Feelings of dread had to be welling up in the stomachs of the Grizzlies and their fans Wednesday night as an alarming pattern repeated itself. As in Game 1, the Grizzlies built a huge lead on the Clippers through great defense and crisp offensive execution. And as in 1, they stopped doing those great things, lost both their composure and the greater part of that lead. This time, though, Memphis managed to hold on for an excruciating 92-80 win, closing Los Angeles' series lead to 3-2.
LOS ANGELES -- Zach Randolph was the leading per-game scorer in the history of the Los Angeles Clippers when they traded him to Memphis in the summer of 2009. Randolph was averaging 20.9 points, more than Elton Brand or Danny Manning, but the Clippers had just drafted an aerial acrobat from Oklahoma named Blake Griffin and he happened to play the same position. The Clippers billed Griffin as their power forward of the future. They couldn't have Randolph in his way.
For two months now O.J. Mayo has heard the rumors about the aborted deadline deal with the Celtics for Ray Allen, how it was he who quashed the trade that would have broken up Boston's Big Three. He heard reports coming out of Boston of a conversation he allegedly had with Celtics president Danny Ainge, of how he told Ainge he wasn't interested in winning championships, that Boston's rich history didn't count for much.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter and Chris Paul was already in Vinny Del Negro's ear. Let me go back in, it's not over. Del Negro was not inclined to leave his prized point guard and his still sore groin out on the floor much longer, not with his team down 21 and playing like the Washington Generals. Let me go back in, it's not over, Paul said, knowing that stinking out the joint for three quarters was "just how we play," knowing his team had a rally left in them. Let me go back in, it's not over, Paul said, and Del Negro listened, opening the door for one of the most improbable comebacks in NBA playoff history.
This should be the best series of the first round, Lob City against Grind City, in-your-face against over-your-head. The Clippers are in the playoffs for the first time in six years, but Chris Paul did not join them just to qualify. He did that in New Orleans. The Clippers are trying to sell Paul on a long-term contract extension and the result here will help or hurt their pitch.
Free-agent guard Gilbert Arenas will sign with the Memphis Grizzlies so long as he passes his physical, he told SI.com.
In last year's playoffs, moments before Game 6 of the first-round series between the Spurs and Grizzlies, Zach Randolph sat in the locker room at FedEx Forum and reflected on what became of the 2007 Golden State Warriors.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- There was a Portland-bound plane to catch late Monday night, so the proud and blissful Memphis Grizzlies couldn't talk all night about how they found that fighting spirit again. No matter how badly they wanted to.
One day after the Houston Rockets came painfully close to landing Lakers forward Pau Gasol, they're going hard after his brother.
LAS VEGAS -- Rudy Gay wasn't even back playing yet, but he was still the happiest guy on the floor.
What is a 32-year-old NBA player to do during a lockout? Here is Shane Battier's list of summer options.
A little more than two months ago O.J. Mayo was headed out the door, dumped by the Grizzlies on the Indiana Pacers for his petulant behavior (namely a 10-game suspension for violating the NBA's drug policy and a scuffle with Tony Allen on the team plane) and inconsistent play. Fast forward to Friday, long after the February trade fell apart at the last minute, and there was Mayo, in the starting lineup for just the 18th time this season, knocking down threes and digging in against Russell Westbrook.
It has been 14 years since the Oklahoma City/Seattle franchise has played in a Game 7. The Grizzlies? They never have. Here are five things to watch in 2011's first ultimate elimination game:
The swollen Mississippi River is cresting many feet above flood stage in Memphis, Tennessee. CNN's Tommy Andres reports.
People thought that as bad the Memphis Grizzlies NBA franchise has mostly been since moving from frosty Vancouver to this steamy Southern locale 10 years ago, it would be hell or high water before they ever won a playoff game, much less a series.
The last time the Oklahoma City Thunder were in the second round, they were the Seattle SuperSonics. That was back in 2005, when San Antonio wiped them out in six games. The Thunder/Sonics franchise has not advanced past the second round since 1996.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Thunder's steady transformation from a high-flying team led by scorers Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook into a deep roster of lunch-bucket bruisers took another step forward Wednesday night.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Kevin Durant shuffled his sneakered feet slowly down a dimly lit hallway, head bowed, every ounce of energy drained from his 6-foot-9, 230-pound frame.
