Despite losing their leading scorer to injury and trading a key all-around contributor, the Memphis Grizzlies believe they can successfully handle some post-All-Star break uncertainty.
After acquiring some modest help prior to the trade deadline, the Grizzlies try to avoid a season-high third straight home loss Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
This is Memphis' first game in nine days and first since dealing away starting guard Courtney Lee, a solid defensive presence who averaged 10 points and shot 37 percent from 3-point range. Tuesday's three-team trade with Miami and Charlotte saw the Grizzlies (31-22) acquire second-year forward P.J. Hairston and veteran big man Chris Andersen, who will be needed to take some minutes with 7-foot-1 center Marc Gasol out indefinitely with a broken foot.
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“The team will be different, we've just got to figure it out,” forward Zach Randolph said. “We'll make the adjustments.”
Though this deal creates more flexibility with Andersen in the final year of his contract, the focus remains on the present for a Memphis club that's fifth in the Western Conference.
“Just keep fighting. Everybody's got to step up,” Randolph said. “The goals definitely don't change.”
When the Grizzlies last played, they were coming off back-to-back overtime defeats at home and playing for the first time since losing Gasol (16.6 points per game), but they earned a 109-90 win at Brooklyn on Feb. 10.
“As long as I've been here we've handled adversity,” said coach Dave Joerger, in his ninth season with the organization. “It's just another challenge for us.”
Perhaps the toughest task facing the Grizzlies comes on the offensive end without two of their top-five scorers. Andersen wasn't brought in to improve on his 5.5 career scoring average. Memphis might want to see if Hairston can be a regular contributor despite averaging 6.0 points this season in 48 games, including 43 starts.
The Grizzlies, though, have been shooting the ball quite well. They've hit at least 50 percent from the field in three straight games and five of six. Mike Conley has shot 51.6 percent in that span and totaled 47 points in the last two games.
Jeff Green could step into a starting role if Harrison doesn't. Green has averaged 23.0 points on 58.6 percent shooting in Memphis' last six wins, compared to 8.5 points and 30.8 percent in its last six defeats.
The Grizzlies' only regulation loss in their last 13 games was a 106-101 defeat at Minnesota on Jan. 23 as Green and Conley combined to shoot 7 of 22.
The Timberwolves (17-37) have lost 10 of 11 in Memphis but ended a 12-game road slide in their last game away from home, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 108-102 on Feb. 3. That sparked Minnesota's 3-1 stretch entering into the break.
Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns has averaged 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in the last 12 games. He scored a season-high 35 and posted a ninth straight double-double in a 117-112 win over Toronto in the final game before the break.
Towns won the Skills Challenge during All-Star weekend, and teammate Zach LaVine was named MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge before winning his second straight slam dunk contest.
“I'm proud of the guys,” interim coach Sam Mitchell told the Timberwolves' official website. “But we want those guys to be a part of it. We want the next phase for these guys to participate in the All-Star Game.”
LaVine scored 25 in 17 minutes in a 114-106 loss to Memphis on Nov. 15, but had five points in the most recent matchup.
Teammate Kevin Martin (wrist) hasn't played since facing Memphis last month but should return from a nine-game absence Friday.
Minnesota has scored and allowed an average of 110.8 points while going 3-2 in February.