If Memphis is going to get a basketball team, it will be the Vancouver Grizzlies. That much is certain, since the Charlotte Hornets backed out of their relocation application last week. The Flyer asked Don Poier, the Grizzlies' play-by-play commentator for the past five years and the official "voice of the Grizzlies," to comment on this team.
Flyer: Who are the names to watch for?
Don Poier: First and foremost would be [forward] Shareef Abdur- Rhahim [20.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.1 apg]. He is one of the finest men you will ever meet and is immensely talented. The joke is that he is the most talented player in the league that nobody knows about. A lot of that is because he is up in Vancouver. At 6'9" 230 [lbs.], he was on the Olympic team and is highly regarded among coaches and players who know him. He's just not had as big a supporting cast around him. That's the thing.
Tell me about that supporting cast.
Other than Shareef, you've got Mike Bibby [15.9 ppg, 8.4 apg] and Mike Dickerson [16.3 ppg] as the point guard and the shooting guard. They came from Arizona, where they won the national title. They have developed and gotten better. Mike Dickerson had a down year because of injuries. He didn't keep developing like he did during his second year. He's the kind of guy who can slash to the hoop; he can shoot from outside. He was a great three-point shooter with Houston his rookie year. They are still trying to develop that with the Grizzlies. With Bibby, his numbers speak for themselves. He was in the top five in the league this year in assists. He's a young guy who's just starting to grow up. They're a nice pair. That's your nucleus of a team, those three guys.
What are this team's strengths?
Shareef and his ability to play either forward spot. I think with Bibby, and Dickerson to a certain degree, the ability to shoot from the outside. They all like to run with the ball. Of course the key to running is that you need rebounding and that's something this team needs to work on.
What are the team's weaknesses?
They were 27th of 29 teams in rebounding percentage. Out of 29 teams, they were 26th in points allowed per game. And a real key in basketball, whether it's the University of Memphis or the NBA, is field-goal percentage defense. Are they contesting every shot? They were 26th out of 29 teams [in that category]. They need to improve dramatically there and they know it. That is, I'm sure, high on the priority list of management.
Tell me about the draft.
The Grizzlies will get, at worst case I think, the 6th pick overall. They're going to get one good player. I think they are in a position to take whoever is the most talented player out there. Sure they need help inside, they need more big people. They need more strength in rebounding and defense inside.
What else does this team need?
Probably leadership is the biggest thing. The real key for this team is that they need some guys who have been to the playoffs [and who] know what it takes to win, so they can lead the young kids who have a lot of talent but who don't know how to get it done. These guys will play with anyone. This team beat Portland twice. But right at crunch-time, the last three minutes of the game, that's how you win in the NBA, with the stretch [scoring] run.
What kind of coach is Sidney Lowe?
He played for Jim Valvano at North Carolina State when they won the national title. He was the point guard for that team. Sidney comes from a winning background. He was in Cleveland [with the Cleveland Cavaliers] when they were winning with Mike Fratello. He's learned a lot of winning things with Flip Saunders [of the Minnesota Timberwolves]. I just have high regard for Sid. He's one of the younger coaches in the league and that's important. And he tries to relate to these younger kids and that's one of the challenges as the NBA gets younger and younger. He's very positive, very hands-on. He's one of the most animated guys on the sidelines in the league. It's fun. I'm usually dodging left and right, trying to call the game and look around him.
Why has this team been unable to put it together over the last five years?
The philosophy of the previous ownership was to make draft picks important, live by the draft picks, and wait for them to get better and grow into winners. Conversely, with the Toronto Raptors with Glen Grunwald as the general manager, if something didn't work, they made a trade. And Glen, I think, has done an outstanding job of getting better players instead of waiting for the players to get better. I think a lot of people wish that there could have been some trades made instead of trying to stick with certain guys for a long time.
You can e-mail Chris Przybyszewski at email@example.com.