Los Angeles Lakers: Sam Young

Lakers vs. Grizzlies: What to watch, with 3 Shades of Blue

January, 8, 2012
1/08/12
10:21
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers again sit one game above .500 as their roller-coaster season pushes forward. Save for the home victory over Denver, they've yet to beat a team universally viewed as good, and it's hard to say that Sunday's opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, qualifies as such. For many NBA scribes, including yours truly, this was the sexy pick for "dark horse contender." But myriad injuries -- most notably Zach Randolph's torn MCL -- have led to a 3-4 start.

Still, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr. and O.J. Mayo can all do damage; Tony Allen (a must-follow on Twitter) is capable of making Kobe Bryant work hard; and Lionel Hollins is a good coach. Plus, I don't think it's going out on a limb to say -- or at least hope -- the Lakers aren't firing on all cylinders at the moment.

For more perspective on the Griz, we called upon Chip Crain, who runs the TrueHoop Network's 3 Shades of Blue blog. Here are his thoughts on five questions about the Grizzlies.

Land O'Lakers: How drastically has Zach Randolph's injury affected the Grizzlies, whether in production, presence, etc.? For that matter, the frontcourt is pretty thin, with Darrell Arthur also hurt. How has this changed the way the Griz operate?

Joe Murphy/Getty Images
It's a nice ensemble, but Griz fans nonetheless don't like seeing Z-Bo in street clothes.



Chip Crain: Z-Bo’s injury hasn’t affected the Grizzlies any more than the Lakers' losing Kobe for at least six weeks would. It’s a huge loss to lose your All-Star player and dominant paint player. Throwing his injury on top of losing Arthur, a key bench player for the Grizzlies, has left a huge hole at a position that was an area of strength heading into the season.

So far, the Grizzlies have responded by moving Gay and Sam Young to power forward at times and playing a faster tempo. It has worked so far because Mike Conley, who sprained his ankle against OKC in the second game, returned, and the team was able to push the tempo without dramatically increasing turnovers. It is not a long-term solution, however. Neither is Marreese Speights, for whom the Grizzlies traded after learning of Randolph’s injury, but they had to have someone to put next to Gasol.

LO'L: Mike Conley made a pretty drastic leap forward last season after most people roundly mocked his contract. (He also had a habit of carving up the Lakers.) Has that evolution continued, and do you see him as a potential high-end PG in the making?

CC: As I said, Conley has been instrumental in keeping the Grizzlies' heads on tight and managing to win games (2-0 since Randolph’s injury was revealed). Conley is not a big-stat point guard. He’s not going to shoot a bunch of shots, nor does the Grizzlies' offense set up for huge assists, but he keeps everyone focused and on the same page. What Conley lacks in stats he more than makes up for in composure. It’s difficult to measure composure in a box score, but the team is plus-40 when he is on the court since his return.

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
26.4 4.1 1.2 35.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 9.8
AssistsJ. Lin 4.9
StealsR. Price 1.3
BlocksE. Davis 1.5