The Memphis Grizzlies face an uphill battle to get back into the playoff hunt, but if these key players make and keep the following New Year's resolutions, they just might pull it off:
Pau Gasol: Protect the ball under duress. For a maximum-contract player, Gasol still has plenty of areas that need work, with clutch scoring and defensive rebounding near the top of the list. But turnovers are the real killer. Through the first 28 games of the season, the Grizzlies went 12-16, but were 1-6 when Gasol coughed the ball up four or more times. The key to that correlation may be in how Gasol's turnovers occur. When the post defensive toughens up late in the game and Gasol tries to put the ball on the floor to attack the basket, a good hard bump is usually enough to dislodge the ball. Turnovers in these situations are deflating for the team. For the Grizzlies to regain some of the fourth-quarter effectiveness that marked the Hubie Brown era, Gasol needs to take care of the ball.
Jason Williams: Don't let up. During the opening weeks of this season, Williams played perhaps the least effective basketball of his career. He was rumored to be a key instigator of Hubie Brown's retirement and hit the injured list as soon as Mike Fratello took over. Many assumed Earl Watson would stay at the helm of the team and Williams would be on the trading block. Expectations for J-Will were lower than ever, but he not only regained his starting job after returning from the injured list; he played great, with big minutes and big production. There's a history here, of course. As a rookie in Sacramento, Williams became an instant star but eventually wore on his coach and found himself on the bench in the fourth quarter. Under Brown, Williams experienced another renaissance, but that relationship seemed to sour this season. Now, with another new coach in place, Williams seems to be thriving. How long can it last?
Earl Watson: Be content. Watson will be a free agent at the end of the season and will be looking for a starting job and starter's salary somewhere. In the past, he's been vocal about his lack of playing time. With Williams regaining the starting job and playing well, the team needs Watson to be content as one of the NBA's best back-up point guards.
Mike Miller: Let it fly. A timid shooter in his injury-riddled first full season as a Griz last year, Miller found confidence in his textbook stroke this season. Better still, even during his rare slumps this season, he hasn't been scared to let it fly. The Griz need Miller to take every open jumper he can get.
Lorenzen Wright: Pass it up. Wright is the Grizzlies' toughest interior defender and maybe the team's best defensive rebounder, but his offense can be a little scary. Wright is streaky with his mid-range jumper and little flip shot. When he's on, you can live with it. When he isn't, the Grizzlies couldn't find a worse shot in the halfcourt if they tried. Hubie Brown always preached about knowing when to shoot and when to pass. Wright should perhaps choose the latter more frequently.
James Posey: Get well. After a dismal start recovering from a foot injury, Posey seems to finally be rounding into shape. He started slowly last year too (for much the same reason) but emerged as an All-Star caliber performer down the stretch. Posey's ability to elevate his game again this spring might be the key to the Griz getting back to the postseason. Let's hope his foot will let him do so.
Shane Battier: Sink the corner "J." With the Grizzlies' chemistry a little out of whack this season and injuries more of a factor, Battier's status as glue guy -- the most dependable player on the court -- has become even more crucial. Effort and intangibles are never in question when Battier is in the game, but to be truly effective, he needs to knock down open shots. Battier likes the long bomb from the corner. Here's hoping it falls for him more in the new year.
Stromile Swift: Finish plays. Most of Swift's offense comes on dunks or a fluttery mid-range jumper that seems less sure than a year ago. But how is it possible for a 6'9" jumping-jack who dunks everything he touches to be shooting only around 40 percent from the floor -- a weak number for a guard, much less a post player? Chalk it up to Swift's difficulty finishing plays around the basket that he can't dunk. For the Griz' sake, let's hope Swift can become a more efficient scorer in the coming months.