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11 Memphis Grizzlies The franchise player here is new boss Jerry West, who is trying to re-create the magic (and Kareem) he possessed with the Lakers

The commercial is set in a grocery store, where a white-haired
lady is studying a heap of tomatoes. As she examines and then
discards possibilities, a mysterious man appears. Tall and
handsome, with Jimmy Johnson hair and a kind smile, he steps in
and silently offers up a singularly glorious red orb. This one,
he says with his nod, this is the tomato for you.

The mystery man is the Grizzlies' new president of basketball
operations, Jerry West. The message: be it produce or power
forwards, West can pick a winner. In his 19 years as an executive
with the Lakers, West helped construct the foundation of two
dynasties. Each time, his blueprint was to draft and/or acquire
one or two dominant stars (think Shaq and Kobe) and surround them
with hard-working role players. Working in his favor was the
sheen of the franchise and the city, with its opportunities for
mediocre actors and pedestrian rappers (again, think Shaq and

Things are a little different in Graceland. For example, in
addition to shooting that commercial, West went on a three-day
barnstorming publicity tour with coach Sidney Lowe and other team
brass. Tooling around in a Toyota Sequoia, they chugged to NBA
outposts such as Jackson, Tenn., and Little Rock, spreading the
Grizzly gospel. "It kind of reminded me of when I first started
playing in the NBA," says West, sitting courtside at training
camp. "We'd play an exhibition game, then get in cars and drive
to the next city." He pauses to shout encouragement to a player,
then smiles. "Let's just say that I've been asked to do a few
things here that I wasn't asked to do in Los Angeles."

Foremost among those is to turn around a franchise that has never
won more than 23 games. Though he hasn't pulled off any
front-page, above-the-fold trades, he has made several agate-type
moves--picking up sharpshooters Wesley Person and Gordan Giricek
and signing free agent Earl Watson, among others--that build on
what he sees as his foundation: point guard Jason Williams,
forward Shane Battier and last year's rookie of the year, forward
Pau Gasol. "We need to have seven or eight players who've played
here for three or four years," says West. "After that, we can
explore a trade of a bigger magnitude."

His biggest move has been drafting Kansas forward Drew Gooden,
who has shown a refined, well-rounded offensive game in
preseason. Though he claims not to feel any pressure as the
golden child--or ideal tomato, as it may be--Gooden is well aware
of the expectations. "I'm just overwhelmed that a guy like Jerry
West would have an interest in me," he says.

No doubt, the city of Memphis feels the same way. --C.B.

COLOR PHOTO: JOE MURPHY/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES PAU-WOW The well-rounded Gasol, last year's best rookie, is one of the cornerstones that West will build on.

Last season Shane Battier (3,097) and Pau Gasol (3,007)
became the first rookie teammates to each log 3,000 minutes.

an opposing team's scout sizes up the Grizzlies

"It looks like Jerry West's philosophy is to accumulate as many
good players as he can and then make some moves. The strength of
the team is forwards Pau Gasol, Shane Battier and Drew Gooden,
which is going to make it hard for Stromile Swift to earn the
minutes he got last year.... Gasol and Gooden should be able to
play together, and I can see Battier occasionally shifting to
shooting guard to give him more time.... Gasol could play some
center, but he'd risk getting into foul trouble and they'd miss
Lorenzen Wright's strength on the blocks.... Gooden is a
potential All-Star, a double double guy who'll be especially good
on the offensive boards. You'll see him playing with intensity
and chasing down the extra three or four rebounds, like Dennis
Rodman. He is effective scoring around the basket and has a
face-up jump shot out to 17 feet.... They added outside shooting
with Wesley Person and Gordan Giricek, a Croatian who has played
in a lot of big games in Europe.... Michael Dickerson is a very
good perimeter shooter with a quick release, and you have to be
out on him as he catches the ball. He gives them stability
because he doesn't make mistakes. With him and Person coming off
staggered screens, you're going to have to chase them and play
defense for the full 24 seconds.... They should have a good
transition game with the rebounding of Gasol and Gooden, but you
can hurt them by picking up Jason Williams early and pressuring
him into the poor decisions he's still capable of making....
Williams also hurts them at the other end. Team defense begins
with keeping the ball out of the middle, and Williams isn't good
at it.... They only have two home games against nonplayoff teams
in the first month--if Sidney Lowe gets in trouble, there's going
to be speculation that assistant Lionel Hollins will replace him."


Tough D

Fair D

No D


2001-02 record: 23-59 (seventh place in Midwest)
Points scored: 89.9 (27th) Points allowed: 97.3 (21st)
Coach: Sidney Lowe (third season with Grizzlies)


SF Shane Battier 67 14.4 ppg 5.4 rpg 2.8 apg 1.55 spg 42.9 FG%
PF Pau Gasol 29 17.6 ppg 8.9 rpg 2.7 apg 2.06 bpg 51.8 FG%
C Lorenzen Wright 142 12.0 ppg 9.4 rpg 1.0 apg 0.53 bpg 45.9 FG%
SG Michael
Dickerson 111 10.8 ppg 2.3 apg 0.75 spg 31.3 FG% 38.1 3FG%
PG Jason Williams 90 14.8 ppg 8.0 apg 1.71 spg 38.2 FG% 29.5 3FG%


G Wesley Person[1] 94 15.1 ppg 3.8 rpg 0.99 spg 49.5 FG% 44.4 3FG%
F Drew
Gooden (R)[1] 97 19.8 ppg 11.4 rpg 2.0 apg 1.41 bpg 50.4 FG%
F Stromile Swift 166 11.8 ppg 6.3 rpg 1.66 bpg 0.78 spg 48.0 FG%
G Brevin Knight 174 7.0 ppg 2.1 rpg 5.7 apg 1.49 spg 42.2 FG%
G Gordan
Giricek (r)[1] 252 16.8 ppg 3.9 rpg 1.4 apg 46.4 FG% 36.8 3FG%

[1] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
(r) Rookie (statistics from Croatian League)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)