COACH: Marc Iavaroni | 2007-08: 22-60
Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis has a rising star in Rudy Gay.
Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images
Talk about living in a shadow. The four other squads in the Southwest Division form a virtual attention blackout over anything going on with the Grizzlies. Not that the folks in Memphis mind. There’s some good in being out of the media glare as a young group continues the often difficult process of rebuilding its relevancy.

The Grizz appear to be off on the right sneaker, boasting a nucleus of three former top 10 picks in the starting five. O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay all came aboard in the last three drafts. Any team would be happy to start with such an athletic and hungry trio.

“This is very exciting because we have a lot of talent,” Gay said. “We’ve had talent for a couple of years now, but I think that we are starting to realize that we can show what we can do.”

That’s not all Marc Iavaroni has to work with. The second-year coach has two new big bodies to help at power forward in Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur, along with significant cap space in the summer of 2009. Though the Grizzlies had a nice run of playoff trips not so long ago, the franchise has definitely turned a page.

“It really is a new team,” Iavaroni said. “I feel like we’ve gone into a new era.”

Mayo and Arthur were part of some serious Draft night maneuvering. It didn’t take long for Mayo to spread it on thick. The former USC standout lit up Summer League to the tune of 18.8 points, 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals. As Matthew Hood from Grizzlies.com pointed out, Mayo’s personal highlight reel included a 69-foot buzzer beater against the Spurs and a monster slam over the Hornets’ Hilton Armstrong.

Mayo, who was also part of the USA Basketball Select Team that competed against the Redeem Team, just sees himself as part of the puzzle.

“We are all so young, we’re going to go through the grind together,” the 6-4 guard said. “Hopefully we can make things better around here.”

Arthur and Conley also enjoyed solid runs through Summer League. Of interest, especially in Memphis, is the addition of the next Gasol. Fans are still stinging from the Pau Gasol heist to La-La Land. Maybe his younger brother Marc, a former MVP from the Spanish ACB League, can help ease the pain.

Youth usually means inexperience. That’s generally true in the Grizzlies’ case. But they also quickly point out that youth means young legs, quickness and exuberance. Just try to keep pace, they say. The trick is getting the track meet started.

For now, Memphis isn’t getting carried away with bold predictions of winning the stacked Southwest. Improvement from last year’s 22 wins is an obvious goal. Conley compared the situation to Portland, which has stacked its roster the last few years and enters the season as a Western Conference upstart.

The Grizzlies are looking to make their start.

“I fee like it’s a great chance for all of us young players to become leaders,” Conley said. “Not having as many veterans on the team allows you to establish yourself and make a statement.”

-- Art Garcia

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Gay
Most guys Gay’s age aren't exactly cozying up to responsibility. A pizza in the fridge and a place to crash might be the extent of their planning for the next day. Gay can’t relate. He’s already spent two quality years in the NBA and, if that’s not enough, the 22-year-old is being asked to be the face of the franchise and the voice in the locker room.

Gay does have the court cred. He followed up a nice rookie campaign by nearly doubling his scoring average to 20.1 points. The season isn’t so much about the statistical breakthroughs. With conceivably more help around him, Gay’s biggest step in Year 3 may be as an extension of the coach.

The UConn product was asked if he’s ready to be a leader of a group – about half of the roster is 23 or younger – that’s anything but grizzled.

“I’m going to have to,” he answered. “There are other guys that are going to have to step up though, too.”

-- Art Garcia

THE STAT
9.3 Rudy Gay increased his scoring average by 9.3 points per game -- from 10.8 to 20.1 -- in his second season in the NBA.
The Griz are one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
Rudy Gay is a bright young talent and OJ Mayo could be a star in this league in a couple of years.
Marc Gasol isn’t his brother but he ain’t bad either.
Darko Milicic, although skilled, probably has this year left to prove he belongs in the NBA.
Hakim Warrick is a decent player but needs desperately to improve his outside shooting ability before he moves up to the next level.
Look for the Griz to return to the lottery and continue to try to build the franchise through the draft.
-- NBA Scout
Mayo is not the explosive athlete that some expected him to be, and he's a combo-guard that will have to find his niche in the NBA. But he has a strong jumper and a knack for getting it off at will. He also projects as a plus defender, which could result in some decent steal numbers.

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NBA.com Fantasy Index

Record: 30-52, 12th in Western Conf.
Playoffs: No postseason
Scoring Leader: R. Gay, 20.1 PPG
Rebounding Leader: D. Milicic, 7.1 RPG
Assist Leader: M. Conley, 7.7 APG

Simulated Season Details
PLAYER/2007-08 STATS PPG RPG APG
PG Mike Conley 9.6 2.6 4.2
SG O.J. Mayo -- -- --
SF Rudy Gay 20.1 6.2 2.0
PF Hakim Warrick 11.4 4.7 0.4
C Darko Milicic 7.2 6.1 0.8

G Kyle Lowry 9.6 3.0 3.6
G Marko Jaric 8.3 3.0 4.1
F Antoine Walker 8.0 3.7 1.0
F Quinton Ross 4.1 2.3 1.2
C Marc Gasol -- -- --
G O.J. Mayo Trade
F Darrell Arthur Trade
C Hamed Haddadi Free agent
G Quinton Ross Free agent
F Brent Petway D-League
G-F Marko Jaric Trade
F Antoine Walker Trade
F-C Kwame Brown Free agent
G Juan-Carlos Navarro Free agent
F Brian Cardinal Trade
G Mike Miller Trade
F Jason Collins Trade
G Kevin Love Trade
PPG Rudy Gay 20.1
RPG Mike Miller 6.7
APG Mike Conley 4.2
SPG Rudy Gay 1.37
BPG Darko Milicic 1.63
Points Scored 100.7 (10th)
Points Allowed 106.9 (28th)
Field-Goal Percentage .454 (16th)
Opponents' FG% .480 (30th)
Rebounding Diff. -2.90 (26th)
TV: FSN South
Radio: Soul Classics 103.5 FM
Web: Official site
Local Coverage: Memphis Commercial-Appeal