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Clippers vs. Grizzlies - Game Preview and Open Thread

LA Clippers logo
Grizzlies logo
17-33 14-39
Staples Center
Feb. 20, 2008 - 7:30 PM
Probable starters:
Sam Cassell PG Mike Conley
Quinton Ross SG Juan Carlos Navarro
Corey Maggette SF Rudy Gay
Tim Thomas PF Hakim Warrick
Chris Kaman C Darko Milicic
The Big Picture:

The Clippers haven't played a game since last Wednesday.  And given that not a single one of them had any pesky All Star Weekend responsibilities, they were able to rest up the whole time.  It looked like that rest was helpful when the team had a full practice on Monday - but then Chris Kaman's right shin tightened up and he was held out on Tuesday and is questionable tonight.  Great.  As it happens, Kaman missed the game the last time these two teams played with an injury to his other shin, and the Clippers lost that one in Overtime in Memphis.  If Kaman is able to play and play well tonight, the Clippers should win pretty easily as the Grizz don't really have anyone who can handle him.  Without Kaman, it could be a lot tougher.

The Antagonist:

The Grizzlies have only won once in nine games since that OT win over the Clippers.  Most of those games were after the trade that sent Pau Gasol to the Lakers.  Unfortunately, Aaron McKie has not proven to be the 'difference-maker' they'd hoped for.  They do have some young talent on the team - Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and Juan Carlos Navarro made up one sixth of the Rookie-Sophomore game in New Orleans, and Darko Milicic, Hakim Warrick and Kyle Lowry can play some too.  But their best player (maybe not for much longer) is Mike Miller.  Miller missed most of their game in Seattle last night with back spasms.  Given his current situation, it would shock me if he suited up tonight, meaning he may never wear a Memphis uniform again.

The Subplots

  • As Long as You're in Town.  Trade rumors have linked Mike Miller with the Clippers for over a year.  There was a recent report that the Clippers have offered the expiring contracts of Sam Cassell and Aaron Williams for Miller, but backed off when the Grizzlies asked them to throw in their 2008 lottery pick.  According to the Memphis paper, the Clippers are still pursuing the sharpshooter.  I hope they don't acquiesce and include the 2008 pick, but any other first rounder would be fine with me.  Miller would certainly be a great fit with the Clippers.  With the trade deadline tomorrow, they can save the guy some extra travel if they just get this deal done now.
  • I Miss Kaman.  Chris Kaman needs to begin his fully-recovered-from-the-flu-bug, don't-forget-about-me-in-the-Most-Improved-Player-vote, post-All Star Break push.  Unfortunately, it may have to wait another game or two with this new shin problem.
  • The Revenge of Al Thornton.  Don't be surprised if Al Thornton has a big game.  He went for 33 on the day he found out he was left off the Rookie team.  In the first game after the All Star break, on the floor with a couple of rookies who were selected, he's going to have a little extra motivation.  Averaging 10 points on the season, Al upped that to 13 in January and almost 17 in February.  He's also rebounding much better, which is good to see.  With little else to play for the rest of the way, Al should get lots of minutes and lots of touches for the Clippers the rest of the season.  We'll get an indication of MDsr's intentions with Thornton right from the opening tip - does he leave him in the starting lineup, or go back to Tim Thomas now that his back has gotten some rest?
  • Young, Undersized Guards - Just like Sam Cassell and Cat Mobley like them.  Look for Cassell to spend a lot of time in the post against Mike Conley or Kyle Lowry and likewise for Mobley against Navarro.  If Miller doesn't play, Navarro will get the start at the two.  And LA fans may get a chance to see Javaris Crittendon in his triumphal return to Staples Center.
  • 4-21.  That's the Grizzlies road record.  They lost in Seattle last night, and the Sonics were playing without Kevin Durant.  This is not a good team in general, but they are a really BAD road team (only Minnesota is worse).  The Clippers have had their troubles winning at home this season (a meager 9-16), but this is a team you have to beat, especially when they're playing a back-to-back.