Lakers won't have problems against Memphis Grizzlies
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
Lakers' record versus Memphis last season: 2-2 in regular season
How Grizzlies fared last season: Lost in seven games to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Western Conference semifinals
Why Memphis is a threat to the Lakers: For the same reason that Lakers forward Pau Gasol didn't want to face the Grizzlies last season in the first round of the playoffs. Playing against his brother, Marc, often peaks his interest, but it sometimes throws Pau out of his element. Mike Conley, who has organized offseason team workouts, has given Derek Fisher and the rest of the Lakers defense fits with his quickness. Ron Artest has proved inconsistent in stopping Rudy Gay. Tony Allen and Shane Battier have a strong track record in minimizing Kobe Bryant's dominance. The matchup between Lamar Odom and Zach Randolph has proved to be a draw.
More importantly, the Grizzlies have momentum after winning their first playoff game last season in franchise history. Accounts suggest they'll keep the core roster. They have renewed confidence. Gay will become more healthy. And the city cares more about the team.
Why the Lakers are a threat to Memphis: Trading Pau to the Lakers in 2008 may have paved the way in assembling a roster that carried them through the Western Conference semifinals with Marc, Randolph, Conley, Battier, Allen, Gay and O.J. Mayo, but it's debatable how much that could sustain. The stars didn't necessarily align for Memphis' playoff run. But there's a compelling case, as argued by the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Geoff Calkins, that the Grizzlies' playoff run could be sapped because of the current NBA lockout.
Verdict: Memphis' wins last season against the Lakers happened when they weren't taking the regular season seriously. This season, the Lakers won't be as worn down.
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Photo credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters