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NO.7 VANCOUVER GRIZZLIES

Normally it's one of the most hazardous moves an NBA club can
make: telling a rookie point guard, You're in charge. It has
happened only a handful of times in the last 25 years, and
rarely has it worked out well. But for the Grizzlies, who are
going to give the ball to a rookie named Antonio Daniels, it's
actually a low-risk decision. On opening night Daniels already
had some advantages over last year's point guard, Greg Anthony,
who shot 39.3% from the floor, looked to score before he looked
to pass and was too small to cover big guards. Daniels is 6'4"
and 205 pounds, has an 82-inch wingspan and thinks pass first,
shoot second. "The shoot-first point guard is big now," says
Daniels. "That's not me. I'm not here to score 20 to 30 a game,
I'm here to get 15 to 20 assists a game."

Last season Vancouver was second to last in the NBA in scoring
(89.2 points a game) and attempted the fewest free throws, 305
below the league average. These pitiful numbers were largely a
result of having no one who could get into the lane and create
scoring opportunities. That's what Daniels does best. "My job is
to push the ball up the floor, play D and get open shots for
other guys," says Daniels. "I'll sacrifice my points for the
team."

Unfortunately the Grizzlies don't have an abundance of weapons
for Daniels to load. They do have Shareef Abdur-Rahim, a 6'10"
small forward who is coming off a terrific rookie season (18.7
points per game). Someday it may be agreed upon that he, not
Allen Iverson, should have been the No. 1 pick in the 1996
draft, because Abdur-Rahim has a chance to develop into another
Scottie Pippen. Seven-foot center Bryant Reeves can score (16.2
points a game last season), but he's not a prime option
offensively.

Daniels will be hampered by Vancouver's lack of a perimeter
game. Shooting guard Anthony Peeler converted 39.8% from the
floor last year, making the Grizzlies the first team since the
1964-65 San Francisco Warriors to have its two primary guards
shoot less than 40%. So Daniels might have to score and shoot
more than he anticipates, which he will do if new coach Brian
Hill asks. Daniels averaged 24.0 points and shot 55.0% his
senior year at Bowling Green.

Point guard and center are the most difficult positions in the
NBA to learn on the job, and a mentor is invaluable. Daniels
doesn't have a mentor--his backup, Lee Mayberry, has played the
most games among active players without appearing in a playoff
game (408)--so there could be plenty of long nights in Vancouver.

But Daniels has a knack for surprising people. Until his senior
year he was unknown, but his fabulous play in the NIT got him
noticed, and then he sparkled in predraft camps. "I think I
moved up [the draft list to No. 4] because people realized I was
a pure point guard," Daniels says. "I'm a sleeper. I've been a
sleeper my whole life. I didn't get recruited by big colleges. I
know what I'm up against in the NBA. Other point guards are
built lower to the ground, they're all a lot faster. But I think
I can jump over them."

It will help Daniels that the expectations remain low for the
Grizzlies, who last year finished 50 games out in the Midwest
Division. They won a total of 29 games in their first two years
in the NBA, and if they fail to win 17 this year, they'll break
the league record, set by the Mavericks of 1991-92, '92-93 and
'93-94, for fewest wins in a three-year period. Perhaps the
best-case scenario is that Vancouver will win 25 this year and
finish ahead of Denver and Dallas. Things are looking up a bit
for the Grizzlies, but Vancouver fans will have to continue to
show patience. Especially with Daniels. --T.K.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH THE GRIZZLIES WILL PLACE THE BALL--AND THEIR FATE--IN DANIELS'S CREATIVE HANDS [Antonio Daniels and other in game]

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH [Otis Thorpe]

BY THE NUMBERS

1996-97 Team Statistics
Record: 14-68 (seventh in Midwest)

SEASON AVERAGES
Points Rebounds Turnovers
per game FG pct. per game per game
(rank) (rank) (rank) (rank)

Grizzlies 89.2 (28) .437 (26) 38.8 (27) 15.9 (16)
Opponents 99.4 (21) .472 (26) 44.3 (27) 15.3 (22)

SECOND-HALF SURGE

After the All-Star break, center Bryant Reeves averaged 19.3
points and 8.4 rebounds and shot 51.1% from the field--all
considerable improvements over his performance in the first half
of the season. Reeves was one of six players in the NBA (minimum
10 points per game each half season) to boost his scoring
average by five or more points and improve his rebounding
average and his field goal percentage from the first to the
second half of the year.

PLAYERS WHO INCREASED THEIR PPG BY FIVE OR MORE WHILE ALSO
IMPROVING THEIR RPG AND FG% AFTER THE ALL-STAR BREAK

Before All-Star Break After All-Star Break
Player, Team Games PPG RPG FG% Games PPG RPG FG%

Elden Campbell, 48 12.0 7.9 .464 29 19.7 8.1 .475
Lakers

Sam Cassell, 35 13.7 2.4 .425 26 18.8 3.8 .435
Suns-Mavericks-Nets

Rex Chapman, 40 11.2 2.3 .442 25 18.0 3.6 .445
Suns

Kevin Johnson, 36 17.1 3.3 .466 34 23.4 3.9 .523
Suns

Bryant Reeves, 46 14.2 7.9 .467 29 19.3 8.4 .511
Grizzlies

Rik Smits, 16 13.1 6.7 .455 36 18.8 7.1 .496
Pacers

NOTE FROM THE UNDERGROUND

New power forward Otis Thorpe (right) figures to improve
Vancouver's rebounding, a category in which the Grizzlies were
27th in the league last season. But how much? "I don't know,"
says one scout. "He's 63 years old." Actually, Thorpe is 35, but
his sparring with Pistons coach Doug Collins last year may have
aged him. There are also indications he's not happy about being
with a noncontender. Vancouver is counting on Thorpe's being a
team leader, but if he would rather be with another team, he
might be of no help.

PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1996-97 STATS
Coach: Brian Hill (first season with Vancouver)

STARTERS

G PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT% 3FG%

PG Antonio Daniels (R)[*]32 24.0 2.8 6.8 2.28 0.31 .550 .777 .433
SG Anthony Peeler 72 14.5 3.4 3.6 1.46 0.24 .398 .820 .373
SF Shareef Abdur-Rahim 80 18.7 6.9 2.2 0.99 0.99 .453 .746 .259
PF Otis Thorpe 79 13.1 7.9 1.7 0.75 0.22 .532 .653 .000
C Bryant Reeves 75 16.2 8.1 2.1 0.39 0.89 .486 .704 .091

RESERVES

G Lee Mayberry 80 5.1 1.7 4.1 0.75 0.10 .403 .630 .376
F Tony Massenburg 79 7.2 6.5 0.3 0.48 0.63 .485 .631 .000
G Chris Robinson 41 4.6 1.7 1.6 0.68 0.22 .379 .615 .382
F George Lynch 41 8.3 6.4 1.9 1.54 0.41 .471 .619 .258
G-F Blue Edwards 61 7.8 3.1 1.9 0.62 0.33 .397 .817 .281

[*] New acquisition (R) Rookie (college stats)