Our Grizzlies may have missed the NBA playoffs a third straight year, but there's plenty of Memphis in the post-season if you look closely enough. By a degree or two of separation, all eight teams in the conference semifinals have a player with some Bluff City in his rear-view. Following is a list, in descending order of current impact by the player.
L.A. LAKERS -- Pau Gasol. He remains the Grizzlies' all-time leading scorer (8,966 points) and rebounder (4,096), and the only All-Star in franchise history. But now he serves as Kobe Bryant’s chief supporting player, having averaged 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds for the Western Conference's top seed. With younger brother Marc now starting at center for the Griz, Pau may end up the second-most popular Gasol in the Mid-South.
HOUSTON -- Shane Battier. The 30-year-old Battier was a teammate of Pau Gasol's for the first five seasons the Grizzlies played in Memphis, including all three playoff campaigns. While many Memphis fans saw a future mayor in high-tops, team president Jerry West saw a trade piece that brought the Grizzlies Rudy Gay on draft day in 2006. An on-the-court leader since his college days at Duke, Battier was named second-team All-Defense last week.
ATLANTA -- Josh Smith. Okay, this one's a reach. Last August, the Grizzlies signed Smith to an offer sheet, only to see it quickly matched by the Hawks. The big forward averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds for the first Hawk team to advance to the playoffs' second round in a decade.
DENVER -- Dahntay Jones. Acquired in a draft-day trade with Boston in 2003, Jones started only 36 of 221 games for the Grizzlies over his four seasons in Memphis. But he started 71 games for the Northwest Division champs this season and takes the floor alongside the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups as the Nuggets aim for their very first finals appearance.
BOSTON -- Kendrick Perkins. Remember that draft-day trade that landed Dahntay Jones for the Grizzlies in 2003? Part of the package sent to Boston included the draft rights to Perkins (who had been heavily recruited by John Calipari for the University of Memphis). Still only 24 years old, Perkins has started 250 games as a Celtic, including their run to the 2008 NBA championship. He averaged 8.5 points and 8.1 rebounds this season.
ORLANDO -- Jeremy Richardson. Oh, you remember Richardson. The Delta State product played three games for the Grizzlies early in the 2007-08 season (grabbed a rebound and dished out an assist). These days, Richardson is riding the pine for the Magic, having played 12 games and averaged 3.1 points.
CLEVELAND -- Lorenzen Wright. His season (and perhaps career) ended with a broken thumb on April 15th, but it should be noted Wright has played more NBA games (778) than any other former Memphis Tiger. (Wright starred at the U of M from 1994 to '96.) Wright also spent five seasons with the Grizzlies and is fourth on the team's career rebounding chart.
DALLAS -- Shawne Williams. Hard to believe, but had he remained at the University of Memphis, Williams would have been part of the recent senior class that included Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier. (Williams was Conference USA's Freshman of the Year in 2006.) After two seasons in Indiana, Williams spent all but 15 games of the 2008-09 season on the injured list for the Mavericks.