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Josh Elliott
October 30, 2000
There's a new brain trust in place. Now Grizzlies fans will find out if they can trust those brains
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October 30, 2000

14 Vancouver: Grizzlies

There's a new brain trust in place. Now Grizzlies fans will find out if they can trust those brains

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Projected Lineup



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Shareef Abdur-Rahim


20.3 ppg

10.1 rpg

3.3 apg

1.09 spg

1.06 bpg


Othella Harrington


13.1 ppg

6.9 rpg

1.2 apg

0.71 bpg

50.6 FG%


Bryant Reeves


8.9 ppg

5.7 rpg

0.55 bpg

44.8 FG%

64.8 FT%


Michael Dickerson


18.2 ppg

3.4 rpg

2.5 apg

1.41 spg

40.9 3FG%


Mike Bibby


14.5 ppg

8.1 apg

3.7 rpg

1.61 spg

44.5 FG%



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Stromile Swift (R)


16.2 ppg

8.2 rpg

2.79 bpg

1.47 spg

60.8 FG%


Damon Jones


4.2 ppg

1.7 apg

1.0 rpg

38.5 FG%

36.0 3FG%


Grant Long


4.8 ppg

5.6 rpg

1.0 apg

1.07 spg

44.3 FG%


Doug West


4.0 ppg

1.9 rpg

1.1 apg

40.7 FG%

85.0 FT%


Isaac Austin


6.7 ppg

4.8 rpg

1.3 apg

0.64 spg

42.9 FG%

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

Their van sputtered to a halt, out of gas, and six Grizzlies found themselves stranded on a deserted Interstate 101 off-ramp somewhere between their downtown Santa Barbara hotel and their UC Santa Barbara training-camp site 15 miles away. With no gas station in sight, the half-dozen NBA millionaires (after discovering that, incredibly, no one among them was carrying a cell phone or any cash) attempted to flag down help, to no avail until a taxi pulled over and ferried guard Brent Price and centers Bryant Reeves and William Cunningham to a service station, where Reeves paid for a can of gas with a credit card. On the way back to the van, the passengers—two of them 7-footers—were asked by the cabbie what they did for a living. "We play for the Vancouver Grizzlies," one replied. After a brief silence, the stone-faced cabbie looked back at them and said, "You guys really need to win more games."

That sentiment is both the rallying cry and the yoke of the five-year-old Grizzlies, who, while amassing a woeful 22-60 record last season, reached 300 losses faster than any franchise in league history. Chicago investment group billionaire and new owner Michael Heisley says he expects far more from this year's outfit and showed he meant it by gutting the front office shortly after taking control last May. Gone are team president and franchise architect Stu Jackson, coach Lionel Hollins and personnel director Larry Riley; replacing them are president Dick Versace, general manager Billy Knight, coach Sidney Lowe and team consultant Chuck Daly. To the newly installed brain trust, Heisley has given two simple yet ambitious goals: 30-plus victories this season, playoffs the next.

Lowe professes an abiding excitement at Heisley's pronouncements. "That's what I want everybody to be thinking here," Lowe says. For what was the NBA's second-youngest team last year, Lowe seems a good fit: Following a brief but disastrous (33-92) coaching stint with the Timberwolves, in the early 1990s, and then five years as an assistant with the Cavaliers and another last season with Minnesota, a wiser Lowe arrives in Vancouver with a reputation as an effective, player-friendly communicator.

The degree to which Lowe's enthusiasm will be dampened depends largely on the fitness—and happiness—of his front line. After two disappointing seasons during which his scoring and rebounding averages plummeted in direct proportion to the expansion of his waistline, Reeves reported to camp "in great shape," says Lowe. "I had no preconceived notions of Bryant's situation and can only judge what I see. He looks fine." Though Lowe says the same of Othella Harrington, the power forward's distaste for Vancouver looms as a distraction, particularly because his minutes will decline with the arrival of Stromile Swift, the explosive young forward who was the second pick in the June draft. "Othella is a starter, definitely says Lowe. "We don't want to bring Stromile along too quickly, where he might fail."

That said, the Grizzlies certainly didn't draft Swift to ride the pine. A shot blocker and a tireless rebounder at LSU, Swift immediately upgrades Vancouver's interior defense and gives the Grizzlies another hyper-athlete to go with forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim and the dynamic backcourt of Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson. More important, Swift's professed appreciation of Vancouver further lessens the sting still felt after 1999 top pick Steve Francis so pilloried the city and the franchise that the Grizzlies were forced to trade him to the Rockets. "What I know of Vancouver I like," says Swift, a soft-spoken 20-year-old. "I know I have to work on my intensity, and I know some people said I shouldn't have left college early. I just want to prove [ Vancouver] made the right choice."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]