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Tag:Memphis Grizzlies
Posted on: March 16, 2011 7:53 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 4:20 pm
 

Road to the Finals: Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks are struggling through March but will that mean anything come playoff time? Posted by Ben Golliver. dirk-cheer

The Dallas Mavericks have the consistency thing down pat: 2010-2011 will mark the team's 11th straight 50+ win season and 11th consecutive trip to the playoffs. Being "consistently above average but not great" can be uniquely frustrating as Mavericks fans know all too well, as Dallas has enjoyed just one playoff series victory in the last four seasons. The question this season is whether enough has changed to push Dallas over the top that might lead to a deep playoff run.

Minus a stretch without star forward Dirk Nowitzki, this season has been as promising as any in recent memory. This is a tested, cohesive group: Nowitzki has fought through knee pain to emerge as an MVP candidate, Jason Terry becomes even more Jason Terry by the day and the old guard of Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion continue to find ways to get it done. As Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com noted Wednesday, the Mavericks' 47-19 record sells their performance short, as it includes a 2-7 stretch that Dallas played without Nowitzki, when their offensive and defensive efficiency numbers couldn't have been more different than what they have posted when Nowitzki had laced them up. 

There have been some speedbumps recently. In the last 10 days, Dallas has dropped games to four Western Conference playoff teams: the Memphis Grizzlies, the New Orleans Hornets (who played without all-star point guard Chris Paul), the Los Angeles Lakers (who watched Kobe Bryant go down to an ankle sprain) and the Portland Trail Blazers (who are still working Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby back into the rotation after arthroscopic knee surgeries). None of the losses were due to off nights from Nowitzki. Indeed, Nowitzki tallied at or above his average of 23 points per game in each game and he even shot above 50% from the field in all four defeats.  

Instead, the struggles trace back to the old bugaboos: interior defense and rebounding. Andrew Bynum dominated the Mavericks, notching 22 and 15, while Pau Gasol went along for the ride with 18 points and 5 rebounds. David West got 16 and 10 while Carl Landry, off the bench, tacked on 15 points and four rebounds. For Memphis, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 43 points and 19 rebounds, shooting an uber-efficient 16-22. And, on Tuesday, LaMarcus Aldridge exploded on the Mavericks for the third time this season, finishing with a game-high 30 points and adding eight rebounds, muscling around and through Dallas's defenders seemingly at will.

About this time of year, analysts start looking to forecast first round upset specials and Dallas has started to find itself as a hot button team in this discussion. These losses have raised some eyebrows; are the Mavericks suddenly vulnerable?

Truth be told, I like the Mavericks over all three of their most likely first round playoff opponents. On the season, the Mavericks are 12th in defensive efficiency and 13th in overall rebound rate, so recent results against top competition aren't totally representative of their overall resume. To knock Dallas out of the playoffs, then, you must play above average or better defense to counter their experience and cohesion, and either have multiple interior options that can exploit Dallas's questions in the middle or execute your own offensive system so well that you can win both a shootout or a slow-down execution battle, depending on the circumstances. Memphis, Portland and New Orleans just don't fit that formula.

Road To The Finals
The Grizzlies, should they hang around, will enter the playoffs facing all the obvious questions about how they'll do when push comes to shove, how well they'll be able to play as a team and how well they'll execute when things matter. Most likely, their offense, when tested, will become a lot of one-on-one play, which, in a seven-game series, isn't going to allow you to keep pace with the Mavericks. On paper, Memphis is fairly well equipped defensively to match Dallas piece-for-piece, but will their team defense stand up to Dallas' ability to execute late in games? Will their focus remain intact when Nowitzki and Terry go on one of their back-breaking second half tears? Without having seen this group do it before, it's difficult to envision. Also, Jason Kidd: 121 career playoff games. Mike Conley: 0 career playoff games.

