Here is the newest edition of Memphis Grizzlies weekly. The last week, Tuesday, Nov. 19 to today, for the Grizzlies was slow as they only played three games during the week. However, the big news of the week was the injury to Memphis’ All-Star center Marc Gasol. The good news, if there is good news with an injury, is that Gasol suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee and the timetable for his return is six to eight weeks. Again it could have been much worse, as you see Derrick Rose go out for the year again. That being said, it will not be easy to overcome the absence of Gasol, he was having the best year of his career, averaging 16 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists. During the four-game win streak, he lead the Grizzlies in assists three of the four games, he was showing the NBA that he is the best passing big man in the game. More good news is the Grizzlies did make a trade in the offseason for a true backup center in Kosta Koufos, who will step right into the starting lineup, meaning others on the bench will also need to step up, let’s take a quick look at Koufos, Ed Davis and Jon Leuer, the other big men on the roster.
Koufos was brought to Memphis to be a true backup center for Gasol, the goal was to help spell Gasol during the long season. Now it looks like the trade could possibly save the season with Gasol out for six to eight weeks. People forget Koufos is a five-year vet, who started 81 games on a Denver Nuggets team that won 57 games. Koufos averaged eight points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 22 minutes last year, all career highs. Now Koufos is not even close to the player Gasol is, but he is good enough to keep the seat warm until Gasol comes back.
Davis has been in and out of the lineup all season, however, he will more than likely the first big man off the bench. Before he was traded to Memphis from Toronto, Davis was playing well, averaging just less than 10 points and seven rebounds per game; however, he was getting more than 24 minutes per game and he has not been close to that with Randolph and Gasol on the team. This will be Davis’ big chance with Memphis as he will get more minutes, if he can step up his game, like his time with the Raptors he will see more minutes for sure.
Leuer will also see his playing time increase, he like Davis has been in and out of the lineup, but with the injury he will also need to step up. Leuer is mainly known for his outside shooting but with Gasol being out he will need rebound and play defense. Both Leuer’s and Davis’ minutes will totally depend on their play at both ends of the floor.
Wednesday, Nov. 20 at Golden State Warriors
This was the last leg on the West Coast swing, after winning the first three games, it would have been looked over if the Grizzlies had mailed in this game. However, they had to overcome some terrible shooting early to beat out the Warriors in overtime, in a true grind it out game with the final score being 88-81. Again Randolph led the team with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but as a team the Grizzlies shot just under 39 percent and still found a way to win. This win over the Warriors feels like the high point of the early season, because it put Memphis two games above .500 and with some momentum heading into another showdown with the Spurs.
Friday, Nov. 22 vs. San Antonio Spurs
When the Spurs came to Memphis on Friday it felt like the Grizzlies had turned a corner with the four-game win streak, Memphis was playing the best ball of the year. However, just like the other game against the Spurs no matter how close the Grizzlies made it the Spurs just keep their calm and held off the Grizzlies again winning 102-86. Marc Gasol left this game in the second quarter with the knee injury and you could tell if affected the Grizzlies. Furthermore, the Spurs have beaten the Grizzlies 11 of the last 12 times they have played, therefore, at this point there is no point in evaluating these games against the rest of the league.
Monday Nov. 25 vs. Houston Rockets
This was the first game without Gasol and it started out better than expected. The Grizzlies played with a lot of passion from the beginning , this helped them open up a 12-point lead at half. The game looked like it was wrapped up at this point, especially when the Rockets were without James Harden, but then the Grizzlies gave up 38 points in the fourth quarter and ended up losing the game by seven points. Some good news from the game was that Koufos played well in Gasol’s place, he ended up with eight points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes. Furthermore, Ed Davis, in limited time, scored six points and had four rebounds, an assist, a steal and two blocks. However, the two main starters, Conley and Randolph, were not able to step up in place of Gasol, they combined shot 7-of-26, managing only 23 points. If the Grizz wish to stay in the playoff hunt Randolph and Conley will have to be better than they were against the Rockets.
Assists (The Good) and Turnovers (The Bad)
The Grizzlies became the third team in NBA history to sweep the California swing.
Memphis is currently sixth in the league in free throw percentage at 78 percent.
The Grizzlies have won all five games that Randolph has led the team in scoring.
The Grizzlies are 27th in the league in 3-point shooting at 31 percent, even worse than last year when they shot 34 percent.
When Conley leads the team in scoring the Grizzlies are 1-4, with the only win coming in OT against the Pistons.
This week the Grizzlies only play two games, one in Boston and then at home against the struggling Nets. The extra days off should give players like Koufos, Davis and Leuer practice time which will be important for these young players. Also time off can help keep the vets healthy, because without Gasol, the Grizzlies will have to lean on Randolph more than ever.