Shareef Abdur-Rahim, a.k.a. the Future, is the eBay of NBA
players. He looks great on paper and his stock had a tremendous
run-up recently; yet how many people are familiar with the
actual product? "I know I might not be a household name yet,"
says Abdur-Rahim, "but once I help this team win, I'll get more
exposure." When that day comes--especially when the Grizzlies
get more time on network TV--we'll see a highly skilled 6'9"
small forward who has a vast repertoire of offensive moves and
the most dexterous footwork this side of Hakeem. We'll also
behold a player who performs with the consistency of a
metronome, having averaged 22.3 points in his second year last
season (sixth in the NBA) without scoring more than 32 in any
Abdur-Rahim is the NBA's antipunk, a 22-year-old who says he's
never had a drink and a devout Muslim who carries a compass so
he can face Mecca when he prays several times a day. At the
Grizzlies' preseason training camp he gleefully told all who
would listen that this would be the year the team's fortunes
would cease to mirror those of the Canadian dollar. "We're at
the point where we have a good mix of young guys and veterans,"
says Abdur-Rahim, who signed a six-year, $71 million contract
extension last week. "If we stay healthy and play together, I
truly believe we could make some noise."
While that might be Panglossian, things are looking up for
Vancouver, which in its three seasons has lost more than 80% of
its games. After wasting its 1997 lottery pick on point guard
Antonio Daniels--who was traded to the San Antonio Spurs on this
year's draft day for forward Carl Herrera and rookie guard
Felipe Lopez--the Grizzlies sought to redeem themselves last
June when they used the second selection to get Arizona's Mike
Bibby, a sharpshooting playmaker who handles the ball as if it
were attached to his palm with a string. "I'm just looking
forward to him breaking down the defense and feeding me and my
teammates the ball," says Abdur-Rahim.
Alas, one likely recipient, 7-footer Bryant Reeves, arrived at
camp carrying about 25 extra pounds, tipping the scales at
around 300. Still, Big Country has improved his scoring average
every year he's been in the league and gives Vancouver a
solid-performing, if flaccid, big man. After Abdur-Rahim, Bibby
and Reeves, however, the talent level drops considerably.
More problematic, Vancouver needs to tighten up on defense. Last
year's team gave up nearly 104 points a game, second-worst in
the league, and allowed opponents to penetrate the lane with
impunity. "Getting better defensively has to be our mission,"
says coach Brian Hill. "That's where it has to start if we're
going to exceed our potential."
Even so, we'll very likely have to wait at least another year
before we glimpse the Future.
Starters PVR* 1997-98 Key Stats
Abdur-Rahim 6 22.3 ppg 7.1 rpg 2.6 apg 1.09 spg
PF Michael Smith 173 5.2 ppg 6.4 rpg 1.8 apg 47.9 FG%
C Bryant Reeves 65 16.3 ppg 7.9 rpg 1.08 bpg 52.3 FG%
SG Sam Mack 138 10.8 ppg 1.8 apg 39.7 FG% 40.9 3FG%
PG Mike Bibby (R)[+] 86 17.2 ppg 5.7 apg 2.40 spg 38.73 FG%
Top Reserves Bench Ranking (out of 29 teams): 27
G-F Felipe Lopez (R)[+] 164 17.6 ppg 4.8 rpg 2.7 apg 43.1 FG%
F-C Tony Massenburg 187 6.5 ppg 3.8 rpg 47.9 FG% 73.0 FT%
G Lee Mayberry** 244 4.6 ppg 4.4 apg 1.4 rpg 35.0 3FG%
1997-98 Record: 19-63 (sixth in Midwest)
Coach: Brian Hill(second season with Grizzlies)
[+]New acquisition (R) Rookie (1997-98 college statistics)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 68)
**Will begin season on injured list