The Memphis Grizzlies weathered some small tweaks to their rotation in recent games but they'll have to get accustomed to some far more significant changes now.
The Grizzlies will play their first game without leading scorer Rudy Gay and potentially with some new players Thursday night when they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Under new owner Robert Pera, Memphis has tried to cut salary and avoid getting hit with luxury taxes for the two next two seasons. That process started when the team sent Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby to Cleveland for Jon Leuer on Jan. 22.
While long rumored that they were eager to trade Gay, it seemed the Grizzlies might wait as they weren't going to have to pay $4 million in luxury taxes this season. Instead, they shipped the swingman and reserve center Hamed Haddadi to Toronto on Wednesday for Jose Calderon, Ed Davis and a second-round draft pick in 2013.
Memphis then sent Calderon to Detroit for veteran forward Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. The deal will keep the Grizzlies from having to pay Gay the rest of the $16.5 million he was due this season or the $37 million that was coming to him over the next two.
"We are excited to add three players who bring with them a tremendous amount of value to our team and have achieved incredible success on the pro, college and Olympic levels," general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement.
At least one Thunder player, however, was critical of the Grizzlies' move.
"Wow that was 1 crazy trade today," Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins tweeted. "Are you serious Rudy Gay is right there under KD (Kevin Durant), Lebron, Kobe, and Melo (Carmelo Anthony). (hashtag)badtrade."
What's unknown is what these changes will do to a Memphis team that's currently fourth in the Western Conference and was hoping to make a deeper playoff run after making back-to-back postseason appearances. Memphis, though, earned its only playoff series victory in franchise history - in seven games over top-seeded San Antonio in 2011 - when Gay was out after undergoing shoulder surgery.
The Grizzlies (29-15) have won five of seven and are 3-1 since trading Speights. Gay scored 26 points and made the go-ahead shot with 13.3 seconds left in a 103-100 win in Philadelphia on Monday.
Marc Gasol had a season-high 27 points and Jerryd Bayless had easily his best scoring performance of 2012-13 with 21 points.
Memphis will get some help as it adjusts with five of its next seven at home and four of those games against sub-.500 teams. First, though, the Grizzlies will have to face the Thunder (34-11), who will likely be eager to rebound from a lackluster showing on their season-high road trip.
"It's a great feeling to get back in front of your home fans," point guard Russell Westbrook said. "We have to take advantage of it."
Oklahoma City alternated wins and losses in each of its six road games and fell 105-96 to the Los Angeles Lakers in Sunday's finale.
Kevin Durant scored 35 points in that defeat, giving him an average of 35.5 over his last six games, but only one other player had more than 10. Westbrook finished with 17 points and 13 assists but missed 16 of 22 shots.
The Thunder are 19-3 at home and have won three straight there, but one of their losses was a 107-97 defeat to Memphis on Nov. 14. Gay had 28 points and Zach Randolph added 20 as the Grizzlies won for the third time in the past four regular-season visits to Oklahoma City.
Durant is averaging 30.2 points in his last 15 regular-season games against Memphis and 32.6 in his last seven at home.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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