5.7 Assists per game for Mike Conley after Lionel Hollins took over as coach on Jan. 25, ranking him 19th in the NBA during that span. Before then Conley had averaged 3.0 assists and was ranked 73rd.
Record: 24-58 (fifth in Southwest) Points scored: 93.9 (29th in NBA) Points allowed: 99.3 (14th in NBA)
This article appears in the October 26, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated
A team that ranked 29th in offense signs a career 27.1-points-per-game scorer on the cheap in the off-season. Good move, right? A team without a low-post presence picks up a 20-point, 10-rebound power forward for a spare part. Makes sense, yes? Well, no. Because the team in question had been trying to trim payroll and patiently rebuild with youth, and both acquisitions are past-their-prime veterans better known for putting up numbers than for helping teammates boost theirs.
Still, the Grizzlies are counting on Allen Iverson to add punch to a backcourt rotation that includes Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo, and on Zach Randolph to complement defensive-minded centers Marc Gasol and Hasheem Thabeet, the No. 2 pick from UConn. Memphis G.M. Chris Wallace hopes that Iverson (who signed a one-year, $3.1 million deal) and Randolph (who has two years and $33.3 million left on his contract) will speed his team's development merely by keeping it in contention longer. "Players just don't grow with minutes," says Wallace. "There has to be some meaning to these games or else the regular season starts to look like summer league."
The risk is that Memphis still won't have enough talent to make the playoffs and that the me-first approach of Iverson and Randolph will not only disrupt the locker room but also distract the core players, who appear to be on the right track. Mayo improved his ballhandling in the off-season and can handle both guard spots, Gasol came to camp 25 pounds lighter, and wingman Rudy Gay is looking to build on an impressive performance at this summer's USA Basketball camp.
Mayo supports the moves, believing that Iverson and Randolph (acquired from the Clippers for Quentin Richardson) have raised the team's basketball IQ. "We have enough firepower to get to the postseason," Mayo says. "We don't have time for any nonsense."
-- Chris Mannix
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