The Hornets, though, have both the defensive chops -- 6th in the NBA in efficiency -- and the playoff experience to stand toe-to-toe with the Mavericks. The question for New Orleans will be who, if anyone, will emerge as consistent offensive options outside of Paul and West. While Dallas isn't excellent defensively, they are above average, and they'll do a reasonable job of forcing your auxiliary options to make plays. Newsflash: Trevor Ariza still can't hit from deep, the Hornets' bench is still a hot mess and Emeka Okafor doesn't have Bynum's ability to become a true second interior threat to take some of the burden off of West. Short of a transformative series from Paul, something he's entirely capable of, New Orleans has all the makings of a relatively quick out, especially because they've hovered around .500 ball since a red hot start to the season. 

The Blazers, finally, might be the basketball fan's dream match-up for the Mavericks. Just as Dallas has become a trendy upset special pick, Portland has become a trendy underdog, with NBATV's Chris Webber predicting this week the Blazers will upset whomever they face in the first road. Back-and-forth the Blazers and Mavericks went on Tuesday night, until the game's final seconds, when Nowitzki's potential game-tying three-pointer rimmed out, sending Portland home winners. Who wouldn't watch that series? No one, that's who.

But while Aldridge is a clear and continuous problem that the Mavericks haven't been able to solve this season, the Blazers are not a consistently good defensive team -- merely average -- and they're also not yet a finished product due to injuries and a trade deadline move for Gerald Wallace. While the New York Times smartly noted the flexibility that is now at coach Nate McMillan's disposal, the flipside of flexibility is a lack of definition, something that has bitten the Blazers in recent playoff losses to the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns

Guard Brandon Roy's health also remains a big question mark as he continues to work his way back from dual arthroscopic knee surgeries. On Tuesday, his 21 points were the difference, but he made no future promises afterwards, stating that "the next game could be different." He then promptly sat out Portland's Wednesday practice with a sore back. His impact on Tuesday was unexpected and his struggles on defense were not exploited by Dallas as completely as they could be during a seven game series. It's unlikely Roy will perform to that level over the course of an entire series without Dallas being able to counter him more effectively than they did on Tuesday.

Portland's victory -- at home -- came not only with Roy playing his best ball of the season but also with guards Rudy Fernandez and Wesley Matthews hitting from outside. A major factor in Portland's lineup juggling has been the team's incredibly inconsistent shooting, something that figures to be the team's Achilles heel come playoff time. Meanwhile, Kidd was a no-show from deep and Terry was solid but not spectacular. If you're Dallas, you watch the game tape thinking that if any one of those five players had played more like himself -- if just one of the Blazers had shot slightly worse or one of the Mavericks had been more impactful -- the game swings the other direction. Over a seven-game series, with a time to prepare for Portland's lineups, that would seem to favor Dallas in a big way.

Aside from the individual match-ups, Dallas is not only better at home than all three teams, they're also better on the road this season than all three teams. On top of that, Portland (16-19), New Orleans (16-20) and Memphis (14-21) are all well below .500 when playing on the road. Memphis, it should be noted, did win both games against the Mavericks in Dallas this year, while Portland and New Orleans were a combined 0-3.

Put it all together and I think any mid-March panic in Dallas is a bit premature, especially in relation to the first round. Past that, however, Dallas' questions will loom much larger.
Posted on: March 10, 2011 7:08 pm
 

Memphis has a Zach Randolph situation

Zach Randolph wants his money. Is Memphis in a position to provide him his next contract, and more importantly, should they?
Posted by Matt Moore

It's not like Memphis didn't see this coming. When they gave Rudy Gay a max deal worth $80 million, then followed it up four months later with a $40 million deal for Mike Conley (which looks like a steal right now compared to the garbage assessment I gave it), they knew they were going to be setting themselves up to not get back the core. The starting five from last season of Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol was something management and ownership had both asserted needed to be kept together. They continually spoke to keeping that core together to let it develop. But for that to happen, with a combination of talented young players on the rise and veterans looking for substantial investments, people were going to have to take paycuts. Two of the five took about as much as they were going to get on the open market. Something's got to give. 

Mayo is gone, even if he's not gone. That fact is a combination of decisions from both Mayo and the Grizzlies. Mayo struggled to take over more ball-handling duties over the summer, then wilted under criticism from his coach resulting in a prolonged shooting slump, then go into a fight with teammate Tony Allen on the team plane, during which he was KO'd, then was busted for a performance enhancing drug due to a supplement he claims was in a gas stations refreshment. Mayo's had his hand in this. But the Grizzlies committed a cardinal sin of management, be it a corporate office, a movie rental store (when those existed), or a basketball team. They set Mayo up for failure. They pushed him to be something he's not, a point guard, and when he struggled in a handful of games in Summer League, publicly criticized him for it. They gave Conley the money when he had contributed less to the team than Mayo at that point, moved him to the bench (even if they did need bench scoring, they knew the effect it would have on his confidence), and continuously told him they weren't moving him, then shopped him on the trade market. The final straw was the failed deal with the Pacers that nearly moved him at the deadline. That's not a situation that can be repaired. Be it this summer or worst-case scenario in restricted free agency in the summer of 2012, Mayo's gone. 

Which leaves Gasol and Randolph. One is going to have as many suitors as he can shake his beard at, the other has not been quiet about making it clear he wants his final payday. Alan Hahn of Newday reported Thursday on both Gasol and Randolph's free agency situations. Specifically, just about every New York media outlet has spun that the Knicks are intent on landing Gasol to be their center of the future, which they badly need. Gasol, true to the form he's held throughout the conversations about his upcoming restricted free agency, said he's not concerned with it, not worried about it. He's said the same to every outlet, but there's one differential. Gasol went to high school in Memphis. He's been there off and on for close to a decade. Whatever problems his brother had with management probably do affect his thinking, but this is also restricted free agency. If the Grizzlies are willing to match, which there is every indication they are, Gasol won't make it hard on them, or buck at the idea of staying in Memphis through another contract. Odds are very strong that Gasol will be in Memphis for the future. 

Randolph, on the other hand, is a stickier situation. From Newsday
Former Knick Zach Randolph will also be looking for a new contract this offseason as an unrestricted free agent and he sounded annoyed that the Grizzlies decided not to sign him to an extension. "I thought it shouldve been done," he said. "But its a business, nothing personal. Ive just got to come out and do my job every day and let everything else take care of itself."
via Gasol would fit in nicely with Knicks- Newsday.

Randolph's been pretty annoyed this entire time he hasn't gotten the extension. Randolph turns 30 this summer, and this is likely his last really lucrative NBA contract. He's got something good in Memphis, and wants to be rewarded for it. But Randolph has learned that this is a business (having been traded multiple times, largely on account of his off-court behavior and leadership issues, both of which have vanished in Memphis), and will pursue whatever angle he can to get the best deal he can. 

And that's where things get bothersome for the Grizzlies. How do you put the right price on Randolph? He's going to be 30. He doesn't have a history of winning. His defense is not great. (He's not a sieve or anything, but put him up against a long athletic guy who's as relentless as he is and he gets overmatched, quickly, and his weakside rotation leaves a lot to be desired.) He succeeds mostly by being savvier, more gifted, and working harder than the other guy. But isn't that who you want on your team? The leadership mentioned earlier could not have been better in Memphis. Randolph is the first guy to help Gasol up, and Randolph told me over Christmas that he just loves playing next to the big Spaniard, despite what should be a culture gap. He's the first to applaud a teammate, first to stand up for him in a tussle, first to help Darrel Arthur learn what he needs to be doing. And all of that is before you factor he was the Grizzlies first All-Star since Pau Gasol, he leads the team in scoring, is a double-double machine, and is arguably their best overall player. How do you not reward a player for doing everything you've asked of him and more? 

The trick is going to be for the two sides to find a compromise. If Randolph's looking for the standard deal with considerable increases as the contract progresses, the Grizzlies will balk. Randolph at 34 isn't going to be nearly the same player he is now. Front-loading the contract is the best-case scenario, but relies more on Randolph's ability to manage his money. The real issue in all this is the CBA. The Grizzlies are probably looking to see how the new cap situation shakes out before evaluating how much fair market value is for Randolph in the new universe being created in the boardrooms. Would it have been right for the Grizzlies to cave and give Randolph is fair share this season? Sure. But that's not how you build for the future. You do it carefully, and shrewdly, and emotions aren't part of the process. 

Just ask Danny Ainge. 

So the Grizzlies try to push for the playoffs, a must with the kind of improvements they've made, and hope for the best. If they fall short (check their schedule for the rest of the month, it's a gauntlet wrapped in barbed wire on fire), ownership could hit the roof and pull the plug on everything but what they've committed to. Which also might spell the end of professional basketball in Memphis. 

As is the case seemingly everywhere this season, there's a lot going on in Memphis on and off the court. 
Posted on: March 9, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 12:27 am
 

Carmelo Anthony hits game-winner over Grizzlies

Video of New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony hitting the game-winning jump shot to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies. Posted by Ben Golliver.

This, right here, makes all those months of trade rumors worth it. Sort of.

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who was acquired from the Denver Nuggets in a pre-deadline trade, made his biggest splash yet in a Knicks uniform when he sent the Memphis Grizzlies home on Wednesday night by nailing a game-winning jump shot with less than a second to play.

The Knicks began the final possession with the game tied at 108 with under 10 seconds to play in regulation. New York inititated the possession by feeding Anthony on the left side of the court; Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire flashed towards the ball like he was looking for a pick and roll but later retreated to the block to allow Anthony to work one-on-one against the undersized Tony Allen

After turning to face, Anthony jab-stepped with his right foot before taking an escape dribble to his left, pulling up and shooting over Allen's solid contest. Anthony's jumper hit nothing but net and, after it went in, he looked at the Grizzlies bench as he jogged back to his team's huddle. The basket provided the winning margin, 110-108.

After the game, Newsday reported the following details regarding Anthony's exchange with the Grizzlies bench that followed the game winner: "Asked Carmelo about the trash talking at the end. Memphis players yelled "That ---- is off!" on his game-winner. His reply, "I DO this!"


Here's video of the play courtesy of YouTube user nbafufu



Anthony led all scorers with 31 points. He also added five rebounds, six assits, and one steal in 40 minutes. Stoudemire chipped in 26 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

With the win, the Knicks improved to 34-29. The loss dropped the Grizzlies to 36-30.
Posted on: March 4, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 5:03 pm
 

The race for 8 in the West

Posted by Matt Moore

First-round fodder. Opening round patsies. Target practice. These are the kinds of terms used for the low playoff seeds each year. The NBA, more than any other sport, crowns a legitimate champion each year, in large part due to the difficulty of lesser teams to overcome better teams in a seven-game series. As a result, when you have eight teams from each conference to make the playoffs, you're going to have a whole lot of beatdowns. And we'll certainly see the same this year, with the conferences more top-heavy than ever.  So in reality, the 6-7-8 seeds are largely irrelevant in the discussion of basketball that "matters."

But at the same time, making the playoffs is at once a huge reward for some teams and a dangerous development for others. In the realest sense, making the playoffs is a good thing. To put it simply, it means more money. More money for management, more money for ownership, more money for players. It gives the fans the experience of games that "matter" and pride in being in that tier of players. Often times, it's necessary to satisfy a fanbase's need for a team to legitimize itself, to throw the fans a bone. And at the end of the day, it means winning, and that's what sports is about.

But there's a downside. Making the playoffs can create a false sense of progress, convincing teams who are in need of a revamp that they are headed in the right direction. It becomes a crutch financially, forcing teams to make desperation moves to make the playoffs only to be swept out, which gets to be a huge detriment in fans' attitude after a few years, even worse than not making the playoffs.

In the West this year, we have a nice combination of both sides of the coin, and the answers to whether the playoffs are a good or bad thing is unclear. But there's a fascinating group vying for those final seeds as we head down the stretch, like lambs vying for the slaughter.

