Grizzlies add Tinsley to backcourt
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies signed point guard Jamaal Tinsley on Saturday, a day after the veteran with a checkered past and 1½-year layoff reportedly worked out with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Grizzlies (2-8) announced the signing in a news release before their 97-87 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves (1-10).
"Jamaal was the best available player out on the board," Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said. "Secondly, he's a veteran. We're a young team. He's a proven commodity as a playmaker."
Tinsley, who according to The Commercial Appeal of Memphis worked out for the Cavaliers on Friday, was bought out by the Indiana Pacers in July. He has not played in the NBA since the middle of the 2007-08 season.
Tinsley was still under contract with the Pacers last season when he was told to stay away from the team.
In his seven seasons with Indiana, Tinsley averaged 10.4 points and seven assists. The assists average puts him seventh among active players.
Tinsley's signing comes as the Grizzlies are in limbo regarding the length of Allen Iverson's absence. Iverson, who signed with the team in September, is away for an indefinite length of time to deal with personal matters.
"This signing had nothing to do with the Iverson situation," Wallace told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan. "We had an open roster spot and felt Jamaal was the best player we could sign. He is an experienced, proven playmaker who can help us once in game shape. His current weight is close to 20 pounds less than when he last played in Indiana."
Tinsley was in Memphis earlier Saturday for a workout a day after reportedly auditioning for the Cavaliers (7-3), who have been without guard Delonte West for six of 10 games this season as he deals with personal issues.
Tinsley was already on the Grizzlies' roster Saturday but listed as inactive for the Timberwolves game. He's expected to be with the team and begin practice Monday.
Memphis was ranked last in the league last season with 17.4 assists per game and is 21st this season with an 18.8 average.
While his talent as a playmaker is a plus, Tinsley has been in trouble during his career. There was a bar room scrap, and the 6-foot-3 guard was the target of a drive-by shooting before the Pacers broke ties with him. Wallace said the Grizzlies checked on those matters and acknowledged that Tinsley was part of a Pacers team in disarray at the time.
"He wants to be back [in the league]," Wallace said, adding that despite the layoff, Tinsley has remained in shape and his weight is below what it was when he last played with Indiana.
Tinsley was originally drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the 27th pick in the 2001 draft, but a series of draft night trades landed him in Indianapolis.
Mike Conley, the fourth pick in the 2007 draft, is the current starter, and is averaging 8.6 points and 5.3 assists. His backup is Marcus Williams. Wallace said no promises were made to Tinsley about playing time or starting, only that he will be able to compete for the position.
Conley, who wasn't aware of the signing until after the game, said he doesn't feel any added pressure, noting that he has dealt with such questions whenever Memphis signs a player that seems destined for Conley's point guard position.
"I want to start and want to go out and play my best ball," Conley said. "But I'm a team player. Whatever it takes to win. If I come off the bench, and it makes our team better, that's what it will be. If I have to compete as a starter, I can do that, too."
Adding a point guard seems to be a change in direction for Memphis, which had the second pick in the draft and chose 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet of Connecticut. In doing so, Memphis passed on guards such as Tyreke Evans of Sacramento, Jonny Flynn of Minnesota, Brandon Jennings of Milwaukee and Ty Lawson of Denver.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com NBA Insider Chris Sheridan was used in this report.