Grizz PG Mike Conley out at least 1 week with ankle sprain

Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said before Saturday night’s game at FedExForum against the Milwaukee Bucks that point guard Mike Conley has a grade two right ankle sprain and will miss at least one week.

“We’ll evaluate at that point,” Joerger said.

Conley injured the ankle in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s win at Minnesota. He is leading the team in points (18.0) and assists (6.3).

The Grizzlies (25-20) have seven games before the All-Star break, including the Saturday, Feb. 1 game vs. Milwaukee.

Joerger said rookie Nick Calathes would start in Conley’s place. Calathes, who played four years in Europe, has had a rough transition to the NBA and is averaging 3.0 points and 2.2 assists. He has been a 50 percent free-throw shooter (18-for-36). And he has struggled to get the team into half-court sets.

Joerger went away from Calathes after Conley’s injury and played shooting guard Courtney Lee at the point, but also used Mike Miller and Tayshaun Prince to get the ball up the court and the Grizzlies into their offense.

“He’s a guy that’s played a lot of big games overseas,” Joerger said of Calathes. “He’s got the support of everybody in this locker room. We are going to go with him.”

 

 

 

Memo to CP3: Do the Right Thing, Lobby for Conley as All-Star

Memphis fans love to hate LA Clippers point guard Chris Paul. Well, CP3, here’s a chance to earn some love (OK, like) and respect in the Bluff City by doing the right thing.

Coaches chose Paul to be a reserve on the Western Conference All-Star team. Normally, no issue with this. He is, though I hate to say it, probably the best in the game. But he has been out with a separated shoulder for weeks and his return is pegged for around the All-Star break. Clippers coach Doc Rivers has said he has no problem if Paul’s first game back is the All-Star Game.

Well, I do have a problem with that. And I’m guessing some of Paul’s teammates might, too.

Conley is having a career year — 18.2 points, 6.3 assists — and has carried the Grizzlies for much of the season. “Carried,” by the way, was exactly the word Zach Randolph used. The Spurs’ Tony Parker and Portland’s Damian Lillard also made the team as reserves. Parker is an easy choice. I’d take Conley over Lillard,but it’s close and the Blazers have a better record.

So, CP3, the ball is in your court. Decide not to play, then put a call into new NBA commissioner (as of Saturday, Feb. 1) Adam Silver, who will select the replacements for injured players. Tell Silver you’ve been competing against Conley for years and he is deserving of your spot.

It’s the right play.

 

 

Marc Gasol returns as Grizz beat OKC

The Grizzlies had defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 90-87 at FedExForum on the night of All-Star center Marc Gasol’s return.

Now the media, tape recorders and cameras in tow, were crowded in front of Gasol’s locker. His next-door neighbor in the locker room, Zach Randolph, loved it.

“Big Fella’s back!” Randolph said.

After missing 23 games with a left MCL sprain – the Grizzlies went 10-13 – Gasol returned to the court wearing a big knee brace, a larger smile, and with the same focus on winning as always.

Forget about the 12 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes, though he had a four-point run in the third quarter that gave the Grizzlies (18-19) a lead they would never lose, and focus instead on the charge he took late in the fourth quarter from scoring machine Kevin Durant (37 points).

“In the first half we got out of the way of four or five opportunities to take charges, and I was not real happy about that,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “That was a big play for Marc. We were begging for guys to step in and take one.”

Point guard Mike Conley said they were all “surprised” when they found out Gasol was in the starting lineup Tuesday night. After all, a couple of weeks ago Gasol wasn’t even running and he practiced with contact for the first time on Monday.

Gasol’s explanation for the fast recovery?

“The barbecue sauce,” he said.

 

 

 

Tigers prove they’re strong title contenders in new conference

Having sat courtside at FedExForum for the Tigers’ 16-point loss to Cincinnati in their first home game in the American Athletic Conference, I was impressed with No. 24 Memphis beating No. 12 Louisville 73-67 on the road.

Impressed, but not really all that surprised.

The Cardinals play a fast tempo that suits the Tigers. They also are getting too much credit for being the defending national champions. Their current team, though still talented and coached by Rick Pitino, should not be confused with the superior version from last season.

Put simply: Memphis was good enough to beat Louisville and did. By the way, they’re also 2-2 vs. ranked teams. They split their two games with Oklahoma State, lost a well-played game to Florida and, of course, beat Louisville. The Cardinals take their shot at revenge at FedExForum on March 1.

I’m also impressed with the follow-up win at Temple two days after beating Louisville in prime time. This was a perfect set-up for a letdown. And yes, the Tigers allowed the Owls to stay close before grabbing a 79-69 victory. But they found another gear when they needed it and they looked a lot like a team that realizes they have as good a chance to win the AAC league title as anyone else.

Now 3-1 in league play – 3-0 on the road and 0-1 at home – the Tigers can take another step this Thursday by defending their home court when Connecticut comes calling. UConn is a legit team but already has dropped two AAC games. In other words, the Huskies aren’t quite living up to their brand.

All this bodes well for the Tigers. Coach Josh Pastner said before the season the Tigers are not a “smashmouth” team and that remains true. Still, they took a punch from Cincinnati and have come back with victories in two games that offered very different physical, mental and emotional challenges.

I predicted the Tigers would go 14-4 in the AAC.

Four games in, they’ve shown they just might be capable of better.

 

 

Miller Time: Grizzlies reportedly lure sharp-shooter back to Memphis

Mike Miller, a sweet-shooting guard who won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2006 while playing for the Grizzlies, reportedly is returning to Memphis.

Miller, 33, played for the two-time NBA champion Miami Heat and shot 61 percent from 3-point range during this year’s NBA Finals. But the Heat amnestied Miller in an effort to save as much $17 million in luxury tax penalties; the Heat still have to pay Miller almost $13 million over the next two years. The Grizzlies, ESPN.com reported, are believed to be signing Miller to a two-year deal.

Over his career, Miller has averaged 12.3 points and 40.6 percent shooting from 3-point range. The former Florida Gator has been plagued by back issues in recent seasons, but did play 59 games for Miami last season.

Grizzlies Marc Gasol and Mike Conley reached out to Miller as he considered several landing places, including the Oklahoma City Thunder. Conley even joked that he’d provide Miller “golf on me for a year” if Miller returned to Memphis.

 

Dansette

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