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Grizzlies hoping for Oden or Durant after horrible season

April 19th, 2007 10:09 pm by Associated Press



MEMPHIS - The best part about the 2006-2007 season for the Memphis Grizzlies? It's finally over.


The Grizzlies went from a playoff team a year ago to the NBA's worst record this season at 22-60.


They started out waiting for new owners to take over in a sale that collapsed. Then coach Mike Fratello was fired and replaced in the interim by Tony Barone Sr. On Tuesday, Director of Basketball Operations Jerry West announced he wouldn't be back next season.


That doesn't include the midseason drama of All-Star Pau Gasol asking to be traded after his broken left foot contributed to the Grizzlies' very slow start.


"In general, it was very frustrating and deceiving and disappointing in many ways," Gasol said. "But it's past now, we've got to learn from it and hopefully we're going to do a good job to prevent it from happening. It's just not acceptable, personally."


Summing up the Grizzlies' best hope? The draft lottery on May 22, which could bring Memphis a chance to pick either 7-foot center Greg Oden, who has not declared for the draft yet, or Kevin Durant in June. The team's Web site features a countdown clock to that day.


"If we get very lucky this year, I think you could see this franchise change immeasurably overnight," West said.


Tarence Kinsey, one of four rookies on the roster at season's end, said he didn't know if the Grizzlies are one big draft pick away from something good.


"That's kind of one question they told us not to answer. We'll just leave it like that. That's the $25,000 question," he said.


West is finishing out his contract through June 30, and he will advise billionaire owner Michael Heisley on filling the vacancy. West has said two people should be hired to replace him, including a general manager.


He also will advise which coach to hire and which player to select in the draft.


"Without being very revealing, I think everyone would be very happy with the coach we'd want. I think he would be happy to come here if the things were in place the coach needs. He needs support. He needs to feel confident about players," West said.


Heisley also promised he will take his majority share of the Grizzlies off the market if he doesn't receive a viable offer by May 1. The planned sale to a group led by former Duke teammates Brian Davis and Christian Laettner swirled over the team for months before falling through.


But on the court, injuries caused Memphis' biggest problems.


The worst injury came at the World Championships in September when Gasol broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, keeping him out of the first 22 games. Rookie Kyle Lowry broke his left wrist in November and missed the final 71 games. Brian Cardinal missed a combined 35, while Lawrence Roberts sat out 24 and Damon Stoudamire 19.


"We've got to be healthy," West said. "We can't participate in a year where the players we depend on are not healthy."


Rudy Gay was a bright spot, averaging 10.8 points and 1.3 assists, and Kinsey also proved strong off the bench with 7.7 points. Gasol said their play was encouraging.


"We had some young guys develop, due to the injuries of other players. ... They developed, they played a lot of minutes, they gained a lot of confidence, and they showed some talent and some good potential," Gasol said.


Memphis ranked sixth in the league in scoring, averaging 101.59. But only Golden State allowed more points per game than the Grizzlies' 106.74 points, which is why they went 16-24 when scoring 100 points or more and 12-43 when giving up 100 or more.


"What we've proven is that we can run up and down," said interim coach Tony Barone Sr., expected to return to his job as director of player personnel. "We haven't proven that we can run up and down and guard people, and that's an area we have to address."


The Grizzlies at least finished with a season-high three-game winning streak.


"I'm not jumping off a bridge because we had a bad season," Barone said. "We're going to learn from it. We'll make our adjustments and then go forward."


AP-CS-04-19-07 1621EDT


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