Pump Up Music: Big Tymers -- "Still Fly"
The Big Picture: If you stopped paying attention three games into the season, you might be forgiven for thinking the Memphis Grizzlies are still a totally impotent franchise, stuck in the throes of dysfunction. The Allen Iverson experiment had gone horribly wrong, Hasheem Thabeet looked like the second coming of DeSagana Diop, and the Grizz were obviously headed for another lottery season, crushed under the weight of Zach Randolph's and Rudy Gay's indifference to team play.
Except that's not what happened. The jury's still out on Thabeet, though he's been extremely impressive on defense, but it almost doesn't matter because of Marc Gasol's huge step forward. Pau's little brother has tailed off a bit from his beastly early season, but on a per-minute basis, his rate stats are up across the board. La Tanqueta might make Thabeet a luxury item for a team looking for its franchise pillars to play alongside O.J. Mayo.
But more amazingly for people who like to think character brings basketball teams up and brings them down, Zach Randolph has been Memphis's rock, both in performance and emotionally. Somehow, Randolph and Gay, poster children for "talent that doesn't make the team better" have helped lead their team above .500. One through five in the starting lineup, there's not a slouch among them.
Key to Victory: We match up well enough with the Grizzlies, except at center. Gasol is called The Tank for a reason. He is to big men on the block what Gerald Wallace is to guards backpedaling on the break. Without Tyson Chandler, we're pretty limited in how we can deal with him. We're not losing much if Thabeet is in the game against Diop or Nazr Mohammed, and if they go small with Randolph at the nominal five, we'll gladly keep Boris Diaw on him, but when Gasol is out there, Mohammed will get shoved around pretty badly on defense, or we can put Diop out there and punt the big man's offense. Not a fun choice.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Lionel Hollins has been head coach only for the Grizzlies franchise, but this is his third separate stint doing it.