Grizzlies-Thunder Preview

The Memphis Grizzlies weathered some small tweaks to their

rotation in recent games but they’ll have to get accustomed to some

far more significant changes now.

The Grizzlies will play their first game without leading scorer

Rudy Gay and potentially with some new players Thursday night when

they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Under new owner Robert Pera, Memphis has tried to cut salary and

avoid getting hit with luxury taxes for the two next two seasons.

That process started when the team sent Marreese Speights, Wayne

Ellington and Josh Selby to Cleveland for Jon Leuer on Jan. 22.

While long rumored that they were eager to trade Gay, it seemed

the Grizzlies might wait as they weren’t going to have to pay $4

million in luxury taxes this season. Instead, they shipped the

swingman and reserve center Hamed Haddadi to Toronto on Wednesday

for Jose Calderon, Ed Davis and a second-round draft pick in


Memphis then sent Calderon to Detroit for veteran forward

Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. The deal will keep the Grizzlies

from having to pay Gay the rest of the $16.5 million he was due

this season or the $37 million that was coming to him over the next


“We are excited to add three players who bring with them a

tremendous amount of value to our team and have achieved incredible

success on the pro, college and Olympic levels,” general manager

Chris Wallace said in a statement.

At least one Thunder player, however, was critical of the

Grizzlies’ move.

“Wow that was 1 crazy trade today,” Oklahoma City center

Kendrick Perkins tweeted. “Are you serious Rudy Gay is right there

under KD (Kevin Durant), Lebron, Kobe, and Melo (Carmelo Anthony).


What’s unknown is what these changes will do to a Memphis team

that’s currently fourth in the Western Conference and was hoping to

make a deeper playoff run after making back-to-back postseason

appearances. Memphis, though, earned its only playoff series

victory in franchise history – in seven games over top-seeded San

Antonio in 2011 – when Gay was out after undergoing shoulder


The Grizzlies (29-15) have won five of seven and are 3-1 since

trading Speights. Gay scored 26 points and made the go-ahead shot

with 13.3 seconds left in a 103-100 win in Philadelphia on


Marc Gasol had a season-high 27 points and Jerryd Bayless had

easily his best scoring performance of 2012-13 with 21 points.

Memphis will get some help as it adjusts with five of its next

seven at home and four of those games against sub-.500 teams.

First, though, the Grizzlies will have to face the Thunder (34-11),

who will likely be eager to rebound from a lackluster showing on

their season-high road trip.

“It’s a great feeling to get back in front of your home fans,”

point guard Russell Westbrook said. “We have to take advantage of


Oklahoma City alternated wins and losses in each of its six road

games and fell 105-96 to the Los Angeles Lakers in Sunday’s


Kevin Durant scored 35 points in that defeat, giving him an

average of 35.5 over his last six games, but only one other player

had more than 10. Westbrook finished with 17 points and 13 assists

but missed 16 of 22 shots.

The Thunder are 19-3 at home and have won three straight there,

but one of their losses was a 107-97 defeat to Memphis on Nov. 14.

Gay had 28 points and Zach Randolph added 20 as the Grizzlies won

for the third time in the past four regular-season visits to

Oklahoma City.

Durant is averaging 30.2 points in his last 15 regular-season

games against Memphis and 32.6 in his last seven at home.