THE NEAR-LOCKS

Denver Nuggets

Outlook: 37-26.  The Nuggets lost Melo, and have now won three straight. They are sharing the ball, playing with emotion, fighting in tough games, making the plays they need to in order to win, and invigorating the fanbase. But they have yet to face an elite team.  In the next month, they have Orlando, Miami, San Antonio, and Atlanta. So there's going to be some discovery in terms of who the Nuggets are. They're riding a huge wave of emotion following the trade, but there's a question if that's going to hold. They do have a four game advantage over the ninth seeded Suns, but that's not a monstrous gap. With Memphis improving and Portland having acquired an All-Star, the Nuggets could find themselves in a dogfight very quickly if things change. But with Ty Lawson emerging with Aaron Afflalo, Nene holding down the middle and George Karl coaching his rear off, you have to like Denver's chances to at least make the playoffs.

Best-case scenario: They make the playoffs as the fifth seed following a huge fall by the Hornets, and wind up pushing Oklahoma City around due to their relative inexperience. A great playoff run sets them up for the future as a core that plays together, even without a star.

Worst-case scenario: The emotion runs out, the injuries pile up, and the team winds up in the lottery where they only have about seven tradeable assets, extra picks and cap flexibility. So pretty much, Denver's okay no matter what.

Portland TrailBlazers

Outlook: 34-27.  The Blazers just added a former All-Star in Gerald Wallace to make a push for the playoffs. They sloughed off very little salary, so they must make the playoffs. It's imperative for Paul Allen all the way down to the fans. They have to make the playoffs, make some money, and give the fans some hope in a season that's seen massive injuries. Again. They Blazers were at a position to either bail on the current core and rebuild or make a big push for the future. They chose to try and win now.


Ten of the next fourteen games for the Blazers are against current playoff teams. The going gets tough from here on out and the Blazers will be fighting tooth and nail to hang on to their spot.

Best-case scenario: A sixth seed appearance versus the Lakers, leading to a seven-game push to make a statement against the rivals. Blazers fans will tell you that they have a chance against the Mavericks. Blazer fans, as much I love them, are wrong. The Mavs are too good, too deep, and can match up too well with the Blazers.  Besides, wouldn't pushing the Lakers be more satisfying for Blazers fans?

Worst-case scenario: Not making the playoffs is a disaster to the degree that it's nearly inconceivable. If it were to happen, it would be simply horrific for the franchise at all levels. A more likely worst-case scenario is winding up in the 8th spot and getting swept by the Spurs. A first-round sweep would be severely disappointing for how emotional this season has been for the Blazers, especially after bringing in Wallace.

Memphis Grizzlies


Outlook: 34-28. Not a lock, by any means, but Memphis is making a strong push. They're on a roll, offensively and defensively, and this is without Rudy Gay. They've added Shane Battier and Leon Powe since the deadline, giving them much improved depth, and having Jason Williams as an actual viable back-up PG helps tremendously. The Grizzlies finally have a bench, O.J. Mayo actually looks better after his suspension, the team is playing together, and everything looks right for them to make a push. But of the next 14 games for Memphis to finish March, 12 are against current playoff opponents and one is against Utah, the 10th seed. These aren't weak playoff teams, either, with the Hornets, Spurs, Heat, Magic, Celtics, Mavericks, and Bulls among them. If Memphis makes it out of April in the same position they're in now, they'll be a lock. If not, they could plummet.

Best-case scenario: A first-round matchup against the Lakers in a 2 vs. 7 seed battle, with the Lakers still in cruise control, as the Grizzlies manage to win one in L.A. and one in Memphis to force a six-game series. That's a huge step for the franchise rebuilding from the Pau trade. Bringing the Lakers in for the playoff games is great for revenue, but terrible for home support as half the crowd would be bandwagon Lakers fans. Any other matchup simply wouldn't draw as well for the team, which says a lot about the fanbase itself.

Worst-case scenario: Missing the playoffs isn't a huge deal versus getting swept. Even without their 2011 first-rounder, the Grizzlies have a solid core for the future and some options for what they want to do. But making the first round of the playoffs as an eight seed, drawing San Antonio, and getting swept in a poor draw matchup to keep revenue low and the franchise without a playoff win? That's the worst of all worlds.

THE LONGER SHOTS

Phoenix Suns


Outlook: How are they still here? They lost Jason Richardson, gained Vince Carter, have very little to rely on and are still hanging around at 31-28, just a game and a half back of the Grizzlies. Phoenix just doesn't know when to quit and with this group of veterans, they could be dangerous down the stretch. If you want to bet against Steve Nash, you go right ahead. I'll be over here. The Suns' schedule isn't tremendously difficult to go from here on out, but with their style, that's not necessarily a good thing. The Suns are 7-8 against "average" teams in the league, so there's no way of knowing how they'll do night to night.

Best-case scenario: Missing the playoffs. Missing the playoffs might prompt a full blow-up from management which would benefit the Suns long-term and push them away from NBA purgatory, constantly floating around the eighth seed. A full revamp with Alvin Gentry at the helm may lead to some progress and some moevement towards another shot at contention down the line. But given Robert Sarver's history, he wants that playoff dough.

Worst-case scenario: Making the eighth seed and getting blown out of the water by the Spurs. After the cathartic release for the fans last year in beating the Spurs, losing to San Antonio again would crush them. So there's that. A four game sweep by any of the top seeds would be extremely likely and extremely disappointing.

Utah Jazz


Outlook: 32-30. Watch out for flying wheels. The Jazz can't contend with the juggernauts, and are even bleeding against mediocre teams. The Jazz knew they'd be rebuilding after Deron Williams, but their playoff odds are spiraling out. The future's bright, but things don't look great for the Jazz making the playoffs at this point. The good news is the Jazz have a weaker schedule than most of their competitors.

Best-case scenario: A solid run as the team starts to gel, makes the playoffs and manages to avoid playing the Lakers. Even getting swept by San Antonio would be preferable to losing to L.A. at this point. Making the playoffs puts faith back in the franchise and gets the team more money.

Worst-case scenario: Missing the playoffs after the promise of this season would be devastating. Getting blasted out of the first round by L.A. would be similarly upsetting, even though the revenue would be nice. But missing the playoffs seems like a very real possibility at this point.

Honorable Mention: The Rockets could make a run. They've started defending better and moving Aaron Brooks has helped them in serious ways.  But they're four games back, and that's a steep hill to climb for a team without a true star, with a defense that's still sub-par. They have to be considered the longest shot, and not just for current position.
Posted on: March 3, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2011 7:13 pm
 

Report: Leon Powe to sign with Memphis

Posted by Royce Young

The Grizzlies are trying to get deeper on the front line as they'll sign recently bought out Leon Powe, according to NBA.com.

Memphis traded Hasheem Thabeet at the deadline for a wing player in Shane Battier, so the Grizzlies were in the market for a little extra interior toughness and depth. Right now, behind Zach Randolph the Grizzlies have Darrell Arthur, but behind Mac Gasol, only have Hamed Haddadi. So clearly, Powe will make an impact.

Rodney Carney was released earlier Thursday by Memphis to make room for Powe.

The Grizzlies are currently in eighth in the West at 34-28, but the Suns and Jazz are both only a few games back. The Battier trade was made to help make a push to the postseason, but it sacrificed some of their size. And the difference between Powe and Thabeet is, Powe can actually contribute something.

Powe is just now returning from another major knee injury and has only appeared in 14 games this season, all for Cleveland. He was a pretty well sought after buyout target though as New Orleans, , New York, Orlando and Miami all were said to be interested.

Powe's agent Aaron Goodwin said despite Powe's knee problems that he's healthy and ready to contribute.

"He's had knee problems," Goodwin said. "But when he's healthy, he's a bull. You know what you're getting. That's how you have to look at it."
Category: NBA
Posted on: March 2, 2011 12:32 am
 

Game Changer: Knicks just not ready yet

Posted by Royce Young


THE BIG ONE: FREE THROW CONTEST IN ORLANDO

Here's a fun stat from the Knicks-Magic game: Combined, the two teams attempted 97 free throws. Ninety-seven! The Knicks took 47, the Magic 50. And somehow, someway, the game didn't last six and a half hours. Really, that's a basketball miracle.

