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Grizz seek their groove as camp opens

  • Written by Kelley Evans
  • Published in Sports

Training camp for the Memphis Grizzlies opened last Friday (Dec. 9) with one 7-foot-1, 265- pound piece missing.

The Grizzlies’ designated puzzle solver, Chris Wallace, aka general manager and vice president of Basketball Operations, filled the gap on Wednesday (Dec. 14), announcing the re-signing of center Marc Gasol to a multi-year contract.

“We are very happy to re-sign Marc Gasol, who has been one of the pillars of the Grizzlies franchise since his arrival and a true ‘Memphis basketball player’ ever since his days at Lausanne,” Wallace said.

“We are excited to keep him as part of our core group of players and to build on what this organization has already achieved for many years to come.”

Gasol reportedly accepted a four-year, $57.7 million deal.

“I’m just really happy to be back in the city of Memphis,” Gasol said. “Hopefully I’m going to be able to start training camp soon.”

Gasol will be reunited with power forward Zach Randolph. The two helped Memphis pace the NBA in points in the paint (51.5) for the second consecutive season.

During a 13-game run through the 2011 NBA Playoffs, Gasol averaged 15 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.15 blocks. That stretch included a first-round upset of the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and a seven-game series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The 26 year old finished second in the league in rebounds per game and third in blocks per game during the postseason.

 Memphis Grizzlies’ stars (l-r) Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay were all business during this Media Day moment last Friday (Dec. 2). Gay was hurt during last season’s playoff run, fueling questions about team chemistry for the upcoming season. (Photo by Kelley Evans)

Now in session

On Friday, friendly banter between teammates created a cheerful scene for a hopeful season as All-Star Forward Rudy Gay, Randolph and point guard Mike Conley took to the panel for the Grizzlies’ annual Media Day.

“I haven’t been in practice in so long.” Gay said.  “I don’t know what’s going to happen.  We don’t have much time to get ready for the season.”

Randolph joked about his rebuilt physique and his new training regimen with University of Memphis assistant Frank Matrisciano.

“I’ve got two abs, Randolph joked. “The other day Mike threw me an alley-oop and said he was hesitant to throw it. I said, ‘No, don’t do that.’ Me and Rudy have got a little bet going on. I’m going for 20 dunks.”

Feeling the need for context, Randolph explained that a bet prior to last season had him committed to 10 dunks during the year, which he surpassed by one.

There was discussion about last year’s success without Gay down the stretch, and about how the two “star” players would work together again.

“Other than being teammates, we’re brothers. Nothing’s going to come between that. We won eight of our 11 games before I got hurt,” said Gay.

“I’m a team player. I want to win. We’re on the same page,” Randolph said.

The rest of the team weighs in

“I was kind of surprised when I got the text from my agent.  I’m glad that we got everything done and I’m happy that we’re all together. I hope we make it to the playoffs. We’ve got a lot of games compacted into one season.”

– Darrell Arthur

“All summer I worked out and rested. I spent a lot of time with my family. When my agent texted me he said, ‘Let’s get ready to play.’  I knew it was time. My team goal is to make it to the playoffs.”

– Sam Young

“I love my team. I think we have a great roster. I think our team is going to execute better.  We have Rudy back and we should be able to adjust quickly. We showed last season that we can compete against anybody.”

– Greivis Vasquez

“It’s been an experience going through a lockout and I understand how serious it is.  I worked out non-stop all summer and I look forward to playing this year.”

– O.J. Mayo  

Grizz notes

• Rumors aside, Grizz Owner Michael Heisley said he wants Mayo in Memphis.

•  The Grizzlies host their Annual Holiday Toy Drive that benefits MIFA’s Holiday Hope Chest on Monday, Dec. 19, from 6-8 p.m. at the Hilton Memphis. The first 1,000 fans to contribute to the Memphis Grizzlies Holiday Toy Drive will have the opportunity to meet and receive autographs from Grizzlies players and coaches.

• The Grizzlies signed free agent Jeremy Pargo to a multi-year contract. Pargo, a 6-2, 219-pound guard, joins the Grizzlies after spending last season with Euroleague powerhouse Maccabi Tel-Aviv, where he was named to the 2011 All-Euroleague Second Team.

• The Grizzlies waived guard Ish Smith, who was acquired from the Houston Rockets last season.

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