Grizzlies eager to erase memory of playoff ouster

Updated: October 1, 2012, 7:33 PM ET
Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies are so eager to get to work that most of the players already have been in town playing pickup games for nearly a month, driven by the painful memory of their seven-game ouster in the first round of the playoffs.

"I definitely had a lot of motivation," Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph said Monday. "Like I said, a sour taste in my mouth probably will be there until we start playoffs this season."

He's not alone in thinking of what could have been if Memphis had only gotten past the Los Angeles Clippers last May. Rudy Gay, a late cut from the U.S. Olympic team, spent the summer working hard and said it's obvious what the Grizzlies expect and want.

"We made some moves, and we added some of the things we thought we needed to address and obviously we want to progress," Gay said during the team's media day. "So last year kind of left a sour taste in our mouth and obviously we want to do better than that. But I do think we could be a good team."

Just making the playoffs no longer is enough for the Grizzlies, not with a roster returning all five starters after two straight appearances and earning home-court advantage for the first time in team history last season. General manager Chris Wallace added Jerryd Bayless to back up Mike Conley at point guard and score off the bench with Wayne Ellington expected to provide a much-needed 3-point shooting threat.

The Grizzlies also re-signed Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur to help back up Randolph and center Marc Gasol while letting O.J. Mayo leave as a free agent for Dallas. Coach Lionel Hollins joked that he wouldn't have minded if Memphis made headlines by landing Dwight Howard, but likes what the Grizzlies quietly accomplished.

"I'm excited about the group," Hollins said. "I don't think we made a big splash in moves, but we added what we needed and these guys perform as we expect then we should be better. What we've done, we've added depth. We've added quality people. We've added better shooting and a little better basketball I.Q."

The Grizzlies' biggest offseason move came June 11 when owner Michael Heisley announced he was selling the team to California tech company owner Robert J. Pera. The $350 million sale could be approved by the league this month. Pera has been busy lining up support with local minority owners including singer and actor Justin Timberlake and former U.S. congressman Harold Ford Jr. along with provisions that should tie the team to Memphis another 15 years.

Neither Wallace nor Hollins have talked with Pera or any of his representatives. Wallace said he expects to meet once the sale is approved to talk budget and luxury tax issues. Hollins is focusing on basketball.

"I have a contract to coach, and that's what I'm going to do," Hollins said.

Gasol has known no owner other than Heisley dating back to when he went to high school in Memphis and his older brother, Pau, was playing for the Grizzlies. He said he will wait to see what happens. But Randolph spent much of the offseason in Memphis, and he said he talked to Heisley about the prospective owner.

"Pera's a young guy wants to win, enthusiastic about owning a team and winning," Randolph said. "That's good for us."

The Grizzlies also expect more outside shooting to come from Josh Selby, who spent the summer in Las Vegas at the summer league working on a 3-point shot he didn't have when they drafted him out of Kansas, along with rookie Tony Wroten, their lone draft pick this June from Washington.

Hollins said Selby may be limited when training camp opens Tuesday by a sprained ankle that kept him out of most of the pickup games the past three weeks. Arthur also is recovering from a broken bone in his left leg that may keep him out up to six weeks.

The Grizzlies went 41-25 last season and set a franchise record with a 62.1 winning percentage. That came despite losing Arthur to a torn right Achilles tendon before the season started with Randolph tearing his right MCL on Jan. 1 and missing 37 games. Missed chances against the Clippers prompted many Grizzlies to show up early and start working together.

Now Randolph is curious to see what the Grizzlies can do if they simply stay healthy for an entire season. Gay hurt his shoulder in February 2011 and missed Memphis' run to the Western Conference semifinals.

"I think if we had that, it'd be a big difference," Randolph said. "We're going to have it this year, and hopefully everybody stays healthy and show everybody what we're really like when we're healthy."

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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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