Memphis and its economy are bracing for its worst flood since the 1930s.
If the Memphis Grizzlies needed a reminder of how they would win on Saturday, as they faced a comparatively trivial task against Oklahoma City, it was only five blocks away.
The Lakers have been my default choice to reach the NBA Finals. I'd been assuming we'd see them meet either the Celtics or Heat in June, a dreamy matchup that would build on the tremendous following the league has been creating all season.
Memphis Grizzlies stories in the SI Vault
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant stared down at the final stat sheet, his eyes locked on the numbers like he was willing them to change. The Grizzlies took it to Oklahoma City, 114-101, on Sunday in Game 1 of this second-round series, connecting on 49.4 percent of their shots, racking up 52 points in the paint and yanking down 17 offensive rebounds that led to 22 second-chance points. That physical, bruising style that Memphis clobbered San Antonio with in the first round was packed up and redeployed in Oklahoma City with clubbing force.
MEMPHIS -- Explain it, O.J. Mayo. Please, try.
After Oklahoma City advanced in the playoffs for the first time since relocating and Memphis won its first postseason series in franchise history, the two young teams will start a duel that could define the West for the next few seasons. But in their first-round victories, both showed some flaws that suggest they have some maturing to do. Against Denver, the Thunder did as expected, utilizing their stars to overwhelm a less-talented roster. Russell Westbrook, though, seemed caught in a struggle between distributing and scoring, an internal battle that led to a sideline tiff with teammate Kevin Durant. For their part, the Grizzlies did the unexpected, upending the top-seeded Spurs with a mix of athleticism and a big front line, albeit with a number of late-game defensive collapses that no team can afford deeper in the playoffs.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- They are a bunch of misfits, this Grizzlies team. Castoffs (Zach Randolph), overpaid (Mike Conley), overrated (O.J. Mayo); you name it, Memphis has been called it. No player on the roster arrived without a question mark, no acquisition completed without a snicker.
The San Antonio Spurs will live to fight at least one more game, thanks in large part to an undrafted rookie. Gary Neal made a game-tying three-pointer at the regulation buzzer, providing the Western Conference's No. 1 seed five more minutes to put away the Memphis Grizzlies 110-103 in Game 5 on Wednesday in San Antonio.
It's a guard's game now, or so many in the NBA firmly believe. The proliferation of talented playmakers -- from Derrick Rose and Chris Paul, to Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams -- has created the perception that little men have taken over the league. And maybe they have. There will be a point guard (Rose) raising the MVP trophy soon, and three others (Paul, Rondo and Russell Westbrook) have made measurable impacts on their first-round series.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The chant started in the rafters and quickly spread into the lower bowl.
The NBA gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening. That's why the owners are now quarreling among themselves over how much money the richest markets should be sharing with the less rich, and why the "less attractive" franchises want the next collective bargaining agreement to provide them with a better opportunity to hold on to talents like LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Deron Williams.
On Sunday, the Memphis Grizzlies accomplished what their underdog brethren in Indiana and Philadelphia could not: translate a competitive two-way effort into an actual Game 1 victory. A pair of Matt Bonner three-pointers nearly denied the Grizzlies' their first playoff win in franchise history, but timely buckets from Marc Gasol, O.J. Mayo and Shane Battier, along with some strong defense, allowed Memphis to preserve its game-clinching lead in the final minutes.
Veteran power forward Zach Randolph has agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Memphis Grizzlies, SI.com has confirmed.
These teams approached the playoffs with different aims: The Spurs (61-21) earned the No. 1 seed with the ultimate goal of winning a fifth championship around Tim Duncan. The Grizzlies (46-36), who have never won a game in postseason, simply wanted to make the tournament -- especially after losing star forward Rudy Gay to a season-ending injury in February. The Spurs now look to recover the health of Manu Ginobili, who suffered a hyperextended right elbow in the regular-season finale, and advance strongly toward a potential conference finals against the No. 2 Lakers.
For three years, the Grizzlies were the punchline for any general manager, coach or pundit looking to make himself feel better about his job: At least he didn't hand-deliver two NBA titles to the Lakers by trading away Pau Gasol.
