On a trip to Vancouver this summer, Byron Scott stopped at a
local sporting-goods store and piled up $1,200 worth of
Vancouver Grizzly merchandise at the register. "So, are you a
fan?" asked the young clerk.
"You might say that," replied Scott, the Grizzlies' new shooting
"Actually, I'm thinking of moving up here."
October 22, 1995
"Well, they're gonna have a great basketball team," gushed the
clerk. "They have that big kid, Bryant Reeves, and they even
have my favorite player, Byron Scott!"
It is one thing not to recognize Byron Scott when he's standing
in front of you. But to mistake the Grizzlies for a great
basketball team--well, let's just say these Vancouverites have a
lot to learn. To set the record straight, the Grizzlies are not
a great basketball team but rather a motley collection of aging
former stars, career backups and raw rookies. They are, in other
words, your classic expansion team, and they can be further
identified as such by their team colors: teal, black and bronze.
How bad will they be? The Grizzlies boast 72 years of NBA
experience among them. But you'll find only four career
double-figure scorers in the bunch, and three of them--Scott,
Blue Edwards and Gerald Wilkins--are shooting guards.
But no matter how gloomy the prospects for the Grizzlies' first
year--and they are darker than a winter's day in the Northwest
Territories--former Knick point guard Greg Anthony thinks he'll
be much happier in B.C. than he was in NYC, where being a
reserve on a perennial championship contender didn't turn out to
be his cup of tea. Anthony has even publicly thanked general
manager Stu Jackson for choosing him in the expansion draft. "It
was a rebirth for me," says Anthony, who averaged 6.5 points,
4.2 assists and 21 minutes in four frustrating years in New
York. "I felt all along that I had the talent to start in this
Anthony will be backed up by fifth-year veteran Kevin Pritchard,
who signed with Vancouver as a free agent. Pritchard doesn't
have the flash or defensive tenacity of Anthony, but he is a
competent ball handler and can hit the open shot. "Greg and I
will be pushing each other," says Pritchard. "He's very quick,
very intense, and he plays hard every minute."
Anthony may be the lead guard at last, but he has already been
asked to sacrifice numbers for the sake of the team. When it was
pointed out to him that both he and the rookie Reeves wore the
number 50 last year, Anthony played the nice guy. "I'm gonna let
Big Country have it," he said. "For a small fee, of course."
Chances are Big Country can afford the fee after signing a
three-year, $4.3 million contract. The Grizzlies, who drafted
Reeves with the No. 6 pick in June, will try to get the most
from his soft hands while they firm up his soft, 7-foot,
292-pound body. "I think with some weight work and some running
you'll see his body probably change every year for the next
three to four years," says Vancouver coach Brian Winters.
Reeves should be the one bright spot on the Vancouver front
line. You know that landscape is bleak when 1) the best scorer
is former Net Benoit Benjamin, a journeyman center of limited
abilities and 2) former Charlotte backup Kenny Gattison is being
asked to start at power forward, score in double figures and
spark the transition game with rebounds. The small forward spot
is so impoverished that it will be manned at times by guards
Edwards and Wilkins, if the latter has fully recovered from the
right Achilles tendon rupture that wiped out last season for
The Grizzlies' only stocked position is shooting guard, where
the weapons include Edwards, Wilkins and Scott--all in their
30's--and young gun Lawrence Moten, a second-round pick from
Syracuse. At 34, Scott is the oldest and most decorated of the
Grizzlies, owning three championship rings from his years with
the Lakers. Whether he scores as he did in the three glory years
(he averaged 18.2 points in '85, '87 and '88) or as he did in
the last two years with Indiana (10.4 and 10) may determine just
how badly Vancouver gets pummeled by its opponents.
Jackson, for one, isn't hazarding any guesses about how ugly it
might get. "The important thing is that we are better at the end
of the season than we were at the start of the season," he says.
In other words, if the Grizzlies are lucky, by April we'll
hardly recognize them.
The Grizzlies can take inspiration from the fact that there have
been some outstanding performances by players on expansion teams
in their inaugural seasons. Walt Bellamy finished second in the
NBA in scoring and third in rebounding and led the league with a
.519 field goal percentage during the '61-62 season for the
Chicago Packers (who later became the Washington Bullets). Guy
Rodgers led the league in assists after being traded from San
Francisco to the expansion Bulls for their first season, '66-67.
The chart below shows the best player performances on expansion
teams (since 1960) in an inaugural season.
Points per game
Walt Bellamy, '61-62 Packers 31.6
Billy Knight, '76-77 Pacers* 26.6
David Thompson, '76-77 Nuggets* 25.9
Geoff Petrie, '70-71 Blazers 24.8
Walt Hazzard, '67-68 Sonics 24.0
Rebounds per game
Walt Bellamy, '61-62 Packers 19.0
Leroy Ellis, '70-71 Blazers 12.3
Toby Kimball, '67-68 Rockets 11.7
Larry Kenon, '76-77 Spurs* 11.3
Bob Kauffman, '70-71 Braves 10.7
*former ABA team that entered NBA in 1976
PLAYER TO WATCH
Miami, Notre Dame and Syracuse all recruited Lawrence Moten when
he was a high school player in Washington, D.C. He was, after
all, an all-city wide receiver. But Moten, who was also an
all-city guard, decided to go to Syracuse to play basketball,
not football. While there, he scored more points than anyone
else in school history (2,334) and more than anyone else in the
history of the Big East (1,405). Syracuse fans nicknamed him
Poetry in Moten, and the conference named him All-Big East three
times. Unfortunately, the 6'5", 185-pound Moten may be best
remembered for one instance of brain lock last spring during an
NCAA tournament second-round game. With Syracuse leading
Arkansas 82-81 with 4.3 seconds remaining, Moten called a
timeout the Orangemen didn't have, incurring a technical foul.
Arkansas made one of two free throws to send the game into
overtime, and the Razorbacks eventually won.
But that ignominious moment is of little concern to the
Grizzlies, who were happy to find Moten available when their
second-round pick (36th overall) came up in June. "With our
other shooting guards all getting along in years, he's a good
pick for us," says coach Brian Winters. "He is the kind of guy
we want to build our franchise around."
STARTERS 1994-95 KEY STATISTICS
SF Gerald Wilkins Injured, did not play
PF Kenny Gattison 6.0 ppg 3.6 rpg 60.8 FT%
C Bryant Reeves Rookie; 6th overall pick,
from Oklahoma St.
PG Greg Anthony 6.1 ppg 2.6 apg 36.1 3FG%
SG Byron Scott 10.0 ppg 85.0 FT% 38.9 3FG%
C Benoit Benjamin 11.1 ppg 7.2 rpg 1.05 bpg
G-F Blue Edwards 6.9 ppg 1.9 rpg 1.1 apg
F Larry Stewart 2.6 ppg 1.7 rpg 46.1 FG%