Memphis was impressive in knocking off the Spurs.
Make no mistake, they found their mismatch and exploited it — they pounded the Spurs inside, which opened up chances elsewhere. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were beasts the Spurs could not stop.
Memphis, now meet Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka.
Oklahoma City brings a serious front line to the game after it’s midseason trade — and this is its first big test. The book on the Thunder had been you could push them around in the paint, but that was before. In the first round they had no trouble against Denver.
Now it will be put to the test by the Griz, starting in Game 1. We will learn a lot from this game. Stop the Grizzlies from getting their points in the paint and they will shrivel, their offense will wither on the vine. Don’t and the Thunder will be in for a real tough series.
That is the key battle in Game 1, but not the only one. Another thing to watch is fast break points — both teams like to get their offense going with turnovers and points in transition. No team created turnovers like the Grizzlies this season and they will have to do it again. Another thing to watch — the Thunder attack and make a living at the line, can the Grizzlies play good defense without fouling?
Mike Conley was fantastic and outplayed Tony Parker last round, can he do that to Russell Westbrook? That is a more athletic player and challenge for Conley.
One other key in this series is how seriously the Thunder take what is in front of them. They had to be expecting the Spurs a couple weeks ago, now they get the 8 seed Grizzlies.
A Grizzlies are playing very well, something the Thunder will learn very quickly if they don’t come focused to play. The Grizzlies will not roll over. The Thunder have the best players in this series, but Memphis did not get here on accident. This series will be long and challenging and if the Thunder do not come out focused and ready to play, starting with Game 1, they could be in trouble.
After watching Joakim Noah leave for the Knicks, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said, “We felt Joakim wasn’t going to be a frontline guy anymore.”
Noah, via Marc Berman of the New York Post:
“He’s entitled to his opinion,’’ Noah said. “I feel I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me that’s all that matters. I did everything I could for that organization. I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, but at the end of the day I have nothing but respect for that organization. I’m just excited for this new chapter of my career.”
Reinsdorf was right. Noah, 31, is on the downside of his career. I wouldn’t want him for $72 million over the next four years.
But Noah is also right. He gave the Bulls everything he had.
Noah didn’t deserve that parting shot, even if it was correct.
I also wonder how much this has to do with Chicago correctly assessing Noah’s value vs. the Bulls losing a player whom they wanted to keep and lashing out about it.
The Spurs drafted Ryan Richards No. 49 in 2010, and he could’ve signed with San Antonio any year since. To maintain a second-rounder’s rights, a team must extend a required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum. If the player rejects the offer, those rights extend another year, and the team must then offer the tender again the following year.
Richards finally took the tender this year.
Just a couple days into training camp, the Spurs showed how much they value him.
The San Antonio Spurs today announced that they have waived forward/center Ryan Richards.
San Antonio now has 19 players and one open roster spot. I know what you’re thinking.
Just as he was getting back into the flow after fracturing his foot this summer, Thunder point guard Cameron Payne hurt himself all over again.
The Oklahoma City Thunder announced today that guard Cameron Payne suffered an acute fracture to his fifth metatarsal in Tuesday night’s Blue-White Scrimmage.
This is a troubling setback for the 22-year-old Payne, whom Oklahoma City drafted No. 14 last year. The Thunder didn’t play him enough last season to maximize his development, and now, they won’t the chance to make amends for a while.
Russell Westbrook will obviously still handle the large majority of point guard minutes, and this sets up Ronnie Price to open the season as the primary backup. The 33-year-old Price can play tough defense in limited playing time, but asking him to run the second unit offensively will likely turn out poorly.
Oklahoma City could stagger Westbrook’s and Victor Oladipo‘s minutes, using Oladipo as the lead guard when Westbrook sits. But Oladipo didn’t take to that role in Orlando.
This could also open the door slightly for Semaj Christon to make the regular-season roster as the third healthy point guard. But the Thunder already have 16 players, one more than the regular-season roster limit, with guaranteed salaries – and that doesn’t count Christon. Oklahoma City would have to drop Mitch McGary and one other player to keep Christon, which seems unlikely.
The Thunder will probably just have to grind it out with Price behind Westbrook.
MVP feels wide open this year.
Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James have accounted for the last five. But Curry and Durant are now sharing touches with the Warriors, and LeBron is 31 and has coasted in the last couple regular seasons in the midst of so many Finals runs.
That opens the door for new contenders like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard (my pick), Anthony Davis – and Paul George, the Pacers star who’s announcing his candidacy loud and clear.
George on SiriusXM NBA Radio:
I want to be MVP. I definitely want to be the MVP this year. It’s tough, as always. It would be a challenge, but with coach Nate and the guys that I got here, I’m in position to move into that spot as long as I remain being me, being a leader, being aggressive and wanting that. It’s not mine for the taking. I got to go get it. And this is my year to go get it.
The MVP usually goes to a player on a top-two seed, and that’ll be a tough nut for Indiana to crack with the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors standing in the way. But, again, this is an atypical year with most top teams so balanced.
If the Pacers hit the high end of their potential outcomes, George would be a strong candidate. He’s is the second-best player in the East, so most nights, he’ll be the best player on the court. That goes a long way for perception.
The best thing George can do for his case is help Indiana win big. If he does that, he’ll surely impress enough individually along the way to warrant major consideration.