Kurt Helin

Marc Gasol, Mike Conley

Grizzlies’ goal remain same chasing title in crowded West

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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.”

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Coach Brett Brown denies report Sixers unhappy with Joel Embiid

Brett Brown

This is about as surprising as the ending of the movie “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown came out Friday and denied a Sports Illustrated report that the Sixers organization was frustrated with Joel Embiid‘s dedication to rehab. CSNPhilly.com’s John Finger has his quotes.

“In general, what everybody has written has been factual, previously. There were portions that were factual that had been well documented early on,” Brown said before Friday night’s preseason game against the Washington Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. “When you read about portions that have been reported, there are portions that are wildly inaccurate.”

Specifically, Brown had issue with the idea that he and GM Sam Hinkie had direct orders from owner Joshua Harris to keep Embiid from going to Las Vegas to watch Summer League this summer.

“I don’t know what that means or why it was said and it’s one of those things that we move on from,” Brown said. “We’re treating it as noise and we’re going to move on from it.”

Noise is NBA coach speak for anything they see as a distraction. Such as this story.

“It’s just wildly unfair some of the accusations as it relates to now. This story is old. The media in front of me did a helluva job of reporting accurately what has been going on,” Brown said. “So to wake up and have these things be revisited, I think it’s unfortunate and sad particularly because of the timing.”

Three thoughts.

First, what did you expect Brown to say? Regardless of the level of reality in the story, this was going to be the reaction of the Sixers staff — even a guy seen as a straight shooter such as Brown — because he has to protect his star. That’s the reality of today’s NBA.

Second, while I know and fully trust the reporter who published this story, anybody who speaks off the record in these kinds of situations is trying to spin things. No doubt there are people frustrated with Embiid and his recovery effort, but that doesn’t mean everyone — or even the people in decision-making positions — with the Sixers are.

Finally, if those people are not somewhat frustrated with Embiid, they should be. Questions about his dedication to the rehab process and conditioning are far from new, and if he is not wearing his boot or is pushing back on the Sixers medical staff, those are not good long-term signs.

Also, you should believe that there are people around and in the Sixers growing frustrated with the slow rebuild process. Not the decision makers. Yet. But the rumblings are out there.

As with all things NBA, if Embiid someday gets back on the court and performs like the franchise cornerstone player he was projected to be, this will all be forgotten. If not, well, this story and others like it will have legs.

Mark Cuban offering free heart exams for former Mavericks


In the wake of the recent deaths of Daryl Dawkins and Moses Malone, Mark Cuban is trying to do something to help out former NBA players:

Every former Maverick can receive a free heart exam, on his dime, the Mavericks’ announced.

“We have had several tragedies in the NBA family recently with the passing of several legends at a young age,” Cuban said.

“The Mavs want to be proactive to inform and educate our alumni about potential health concerns they may face as they age. To this end, we will be paying for advanced screening for heart disease for our former Mavs over the age of 50.”

The Mavericks’ organization is contacting all 33 former players to arrange a doctor’s appointment near the player’s home and cover the costs of the screening if interested. The screening consists of an EKG, stress echo, blood profile and office visit.

The Mavericks are not paying for any follow-up care if these tests find something wrong, just to be clear. The hope is that the players have their own insurance, or the Mavs can help them find some.

It’s a good step. One the NBA and players union should have combined to make available to all NBA players years ago, but we’ll take the progress as it comes.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Can Victor Oladipo average 20-5-5?


Because nobody outside Orlando watched the Magic last season — and we don’t blame you — not a lot of people realized that Victor Oladipo was doing more than 360 dunks, he averaged 18-4-4.

With the Magic expected to take a step forward under new coach Scott Skiles, could he average 20-5-5 this season? That’s the question posed by Jenna Corrado in this latest PBT Extra.

It’s elite company, only guys such as LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Blake Griffin did that last season. That said, Oladipo can put up those numbers on this team, which will rely on his scoring.

Kevin Love to play in Cavaliers’ exhibition game Sunday

Kevin Love

Kevin Love was unsure if he would be back in time for opening night, but it looks like he will make it.

For the first time since the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk pulled his shoulder out of its socket in the first round of the playoffs, Love will be back on the court for the Cavaliers this Sunday against Toronto said coach David Blatt, reports Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer.

“He went through a full practice today, including live work,” Blatt said. “He’s ready to go. [He] will play Sunday.”

Blatt said he’s not sure how he’ll incorporate Love in terms of minutes and usage. It will be the team’s sixth exhibition game. Although he has participated in practices with no limits for about a week, he’s still very much behind.

Blatt is going to have to integrate him pretty quickly, with the Cavaliers starting the season in 11 days. With Kyrie Irving out to begin the season as he continues to recover from his knee surgery, the Cavs are going to lean heavily on Love and LeBron James to start the season.

With LeBron likely out until the start of the season, Love and LeBron aren’t going to get time on the court together until opening night against the Bulls.