NBA Preview 99
Weekly lineup

 Tuesday, October 26
Vancouver Grizzlies
Clubhouse/schedule | Stats: Preseason / 1999 | Roster
Last year: 8-42, seventh place in Midwest
Coach: Brian Hill
Arena: General Motors Place (19,193)
Last NBA title: None
Record the last 5 years/NBA rank: 56-240 (four seasons)

Pos Player Key Stat Skinny
PG Mike Bibby 6.5 APG Look for more passes and less shots
SG Michael Dickerson 10.9 PPG Irony of Francis deal is this guy can play
SF S. Abdur-Rahim 23.0 PPG Best player nobody ever gets to see
PF Grant Long 9.8 PPG Not a guy you build around, but solid
C Bryant Reeves .406 FG % If sheds weight, might be worth the wait
PF Othella Harrington 6.0 RPG Another young guy who just needed time
SG Felipe Lopez 9.3 PPG Sixth among rookies in scoring
SG Brent Price 46 threes Bibby backup isn't shy on threes

The Grizzlies need to gain respectability and do that by playing competitively night after night. I thought they made helpful changes. They can now put a pretty good team on the floor with a starting lineup of Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Othella Harrington, Bryant Reeves, Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson. Those are pretty good names. So far they have struggled badly in the preseason with scoring and turnovers. Reeves has to get himself into shape and has yet to do it. I don't think he'll be a dominant center, but he should be able to hold his own against almost anybody if he were in top physical condition. I think it will be another tough year for the Grizzlies. They have some talent, but need to make it come out right.
Get to know them
Key newcomer: Michael Dickerson
Will be missed: None
The Star: Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Underrated: Grant Long
Rising: Dickerson
Falling: Long
If things go well: Shareef gets help
If things don't: St. Louis says no

By Olivier Pheulpin
Basketball News

How ironic and cruel is it that when the Grizzlies finally are two-deep at every position and ready to make some noise in the West, they may be on their way east to St. Louis?

A Vancouver committee (called "We Love Our Grizzlies") formed to ensure the team will stay in town plans to meet with commissioner David Stern, hoping that the conditions set in the sale of the Sacramento Kings (the franchise couldn't move for 10 to 15 years) will also apply to the Grizzlies.

On the court, Vancouver fans are thrilled by the new look of their Grizzlies, which sported 12 new faces on the preseason roster. The deepest roster in the history of the team boasts more athleticism, more veteran leadership and better shooting, which could be all the ingredients in creating successful team chemistry.

"I'm not going to give this team a goal any less than a .500 season and being a playoff team," coach Brian Hill says. "I think to shoot for anything else is insulting to them as competitors and professionals."

A .500 record would be a monumental task after an 8-42 season. But while Steve Francis may have hurt the reputation of the franchise, he certainly helped the chemistry of the team.

"We got rid of all the guys who didn't want to be here," explains forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim. "And I don't think we brought any disruptive energy into the mix. You know, people talk about playoffs, but I don't want to put any limit to what we can do. It's time we play every game to win."

The Grizzlies would be wise to start with some defense (they finished 26th in the league last season, giving up an average of 97.5 points), better clutch play (they were 5-14 in games decided by five points or less) and a couple of wins on the road (they were 1-24 away from GM Place).

Player to watch

Michael Dickerson

Houston's problems last season certainly weren't the fault of Michael Dickerson. As a rookie he was a consistent scorer the few times he got the ball and a dependable three-point shooter, hitting at 43 percent. Is his game good enough to go up a level or two? It sure looks like it, and while Steve Francis is primed to be a star, Vancouver should end up quite happy with their end of the trade as well.

Point guard
Mike Bibby will never be as flashy as Kings point guard Jason Williams. But there isn't a better pure 21-year-old point guard in the league right now. With his ability to find the open man and set up his teammates, Bibby is definitely old-school. His coach thinks old-school suits the Grizzlies just fine.

