Friday , Oct , 20 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Memphis Grizzlies 2006-07 Season Preview

(Sports Network) – It could be a tough start to the new season for the
Memphis Grizzlies. All-Star forward Pau Gasol suffered a left foot injury
during the summer while competing for Spain in the FIBA world championships

He underwent successful surgery on September 8th to repair a broken fifth
metatarsal in the injured foot. The 26-year-old Gasol is expected to need
four months on the sidelines before he returns to the lineup.

Gasol was once again the Grizzlies best player during the 2005-06 campaign.
He led the team in scoring (20.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg). It was a
coming out season for the 7-0 Gasol, who played in his first NBA All-
Star Game and is finally getting the recognition that he deserves.
However, great players are judged by their success in the postseason and so
far Gasol does not have a victory in the playoffs on his resume.

Memphis appeared in the postseason for the third straight year. The
Grizzlies were swept in 2004 by San Antonio and by Phoenix in the 2005
playoffs. It was no different in 2006, as Memphis was knocked out in four by
the Dallas Mavericks

Twenty-six-year-old guard Mike Miller, who was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the
Year, averaged 13.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists. The 6-8 Miller shot
over 40 percent from beyond the arc and helps make Memphis a dangerous squad
from the perimeter.

During the offseason, Memphis acquired rookie Rudy Gay, who was drafted out of
Connecticut by Houston with the eighth overall pick in the 2006 draft, and
forward Stromile Swift from the Rockets for defensive-minded Shane Battier,
who registered 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 81 contests for
Memphis last season.

The Grizzlies also added Villanova product Kyle Lowry with the 24th overall
pick in the draft. Lowry is hard-nosed guard who will fit in with head coach
Mike Fratello’s style of play. However, Memphis did lose guard Bobby Jackson
and big man Lorenzen Wright in free agency. Jackson inked a deal with New
Orleans/Oklahoma City, while Wright landed in Atlanta.

BACKCOURT

Veteran point guard Damon Stoudamire, who played just 27 games in 2005-06
because of a ruptured right patellar tendon, would help the Grizzlies big time
if he can return from his injury. The 33-year-old Stoudamire posted 11.7
points and 4.7 assists before he was injured.

Miller and Eddie Jones will share the shooting guard duties as well as log a
lot of minutes at small forward. Both players will also see time at small
forward and will play a lot together. The crafty Jones averaged 11.8 points,
3.7 boards and 2.4 assists in 75 games. Miller and Jones make tithe Grizzlies
a very dangerous squad from the perimeter.

Lowry and Chucky Atkins will also work at the point. The 32-year-old Atkins is
a solid veteran who will be a big asset if Stoudamire does not comeback
completely healthy.

FRONTCOURT

The injury to Gasol is huge. The offense runs through him and he is the go-to
player when Memphis needs a big bucket. While he is rehabbing from his injury,
someone is going to have to step up big time if the Grizzlies hope to avoid a
disastrous start to the new season.

Gay will get his opportunity to play right away. His athleticism is something
that Memphis needed, as he will be expected to help the Grizzlies transition
game.

Hakim Warrick showed that he could be a big contributor in the near future, as
the Syracuse product averaged just 4.1 points per game during his rookie
campaign. He is athletic and has the ability to be a productive player if he
earns playing time.

The 6-9 Swift spent the first five years of his career with the Grizzlies and
returns after one season with the Rockets. Swift averaged 8.9 points and 4.4
boards in 66 outings for Houston. He will be expected to earn his money down
low and will most likely split time in the middle with Jake Tsakalidis while
Gasol heals.

OUTLOOK

The Grizzlies three-year run to the playoffs is in serious jeopardy. Without
Gasol for the beginning of the season, the Grizzlies will most likely dig
themselves into a very deep hole.

Memphis is headed for the lottery, as it won’t be able to avoid a poor start
to the season.

MEM