Things werent supposed to be like this.
The Chicago Bulls, fresh off a second set of tri-peats of championships, hired up and coming head coach Tim Floyd to continue the franchises winning ways.
That was not to be as Floyd quit, after over a hundred losses as Bulls head coach in three years, leaving interim coach Bill Berry with a team of youngsters, including two rookies straight out of high school in center Tyson Chandler and in forward/center Eddy Curry.
Berrys first task as head of the Bulls seemed a simple one: beat the Memphis Grizzlies, a team without ten wins in nearly thirty tries, a team still reeling from key injuries, and a team with its own young core featuring two rookies in forward Shane Battier and in forward Pau Gasol.
So much for simple.
The Memphis Grizzlies (8-20) stormed onto the court from the first quarter and beat the Chicago Bulls (4-22), 107-85 in front of a 16,000 plus Pyramid crowd. The win puts Memphis as a winner in four out of its last five and extends the Chicago squads losing streak at seven.
The Grizzlies relied heavily on four of its five starters as Gasol led all scorers with 27 points and also collected 14 rebounds. Battier and guard Jason Williams scored 21 points apiece, and Williams also passed a game high 14 assists. Forward Stromile Swift scored 17 points, and pulled down 12 rebounds of his own.
The Bulls, and their heralded newcomers, had little in the way of a response. Guard Ron Mercer scored 22 points, forward Ron Artest scored 14, and guard Greg Anthony scored 12. Curry and Chandler combined for only six points, nine rebounds, and seven fouls in a combined 26 minutes of play.
We really played well tonight, Grizzlies head coach Sidney Lowe said after the game. In the fourth quarter, we made plays when we had to. Our guys are continuing to get better. However, Lowe was quick to point out that while this win was good for the team as a win, it was nothing on which to rest the season. We are nowhere near where we want to be, he said.
Lowe said that the win was mostly due to the teams improving defense and also its better-executing offense. Our defense is a factor, the fact we can get a stop and put them on their heels, he said. On offense, were patient. Were moving the ball around. In tonights game, the Griz totaled 29 team assists.
In terms of the relative position of both teams in a building stage, Lowe understands Berrys position. They were young before and now theyre younger, he said. Thats a tough thing. You have to be patient, but its hard when you are trying to win.
The Grizzlies go on the road to face the Miami Heat at Miami on Friday, December 28, and then return home to the Pyramid to face the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, December 30, at six p.m.