FROM MY SEAT 

FROM MY SEAT

HOOP DREAMING It’s time to fantasize. We’ll take our lone big-league operation -- the Memphis Grizzlies -- and brainstorm over a few ways to improve on last season’s 23-59 performance, add some talent around Pau Gasol and Shane Battier, and build toward playoff contention by the time our new arena is completed in 2004. How about luring Mr. Logo himself, Hall of Famer Jerry West -- the sharpest NBA mind of this generation, a guy who radiates class and dignity -- from a cushy gig in L.A. right here to the Bluff City? He can run the show, top to bottom. Another NBA club interested in making a deal? Let me transfer you to Mr. Logo. Big-name free agent shopping his skills? Mr. Logo on line one. Instant credibility, league-wide. Instant respect for the Grizzlies, nation-wide. Huh? This is actually happening? Jerry West a Memphian? Well, let’s keep the fantasy-ball spinning. Owner Michael Heisley is so elated over getting his guy that he flies to Memphis, calls a meeting with the City Council, County Commission, both mayors, four TV networks -- even invites the daily paper -- and announces he is footing the bill for the Grizzlies’ new arena. It’s the right thing to do, says Heisley, as it’s his team, after all, and he’ll be reaping the benefits a decade from now when the luxury boxes are full, Gasol is an annual MVP candidate, and Jason Williams -- not the one you might think -- is electrifying ESPN’s sportscenter throughout the winter. The owner’s only request is that the arena be christened Heisley Fieldhouse. A slice of immortality he will have earned with his wallet. Which brings us to our next dream sequence. The Grizzlies wind up second in the upcoming draft behind the Golden State Warriors. Golden State takes the plunge and drafts Chinese phenom, Yao Ming, as the Bay Area’s Asian population provides the kind of environment Yao is demanding before he crosses the Pacific. With the second pick, Memphis takes Duke’s Jason Williams, the second year in a row the Grizzlies land a former Blue Devil in the first round, better yet a former national college player of the year. During TNT’s national coverage of the draft, Williams is seen smiling -- something the current Jason Williams in Memphis last did in second grade -- and boasting that, instead of going to Disney World, he’s “going to Graceland.” Ego-tremors are felt in greater Los Angeles as Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant each blame the other for the Lakers’ flame-out in the Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Bryant is loud and clear about his wish to get out of L.A., preferably for a team closer to the east coast, where he can turn a franchise into the kind of power that can reach the Finals and backhand Shaq’s Lakers on the way to the title. Kobe calls his old pal, Mr. Logo. West swings his first blockbuster for Memphis, sending the “old” Jason Williams -- along with first-round picks in both 2003 and 2004 -- to the Lakers for Bryant. When asked about his West Virginia connection to Williams, West displays his 2000 NBA championship ring and describes it as a tighter connection to Bryant. The day after the deal, sales of Sprite go through the roof throughout the Mid-South. Mr. Logo makes a call to native Memphian Elliot Perry and offers him a job as an assistant coach in charge of community outreach. With not half of West’s skill as a player, but with every bit the integrity, class, and dignity of Mr. Logo, Perry leaps at the chance to contribute on an NBA level to the city he served so admirably as a high school and college star. While he’ll be involved with Sidney Lowe’s game-day staff, Perry’s primary responsibility will be to make sure every child in the Memphis City School system gets at least one chance each year to see an NBA game or to meet a Grizzly in person. No matter what the crowd at The Pyramid may tell you, no matter what kind of music is blared from the arena’s speakers, basketball is a game for kids. Elliot Perry’s the guy to remind us. Fantasy you say? No chance? Call Mr. Logo.

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