When the Grizzlies take the floor on Thursday night, they'll be doing so without Rudy Gay, who's been one of the cornerstones of their franchise for seven seasons. No one really knows how Lionel Hollins' crew will respond to the second major trade in less than a month, which is why their game against the Thunder on Thursday night is so intriguing.
The game, set to tip off at 8:00 p.m. ET, is the first half of TNT's national double-header.
After getting off to a 21-4 start, Memphis looked like one of the biggest roadblocks in the way of Oklahoma City getting back to the NBA Finals. However, as they cooled down considerably over the last two months, financial realities forced the hands of the Grizzlies' new ownership group.
But while no one disputes Gay's talent, there's a case to be made that losing him is addition by subtraction. Gay's inconsistent perimeter shooting meant there wasn't enough floor spacing around Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, which negates a lot of the advantages of having two big men who can score with their back to the basket.
Check out Straight Outta Vancouver, SB Nation's Grizzlies blog, for their take on the big trade.
That's the theory anyway, although Thursday's night game may not be the best test for it. Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis, the two pieces Memphis acquired in the Gay deal, probably won't be in uniform while Mike Conley and Quincy Pondexter's status is still unclear.
However, with Randolph, Gasol and Tony Allen still around, the Grizzlies will still present some interesting challenges to the Thunder, who are trying to regain the top spot in the West from a resurgent Spurs team.
After a dramatic second-round series two seasons ago, Oklahoma City and Memphis have become two of the most heated rivals in the NBA. And even after yesterday's blockbuster trade, few from either team are likely to have forgotten what happened the last time the Grizzlies came to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Perkins vs. Z-Bo
Memphis defeated Oklahoma City in a bruising 107-97 battle in early November, but all anyone could talk about afterwards was the altercation between two of the most physical big men in the NBA. The two had to be separated and were ejected in the closing minutes, but it didn't end there.
Randolph eventually received a $25,000 fine for a mysterious incident that occurred near the two teams' locker room that may or may not have turned into an all-out brawl between the two.
Here's what Z-Bo had to say afterwards:
"It won't happen again. I ain't going to lose now $25,000 again. I'm done with all that bluffing on the court because them guys do a lot of bluffing. I'm from the bluff city; we don't do no bluffing, man."
Perkins' only role on the Thunder is to serve as their enforcer in the middle and Randolph isn't exactly known for backing down from a confrontation. This game would have been fascinating even before the trades.