BOSTON -- The Grizzlies haven't made the playoffs since 2005-06, and they've never won a playoff game. But they came here Wednesday and looked more playoff-ready than the contending Celtics in a 90-87 victory.
LOS ANGELES -- Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley picked up the phone in a Columbus, Ohio, hotel room last summer, called Marc Gasol and put him on speaker. "I told him how much I believed I was going to improve," Conley said, "how much more assertive I was going to be and what I was going to do to keep our team together." They talked for nearly 20 minutes. Then Conley hung up, dialed Rudy Gay and told him the same thing. After that it was O.J. Mayo and finally coach Lionel Hollins. Conley asked Hollins: "What do you expect from me? What can I do better?"
A body found in southeast Memphis, Tennessee, on Wednesday has been identified as that of former professional basketball player Lorenzen Wright, Memphis police said.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins stood against a wall outside the visiting locker at Oracle Arena earlier this week, looking worn down as the inevitable end to a long NBA season draws near.
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Jan. 25.)
Injuries among so many stars and inconsistent performances by so many contending teams make it difficult to fill out a midseason awards ballot. But here it is anyway: The best of what we've seen so far, with the hope that something better -- and healthier -- is on the way. (The NBA's official awards ballot includes five spots for MVP and three for the other major awards. The media vote on all the awards below except Executive of the Year.)
Now that the Grizzlies have climbed above .500 and Lionel Hollins has been named Western Conference Coach of the Month for December, the bandwagon is rolling for power forward Zach Randolph to be named to the All-Star team.
Four SI.com writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the NBA each week. (All stats and records are through Nov. 9.)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- No team in the NBA had a more whiplash-inducing summer than the Grizzlies. After two years of shedding payroll and stripping away veterans in favor of young talent, the Grizzlies appeared to do a 180-degree turn in the offseason when they signed 34-year-old guard Allen Iverson and acquired 29-year-old power forward Zach Randolph.
If you are Allen Iverson, Wednesday is a day for celebration. After the worst season of your professional career, a season in which your presence was viewed as the cause of the demise of one franchise (Detroit) and your absence was touted as one of the reasons for the success of another (Denver), you still managed to squeeze $3.5 million and a chance for redemption out of the Memphis Grizzlies.
SI.com NBA writers examine some of the most intriguing issues surrounding Thursday's draft.
5. How high will Ricky Rubio go?
SI.com NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league.
The Philadelphia District Attorney's office has decided not to file charges against Grizzlies guard Marko Jaric after the seven-year veteran was accused of sexual assault by a Philadelphia woman.
At his introductory news conference Sunday, new Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins issued a challenge to his starting point guard.
It seems like another lifetime now, but it was only two years ago when Marc Iavaroni was the NBA's most coveted assistant coach.
Lionel Hollins is working on a contract with the Grizzlies to serve as their head coach for the third time -- the first time without the interim label.
For the average fan, it can be hard to see the motivation for teams in the NBA's second division to win games. With nothing to play for in terms of the postseason, it's easy to imagine players mailing in their efforts and teams playing for a better draft pick instead of wins. That's why it has been encouraging to see three of the NBA's cellar-dwellers of recent vintage -- the Grizzlies, Timberwolves and Thunder -- playing competitive basketball of late.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Living up to expectations cannot possibly be as much fun as exceeding them, or coloring outside their lines entirely.
SI.com NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Monday's games.)
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
We've already evaluated the Eastern Conference based on the offseason moves to this point. Now let's assess the West.
LAS VEGAS -- Five thoughts from Vegas and my 2008 All-Summer League team as I prepare to enter week two in Hell's playground.
The Grizzlies made a bold trade on draft night to acquire O.J. Mayo. Now they might have added another "lottery" pick.
The NBA's free agent signing period begins Tuesday, meaning teams can begin talking to free agents, but don't expect a whirlwind of activity right away. For one, contracts cannot be signed until July 9. Also, this year's crop is considered mediocre at best -- and only three teams (the Sixers, Grizzlies and maybe the Clippers) are far enough below the salary cap to make a run at a top-tier free agent.
NEW YORK -- A long, apprehensive day of lies, gossip and unrequited negotiations ended with an NBA draft that defies analysis. Many of the players who were chosen Thursday, including a record 12 freshmen, are too young to be assessed.
The NBA draft does not officially take place until Thursday, but the Grizzlies might already have one lottery pick.
