, the Grizzlies were down three points. And then the dreaded 15-point quarter happened — Memphis mustered only 15 points in the third, while San Antonio scored 30, eventually building a 36-point lead. “They just got after us; they upped their pressure,” said Grizzlies Head Coach David Fizdale. “They forced other guys to handle the ball. We went over it, we expected it, but we just didn’t respond well to it. I thought Mike [Conley] missed some ‘chippies’ in there in the paint. But give them credit; they really turned the game around defensively against us. They forced us into tough situations in that third quarter and they got out running. They broke the game open in that third quarter.” Not surprisingly, Kawhi Leonard was a big part of that. The MVP candidate exploded for 32 points going a ridiculously efficient 11-14 from the field. Also, the Spurs essentially took Mike Conley out of the game after his hot first quarter. Despite his 10-point first quarter, Conley finished with only 13 points. Now, as the focus shifts to Game 2, here are my thoughts on the obvious adjustments Memphis must make: Must SCORE: When Conley and Gasol were dominating early on, everything was lovely. But the game got out of hand because there was no additional scoring. JaMychal Green only scored three-points; Zach Randolph finished with six; Vince Carter had four and Troy Daniels went scoreless. That just can’t happen. The Grizzlies need buckets badly, and one or more of these guys simply have to go get them. Captain Conley: It’s no coincidence that Conley sputtered when Gregg Popovich put Danny Green and other long defenders on him. Expect to see Fizdale run Conley off a few more screens to get him some room to score. Defense: San Antonio shot nearly 54 percent in Game 1. In addition to slowing down Leonard (and without Tony Allen, no less), the Grizzlies have to dig in defensively to make shot difficult for the Spurs, especially in transition. Otherwise, the Spurs can build a lead quickly and being down in San Antonio is no way to win. But knowing how to stop San Antonio is completely different from actually DOING it. We’ll see tonight — tip-off is at 8:30 on TNT and Fox Sports Southeast.

Grizzlies, Spurs square off in 4th playoff series since ’11

By Teresa M. Walker, AP Sports Writer

Nobody in the NBA has played against each other in the playoffs since 2011 more than the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies. And with the exception of 2011, the Spurs have simply dominated the Grizzlies. So much so that Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph focuses only on the pain of being swept in the 2013 Western finals and again last year in the first round . His incredible performance in 2011 — when the Grizzlies pulled off a stunning upset as an 8 seed over the West's best — fades away. "That's what sticks in my mind more, getting swept and them beating us the last couple years, so let's hope (we) go back to 2011," Randolph said. The Spurs roll into this first-round series, which starts Saturday night with Game 1 in San Antonio, as the No. 2 seed in the West with 61-21 regular-season record that was second only to Golden State in the NBA. The Grizzlies slumped to the seventh seed by going 9-15 after the All-Star break and limp into the postseason going 1-5 in April. Last year the Grizzlies were swept with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley both sidelined by season-ending injuries. Both are healthy and have turned in the best seasons of their careers, helping Memphis split the season series with its Southwest Division rival. These teams last met March 4 when Conley forced out of a 95-89 overtime loss in San Antonio after being head-butted by Kawhi Leonard late in the fourth quarter. Conley needed 13 stitches below his right eyebrow for that cut. "Yeah I've been seeing those guys too often lately," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said Friday. "But good. I think they are fresh on our minds. We know them, they know us. It's a tough team as we all know, but we are optimistic. We know that if we play our best game we have a good chance, so looking forward to it." The Spurs lead Memphis 14-4 all-time in the postseason, including a sweep in the Grizzlies' first postseason berth back in 2004. Coach Gregg Popovich said none of that matters. "Every night is a new game," Popovich said. "You've just got to deal with that." Some things to know about this series: CHANGING SPURS: Yes, Parker and Ginobili remain on the roster, their 15th season together. But this is the first season in San Antonio for Pau Gasol, who started his career with Memphis and is Marc's older brother. Pau is one of seven new additions to the Spurs this season. That includes three rookies — Davis Bertans, Dewayne Dedmon and Dejounte Murray — along with veteran David Lee. "It's a lot different," Parker said. POP VS. FIZDALE: Popovich has guided the Spurs to the longest postseason streak in major league sports with this now the 20th berth for San Antonio. This is the Grizzlies' seventh straight with Fizdale the third different coach in that span, and this is his postseason debut as a head coach. "For me personally, I know everybody's looking at this going: 'Here's the greatest coach in the league, and here's the youngest guy, and he doesn't have a chance,'" Fizdale said. "So, for me, it frees my mind. I'm taking free swings at Pop right now. He's supposed to beat me. But I have a lot of confidence in me. I have a lot of confidence in this team." BEYOND THE ARC: San Antonio led the NBA shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range. The Grizzlies just turned in their best season yet shooting 3s and ranked 14th in the league making an average of 9.3 3s per game. A key shooter? All-Star center Marc Gasol, who made 12 combined over his first eight seasons, knocked down 104 this season. GUARDING KAWHI: Leonard led the Spurs averaging 25.5 points a game, and Grizzlies defensive whiz Tony Allen is out indefinitely with a strained right calf. That leaves Fizdale trying to figure who to use and hopefully slow down Leonard. KEEP IN FRONT OF CONLEY: The Grizzlies guard, who signed the 'NBA's richest contract last summer at $153 million over five years, leads Memphis with 20.5 points per game. "He's the head of the snake," Parker said. AP Freelance Writers Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee, and Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this report. More AP NBA:

