MEMPHIS PREPARES FOR CHRIS PAUL
Four members of the Grizzlies addressed the media following the team’s morning shoot-around Sunday and like clockwork each of them were asked to comment on what they expected to see from Clippers superstar Chris Paul.
Paul is nursing a mild left groin strain that he sustained in Atlanta on Tuesday, but all signs point to him starting Game 1, and that’s what the Grizzlies have expected all along.
“I expect All-Star Chris Paul,” Memphis point guard Mike Conley said. “That’s the one I’ve been preparing for and I’m sure that’s the one we’re getting.”
Conley, who finished the regular season second in the NBA behind Paul in steals per game, will be the primary defender on the Clippers guard tonight.
Asked about Paul, Rudy Gay said he knows what kind of competitor the five-time All-Star is and that even if he were feeling less than 100-percent, “[Paul] won’t let anybody know, I know that for sure.”
Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins suggested it doesn’t matter.
“I don’t know and I don’t really care,” Hollins said when asked how much he thought Paul would play. “We’re going to have to go out there and play regardless of who’s out there. And we can’t worry about Chris Paul this and Chris Paul that. They have Mo Williams, they have [Eric] Bledsoe, they have [Randy] Foye. They’re all capable players and they’ve all given us problems during the year. If Chris Paul is limited, he’s limited. That’s their misfortune, not our good fortune.”
ZACH RANDOLPH WILL START
After returning in March from surgery to repair a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee, Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph has been used as a backup behind big man Mareesee Speights.
However, Randolph started the regular-season finale against the Orlando Magic and according to Hollins, Randolph will be starting next to center Marc Gasol for Game 1 against the Clippers.
“It feels really good, especially for me and the season I had with the injury and ups and downs,” Randolph said. “It feels good, man.”
It could be a minor adjust for Memphis. Despite perennially averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds, he’s averaging just under eight boards a game this year and has not topped 20 points since March 16. The move also weakens the Grizzlies bench, which was potent with Randolph and scorer O.J. Mayo providing one of the most dynamic big-little reserve combinations in the league.
Still, Paul said the Clippers may have their hands full with Randolph and Gasol up front.
“Those are two great bigs,” Paul said. “I love Z-Bo’s [Randolph] game and I love big Marc’s [Gasol] game. They’re a handful because they have so much synergy, how well they play together.”
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
The Grizzlies draped white t-shirts and yellow towels over each seat in FedEx Forum, which will only add to what was one of the most raucous crowds in last season’s playoffs.
Memphis obtained home-court advantage in the series after Clippers lost on consecutive nights to the Hawks and Knicks and the Grizzlies finished off the Magic on the final night of the regular season. For Hollins, it was an important step for the franchise.
“We’re happy to have it,” he said. “It’s big for our franchise and our organization to host the first two games and host a possible seventh game here at home. Having gone to a seventh game last year in Oklahoma City and having that crowd instead of having to go against that crowd is always a nice thing.”
Conley agreed that it’s important, but said he knows the Clippers, who are being perceived as underdogs in their first playoff series since 2006, will be trying to steal at least one of the next two games.
“The role reversed a little bit,” Conley said, referring to the Grizzlies experience as the No. 8 seed in the 2011 postseason. “Now we’ve got the home court advantage. We’ve got the experience and they’ve got some guys who are just new to getting to the playoffs. We understand how much they’re going to come out and play with everything that they have.”
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