The playoffs might still be in full swing, but for fans in places such as Miami, Memphis, Minnesota, New York and, yes, Oklahoma City, the 2008-09 season unofficially begins Tuesday night.
The size of Mike Conley's pond hasn't grown, exactly, but the quality of the fish sure has improved. They are swifter, stronger, leaner, meaner and much hungrier, enough so that Conley steals a nervous glance back at his tail every so often to see who's in the mood that day for seafood.
The Memphis Grizzlies have a plan. It's a secret plan. It's so secret, I'm not sure they even know what it is yet.
Only one active rookie was directly involved in the Pau Gasol deal, but the trade could have long-term effects on several first-year players.
The Grizzlies' slow start has fueled anew talk of a Pau Gasol trade, but here's a crude reminder for any team hoping to strike oil by stealing the 7-foot Spaniard out of Memphis: Gasol-ine doesn't come cheap.
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Strange, the situations you can find yourself in by wandering around the halls at the mini-circus that is the NBA draft lottery. In a cramped waiting room outside the TV studio set, for example, with Patrick Ewing leaning against a wall near a coffee machine and Larry Bird sitting atop a counter next to a water cooler. Almost like you stumbled upon the filming of an episode of The Office, recast with members of the original Dream Team.
The Boston Celtics can claim they are cursed after tumbling in the lottery for the second time in a decade. But the truth, confirmed yet again by Tuesday's miserable result, is that they never should have traded for Sebastian Telfair.
Forget the playoffs. For fans of the Grizzlies, Celtics, Bucks, Hawks and most of the other NBA also-rans, the moment they have been waiting for since the end of the regular season has finally arrived.
Sam Mitchell, the NBA's Coach of the Year, has decided to return as Raptors coach.
The NBA coaching carousel has been stuck for a few weeks, but it might be about to start spinning again. The Raptors have begun discussions with coach Sam Mitchell, whose contract expires June 30, about a new deal. If the two sides can't reach an agreement, the Pacers, Bobcats and Grizzlies apparently intend to make their pitch to the 2007 Coach of the Year.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Guard Brandon Roy of the Portland Trail Blazers and forward Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors headline the NBA All-Rookie Team, which was announced on Tuesday.
The NBA has released its list of early-entry candidates for the draft, and that means it's time to crunch some numbers.
Every team that landed in the 2007 NBA Draft lottery needs something. Some have so many needs, it's hard to know where to start. Others, racked by an uncommon number of injuries this season, might feel they need only one or two well-chosen additions in order to springboard back into the playoffs next year.
1. Were the Bulls smart to not make a midseason trade?
You could make a strong argument that the high point of the history of professional sports in Memphis was when Andy Kaufman and Jerry "the King" Lawler staged a series of professional wrestling matches there in the 1980s that have become part of pop culture legend.
Nicolas Batum has long arms, leaps high and speaks with a French accent. He will be playing in an NBA city within three years -- or maybe next season.
MEMPHIS -- The Memphis Grizzlies are considering Florida's Billy Donovan in their search for a new head coach, according to a league source.
Also in this column: • Wizards at a loss without Butler • Chinese 7-footer the No. 3 pick? A lot of uncalled-for hot air is being exhaled on rumors that Billy Donovan will leave NCAA champion Florida to coach in the NBA. This much I can tell you: If an NBA team hires Donovan, it will mean that its owner either doesn't know what he's doing, or that he's infatuated by the short-term buzz generated by the hot college coach of the moment.
Other than Portland's Brandon Roy and Toronto's Andrea Bargnani, few rookies this season have generated much attention. Charlotte's Adam Morrison, Memphis' Rudy Gay and Minnesota's Randy Foye have had their moments, but mostly have been playing in the shadows. Then there are the unsung guys who have become key contributors to their teams, such as Toronto's Jorge Garbajosa (now out for the season with an ankle injury) and Utah's Paul Millsap.
With about five minutes left in Sunday's game at US Airways Center in Phoenix, the Dallas Mavericks went to a matchup zone, their dozenth defense of the afternoon. The Suns appeared confused, but eventually forward Shawn Marion darted to his left across the lane and put up a righthanded floater that was nearly blocked. It was an awful-looking shot. It also went in, giving Phoenix a 109-96 lead that all but sealed its 126-104 victory.
