A breakdown of the Memphis Grizzlies 2011-12 roster

Michael Heisley and Chris Wallace made no secret that keeping Marc Gasol in a Memphis uniform was the most important thing that needed to get done before the season started.

Well, Gasol broke the news via twitter last night that he has reached a tentative agreement with the Grizzlies that will keep the emerging center in Memphis via a four-year, max contract offer.

Here’s Gasol’s (@marcgasol) tweet:

I’m proud to say that we have reached a tentative agreement with my team @memgrizz , can’t wait to get on the court with all my teammates!

This was crucial for the Grizzlies, as Gasol was rated as the No. 1 free agent available this offseason by SBNation. After signing Josh Selby and Jeremy Pargo earlier this week to add depth, it now remains to be seen what the franchise will do to further bolster its frontcourt depth. Memphis has submitted a $2 million qualifying offer to Haddadi, but there are issues with him getting back into the country - issues which stem from an off-the-court domestic incident during last season.

This morning, the Commercial Appeal’s Grizzlies blog broke the news that the proposed Mayo-McRoberts deal is officially dead and that Mayo has been informed he will remain in Memphis for the foreseeable future. Sources indicated that the decision came on the heels of injury concerns of Xavier Henry and Sam Young, who have both been limited in practice due to ankle injuries. Some reports earlier today said that Henry has a sprained ankle that will keep him out of the lineup for at least two weeks.

Trading Mayo would have left the Grizzlies’ with a serious depth problem and meant the team didn’t have a dynamic scorer coming off the bench. Mayo settled into a sixth-man role last season, starting only 17 games while averaging 11.3 points per game.

According to the official Memphis Grizzlies website, there are currently 19 players listed on the Memphis roster. The Grizzlies will have to trim that to 15 signed players, three of which will be on injured reserve, before the start of the season. With that said, let’s take a look at the roster on a position by position basis:

Point Guard

Mike Conley: The Grizzlies received a lot of negative publicity last offseason when Heisley signed Conley to a long term, very lucrative deal. Many people perceived Conley as a solid NBA point guard, but not one worth the money the Grizzlies gave him. Conley responded to the criticism, however, and posted career highs in points per game (13.7), assists per game (6.5), rebounds per game (3.0) and steals per game (1.8). The fifth-year point guard also stepped up his play in the postseason, averaging better than 15 points per contest.

Greivis Vasquez: Entering his second season in the NBA, the former Maryland standout finally made a name for himself among Memphians for something other than making derogatory remarks about C-USA during the 2008-09 NCAA Tournament. In his rookie season, Vasquez emerged as a viable backup option for Conley, though he did struggle with ball control at times. He finished the season averaging just under 11 minutes and 4.3 points per game. Many Grizzlies’ fans may remember Vasquez memorable shot in the triple-overtime game against Oklahoma City during last year’s playoff run.

Jeremy Pargo: Memphis signed free agent Jeremy Pargo to a two-year contract to help add depth at the point guard position. Pargo spent the last two seasons playing overseas for  Hapoel Gilboa Galil Elyon in Israel and Euroleague power Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. Pargo put up good numbers in those leagues, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in the NBA.

Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Rudy Gay: The most unknown piece of the puzzle this season is returning superstar Rudy Gay, who missed the last 27 games of the 2010-11 season with an injured shoulder. Gay is the team’s “superstar” by all accounts and by his numbers. Before getting injured, the sixth-year guard out of Connecticut was averaging just shy of 20 points per game in addition to 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Gay is by far the Grizzlies’ best scorer, but getting him back into the rotation and finding him shots will be no easy task after the team adjusted to playing without him during the stretch run last year.

Tony Allen: Grit. Grind. Welcome to the Grindhouse. Allen endeared himself to the entire city of Memphis last season with his emphasis on toughness and blue collar play throughout the playoff run. Allen is not a great offensive threat, but he more than makes up for it on defense and with his tough-guy mentality.

OJ Mayo: As I mentioned above, Mayo emerged last season as the sixth-man option for the Grizzlies. Mayo was almost always the first man off the bench and still averaged more than 10 points per game. Despite getting suspended for 10 games because of the league’s substance abuse policy last season, Mayo earned himself a solid spot in the rotation and has the respect of his teammates.

Xavier Henry: The 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Henry has struggled with injuries since entering the league. He played in 38 games last year, starting 16, and averaged 4.3 points and one rebound per game before being sidelined with a knee injury. The Memphis front office was expecting more from him this year, but it has been reported today that he could miss almost a month with an ankle injury.

