The Grizzlies' decision to swap their top first-round draft pick along with Mike Miller last summer is looking better with every pass, timeout, foul, free throw and dribble. Monday will mark the first meeting between Griz guard O.J. Mayo and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love , players who will forever be linked because their draft rights were traded in an eight-player, draft-night deal in June.
While a third of a rookie season does not make an NBA career, the Love-Mayo get-together leaves a lot to be desired. One guy (Mayo) is constantly in the first sentence of early Rookie of the Year narratives, while the other (Love) is struggling to become a footnote.
Mayo leads all rookies in scoring, and granted he's been afforded more of an opportunity in Memphis. Still, one has to wonder what sense it would have made for the Griz to keep Love, who last Tuesday made a free throw in a one-point, 15-minute performance that ended his two-game scoreless streak.
Love is averaging 7.8 points on 38.7 percent shooting, 7.8 rebounds and has had the problem scouts worried about when he entered the draft: Measured at less than 6-8 barefoot, he has gotten his shot blocked repeatedly near the basket by everyone from big centers to athletic guards.
Don't expect Love to get revenge on the Griz for not keeping him.
"It's just a confidence level I need to get back to," Love said. "I miss a lot of chippy shots. I don't know if it's because I'm thinking I'm going to get fouled or get my shot blocked."
T'Wolves fans probably consider this Love-Mayo linkage in the context of Kevin McHale, who swapped Brandon Roy for Randy Foye with Portland in the 2006 draft. Griz owner Michael Heisley is like McHale in this regard: He's maligned by fans for a variety of reasons. Heisley, though, is proving to be a decent talent evaluator in his first season as lead decision-maker.
The guy who pulled the plug on Casey "Brick" Jacobsen and insisted that Hakim Warrick log significant minutes ignored coach Marc Iavaroni and former team president Jerry West 's appeal for Love.
With an assist from Griz GM Chris Wallace, Heisley scores with the alley-oop .
Heading into the weekend, Miami rookie Michael Beasley had played 18, 15 and 13 minutes. The Heat also won all three of those games.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said there is no specific issue with Beasley except for the growing pains expected from a 19-year-old power forward.
Spoelstra insists there is no loss of faith in the No. 2 overall pick from the June NBA Draft.
"He's really ahead of schedule if you compare him to other four-men that have come in at a really young age," Spoelstra said. "He's ahead of the curve."
The Diaw effect
The worst-scoring team in the NBA is benefiting from giving up its best scorer. Charlotte's trade with Phoenix is working out just fine, thanks to forward Boris Diaw . Despite giving up 20 points per game in Jason Richardson , the Bobcats are enjoying offensive continuity. One explanation is that Diaw's skills in the post - as a scorer and passer - are making everything easier for a team with a bunch of players addicted to hoisting quick jump shots.
The trade addressed what Larry Brown saw as the team's greatest weakness. To Brown, the inept offense wasn't about a lack of scorers but rather about poor ball movement.
"He so spreads the defense out because of the way he can create," forward Gerald Wallace said of Diaw. "He can rebound, he can run the break and he passes on the break. That puts so much pressure on the defense."
Techs on the rise
The Pistons continue to rack up technical fouls at an alarming rate. The meter now stands at 10 - as in, 10 straight games in which as least one Piston has been whistled for a technical foul. Rasheed Wallace continues to lead the charge, with his total now at a league-high 11.
The Thunder signed 7-foot center Nenad Krstic , 25, to a three-year, $15.5 million offer sheet to leave his Russian squad. The New Jersey Nets, who still hold Krstic's NBA rights, have until Monday to decide whether to match the offer.
Because the Nets have big-man depth, it's unlikely they will match the Thunder's offer, especially since New Jersey is trying to shed salary cap space for 2010. Krstic's best season with the Nets was 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds, which is 7.4 more points than the Thunder's highest scoring big man.
Hurry up and wait
No movement as far as Stephon Marbury 's buyout situation in New York. The Knicks apparently are in no hurry and likely will wait until Marbury asks to come back to the bargaining table.
Meanwhile, Patrick Ewing Jr. is playing in the D-League with the Knicks' affiliate in Reno and likely won't move for a while. Reno is coached by Jay Humphries, who worked on Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni's staff in Phoenix. So Ewing is learning the D'Antoni offense, and he'll likely get Marbury's spot if and when it opens.
From the baseline
There are rumblings the Thunder will trade veteran forward Joe Smith after adding Krstic. The Raptors, Heat and Magic are three teams believed to be interested in Smith. ... Knicks center Eddy Curry might be ready to play this week. The 300-pound center has been out all season with a bone bruise in his left knee. There's talk that the Knicks will showcase Curry in hopes of trading him ... The Cavaliers have won their first 14 games at home, matching a feat done by the 1995-96 Bulls and Magic.
In celebration of LeBron James ' 24th birthday on Dec. 30, NBA TV will televise "24 Hours of LeBron," a full day of programming featuring live games, highlights, classic performances and new original specials. NBA.com will also run a day-long online showcase. ... Oklahoma City rookie Russell Westbrook ranks first among all guards in offensive rebounds and is tied for 33rd in the league in that category. ... Cleveland's Mike Brown is looking like a lock to coach the Eastern All Stars. The Cavs have the second-best record in the league behind the Celtics. But Celtics coach Doc Rivers got the honor last year and coaches can't have back-to-back years. So Brown likely will be only the second Cavs coach ( Lenny Wilkens , 1989) to appear in the All-Star game.
Call Ronald Tillery at 529-2353, read his Grizzlies blog at commercialappeal.com/tillery and listen to him 6-8 a.m. weekdays on The Morning Rush on WHBQ-AM (560).
Ten from Tillery
Former Minnesota vice president Kevin McHale recently won his first game this season since taking over as coach. Talent aside, the odds and inches are against the 6-10 McHale ever guiding his team to a championship. Only one coach taller than 6-8 has won an NBA championship.
Tallest coaches to have won NBA titles
Name / Height / Team(s) / Titles /
Bill Russell / 6-10 / Boston / 2 /
Phil Jackson / 6-8 / Chicago, L.A. Lakers / 9 /
Rudy Tomjanovich / 6-8 / Houston / 2 /
Alex Hannum / 6-7 / St. Louis, Philadelphia / 2 /
Tom Heinsohn / 6-7 / Boston / 2 /
Billy Cunningham / 6-7 / Philadelphia / 1 /
Coming up short record-wise: 7-1 Bill Cartwright (the tallest coach in NBA history): 51-100, 6-11 Bob Lanier: 12-25, 6-10 Willis Reed: 82-124 and 6-10 George Mikan: 9-30.