Message Board
NBA en espanol
NBA Draft
2003 playoffs
2003 All-Star Game
Power Rankings
NBA Insider

ESPN Auctions
Friday, July 26
West risks reputation in rescuing Grizzlies

By Chad Ford

Editor's note: ESPN Insider's Chad Ford breaks down what last season's NBA lottery teams need to do to get to the playoffs.'s "Fixer-Upper" series continues with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Jerry West, you've got some big ones, my friend.

You leave "Showtime" for misery. Rings for lottery balls. Shaq and Kobe for Pau and White Chocolate. You use your first lottery pick in ages to draft a kid many think doesn't have a position. You use your free-agent money on kids no one has ever heard of before. And you promise to break the curse that seemingly won't leave the woeful Grizzlies alone.

Like we said, some big ones. While everyone else respects West as the premier evaluator of talent in the NBA, he may have met his match in Memphis.

Jerry West
So far, Jerry West hasn't liked what he's seen from his Grizzlies.
The NBA's annual rite of passage, the summer leagues, has already given West his first good taste of losing in years. The Grizzlies' summer team, led by lottery pick Drew Gooden, is a miserable 4-7 and West, always the competitor, isn't happy about it.

After watching his team get dismantled by the Lakers' summer squad, West lamented about the state of his lowly Grizzlies -- even their summer league team. Despite all of the promising young players on this squad, Memphis still takes a beating.

"I'm behind. No question I'm behind," West said. "I didn't have the chance to focus on the (draft), and we could have done a better job bringing in summer players. We need to be able to put a representative team out there, and right now we just aren't good enough to compete ... the secret to winning is talent, and we don't have enough."

West then promised fans that the days of 20-win seasons are behind them.

"We can't put a team out there that wins 23 games," he said. "It's not acceptable to me and nor should it be for the fans. But we need to have better players if we're going to compete at a high level."

He is The Logo. His eye for talent is legendary. A brief mention of your name by West will likely lead to guaranteed dollars somewhere in the league. But can he turn the Grizzlies, a team that has never won more than 23 games, into a respectable NBA team, let alone a contender?

He's got his work cut out for him. He inherits a team that is already in luxury-tax land. The Grizzlies are filled with raw, talented -- but in many cases troubled -- players who don't have a clue what it takes to win. Pau Gasol is the team's diamond. Shane Battier will always play his heart out. And Gooden has been as impressive as any rookie this summer. But West knows that it isn't nearly enough.

Jason Williams still cares more about no-look passes than assists. Stromile Swift has never met a practice he liked. Michael Dickerson didn't play at all last season because of a hernia. And the Grizzlies' only significant additions this summer include an undrafted center from Poland, a washed-up shooter who couldn't find minutes with the Cavs and three second-round picks who are far from proven products.

Here's hoping that Memphis fans will give West a long honeymoon. To quote Rick Pitino, Shaquille O'Neal is not walking through that door. And Kobe Bryant isn't coming either.

Can the Grizzlies ever make it to the playoffs? pored over depth charts, trade rumors, salary-cap information and even sought advice from a few NBA general managers to give you the five things the Grizzlies must do to get into the playoffs in two years.

Eddie Jones
Step 1: Make up with Eddie Jones.
Some raised their eyebrows when word leaked that the Grizzlies were talking with the Heat about reuniting West and Eddie Jones. Wasn't it West who kicked Jones to the curb in L.A.? Sure, but that's much easier to do when you have Kobe Bryant waiting in the wings. Right now, the Grizzlies have Dickerson and not much else. The Heat, at this point, would probably be willing to take a package of Dickerson, Swift and Brevin Knight for Jones and Vladimir Stepania in a sign-and-trade. Jones had a bit of a down year, but he's still a tenacious defender and a proven scorer at the two guard. And Miami wants to move him.

Travis Best
Step 2: Have a back-up plan for Williams' meltdown.
West has said he'll be patient with Williams, but you know he won't let the leash get too long. Williams had another erratic season for the Grizzlies and West knows that his team will go only as far as Williams leads them. "I thought he played well last year. But there are some things he needs to do better. He needs to do certain things that fulfill his potential," West said last week. The problem with Williams is you never know when he'll melt down. Right now, the team's two backup point guards, Knight and Earl Watson, are nice, but neither has the ability to keep the team running smoothly over a long period of time. The Grizz have already used about half of their mid-level exception. Adding a seasoned veteran like Travis Best would not only provide great insurance but it would push Williams to stay focused in fear of losing his job. With the market continuing to contract, Best may be willing to take the money.

Drew Gooden

Pau Gasol
Step 3: Figure out who plays where.
Is Gooden a three or a four? Is Gasol a three, four or five? Is Lorenzen Wright a four or a five? Is Battier a two or three? The Grizzlies have added a number of versatile players to their roster, but figuring out how to play them together is the question that needs to be answered. Several GMs told Insider they were surprised West took Gooden because both he and Gasol have similar games. Gasol spent a lot of time at the three last year, but he's not a threat to sink the long ball. Neither is Gooden. Both players are comfortable playing with their backs to the basket or facing it. Neither player is a terrific defender yet. Too often roles get confused and frustration sets in (see Antawn Jamison in Golden State). Figuring out how to mesh their two games will be key. Given that Gasol is a top-rate shot blocker, expect him to get the nod in the post.

Shane Battier
Step 4: Send Shane Battier to the bench.
Battier had a phenomenal rookie year, but the Grizzlies will have to keep one of their stars on the bench. Dickerson (or Jones if they get him) should be the starting two guard, and the Grizzlies will want to get plenty of minutes for Gooden. Battier, because of his leadership and versatility, is perfect as the first guy off the bench. He can play either the two or three, is a leader on the floor and has the maturity to take the demotion in stride.

Those moves would give the Grizzlies this opening-day roster:

  • Point guard: Jason Williams, Travis Best, Earl Watson.
  • Shooting guard: Eddie Jones, Wesley Person, Gordan Giricek.
  • Small forward: Drew Gooden, Shane Battier.
  • Power forward: Pau Gasol, Tony Massenburg, Robert Archibald.
  • Center: Lorenzen Wright, Vladimir Stepania, Cezary Trybanski.

    Step 5: Don't get too cute with the diamond-in-the-rough stuff.
    No one believes West's reputation as the master of discovering talent more than West himself. West lived up to his rep by eschewing more convential free agents and going after Cezary Trybanski, Watson and Gordan Giricek this summer. If any other GM had made these moves, the media would have had his head by now. Everyone is willing to give West the benefit of the doubt. But ... even the media in Poland couldn't believe that an NBA team would really be interested in Trybanski. Giricek can score, but the Spurs were much higher on Emmanuel Ginobili, which is why they sent Giricek's rights to Memphis. Watson was solid in his rookie season at Seattle, but West gave him much more money than anyone else was willing to give him. It was much easier to gamble in L.A. when you knew that the team didn't really need its picks anyway. In Memphis, they're your lifeblood. Several big misses and the legend of The Logo will quickly fade.

    Chad Ford writes the daily NBA Insider column for ESPN Insider. To get a free 30-day trial, click here.

  •  More from ESPN...
    Chat wrap: Jerry West
    The new team president of the ...

    Grizzlies grab a long, tall Pole
    Cezary Trybanski is 7-foot-1. ...

    NBA Hang Time: 2002 offseason
    Two weeks before the start of ...

     ESPN Tools
    Email story
    Most sent
    Print story
    Daily email