Grizzlies show appreciation to fans as they go into offseason

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 27, 2007

At the conclusion of the Memphis Grizzlies basketball season, the media covering the games got together for a media day basketball game. The gray team, which includes The Panolian’s Angie Ledbetter (front, left), won. The Gray team celebrates its win with coaches Hakim Warrick and Mitchell Anderson. Photo submitted

By Angie Ledbetter
The Memphis Grizzlies had three games remaining on Saturday, April 14, which included the Denver Nuggets, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. They had not won two consecutive games all season.
The fans wanted two wins at home before the team with the worst record in the league would end its season on a sour note.
Did it seem possible to any fan that had been watching the Grizzlies team all season lose by a very small margin and even in overtimes when they should have won?
All that the Grizzlies had left to play for was their pride and they did that indeed. The last two home games were “Fan Appreciation Night” hosted by the Grizzlies team.
On Saturday, April 14, the first 3,000 fans to enter FedEx Forum got a Pau Gasol No. 16 replica home jersey. In addition to that, some Grizzlies players signed autographs outside the plaza. Fans were greeted by team members Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick. Each Grizzlies player wore a white shirt that said “Thank You Fans” before the game during warm ups. Special prizes were given away throughout the game, including autographed items. All fans were invited to shoot a free throw after the game on the Grizzlies court. To top that off, fans got a huge surprise when the Grizzlies defeated the Denver Nuggets 133-118 before a sellout crowd.
The last home game was on Monday, April 16, when the San Antonio Spurs came to town with a record of 58-23 and in second place in their southwest division, having already clinched a playoff spot. The Spurs had won six straight games, including 25 of their last 28, but the Grizzlies denied them of a seventh straight win, defeating them 101 – 91.
Grizzlies’ Gasol scored 25 points, had 15 rebounds, six assists, three steals and four blocked shots. Chucky Atkins scored 19 points, and three assists.
Forward Dahntay Jones had 16 points, two assists, one steal, and one block. Guard Terrance Kinsey, a rookie from South Carolina, added 12 points, one steal, seven rebounds, one assist.
Forward Hakim Warrick had six points, three assists and three rebounds. Stromile Swift from LSU also scored 10 points to help the Grizzlies win.
Scoring for the Spurs was forward Jackie Butler, who graduated from Coastal Christian Academy in Mississippi. He had 12 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and one steal. He was named Mississippi’s Mr. Basketball in both 2002 and 2003.
The Grizzlies finished their season on the road at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. against the Timberwolves on Wednesday, April 18, before a crowd of 14,977. They defeated the Timberwolves 116-94 to bring their record to 22-60.
Gasol was the leading scorere with 25 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. Tarence Kinsey scored 22 points, had nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Also scoring in double figures were Warrick, 18 points, seven rebounds; Jones, 16 points, 7 assists; Swift, 14 points, five rebounds, two blocks; and Alexander Johnson, 11 points.
The NBA Draft Lottery is May 22, but the Grizzlies team has a lot of uncertainty hanging over their heads. One of those is concerning where the Grizzlies will pick in the lottery. The Grizzlies have earned the best odds for getting the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA June draft.
Another concern is whether or not the Grizzlies will be sold. On Monday, April 16, Grizzlies majority owner Michael Heisley met with the media before the game against the Spurs and announced that the Grizzlies would no longer be for sale as of May 1.
“If the team isn’t sold by May 1, I’m taking the team off the market,” he said. “I’m a little worn out. I’m going to get re-involved and run the team. I’ve gone through this effort now for a year and there’s been no successful conclusion.”
When asked about his plans, Heisley said, “I’m anticipating trying to put the best team out on the court. With one or two acquisitions, we have a very good team. We have a chance in the draft to get a tremendous player. This is the strongest draft since I’ve been in the NBA.”
Another big concern for the team is hiring a head coach. The plans for Tony Barone Sr., who replaced Mike Fratello with 52 games remaining in the season, are to rejoin the front office in the scouting department as director of player personnel.
“There’s got to be a relationship,” Gasol said. “You develop that with time and communication. It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to having at some point. If you have a good relationship with the coach, you perform better.
“More importantly, you feel like the franchise is on the same page,” Gasol continued. “Finding the right coach should be important. We’ve never had coaching stability here. To give a coach security is important to his job so that he can develop a team. When you make a move on the coaching staff, you have to think ahead. You want to make sure that it is the right guy with whatever direction you go.”

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