Grizzlies (2-2) at Kings (0-4)
Scoring: Kings 23rd (91.8), Grizzlies 30th (83.3).
Shooting percentage: Kings 10th (45.8), Grizzlies 24th (41.6).
Scoring defense: Kings 30th (111.8), Grizzlies fourth (85.3).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (52.2 percent), Grizzlies second (37.5).
Rebound differential: Kings 20th (minus-3.3), Grizzlies 15th (minus-1.5).
The link: Grizzlies coverage in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
The almanac: On this date in 1946, Chuck Connors of the Celtics, later to star in "The Rifelman," became the first NBA player to shatter a backboard, even if it was during pre-game warm-ups. On this date in 1971, Elgin Baylor of the Lakers retired after a 14-year career. On this date in 1982, the Nets set an NBA record with a 24th consecutive loss, dating back to the previous season. On this date in 1988, the Heat hosted the Clippers in the first regular-season game in Florida history.
You see the 90-foot-tall flashing numbers above. Twenty-ninth in shooting defense and 30th in scoring defense. They're impossible not to see. You can bet that Geoff Petrie and anyone with the last name of Maloof sees them.
It's a dreadful start. Just not entirely unexpected. The Kings were 22nd in shooting defense and 24th in scoring defense last season, then traded their only real weapon on that end of the court, Ron Artest, without a subsequent patching move. Of course they're going to be dreadful.
But -- and this is where things really get good -- you ain't seen nothing yet.
The Grizzlies are in tonight for the Arco opener. Memphis is making admirable strides, especially on defense if the early numbers mean anything, but shouldn't be running up big numbers on the Kings. If the Grizz do hang a 110, the sight of the 76ers scoring 125 on Monday will be nothing compared to the image of a team getting booed off the court in a home opener.
The Timberwolves are next, on Friday. Minnesota is not to be confused with an offensive machine either. (Averaging 89.3 points, scored 98 against the Kings in the opener a week ago.)
*Golden State, Sunday. The Warriors are ninth at 98.8.
*Detroit, Tuesday. The Pistons are second at 106.
*Los Angeles Clippers, a week from today, on the second night of a back-to-back. The L.A. JV is 29th at 83.5.
*Phoenix, Nov. 14. The Suns are fourth at 104.8.
*San Antonio, Nov. 16. The Spurs are 22nd at 92.7.
*Memphis, Nov. 18. The Grizzlies again.
*New Orleans, Nov. 19, on the second night of a back-to-back. The Hornets are first at 106.7.
*Portland, Nov. 21. The Trail Blazers are 25th at 90.7.
*Los Angeles Lakers, Nov. 23. The Lakers are third at 105.7.
The Grizzlies and Timberwolves in two chances to get it right before running next first into a stretch of nine games against five opponents that are in the top 10 in scoring at the moment and all the sharp edges of the top four.
If the Kings don't start investing themselves on defense, and don't eliminate the sloppy turnovers in halfcourt sets that routinely become the first pass of an opponent fastbreak basket and thereby contribute to the brutal defensive numbers, they may have last-place finishes in scoring defense and shooting defense locked up by Christmas. If that's the case, Theus will have the luxury of watching on TV.
Every option is in play if the Kings get embarrassed by the Grizzlies and Timberwolves, two opponents on a similar non-lottery plane, tonight and Friday. Losing is one thing, especially missing important pieces Brad Miller and Francisco Garcia, but poor focus and a lack of intensity transcends injury problems. The terrible strain of defenders leaving their feet against a jump shooter transcends injury problems.
Now they're at the home opener, an important symbolic moment if the Kings look bad. Miller comes back for the Minnesota game, another symbolic moment toward supposed healing, even if Spencer Hawes remains the starter, for a couple games as Miller works his way back into game shape or for longer. Everyone finds out together where the bottom really is.