The NBA playoffs have arrived!

By Tim Reynolds, AP Basketball Writer

LEBRON IN FIRST ROUNDS Good luck, Indiana. LeBron James not only never loses in a first-round series, but the man rarely loses first-round playoff games, period. He's played in 51 first-round games. His teams went 2-2 in his first four, and are 42-5 since — including 17-0 since May 6, 2012. James hasn't played in a Game 6 in a first-round series since 2008. James has been part of 131 wins so far in his playoff career, tied with San Antonio's Tony Parker for the most among active players. More milestones await James in these playoffs, too. If Cleveland makes a deep run, he may take over the No. 1 spot on the all-time career playoff scoring list. He enters this postseason No. 4 at 5,572 points — behind only No. 3 Kobe Bryant (5,640), No. 2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762) and No. 1 Michael Jordan (5,987). Another landmark for James comes Saturday in Game 1 against Indiana, when he makes his 200th playoff appearance. MVP CANDIDATES COLLIDE Mr. Westbrook, meet Mr. Harden. No, the Maurice Podoloff Trophy — otherwise known as the MVP trophy — won't automatically go to the winner. But this will be the rage of the Oklahoma City-Houston first-round series, with presumptive MVP frontrunners Russell Westbrook and James Harden set to lead their teams into the postseason. Westbrook averaged a triple-double this season, 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists for the Thunder. Harden averaged 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds for the Rockets. Including playoffs, Harden and Westbrook have faced off 16 times, each player walking away a winner in eight of those. Westbrook has posted five triple-doubles in those games, including two this season. THE SPURS REMAIN FANTASTIC San Antonio is in the postseason for the 20th consecutive year. That's now tied for the third-longest such streak in NBA history. Philadelphia went 22 consecutive times from 1950 through 1971. Portland made 21 straight trips from 1983 through 2003, and Utah got 20 appearances in a row from 1984 through 2003. But that doesn't tell anywhere near the whole story of the Spurs' consistent excellence. The Spurs haven't just had an NBA-record 20 straight winning seasons — they've won at least 60 percent of their games in each of those seasons. That streak is eight seasons longer than any other NBA franchise ever posted, and also the longest in any North American major pro sport (the Montreal Canadiens and San Francisco 49ers had winning percentages of .600 or better in 16 consecutive seasons). BUSY IN BOSTON Sports fans will be sufficiently busy in Boston over the next few days. Bulls at Celtics on Sunday. Ottawa at Boston in the NHL playoffs on Monday. Bulls at Celtics on Tuesday. Senators at Bruins on Wednesday. Oh, let's not forget the Boston Marathon on Monday — and of course, the annual Patriots Day game coinciding at Fenway Park that morning, with the Red Sox playing host to the Tampa Bay Rays. FINALLY, THE POSTSEASON Greg Monroe has played in 538 regular-season games. Markieff Morris, 