The Magic took the game 116-110 largely due to better late game execution, better shooting and some well-timed defense. It was kind of ugly as the Knicks took 17 more shot attempts because of 15 Orlando turnovers, but what we already knew was on display for this Knick team: They aren't ready.

The Miami win Sunday was a thing of beauty and something to obviously get charged about. But in order to take another step, it takes winning consistently. And New York isn't ready to do that. Their main weakness -- the interior -- was on prime display as Dwight Howard chewed them apart for 30 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks.

New York though, is slowly figuring out the Carmelo Anthony conundrum: He shoots a lot. And sometimes, doesn't score a whole lot. Melo is definitely one of the most gifted offensive forces in the league, but there are nights where he performs like he did Tuesday. As in 24 shots to get 25 points.

Amar'e Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups and Melo combined to score 85 of the Knicks total 110 points, as was the fear, the rest of the team all drops duds. The bench scored 11, the other two starters (Shawne Williams and Landry Fields) combined for 14.

The Knicks, much like the Heat, have a formidable three-headed monster. But it comes down to what the other guys can do. And not only is the New York trio not as good as the Miami one, the Knicks don't have near the role players either. Hence, they're still a ways off from being a legit threat.

Can they jump up and surprise on any given night? Absolutely. But in terms of consistent winning, there's work to do.

AN INDIVIDUAL NOTE

Dwight Howard averaged 26.6 points, 14.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in February, plus shot 67 percent from the field. And to start March, he dropped 30 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks on the Knicks. Let's all have a moment of silence for this.

PARKER-LESS Spurs DROP IN MEMPHIS

When word that Tony Parker would miss a couple weeks because of a strained calf dropped, nobody really panicked. First, the Spurs have a pretty big cushion in the standings. Second, George Hill is a fine backup point guard. Third, the rest of the team is really good.

But in their first tilt without Parker, San Antonio struggled against the surging Grizzlies, losing 109-93 in Memphis.

Before you blame this entirely on the Spurs missing Parker, you've got to give credit to the Grizzlies. This team is quietly becoming 2011's Thunder. They've jumped up the Western standings, beating good teams behind solid defense and have even overcome some pretty big injuries and team issues. They're getting great contributions from role players, Zach Randolph has been great and Lionel Hollins deserves serious Coach of the Year consideration. So give Memphis some credit here.

However, the Spurs definitely missed Parker. The San Antonio offense just entirely out of sorts. Check this out: The Spurs had all 12 active players score, but only one guy finished in double figures (Gary Neal, 14). It was just a really weird night for the Spurs and it showed how important Parker is to diversifying their offense. Without him, they become almost exclusively a jumpshooting team. They need Parker's creating and slashing ability badly. It helps free shooters, which the Spurs have a heavy helping of.

They'll survive the next few weeks, no doubt. But the first run without Parker definitely wasn't pretty.

RIP RETURNS (AGAIN)

First, it was a return from being inactive for two weeks. Now, Richard Hamilton returned from being in coach John Kuester's doghouse. Hamilton scored 10 points in 26 minutes but on 4-17 shooting. After the game, Hamilton said he wasn't loving his shot.

"My shot felt terrible," Hamilton said. "It felt terrible. The good thing is that I was able to get to where I wanted to get to on the floor, but every bread and butter shot that I pride myself on I missed.

"I expect it," he said. "That was only my second game in almost two months. I didn't expect it was going to be great. I just told myself, talk to your legs."

GO-GO-GADGET LINES

Dwight Howard: 30 points on 15 shots, 16 rebounds and six blocks.

Jose Calderon: 22 points and 16 assists in Toronto's big win over the Hornets.

Jason Terry: 30 points off the bench for Dallas.

Chauncey Billups: 30 points on just 12 shots (4-9 from 3, 18-20 from the free throw line).

