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Archive for Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Grizzlies show patience en route to first victory

November 26, 2002

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— Hubie Brown's first victory in 16 years and the Memphis Grizzlies' first of the season was no small feat.

Sure, it's just a one-game winning streak, but the new coach used his first six games as his personal preseason, even while the NBA season was under way.

"Usually, there is an eight-game exhibition season," Brown said. "Unfortunately these counted."

The Grizzlies won for the first time this season Saturday in their 14th game, beating the Washington Wizards 85-74 in front of a sellout crowd.

Brown said he wasn't concerned about the losing.

"We had to have patience," Brown said, "and keep putting them out there, keep allowing them to decide where they wanted to be in the pecking order."

The Grizzlies, in their eighth season overall and second year in Memphis, have never won more than 23 games in a season.

Brown possesses a young team with last year's top rookies, Pau Gasol and Shane Battier.

The Grizzlies got even younger when Jerry West took over as president this year. He brought in top draft pick and former Kansas University forward Drew Gooden and rookie Gordan Giricek of Croatia, and recently acquired Mike Batiste.

When Brown succeeded Sidney Lowe, who quit after an 0-8 start, he planned to spend his first six games evaluating the talent of players like Lorenzen Wright and guard Jason Williams, whose contract was extended last year by former general manager Billy Knight.

"Then you start tinkering. Then you start looking for the combinations," Brown said. "Six games gives you a pretty good idea of what everybody can do."

Brown's sixth game was Saturday, and the Grizzlies became the last NBA team to win a game this season.

While most of the fans came to see Michael Jordan, the Grizzlies had them standing and cheering through much of the final quarter.

Memphis squandered a nine-point lead, but broke open a 74-74 game with an 11-0 run.

Brown said the Grizzlies are catching on to his schemes and they're putting it together as a group.

"Some learn quickly. Some are average learners, and some are slow learners," Brown said. "But that doesn't mean the slow learners won't get it."

Brown's plans for Gasol and Battier are not clear.

Gasol led all rookies with a 17.6 scoring average last season. This season, he's averaging 16.6 points.

Battier averaged 40 minutes last season, but is averaging 26 minutes this season.

Under Brown, the Grizzlies have not focused their offense on Gasol as much as last season.

Brown wants every player to be a scoring threat and he had plenty of praise for Gasol's seven-point, 15-rebound performance against the Wizards.

"There's only so much offense you can put in. We keep adding something every day, so (Gasol) is going to get more catches, and also (Drew) Gooden," Brown said.

The 69-year-old Brown has been asked about his ability to communicate with his young players.

Brown has insisted that communication hasn't been a problem because the Grizzlies understand he has something to offer :quot; a lifetime of experience that can make them better players.

Guard Brevin Knight said the Grizzlies just needed time to adapt to Brown and his style, and that the first victory could be a turning point.

"It's a big turn for our morale, and a big turn for us knowing if we go out and execute, we can win games," Knight said.

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