The Other Side: Memphis Grizzlies
The Washington Wizards are about to have their first losing season since 2003-04, an injury-induced nosedive into Lotteryville that has their fans wallowing and wondering when it will all end. Imagine how fans of the Memphis Grizzlies have been feeling since the team arrived from Vancouver in 2001. With the exception of a Jerry West-infused, three-year playoff run from 2003-04 to 2005-06 -- that didn't result in a singly victory in 12 games -- the Grizzlies have averaged fewer than 24 wins the other four seasons in Memphis, including back-to-back 22-win seasons.
Memphis now has the NBA's longest active losing streak at 12 consecutive games, and the third-worst record at 11-35. The Grizzlies recently fired Mike Iavaroni and replaced him with Milwaukee assistant and longtime Grizzlies assistant Lionel Hollins, who has gone 0-3 after interim Johnny Davis went 0-2 after stepping in for Iavaroni. Since moving to Memphis, the Grizzlies have had seven different coaches -- Sidney Lowe, Hubie Brown, Hollins, Mike Fratello, Tony Barone, Iavaroni, Davis, and Hollins again. No stability usually means no success.
Despite repeated trips to the lottery, Memphis has never drafted higher than fourth in the NBA draft. And, adding insult, the Grizzlies traded their best player in the Memphis Era only to watch Pau Gasol help the Los Angeles Lakers reach the NBA Finals last season and make the all-star team this season.
Here's what else you need to know about the Grizzlies before they play the Wizards tonight at Verizon Center:
1. O.J. Mayo Is Finding His Groove Again
Rookie of the year candidate O.J. Mayo got the Kevin McHale Draft Day Seal of Approval when McHale traded him from Minnesota for Kevin Love (McHale also traded two-time all-star Brandon Roy on draft night in 2006). And he has proven to be a prolific scorer in his first season, leading all rookies in scoring at 19.1 points. In November, he had back-to-back 30 point games, becoming the fifth rookie in NBA history to ever do that (Wilt Chamberlain, Sidney Wicks, Bernard King and Darrell Griffith are the others). Mayo hit a rough six-game patch in the middle of January, when he shot just 35 percent (30 of 85) from the field and scored 20 points just once in that span. But he has rebounded his past four games, averaging 20 points and shooting 50 percent (27 of 54). Mayo, though, has lobbied to prove that he is more than a scorer. He even asked to play point guard -- although the Grizzlies were already so crowded at the position with Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley Jr. that Javaris Crittenton became expendable and Steve Francis (remember him?) recently got cut.
2. Darius Miles Will Stay the Rest of the Season
The Grizzlies called Portland's bluff and signed the No. 3 pick of the 2000 draft to a second 10-day contract with the team. But after the contract expired, the Grizzlies decided to keep Miles for the remainder of the season. Miles, who Portland determined could never again play on his surgically repaired knee, is averaging 5.2 points and 2.5 rebounds in 11 games. The question with Miles now is how he will fit in once jersey-ripping center Darko Milicic returns from a broken right hand this week.
3. Rudy Gay Is Dunking and Slumping
Baltimore native Rudy Gay will participate in his second slam dunk competition in Phoenix next weekend. He recently got dunking advice from the Sklar brothers in an amusing video (see below). But Gay may also need to reach out for some more tips on how to get his game back on track. Gay is now on his fourth coach in his third season. He regressed some under Iavaroni this season, which contributed to Iavaroni's ouster. After having a breakout campaign last season -- especially after the Gasol deal -- in which he averaged 20.1 points, Gay's scoring average has dropped to 18.6. He has had back-to-back games with 25 points and 23 points, respectively.
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