The Back Story:
First meeting of the season. The Grizzlies won the season series last year 2-1.
The Big Picture:
The Clippers were 0-4 in October. They're 2-0 in November. Is it something to do with the Zodiac? No, it's just that they played good teams in October (all four had at least 45 wins last season) and not so good teams in November so far. That trend continues tonight with the 1-5 Grizzlies coming to town. The Clippers were impressive to say the least in their win over the Warriors last night. They shot 58% while their defense held Golden State under 35%. They also got big games from the group that is fast becoming their big three - Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman combined for 72 points, and that was pretty much without playing the fourth quarter. The team should be riding high after that win - let's hope they can keep that feeling and play the same way against the Grizz.
The Grizzlies, or as Citizen Zhiv likes to call them the Funk, are a funky team. If, at the end of last season, you had surveyed NBA GMs about who the most toxic players in the league were, the guys that they would stay away from at any cost, there's no doubt that Zach Randolph and Allen Iverson would have been high on their lists. All the Grizzlies did is trade for Z-Bo and sign AI as a free agent. These two supremely talented pariahs join a team filled with young potential stars - O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley. So it sure seems like there's plenty of talent on the roster. But when Iverson mouthed off about his minutes after his first game in Memphis, it was hard not to think "I told you so." Z-Bo's numbers have, as always, been great so far - he's averaging over 20 and 10, which is what he does. But the team has open just 1-5, and are on a four game losing streak.
- UPDATE: In case you haven't heard, Clipper-summer-flirtation Allen Iverson is not with the Grizzlies tonight, attending to 'personal matters' in Atlanta. Lionel Hollins addressed the media before the game with little more info than that, and as another reporter said to me "He didn't really do a very good job of selling it." In other words, no one's really buying it - not around here anyway. Three games into his career as a Grizzlies reserve, he has to deal with 'personal matters.' Suspicious.
- Back to backs. The schedule makers are being kind with the November opponents, but the logistics of the Clippers early schedule have been brutal. In their seventh game of the season, the Clippers are playing in the third back-to-backs. Not only that, it's the second time that the opponent is coming off a Lakers game, which means that the Clippers are traveling, while the opponent is not. As I recall, the Clippers are among the league-leaders in back-to-backs this season, so they're going to have to figure out how to win in them if they're going to be successful.
- Nice Starting Lineup. Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol is a good starting lineup, at least on paper. It's unclear how those pieces fit together, and there's no one there you would remotely call a 'glue guy' nor are there any defensive stoppers. But it's a young, talented group, and these guys will win some games this season.
- Second Overall Pick. First overall pick Blake Griffin is sitting out with a stress fraction in his patella. Second overall pick Hasheem Thabeet is sitting out because, well, because he's sitting out. He's played 6 minutes in their last 3 games because he's just not a very good basketball player.
- Fun matchups. Kaman and Gasol have both been on tears in the early season, so it will be fun to see who gets the most out of this game. Gordon and Mayo are vying for the title of 'Best shooting guard from the 2008 draft' (J.A. Adande picked Gordon in his chat yesterday).
- Zach Randolph versus the Clippers. As far as I know there were no hard feelings with Zach when he left the Clippers, so I don't think he's going to have that extra incentive per se. But I think players always like to do well against their former team. Defending Zach is a tough assignment for Camby. Zach can take him outside, and he also has the strength and size to lean on Marcus inside. But Marcus' length is the equalizer there for the relatively earth bound Randolph. It will be interesting to see how Marcus does against him.
Heh! Little does he realize that I have on my disintegration-proof vest. You may fire when ready, Grizzly.
- Get the Grizzlies perspective at Straight Outta Vancouver.