Los Angeles Lakers: Zach Randolph

Rapid Reaction: Grizzlies 102, Lakers 90

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne

LOS ANGELES -- It only felt like the Los Angeles Lakers' season ended a long time ago. Sunday it finally did for the home crowd, anyway.

The team has two more meaningless games to play against Utah and San Antonio. But the curtain on the worst season since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles came down with a whimper Sunday night in a lethargic 102-90 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

It was the Lakers' final home game of the season and about the only bright spots on the night were the rousing national anthem performed by die-hard Lakers fan and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar player Flea, and the sight of future lottery pick Joel Embiid sitting courtside across from the Lakers' bench. Both stayed until the bitter end of the game along with many Lakers fans, perhaps not quite ready to let this awful season go.

Those who stayed until the end gave two-time champion Pau Gasol a nice ovation late in the fourth quarter of what could’ve been his last appearance as a Laker. Gasol, who will be a free agent this summer, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with vertigo.

How it happened: The Lakers kept things close in the first half but gave up 34 points in the third quarter to fall irrevocably behind. Memphis had to win Sunday to keep its pole position over the Phoenix Suns in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and it played like it.

What it means: The Grizzlies head to Phoenix on Monday with a chance to clinch a playoff berth. The Lakers head out on the road to Utah and San Antonio to play out the string. Only the race with Boston, Utah and Sacramento for the fourth-worst record still matters for LA.

Hits: Nick Young and Jodie Meeks have been the Lakers' steadiest performers this season, and they were again in the last look many fans will give to this team. Young finished with 14 points off the bench while Meeks had 20. Wes Johnson (15 points, 15 rebounds) and Jordan Hill (10 points, 10 rebounds) each had a double-double.

Misses: Gasol was in attendance Sunday and will travel with the team on its final two-game road trip, but he could have already played his final game for the Lakers if he leaves as a free agent.

Stat of the game: The Grizzlies outrebound most teams they play with burly Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph controlling the paint, but even so, you don’t often see margins like they put up Sunday. Memphis outrebounded the Lakers 52-32.

Up next: The Lakers close the season out on the road against Utah on Monday night and San Antonio on Wednesday. The Grizzlies head to Phoenix Monday and Dallas on Wednesday to settle the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Should 2014-15 be the focus?

May, 10, 2013
By Mark Willard
At a certain point, a Band Aid is not sufficient. Sometimes surgery is required in order to fix the bigger problem. The Lakers have applied a series of Band Aids since their title run in 2010.

In 2013-14, they can only do more of the same. But 2014-15 is different.

Most Lakers fans are thinking in terms of bouncing back from this season and its disappointments next year. But they should be thinking about the promise of the year-after-next.

The word patience doesn’t usually go over well in LA. and the Lakers will never ask for it publicly, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need it from their fans right now.

Consider what’s inside the free agent store in the summer of 2014. And begin with LeBron James. I don’t know if he would consider Los Angeles, but the Lakers certainly want to be ready in case he does. And all is not lost if the Lakers have that flexibility in 2014 and don’t land the King. Also likely to be available would be Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Danny Granger, and Luol Deng. Possibly available would be Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Tony Parker and Zach Randolph.

If the organization were to cave to public pressure and press to make big changes during the current offseason, they would risk compromising next summer. It’s not worth it. Mitch Kupchak is certainly capable. Even with the current financial restrictions the Lakers face, Kupchak has pulled off some impressive deals. He did it last year with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Outside of Howard & Nash, the acquisitions the Lakers have given their fans since their last title include names like Theo Ratliff, Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono. That excites no one, but maybe this year it should. If the Lakers pull off a deal for Francisco Garcia or Marquise Daniels this summer, that could mean that Kuphcak is protecting 2014.

And that’s exciting.

If the Lakers try to make real moves this offseason . . . and I mean REAL moves, geared toward trying to get back in title contention right away, they risk missing out on the potential of 2014.

And with Kobe Bryant coming off a major injury, there’s little reason to sell out this summer. Their best move might be to bring the same gang back and trim a little salary.

Bryant said in his exit interview that he wants the same group back: “If we can gain something positive from this season it's bringing most of the guys back. (We were) 5 games out of the playoffs and all of the sudden have this incredible run. It does something to the character of the group. To allow that to dissipate, it's a headache.”

He seems to think the same group, if healthy, can win it all. But here's the thing: it doesn’t matter if he’s right.

What matters is what comes after.

Mark Willard is the host of "ESPNLA Now" on ESPNLA 710 in Los Angeles.

Lakers at Grizzlies: What to watch

November, 23, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
The Lakers haven't played many high-end opponents this young season, much less many outside the cozy confines of Staples Center. Tonight, they'll get a serious taste of both. The Memphis Grizzlies are playing as well as any team in the NBA. At 8-2, they boast the Western Conference's best winning percentage, along with its top point differential (+7.6). On both sides of the ball, the Griz are putting in quality work. If the Lakers want to redeem themselves for Wednesday's "Muppet Time" fiasco in Sacramento and keep alive the chance of a winning three-game roadie, they'll need to sharpen their efforts.

For more perspective on the Grizzlies, I sent some questions to Chip Crain, among the hosts of the True Hoop Network's 3 Shades of Blue blog. Below are his responses.

Andy Kamenetzky: Memphis is off to a seriously hot start. They were obviously very good last season as well, but what accounts for the seemingly upgraded play this year?

Chip Crain: The Grizzlies have developed the team chemistry missing from last season. Rudy Gay is more focused. Zach Randolph is healthy. And the bench is stronger despite the loss of O.J. Mayo. Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, Quincy Pondexter and Marresse Speights all working together with a full training camp has allowed the team to build on the past two seasons. With Mike Conley and Marc Gasol both hitting their prime years, the team is suddenly deep and on the same page. The results speak for themselves.

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Rapid Reaction: Grizzlies 102, Lakers 96

March, 25, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Well, that wasn't fun on any level. Here are three takeaways from the loss.

1) From start to finish, the Lakers were off their collective game.

Typically, a Sunday evening game begins at 6:30 pm PT, but the ESPN broadcast moved the time an hour back to accommodate the preceding contest between the Heat and the Thunder. Athletes are often creatures of habit, which means his highly unusual start time requires an adjustment of sorts. The Lakers, to put it kindly, didn't adjust well.

From start to finish of this game, the Lakers alternated between looking out of sync and flat out disinterested. Offensively, everyone seemed completely disoriented, an odd sight so quickly on the heels of Friday's win over the Blazers, where ball movement flowed like cheap beer at a college kegger. Andrew Bynum enjoyed a dominant first half (18 points on six-of-eight shooting), but he also worked one-on-one, left to create successfully for himself. Clean looks created for a teammate were largely on short supply. (The prime exception being Pau Gasol, whose miserable night was often spent clanging often-exceptionally wide open shots, the type normally drains in his sleep.) This was also a night where we were reminded Kobe Bryant off ball with Ramon Sessions controlling the large chunks of the action will take some time before becoming a consistently smooth operation. Tonight, they didn't appear quite on the same page.

Of course, the Lakers are hardly strangers to slogging their way through ugly, offensively challenged contests. Before the Ramon Sessions era of wide-open scoring, this was basically the only way the purple and gold manufactured wins. Thus, they should in theory be well equipped to survive nights like this one. However, Players and Mike Brown alike have copped to a coinciding decline in lockdown as points have come more cheaply. Tonight was a prime example of the sloppy defense, but without the offense to bail them out. A lack of effort wasn't the entire culprit, a prime example being the night Rudy Gay's night against Metta World Peace. Memphis' small forward was run off screens much of the night, an approach that sometimes gives the bulky MWP trouble. Metta did his best, and worked hard, but was just ineffective.

But on countless possessions, the Lakers were just sluggish and/or lazy whether covering pick and roll, closing out, or especially getting back in transition. (Stop me if you've heard this before). I mean, Hamed Haddadi, he of the 2.1 ppg career average (which actually bests this season's 1.9) connected on five of his seven attempts. That lack of resistance Haddadi encountered from Bynum (among others) was emblematic of the ease with which far too many of Haddadi's teammates operated. Every Laker who stepped on the floor was guilty of miscues, carelessness or blatant apathy.

There were moments of hair-on-fire lockdown, especially during a 15-0 third quarter run. But by and large (Matt Barnes probably being the most deserving exception), the Lakers seemed determined to do as little on possible on D, and paid the price.

And finally, the Lakers just didn't play particularly smart, and that lack of intelligence was exemplified on a late-fourth quarter sequence involving Bynum. With a little over three minutes remaining, Mike Conley missed a nine-footer and the brick went straight to Drew, who to his credit skied for the ball. However, instead of doing the logical thing... like, you know, securing the rock... he emphatically tapped it out to an area of the perimeter where no Laker resided. The ball ended up in the Grizzlies' hands, and was converted into a layup by Zach Randolph.

All in all, it was a night the Lakers would just as soon flush down the toilet.

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Lakers vs. Memphis: What to watch

March, 25, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
L.A. is now in Day 11 of Ramonpalooza, the festival of appreciation aimed toward point guard Ramon Sessions following his acquisition from the Cavs on deadline day. (My Morning Jacket will be appearing shortly on the main stage.) It's easy to go overboard, but his presence really has represented a sea change for the Lakers.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
The matchup between Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph will be key Sunday night.

Friday, we noted the ways in which Sessions has improved the team's offense, goosing efficiency with high-percentage shots either for himself or teammates, many coming in transition, plus an ability to get himself (and teammates) to the line. And this was before he made his debut as a starter, lighting up the Blazers for 20 points and 11 assists Friday night at Staples. The game was significant not only for his impressive numbers but how Sessions affected the action down the stretch. In a still competitive game, Sessions dominated the fourth quarter with eight points and six assists as the Lakers piled up 32 points, all while Kobe Bryant happily took only one shot in the final 12 minutes.

It's a brave new world, folks.

Sunday, the Lakers get another good test against the Memphis Grizzlies, the same team L.A. edged in double-OT not even two weeks ago at FedEx Forum. That night, the Lakers were carried by Andrew Bynum (37 points) and Bryant (34) but only had one other player in double figures (Pau Gasol, with 14). Meanwhile, the Grizzlies got a career night from Marreese Speights, one of six Grizzlies with 10 points or more. Normally, when teams meet twice in a small window, the first game can be instructive. Not here.

The Lakers played that night with Derek Fisher and without Sessions. Memphis was missing not only Zach Randolph, but also Rudy Gay. They've also added Gilbert Arenas as a free agent, giving him real minutes in his first two games. The cast on the floor Sunday will be very different on both sides.

With that in mind, here are three things to watch:

1. Z-Bo vs. Pau Gasol.

In five games since returning from a knee injury, Randolph has been solid: 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds, while shooting nearly 47 percent in about 31 minutes a night. Pretty good, but not the walking double-double he was in a dominant 2010-11 season. At some point, Randolph will round into form. If it's Sunday, the Lakers (and specifically Pau Gasol) have one more tough cover. Friday against Portland, the Lakers, who rarely do this sort of thing, were forced to bring doubles against LaMarcus Aldridge in the first half before order was restored in the second. If the same thing happens Sunday, the Grizzlies -- not a good half-court team offensively -- might find some lanes opening up that would otherwise be closed. The more extra rotations the Lakers have to make, the more wing players such as Gay can attack or Marc Gasol, who needed 25 shots to get 20 points in Memphis, can get easy looks on putbacks and open feeds at the bucket.

2. Kobe Bryant vs. Tony Allen.

Allen is among the league's most active defenders, one of the few guys capable of making Kobe's life truly difficult. On the ball, he can be very hard to beat, but while the Lakers had periodic success with Bryant operating away from the ball at points this season, with Sessions on board they have the means to do it more effectively and more consistently. Closer to the rock, the potential for good 1/2 or 2/1 pick and rolls could give Allen and Mike Conley looks they haven't seen much against L.A. Bottom line, as Mike Brown and Bryant noted after Friday's win, with Sessions the Lakers have so many more ways to attack, making them much tougher to prepare for.

Still, despite some weakness (see below) the Grizzlies constitute a very solid test for the revamped offense. They'll be at full strength, making them the best defensive team the Lakers have seen since acquiring Sessions, more effective than a Dallas squad missing Shawn Marion. Moreover, no team in the NBA is better at forcing turnovers, and Synergy rates them as the league's second most productive team in transition, meaning mistakes on the offensive end won't go unpunished.

3. L.A. vs. expectations.

Memphis is a dangerous team, one nobody will want to see in the postseason -- unless perhaps the postseason started today. The Grizzlies have dropped five of six overall, including Saturday afternoon to a slumping Clippers squad, and four of five on the road, and are just 9-14 outside Memphis overall. Perhaps it's because they don't score much, averaging only 91.2 points on the road compared to 99.1 at home. Nor have they been very good against teams over .500, going just 10-17. All told, Memphis' talent says it's a game the Lakers could absolutely lose, while the numbers say they really should win.

