Gameday Dish: Nets vs. Grizzlies

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe 26-16 Brooklyn Nets come to The Home of the Blues tonight to battle the 27-14 Grizzlies. Jay-Z’s reenergized squad has gone 12-2 since Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo took the reins last month.

Carlesimo inserted 11th-year, rugged PF Reggie Evans into the first 5 in place of PF Kris Humphries. This new starting group of PG Williams, SG Johnson, SF Wallace, C Lopez and Evans has gone 9-1. Brooklyn currently sits just one game in back of their city rival Knicks in the Atlantic Division.

After being the topic of trade chatter for more than a year, 5th-year Brook Lopez is the highest scoring 5 in the league at 18.6 ppg to go along with 7.4 rpg and 2.1 bpg. With a PER of 25.45, many find it ludicrous that he was left off of the East’s All-Star roster. Many residents of the Nets’ borough think Lopez puts the Brook in Brooklyn.

Memphis has an All-Star snub as well according to Griz fans – 5th-year, 7’1” C Marc Gasol. The Spaniard has played in and started all 41 games this season and can fill up the stat sheet. He is averaging 13.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.8 bpg and 1 spg while shooting close to 50% from the field and 88% from the line.

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Both sides play defense well and statistically rank high in points allowed per game. The Nets at 94.1 are 5th and the Grizzlies at 89.5 are 2nd. Memphis PG Mike Conley is 2nd in the league in steals at 2.35 per game. Nets Lopez, Evans and the high-energy Wallace may be the most for formidable defensive front court in the Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn last played on Wednesday at Minnesota where they were victorious, 91-83. Deron Williams led the team with 18 points, 6 boards, 8 dimes and 3 steals.

Memphis also added to their win column on Wednesday, hosting and beating the flailing Los Angeles Lakers, 106-93, to improve their home record to 16-6. They outscored LA in all 4 quarters with 6 players reaching double figure points. The Grizzlies’ top performance on Wed. belonged to back-up PF Darrell Arthur. Arthur had 20 points, 9 boards and 3 dimes in 28 minutes of run.

Tune in tonight at 8PM ET to the YES Network to see if Brooklyn can continue their winning ways against a formidable Western Conference foe.

Czar’s Season Preview


From the Booth

Mike Fratello and Ian Eagle break down the Nets’ 105-100 home loss to Memphis on Wednesday night.

Gameday Dish: Knicks vs. Grizzlies

Gasol-Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe New York Knicks come to The Bluff City to take on the Grizzlies tonight at The FedExForum. The guys from Gotham are riding high on a four-game winning streak, while the Memphis squad has been singing the blues of late.

Memphis had a tremendous run heading into the playoffs in 2011 and pounded their opponents on the boards, but they’ve had difficulty picking up where they left off due to injuries. Just prior to the late start of this shortened season the Griz lost 6’9” backup C/PF Darrell Arthur, who tore his Achilles tendon during practice. And they’ve been without their key big guy 12th-year PF 6’9” Zach Randolph since he injured his knee in the fourth game.

Randolph led the Grizzlies in both scoring and rebounding last year. Without Z-Bo’s interior toughness and at times prolific scoring and board work, Coach Lionel Hollins needs his other big men, especially 4th-year 7’1” C Marc Gasol, to step up their production, execution and intensity. This is especially important tonight with the Knicks boasting what many basketball brains consider the top frontcourt in the 30-team league. With 10th-year 6’11” 6X-All Star PF Amar’e Stoudemire, 9th-year 6’8’ 4X-All Star SF Carmelo Anthony and the new addition of 11th-year 7’1” shot-blocking C Tyson Chandler, coach Mike D’Antoni’s frontline is formidable at both ends of the court.

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE via Getty ImagesNew York last played yesterday, which may bode well for Memphis. The Knicks beat a Philadelphia team that was on a six-game winning streak 85-79. Carmelo Anthony had 27 points and 9 boards; Amar’e Stoudemire scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds; and Tyson Chandler led both teams with 13 boards in the victorious effort at MSG.

