The Memphis Grizzlies finished their recent schedule of three games in three nights by losing on the road to the Dallas Mavericks, the Grizzlies won the previous two, at Oklahoma City and home versus Golden State. Going 2-1 during this stretch is a good thing, but the Grizzlies don't need to get contempt, they play their next 11 games in 16 nights. The good news for the Grizzlies though, they play 8 of their last 13 at home.
The Grizzlies got Zach Randolph back in their lineup two weeks ago, but his production has not been what is expected from him. Since returning Z-Bo is scoring only 11.2 ppg and 6.6 rpg. It appears that he has not fully recovered from his MCL sprain, and since returning his minutes have been decreasing by the game. Not having Randolph playing up to his All-Star ability is somewhat of a hindrance for the Grizzlies, but there is definitely a silver lining to this cloud. Head coach Lionel Hollins has moved Zach to the bench, since doing so the Grizz have had a bench advantage of 11.9 ppg, and the Grizz are 5-2.
Part of the Grizzlies bench success is the fact that they have added a former All-Star to the bench, even if he isn't playing like an All Star at the moment, but another part of the success has been the recent resurgence of O.J. Mayo and addition of Gilbert Arenas.
Mayo has been averaging 17.0 ppg in the seven games since Randolph has been added to the bench rotation. Mayo had been the Grizzlies only scorer off the bench, so when he was in the game it was with players who couldn't create a shot for him or for themselves, or he was in with an occasional starter who was winded, but now that he has Randolph coming off the bench with him, so opposing teams can't solely focus in on O.J.
The Grizzlies biggest weakness all season has been their backup point guard spot. Memphis has been playing rookies Jeremy Pargo and Josh Selby at the backup point spot, and it hasn't been pretty. Pargo has a net rating of -14.7 points per 100 possessions and Selby is at -10.3 points per 100 possessions. Pargo's +/- of -104 is the tenth worst of any player playing on a team .500 or better. If you are having trouble understanding these numbers then I will use words: they suck. The Grizzlies even tried using Mayo as the backup point for awhile but that didn't work to well, Mayo is a shooting guard by nature, so giving him the ball to start a set will normally end with him jacking up a bad shot. Since Arenas has gotten his legs back, which coincides with Z-Bo going to the bench, he has been able to split the backup duties with Mayo. Even though Arenas and Mayo are primarily shooters, they are able to coexist with each other when it comes to the backup point guard position.
Shortly after signing with the Grizzlies, Arenas was benched for three games because he didn't have his conditioning up to NBA standards, but since returning to action he has a +/- of +26 in his last four games. Gilbert doesn't have the knack for scoring that he had earlier in his career, but as he said after frustrating Kevin Durant on Monday night; "I know all the sneaky veteran tricks." Arenas came in against the Thunder and said he wanted to guard Durant. It makes no sense that he would want too, considering he is 6'4" and doesn't have much athleticism left after knee surgery and Durant is 6'10" and is as athletic as always. But Arenas being on Durant caused Durant to want to post him up and go away from the Thunder's normal offense. Arenas "pulled the chair" on him twice in the post, stayed low, pushed him out, and never let Durant catch the ball on the low blocks. When Arenas was on the floor, Durant shot 14 percent and his points per 36 minutes was only 9.6, which is 16.1 less points per 36 minutes than his yearly average.
The Grizzlies bench, that was once a weakness, is now an advantage thanks to Randolph, Mayo, Arenas, and also Dante Cunningham, who is all hustle and willing to throw his body in the middle of any situation, and Quincy Pondexter, who has proven to be the athletic defender that Sam Young was in last years playoffs, except Pondexter can knock down jumpers. The Grizzlies have a full five-man backup rotation that should come in handy when the playoffs starts, and teams start to play a little tougher. But if the Grizzlies are going to go deep in the playoffs then they will need Z-Bo to revert back to the All-Star caliber player that he has been the previous two seasons.
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