Thunder-Grizzlies Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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bealeA certain someone made a bold prediction prior to the season that the Memphis Grizzlies would be facing the Indiana Pacers in the NBA finals. OK, it was me. Which means you can guess which way my prediction is going to go, for better or worse.

You do not get to divorce yourself from your preseason predictions unless something crazy happens along the way, such as a team trading away its best player of something similar (that was the case last year when  the Grizzlies shed Rudy Gay). So a warning is in order: I am looking at this series with a rooting interest in the team from Beale Street, though I will try not to let that impact my coverage.

PODCAST: Lionel Hollins wants to coach the Detroit Pistons

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220px-Lionel-hollinsI was a guest on Sirius XM’s NBA show today, which was co-hosted by former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.

Turning the tables, I opened the segment — even though I was the interviewee — by asking Hollins why he wasn’t in Detroit taking command of the Pistons after the firing of Maurice Cheeks.

Hollins came right out and said he is interested in the job, but that nobody from Detroit had reached out to contact him.

Bernucca: Memo to Mitch Kupchak: Stop Haggling and Start Tanking

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Mitch Kupchak shouldn’t be playing hardball. kupchak

In his desire to trade Pau Gasol, the GM of the Los Angeles Lakers should not have insisted on receiving Dion Waiters or a first-round pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Nobody has overpaid for a rental since Ernie Grunfeld sent Ray Allen to Seattle for Gary Payton — and that was a long time ago.

Kupchak should have lowered his demands to match the team’s expectations. The Lakers are done for this season and should be singularly committed to one agenda: Making sure this rare down period for one of the NBA’s most storied franchises doesn’t last more than one season.

Kupchak should be tanking.

Some of the telltale signs already are in place. The Lakers have a bloated payroll of aging, overpaid players, almost all of them on expiring contracts. Injuries to their stars have hampered their ability to compete on their customary high level. They already are fading fast in the Western Conference playoff race.

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PODCAST: Memo to Cavs and Chris Grant: Fleece the Lakers while getting Pau Gasol

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Pau-Gasol4Andrew_Bynum_CavsThe Pau Gasol-for-Andrew Bynum trade talks appear to be dormant but not dead.

The Lakers would like to get another worthy asset thrown into in the deal … but so would the Cavs. And you know what? I have to side with the Cavs and general manager Chris Grant on this one.

By taking Gasol’s $19.3 million salary off the Lakers’ books, they will drop Los Angels below the luxury tax threshold, saving the Buss family in the area of $20 million. But that’s only the start of it. The Lakers also will be under the tax next season, and that gets them out of danger of being subject to the dreaded repeater tax, which is levied against teams that exceed the tax threshold four times in five seasons.

(RELATED: LAKERS SALARY CAP SITUATION AND ANALYSIS)

So it’s not just the current $20 million that the Cavs would be saving the Buss family, it is untold tens of millions more in two seasons when the Lakers figure to be a taxpaying team once again in the final season of Kobe Bryant’s extension.

So multiply that $20 million by a factor of at least two — probably more given the punitive nature of the repeater tax, and you get an idea of how valuable acquiring and waiving Bynum can be to the Buss family fortune.

Which is why if I am Chris Grant, I keep saying “no” to Los Angeles unless and until they throw Nick Young into the deal. And Nick Young is a much better player than most folks realize.

More on that trade, other trade chatter … and a closer look at the struggling Memphis Grizzlies (and a great Nick Calathes story) in this podcast with Three Shades of Blue radio on WHBQ radio in Memphis.

Current Basketball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Sheridan Hoops Radio on BlogTalkRadio

SH Blog: Dolan Says Woodson is Safe; Kidd Losing Support With Nets; Al Horford Tears Pectoral Muscle

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WoodsonWhile the news of the day is most certainly that Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook will be sidelined until after the All-Star break due to an unexpected arthroscopic knee surgery, life in the NBA must go on.

And on it will go for the New York Knicks, who according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, will remain intact for the time being: 

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