Lakers-Grizzlies Preview


Kobe Bryant called for changes after the Los Angeles Lakers' most recent loss, the latest twist in a season that gets seemingly more hopeless by the day.

The Memphis Grizzlies have already made a minor move - though perhaps one that will keep them from doing something more drastic down the road.

The Lakers look to avoid a seventh straight road loss for the first time since their only non-playoff season of the last 20 years Wednesday night against a Grizzlies team that's struggling to score.

Los Angeles (17-24) is in 12th place in the Western Conference exactly halfway through its season, hardly the path it expected to be on after adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.

Things have only gotten worse in January. The Lakers lost for the ninth time in 11 games this month Monday in Chicago, getting outscored 26-14 in the fourth quarter of a 95-83 defeat that left Bryant wondering what's next.

"We're going to have to look at some things," he said. "We're going to have to change something. Probably going to have to post the ball a lot more, slow the game down a lot more. That's just my intuition, but that's my gut right now."

Bryant's suggestion would mean more touches for Pau Gasol, who came off the bench Monday for the second time in three games. He had 15 points and 12 rebounds against the Bulls, but has admitted to being "not excited" about his reserve role.

"I can't really worry about something that is out of my hands so I am just going to stay positive and do my best, but it is not something I am too thrilled about," Gasol said. "I wasn't expecting it. But right now we have bigger things to worry about as a group. As a team player that's what I'm most concerned about."

The Lakers are four games behind Houston for the West's eighth spot, but they've shown little to suggest they're capable of a turnaround. Los Angeles is 1-10 away from home against above-.500 teams, and a loss Wednesday would give the franchise its first seven-game road skid since 2004-05 - its lone season out of the playoffs since 1993-94.

The Lakers have already lost once at Memphis (26-14), falling 106-98 on Nov. 23 as Rudy Gay scored 21 points and Zach Randolph's 12 boards helped the Grizzlies hold a 39-28 rebounding edge. Howard and Gasol were held to a combined 13 points.

Gay and Randolph have been the subject of trade rumors with Memphis over the luxury tax threshold this season, though it still owes those two and Marc Gasol more than $100 million over the next two years. But the Grizzlies made a deal Tuesday to shed more than $6 million, trading Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a future draft pick to Cleveland for Jon Leuer.

That will get Memphis under the threshold and should keep it from shopping Gay or Randolph until at least this summer, but the Grizzlies are having enough offensive troubles as it is. They were held to 85 points or fewer for the sixth straight game Monday, falling 82-81 to visiting Indiana.

"I think we just get too complacent," guard Mike Conley said. "I think we start the game one way, up-tempo and in the flow, and as soon as that happens we try to get the ball inside and try to slow it down.

"We're playing two ways. We just have to find one easy flow and keep the momentum."

Ellington led Memphis with 17 points Monday, and without his 42.3 percent 3-point shooting, one of the league's worst teams from long distance is in more trouble. The Grizzlies are shooting 25.0 percent (22 of 88) from beyond the arc in their last eight games.