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 116, Grizzlies 111 (2OT)

March, 13, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
No Zach Randolph and no Rudy Gay? Ultimately, it was a bit too much of a problem for the Grizzlies, who hung very tough without two of their three best players, even forcing 10 bonus minutes of basketball to decide the contest. Lesser names like Tony Allen, Marreese Speights and Quincy Pondexter were clearly up to the task of filling those gaps. Plus, a gritty showing from a squad that made the playoffs without Gay last season, and has thrived all season without Z-Bo or Darrell Arthur shouldn't be shocking. But ultimately, the absence of a true go-to option grew increasingly evident against a Lakers squad at full strength. Luck can only be pushed for so long. And in the meantime, the Lakers eventually capitalized on these fortunate circumstances.

Here are four takeaways from the win.

1) The Lakers barely survived Pau Gasol waiting a long time before showing up at all.
From start to finish, the presences of Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant were felt in BBQ Country. Bynum was about as dominant as can be humanly expected. Only three misses in 18 tries from the field, plus seven makes in eight visits to the charity stripe. Thirty-seven points in all, and in a variety of ways Memphis found impossible to stop. Lobs sequences. A sequence where the ball moved from Kobe at the high post to Pau at mid-post to Drew at the rim proved particularly hard to stop. Spins toward to the bucket after backing down his defender. Drives off a face up. He was as unstoppable as one can be, a nice extension of his go-ahead bucket in the final seconds against Boston. For his part, The Mamba poured in another 34 points, the gaudiest figure of a very well-rounded stat line. Overtime was reached after he drilled a 3-pointer to force a 95-95 tie, then he set up Gasol on a running dunk for another two points. Kudos would be in order for the nearly 52 minutes of run alone.

The two also joined forces on a great hustle play when Bryant sprinted to track down an ORB off a missed corner three, then fed Drew on a cut for running dunk.

Gasol, however, lagged mightily in a game where his talents were needed. After three quarters, he had just five points on 2-for-8 shooting, two rebounds, three assists, and a pair of turnovers to match two blocks. Defensively, he didn't appear particularly engaged, whether matched against his brother Marc or Speights. His overall energy was low, which was disappointing as the Lakers were trying to shake their road woes. Some slack was picked up as bonus basketball began, but it was nearly a matter of too little, too late.

Granted, Gasol wasn't the only starter who didn't take over in Memphis. After a quick start that allowed him to reach the 10,000-point mark for his career (congrats!), Derek Fisher did very little, then found himself benched down the stretch in favor of Steve Blake. Metta World Peace clanged treys as if he were getting paid by the miss (technically speaking, I guess he is) and beyond a few hustle plays, the small forward was pretty much a non-factor. More was needed of them as well.

However, Pau is a different caliber of player, which creates much higher expectations. He didn't meet that bar, which left far too much in the hands of his fellow "Big 3" members.

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

January, 8, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
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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Brown not crowning any team a success or failure just yet

January, 7, 2012
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
Taking a glance at the NBA standings two weeks into the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season can be pretty confusing.

The defending-champion Dallas Mavericks are just 3-5, while the Deron Williams-and- Jerry Sloan-less Utah Jazz are 4-3.

Boston and it's Big Four of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo is just 4-4, while the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that went 19-63 last season, is 4-3.

Will everything come out in the wash as the 66-game season continues, or are these records and early indicator of what to expect come playoff time?

It was a fair question to ask Saturday on the eve of the 5-4 Lakers playing the 3-4 Grizzlies. Both teams made the second round of the playoffs a year ago, but neither has looked too hot coming out of the gate this season.

"This whole thing is just kind of wacky," Mike Brown said, pointing out how Portland beat the Lakers by 11 on Thursday and then lost to Phoenix by 25 on Friday. "Anything can happen on any given day. That’s what I’m starting to figure out here."

Brown said he doesn't know where the Grizzlies stand. Yes, they took Oklahoma City to a Game 7 in the conference semifinals last spring, but they just lost Zach Randolph to a tear of his MCL in his right knee and could be without Z-Bo for up to eight weeks.

"Where are they going to settle? I don’t know," Brown said. "Do I think they’re a playoff team with Randolph? Yes I do. But the reality of it is, I’m not sure."

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The Triangle: The 2012 Western Conference champs

August, 29, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Assuming there is a 2012 season, of course, but The Triangle is nothing if not an optimistic program. With that in mind, along with 710 ESPN's Mark Willard, we predict the team to come out of the West next season, break down Dallas' chances of back-to-back Finals appearances and pick a sleeper squad.

Pre-Draft status updates: Southwest Division

June, 21, 2011
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
The 2011 NBA Draft is Thursday afternoon (4 p.m. PT, ESPN). We've spent scads of time taking stock of where the Lakers stand heading into draft day, and now aim to catch up on the rest of the Western Conference.

Today, the Southwest Division...

San Antonio Spurs

2010-2011: 61-21, lost in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies 4-2

Picks: 29, Round 1. 59, Round 2.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Manu Ginobili will once again lead the Manu/Timmeh/(probably) Parker core, but to say the clock is ticking is an understatement.

Where They Stand: At the tail end of an era. It was a strange year for the Spurs, who remained remarkably healthy for most of the season, earned the best record in the Western Conference, then saw Manu Ginobili hurt himself at the worst possible time and lost in the first round to a Memphis team showing oodles of potential. Now the Spurs have one more year with Tim Duncan under contract and two more seasons with Ginobili to go with Tony Parker for their Big Three. I suspect the trio will make at least one more run together, and as the 61 wins from this season attest, it's still a very competitive core. Add in solid role players like Gary Neal, George Hill, DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter, and the Spurs have every reason to give it one more go.

In terms of significant pieces likely gone for next season, the only big name is Antonio McDyess, likely retiring after a distinguished 16-year career. Whether he shelves the sneaks or not, the Spurs need some size to bolster the frontcourt and prevent Duncan from being overtaxed. Explosiveness on the wings wouldn't hurt, either, because Richard Jefferson essentially became a spot-up shooter last year, with nearly half of his shots coming from beyond the arc. Parker and Ginobili still attack the rack, but one more guy would take a lot of pressure off a core needing every break it can get.

A little defensive help would be a nice touch, too.

Projections (Round 1): Chad Ford, ESPN.com (Insider Required)- Davis Bertans (SF, Latvia). DraftExpress- Nikola Mirotic (PF, Montenegro)

--Brian Kamenetzky

Dallas Mavericks

2010-2011: 57-25, won the 2011 NBA championship

Picks: 26, Round 1. 57, Round 2.

Where they stand: With bigger fish to fry than the draft. Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, and DeShawn Stevenson all could depart after playing critical roles in capturing the franchise's first title, and Caron Butler, their second best player before a season ending injury, is a free agent as well. The Mavs outlasted the field in part because of their superior depth, thus their bid to repeat depends in large part on retaining as many useful players as possible to surround their lone superstar (Dirk Nowitzki, for the benefit of the thick).

Andy and Brian talk with David Thorpe (ESPN.com's Scout's Inc.) about what the Lakers can do in the second round of the draft. Plus, a look at the hot rumor (Pau for Kevin Love/#2 pick) and the vocal stylings of Dirk Nowitzki
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Still, there are needs beyond maintaining continuity. With Roddy Beaubois an unproven commodity, covering their bases with another point guard wouldn't be the worst idea. Shawn Marion will need a backup if Butler isn't re-signed. And while Jason Kidd isn't quite ready yet to drive a Rascal, every year spent counting on a player pushing 40 carries inherent risk. Equally risky is penciling in a shrimp like Barea as a 30-40 mpg lead guard of the future. Again, factors pointing to bolstering the backcourt.

But really, given the team's collective age, prospects at any position are justifiable, particularly since the likelihood of finding a player able to help immediately from their draft position is unlikely.

Projections: Chad Ford - Josh Selby (PG, Kansas), Draft Express- Justin Harper (PF, Richmond)

--Andy Kamenetzky

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Lakers vs. Grizzlies: What to watch

February, 7, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Before coming up just shy on Saturday against Houston, the Griz were riding a five-game winning streak, which tied the longest roll since 2006. They've also won eight of their last 10 and boast a credible 16-7 record at FedExForum, with one win coming at the Lakers' expense. In other words, building on a victorious start to this monster roadie isn't impossible, but it won't be a walk in the daisies.

