MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Grizzlies may be overlooked after all the offseason scrambling by Western Conference teams amping up their rosters in the NBA’s title chase, though Zach Randolph knows exactly Memphis can make people pay attention.
Win a ring.
The Grizzlies came as close as Cleveland did during the playoffs to knocking off eventual champ Golden State, missing a chance to go up 3-1 on the Warriors in their Western semifinal before losing in six games. Guard Mike Conley simply ran out of energy playing with a broken face, and Tony Allen couldn’t clamp down on the Splash Brothers with a bad hamstring.
“It’s time to win,” Randolph said. “I think the mature … guys are better. Mike got so much better. Of course Marc (Gasol), and our team’s so mature I think this is the time for us.”
Memphis has been to the playoffs five straight seasons, notching a .629 winning percentage in that span that is behind only San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Miami and Chicago in the NBA. The Grizzlies won 55 games last season, and their biggest move this offseason was signing the 7-foot-1 All-Star center Gasol to a five-year maximum contract.
They also traded for veteran Matt Barnes and signed Brandan Wright as a free agent. Vince Carter feels healthy after spending the summer working out and is part of 12 returning players for Memphis.
“We think we’ve got a good mix of young and old and we’re a team that was pretty close last year, so we’re hoping to kick the door down this year,” general manager Chris Wallace said.
Here are some things to know about the Grizzlies:
GETTING OLDER: Memphis has eight Grizzlies in their 30s if Ryan Hollins makes the team with four of those starters: Gasol (30), Randolph (34), Allen (33) and Courtney Lee (30). Conley, who turned 28 on Oct. 11, doesn’t believe that’s an issue. “As we’ve gotten older, we’ve gotten better.”
GRITTIER GRIZZLIES: Tony Allen, aka the Grindfather in Memphis, coined the phrase “Grit `n’ Grind” to describe the Grizzlies’ style, and he is coming off a season where he earned NBA All-Defense first team honors despite starting only 41 games. He tied his career-high with 129 steals and set a personal best averaging 2.05 steals per game. Now add Barnes to the mix, a veteran who has Allen’s respect for his defensive skills.
DEEP BENCH: After tinkering with the bench this offseason, coach Dave Joerger has to figure out exactly which Grizzlies work best with backup point guard Beno Udrih. Signing the athletic Wright gives Joerger the chance to put a fast lineup on the court, and Barnes can work in wherever needed after spending lots of time this summer honing his jump shot. Rookie Jarell Martin is busy healing up his left foot after surgery before training camp, but Memphis will have to see if any minutes remain for Jordan Adams, Russ Smith and Jarnell Stokes – a trio coming off their first NBA seasons who impressed veteran Vince Carter in summer league play.
OUTSIDE SHOOTING: As strong as Memphis is in the paint with Gasol and Randolph, consistent shooting from outside the paint remains the Grizzlies’ weak link. Only Minnesota attempted fewer 3-ponters than the Grizzlies (15.2 per game), though Memphis ranked 22nd hitting 33.9 percent outside the arc. The Grizzlies went 22-1 when hitting more 3s than their opponents and 24-4 when making at least 40 percent of their 3s. But they averaged just 26.4 percent from 3 in their losses. Memphis will need Lee to average 40 percent again but take more than the 224 3-pointers he attempted last season.
GOING HIGH-TECH: Memphis worked with a company in training camp to measure the Grizzlies to help devise the best workout for each player and identify areas that could lead to injuries. The team also has worked with another company to track the mileage of the Grizzlies in practices and games along with the force exerted on their legs. “We’re trying to turn over every stone,” Wallace said. Controlling owner “Robert Pera comes from Silicon Valley and obviously is very concerned about making sure we’re at the forefront of all the technological advances that can help our players.”
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