By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer
January 19, 2011

In a scheduling oddity, at just past the halfway point of the 2010-11 regular season, Southwest Division counterparts New Orleans and Memphis finally hold their first meeting. As members of the same division, the Hornets and Grizzlies are slated to face each other four times per season, which means they still have three meetings remaining after Wednesdays game. The latter three games between the clubs all take place during the stretch run of the season, including March 4 and April 10 in Memphis, as well as April 1 back here in New Orleans. In other words, three of the Hornets final 19 games of the regular season are against the Grizzlies.

Like the Hornets, the Grizzlies missed the postseason in 2010 but are hoping to make a return to the NBA playoffs this spring. At 40-42 last season, Memphis finished three games ahead of 37-45 New Orleans in the standings, partly due to a pair of late-season head-to-head victories. This season, the Grizzlies are hovering around ninth place in the Western Conference, vying with teams such as Houston, Phoenix and Golden State in an attempt to try to move up into the top eight.

Memphis boasts one of the most promising collections of young talent in the NBA, headlined by 24-year-old forward Rudy Gay. The Grizzlies have benefited from a slew of early first-round picks in recent NBA drafts, selecting additional building blocks such as starting point guard Mike Conley, reserve shooting guard O.J. Mayo and second-year backup center Hasheem Thabeet. All three of those players are just 23 years of age.


Power Forward, David West vs. Zach Randolph
Between the two big men, West and Randolph have combined for three All-Star appearances over the past three years. West was selected to the All-Star Game in 2008 and 2009 and through the first half of this season hes been making a strong bid to be considered in 2011 for his third career selection. Meanwhile, Randolph made his All-Star debut last winter in Dallas after helping lead the Grizzlies to a surprisingly successful season. The crafty left-hander is one of the NBAs premier offensive rebounders and has an uncanny knack for scoring around the basket.

A closer look at the Memphis Grizzlies:

O.J. Mayo

Rudy Gay

Early in the regular season, the Grizzlies made the somewhat unexpected decision to move fourth-leading scorer O.J. Mayo to a reserve role. Memphis believed the lineup change would improve its bench, allowing Mayo to provide instant offense for a unit that has struggled to score in recent years. The Southern Cal product has responded well to the shift in responsibility, sparking the Grizzlies to a stretch that included impressive January victories over the Lakers, Oklahoma City and Utah.

Fourth-year starting point guard Mike Conley was the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. A former high school and college teammate at Ohio State of current Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden, the quick left-hander is also the son of 1992 Olympic gold medalist Mike Conley Sr.

Rookie shooting guard Xavier Henry was among the group of NCAA prospects who worked out for the Hornets at the Alario Center prior to the 2010 NBA Draft. Henry ended up being selected by the Grizzlies with the No. 12 overall pick, one slot after the Hornets selection (New Orleans used the No. 11 choice to take Cole Aldrich, who was later traded to Oklahoma City). Henry was part of Memphis starting five earlier in the season after Mayo was moved to the second string.

Tony Allen signed with the Grizzlies in the offseason, after a successful six-year stint with Boston. The athletic and defensive-minded Allen was a key reserve on the Celtics team that captured the 2008 NBA championship.

Rookie backup point guard Greivis Vasquez was the 2009-2010 ACC Player of the Year at Maryland, as well as the Bob Cousy award winner given annually to the best point guard in the nation. Vasquez is attempting to solidify a troublesome spot for the Grizzlies, whove shuffled through various players at backup point guard in recent years.

Fifth-year pro Rudy Gay is one of the NBAs premier all-around players. The University of Connecticut product re-signed with Memphis early in the 2010 offseason to a lucrative contract, with the Grizzlies indicating their intentions to build around the athletic 6-foot-8, 230-pounder. Gay is an exciting one-on-one player, capable of frequent highlight-reel dunks. The Grizzlies have not had much success vs. the Hornets over the past half-decade (5-15 since 2005-06), but when they have, Gay is usually a primary reason.

Through mid-January, Zach Randolph was one of just six NBA players averaging double digits in both points and rebounds (the others were the Hornets Emeka Okafor, Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin). During the Grizzlies 2-2 split with the Hornets last season, Randolph averaged 19.8 points and 10.3 rebounds, while shooting 53 percent from the field.

Reserve small forward Sam Young is a tough-minded, scrappy player who played four years in college at the University of Pittsburgh. The 25-year-olds playing time has dropped slightly in his second pro season.

Darrell Arthur was officially a Hornets first-round draft pick in 2008, taken No. 27 overall, but he never suited up for New Orleans after being included in a draft-night trade. Like teammate Henry, Arthur played in college for the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas and Arthur captured the NCAA title in 08.

Nicknamed The Junkyard Dog in college at Missouri for his energetic, blue-collar style of play, second-year forward DeMarre Carroll has been used sparingly in 2010-11.

The younger brother of Lakers All-Star center Pau Gasol, burly 7-foot-1 Marc Gasol has developed into an excellent player in his own right. Gasol actually played high school basketball in Memphis, while Pau was a star for the Grizzlies during the last decade. In an unusual twist, the Grizzlies acquired Marc in a 2008 multi-player trade with the Lakers that included Pau, the only time in NBA history that two brothers have been traded for each other.

Hasheem Thabeet was one of the most dominant big men in the nation during his college career at UConn, but has struggled to find his footing so far in the NBA. The 7-foot-3, second-year pro was the No. 2 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, chosen one spot behind the Clippers Blake Griffin.

Hamed Haddadi represents another sign of the expanding basketball world. Haddadi is the first-ever native of Iran to play in the NBA. The Grizzlies have given Haddadi sporadic minutes during his third NBA season.

Players the Grizzlies want shooting free throws in a close game
Name Career FT percentage (through Jan. 13)
Has drained 10 free throws in a game three times.
Likes to drive to basket with bruising style of play.
Zach Randolph 76.8
Uses crafty footwork, fakes to get to line frequently.
If the Grizzlies need a three-pointer, three of their best options are
Name Career 3-PT% (through Jan. 13)
O.J. Mayo 38.2
Best option on a team that ranks 23rd of 30 in this stat.
Mike Conley 37.5
Shot over 40 percent during the 2008-09 season.
Improved shooter fires high-arching treys from deep.

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