Here are some items to watch once the ball is jumped:

Can Pau Gasol's aggressiveness continue?
Ever since Kobe Bryant implored Pau to be more "Black Swan" before a win over the Rockets, El Spaniard's on-court demeanor has been noticeably more forceful. Over his last three games, fantastic numbers have been produced, and Gasol has consistently attacked defenders as opposed to settling for path-of-least-resistance jumpers. That these mid-range shots are well within his range isn't the point. There needed to be a more conscientious effort by Pau to drive against defenders and put them at risk of picking up fouls. These days, he's been putting the ball on the floor, absorbing whatever contact and ratcheting his effectiveness.

Derick E. Hingle/US Preswire
Spread your wings, Black Swan!

(In adopting this attitude, even his J's have turned feistier. During the New Orleans win, he and an equally red hot David West were trading jumpers in each other's grill, and Pau seemed to enjoy going right back at West whenever the power forward got the best of him. When the dust finally settled, the clear victor was Gasol.)

I'm curious to see, however, if this mind-set carries forth against his hermano and former franchise, which hasn't always been a good situation for him. There were signs this mental block had been overcome during a 19 point win at Staples, but a 19 point loss at Staples featured Pau operating as a listless rag doll. Sandwiched in between was a Graceland performance with 14 rebounds, but inefficient shooting and the inability to take the game over.

Pau vowed after the Houston win to remain in aggro mode 24/7. Keeping to his word in this setting would go a long way to convince fans his bouts with inconsistency this season are truly a thing of the past.

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

January, 2, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
The Memphis Grizzlies haven't been a playoff team since the 2005-06 season, but last year Lionel Hollins' crew quietly took some steps toward respectability, pushing its record as high as 38-33 before a 2-9 finish. At the very least, it was competitive enough to require one of Kobe Bryant's best games of the 2009-10 campaign last February in Memphis.

Joe Murphy/Getty Images
The Grizzlies have been a little better since they decided to put OJ Mayo on the bench, but are still struggling to meet this season's loftier expectations.

This year, in a Western Conference with a little less depth, the Grizzlies were considered by some to be dark horse candidates in the race for the final playoff spot. Not a team to be ignored, at least not simply because the front of the jersey says "Memphis" and they draw about 19 people to FedEx Forum for a typical home game. But after Saturday's 98-92 loss in Utah, the Grizzlies are 14-19, three games behind an 8-seed. Not out of it, but not at the level of, say, Houston, another team currently on the wrong side of the postseason cutoff but playing good ball after a horrid start.

The Grizzlies have, though, already knocked off the Lakers this season, with a 98-96 win on their home floor, so while Memphis' record may not leap off the page, the champs ought to be acutely aware of how possible it is to lose to them. (L.A. also rolled the Grizzlies -- playing without Zach Randolph -- on Nov. 2, back in the salad days of the eight-game win streak.)

To get a better feel for where the Grizzlies are these days, I hit up Chip Crain from 3 Shades of Blue, the top-shelf blog dedicated to all things Grizzlies.

1. How has the dynamic on the floor changed with OJ Mayo coming off the bench? Has the move accomplished what it set out to do?

Good question. The team has a better balance when OJ is coming off the bench with Xavier Henry or Tony Allen providing better defense at the two guard with their size. Unfortunately Mayo hasn't always provided the scoring off the bench the team has hoped to see. When he has, the team is able to keep two scoring threats on the court at all times, but when Mayo struggles the second team doesn't provide enough spark to give the starters much rest.

The Grizzlies have Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol as scoring threats, so there are plenty of players capable of scoring when Mayo is out of the lineup. Mayo is the only true scoring threat coming off the bench right now. Defensively, he struggled against opposing shooting guards earlier in the season. The team is better on that end with Mayo coming off the bench.

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When last these teams met, November 2nd at Staples Center, the Lakers rolled up a 27 point lead on the Grizzlies heading into halftime. Memphis managed to shave a few points off the final margin, but it amounted to nothing more than window dressing. Take a look at the HoopData box, and save turnover ratio (thanks to a sloppy second half) it's hard to find an area the Lakers didn't just win, but dominate.

Kirby Lee/US Presswire
Gasol vs. Gasol is just one thing to watch tonight as the Lakers visit the Grizzlies.

It was right in the heart of the salad days, when the Lakers would win eleventybillion games, each by more points than the last. They were invincible, an offensive juggernaut so talented they could probably turn even Theo Ratliff into a volume scorer, if it came to that.

