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NBA AM: Grizzlies Better Without Rudy Gay?
Posted By Derek Page On April 16, 2013 @ 10:13 am In NBA | No Comments
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Grizzlies Better Without Rudy Gay?: The Memphis Grizzlies have come full circle over the last few seasons after spending years as cellar dwellers in the Western Conference. With gradual improvement over each of the last four seasons, Memphis is in the midst of the best season in franchise history.
A key contributor for these Grizzlies has been trade deadline acquisition Tayshaun Prince. The blockbuster three-team trade that sent Grizzlies’ team leader in scoring Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors for Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye has propelled Memphis to a furious end to the season.
“He’s been unbelievable for us and it’s always great to have a guy with so much experience, somebody everybody looks up to and respects around the league,” starting point guard Mike Conley told HOOPSWORLD of Prince’s impact. “[He’s] somebody with great leadership. We’re playing in big games every night and he’s able to be there and make plays for us, whether it’s offensively or defensively, that we might not have had previously.”
The experience and veteran savvy that the NBA champion Prince has accumulated over the course of his 11 NBA seasons has left an impression on many of his teammates.
“I like Tayshaun’s energy,” Grizzlies starting center Marc Gasol told HOOPSWORLD. “I love what he brings to the table, I like the way he plays basketball. Of course he’s a proven winner, he knows what it takes to win and he’s a good leader. He helps all of us.”
Going from a lottery-bound team in Detroit over the last four seasons with the Pistons to a contender in Memphis is something Prince doesn’t take for granted. After all, Memphis has gone 26-10 since Prince joined the team at the start of February while the Pistons have won a total of 29 games all season long.
“I’m excited,” Prince said. “I’m more excited for Ed Davis, I’m more excited for Austin Daye. Austin’s been with me for four years now. He was with me during the tough days in Detroit; all I could do was say how things were [winning championships], so I’m excited for those guys. I’m definitely excited for myself to get back because at the end of the day when you play in this League, you’re playing to get into the playoffs. The last four years I’ve been playing until April 15th and I’ve been not knowing what to do with myself for awhile so as opposed to before, so I’m definitely excited.”
Playing without Gay isn’t a new experience for Memphis. Gay missed 45 games due to injury between the 2010-2012 NBA seasons and the Grizzlies were forced to learn how to play without their young star. This has paid dividends in how easily Prince has been integrated into the playoff-bound Grizzlies and in how well the team has gelled without Gay.
“If you really look at it, when Rudy got hurt that’s what made the team who they are now,” Prince said. “They found out they had big players that could play without him. They found out when one of our star players go down, we can still compete at a high level because of the toughness, the team, the camaraderie and stuff like that. When they traded for me, I believe they were down when the trade first happened because they had played with Rudy for so long and they were familiar with him. After a few games they realized, ‘You know what, we had a while where we didn’t play with Rudy and things were working out well for us, so hey it might not be a bad idea.’
“So at the end of the day, it’s all about competing and having fun so these guys are really tough minded guys,” Prince explained. “When things get tough on the court, they do a good job working through things and trying to respond, so hopefully we have a good chance at doing something special.”
As for Conley, he’s a player who has seemingly benefitted most from Gay’s exit. Since the trade, Conley is averaging over 16 points per game and this month is averaging 17.4 points on over 51 percent shooting.
Not only has the point guard’s scoring numbers risen every month since Gay’s departure, Conley’s also been more of a focal point in the offense.
“I’ve been a lot more aggressive lately,” Conley said. “After trading Rudy Gay to Toronto, we had to find some more guys that could score and I felt like I could be one of those guys on the perimeter to help our team in that category.”
While Memphis has missed Gay’s scoring, the Grizzlies have demoralized the opposition on the defensive end in his absence. Memphis currently features the best scoring defense in basketball (89.5 per) with just one game left in the regular season and have allowed more than 100 points just five times since Gay’s exit.
“We feel like we can beat anybody but we have to be playing our A game and we really have to do our job in order to beat those teams,” Gasol said.
Memphis is a gritty team playing its best basketball to close the year, currently a half game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers in the race for home court in the West. Even with Gay now residing in Toronto, these Grizzlies show no signs of slippage heading into the 2013 NBA postseason.
Stephen Curry Primed to Break Record for Surging Warriors
The 2012-13 iteration of the Golden State Warriors has turned heads around the league all season long and the team’s starting point guard has been the key. The fourth-year guard has shaken off his ankle injuries from last season to lead Golden State in points (23), assists (6.9) and steals (1.6) per game this season.
While his overall play has been crucial, Curry’s marksmanship from behind the arc this season is on the verge of being record-breaking. Currently second in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at 45.5 percent on the year, Curry is just two 3-pointers away from breaking the all-time NBA single-season record.
Curry nailed seven 3-pointers last night in a 116-106 win over the San Antonio Spurs last night and Ray Allen’s single-season record of 269 set in the 2005-06 season with the Seattle Supersonics is in serious jeopardy.
“If you actually do the math on it, it’s pretty crazy of a number,” Curry told The Associated Press. “It’s nice to be close. It means you’re healthy and playing in pretty much every game and shooting the ball pretty well.”
Even the normally frosty Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich couldn’t help but marvel at Curry’s shooting acumen.
“It’s actually fun to watch,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Everybody hates losing, but I enjoyed … watching a talented kid perform the way he did, and he does it with class.”
Possibly the most impressive stat is that Curry’s 3-point shooting percentage is more than four points higher than Allen’s 41.2 percent when he set the record in 2006. The combination of consistency, accuracy and efficiency Curry has shown this season isn’t likely to be duplicated any time soon.
“I don’t know who second place is for the best shooter in the world,” Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said. “But he certainly has first place tied up.”
Golden State is currently a half-game ahead of the Houston Rockets for the sixth-seed in the Western Conference.
Tonight’s Celtics-Pacers Game in Boston Cancelled
Due to the tragic events that transpired in Boston, Massachusetts at the Boston Marathon, Tuesday night’s Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers’ game has been cancelled. The game will not be rescheduled because neither team will be affected by the missed game in the standings.
The Pacers currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, 3.5 games back of the New York Knicks for the two-seed and 1.5 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets.
Meanwhile Boston, currently the seventh seed in the East, is 4.5 games ahead of the eighth place Milwaukee Bucks and 2.5 games behind the sixth place Chicago Bulls.
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