Place: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
About 48 hours after becoming the majority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, Robert Pera gets to see his newly purchased team in action Wednesday as Memphis opens the 2012-13 season against the Los Angeles Clippers, who eliminated the Grizzlies in the first round of last season’s playoffs.
The Clippers’ offseason moves didn’t generate a fraction of the buzz the Lakers got for adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, but the Clippers made intriguing acquisitions by bringing in veteran forwards Grant Hill and Lamar Odom.
The Grizzlies have four of their five double-digit scores back, including forward Rudy Gay and center Marc Gasol. Memphis will miss guard O.J. Mayo, who provided a spark off the bench and was the team’s best 3-point shooter but left for Dallas as a free agent. On the bright side, forward Zach Randolph appears to be healthy after missing more than half of last season with a knee injury.
Memphis Grizzlies (2011-12: 41-25): There’s pressure on Memphis to contend in the Western Conference this season. The payroll of the Grizzlies’ current players puts the team about $4 million above the luxury tax threshold.
Point guard Mike Conley Jr. ranked second in the NBA in steals last season with 2.2 per game while guard Tony Allen (1.8) was fifth. Allen also became the first player in franchise history to make the NBA All-Defensive first team. The Grizzlies are 0-11 in season openers since relocating from Vancouver to Memphis.
Los Angeles Clippers (2011-12: 40-26): The pressure is also on for Los Angeles coach Vinny Del Negro, who is entering the final year of his contract. With top talents like point guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin, expectations are high for the Clippers — even though a postseason appearance would mark the first time in two decades this franchise reached the playoffs in consecutive years.
The Clippers enter the season with a 50-game sellout streak at home and play each of their first five at Staples Center, a stretch that includes a “road” contest against the Lakers.
1. The investors who contributed to Pera’s $377 million bid to buy the Grizzlies comprise a diverse group that includes former NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway, NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and entertainer Justin Timberlake.
2. Memphis reserve Darrell Arthur, who missed all of last season with an Achilles’ tendon tear, is still recovering from a stress fracture in his fibula.
3. Hill (knee) and Chauncey Billups (Achilles’ tendon) are out with injuries and the Clippers will also be without backup forward Matt Barnes, who drew a one-game suspension by the NBA for pleading no contest following a July arrest for threatening a police officer.