NBA PM: Grizzlies Better Without Gay?
When the Memphis Grizzlies decided to trade Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors back in January, there were plenty of critics who questioned the move. After all, Memphis was viewed as one of the top-tier teams in the Western Conference so the decision to break up their talented core and trade Gay for Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye seemed financially motivated more than anything.
However, two months later, not only are the Grizzlies still a contender in the West, they’re seemingly a better team. Prior to the blockbuster deal, Memphis was 29-15 (winning 65.9 percent of their games). Since the trade, the Grizzlies are 16-5 (winning 76.1 percent of their games).
Memphis’ defense is still one of the best in the league, ranking first in opponent’s points per game and second in defensive efficiency). Offensively, the Grizzlies have improved, scoring four more points per 100 possessions and shooting a higher percentage. The team’s chemistry has also been better, since the pre-trade Grizzlies weren’t exactly a close-knit group and there was always drama brewing behind the scenes.
This year’s team resembles the 2010-11 Grizzlies, which was also without Gay due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. On that team, which Tony Allen dubbed the “Grit and Grind” squad, Shane Battier stepped in at small forward and was a crucial piece. The team relied on their suffocating defense and balanced attack, and they were able to stun the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. When asked why the Grizzlies have been playing better as of late, Allen says it’s because the team is once again playing like the “Grit and Grind” group that experienced success without Gay.
“Well, I just think we turned into the team that we were two years ago, without the guy that we traded,” Allen told HOOPSWORLD. “Obviously, we’ve made some additions, but for the most part we’re the same team from that 2010-11 season. Just ‘Grit and Grind,’ in-and-out basketball, everybody playing hard, playing together.”
Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have become the focal points of Memphis’ offense since the trade, which is something that Grizzlies head Lionel Hollins has always wanted since few teams can compete with Memphis’ talented frontcourt. Randolph and Gasol admitted that they weren’t sure what to expect once Gay was traded, but now they both feel that the team is much improved.
“I think we’re a better team, man,” Randolph told Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports. “You’re [getting] the whole team playing one way, and guys sticking to what they do and playing together, playing for each other and playing defense and playing inside-out basketball. It’s a lot better – a better mindset – playing like that. When it first happened, everybody was down about it, especially because Rudy was like a brother to us. It was difficult at first. You wouldn’t think it would be this way now, but it is.”
“[Swapping Gay for Prince] took a little pressure off,” Gasol added. “Sometimes when you have so many options offensively, you try to keep everybody happy – ‘now it’s your turn, now it’s my turn,’ and it’s your-turn-my-turn type of basketball. Teams kind of load up [defensively] on that and do that. It was hard to get in a flow as a team. [Adding Prince] changed the dynamics. We have a different team, and I think we did a great job of coming together. We could’ve laid down, but that’s not who we are. That’s not what we do.”
The Grizzlies seem to be getting hot at the right time, winning 15 of their last 18 games (with those three losses coming against playoffs teams by single digits). Even though the Los Angeles Clippers jumped out of the gate and the Denver Nuggets have been scorching hot as of late, Memphis has maintained the third seed in the West behind only the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.
This is a very confident group that believes they have what it takes to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy this season. Prince, who won a championship with a similarly balanced Detroit Pistons team in 2004, sees a resemblance between the two teams.
“Yeah, I feel it’s definitely a championship group,” Prince said. “We have to be on the same page each and every day we step out on the floor. No agendas, everybody just has to help each other out each and every game. That’s what was so perfect about us in Detroit, man. We didn’t care who did what. We just wanted to win. And I feel that these guys want the same thing. So as long as we continue to focus on just trying to win and doing what it takes to win, we can put ourselves in that conversation.”
NBA Teams Continue to Monitor West
As NBA teams look to bolster their roster for the final month of the regular season and the playoffs, one of the most intriguing players currently available is Delonte West.
The veteran point guard has shown that he can be a significant contributor in the NBA, most recently with the Dallas Mavericks, but he has also developed a reputation as a bit of a wild card. He was released from Mavericks during the preseason after being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, and he has made headlines for the wrong reasons throughout his eight-year career.
Now, in an effort to prove that he’s deserving of an NBA contract, the 29-year-old is playing in the NBA D-League. He’s playing with the Texas Legends and has made two starts for the team.
In West’s first start, he had 10 points, five assists and four rebounds. However, he shot just 4-15 from the field (1-2 from three-point range) and turned the ball over six times. West was able to score on the opposing guards, but he had trouble with Darington Hobson, who is 6’7 with a 6’9 wingspan.
In his second game with the Legends, West had 9 points, four assists and two steals while shooting 3-9 from the floor. It’s clear that West is rusty after sitting out the whole season, but he has shown some flashes against the D-League competition.
While he hasn’t put up huge numbers with the Legends, teams know what West is capable of, especially since he averaged 9.6 points and 3.2 assists just last year off of Dallas’ bench.
Several NBA teams are monitoring West as he tries to find his game in the D-League. If he can get in shape and prove that he won’t be a negative presence in the locker room, an NBA team may call him up and sign him to a 10-day contract that could turn into a remainder of the season deal.
West will be playoff eligible, but he must be called up by April 17 in order to play in the opening round of the postseason. West will play his third D-League game with the Legends on Thursday night against the Springfield Armor, which features West’s former Mavericks teammate Dominique Jones.
HOOPSWORLD’s March Madness Coverage
The 2013 NCAA Tournament is just around the corner. Make sure you’re up to speed on all of the top teams and players by checking out all of HOOPSWORLD’s March Madness content. Here are some of the articles and videos that you should read before taking in all of tomorrow’s first-round games:
HOOPSWORLD has previews of every single first-round game. You can find all of the previews here. They have in-depth stats, players to watch and a poll so that you can vote on which team will win. Once it tips off, feel free to discuss the game in the comment section.
If you need help filling out your bracket, check out our regional previews. There’s a video for every region. Click here for a preview of the Midwest Region, West Region, South Region and East Region. If you have general NCAA questions, check out this Reader Q&A.
Are you an NBA fan who only watches the NCAA Tournament to get a look at this year’s draft prospects? Here is a look at 20 players to watch during March Madness as well as a list of prospects to keep an eye on during the opening round.
HOOPSWORLD will continue to push out NCAA Tournament coverage over the next few weeks so be sure to check back regularly.
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