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11 Memphis Grizzlies
Gene Menez
October 29, 2007
Top-to-bottom changes soothe a franchise player who wants to win--now
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October 29, 2007

11 Memphis Grizzlies

Top-to-bottom changes soothe a franchise player who wants to win--now

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FT%: 72.4

KEY BENCH 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

Record: 22-60 (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.

Enter Iavaroni 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.

"I'm all 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."

ENEMY LINES

An opposing team's scout sizes up the Grizzlies

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