Tonight’s contest is the second of a four-game home stand for the Grizzlies, who were an impressive 30-11 at home last year. They played and lost on Tuesday to the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-95, their third loss in a row. After the Knicks, the Griz host New Orleans and then Chicago, so a win tonight could be just the answer to get Rudy Gay and company over their early season struggles. On the flip side, an ‘L’ to the men from MSG will leave the Grizzlies searching for answers.

Memphis’ backcourt trio of PG Mike Conley, SG O.J. Mayo and SG/defensive stopper Tony Allen will be matched up against the Knicks young one and two. 2nd-year SG Landry Fields and rookie combo guard Iman Shumpert have handled much of New York’s backcourt burden along with 3rd-year PG Toney Douglas. So while most of the attention will be paid to the Knicks front three triumvirate, the battles at the guard positions may ultimately decide this game.

Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and I will bring you the first matchup of tonight’s doubleheader on TNT when the Memphis Grizzlies host the New York Knicks at 8:00 PM EST.

Around the League

NBA 2011-2012 Western Conference Season Preview

Pacific Division

Copyright 2011 NBAE-Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Los Angeles Lakers, who were swept 4-0 by the eventual 2011 champion Mavericks in the Western Conference Semis, thought they had pried PG extraordinaire Chris Paul from the Hornets via mega-trade only to have the deal nixed by Commissioner Stern. Instead the Lakers shipped 13th-year combo forward and reigning Sixth Man of the Year 6’10” Lamar Odom to the champs for a 2012 first round pick and an $8.9 million trade exception. Now in his in his 16th NBA season, Kobe Bryant endures as one of the league’s top talents. But like all athletes he is slowing down with age. The Staples co-habitants still have 11th-year All-Star 7’0” Pau Gasol and 7th-year 7’0” center Andrew Bynum, only 24 years old. But they want Dwight Howard, and he would play in SoCal. So the cast of the 2011-12 Lake Show is by no means set in stone. New head coach Mike Brown, who steps into a giant set of shoes from the departed too-many-rings-for-his-fingers Phil Jackson, will have to weather the perilous tides of change.

The Los Angeles Clippers, who finished 32-50 last season, pulled off the biggest trade of the 2011-12 preseason and landed the much-sought-after PG Chris Paul to go along with unanimous 2011 ROY Blake Griffin. For balance the Clips added 15th-year PG Chauncey Billups, who will anchor their young roster with his focused, veteran presence. Coach Vinny Del Negro also has athletic 10th-year wingman Caron Butler and the defensive paint monster center DeAndre Jordan. There is already growing excitement around this promising team, and with tremendous upside come great expectations. 2012 may be the long-awaited year that the oft-maligned ‘little brother’ of the LA hoops world finally passes his glittery-gold big brother and takes over Tinseltown.

The Phoenix Suns, with the former 2x NBA MVP and 16th-year PG Steve Nash (best Canadian baller ever) missed the Western Conference Playoffs last season with a 40-42 record. Coach Alvin Gentry has newly-added 6th-year former Laker combo guard Shannon Brown to run with Nash. 5th-year center 6’11” Marcin Gortat gives Phoenix muscle and hustle up front, and 17th-year G/F Grant Hill helps out all over the stat sheet and court.  5th-year players G Aaron Brooks and F Jared Dudley will have to step up their production with the loss of Vince Carter to the Mavs. Also 7th-year F/C Channing Frye will be needed to crash the boards with Gortat to give the Suns a chance to run the way they like to.

The Golden State Warriors have a 43 ppg starting backcourt in 7th-year Monta Ellis and 3rd-year Stephen Curry, both 6’3” and 185lbs. Besides this lethal 1 and 2, rookie Coach Mark Jackson doesn’t have a whole lot to work with – especially in the frontcourt, even with the addition of onetime #1 overall pick 6’11” 11th-year Kwame Brown. 7th-year big man David Lee led the team with 9.8 rpg last year. It will be tough for this East Bay bunch to improve a whole lot on last season’s 36-46 finish. There is always talk that either Ellis or Curry is on the trading block because GS needs some serious help up front.

