The Memphis Grizzlies, who finished last year with the league's worst
record at 22-60, will try to regroup this season with a revamped front
office and new versatility on the court. New GM Chris Wallace and
first-year head coach Marc Iavaroni immediately began retooling the team
in the offseason, putting together pieces to complement star forward Pau
Gasol. Gasol is now fully recovered from injury which limited him to 59 games
last season and is poised to have a career year.
Memphis' biggest move was choosing Ohio State standout point guard Mike
Conley Jr. with the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft. Conley's
unrivaled quickness and command of the ball should help Gasol and newly
signed center Darko Milicic find easy looks at the basket. The Grizzlies
also acquired Gasol's best friend Juan Carlos Navarro, another promising
young point guard.
With the additional scoring of Mike Miller and Rudy Gay outside, and Stromile
Swift and Hakim Warick down low -- along with key additions Casey Jacobsen
and Andre Brown -- the Grizzlies are suddenly a deep team who could easily
become the league's
If Iavaroni can harness his young talent, watch for Memphis to take huge
strides this season.
Selecting the lightning-quick but heady Conley was a clear signal that Iavaroni
wants to run an up-tempo offense and have a floor leader similar to Steve
Nash in Phoenix, where Iavaroni spent the last five years as an assistant. Last
year's first round pick, Kyle Lowry, gives the Grizzlies another
solid point guard who can pressure defenses. Iavaroni is planning
lots of pick-and-roll sets and may even play Conley and Lowry together
Mike Miller is
consistently one of the best shooters in the game, and although
he's not a great defender, he has excellent passing
and ball handling skills. Gay, who made the All-Rookie First Team
last year, is a rising star. He's long and athletic and can score inside
and out. New guard and Gasol chum,
Juan Carlos Navarro should provide timely offense and additional depth
in the backcourt.
The Grizz have a logjam in the frontcourt, with Gasol, Milicic, Brown,
Brian Cardinal, Stromile Swift and Hakim Warrick all available as options.
If Milicic plays center, he'll give the Grizz some weak-side shotblocking
and high post scoring. Swift is a true shot-blocker while Warrick
is a legitimate offensive threat. Cardinal's health may be an issue
as he recovers from knee surgeries.
Exactly where each player will fit is still a work in progress, according
to Iavaroni. "I think that will continue to evolve as we watch
them just playing pickup ball," he recently told The Commercial
Appeal of Memphis
. "How we envision
them working in different places and with different people in the games
(will determine the rotation)."
-- Jeff Brody
22-game packages give you special benefits and reduced prices starting at $5 per game.
No longer is the Memphis frontline a group of lean 6-9-and-unders. The addition
of Darko Milicic provides Memphis a true big man capable of rebounding
and shot blocking.
However, since signing his three-year deal with the Grizzlies, Milicic hasn't
helped himself in the European basketball championships. In September, he was
fined $14,000 for an outburst at officials after his Serbian team lost to Greece.
Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace and coach Marc Iavaroni called Milicic
to voice their displeasure about his conduct, The Commercial
Appeal of Memphis
"We're very displeased with Darko's actions and comments," Wallace
said. "It's an emotional situation playing in national competition,
particularly with Serbia, because they take pride in having good teams. But
Darko has to be in control of his emotions."
-- Jeff Brody
||Besides having the worst record, the Grizzlies played almost no defense last
year, allowing opponents to shoot a league-best .486 against them. Look for that
to change under Iavaroni's sytem.
Career Record: None
Playoff Record: None
Iavaroni comes to Memphis with 17 years of professional experience - both as
as player and coach. He will try to emulate the offense of the Phoenix
Suns, where he spent five years as an assistant to head coach Mike D'Antoni.
Iavaroni is considered a student of the game, and defense is his trademark. "I
think technically I made the league and played in the league for seven years
(with the 76ers) because I was a defensive-oriented player," he said at
his introductory press conference. "I was a player who knew how to play
well with others or I would not have a job, and that's always stayed with me."
-- Jeff Brody
KNOW YOUR GRIZZLIES
Casey Jacobsen once worked for his father's construction company, tearing down buildings and rebuilding them. "I had to do all the dirty work," Casey claims.
Conley will probably be the starter, but Lowry will spell him. They'll tandem that position.
They're young but they're talented. They're a scary team. Iavaroni will bring some toughness in there and try to give them an identity.
With Gasol, Darko, Stro and Hakim, they have some length inside. They can cause some problems.
Mike Miller can shoot the ball and Rudy Gay is improving.
If their guards can hold up, if Stoudamire can give them something, I think they can be tougher than people think.
I think they're going to run, but I don't think it's going to be like Phoenix. Iavaroni is a defensive guy.
I think they play Miller at the two, Rudy at the three and rotate Pau, Darko, Hakim and Stro inside.
Warrick will have to pick up his energy level playing for Iavaroni.
They don't have much depth on the perimeter, but they could be a surprise.
-- Western Conference Scout