Though the Grizzlies gave up 100 or more points only 16 times -- second fewest in the league, to the Spurs' 11 -- Memphis won only two of those games.
Record: 45-37 (8th in West) Points scored: 93.4 (23rd in NBA) Points allowed: 91.1 (4th) Coach: Mike Fratello (second season with the Grizzlies)
The overhauled roster is older and wiser, but will it be any better?
Two seasons ago the Grizzlies were the young team on the rise, touted as potential contenders for years to come in the Western Conference. That prediction was partly borne out when they earned the first two playoff berths in franchise history. But Memphis struggled last spring to grab the eighth spot in the West, and the club was swept in the opening round each year. In the off-season general manager Jerry West decided his Grizzlies had to become more grizzled. Fast.
Jettisoned were swingman Bonzi Wells, guard Jason Williams, and forwards James Posey and Stromile Swift -- all of whom had between five and seven years' experience. Their replacements were guards Bobby Jackson, Damon Stoudamire and Eddie Jones, who are entering their ninth, 11th and 12th seasons, respectively. The old blood is being counted on for more than just perimeter shooting whenever Pau Gasol kicks the ball out. Those players are expected to instill professionalism in a locker room that had players bickering over their roles last year. "We're not going to give the coaches problems," Jackson says. "We're going to play and lead by example."
Jackson and Stoudamire, for instance, have handled their battle for the starting job at point guard diplomatically. "All that matters is leaving it all on the court and making things happen," Jackson says.
Stoudamire understands the sense of urgency in Memphis. "In the NBA the window of opportunity is short," he says. "Hopefully we can be the ones to get this team to that next level." But the challenge for the Grizzlies may go beyond maturity. In a deep conference the next level is difficult to reach for old and young alike. -- Bill Syken