Jerry West came to the Memphis Grizzlies after what had been a terrible season for the franchise. He's leaving under similar circumstances.

With West soon to step down, the Grizzlies will finish with the NBA's worst record and their worst this decade even if they close the season with a third straight win Wednesday as they face the Minnesota Timberwolves.

West disclosed his plans to leave his position as director of basketball operations with Memphis (21-60) during a meeting with reporters Tuesday. He will end his stint with the Grizzlies on July 1, after a five-year run during which he helped them turn in the winningest seasons in team history and make three straight playoff appearances.

Memphis will finish this season at least two games worse than any other team in the league and nine below any Western Conference club.

This will be the Grizzlies' worst record since going 22-60 in 1999-00, and their first losing season since finishing 28-54 in 2002-03 - their first season with West. That was the franchise's eighth season of existence, and it finished at least 26 games below .500 each time until going 50-32 in 2003-04 to begin its playoff run.

West, 68, is leaving a Grizzlies team that has regressed following troubles on the court, and the club could be sold if owner Michael Heisley gets a suitable offer by May 1. West fired Mike Fratello in December and hired Tony Barone as interim coach.

"I think the wear and tear of the season, particularly like this (has been tough)," West said. "There's been a lot of turmoil here. The ownership thing has made it very difficult to concentrate on what we need to do here to improve our basketball team."

Memphis has won consecutive games for just the second time this season, beating San Antonio 101-91 on Monday night after a 133-118 victory over Denver two days earlier. The Spurs and Nuggets are playoff-bound, but have been resting key players.

The Grizzlies haven't won three in a row since earning victories in their last five regular-season games of 2005-06.

The Timberwolves enter this matchup on a six-game losing streak, a big reason why they may get to keep their first-round draft pick. The selection will go to the Los Angeles Clippers if it isn't among the top 10, but Minnesota has a good shot to end up that high in the draft lottery because the current skid has dropped it into a tie for the NBA's sixth-worst record.

The seventh overall pick in last year's draft, Randy Foye, has seen increased playing time lately for Minnesota and has averaged 14.9 points over the last eight games. He had 19 points and a career-high nine rebounds in the Timberwolves' 122-107 loss at Denver on Monday night.

A loss Wednesday would give Minnesota seven straight defeats for the first time since March 7-16, 2006.

The Timberwolves, who will miss the playoffs for the third straight season since making the conference finals in 2003-04, also have lost seven straight at the Target Center. It's their longest skid at home since dropping 10 in a row from Nov. 5-Dec. 14, 1994 in their last season before drafting Kevin Garnett.

Garnett has missed four straight games with a sore right quadriceps, and is doubtful for Wednesday's contest.

The Grizzlies and Timberwolves have split two games this season, both played in Memphis.


Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited