PLAYERS: G Juan Carlos Navarro (R), F Hakim Warrick, F-C Darko Milicic*, G Kyle
Lowry, G Mike Conley Jr. (R) *New acquisition (R) Rookie
(15th in West) Points scored: 101.6 (6th in NBA) Points allowed: 106.7 (29th)
Coach: Marc Iavaroni (first season with Grizzlies)
On June 2, three
days after being named coach of the Grizzlies, Marc Iavaroni boarded a plane
for an urgent business trip. He flew not to a college town to scout a hotshot
prospect but to Barcelona to introduce himself to his new team's franchise
player, 7-foot Pau Gasol. For three days the two walked the city. They dined
together. Gasol laughed as Iavaroni tried to speak Spanish. Iavaroni watched as
Gasol worked out.
The visit not
only helped the two become acquainted, but it also renewed Gasol's faith in the
franchise. "He has a passion for winning," says Iavaroni, who had been
an assistant with the Cavaliers, Heat and Suns. "And he wants to know that
the people he's working with share that passion."
Gasol didn't feel
that passion last January, when he privately requested a trade to a contending
team--just one of many discouraging developments during the season. Gasol
missed the first 22 games with a broken left foot. Promising rookie Kyle Lowry
played in only 10 games before breaking his left wrist. Coach Mike Fratello was
fired after a 6-24 start, and sale rumors cast doubt on the future of the
franchise in Memphis. The result? An NBA-worst 22-60 record, after three
straight postseason appearances.
and new G.M. Chris Wallace, who replaced Jerry West in June. The Grizzlies
signed a big man, free agent Darko Milicic; drafted a point guard, Mike Conley
of Ohio State, at No. 4; and acquired the rights to a combo guard, Juan Carlos
Navarro, who also happens to be Gasol's best friend from Spain. The
changes--particularly bringing in Navarro, which Gasol suggested during
Iavaroni's trip to Barcelona--have satisfied Gasol. For now.
about winning," he says. "If we win, I'll be the happiest man on earth.
If we don't, then that's when the problems start to come up."
team's scout sizes up the Grizzlies