Shootaround: New contenders on the block

New York Knicks (6-0) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (6-1)
9:30 p.m./ESPN

The Knicks used a 25-9 run last night in San Antonio to score the franchise's first victory in San Antonio in nine years. The win also moved the Knicks to 6-0 and one win away from setting the team's record set in 1993 before the team's trip to the 1994 NBA Finals. Good signs for New York.

Mike Brown/EPA/NJ.comMemphis last played Wednesday and scored an impressive runaway victory at Oklahoma City. Zach Randolph nearly got into a fight with Kendrick Perkins, but that should have been merely a sidenote to the work Rudy Gay put in for the Grizzlies in out-performing the mighty Kevin Durant.

What might be most surprising is that these are not the two teams anybody expected to be among the early favorites for the NBA title. The Heat, the Lakers and the Thunder have had their early season struggles. The Knicks and Grizzlies are both on six-game win streaks and have put their names into the hat.

Unbelievably at that.

Both of these teams play some solid defense, and that is always the key to becoming a championship contender. Carmelo Anthony had only nine points in the win last night against San Antonio. His development as a player is critical to New York breaking through.

Same thing for Rudy Gay, who is very slowly becoming the alpha dog for the Grizzlies.

One of these teams is losing tonight.

Other Storylines to Watch

-The NBA is planning to investigate the incident between Zach Randolph and Kendrick Perkins that got the two tossed from Wednesday's game. No word if there would be any future penalties. Losing Randolph would hurt the Grizzlies for sure as his low-post scoring certainly frees up space for Memphis' shooters.

-J.R. Smith continues his torrid pace, scoring 17 points on 1-for-1 shooting from beyond the arc. Smith is surprisingly a source of efficiency for New York coming off the bench.

Tonight's Other Games

Utah Jazz (4-5) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (4-4)
7 p.m./ESPN

Evan Turner was the No. 2 pick in the draft a few years ago. Turner was billed as a do-it-all guard, but has struggled to do it all. Or so it would seem. Turner has had his moments and continues to be a fine player. Not a superstar for sure though. This year, Turner is averaging 10.6 points per game and 3.4 assists per game.

Dallas Mavericks (5-4) vs. Indiana Pacers (3-6)
7 p.m.

Roy Hibbert has had a really rough go to his season so far, averaging only 8.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. These numbers are far off his All-Star numbers from last year. One theory is that losing his best friend, Darren Collison, has been a big reason why.

Orlando Magic (2-5) vs. Detroit Pistons (1-8)
7:30 p.m.

Rodney Stuckey missed Detroit's win over Philadelphia with the flu. He will play tonight and he volunteered to come off the bench so that Kyle Singler could start. Lawrence Frank was impressed with the energy Singler brought to the starting group.

Oklahoma City Thunder (6-3) vs. New Orleans Hornets (3-3)
8 p.m.

The Thunder may be planning to sub Kevin Durant out of games earlier and shift their substitution patterns. Scott Brooks is looking to give Russell Westbrook some more freedom and enable the Thunder to use lineups that do not rely entirely on Eric Maynor or Kevin Martin to create offense.

Golden State Warriors (4-4) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-3)
8 p.m.

Andrew Bogut is fighting extremely hard to return to the court. He is out indefinitely and did not travel with Golden State on this latest road trip. What he did do though is receive Regenokine injections in his surgically repaired ankle. The injections use the body's own protein to help with healing.

Atlanta Hawks (3-4) vs. Sacramento Kings (2-6)
10 p.m.

It did not take long for the first big trade rumor to be denied. The Hawks said they will not trade Josh Smith and Kyle Korver for a chance at Pau Gasol. So it will totally happen…

Houston Rockets (4-4) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (3-5)
10 p.m.

Royce White went on the weird Twitter rampage earlier this week. But Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that White has begun to fulfill his obligations to the team. A positive step in a weird week fro the Rockets.

Phoenix Suns (4-5) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (3-5)
10:30 p.m.

Mike D'Antoni will not be coaching this game after joining the team on Wednesday. What also might be surprising in recent Lakers connections is that Dwight Howard, who spent some time during the offseason speaking with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, said he has not spoken with Kareem in detail since. Considering how everyone wants Howard to refine his offensive game, he should think about getting on that.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily