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MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (37-31) at NEW YORK KNICKS (34-32)
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EDT
Line: New York -4.5, Total: 215.5
The Grizzlies visit the Big Apple on Thursday seeking payback for the Knicks. They fell to New York on a last-second shot by Carmelo Anthony on March 9 in Memphis.
Memphis has one of the best records ATS this season at 42-25, including wins in nine of its past 13 games ATS. On the road, the Grizzlies are an impressive 22-13 ATS this season. In the loss to the Knicks earlier this season, they trailed by 14 points entering the fourth quarter before storming back and tying the game, only to lose on a buzzer-beater.
Since then, Memphis has split two games with Miami and the Clippers and currently sits 1½ games ahead of the Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Zach Randolph had 30 points and 12 rebounds in the win over the Clippers on Monday, and is averaging 26.0 PPG and 13.6 RPG in his past five games against the Knicks.
The Knicks are also one of the best teams in the NBA ATS, posting a 39-25 record, but they have lost three straight both ATS and overall. New York’s defense has been deplorable in back-to-back losses against the Pacers and an 18-point defeat at Dallas, allowing an average of 117.3 PPG on 53.2% FG. At Indiana on Tuesday, the Knicks lost on a last-second shot by Danny Granger after rallying from as many as 15 points down to tie the game.
After averaging 32.5 PPG on 60% FG (7-of-10 three-pointers) in wins against the Jazz and at Memphis, Anthony is averaging 24.0 PPG on 42.5% FG during this three-game losing streak. Amar’e Stoudemire has picked up his scoring pace since Anthony joined the Knicks, averaging 29.8 PPG in his past nine games. Since returning to the lineup after missing six games with an injury, Chauncey Billups is averaging 11.5 PPG while shooting just 36.0 percent from the field and 0-for-11 from behind the arc.
The last time the Knicks took their home court and lost by 13 to Indiana, they were booed off by a fan base that expects results now, after watching half of their team’s roster go to Denver in getting two high-profile players in Anthony and Billups. The talk-show circuits in New York want Mike D’Antoni’s head for the Knicks lack of defense, but they did hold the Hawks, Hornets and Heat, all teams that will be in the postseason, to under 90 points with this new roster.
Before New Yorkers burn the Garden down in protest, the Knicks should put together a much better defensive effort Thursday night and defeat the Grizzlies.
Orlando Magic acquire Gilbert Arenas
After having a lackluster performance this month, the Orlando Magic decided to revamp their roster, acquiring former all-star point guard Gilbert Arenas in a deal that sent sweet-shooting forward Rashard Lewis to the Washington Wizards on Sunday 18 December.
Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith said that they felt that they have to make a move in order to stay in the hunt for an NBA title after having poor performances this month, while seeing how their Eastern Conference rivals, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, destroyed their opponents.
Smith also said that Dwight Howard was on board with the deal, saying that Howard also felt that they need to make necessary changes to their roster in order to compete for the title, and Smith expressed his excitement after announcing the deal.
“Gilbert Arenas is a proven All-Star in this league and we’re excited to add him to our team,” said Smith. “He is one of the top scoring guards in the game, he can create scoring chances for his teammates and he is as tough as they come.”
Smith also added that he is not bothered by the “bad image” of Arenas while he was still with the Wizards, where he was involved in a gun incident last season.
“We have a tendency not to forgive people in this country,” Smith said. “We have a tendency to hold onto things a little bit longer, particularly if they play professional sports. And I always say that sometimes good people do stupid things, and that one's right on the top of the list. But I feel comfortable with who he is, knowing him since he was 19 years old.”
Arenas, on the other hand, was also thrilled upon hearing that he was traded to the Magic, where he would form a deadly combo with arguably the best center in the league right now, Dwight Howard.
“This is a new beginning for me,” said Arenas, who is averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 assists in 21 games this season. “This is a true new beginning. Changing my number was a new beginning, but this is a real new beginning with a new city, new people and new team, and I get to start fresh.”
Arenas, who has been sidelined by several injuries in the past three years and was suspended for the rest of the season last year after the infamous gun incident, also said that he’s glad to be back in playoff hunt after three-straight dismal seasons with the Wizards.
“I'm just glad to be back in the playoff hunt,” Arenas said. “I've been out of it for a while and just glad to be back in competitive basketball with a group of guys who now hope to win, so it's just great.”
With Arenas in their fold, the Magic would have an additional firepower, but it remains to be seen whether they would jell quickly to be a threat to the East leader Boston Celtics and the star-studded Miami Heat, who have been destroying their opponents as of late. With this big deal the Magic are +1800 to win the NBA championship according to the Basketball Odds at sportsbook.com the home of NBA betting.
Phoenix Suns agree to Blockbuster deal with Orlando Magic
Aiming to bolster their chances this season, the Phoenix Suns made their first big move this year when they struck a deal with the re-tooling Orlando Magic squad on Sunday 18 December.
The Suns, who are still in the process of adjusting after losing Amar’e Stoudemire during the offseason, acquired eight-time all-star guard Vince Carter, defensive specialist Mickael Pietrus, center Marcin Gortat, and a first-round draft pick in exchange for Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and second-year forward Earl Clark.
