WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBATV/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Out, ankle), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Justise Winslow (Out, hip), Killian Tillie (Out, hamstring), John Konchar (Out, ankle), Jontay Porter (Out, knee)
L.A. LAKERS: Alex Caruso (Out, Health and Safety Protocols), LeBron James (Questionable, ankle), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Questionable, ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas
L.A. LAKERS: Dennis Schroder, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol
The return of Marc Gasol of Memphis to Memphis did not have the rousing standing ovation that the man deserved. COVID-19 made it one of its most recent things that it has taken away...not as significant as the countless other losses we have endured due to the virus, but a loss nonetheless. 18,119 fans should have had their moment to thank Marc for over a decade of play. To greet him and appreciate his love for the city and his role in one of the greatest sports story the 901 has ever known. It’s fun to get lost in the seemingly endless potential of this next generation of the Memphis Grizzlies, but Grit and Grind shaped this franchise. It still continues to mold the mentality of the organization. It meant so much more than basketball to so many. And Gasol was one of the architects.
He watched his tribute video without the roar of a crowd. With no standing ovation. And yet, the moment still moved him - and many of us - as it unfolded.
Honored at the place he called home from age 16, by the team he gave 11 years to. pic.twitter.com/BeGayExuTp— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 4, 2021
After he basked in the glow of his beautiful past, he got to experience the reality of his beautiful present as LeBron James took over in the fourth quarter and led the Lakers to a victory in the Grindhouse that Marc built. James has been this for some time, but he is officially in the rarified air of his Airness himself Michael Jordan when it comes to the fact he could be the MVP literally every season. The fact he is doing this in his 17th season, at the age of 36, is truly remarkable - a joy to watch. It was unfortunate that it happened to the Memphis Grizzlies this time. But with the injuries the Grizzlies have endured, the fact it was a game entering the fourth is a testament to the play of Memphis and their tenacity despite being without Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., among others.
Still, in tonight’s rematch, you hope for a victory to split the set. They’ll need even more from this man to get there.
The hottest trend in Memphis right now is...Tyus Jones
After the slow start to the season that he endured, it is so good to see a smile on Tyus Jones’ face. He deserves to be happy with his on the court the last two games. On the offensive end, it’s been a mixed bag of production. Against the Charlotte Hornets he was an elite offensive creator for others, posting 12 assists to just one turnover while personifying offensive efficiency as a facilitator. Against the Lakers he was more of a scorer, putting up 14 points on 11 shots while still protecting possessions for the Memphis offense - only 3 assists, but zero turnovers. None. Across two games and over an hour of game play, Jones has shot 50% from the field on a 15:1 assist to turnover ratio.
Is that good? It seems good?
But perhaps most impressively, where Jones’ impact has been most noticed by Head Coach Taylor Jenkins and even Jones’ teammates is defensively. And it’s backed up by the performances of the point guards he has been matched up against the last two games. Terry Rozier and DeVonte Graham (2-21 in a shared effort with the Memphis defense) and Dennis Schroder (4-13 for L.A. Sunday) did not perform nearly as well as Tyus, and that wasn’t an accident. Jones’ energy and work on that end made a world of difference - and allowed for the Grizzlies to have a chance in both games.
Both teams came out flat against the weakened Grizzlies. One team had LeBron James and one didn’t. But if you’re looking for who to thank for the winning road trip leading in to the current home stand? Tyus Jones is your man.
Others trending up
- Desmond Bane. He is literally off to one of the best three point shooting starts of any rookie in NBA history. Every game he seems to be more comfortable offensively and as a team defender especially. He didn’t have a full training camp, he didn’t have Summer League, he’s an older rookie with a negative wingspan. And yet - he’s already got an elite skill that Memphis has needed for some time. No, Bane isn’t going to save the Grizzlies. But he can make the starting unit better. Here’s to hoping he gets that chance soon.
The Not Quite Downward Spiral: Dillon Brooks
No, this isn’t a space where Dillon Brooks will be trashed. On the contrary - his growth in his game as a facilitator was on full display in the five assists he got in game one against the Lakers. When Dillon is the only experienced perimeter option capable of getting his shot, what do people expect Brooks to do? Completely ignore the mentality that made him who he is? That’s a fool’s errand. He’s going to be what he is as an offensive force of nature for better or worse.
So why does he land here? Because he A. shot four fewer shots than Kyle Anderson despite being a more evident scorer and B. shot five more than Brandon Clarke despite his ice cold shooting touch. Kyle is taking on a larger role, and that is admirable, but at times (to bring it full circle) Anderson looks uncomfortable being the focal point of offense. If Kyle is the leading scorer and shooter, so be it...but it seemed forced at times against L.A. Meanwhile, Brooks could have prioritized getting looks for teammates like Clarke instead of himself to try to offset his inefficient scoring. It isn’t about expecting a change of mind and spirit from Brooks - it is about channeling that energy more efficiently. There’s evidence that he has seen that. Progression must accelerate if the Grizzlies are to have a chance in games like the one tonight.
Xavier Tillman Sr. made his NBA debut Sunday night and displayed great energy and effort in his first 17 minutes of play with the Grizzlies. If Marc Gasol wasn’t in the middle of trying to defeat his former squad, perhaps he could’ve found himself in a position to appreciate the work of a player who would’ve fit in quite nicely with the Grit and Grind mentality. Maybe he did anyway - Marc has said to media that he is still a fan of the team and follows how they are doing as the season chugs along. After tonight, Gasol will leave Memphis once again, hopefully in the process of riding off in to the sunset with another NBA title in his sights.
But Memphis will never, ever, leave him. And that is what makes this city, this team, and that magnificent run so worthy of remembrance. Now, and always.