PARTING THOUGHT

Can someone please tell me what to think of the Hornets? They randomly lost to the Raptors 96-90 in what can only be described as a dumb loss. I just wish I could understand that team. They're all win streaks and dumb losses.
Posted on: February 25, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2011 1:25 pm
 

The O.J. Mayo disaster


Posted by Matt Moore

The Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies had agreed to a trade Thursday. Maybe. They may have. I mean, it seems they had an agreement, at one point, on something involving O.J. Mayo going to Indiana in exchange for Josh McRoberts and a first round pick. It wasn't a great haul for the Grizzlies, but it wasn't anything terrible, either.  It gave them a versatile power forward to back up Zach Randolph and a draft pick, which they need all they can get of since they draft so terribly, and they were sending another one out for Shane Battier

But, then, of course, what happens with the Grizzlies so often happened to the Grizzlies, and things fell apart. What, exactly? Well, that depends on who you ask. From the Memphis Commercial Appeal

But the deal was never consummated because the teams missed the NBA’s 2 p.m. deadline. 
“Despite published reports, O.J. was not traded,” Griz general manager Chris Wallace said in a text. 
Based on conversations with sources who have knowledge of the situation, a third team -- New Orleans -- was involved in the negotiations to make the financial aspects of the deal meet NBA rules. Late in the talks, New Orleans pulled out, leaving the Grizzlies and Pacers scrambling for another partner. Another team was found and agreements were made, but the 2 p.m. deadline had passed.
via Grizzlies trade Thabeet for Battier; Mayo-to-Pacers deal never completed » The Commercial Appeal.


Oh, okay. These things happen. New Orleans pulled out of the deal as teams often do. Except, there's this from the Indianapolis Star:
Sources told The Star, though, that the Pacers called the league at 3 p.m. to notify them of the three-team deal, and were on hold, waiting to get into the league's queue, when the deadline passed at 3:01 p.m. While the Pacers were waiting, New Orleans apparently backed out of the deal -- which wouldn't have been consummated anyway, since the league insisted it was 3:01.
via Kravitz: Pacers blow chance to add draft-lottery talent at bargain price | The Indianapolis Star | indystar.com.

Now, on the surface, it certainly looks like Indiana was the one to blow this up. I mean, really, you're calling the office at 3 p.m.? You had four days post All-Star Break to get this done and you're calling at 3 p.m.? You would have had a potentially significant trade rejected had New Orleans not backed out because you were on hold?  Come on, now. 

Except that the Pacers weren't the ones with the situation. O.J. Mayo has been on the block for months. Ownership and management have repeatedly denied that they were considering trading Mayo, but clearly, that was a lie. They've had a months since the fight with Tony Allen, a month since he was suspended for violating the banned substance policy, a half season since the coaching staff openly questioned his ability in preseason and he started out on a disastrous shooting slump. But there they are, at the deadline, hoping there's an operator standing by when so many teams are getting deals in. In that respect Indiana's not alone in calling the trade in. It's how it works as bizarre as it is. But Memphis should not have allowed it to come to this. 

Because now Mayo knows the franchise has no investment in him, no confidence in him, no trust in him. And he has to make it through the rest of this season with that hanging over him.

Mayo may have acted like he lacks common sense this season at time. If so, it seems like he learned it from the top down. 
Posted on: February 24, 2011 3:10 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 4:31 pm
 

Trade Tracker: Grizzlies trade Thabeet to Rockets

An updating list of trades at the NBA Trade Deadline. Posted by EOB staff. 

The Memphis Grizzlies trade Hasheem Thabeet and a first round pick to the Houston Rockets for Shane Battier

Memphis receives: Shane Battier and Ish Smith
Houston receives: Hasheem Thabeet and a first round pick


Analysis: Hasheem Thabeet, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, has so far been a bust. He's a huge, young and raw player that needs hours and hours of player development work. Trading for him and his fairly large (for a rookie scale contract) salary is a bit of a gamble, but the Rockets need to address the middle given the uncertain future of center Yao Ming. Shane Battier has long been regarded as one of the league's best defenders but his contract is expiring this season and would be a solid, veteran asset for a title contender next season. The Rockets add to their stockpile of picks and give up Ish Smith, a seldom-used guard averaging 2.6 points and 2.3 assists in 11.8 minutes off the bench. The Grizzlies do this to cut bait on Thabeet and avoid paying the rest of his contract, turning instead to the futures of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
 
 
 
 
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