Sam Young: Entering his third year in the league, Young will have stiffer competition for minutes this season compared to last. Young saw increased minutes during the latter half of last season and into the playoff because of injuries to Gay and Henry, and the guard/forward combo responded. He played in 78 games, starting 46 and averaged more than seven points per game. Young’s lack of a consistent jumper did hurt the Grizzlies in the playoffs, however. The Commercial Appeal has also reported today that Young is battling an ankle injury that has kept him out of early practices.

Josh Selby: A rookie out of Kansas that many considered a steal as the 49th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Selby is a wild card for the Grizzlies this season. He has undeniable talent, but questions about his attitude and work ethic have surrounded him at every level. Selby had sit out his first nine games at the University of Kansas due to uncertainties around his recruitment and was a star at times once he made his debut with the Jayhawks. He battled injuries throughout the season, however, and ended up only averaging 7.9 points per game in 26 appearances.

Ish Smith: *12/15 Update* Smith has been waived by the Grizzlies.

Forward/Center

**Note: Memphis has far too many big men on its roster right now. I expect them to drop at least two of those guys and maybe add another player that’s in free agency now like Leon Powe or Troy Murphy.**

Here are the key frontcourt players:

Marc Gasol: The younger of the Gasol brothers, Marc helped Grizzlies fans get rid of the bitterness towards his brother after a stellar season in 2010-11. Gasol emerged as one of the premier centers in the NBA. Standing at 7-foot-1 and 265 pounds, Gasol is a force on the glass and in the lane. He averaged 11.7 points and more than seven rebounds per game last year during the regular season and saved his best for the post season. Gasol performed on the big stage in the playoffs, averaging better than 15 points and 11 rebounds each game.

Zach Randolph: An embodiment of the blue-collar style that is Memphis, Randolph related to the Memphis fan base in a way that few can. Though he stands at 6-foot-9, Randolph is known for everything but his leaping ability and mostly operates as a below the rim type of player. Still, he came to Memphis with questions about his attitude, charisma and character and was able to put all that aside to have an extremely productive season in 2010-11. After Gay went down last season, Randolph stepped as a team leader and averaged more than 20 points and nine rebounds per game.

Darrell Arthur: Perhaps the most athletic post presence on the roster, Arthur was used as an energy spark for most of last season. He captivated fans with highlight-reel dunks, averaging more than 20 minutes and nine points each game.

Hamed Haddadi: Mostly a minute-filler, Haddadi is the tallest player on the roster at 7-foot-2. Memphis has extended a $2 million qualifying offer to the Iranian big man, but there are issues as to whether or not Haddadi can even make it back into the country.

Click here to learn how NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement will impact the Grizzlies.

Click here to read what Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley have to say about the 2011-2012 NBA season.

Preston McClellan covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. Follow him on Twitter @p_mcclellan.

5 Reasons You Should Go See the Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have been in this situation before.  It’s the middle of March and the team is battling for a playoff spot.  This time last year they faded down the stretch, narrowly missing the playoffs.

This year, the team is one year more experienced with new and old weapons added to their arsenal.  Now, is the time to jump back on the bandwagon and be a part of Grizz Country at FedExForum.

Here are 5 reason you should go see the Grizzlies live in person:

5)  It’s a Great Deal

The Grizzlies promotion staff does a pretty good job in keeping ticket prices fair and reasonable compared to the other teams around the NBA.   Plus there are tickets available to every game, which is not the case for all NBA teams.

Sure, the usual complaints will come, “well parking is too much” (which is true), and “the food is too much.”

Go eat dinner beforehand at one of the restaurants downtown, or eat something at home before you go.  So, if you do get  hungry, just get a snack like popcorn or candy instead of something like barbecue nachos.

There is some type of promotion every night, some in game, like the “FedEx Delivery of the game”, or pre-game giveaways to the first 5,000 fans like “Bobble-Head Night” or “Poster Night.”

Another thing that is done to make tickets affordable is the choices of packs or deals that you can buy.

The price shouldn’t be the thing that keeps you from coming to the game.

4) Fans of Opposing Teams Have No Trouble Showing Up

It seems that when the big name teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics come to town, the crowd at the FedExForum isn’t as pro-Grizzlies as the crowd is when the team is playing other teams around the NBA.  It has been this way ever since the Grizzlies moved here from Vancouver.

It is time for that to change.  There is not another team in the state, or for that matter within three hundred miles of the city, so you can’t claim local allegiance to any other team either, unless you are actually from that city.

