Memphis Grizzlies: Five Things to Watch

After a 40-point loss on the road to the Chicago Bulls, the Grizzlies will look to rebound (literally and figuratively) and maybe make a few shots as well as they take on the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night at FedExForum.

Zach Randolph left the game early with a pretty terrible looking knee injury, and Memphis never recovered. Randolph did not practice Monday and will undergo and MRI on Tuesday. He was seen walking with a noticeable limp at Grizzlies’ practice Monday, according to the Commercial Appeal. 

Memphis ended up
losing 104-64 to the Bulls, who were playing the club’s home opener. Pretty much nothing went right after Randolph went to the bench, and the team scored the least amount of points (64) since the franchise moved to Memphis.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Grizzlies get healthy?

– Mike Conley and Zach Randolph have already gone down this season with ankle and knee injuries, respectively. Both will miss the game Tuesday against the Kings, leaving Memphis extremely thin. Jeremy Pargo will start again in place of Conley, but it remains to be seen who will replace Randolph in the starting rotation. If Randolph misses a serious amount of time, the Grizzlies could be in trouble. Z-Bo showed how important his presence is to this team in Sunday night’s game.

2. Will a shooter emerge? 

– Memphis is averaging just 1.5 three-pointers per game, while allowing its opponents to make nine triples per contest. That type of margin is almost impossible to overcome every night. The Grizzlies don’t have a great three-point shooter on the roster right now, though many expect Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo to get out of their current slumps. Still, losing Shane Battier is proving to be a big loss in terms of having a proven shooter in the game.

3. Who will step up to replace Randolph? 

– With Randolph out and listed as day-to-day, someone will have to step up and fill that interior void. Quincy Pondexter and Dante Cunningham will surely both see increased minutes. Pondexter is averaging seven points per game, but only one rebound. Cunningham is averaging 5.3 points and 3.8 boards per game. Hamed Haddadi is also now on the roster after signing a one-year deal, but not much can be expected immediately from him after missing two weeks of practice and four games.

4. Can OJ Mayo get out of his slump?

– Mayo was Memphis’ sixth-man last year and provided an offensive spark off the bench. He has failed to do that this year with his numbers down from 11.3 points per game last season to 6.8 this season. He has only taken five three-pointers this season, making just one after averaging more than one triple per game on 36 percent shooting last season. Though he is not know as a shooter, Mayo may be called upon to fill that role as the season progresses.

5. Will Memphis be above .500 at the end of January?

– With so many injuries to deal with, can Memphis stay above .500 and not dig themselves too deep of a hole? The Grizzlies had a tough four games but will now have a few chances at teams that aren’t as elite as San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Chicago. Sacramento is 2-3 after defeating New Orleans 96-80 on Sunday to end a three-game losing streak. The team is dealing with internal controversy surrounding Demarcus Cousins and lost to Portland and New York by more than 20 points. Memphis will then play three-straight games on the road against Minnesota, Utah and the Lakers. How the Grizzlies navigate the rest of the January schedule will largely depend on the health of Conley and Randolph.

Preston McClellan covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. Follow him on Twitter @p_mcclellan.

-Photo by Justin Ford

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