The Grizzlies have given Michael Conley, Jr. a $45 million contract extension over five years. My first though upon hearing this - along with most of the NBA community - was "Wow. How dumb!" I'm not sure he's worth a contract of such generous amount, and I thought Memphis was supposedly one of the lower tier teams in the supposed "struggling" NBA, but it's not my money. If Michael Heisler wants to throw his cash away, it's fine by me. Let Hardwood Paroxysm's Matt Moore be worried. My second thought was "His first game to prove his new money is against Derek Fisher." Oh boy.
Now, I'm guessing this was no coincidence. I would be willing to bet that Grizzlies management knew before the season started they were giving this contract to Conley, but figured they'd wait until every quick PG's favorite regular-season punching bag was up next to make them look good. So expect Conley to try his best to cash a few checks at Mr. Intangibles' expense.
Unfortunately for him, he's not very good against the Lakers. Last season, he averaged 33.3 FG%, 7.0 points, 4.3 assists and one rebound in 29.9 minutes per game over three games. In fact, the whole team hasn't faired too well against the Lakers. They're just 1-6 against Los Angeles in the past two seasons, with their lone win being a close game that came down to a missed Kobe three. Safe to say the Lakers own this team, but the Grizzlies are making progress.
After losing handily to the Lakers in their first matchup last season, Memphis managed to get that win, and then a one-point loss. Although it seems like the Lakers should win easily, the Grizzlies' athleticism has given the Lakers some problems in the past. Now, the Grizz are a year older, and should be a bit wiser. Some of them are definitely richer (looking at you too, Rudy Gay). Are they good enough to live up to the hype of more money and expectations? Too early to really know yet. But these are the Lakers. Every player wants to measure themselves against the champs. We'll see.
Never mind Conley. The key matchups in tonight's game will really be at center and shooting guard. Pau Gasol vs. baby bro Marc Gasol, and Kobe Bryant vs. O.J. Mayo.
Marc Gasol is a heavier, slightly taller, more brutish, less talented version of his brother. We'll all remember him for being the best player to be traded to Memphis to get Pau, but the kid can play. As our friends at Land 'O Lakers pointed out, Marc does a pretty decent job against his big brother. Let's just say he'd look very nice in a Lakers uniform too - as would Mayo -something I've been hoping for since last season, and now, we're a step closer to since Conley moved to another tax bracket. I'm sure O.J. would love to return to LA, even if it's to stop the destruction Kobe Bryant has given him since he's been in the NBA. Mamba averaged 27.0 points per game on 57.0 FG% in four games against Memphis in 2008-09, then exploded for 39 points per game on 62.3 FG% in three games last season. Expect another rough night for O.J. Something about him brings out the ultra-efficient gunner in Kobe.
How did the Grizzlies try to fix that Kobe problem? They signed Tony Allen. You know him as that former Celtic who
never got called for blocking did a decent defensive job on Kobe in the Finals. If Kobe's hot by the time Tony gets in the game, look for Kobe to make a point to prove Tony can't cover him (Shane Battier, anyone?).
Ron Artest was probably already made aware that Rudy Gay received a new contract, and should be looking to take some of that money, Lewis Monroe style. Ron Ron feeds off challenges the way Kobe does. Especially since Rudy averaged 21.3 points on 48.0 FG% against our favorite therapy patient last season. Other than that, it looks like Z-Bo is out tonight, which is a good thing, because Pau has no clue on how to play his weird style, and neither does Lamar. Replacing Zach Randolph's minutes should be Darrell Arthur, Hammed Haddadi's head, and bust-in-progress Hasheem Thabeet. Memphis doesn't have much of a bench to speak of, and our improved "Renegades" bench should hold or extend any leads the starters should give them. I'm looking for another happy night in Lakerland and for Mayo taking a step closer to wearing the purple and gold. Sasha, you could look real good in blue and yellow. I'm on your side and want to see you play more, but seriously, go ask Mike and Rudy for a great place to grab some ribs.