“This transaction helps us now and in the future,” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said in the team’s official statement. “While it is difficult to see players like Jason, Hedo and Earl depart; we are excited to welcome Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus. Marcin addresses our need for more size, rebounding and defensive presence. Vince and Mickael will be dynamic in our offense and improve our perimeter defense.”
Although he admitted that trading away Richardson, Turkoglu, and Clark was a difficult decision, Babby believes that the deal would benefit the team and will greatly address their lack of size and their poor defense, which has caused some struggles for them this season.
“Carter and Pietrus give us a great defensive presence on the perimeter and they should be extremely dynamic offensively,” Babby said. “And, of course, I think we all recognize that we had a need here for an increased interior presence, size and rebounding. And Gortat is really someone that we've had our eye on since we got here.”
The deal, which was the first major move made by the Suns new front office tandem of Babby and general manager Lance Blanks, also produced speculations that Phoenix will start revamping their roster and dealing two-time Most Valuable Player Steve Nash would be the next big move that the Suns will look for.
However, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver reiterated that they have no plans of dealing Nash and they would not even entertain trade proposals for their backcourt general, who is averaging MVP-like numbers this season: 17.5 points and 10.2 assists in 23 games this season.
“This deal has nothing to do with trading Nash,” Sarver said in an ESPN interview. “We have no intention to trade him.”
Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith, on the other hand, said that the deal would improve their team after struggling this month, dropping six of their last 10 games, while witnessing their Eastern Conference rivals, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, racked up 12 consecutive wins each.
“We’re very excited to welcome these three players to our family,” Smith said. “Richardson is a tremendous athlete who runs the floor, can shoot the ball and loves to compete. We’re obviously familiar with Hedo. He is a great shooter and is a player that has flourished in our system. We liked Clark in the draft a few years ago, and he will help fortify our frontcourt.”
The Magic also acquired Gilbert Arenas in a separate deal that sent sharp-shooting forward Rashard Lewis to the Washington Wizards, proving that they are dead serious in contending for a title this season.
“We needed a little bit more punch,” general manager Smith said. “All those guys coming in have an ability to move the ball. After looking at our team through 25 games, we were missing a little something. I thought change was needed.”
The Suns and the Magic, who both sit in the middle of the standings of their respective conferences, are expected to improve with the deals that they have made, providing a serious threat to their conference rivals.
After this deal the Magic are +700 to win the Eastern Conference championship according to Sportsbook.com. Are you betting on them? Get over to sportsbook.com and get into the betting action today.
New York Knicks still needs some more firepower
The New York Knicks have earned respect this season with the arrival and stellar play of Amar’e Stoudemire, but former Knicks superstar John Starks believes that the team needs to add a few more pieces in order to contend for an NBA title.
Starks, who have been a constant follower of the Knicks since he retired, said that the sky is the limit for the team, but the Knicks would be more formidable if they would be able to add two or more solid players in their fold.
“We definitely need a couple more players,” Starks said. “I know there's been talk about certain players coming here and Donnie Walsh understands what it takes in order to put together a championship squad. He did it when he was in Indiana and he's doing a masterful job here in New York.”
Starks, who have been a crowd favorite during his eight seasons with the Knicks from 1990 to 1998, remains confident that Walsh is the right man for the job and he believes that the veteran general manager would be able to build a championship contender like what he did when he was still with the Indiana Pacers. Walsh had a successful stint with the Pacers, putting together a team that reached the 2000 NBA Finals, although they vowed to the Shaquille O’Neal-led Los Angeles Lakers.
“You always have to continue to improve. You can't just sit still in this league and hope for the best,” Starks said. “And what Donnie is trying to do is he's trying to put together that team can definitely get us back to the Finals.”
The Knicks have the ability to add another marquee player in their fold because they are expected to be a huge player when the trade deadline approaches. New York was reportedly Carmelo Anthony’s preferred destination.
The Denver Nuggets forward has been involved in a lot of trade rumors since the off-season, and the Knicks are one of the most aggressive suitors for the superstar forward. The Knicks are willing to unload players other than Stoudemire plus first-round draft picks on order to acquire Anthony.
Although Starks did not directly talked about acquiring Carmelo Anthony, Starks said that acquiring an elite player, while giving up a hefty package of players would be a good gamble depending on the quality of player the Knicks would acquire.
“It's happened before in the past and it worked out,” Starks said. “Depending on what player you're going after and what you have to give up. That's the business that's we're in. You sometimes have to give up a little bit more to get the type of player that you want.”
Starks, who was a member of the Knicks that reached the 1993-94 NBA Finals, also expressed excitement about the renewed hope and energy of the Knicks fans. Starks said that the recent decent showing from the Knicks have brought Madison Square Garden to its status of being the best basketball arena in the World.
“You can see the intensity, the energy that's in the building again and it's just exciting to see the city lit up right now,” Starks said. “Walking down the street yesterday and you can hear the rhetoric about the Knicks now, and you haven't heard that in some years.”
After being a regular cellar-dweller in past few years, the Knicks are on pace to return to the playoffs this season and adding another marquee player like Carmelo Anthony would make them an instant title-contender this season. The Knicks are +900 to win the Eastern Conference championship according to the Basketball Odds at Sportsbook.com the home of NBA betting.