The time is now for the Grizzlies.
They earned their first playoff series win in franchise history last season. The team is young. 11 Grizzlies are younger than 30 years old. Darrell Arthur and Mike Conley improved significantly while Zach Randolph had another standout season. Conley had 1.7 more points (12 to 13.7) and 1.2 more assists per game (5.3 to 6.5). Arthur improved his shooting drastically. His 9.1 points per game was 3.5 more than his rookie season two years ago and his 49.7 percent field goal percentage were 5.9 percent higher than his mark that year. Randolph set a career high and franchise record for rebounds per game. The Grizzlies would not want to lose this progress.
A young team that can only be on the upward trend needs a 2011-12 season to continue growth. Conley has developed in his point guard role and has turned into a fine contributor defensively. He led the team with 1.8 steals per game. Randolph did a superb job carrying the team late in the season after Rudy Gay suffered a shoulder injury. One would not want to see Randolph, 30, miss a year when he is at his physical peak. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins likely wants to see his players continue to mature while they are still young.
Fortunately Grizzlies players have remained active. Gay is in rehab from shoulder surgery. Randolph will play in the Impact Basketball league in Las Vegas. When he is cleared to play, Gay will also enter Impact Basketball. Rookie Josh Selby is playing with the Baltimore-based Melo League, which also features Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Paul. Marc Gasol has played with the Spain EuroBasket team. Also, Greivis Vasquez is playing with Venezuela's pre-Olympic FIBA Americas. Seeing Grizzlies players in action while the NBA and the players association is roiled in stiff negotiations is at least somewhat promising.
The best scenario for the Grizzlies, as well as every other NBA team, is a collective bargaining agreement agreed upon and ratified some time in the next month. That doesn't seem likely. One would like to see the Grizzlies given the opportunity to take the court this season—even if it is not on November 2 against the Los Angeles Clippers as scheduled—to continue their rise in the tough Western Conference to become a mainstay among playoff-caliber teams.
If only the owners and players could see eye to eye, this would be simple.
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