Rudy Gay

Grizzlies now face expectations, but they have an answer


Things are going to be different for the Memphis Grizzlies next season.

They are moving from the Tuesday night game where the season ticket holder can’t give away his seats to a game people want to see. Zach Randolph has become a name sports fans know for more than his past — not basketball, fans, they knew, but casual sports fans. People want to see that other Gasol.

Things will be different and Randolph told the Commercial Appeal the team gets that.

“There are expectations now,” Randolph said. “People are going to expect us to be better. People will look at us as one of the top teams.”

That also means other teams will not consider the game a night off, they will sneak up on nobody. Basically, they have to be better. How does that happen?

The Grizzlies have an answer.

“When Rudy Gay gets back we’ll be a better team,” Griz guard O.J. Mayo said. “It’ll definitely help us on the perimeter as far as scoring and I think we’ll be a better team.”

“Once we get Rudy back, we’ll be back to having a complete team,” Griz guard Mike Conley said. “And now we know what it’s like to be in this position. That combination will make us a lot better.”

Gay was a member of Team USA last summer in Turkey and is the best perimeter player the Grizzlies have by a long shot. Gay separated his shoulder back on Feb. 15 and has been out since. He tried to make a return for the playoffs but it has not healed enough.

But he will be ready to go whenever the post-lockout training camps open. And the Grizzlies instantly will be better.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.