Grizzlies hand Lakers third-straight loss

And according to ESPN’s John Hollinger, they can thank rookie Xavier Henry for slowing down Kobe Bryant for much of the game.

Memphis’ Xavier Henry checked the Lakers’ superstar for most of Tuesday night with little help, and the result was a 9-of-25 shooting night for Kobe and a 98-96 win for the Memphis Grizzlies.

While he wasn’t on the floor at the end for L.A.’s deja vu final possession — for the second season in a row in Memphis, Kobe kicked out to Ron Artest for a 3-pointer that missed at the buzzer — Henry was the protagonist during a stretch of 11 straight misses by Bryant midway through the game that allowed the Grizzlies to build a double-digit lead.

Henry wasn’t getting double-team support, either. He was one-on-one against Bryant for much of the night and, thanks to his size and discipline, largely held his own. The effort was so good Henry’s coach compared him to another player who has been known to limit Bryant.

“I remember when we interviewed [Henry] in Chicago,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said, “and I went away saying, ‘That’s Shane Battier all over again.’ He’s poised, he’s mature [and] he understands the big picture of what’s going on. That’s what you like to see in all your players coming into the league.”

It was a sweet win for the Grizzlies, who have been been the butt of jokes since the dreadful trade that sent Pau Gasol to L.A. and allowed the Lakers to win consecutive titles. Owner Michael Heisley continued his unintentional comedy act by trying to nickel and dime Henry after this year’s draft.

The Grizzlies are now 8-10 on the season and are sitting in the #10 spot in the West. The Lakers’ third loss sends them to 13-5 and the #4 spot in the conference.

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Peek inside the head of an NBA owner

Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley is a character. He appeared on the Chris Vernon Show recently and got into a…um…spirited debate over whether or not the Grizzlies should exercise a little-known clause in the collective bargaining agreement that allows for teams to negotiate a performance incentive into rookie contracts.

Xavier Henry is still unsigned due to Heisley’s insistence on this performance incentive. Rookie contracts are generally ‘rubber stamp’ type deals where the player gets the max (120% of the rookie scale) and he signs immediately. Heisley claims that the Grizzlies are not the only team to use this strategy, but he was unwilling to name any names and I certainly haven’t heard of any other teams doing so.

On the show, Heisley is passive-aggressive, condescending and entertaining, and in addition to the Henry negotiations, he defends the Pau Gasol trade, the Zach Randolph acquisition, and his decision to draft Hasheem Thabeet over Ricky Rubio.

Matt Moore of CBSSports called the interview an ‘abject trainwreck,‘ while Chris Harrington of the Memphis Flyer called it ‘borderline-embarrassing.’

Grizzlies owner: “We’ve got the best front line in basketball.”

When asked about potentially re-signing Rudy Gay, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley made a bold statement:

Q. Will you re-sign Rudy Gay, who is a restricted free agent this summer?

A. I feel we’re going to sign him. I don’t know what else you want me to say. Rudy is an outstanding player. He fits our team well. We’ve got the best front line in basketball.

The Grizzlies’ front line consists of Rudy Gay (20-6-2), Zach Randolph (21-12-2) and Marc Gasol (15-9-2). Good? Absolutely. The best in basketball? I don’t know.

Let’s see…

Cavs? (LeBron, Jamison, Shaq)
Celtics? (Pierce, KG, Perkins)
Hawks? (J. Johnson, J. Smith, Horford)
Lakers? (Artest, Gasol, Bynum…Odom)

Would you take the Grizzlies over any of those other front lines? I’m not a big believer in Randolph, so I might be a little biased. The Cavs and C’s are older, but I’d certainly take those front lines over the Grizzlies’ for one or two seasons. And as far as young front lines go, I think the Hawks have the best in the league.

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