448 regular-season games. Combined, they have zero playoff appearances. That will change this weekend. Monroe and Milwaukee will play Toronto, Morris and Washington will play Atlanta. No active player had more games without a playoff appearance than Monroe. Once he plays this weekend, the active leaders in most-games-but-no-playoffs become Omri Casspi (499 after this season) and DeMarcus Cousins (487). There will also be playoff debuts for two referees. Brent Barnaky and Matthew Boland are the newcomers in the pool of 37 refs selected to work first-round games. Boland has more than 800 regular-season games in 15 years on his resume, Barnaky more than 400 in parts of eight seasons. HELLO AGAIN The first game of the playoffs will look like the first game of the regular season for some clubs. Washington visited Atlanta in Game 1 for both teams back in October, and Atlanta will visit Washington for Game 1 of their playoff series Sunday. And Dwyane Wade's first game with the Chicago Bulls was against Boston, so it seems fitting that his first playoff game with his hometown team comes against the Celtics as well. FAREWELL, THE TRUTH This postseason will mark the end of Paul Pierce's career. He's been used sparingly by the Los Angeles Clippers this season, getting into just 25 games. And he might not have much of an on-court role — if any — in the playoffs, though his leadership and playoff experience will surely be valued. Pierce has played in 163 playoff games, mostly with Boston, the franchise with whom he got his first and so far only ring in 2008. ELDER STATESMEN The oldest two playoff-bound players this season are Vince Carter and Manu Ginobili. Odds are, they'll be on the court together in the Memphis-San Antonio series. The 40-year-old Carter is still a key part of what the Grizzlies do, and the 39-year-old Ginobili — possibly in his final season, though speculating about his retirement has sort of become an annual tradition in San Antonio — plays about 19 minutes per game off the Spurs' bench. UPSET WATCH No. 1 seeds almost always beat No. 8 seeds in the opening round. Turner Sports analyst and longtime NBA star Reggie Miller seems to think there's a chance that might not hold up this year. He indicated he wouldn't be shocked if Chicago gave Boston all it wants in the first round. "If you're Chicago, you think, hey, Dwyane Wade and (Rajon) Rondo have won championships, Jimmy Butler has gone deep in the playoffs before. We have playoff savvy and we know how to win," Miller said. "I think this is a great matchup for Chicago." VEGAS SAYS ... The oddsmakers in Las Vegas are showing Golden State as a huge favorite to win the NBA title — 1-2 odds as of Thursday, far ahead of 7-2 second choice Cleveland. San Antonio is the 9-1 third choice, and Boston is showing up in the sports books at 20-1 despite entering the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The long shot? Obviously, that would be Golden State's first-round opponent, Portland — 300-1 right now to win it all. More AP NBA:

GritGrindGrizz: Playoff Edition

By Lee Eric Smith, [email protected]