"Mike is just a natural basketball player," Hill says. "But what impresses me the most is his composure. Nothing seems to faze him out there."

Win or lose, you won't see Bibby argue or shout. He just plays. Always quietly. Always respectfully. His lack of flash (and of talking trash) is probably one of the reasons he didn't get much consideration for Rookie of the Year. But Bibby doesn't care.

"We won eight games last season, and we must put that behind us to try to compete in every game," he says. "And I think we got everything that we need with the (Francis) trade. This team definitely looks good."

And with Brent Price as a solid veteran backup, Bibby can really learn the ropes of the job after being thrown to the wolves last season.

Shooting guard
With the athleticism of Felipe Lopez (who looks as if he bought himself a jump shot over the summer) and the all-around package of Michael Dickerson, Vancouver lines up an explosive combo at 2-guard. And considering how young Lopez (24) and Dickerson (23) are, Vancouver's potential at the position is pretty scary.

Dickerson shot an amazing .433 on treys in his rookie season and relishes the idea of being able to move in from the arc-where he was seemingly exiled last year with the Rockets-this year.

"It was frustrating, because I know I can do a lot more," Dickerson says. "But being reunited with Mike (Bibby) will certainly help me to play like I used to with Arizona."

While Lopez and Dickerson should share most of the minutes at shooting guard, veteran Doug West will be a vocal leader off the bench.

All in all, a big upgrade from last season.

Small forward
Abdur-Rahim's points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks production has been going up in each of his three NBA seasons. 'Reef, who would be a rookie this season had he played all four of his college seasons, is probably the best-kept secret in the NBA today.

Unfortunately for Vancouver, Abdur-Rahim's numbers (23.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.4 apg) were far from enough to put the young franchise on the right track. After spending last season as the defense's only target, Abdur-Rahim expects the arrivals of perimeter shooters Dennis Scott, Dickerson and Price to allow him to find more space inside to operate his magic.

"I'm excited about that. I just feel a lot more confident that we now have guys who can make those shots when I have to throw it out of a double-team," Abdur-Rahim says.

Abdur-Rahim not only worked a lot on his game during the summer, he became the Grizzlies' goodwill ambassador, working to persuade players that Vancouver is a team on the rise.

A thinner Scott, who played for Hill in Orlando, will back up 'Reef. After playing more than 40 minutes a game last season, Abdur-Rahim is happy to have an experienced hand to replace him.

Power forward
Statistically speaking, Othella Harrington should be the most improved player in the league this season. He'll finally get starter's minutes to display full-time the skills he showed in Houston last year when Charles Barkley was sidelined.

If Harrington proves to be just a one-year wonder, veteran Grant Long will steal the starting job, which would help the Grizzlies avoid having a starting five that averages only 24 years old.

Regularly destroyed at the 4-spot last year, the Grizzlies now sport tremendous depth with veteran Antoine Carr, rookie Obinna Ekezie and Cherokee Parks. All three will back up here and at center.

It's redemption time for "Big Country." After a pathetic season that he started 40 pounds overweight, Bryant Reeves worked out all summer and played summer-league games for the first time in his career. It looks like the big fella finally understands what being a professional means.

A healthy and effective Reeves will be a vital component for Vancouver, with his inside scoring and ability to command double-teams. Veteran Carr is nursing a sore knee, but the surprise may come from rookie Ekezie, who displayed impressive rebounding skills in preseason games.

Hill is a good teacher; no one doubts that. But in the world of the NBA, patience is generally not included and winning is everything. So after two years in Canada (and a record of 27-105), Hill must get some results.

Last season, a roster limited by injuries didn't allow Hill to make all the changes he wanted. But with a true preseason and the addition of five veterans, it's time to show he's more than just a teacher.

"We've put together a group that has addressed a lot of our needs, has added depth and has some good veteran leadership," Hill says."

But will that group be good enough to reach .500?

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