Game of the Night: Lakers get 2011 started on the right foot, then shoot it

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Grizzlies 104 Lakers 85: So many places to go with this one. The Lakers turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions. The Grizzlies outscored them in transition 28-5. The Grizzlies dominated on the offensive glass 28% to 16% of all available offensive rebounds grabbed. What I’m trying to tell you is that the Grizzlies kicked the crap out of the Lakers from baseline to baseline.  It should be noted, though, that Kobe Bryant’s third quarter explosion was what he thought was the only way to keep the Lakers in it, and also the reason the wheels came off the team. When Bryant opts to dominate the ball in an attempt to produce, the rest of the Lakers just watch him. It’s one thing to say the other Lakers are just standing around, not working for shots, but Bryant also shot early in the shot clock and in ISO situations, sometimes while facing three defenders. Someone was open. What’s worse, once the shots stopped falling, they lead to immediate transition opportunities, often unguarded. So Bryant took the wheel, drove through some battalions, then crashed the vehicle into a ditch filled with petrol and the ensuing debris set fire to the neighboring village. Whoops.

But to pick on Bryant is to ignore the complete and utter failure that was the Lakers’ offense and defense. The Lakers couldn’t be bothered tonight, and gave the corresponding performance.

For the Grizzlies, it was another display of how far they’ve grown, nestled in-between massive rollbacks of mediocrity. This team lost to the Nets and Kings in the past two weeks and have toppled the Lakers twice this season. If they could just play to their potential on consecutive nights, maybe they’d go somewhere.

Rudy Gay was particularly brilliant, nailing the baseline runner, the mid-range J, and an emphatic standing alley-oop that truly necessitates an “OH MY GOD.” In-between those he grabbed five rebounds and garnered three steals, his third three-plus-steals game in the past seven days. O.J. Mayo dropped 15 points, 5 assists and 2 steals to go alongside, and Mike Conley had the perfect Mike Conley game. 12 points on 7 shots, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. He played within himself and kickstarted the offense. Throw in the fact that he managed two pick and roll assists that led to Marc Gasol and Darrel Arthur dunks, and it was a pretty fine night all around.

Hasheem Thabeet was the only Memphis player with a negative plus/minus, yet he guarded Pau Gasol for long stretches, and stranger still, the Lakers didn’t relentlessly go to Gasol in such situations, despite Gasol’s success in that situation.

Ron Artest played close to 25 minutes and finished with no points and 3 turnovers.

The Lakers will be fine, because that is what they do: “be fine.” But it won’t make this period any more fun for Lakers fans.

 

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.