Is this the last playoff run for the Grizzlies “Core Four?” It’s a question that won’t really be answered until sometime this summer. But here’s what we know: Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol have been signed to long term deals and are in their primes. Both Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are free agents in their mid-30s and are NOT building blocks for the future. While the team will go as far as Conley and Gasol can take them, the “Grit ‘n’ Grind” era is defined by the blue-collar, we-don’t-bluff personalities of Randolph and Allen. They are a big part of why the city loves the team. They’d both like to retire here. Fans want them to retire here. And yet, the longer they are on the roster, the longer the franchise delays the inevitable rebuild. Which brings us to the existential question: Do you ride a tried-and-true, playoff battle-tested Core Four until the wheels fall off and you’re stuck on the side of the road? Or do you allow Allen and Randolph to go in peace this summer and avoid a breakdown altogether? And in case you’re wondering what kind of playoff preview this is, it’s the kind that reminds you to savor this series with San Antonio, this clash of Grit ‘n’ Grind vs. The Perfect Basketball Machine. Like anything else you love in life, you really don’t know when the clock will run out, so cherish the time you have . . . Now, onto the series. This will be the fifth time that Memphis and San Antonio have met in the Playoffs. Three of those were sweeps —2004 against then-Grizz/current Spur Pau Gasol; the 2013 Western Conference Finals; and last year’s injury-ravaged, “who-he-play-for” Grizzlies. Oh, but that ONE time the Grizzlies didn’t get swept! Shane Battier sinks the jumper sealing the franchise’s first playoff game victory. A Zach Randolph jumper sealed the series win, that rare occasion when a No. 8 seed upsets a No. 1 seed. So here we are again, the scrappy underdog from Memphis up against the most consistently successful franchise in the history of sports, this time a No. 7 seed seeking to upset the No. 2 Spurs. What will it take? In honor of the Grizzlies’ seventh consecutive playoff berth, here are seven questions to ponder during this first-round matchup, followed by my prediction for the series. Is it Mike Conley Time? Conley is the youngest of the Core Four, and up until this season, the most deferential. At best, he was a fourth option, behind Randolph, Gasol and Rudy Gay/O.J. Mayo. With the team’s inside-out, ground ‘n’ pound style of play, Conley’s job was generally to set up the offense and play solid defense. Over the last two seasons, he evolved into “Clutch Conley,” taking over fourth quarters to help seal wins. But with David Fizdale’s arrival (oh yeah and that NBA-record $153 million contract), Conley has flourished. In addition to his solid defense and game management skills, he’s added potent three-point shooting and a willingness to call his own number. Last season, he averaged 15 points and six assists while shooting 42 percent from the arc. This year, he’s scoring nearly 21 points a game, to go with six assists and an eye-popping 46 percent from the arc. Oh yeah, and he’s healthy for a change. Conley’s always had the skills to be considered an elite point guard; he just didn’t have the freedom and confidence that Fizdale has given him. To give his team a chance to advance, Conley will need to be the brightest star in the series, period. He will need to almost make us forget that Kawhi Leonard is on the floor, which will be no small feat. Conduct that, Mike Conley! Which Marc Gasol will show up? One thing you eventually learn about NBA players. Eventually, you have to accept that they are who they are. Take Marc Gasol. He is a team-first, no-excuses type of player. A three-time All-Star who is extraordinarily talented and talkative on defense. He has uncorked a new dimension for himself and his team with his rather reliable three-point shot. Gasol is also known to be TOO unselfish, passing up his own shot for a teammate. He’s known to be somewhat moody, and too often, his game seems so timid you can forget he’s on the floor. If Gasol decides to dominate his matchup against Dewayne Dedmon and Pau Gasol — IF HE DECIDES TO — The Grizzlies should be able to steal at least one game in San Antonio. If he decides to keep that focus — IF HE DECIDES TO — the Grizzlies could win the series. Will Z-Bo be a bully off the bench? The classic game plan for the Grizzlies (especially for