The Memphis Grizzlies have been maddeningly inconsistent all season. They have proven to be good enough to beat the Mavericks, Lakers and Heat and bad enough to lose to the Rockets, Nets and Wizards.
Many of those around the Grizzlies believe general manager Chris Wallace needs to make a trade to shake things up. Various teams have been offered center Hasheem Thabeet in trade talks as he has been a major disappointment since being the Grizzlies' first-round draft pick last year. However, Wallace insists he will not make a trade just for the sake of making one.
"We are continuously talking to teams throughout the year," Wallace said. "We don't feel we have to do deals right now; that's how you end up making mistakes."
Memphis has just 13 players on their roster, two under the league limit. If nothing else, that gives Wallace some flexibility to make deals.
"I'm evaluating the team all the time," Wallace said. "A team is not a static situation. The team you have today is not necessarily the one you'll have the next game. Opportunities come to you."
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins sounds like he would welcome a roster shakeup in light of his team being 14-17.
"If you can't match up against different teams, then you obviously aren't as good as you think you are," Hollins said. "In order to be a good team you have to have versatility. You have to be able to play big, small, slow and fast. You have to be able to win defensive games and offensive games. We're certainly not that versatile. We have to get better."
Ainge Not Lamenting Celtics' Injuries
Versatility and talent level aren't problems for the Boston Celtics. However, the Eastern Conference leaders have their share of injuries, which is a concern to coach Doc Rivers.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge, though, looks at the situation through a different prism. He believes playing short-handed is an ideal time to give other players a chance to show they can be contributors in the league. Among those who have been seeing increased minutes are Von Wafer, Avery Bradley, Luke Harangody and Marquis Daniels.
"I like seeing what other guys are capable of doing," Ainge said. "I know coaches get their trust in the guys that are winning games for us, and I understand that. But there are other guys who are dying for an opportunity to play and to show they can even do more than they're already doing. Now we'll be able to see if they can."
The Celtics got Jermaine O'Neal back on Saturday, while Rajon Rondo could return soon and both Delonte West (fractured wrist) and Kendrick Perkins (knee surgery) appear to be ahead of schedule in their rehabilitations. Yet Ainge also has faith in the players at the end of the bench that he was responsible for adding to the roster.
"This league has always been an opportunity league," Ainge said. "I remember for three-quarters of a year here most people didn't think Ryan Gomes could play. And then Al Jefferson got hurt and Ryan got an opportunity, and he's had a great career since. Leon Powe, same thing. Leon sat there for half a year and had trouble with the defense, couldn't remember the plays. All of a sudden, an injury or two happened and he had an opportunity, and he proved he could play. I think it's an opportunity league. I think most guys when given a chance can produce. Sometimes it's hard to replace Hall of Fame players and still win at the rate that we're winning. But we have a handful of players that are having very special years."
Boston has used five different starting lineup this season but is still atop the Eastern Conference.
"I just think that our team has a great deal of depth," Ainge said. "We can overcome some of these challenges. I just hope we don't have too many more of them."
Stars Take Aim at Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves were a punch line for two of the league's superstars in the last few days, though not in a funny way. The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the Miami Heat's LeBron James both took jabs at Minnesota that bordered on disparaging remarks.
Bryant invoked the Timberwolves on Christmas when asked about the Lakers' poor record against winning teams following a home loss to the Heat.
"We could be playing Minnesota--yeah, I said it--and I'd still be concerned," Bryant said.
Leading up to the much-hyped matchup between the Heat and Lakers, James broadly hinted that the Timberwolves should be a candidate for contraction, a league-wide concept commissioner David Stern has suggested, as he speculated about Kevin Love's value to a winning organization.
James said how he wished the NBA would return to the way it was in the 1980s when teams had "three or four All-Stars, three or four superstars, three of four Hall of Famers on the same team." He also imagined what if would be like if Love and the Nets' Devin Harris or Brook Lopez were playing on better teams. James later said he did not intend to support contraction, claiming he was unfamiliar with the term.
"Everybody was talking to me about that," Love said. "That was just something he said. I didn't think much about it. Those are interesting comments. I don't think he's the only one who has thought of that before or lately. I don't see it happening. But it was fun when you used to watch certain teams that had three or four superstars on their team. That was cool, so I understand what he was saying."
Love, though, wasn't so forgiving to Bryant about his crack.
"That's messed up," Love said.
Princeton Not to Blame for Cavaliers' Offensive Woes, Says Scott
Cleveland Cavaliers coach Bryan Scott sees perfection in the Princeton offense. In fact, there is no other system he would rather run.
"I think it's great for team play," he said. "It gives everybody a chance to play the game of basketball. That's all you want. You don't want to be like the old-school days, with three guys playing and two guys in the parking lot. Those two guys never touch the ball. They might play four quarters, 30 minutes, and touch the ball two or three times. This is the purest form of basketball. Everybody is involved. If you put guys in the right situations, you can have success with it. Obviously, with me running it over the last 10 years, we've had some success with it."
It has taken Cleveland players a while to warm up to the Princeton style. However, there are signs that the Cavaliers are starting to believe in the offense.
"The guys have gotten a much better grasp of it than they did two or three weeks ago," Scott said. "A lot of that might be due to the change in the starting lineup. The starters have a real good idea of what we're doing. Our problem is (that) we're not making open shots on a consistent basis. We're getting great shots. We're just not knocking them down."
Cleveland has have seemingly been cold since opening night. Daniel Gibson, Antwan Jamison, Anthony Parker and Mo Williams are shooting below their career field-goal percentages. Yet Scott sees offensive improvement and believes it will continue as the season goes on.
"We have good shooters," Scott said. "They are not shooting well. It's not a product of the offense. It's a product of not making shots at this particular time."
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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