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Clippers at Memphis - Game Preview and Open Thread

3-15 4-14
December 5, 2008 - 5:00 PM
TV: FSN Prime Ticket
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Mike Conley
Eric Gordon SG O.J. Mayo
Al Thornton SF Rudy Gay
Zach Randolph PF Darrell Arthur
Marcus Camby C Marc Gasol

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have played well against some decent teams in the last few weeks. Let's see how they do against a really bad one. The Grizzlies are a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad 4-14 on the season. Of course, that makes them a game better than the Clippers. I would like to think that the Clippers will at least take care of beating the weaker teams in the NBA this season - they have had a tough schedule to open the season, there's no denying that. But then again, they have home losses to the Warriors and Sacramento, so there's just no telling. (By the way, of the Grizzlies' four wins, two came against the Dubs, and one came against the Kings.) The Clippers forwards have been terrific lately - Zach Randolph and Al Thornton have combined for 50+ points and 20+ rebounds between them in the last three games. You'd think the team would have more to show for that than a single win. 2-2 on this trip would be OK, considering where the team has been, and tonight in Memphis and tomorrow in Minnesota were always the more likely wins. Let's see if they can put it together. A laugher like the game in Oklahoma wouldn't make me mad.

The Antagonist:

We've already mentioned the record (4-14) and the fact that 3 of the wins came against the struggling Warriors and Kings. They're also riding a 7 game losing streak in which they have not been competitive. When the Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers last season, it obviously wasn't to help their team in the short term. The bad news is, they used all that cap space they had this summer to sign... Quinton Ross... to an unguaranteed minimum contract. I'm not kidding - that was their big signing. Oh, and some Iranian dude who hasn't played yet. I'm being a little unfair - they did sign Josh Smith to an offer sheet. But didn't that seem designed to appease the fan base? Did anyone really think Atlanta was going to let him go? Now GM Chris Wallace gets to say, "Hey, I tried to improve the team, but those darn Hawks matched." The other big event of the off-season was a trade for O.J. Mayo (and we'll see the other half of the trade tomorrow night). I give them credit for being bold - but when you take all of the 'bad contract guys' out of the equation (they got rid of Brian Cardinal's 11 on a scale of 10, but took back Antoine Walker's 10 and Marko Jaric's 9), the trade boils down to Kevin Love and Mike Miller for Mayo. (Walker hasn't played a minute this season, and Jaric has appeared briefly in 7 games.) Mayo's been good for them - but they gave up arguably their best player from last season in Miller, plus the fifth player in the draft. He'd better be damn good. The net effect in Memphis is the mother of all youth movements (or is it the daughter of all youth movements?) The Grizzlies starting lineup consists of three rookies, a second year player, and a third year player. Their oldest starter is 23 year old rookie Marc Gasol, Pau's brother, who was a Lakers second round pick in 2007 and was part of the package for his brother. All of the Grizzlies starter, and two key reserves, are younger than Al Thornton.

The Subplots

  • Rookie 2 Guards. Since they were in high school, O.J. Mayo and Eric Gordon were destined for the NBA. Mayo was the bigger name, and viewed as the likely number one pick, before they started college, but Gordon was the next best shooting guard in that high school class. Midway through their freshman years, scouts had cooled on Mayo a bit at USC, and Gordon was lighting people up in Indiana, and EJ moved ahead of OJ on most draft boards. After Gordon suffered an injury and finished the season in a shooting slump, Mayo passed him again. Mayo ended up being picked third, Gordon seventh. Mayo was the starter, and a go to scorer, from day one in Memphis. Gordon got the job in LA after Cat Mobley was traded and Ricky Davis was hurt. They're both playing well - Mayo is leading Memphis in scoring at over 21 a game, Gordon is averaging almost 17 as a starter. They're both shooting well, especially when you factor in the number of threes they take - Mayo's effective FG% is 51.6%, Gordon's is 51%. This should be a fun matchup.
    The other Gasol. I'm looking forward to seeing him play. I've only ever really seen him with Spain. He's bigger than Pau, but certainly less skilled. He's averaging about 12 and 7 in only 29 minutes per game, and shooting 56.5%, so that's very respectable. It's looking like he's the best player the Grizz are likely to end up with from the trade, since the Laker draft picks will be at the end of the first round. Somehow, I'm not quite as worried about this Gasol in Memphis though.
    Darrell Arthur. Chris Wallace can say that he got two starters in the Pau Gasol trade (they actually drafted Donte Greene with the Lakers pick, and then traded him for Arthur). Of course, if they were to put Javaris Crittendon in the starting lineup, then they could say they got three starters. It's the NBA people - a couple of borderline starters does not equal a superstar. Not even close. He's doing a decent job on the boards, averaging a hair less than 10 per 36 minutes. But it's not a good sign when your power forward is shooting under 40%.
    Baron versus the young guys. The Grizzlies have a couple of pretty good young point guards in Mike Conley (21) and Kyle Lowry (22). But they're both on the smallish side, and Baron should be able to overpower them. Conley and Lowry split time at the point, with Conley playing about 26 minutes per game and Lowry playing the other 22.
    Athletic threes. Rudy Gay may have been the best athlete in the 2006 draft, and Al Thornton probably gets that distinction in the 2007 draft.
    No contest. Actually, looking up and down these rosters, the Clippers are just the much better team. They pretty much dominate three of the head-to-head matchups (center, power forward and point guard) with all star caliber veterans playing against youngsters, and in the other two, the matchups are eerily similar. I guess you give a slight edge to Mayo and Gay over Gordon and Thornton, but the Clippers wings can hold their own. I'm saying, LA really needs to win this game.
  • Check out the preview at Grizzlies blog 3 Shades of Blue.