Basketball was never meant to be played to the thumping, mechanical cadence of hip-hop; the NBA is best suited to the impulsive rhythms of jazz, and that is what Kobe Bryant played to last Friday night in the cradle of jazz, New Orleans. From the troubled drama of Bryant's past has emerged a blissful eloquence that, like Dixieland, is both disciplined and liberating. His jump shot is an elaborate riff that holds an audience rapt: Shoes squeak in panic around Kobe as he gathers his breath, his shoulders swaying to the ball-beat at his fingertips, a distracting glance this way as he bursts there into space, corkscrewing as he rises up and up, his right leg splayed like a clarinetist leaning back in full-blown solo.
Jorge Garbajosa was the subject of a lengthy Boston Globe feature Sunday, one that placed the 29-year-old Spanish rookie among the several international faces that dot Toronto's roster. But, sadly, Garbajosa spent Monday night in a Boston-area hospital, his season likely over.
It's a question raised every year around this time, usually via an e-mail from my Dad or a friend: Could the best team in college basketball team beat the worst team in the NBA?
NEW ORLEANS -- Nevada star Nick Fazekas has always figured heavily in the Wolf Pack's formula for success. The 6-foot-11 forward, who flirted with leaving for the NBA after last season, is the unquestioned star of the team.
You may have read recently that the ever-savvy NFL is attempting to trademark the phrase "The Big Game" in an effort to reap whatever remaining Super Bowl-related money in which they're not already swimming.
No, the 1991 and '92 national champion Duke Blue Devils won't be angry if Florida joins them as the second team since John Wooden's UCLA dynasty to win back-to-back titles. Just so you know, those former Dukies don't gather every year when the defending champ goes down to drink a champagne toast -- as some alums of the undefeated '72 Miami Dolphins do whenever the last perfect NFL team loses each season. "We don't take it that seriously," says former Blue Devils forward Grant Hill. "We're pretty secure in our place in history, and feel like we're up there with those UCLA teams."
The NBA's hottest team plays in Texas, it owns the league's longest winning streak, and you get the feeling that the San Antonio Spurs are just starting to figure things out.
It's a long season, we wholly submit, and that's usually enough justification for the players who play the game and the media who cover it to lose their collective focus and concentrate on the flavors of the month that usually turn up in February, March and April. If that means scribes end up picking the team that finished with the best record down the stretch to win it all, fine -- nobody gets hurt with a semi-educated guess. But when deserving players are passed over for well-earned hardware, it's time to raise some hackles.
Also in this column: • One GM's hunch about Vince Carter • Joe Johnson's unusual shooting form • Clippers owner nixed a Maggette trade • Detroit's overlooked bench weapon
So the trade deadline has come and gone with little significant movement. It's a surprise, really; over the previous three years an average of 10 trades were consummated in February, with several big names moved in deals that shook the balance of power.
Now wasn't that a big waste of everyone's time ...
As potential trades go, the best ones were either dehydrated, prostrate or about to have their plugs pulled. But with less than 24 hours to go, the Cleveland Cavaliers were making a final all-out attempt at reviving their candidate patient.
Jason Kidd to the Lakers? Pau Gasol to the Bulls? Vince Carter to the Magic?
The trade season expires Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern, and the Memphis Grizzlies will be in the middle of the discussions, thanks to the request by All-Star forward Pau Gasol that he be moved to a winner. It has been a difficult year for the Grizzlies (14-40), who have been undermined by Gasol's injury as well as the collapse of the team's proposed sale to Brian Davis and Christian Laettner.
With the NBA All-Star Game hitting Las Vegas this weekend, it's only a matter of time before an NBA franchise relocates to Sin City for good. This, of course, comes after commissioner David Stern and his fellow sporting chiefs have spent years decrying the evils of gambling. But hey, if that's the way they want to play it, the 10 Spot is happy to jump aboard. Here's an early line on potential bets for that inaugural season of the Las Vegas Grizzlies, Hornets or SuperStrippers:
1. Is Kobe Bryant a good teammate?
Also in this column: • Peterson's future with the Raptors • All-Star replacements the right call?
Both teams are spiraling out of control, taking wonderful monthlong respites between wins, running with abandon, losing with aplomb, stinking up the joints.