Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Memphis at Orlando - 10.22.08

Memphis wraps up their pre-season schedule with this game and honestly the pre-season couldn't end soon enough. 8 games is a lot of practicing for a team that needs to see how they stack up against real competition in real game situations. The team only wants 13 players on the roster and currently has 14 in camp so there is a sort of battle going on for the last spot. Unfortunately it is a battle with the budget not between players. Quinton Ross, from SMU, is obviously better than some players on the team but doesn't have a guaranteed contract. It will be interesting to see if basketball decisions outweigh fiscal decisions in this regard.

Orlando is gearing up for a championship run this season. With Dwight Howard being the Beast of the East, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu raining in bombs from the perimeter, Jameer Nelson growing into the role of leader at the point and Mickael Pietrus as the big free agent signee to man the wing. It's an eclectic group that will create matchup problems all over the court. Bench play is another issue but more on that later. Honestly I am happy for Stan Van Gundy who was royally screwed in Miami. He had the team dumped on him when Pat Riley felt they were terrible and he took them to the playoffs instead. A couple of years later he had them headed toward a possible title run whem Riley makes up some lame excuse to take the team back. Thanks for nothing Pat. Now up the road from Miami Van Gundy is among the Eastern Conference elite while Pat Riley rebuilds again in Miami.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Jameer Nelson
Jameer Nelson is never going to be a high percentage shooter, never be an elite passer but he is a true leader of this team. Nelson has that certain something that makes him a great leader. What do I mean by that. Consider that Nelson led St. Joseph's to the top ranking in the NCAA. Can you tell me where St. Joseph is located? What conference they are in? See my point. Conley has been up and down as you would expect from a 20 yr old 2nd year point guard but he still has been the best in camp.
Advantage: Orlando

Shooting Guards: O J Mayo vs Mickael Pietrus

Golden St is supposed to be a player's paradise but somehow Pietrus never fit in. Now he is in a fantasy paradise in Orlando and seems to be much happier. Pietrus brings long range shooting and great slashing ability but it isn't his offense that Orlando wanted. He is considered an excellent defender and that stopper mentality was needed. O J Mayo won't be able to out physical Mayo. It is an extremely tough matchup for O J. Mayo has looked like the real deal lately but this will be a major test for the young man.
Advantage: Orlando

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Rashard Lewis

Here is another one of those matchups you don't see in any other sport but basketball. Rashard Lewis has a super sweet jump shot and a suprisingly strong rebounding game that makes him a nightmare to defend. Rudy Gay has explosive leaping ability, gazelle-like court speed and a soft long ball that hits with surprising regularity. It is a matchup of elite athletes going head to head. Lewis has one advantage that Rudy lacks however. Rashard doesn't have to care his team offensively. That freedom enables him to pick his shots to carry the team and to relax at others while Rudy must always be ready on defense and prepared to carry the team on offense.
Advantage: Orlando

Power Forwards: Darko Milicic vs Hedo Turkoglu

Hedo broke out last year to become a big time star. That happens a lot when you are 6-10 and can hit the three with alarming frquency and you are partnered with possibly the best Center in the game and one of the most feared small forwards as well. Darko was supposed to be a star in the league but has struggled with confidence and injuries but he will be back home in Orlando where he finally started to make his mark in the league. It's a difficult matchup for Darko as Hedo lives on the perimeter and loves to dash to the hoop when slower forwards guard him. Darko isn't fast.
Advantage: Orlando

Centers: Marc Gasol vs Dwight Howard

Now why did you want to leave Spain again Marc Gasol? I bet it wasn't for this matchup. The former ACB League MVP will have his hands full trying to stop Dwight Howard from getting to the glass. Howard averaged 14 rebounds a game last season. That's equivalent to Darko and Gasol combined this pre-season plus two more every night. Howard had 31 points and 20 rebounds against the Grizzlies last season. It would be nice if the Grizzlies could contain him to half that number in this game.
Advantage: Orlando

Benches: Memphis vs Orlando

Here is where Memphis has failed the most in pre-season. The bench play has been subpar on good nights. Kyle Lowry has been horrible shooting the ball and with no one else picking up the slack his assists are down as well. Hakim Warrick has not really adapted well to coming off the bench. His numbers were far better when he started. Ross, Jaric, Crittenton have all left much to be desired. The one bright spot has been the improvement of Darrell Arthur. The last few games Arthur has really shined. Orlando's bench is led by JJ Reddock with 9.6 ppg. Courtney Lee looks promising but as a 23 yr old rookie and trapped behind Reddock and Pietrus his biological clock is already ticking. Tony Battie has returned from injuries but is nothing more than a stop gap at PF these days and the same goes for Adonal Foyle at backup C. Tough call but Memphis might actually have an edge here.
Advantage: Memphis

Opposing Viewpoints:
3rd Quarter Collapse
Believing in Magic


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