By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
Without looking at the Western Conference standings, the Memphis Grizzlies seem a maligned team out of the championship hunt – especially from the perspective of disgruntled fans, whose unhappiness is sometimes warranted.
But a look at the standings shows a team that was in good position as the second half of the season began, even after a much-debated trade sent away the team’s biggest star.
New Memphis ownership made NBA headlines by trading away leading scorer Rudy Gay – for financial and win-motivated reasons. But since, the Grizzlies are 8-3, winners of seven straight going into tonight’s game against Dallas at FedExForum.
Memphis (37-18) won its first four games after the All-Star break and sits in the fourth spot, 21⁄2 games ahead of Denver. The top four seeds get home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
New addition Tayshaun Prince has logged more than 30 minutes and is scoring nearly 10 points per game. New member Austin Daye is shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
The Grizzlies made their third move just before the trade deadline, acquiring reserve Heat center Dexter Pittman.
Pittman joins Memphis’ new-old offensive focus, big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Randolph is second in the league with 34 double-doubles.
Memphis’ new look will be put to the test in March with games at East-leading Miami, at the Clippers, at Denver and home against NBA-leading Oklahoma City. Memphis goes to Southwest-leading San Antonio on April 1.
The Grizzlies have one playoff series win in their short history and were eliminated in seven games in the first round against the Clippers last season.
Memphis’s 34-year-old owner Robert Pera made his second stop in Memphis before the break to talk about the moves and his expectations. He expressed confidence in the moves, his trust in the decisions of CEO Jason Levien and his belief that this Memphis team could be the best yet.
So far, so good with the new look – but there is a long way to go for a team whose fans still aren’t sure what to make of all these moves.