the Spurs) has been to limit Zach Randolph by guarding him with taller players like Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Opponents would also try to make him defend athletic “stretch fours” who could shoot and run the floor. Even a younger Z-Bo couldn’t really handle that assignment; this older one can’t either. But Duncan and Splitter are gone and Randolph now comes off the bench. And Pau Gasol, though tall, is ill-equipped to handle Randolph. In fact, except for maybe Dedmon, there isn’t a player on the Spurs who can bang in the post with Z-Bo. If Grizzlies bench shooters can keep defenses from crowding Randolph, he should have a great series. And speaking of the Grizzlies bench . . . Will Troy Daniels get hot and STAY hot? As a designated gunner, Troy Daniels has teased and tantalized fans all season. When he gets hot from beyond the arc, he can singlehandedly erase a 15-point deficit or create a 15-point lead for the Grizz. That’s WHEN he gets hot. Unfortunately, he doesn’t reliably get hot. And too often, he seems trigger-shy, unwilling to shoot even though Fizdale has given him a green-light. For this series, he will need to pull the trigger frequently, to keep defenses from sagging onto Randolph when they’re on the court together. If he makes them, great. But in a league that’s gotten faster and more high scoring, Memphis will need to put points on the board just to keep up. So fire away, Troy Daniels. Fire away! What can be done about Kawhi Leonard? Leonard will deservedly get some MVP consideration. And lest we forget, Leonard already has one Finals MVP under his belt. Despite his quiet demeanor, the man certainly knows how to turn it up in the playoffs. And with the departure of Tim Duncan, Leonard has become the focal point of the Spurs attack, while continuing to be an elite defender. The Grizzlies will have a tough time containing him, but there’s hope. Tony Allen has been known to frustrate an MVP contender or two in his own right. And quietly, late-season addition Wayne Selden did a yeoman’s job defending Leonard in their recent matchups. Then again, MVP-level players are known to elevate their games in the playoffs. If Memphis can keep Leonard from dominating, their chances of winning the series improve dramatically. Do you like Pop or Fizz? Fizdale has expressed his utmost respect and admiration for Gregg Popovich. What NBA coach wouldn’t want Popovich’s career? Five championships and 17 straight playoff appearances? That said, despite being a rookie head coach, Fizdale has his own bona fides, winning two championships as an assistant in Miami. The edge in coaching obviously goes to Popovich, who has literally had the better part of 20 years to establish a championship culture, and has players who intrinsically know what he wants to happen on the court. In contrast, this will be Fizdale’s first playoff series as a head coach with players who have struggled to deliver what he wants during the regular season. Can Fizz coax enough discipline and execution out of his squad to win four games? Ye Olde Spurs Two of the NBA’s oldest players will get significant playing time in this series. With Chandler Parsons out, the 40-year-old version of Vince Carter has found his way into the Grizzlies starting lineup. And at 39, Manu Ginobili is still a rotation player for Gregg Popovich. Then, of course, there’s Tony Parker, who is getting older (34) and was banged up this season. So. What. Whatever Ginobili and Parker may have lost in speed and agility, they make up for with championship experience and savvy. They will still provide much of the precision that The Perfect Basketball Machine is known for. Still, it will be interesting to see if the Grizzlies can exploit any weaknesses Ginobili and Parker may have. Prediction: Crazy as it sounds, this playoff series is the most favorable one the Grizzlies could have asked for, once the fourth seed was deemed out of reach. I just don’t think Memphis can score with Golden State or Houston enough to win a series, maybe not enough to win a game. That’s not to say this is a favorable matchup. As usual, San Antonio will help Memphis make mistakes and then will make Memphis pay for those mistakes. The Grizzlies also can’t afford those lengthy scoring droughts where they only muster 17 points in a quarter. It will take a dominant Conley, an aggressive Gasol and everything else falling just right for Memphis to win this series. Technically that’s possible, but not very likely. Spurs in six.