We’ve heard the excuse, that “Oh, I was a (insert NBA team) fan before the Grizzlies came here.”  Well it has been ten years and chances are, the franchise that you were a fan of ten years ago, has different players on the team then they had when the team moved here.  I’m not saying that if you really have been a die-hard fan of a team for 30 or so years that you should change allegiances now, but at least support your home town when they play every other team and come to cheer them on, not just come to the Forum once a year to cheer “your team” on.

The Grizzlies feed off the crowd, and that was very evident this past Wednesday in the game against the New York Knicks.  The crowd was into it from the pre-game introductions in which Carmelo Anthony was heavily booed, all the way to the final buzzer.  Unfortunately, Carmelo had the last laugh as he hit the game winner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock.  Memphis was down by 17 points at one point in the third quarter and as they battled their way back into the game, the crowd got louder and louder for the Grizzlies.

Bring your kids to the games too, as now is the time they start choosing teams and who to root for, and who better than the home town team.  I am sure that most kids are brought up to root for the Tigers, why not the Grizzlies too?

3) It’s a Great Place to Compare Your Playoff Beard with other Fans

Grizzlies games have become the Mid-South’s largest gathering of bearded people ever since the team started growing “Playoff Beards” and encouraging the rest of the fan base to do the same. Is your beard as good as Rob Fischer’s or the ones in the Pepsi Super Fan Section?

Grizzlies bench celebrates during last week's win over OKC.

2) This Team is Fun to Root For

You don’t have to take my word for it, they do have other media outlets(ESPN and SI) talking about the Grizzlies in a positive light for the first time in a long time. This team is on a roll and fun to watch.

Being one of the hottest teams in the league has gotten the league buzzing about the Grizzlies and none of the teams they play are taking them lightly and their recent run has them right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.  They have done a good portion of this run without their franchise player Rudy Gay.  Now, you can argue that Zach Randolph is the franchise player, but that is an argument for another day.

Bringing in old faces like Shane Battier and Jason Williams also should bring in some fans that the franchise has lost over the past few years in which questionable front office decisions were made such as the Pau trade and a flurry of under performing draft picks.  Those two are arguably two of the most appreciated and well liked players this franchise has ever had.  Maybe these two guys are a little older and not as quick as they once were, but they bring experience and familiarity to this franchise.

As for the rest of the team, Z-Bo and Tony Allen embrace the city and take on the “hard working, we get no respect” attitude that this city loves to embrace.  Whether Tony Allen is going loco on the bench waving his towel or Z-Bo is taking off his head band, the crowd loves  it when those two guys get going and those guys feed off the energy of the crowd as well.  It also seems that as the season has progressed the rest of the team has taken on that attitude and being on the same page has definitely turned this team into a dangerous team to watch and one that nobody wants to see in the first round of the playoffs.

1) Ownership is Finally Serious About Winning

Many of the common complaints on why people don’t go to the games or down to FedExForum to watch the Grizzlies have been addressed so far.  The main one though is the fact that some fans felt the Grizzlies weren’t putting a winner on the floor or were even trying to be competitive.

They missed the playoffs last year, but made vast improvements in every facet of the game and increased their win total by eleven games.  That set up this year, the final year of Heisley’s “three year plan” in which he pledged a playoff berth for this franchise.  In this three year plan, the development of Hasheem Thabeet was one of the main priorities in order for this team to become a contender.  Well, that plan fell through, but in trading Thabeet (with DeMarre Carroll and a first-rounder) to Houston for fan favorite and defensive stopper Shane Battier (and Ish Smith), Heisley basically admitted making a mistake in drafting Thabeet and wants to win now!

Maybe the Rudy Gay injury played a part in making this deal happen, but that rumor was swirling well before the injury occurred.  Heisley knew that if the Grizzlies were to get to the playoffs and make some noise, that move had to be made.

Heisley is not a man that admits many mistakes and he also does not like to give up on something he had so much riding on, but he did.

Now, it is your turn to buy into the Grizzlies making a run at the playoffs because everyone else is pitching in and buying in to this team.

Do what you can to make this town a Grizzlies town and give the team a unique environment for opposing teams to come into and fear the beard.

Ben Hogan is a regular contributor to Memphisport. You can follow him on Twitter @notthegolfer. For more live tweets during Grizzlies games follow @memphisport, @douggillon, @cerrito, and @chasingphoto.

Story photo by Chase Gustafson.

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