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Sunday Tweeners: Monday Edition

As per usual, I'm bringing you the Sunday Tweeners. The only difference is that it's Monday, which isn't quite the normal date for a collumn I'm supposed to do on Sundays.  Oh well, such is life.

This week I've got just a few tweeners for dissection. Follow me over the jump for the dirt.

Grizzlies have most difficult schedule in NBA: Using their difficulty of schedule predicitons, Basketball Prospectus has found that the Grizzlies have the most difficult schedule in the NBA for the second straight year. This is because Memphis is a member of the extremely competitive Southwest division of the Western Conference, which means they have four games against the Hornets, Rockets, Mavericks, and Spurs. While their rankings do factor changes in rosters, the difficulty rankings are primarily based on last year's records and team advanced statistics. No other division in the NBA had four playoff teams, so the Grizzlies faired poorly in schedule difficulty. Additionally, as Ziller noted over at Sactown Royalty, teams like the Grizzlies and Kings suffer from not playing against temselves. 

Two caveats are worth noting, though. First the Rockets will likely not be nearly as dangerous this season without Yao Ming, so these projections could be slightly overblown. Second, the NBA enjoys more schedule parity than, say, the NFL, because they don't play that many more games against conference teams in comparison to the total number of games. What does this mean? If the Cavs and the Grizzlies were both exactly average quality teams, the Cavs would only get three more wins then the Grizzlies, despite having the easiest schedule.

Writer of famed 'firing of scouts' article didn't even contact Michael Heisley: In an exclusive interview with our friends over at 3 Shades of Blue, Michael Heisley noted that Geoff Calkins, who broke the news of the scouts firings, never even contacted the owner before making a public attack against his ownership practices. While Calkins is a columnist, not a reporter, and doesn't HAVE to contact all parties to check his facts or deliver unbiased news, he was breaking a story, so Heisley clearly would have appreciated a bit of journalistic integrity.

NBA Fanhouse claims Grizzlies traded for Zach Randolph to avoid minimum salary: In Tom Ziller's opinion the Memphis Grizzlies are making moves to purposefully negotiate around paying the actual minimum salary. Essentially Zach Randolph has an odd contract that pays late, so the last team with him on the payroll is on the hook for a significant bonus. That bonus is spread over the length of his contract for cap purposes, though, so Ziller is hypothesizing the Grizzlies traded for Randolph so they could actually pay less than minimum salary while being over for the purposes of NBA collective bargaining rules.

Ziller is a smart guy and great NBA writer, but I can't say that I agree with his assessment. The Grizzlies could have targeted either Paul Millsap or David Lee in free agency, and, as I've noted previously, Lee was probably the best choice. But I'm not sure that this claim is altogether a fair assessment, since the Grizzlies essentially traded a $7 million expiring contract for Randolph. Acquiring any other starting power forward would likely have required the Grizzlies to overpay for their services because of the tenants of restricted free agency, or give up a player with actually basketball value in trade. I don't like Randolph, but it's difficult to claim the Grizzlies won't get more value out of him than Darko or Q-Rich.

The Memphis Grizzlies have entered contract extensions with Rudy Gay: Again breaking news, 3 Shades of Blue got a report from Chris Wallace that the Grizzlies have entered very preliminary contract extension talks with Rudy Gay and his agent. I really hope Rudy gets extended, I don't hesitate to say he is my favorite player on the team and one of my favorites in the league. Also the way the Grizzlies handle Rudy's extension will be a clear indication of whether Heisley really is in cost-cutting, fire sale mode, or if they really are committed to keeping finances open to preserve their young core.