MEMPHIS SPORTS SCENE 

MEMPHIS SPORTS SCENE

ALL SORTS OF STUFF There’s too many things this week, so here’s a collection of bits and pieces.
  • First, congrats to Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol for his Rookie of the Year selection. The NBA just announced the honor Wednesday morning, though no one had any doubt. Gasol, a native of Spain and the first European player to win the Rookie of the Year Award, averaged 17.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.1 blocks and 36.7 minutes while starting 79 of the 82 games in which he played this season. He finished the season ranked fourth in the NBA in field goal percentage (.518), sixth in total blocks (169), ninth in blocks per game and tenth in double-doubles (35). Gasol also set four Grizzlies rookie records this season, including 169 blocks (old record: 163 set by Roy Rogers in ‘96-97), 730 rebounds (old record: 570 by Bryant Reeves in ‘95-96), .518 field goal percentage (old: .505 by Roy Rogers in ‘96-97) and 79 starts (old: 71 by Shareef Abdur-Rahim in ‘96-97). Gasol’s blocks record for rookies also establishes a new overall team record. Finally, Gasol set a new team record for offensive rebounds with 238 for the season (old: 227 by Shareef Abdur-Rahim in ‘97-98). Gasol racked up 117 of the possible 126 votes for the award. Also receiving votes were Richard Jefferson of New Jersey (3), Jason Richardson of Golden State (2), Jamaal Tinsley of Indiana (2), and Andrei Kirilenko of Utah (2).
  • But what is wrong with forward Shane Battier? Battier received no votes for ROY. Battier averaged 14.4 ppg, and 5.4 rpg. Jefferson, the second most vote getter, averaged 3.5 ppg, and collected 5 rpg. Of course, the difference is that while Battier started for the NBA’s third worst team, Jefferson came off the bench for the Eastern Conference’s best team. Still, something smells in New Jersey (well, something always smells in New Jersey, but that’s a different story).
  • So the Commercial Appeal says that NBA legend Jerry West will be a Griz next year, and ESPN.com says (as did Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley at the ROY press conference) that the deal is not nearly done. Here’s to hoping that the CA’s potential jumping the gun won’t spook West, a known advocate of secrecy on deals not yet finished. Still, Heisley might be in the position to pull off one of the biggest coups in NBA history, and would well erase any doubts about his ability to own a team affectively.
  • But here’s a problem: what to do with recently replaced team president Dick Versace? Reports say that Versace will be GM, and West will be president. But one wonders what exactly -- if anything -- Versace would do as GM since West would be pulling all the triggers. Versace could run the day-to-day operations under West’s orders, but will Versace handle that situation well? Granted, Billy Knight -- as GM of the Grizzlies under Versace -- did the job admirably, but Knight could also put his foot down to get results (as when Knight drafted Gasol over Versace’s objections). But a Jerry West is not a Dick Versace, to put it mildly, and Versace will never be able to have such an impact. One scenario has Versace firing current head coach Sidney Lowe and then putting himself up as GM and head coach. Will West concede to that? Or will West recognize that the three years left on Versace’s contract be enough to build the Grizzlies to playoff contention, leaving him the ability to fire Versace and then get a good coach? Fun stuff.
  • According to the University of Memphis’ student paper, the Tiger basketball club is in for more headaches. Front page of Wednesday’s paper talked about how team stars Dajuan Wagner, Chris Massie, and Antonio Burks have been seen riding around campus in luxury-level vehicles. Granted, Wagner and Massie will leave campus for the NBA (Massie can still come back, as long as he doesn’t get himself an agent), but an official NCAA investigation is the last thing the Tigers need.
  • What’s up with these Memphis/Mid-South Xplorers? The team that won only a handful of games last year is now 3-0 and atop the Central Division. One of the big reasons is the Tim Lester-Russell Copeland QB-Receiver connection. In the Xplorers’ 61-51 win over Bossier City, Lester threw seven touchdowns in the game, which was good for a new team record. Lester went 22-30 for 314 yards. On the season, he has 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions. In the game, Copeland caught five passes for 82 yards and the score, and is the AFL2’s top receiver with 26 catches for 322 yards so far this season. The Xplorers play again on Saturday, April 27, at 8:30 p.m.
  • And finally, the Memphis RiverKings will host the Austin Ice Bats for a three game stretch in the CHL finals for the President’s Cup. The Ice Bats recently evened the series 1-1, which is fine anyway since the Kings have effectively stolen home ice advantage from the Bats with their win at Austin. With luck, the Kings can sweep the best of seven series from here on out, and win the whole thing in Memphis on Sunday. Here’s the schedule: Thursday, April 25, 7:05 p.m., Friday, April 26, 7:05 p.m., and then Sunday, April 28 at 6:05 p.m. Go to these games. (Care to respond? Write mailonthefly@aol.com.)

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