Grizzlies knock Knicks from ranks of undefeated

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Here’s a good one for your friends who think they know basketball, but maybe don’t follow the day-to-day happenings of the NBA all that closely.

The best record in basketball now belongs to the Memphis Grizzlies, as they had no trouble taking care of the previously undefeated Knicks by a final of 105-95. New York is the only other one-loss team in the league, and only the Spurs, Clippers, Bucks, and Nets have two losses at this early stage in the season.

Memphis might also be the best team in the league period right now, considering that the team’s last three wins have come over Miami, Oklahoma City, and now the Knicks, who had previously looked as solid as anyone from top to bottom. But after coming from behind to take down the Spurs in San Antonio on Thursday, asking for a repeat performance against these Grizzlies was too much.

The Memphis front line was way too much for New York in this one, with a dominant Marc Gasol finishing with 24 points on just 10 shots, and Zach Randolph scoring 20 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. The Grizzlies played a physical game all night long, and it benefited them at the free throw line, where the 10-point advantage they had there was the difference, led by Gasol’s 12-of-13 shooting from the stripe.

Things were chippy between these teams throughout the night, highlighted by J.R. Smith and Jerryd Bayless exchanging an elbow for a shove midway through the second quarter. The dreaded double technicals were called there, but Smith also was called for a flagrant foul in the third quarter for flying in to contest a layup from Tony Allen. It didn’t appear to be anything malicious, as Smith clearly was trying to make a play on the ball, but he did grab Allen’s arm on the follow-through, and the refs may have simply been trying to use that call to get some control of the game.

It probably didn’t help that the play came in the middle of a 19-1 Grizzlies run that put this game away.

It’s way too early to be crowning Conference champions and trying to figure out who would beat whom in a seven-game series come playoff time — which, by the way, is a solid five months away. But early in the season the Grizzlies have impressed perhaps more than anyone, and if they continue to jell as the season progresses and the team remains injury-free, they certainly have the requisite pieces to compete legitimately with just about anyone. And that’s something no one was saying before the season got started.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.