VOL. 131 | NO. 6 | Friday, January 8, 2016
The Press Box
Mediocre Grizz, McGwire Gets It, NCAA Madness
By Don Wade
Wednesday night, Jan. 6, Grizzlies at Oklahoma City on ESPN. It was, well, must-grimace TV.
With Mike Conley in street clothes because of a sore left Achilles, hopes were not particularly high from tip-off. But the Thunder closed the first quarter on an 11-1 run and the Grizzlies never mustered a threat, losing 112-94.
It was a prime-time pummeling.
As OKC was seizing control, long-ago Grizz coach and now ESPN analyst Hubie Brown noted Memphis’ poor shooting and that it was right in line with their season stats: 29th in points per game and 29th in 3-point shooting percentage.
And then Brown said about the most damning thing possible: “So this is normal.”
So normal it’s not even accurate to call it the “new normal.” It’s been going on too long for that.
This season the Grizzlies have been especially anemic against the good teams. This latest loss to the Thunder leaves the Grizzlies 6-14 against teams at or above .500. They are 13-4 against teams below .500.
If you are what your record says you are, the Grizzlies have become the working definition of mediocrity.
But because the Western Conference is down once you get past the top three or four teams – the L.A. Clippers are showing signs of life now – the Grizzlies probably make the playoffs and probably as the 6, 7 or 8 seed.
So that likely means a first-round match-up with Golden State, San Antonio or OKC. Anybody really looking forward to a whole series of must-grimace TV?
The Baseball Hall-of-Fame story you may have missed: Mark McGwire won’t be on next year’s ballot after getting just 12.3 percent of the vote. The old rules gave players as many as 15 years on the ballot. For McGwire’s era, that limit was dropped to 10 years and this was McGwire’s 10th year.
Steroid villains Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens again fell well short of the 75 percent of votes needed for election with 44.3 percent and 45.2 percent, respectively, but received far more support than McGwire ever has.
If I still had a Hall-of-Fame vote none of those three ever would get it. But I do give McGwire credit for his comments after the 2012 season. In an interview when he was hired as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ hitting coach, after several years of never getting 25 percent of the vote, McGwire made peace with the consequences of his actions.
“(Using PEDs) is a mistake I have to live with for the rest of my life,” he said. “I have to deal with never, ever, getting into the Hall of Fame. I totally understand and totally respect their opinion and I will never, ever, push it.”
McGwire also said then that if any player asked him about using PEDs, he would have simple advice: run, run far away.
This season, McGwire will be the San Diego Padres’ bench coach. That’s often a position that leads to one day getting a managing gig. If that’s what McGwire wants, I hope he gets a chance.
McGwire saw the light late, but at least he’s seen it. Can’t say that for Bonds or Clemens.
No. 15 SMU was 13-0 going into a Thursday, Jan. 7, contest vs. Cincinnati, was the best team in the American Athletic Conference, and in line to possibly get a top three seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But that same NCAA hit SMU with probation that includes a postseason ban, a loss of scholarships, and had coach Larry Brown sitting out several games. The irony now? The player at the center of the NCAA’s investigation, junior Keith Frazier, has left the program.
The NCAA had found that an SMU administrative assistant had taken an online course Frazier was believed to need to be academically eligible. The still-bigger irony? It turned out Frazier actually didn’t need the course to be eligible.
So all that cheating was for naught.
As always with NCAA matters, the punishment includes collateral damage – players who had nothing to do with SMU’s transgressions will not get to play in the NCAA Tournament.
March Madness indeed.
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.