Overstatement? Probably, but it's fair to say whatever unnatural exuberance overcoming some in LakerLand earlier this month has passed, replaced by a cocktail of still-healthy optimism mixed with a few dashes of sober-minded realism. This team is very, very good, but not infallible, most recently demonstrated in consecutive losses to Utah and Indiana.

Tuesday's visit to FedExForum provides a chance to right the ship (not that it's particularly wrong) against an inferior team, but one talented enough to leave the Lakers with a genuine losing streak should they not arrive ready to play. Memphis is 5-4 in their building, including three straight wins. Could have been five if not for a pair of tight losses against quality teams- by one to Portland, by six in OT to Boston.

Things aren't quite as bleak for the Grizzlies as their pedigree might imply. Andy hit a lot of the high points regarding the matchup in our weekly preview, most prominently:
  • The return of Zach Randolph gives Memphis another dynamic scorer and rebounder (and subpar defender), adding explosiveness to a team in the bottom third of the league when it comes to offensive efficiency.
  • First round pick Xavier Henry has replaced O.J. Mayo in Memphis' starting lineup, and the look is a little different. (While most of the time guys don't like losing their gigs, for this game Mayo probably won't complain. Kobe Bryant has made a habit out of torturing the former Trojan in the post.)

Here are a few other nuggets to watch...

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Lakers vs. Grizzlies: What to watch

November, 2, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
The Grizzlies were among the league's bigger surprises last season, whether you're talking their 40 wins (up from 26 in 2009), Zach Randolph fitting in, or Allen Iverson failing to follow suit. Okay, the last development was more predictable your garden variety Hollywood rom-com, but still, the Griz emerged a tough competitor in the West, and provided fits for the Lakers while splitting their final two meetings. They're looking to build on that momentum, while the Lakers try to remain undefeated. Here are a few items to ponder as we see if something gives:

Pau vs. Marc
We've now entered the third season of Pau competing professionally against his younger brother Marc, and if the process has become old hat, it would represent a major milestone. Gasol's numbers against his old team lag by his career standards, indicative of the difficult psychology of playing against a franchise you once lent a face, plus the issues inherent with this setup. There's no question which brother is the more polished, complete player. But Marc has rapidly evolved into a quality NBA big, and in the meantime, has appeared less thrown by the concept of tussling with his hermano.

Of course, Marc's perspective contains less ennui.

AP Photo/Jim Weber
For Pau, besting his little brother is a goal, but not an easy one.

Pau is a heady cat. For the most part, this intelligence is a major plus, whether on the court or away from it. But a hyper-aware brain has drawbacks, certainly the case for Pau while squaring off against his younger brother. The two are very close, and Pau is very sympathetic to the strides Marc's made to overcome the stigma of being associated with a trade initially considered the most lopsided in recent NBA history... plus a persistent tag.

"At first, he was always 'Pau's brother,' " noted Gasol during Monday's practice. "He had to work really hard. People started calling him by his name instead of being my brother. It took a little time, but I think that helped him, to fight through that and be eager to get to that point."

And that, boys and girls, is the rub.

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Lakers practice report: Choice quotes and videos

February, 22, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Outside of previously reported news about Kobe Bryant making his return tomorrow night in BBQ country, today's practice didn't feature any real "news," so to speak. Most of the players hustled out to hop a flight to Memphis, and the ones made available talked primarily about 24's return or the Memphis Grizzlies, neither topic prompting much in the way of mind boggling insight. Mostly, folks just wanted to hit the road.

There were, however, a few good lines sprinkled about. So in lieu of a formal "report," I'm presenting clips, along with my personal nomination for best quote of the segment. Should another piece of verbiage strike your fancy more, feel free to use the comments section to voice your personal preference. This is the democratic way we operate in Land O' Lakers' "America."

First, Ron Artest's take on Kobe "fitting back in," as another reporter put it, after his five-game absence:
    "It's how we're gonna fit back in with Kobe. Don't get it twisted, man. This is the Mamba show."

And since we're talking about Ron Ron, his clip naturally offers a co-winner. You gotta love this response when asked if he watched Sunday night's "instant classic" USA-Canada Olympic hockey match, the buzz of sports talk radio and SportsCenter:
    "No, what happened?"


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Kobe Bryant
24.6 4.9 1.4 35.4
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.2
AssistsK. Bryant 4.9
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.2