Memphis is in the midst of the worst losing streak in Memphis Grizzlies history. 11 straight losses, their head coach fired and a new coach hired only further depresses the attitude of the Grizzlies players. On the bright side both O J Mayo and Marc Gasol were named to the rookie challenge team. Of course starting point guard Mike Conley was left off the Sophomore side and starting PF Darrell Arthur off the rookie team so things aren’t as bright as they could be. The good news is that Lionel Hollins has the team pointing toward a better finish with his up-tempo style and free flowing offensive scheme.
Los Angelesis playing their second road game of a 6 game road trip and the back side of back to back games. This is the longest road trip of the season for the Lakers and they want to make sure to start it off with success. Led by All-Star Kobe Bryant, former Grizzlies star Pau Gasol, the Lakers have the second best record in the NBA (36-9) but the hottest Laker right now is Andrew Bynum. Phil Jackson is spoiled by riches compared to the his opponent tonight. Minnesota put up a brave effort against the Lakers last night forcing Jackson to play his starters longer than he wanted but still the Lakers won comfortably.
Point Guards: Mike Conley vs. Derek Fisher
Mike Conley has been looking like he deserved being the 4th pick in the draft last year. Of course, of course Memphis fans have been fooled by his flashes before. To be professional Conley has to start putting strings of games together. Fisher loves playing in Memphis and has had some impressive games in the Forum. The Arkansas native always brings a big crowd to the games (as if Kobe didn’t) and likes to give a big effort for his family and friends.
Shooting Guards: O J Mayo vs. Kobe Bryant
One of the best rookies in the league today faces up against one of the best players in NBA history. O J won’t be intimidated however as he knows Kobe Bryant very well. They both played in LA last year, the trained against each other before the Olympics and this will be their 2nd meeting this season. Mayo held his own in their first match up as he scored 22 point but Kobe won the battle and the war going for 36 pts in the Lakers victory.
Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs. Luke Walton
Rudy Gay has been struggling for most of the season but has seemed to find his stride with Lionel Hollins on the bench. He has one of his most productive games against the Thunder working inside and on the perimeter, getting out on the break and hitting the boards. Once Rudy starts passing the ball to teammates when pressured he could reach the heights his fans expect of him. Walton does the dirty work his pretty boy teammates don’t want to do ala former Lakers Kurt Rambis and Rick Fox. He doesn’t do anything glorious but he does allow the stars to shine by doing the dirty work.
Power Forwards: Darrell Arthur vs. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol holds every meaningful record in the Memphis Grizzlies record book but he isn’t wearing Beale St Blue anymore. The former whipping boy for everything the old Grizzlies failed to achieve, Pau has been reborn in LA as the 2nd fiddle to Kobe’s lead. Darrell Arthur has been playing well again of late after suffering through the rookie learning curve. If Arthur gets off the a strong start he can really play a meaningful role in this game. A slow start or early foul trouble could take him completely out of the game.
Centers: Marc Gasol vs. Andrew Bynum
another case of the one of the best rookies going up against one of the best players in the game. If that seems pretty heady understand that Bynum has been playing that way of late. In his last 5 games Bynum has been on fire averaging 26.2 ppg and 13.8 rpg with 3.2 bpg. Gasol was shut out by Nene and the Nuggets in the last home game and will be looking for redemption not to mention wanting to impress his big brother.
Benches: Memphis vs. Los Angeles
LA’s bench is deep, talented and knows their roles on the team. Led by Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar, the Lakers usually bury opponents when they go to their bench instead of letting teams back into games. Throw inChris Mihmfor muscle and Sasha Vujacic for motivation and you have a solid back line. Memphis’ bench has been up and down this season. Lowry gives them a sparkplug off bench, Hakim is the scorer, Ross and Buckner provide the defense but this is why Memphis’ payroll is so low. Not one of their backups could start anywhere else in the league right now with the possible exception of Lowry and Darius Miles is a serious contributor after being declared medical retired just last April.
Advantage: Los Angeles