GM Jerry West Quiets Grizzly Roster Critics Again 

GM Jerry West Quiets Grizzly Roster Critics Again

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Jerry West's offseason moves that seemed puzzling to many appear to be working out well for the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies' president decided to overhaul his roster after a first-round playoff loss, dumping key players Jason Williams, James Posey, Bonzi Wells and Stromile Swift.

It looked as if the Grizzlies were shedding an enormous amount of talent, and many pundits suggested "The Logo" was losing his touch as one of the NBA's best executives.

But the Grizzlies are off to their best start with a 13-5 record and tied with Dallas and the Los Angeles Clippers for the second-best mark in the Western Conference.

"We're really a team," said starting center Lorenzen Wright, with the Grizzlies since their move to Memphis in 2001. "You keep some good guys and you add some good guys, and you're going to have a pretty good team."

The Grizzlies are in the middle of a six-game winning streak, beating opponents by an average of more than 17 points, showing a new spark on defense and enjoying big nights from 3-point range.

Memphis players say the biggest change from last season is the commitment to teamwork instilled by the arrival of veterans Eddie Jones, Damon Stoudamire and Bobby Jackson.

"You're talking about 12 men, basically, on the active roster. It's not like football," Memphis coach Mike Fratello said. "One guy can change the makeup or the mind-set of a team."

Fratello's Grizzlies are passing more and playing defense as a team.

"You get that follow-the-leader type mentality," Fratello said. "One guy says, 'He's the one who passed me the ball when I was open. I'll pass it back to him. He's open now.' It's contagious."

The Grizzlies still have work to do on rebounding, though they're on track to improve over last season when they were last in the league. And they're still not a high-scoring team.

But the defense has been stifling. Memphis leads the NBA in points allowed, giving up an average of about 85. Over the past six games, the Grizzlies have held opponents to an average of 76 points.

Jackson said he, Stoudamire and Jones are confident they can continue to help the team.
"We knew we've got leadership, and we know we can play (defense)," Jackson said. "We're just happy to be here."

The Grizzlies ended last season with what West has called an "implosion." They were swept in the first round of the playoffs by Phoenix amid bickering between Fratello and some of his top players.

That prompted West to get rid of the talented but temperamental duo of Williams and Wells. He picked up Jones in a trade with Miami and got Jackson in a deal with Sacramento. Stoudamire came to Memphis as a free agent.

In addition to tightening their defense, the Grizzlies have improved on long-range shooting. They hit a franchise-record 15 3-pointers in a 90-75 victory over Houston on Dec. 2.

That outside threat has given 7-foot forward Pau Gasol more room to work inside. He got his eighth double-double of the season against the Hornets, with 29 points and 15 rebounds in a victory Tuesday night.

Fratello said success from long range "ties into the unselfish part of it."

"I could take a shot with a man on me contesting my shot or I could make one more pass to the guy next to me who doesn't have anybody on him," Fratello said. "You take one more pass or two more passes and you find the open man."

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