THE ABC'S OF ROUNDBALL
Hoop it up! Its less than two weeks until the Grizzlies tip things off for the 2002-03 season. AutoZone Park is wonderful, and we love our Football here in the Bluff City. But really, folks, Memphis has been, remains, and will always be a basketball town. Heres an introductory course for newcomers . . . a nice trip down memory lane for old-timers.
A is for ABA. The Grizzlies may be the Bluff Citys first NBA franchise, but theyre not our first venture into pro hoops. For five years (1970-75), Memphis had a club in the league that made Doctor J a household name. Unfortunately, the team had more names Ñ Pros, Tams, and Sounds Ñ than playoff appearances.
B is for Battier. Shane Battiers resume? 2000-01 NCAA champion at Duke. 2000-01 NCAA Player of the Year. National defensive player of the year. A GRADUATE of Duke University. Member of the NBAs 2002 All-Rookie squad. Nuf said.
C is for Calipari. Having made his name at the University of Massachusetts, having reached the NBA playoffs as the top dog with the New Jersey Nets, John Calipari arrived in 2000 and breathed new life into a University of Memphis program desperately in need of some passion and energy. Led the Tigers to the NIT semis his first two years, including a championship in 2002.
D is for Dajuan. The national high school player of the year in 2000-01, Dajuan Wagner established a new single-season scoring record (762 points) in leading the Tigers to the 2002 NIT title. Too bad that single season mark will also represent his career total at Memphis.
E is for Elliot. As in Perry. Call him Socks if you must, or remember the goggles if it helps. Arguably the finest point guard in Memphis Tiger history, Perry remains second in career scoring at the U of M (2,209 points).
F is for Finch. The patron saint of Memphis basketball, Larry Finch was the star of the 73 Tiger squad that fell to mighty UCLA in the NCAA finals. Played briefly for Memphis ABA outfit. Assistant coach with the 85 Final Four team. Head coach for 11 years at University of Memphis, with most wins (220) in school history.
G is for Gasol. Power forward from Barcelona became the first European player to earn the NBAs Rookie of the Year award as he led the 2001-02 Grizzlies in scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounds (8.9 rpg).
H is for Heisley. As in Michael. Chicago-based principal owner of the Grizzlies, his wallet will decide who comes to town among free agents. Hero to Memphis, villain to Vancouver. Main prize to this point is one Jerry West.
I is for the Indiana Pacers. The first playoff series in Memphis hoops history took place in 1971 between the ABAs Pros and Pacers. Indiana swept Memphis in the Eastern Division semifinals, 4-0. The Pacers would become one of four ABA franchises absorbed by the NBA (along with the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, and New York Nets).
J is for Jason. As in Williams. Like behind-the back, no-look, ankle-breaking passes? Mr. Williams is your guy. Acquired by Memphis on the eve of the 2001 draft, Williams succeeded Mike Bibby as the Grizzlies playmaker. Runner-up to Vince Carter in voting for the 1999 NBA Rookie of the Year.
K is for Keith. As in Lee. A four-time All America with the Tigers, Keith Lee led the 1984-85 squad to the Final Four and remains the schools all-time leading scorer (2,408 points). His NBA career? Dont ask.
L is for Lorenzen. As in Wright. The first player to be able to call himself both a Tiger and a Grizzly. The dynamic freshman center from the U of Ms 1994-95 team that reached the NCAAs Sweet Sixteen, Wright was acquired by the Grizzlies from Atlanta the day before the 2001 draft. Averaged 12.0 points and 9.4 rebounds in 2001-02.
M is for Midwest Division. Looking for a team or two to loathe as you sharpen your Grizzly claws? Try their division rivals: the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, and Utah Jazz.
For N thru Z, tune in next week. (Same Bat Time . . . . )