Lakers vs. Grizzlies preview: Can L.A. bounce back in Memphis?

Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

The calls for change are getting louder in Los Angeles. Can the Lakers begin the process of repairing their season in Memphis?

The calls for change have already begun again in Los Angeles, but the Lakers have a bigger task at hand as they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. Having won just once this month, complacency is becoming harder to come by around L.A. these days.

After the team's most recent loss in Chicago, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was vocal in discussing the Lakers' issues, stating flatly that the status quo isn't working.

We're going to have to look at some things. 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. I have to take a look at the film again, but we're definitely going to have to change something.

The folks over at Silver Screen and Roll were similarly disheartened by the defeat, writing afterwards: "There's really nothing left to say. The Los Angeles Lakers are not a good basketball team... They lack energy. They lack confidence. They lack consistency. They lack joy."

With a 17-24 overall record, the Lakers are currently sitting 12th in the Western Conference standings. It's a reality that the franchise likely never considered after acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash over the offseason, but now the Lakers head into Memphis reeling midway through the season.

The Grizzlies have had some issues of their own this season, but they pale in comparison to what Los Angeles has gone through. Currently fourth in the West with a 26-14 record, Memphis hasn't played as well of late, though. Since the beginning of December, the Grizz are just 14-12, with four losses in their past six games.

In the first match-up between the two teams this season, the Grizzlies busted out to a big lead early before finishing off L.A., 106-98, in late November. Rudy Gay scored 21 points in that game, while Zach Randolph posted a double-double and Mike Conley added 19 points.

The odds makers appear to expect a similar result this time around, as the Grizzlies are listed as 4-point favorites against Los Angeles. The over/under is set at 188 points.

Wednesday's game begins at 8 p.m. ET.

A Different (Thinner) Grizzlies Team

While the deal didn't include Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies made a fairly major trade on Tuesday morning with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Shipping out big man Marreese Speights, three-point specialist Wayne Ellington, guard Josh Selby and a conditional first round pick, Memphis received just Jon Leuer in a deal shaped by tax concerns.

While the Grizzlies didn't need to make the deal, the motivation behind it is pretty simple: to save money. The trade immediately saves Memphis roughly $6 million in salary for this season, but more importantly, it pushes the franchise below the luxury tax threshold, saving ownership additional millions in payments.

The trade undoubtedly hurts Memphis on the court in the short-term, though, as Speights, Ellington and Selby are all useful players that have had their moments. Speights was a rotation player with the Grizzlies last year before falling out of favor with Lionel Hollins this season, while Ellington was one of the few long distance threats on the roster.

Still, there's some reason to believe that Memphis acquired a useful piece in Leuer. As Straight Outta Vancouver writes, new Grizzlies executive John Hollinger has long been fond of Leuer, rating him as one of the better players in the 2011 draft class.

This is a different Grizzlies team, one that's undoubtedly boasting less depth than before. But it's a still a very good one, and betting against Hollinger isn't always the best idea.

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