The Sacramento Kings have three players returning who averaged in double figures last season: 3rd-year guards Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans along with 2nd-year ultra-talented 6’11” center Demarcus Cousins. They drafted long-range bomber Jimmer Fredette from BYU and added former Cav 4th-year 6’9” J.J. Hickson to help out up front.  After enduring a 24-58 season last and the possibility of the franchise leaving SacTown, the Kings can build around a shaky, but skilled young nucleus. They are still a few years away from finishing in the top 8 in the West.


Northwest Division

Copyright 2011 NBAE-Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the WCF last spring, but gained valuable playoff seasoning and experience along the way. With First Team All-NBA 6’9” 2x league scoring champ 5th-year Kevin Durant leading the exciting Thunder, the OKC bunch finished 55-27 in 2011. With 4th-year 2011 All-Star and Second Team All NBA PG Russell Westbrook running the show and 3rd-year players Serge Ibaka and James Harden providing inside and outside help respectively, the Thunder should again top the Northwest division in the upcoming season. When center Kendrick Perkins is fully healed and ready to anchor the low post defensively, OKC will be formidable and difficult to beat when they’re ‘clicking’.  The next step in their team maturation should give them a solid chance at making the 2012 NBA Finals.

The Denver Nuggets played very well in the 2010-11 season considering that for a large chuck of it they had to deal with the Carmelo Anthony trade circus. Melo was eventually shipped to the Knicks and the Nuggets finished last year at 50-32 and lost to the Thunder in the WC first round. The Nuggets drafted 6’8” rebounding-machine Kenneth Faried in the first round of the 2011 draft and now have 6’10” 4th-year F Danilo Gallinari and 10th-year 6’11 Nene Hilario up front. In the backcourt they have 5th-year swingman Arron Afflalo and the 3rd-year all-galaxy-quick Ty Lawson at the point. Denver added Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer to take the place of Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith who are playing in China this year. Look for coach George Karl’s team to push the ball and play exciting, high-altitude hoops.

The Portland Trail Blazers, who lost former ROY and 3X NBA All-Star Brandon Roy to early retirement due to a degenerative nerve condition on 12/10/11, will have their work cut out for them in a talented and tenacious Western Conference. Portland returns 6th-year leading scorer 6’11” LaMarcus Aldridge (21.8 ppg) and 3rd-year 2-guard Wesley Matthews who put up 15.7 ppg and played in all 82 regular season games last year. In addition on 2/24/11, they traded for 11th-year 6’7” dynamic Gerald Wallace, who also averaged 15.7 ppg. Veteran PG Andre Miller was traded to Denver on Draft Day for 7th-year PG Raymond Felton. 16th-year 6’11” C Marcus Camby led the Blazers with 10.2 rpg in the 2011 season and is back again, while 4th-year former #1 overall pick center Greg Oden will once again start the year on the sidelines with troubled knees. The Blazers finished 48-34 last season and lost to the Mavs in Round 1. Portland should make the 2012 postseason but have age and injury questions that might hinder them.

The Utah Jazz, who finished last year at 39-43 and out of the playoffs, come into the 2012 season with much uncertainty surrounding them. 8th-year 6’10” Al Jefferson is their leading returning scorer at 18.6 ppg, and he started all 82 games last year. 6th-year 6’8” Paul Millsap is back after averaging 17.3 ppg. Up front they added #3 overall 2011 pick 6’11” Enes Kanter to develop alongside of 2nd-year 6’10” Derrick Favors. Their backcourt is made up of 8th-year PG Devin Harris and 7th-year 2-guard C.J. Miles. The Jazz have several players who can and will impact games. The question is can they impact the WC as a moldable group and return to the playoffs in 2012?

The Minnesota Timberwolves, who suffered through a dismal 2010-2011 season and finished at 15-67, have added #2 overall pick 6’8 Derrick Williams and 21-year-old 2009 #5 overall pick PG Ricky Rubio from Spain. New head coach Rick Adelman has 2011 MIP and league rebounding champ 6’10” Kevin Love to build around. If Minnesota fans will have any hope of improving on last season’s record, 4th-year F and scorer 6’10” Michael Beasley and 9th-year 7’0” Darko Milicic will need to contribute at a more consistent rate. The Wolves team defense was pretty bad in 2011, so they may be thinking trade in order to shore up that area. The bottom line is that this squad needs a lot in a lot of areas and needs to either be patient and try to develop what they have or to break up this current group and start again.

Southwest Division

Copyright 2011 NBAE-Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Dallas Mavericks, the 2011 NBA Champs, are back to defend the title with a few changes that may be consequential come the 2012 playoffs. Center Tyson Chandler, Dallas’ 5th leading scorer, top board-man and best shot blocker, was traded via a sign-and-trade to the glow of Manhattan and the NY Knicks.  Former Laker 6’10” combo forward Lamar Odom, the 2011 6th-Man of the Year, arrived via trade on 12/11/11. Dallas also signed free agent Vince Carter, a 14-year vet, who can still light up the scoreboard on some nights. Coach Rick Carlisle still has 18th-year PG Jason Kidd running the show and 10x All-Star and 2011 Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki scoring from seemingly everywhere on the court. 13th-year F Shawn Marion is back and 11th-year 7’0” C Brendan Haywood returns, where he’ll be expected to fill Chandler’s important role as defensive-stopper.

The Memphis Grizzlies, who made it to the WC semis last spring before losing to the OKC Thunder in a great series, have 6th-year 6’8”SF Rudy Gay back to start the new season. 20-point a night scorer Gay, who had season-ending shoulder surgery last March and missed the entire 2011 postseason, will give the Griz even more firepower to go along with 11th-year PF Zach Randolph, PG Mike Conley, 7’1” Marc Gasol and SG O.J. Mayo. They still have Tony Allen for defensive shutdown assignments, however they lost veteran Shane Battier to the Heat and Darrell Arthur to a season-ending torn right Achilles tendon.  Memphis went 46-36 in a monster division where all five teams finished well above .500 last season.  Coach Lionel Hollins’ squad will be a tough team to beat, especially after gaining valuable playoff experience and victories last year.

The San Antonio Spurs, after posting a 61-21 regular season record (good for #2 overall in the league), were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the upstart Grizzlies. Mr. 4-Rings, future 1st ballot HOF’er 35-year-old Tim Duncan, posted career lows in scoring and rebounding during the 2011 campaign.  Manu Ginobili, the 34-year old crafty Argentine wingman, is still clutch and productive in a pinch, but he too has lost a step and some zip in his frenetic, soccer-like on-court game. The third member of the Spurs triumvirate is French PG Tony Parker. He led the team in scoring and dimes, but he too is probably past his prime. SA traded combo guard and fourth leading scorer George Hill to the Indiana Pacers for rookie Kawhi  Leonard on draft night in June. The Spurs still have the talent to beat any team in the NBA, but it remains to be seen whether they do it in a 7-game series.

The Houston Rockets finished a very respectable 43-39 in a loaded division, but missed out on the postseason. Celtic great Kevin McHale is the new headman in Houston, and he has some potent scorers on his roster. 8th-year 6’7” G Kevin Martin led the team with a 23.5 ppg average. 5th-year rugged PF Luis Scola put up 18.3 ppg and led the team in rebounding with 8.2 rpg last year. 6th-year PG Kyle Lowry was the third leading scorer and led the Rockets in dimes with 6.7 apg. Houston will be able to score. Their difficulties will come on the defensive end where they’ll be forced, until a change is made, to play Hasheem Thabeet and Jordan Hill in the middle. Look for the Rockets to be active in the trade markets this season to change up the composition of their starting five.

The New Orleans Hornets went 46-36 and lost to the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Now they’ve lost All-World PG Chris Paul via a requested trade with the Clippers. NO’s top scorer in 2011, F David West signed with the Pacers recently. From the Clips, the Hornets received top-flight 4th-year SG Eric Gordon, only 22 years old, as well as big man 7’ Chris Kaman and 2nd-year combo forward 21 year old Al-Farouq Aminu. In addition, the Hornets received an unprotected #1 draft pick that the Clippers got from the Timberwolves. New Orleans is in a difficult spot in that the league and the 29 other owners are in charge of The Big Easy’s hoops team. This is a franchise in limbo. Head coach Monty Williams will have his hands full at first and will need to rely on size. Both 6’10” Emeka Okafor and 6’9” Carl Landry will be called upon to provide front court production and toughness for the new-look Hornets.