Memphis AD Bowen issues statement supporting Smith’s program

By Associated Press Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen says he and coach Tubby Smith are "extremely optimistic about the future of our program" even though the Tigers' top three s...

Grizzlies’ Conley has best season after record-setting deal

By Clay Bailey, The Associated Press

Mike Conley found the perfect way to answer all the questions about the Memphis Grizzlies giving an injury-prone point guard with no All-Star appearances a five-year, $153 million contract last summer. He had the best season of his career. "I knew people would be waiting for me to fail, and saying their opinion was right," Conley said. "I knew that was out there, but at the same time, I was only worried about the good that has come out of it." The 6-foot-1 point guard usually goes unmentioned when the discussion turns to the NBA's best players. With Conley's history of injuries ranging from ankles to Achilles and even facial injuries in the 2015 playoffs , the contract just seemed way too much to pay to anyone outside of Memphis even if the guard has been a key piece of the longest playoff run in Grizzlies' history. Conley has provided Memphis fans — and ownership — quite a return on the team's investment: — Ten of his 15 career 30-point games have come this season. — Scored a career-high 38 points against Phoenix in January. — Averaging 20.6 pts a game. That's seven points higher than his career average, while also averaging a career-best shooting percentage outside the arc (40.7 percent) and at the free throw line (86.1 percent). — Became the career scoring leader for the Grizzlies, and also has made more 3-pointers than anyone else in franchise history. — Joined LeBron James, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook as the only players with at least 10,000 career points, 4,000 career assists and 1,000 career steals since entering the NBA in 2007-08. "He's been playing phenomenal," Grizzlies guard Tony Allen said. "He's one of the top five point guards in the league. He's definitely an All-NBA caliber kind of guy. He's been showing that." Coaches and other players around the league often talk about how Conley is underappreciated for what he brings to the Grizzlies. After a 110-97 win over Indiana a couple of weeks ago, Pacers forward Paul George talked about Conley's 36 points — including seven 3s, six assists, four steals and only one turnover. "We allowed him to kind of orchestrate the whole offense, and he got comfortable early," George said. "He's a flame thrower. Once he gets hot, it's over." It's why Conley has nicknames from Captain Clutch to the Conductor — the last from a video the Grizzlies put together featuring minority owner Justin Timberlake and directed by Craig Brewer to ensure Conley re-signed with Memphis last summer. Then first-year coach David Fizdale asked even more of Conley starting with having the guard coach a quarter in a preseason game. The switch in roles wasn't a stunt or a lark. Fizdale wanted Conley to understand the role the coach wanted from him as a leader along with running the team. "He's really tried to embrace that for me and take his aggressiveness up another level," Fizdale said. "He is truly the glue to this whole thing connecting everyone, and he does it without an ego." Injuries continue to be an issue for the 175-pound guard, yet he keeps coming back faster than anyone expects. Conley was back in three weeks after breaking vertebrae in his lower back in late-November , an injury expected to keep him out six weeks. He needed 13 stitches over his right eye after butting heads with Kawhi Leonard on April 4, which kept him out of one game only because he couldn't see out of the swollen eye. Conley said his thought process returning from injury is simple. If he can play, he'll play. And he missed only the one game after cutting his eye to send a message of the urgency the Grizzlies need going into the postseason. Memphis has earned the No. 7 seed and will play the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the opening round. Conley feels like he is ready. The 29-year-old guard said, "I'm better for having had the pressure of the contract and having the opportunity and the responsibility to lead this team."

LeBron James to open school for at-risk youth

By Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root

LeBron James has put Akron, Ohio on his back. On Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers mega star announced that he will be partnering with Akron Public Schools to open a school to help at-risk children. The I Promise School will cater to third- and fourth-graders during 2018 and will expand to teach first through eighth grade by 2022, the Associated Press reports. “This school is so important to me because our vision is to create a place for the kids in Akron who need it most—those that could fall through the cracks if we don’t do something,” James said during the announcement of the school, reports. “We’ve learned over the years what works and what motivates them, and now we can bring all of that together in one place along with the right resources and experts. If we get to them early enough, we can hopefully keep them on the right track to a bigger and brighter future for themselves and their families,” he said. James’ school will expand the current Akron school curriculum to include a hands-on learning focus with an “emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, and a dedication to the foundation’s ‘We Are Family’ philosophy,” reports. This isn’t James’ first foray into helping the children of Akron. According to AP, James has helped 1,100 kids in his hometown with a variety of programs, including his partnership with the University of Akron, which provided four-year scholarships to qualifying students within his program.