COACH: Mike Fratello | 2005-06: 49-33
Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis begins the season without the services of All-Star Gasol.
Joe Murphy/Getty Images/NBAE
Pau Gasol gave Beale Street one more reason to sing the blues.

The broken foot Gasol suffered at the FIBA World Championships in early September requires a four-month rehabilitation. That certainly will alter the fortunes of the Grizzlies, who can’t expect their lone All-Star back until January.

It looks like it’s time to recalibrate expectations in Memphis, where Gasol’s injury follows the free agent defection of Lorenzen Wright to Atlanta and the trade of Shane Battier to Houston. That represents the Grizzlies entire starting frontcourt during last year’s 49-33 campaign.

Without Gasol and Battier, the team takes a step or two backward, especially at the defensive end. Last season, Memphis had the NBA’s best scoring defense (88.5 ppg) and held opponents to 43.6 percent shooting.

Jake Tsakalidis, the only player on the roster taller than 6-9, figures to spend more time in the middle, but he’s not an offensive weapon. The Grizzlies fortunes appear to rest upon the success of first-rounder Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift, both acquired in the Battier exchange.

Gay was being discussed before the draft as a top three candidate, and the Grizzlies sprung when he dropped to No. 8. Hailed as one of the top athletes in the draft, Gay slipped because of questions about his motivation. General Manager Jerry West, for one, is downright smitten when he talks about his new acquisition.

"Rudy Gay is like a ballerina, bounding all over the place, pretty to watch,” West told NBA.com. “He's probably be the fastest guy on our team. He's 6-9 and a quarter. He's got over a 40-inch vertical jump. He can reach seven-feet-five ... that's an enormous advantage. And he's basketball player on top of it."

Swift, the second overall pick by the Grizzlies in 2000, has never evolved into more than a part-time player, but he’ll be counted upon as long as Gasol is sidelined.

The draft netted two other intriguing prospects, 6-9 power forward Alexander Johnson from Florida State and 6-0 point guard Kyle Lowry from Villanova.

Lowry’s disruptive defense and non-stop motor should earn him minutes right away behind Damon Stoudamire, who is expected back after rupturing his right patellar tendon last December. Johnson, a rebounding force that West considered taking in the first round, will vie with Hakim Warrick for time.

Mike Fratello has good perimeter depth with starter Eddie Jones, Chucky Atkins and NBA Sixth Man Award-winner Mike Miller but open looks are going to be hard to come by until Gasol returns to draw double teams.

This team looked a weapon shy even before it lost their leading scorer. Now, unless Gay is the league’s best rookie and Swift finally realizes his potential, the Grizz might be hibernating early this year.
-- Bill Evans

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Impending Decline?

Swift
The Grizzlies were still in Vancouver when they selected Stromile Swift with the second overall pick in the 2000 Draft. Much has changed since – the team’s home, its fortunes, even its logo – but after six seasons, Swift still looks a lot like the player he was when he came into the league. Is there untapped potential or is what we see what we’re going to get?

"He's had a career-long battle, like a lot of players in this league, to be an everyday player versus a sometimes player," Jeff Van Gundy, his coach in Houston last season, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "I don't think starting or coming off the bench will impact that. Like most guys, if they want to make a break-through, they have to make a conscious decision about their intensity, preparation and focus. I think he's going to try to do that."

Initial reports indicated that Swift was unhappy about the trade that brought him back to Memphis to face his past, but the injury to Paul Gasol provides a Swift chance for redemption, not to mention an opportunity to start … and star, if Stromile can consistently display his considerable talents.
-- Bill Evans

13-2
THE STAT
The Grizzlies had the 9th best 3-point shooting percentage in the league last season as they shot 37.4 percent as a team and went 13-2 in games when they hit 10 or more trifectas.
X&O STRENGTH

Fratello
They're a solid defensive team ... They've got Swift back and they're going to need him to step up with Gasol out.

X&O WEAKNESS
Mike's teams have never been weak defensively, but he's never had a team (since he left Atlanta) that was tough at both ends of the court.

HEAD COACH PHILOSOPHY
He's a well prepared, veteran coach. He gets the most out of what he's got, but his job is going to be awfully tough with Gasol out.
-- Bill Fitch (courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association)

Unique mix of a lot of youth and mid-veterans like Mike Miller and also guys like Eddie Jones and Damon Stoudamire.
Pau is going to be hurt, but he’ll be around and will his leadership still exude off the court?
Hakim Warrick needs to step up and say what you want about Stromile Swift’s attitude and effort, the fact remains that if he is on the court and you are helping off on one of the other posts and you leave him alone, he is still going to flush it jumping as high as he does.
In order to stop the Grizzlies you have to run with them and force them to settle for the outside shot because besides Miller, nobody can consistently hit the open shot.
If they are hovering around the .500 mark when Pau comes back healthy, you are talking about a very confident team with renewed energy for the second half of the season.
-- Western Conference Scout
Mike Miller: Mike Miller will be one of the first options on offense so long as Pau Gasol is sidelined.
Eddie Jones: Lack of depth at shooting guard means Jones will have to log a lot of minutes, which might take its toll down the line.
Without the deft passing of Pau Gasol setting up shooters for threes, Mike Fratello will need to create a new game plan to generate points. I think it will start with Damon Stoudamire and Mike Miller. It will also involve some fastbreaking when Eddie Jones pokes away steals and Stromile Swift swats shots. In these cases, players like Rudy Gay, Swift, Stoudamire, and Warrick could flourish. For the most part though, the first few months of this season will be tough going. Ultimately, it will be a tale of two seasons: without Gasol and with Gasol.
--Guy Lake
Grizzlies Fantasy Preview
PLAYER/2005-06 STATS
PPG
RPG
APG
PG
11.7
3.5
4.7
SG
11.8
3.7
2.4
SF
- -
- -
- -
PF
20.4
8.9
4.6
C
8.9
4.4
0.4
G
13.7
5.4
2.7
F
4.1
2.1
0.4
G
9.5
1.7
2.8
G
- -
- -
- -
C
5.0
4.2
0.3
F
Spain
C
Greece
F
Draft
G
Draft
F
Draft
G
Undrafted rookie
G
Free agent from overseas
F
Trade
G
Free agent
C
Free agent
F
Trade
PPG
20.4
RPG
8.9
APG
4.6
SPG
1.75
BPG
1.91
Points Scored
92.2
(27th)
Points Allowed
88.5
(1st)
Field-Goal Percentage
.448
(20th)
Opponents' FG%
.436
(6th)
Rebounding Diff.
-1.43
(22nd)
2001-02: 23-59, Seventh, Midwest Division
1995-96: 15-67, Seventh, Midwest Division
Best NBA Season: 2003-04, 50-32
Season/Home Opener:
Nov. 1 vs. New York (8 p.m. ET)
Longest Road Trip:
6 games in 9 days: Mar. 24-Apr. 1
@ UTA, @ PHX, @ LAL, @ POR, @ SEA, @ GSW
Longest home stand(s):
5 games in 10 days: Jan. 3-Jan. 12
GSW, BOS, SAS, LAL, MIN
5 games in 11 days: Jan. 27-Feb. 6
POR, SAC, DAL, IND, HOU
5 games in 11 days: Mar. 12-Mar. 22
NJN, CLE, CHI, NOK, LAL
Buy tickets | Full Grizzlies schedule
TV: FSN, WMC
Radio: WRBO-103.5 FM
Web: Official site
Local Coverage: Memphis Commercial Appeal