Grizzlies select Villanova guard Kyle Lowry; Trade reports swirling
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis Grizzlies president Jerry West said the team got better in Wednesday's NBA draft. He just couldn't reveal all the people the team added to demonstrate that improvement.
The known commodity is 6-foot point guard Kyle Lowry of Villanova, whom the Grizzlies took with the 24th pick in the draft. The unannounced changes apparently involve fan favorite Shane Battier.
West declined to discuss specifics of any potential trade in the press conference after Lowry's selection
"We're not free to talk about this until it has been announced," West said when asked about the trade reports. "I'll talk about it as soon as I get permission."
ESPN reported on its draft broadcast that the Grizzlies will ship Battier, the Grizzlies' starting forward last season, to Houston for the rights to Rudy Gay of Connecticut, whom the Rockets took with the eighth pick in the draft. Reports out of Houston also had former Grizzly Stromile Swift returning to Memphis in the deal.
West was not specific on what was delaying the announcement, but the league's salary cap has not been set and it would affect trades of veteran players like Battier and Swift.
Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson said a league rule prevented him from discussing any trade.
"I can only talk about our pick. Any rumors, I'm not going to talk about," Dawson said. "The only thing I can talk about is Rudy Gay."
Toward the end of the draft, the Grizzlies got the rights to Alexander Johnson from Portland in exchange for a second round Memphis draft pick in 2008. Indiana had drafted Johnson, a 6-foot-9 forward from Florida State, in Wednesday's second round and traded those rights to Portland before the Trail Blazers shipped him to the Grizzlies.
The Toronto Raptors selected Andrea Bargnani, a 7-foot forward from Italy, as the No. 1 overall pick. University of Memphis players Rodney Carney and Shawne Williams were picked back-to-back in the first round -- the Chicago Bulls taking Carney with the 16th pick, and Williams going to Indiana with the 17th pick. Carney's rights later were traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for the rights to Thabo Sefolosha, the 13th pick.
It was a night of wheeling-and-dealing during the draft. It seemed like about every third time Commissioner David Stern came to the podium, he was announcing a trade rather than the next pick. But the Houston-Memphis deal was not among those outlined by the commissioner.
As has been the case with Memphis for the past few drafts, they were searching for a front court presence to protect Gasol. But there also was interest in a point guard since Chucky Atkins, Bobby Jackson and reserve Antonio Burks are unrestricted free agents and starter Damon Stoudamire is recovering from a serious knee injury.
West made veiled references to the potential players without specifically naming them. He said team officials considered one of the players (apparently Gay) one of the top talents in the draft.
"We think he's the first- or second-rated talent in the whole league, whoever that might be," West said. "An enormous talent. ... He can cover three positions and is an extraordinary athlete, but I can't mention who he is."
When asked about the return of Swift, a former first-round pick for the Grizzlies out of LSU, West said he didn't know what the questioner was talking about and laughed.
"I'm only kidding," he said before reiterating the restraints on naming the particulars.
West also avoided mentioning Battier by name, but did say: "I'm probably going to have to drive around in an armored car, but we think it is a very significant night for us."
The Grizzlies reportedly were dangling any of their players, except leading scorer and All-Star Pau Gasol, as trade bait to move up the draft board. Battier and Mike Miller, last season's 6th Man of the Year in the league, were mentioned most often in trade talks.
Battier, averaged 10.1 points and brought an intensity and defensive presence that made him a fan favorite almost from the day he was drafted out of Duke with the sixth overall pick in 2001.
West was more than willing to talk about Lowry, a 6-foot point guard who declared early after his sophomore season. He averaged 11 points a game last season and led the Wildcats with 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals.
West said the Grizzlies' staff liked Lowry's toughness and desire.
"This is one tough kid," West said. "If there is a loose ball on the floor, he's going to go get it. He's going to bring toughness to our team. We think he gives us something so maybe we can play at a little bit different level than we are playing at now."
Lowry said in a conference call after the pick that he was excited to play in Memphis and had a feeling he would be taken by the Grizzlies. He said he brings a hard, intense style of play to the team, but will adjust to whatever style offense Memphis plays.
"I'll play whatever the coaching staff wants me to play or whatever they want me to do," he said. "I'm not a complicated player. I'll just do what I'm told."
Memphis was looking for pieces to improve on a team that went to the playoffs for the third straight year only to endure its third consecutive first-round sweep, this time by the Dallas Mavericks.
For the season, the Grizzlies ranked near the bottom of the league in points and rebounds. Some of that was offset by a defense that allowed the fewest points per game.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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