Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 5/29/12
When you blow a 27-point lead with 14 minutes to play in Game 1 of a playoff series on your home court and then battle from a 3-1 deficit to force a Game 7, again on your home court, and lose again, it's easy to say that your season was a flop. But Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins doesn't think so even though his team was eliminated by the Clippers in seven games in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. "We had the best season winning percentage in franchise history (62.1) and the best home winning percentage (78.8) in franchise history," Hollins said. "If you make the playoffs, it's got to be a good season." It was a good season because the Grizzlies managed their highest seed ever in the playoffs -- fourth -- despite losing sixth man Darrell Arthur for the year (torn Achilles) in training camp and losing All-Star power forward Zach Randolph for 37 games after he tore medial collateral knee ligaments in the fourth game of the season. The Grizzlies had to acquire three new players -- Marreese Speights, Quincy Pondexter and Donte Cunnningham -- and blend them into the playing rotation while not getting much practice or teaching time during the season. Despite that and then having to blend Randolph back into the playing rotation though he was only about 80 percent, Memphis finished the regular season 41-25, winning 11 of its last 13 games. But in the playoffs, the same needs the Grizzlies had at the end of last season, when they were eliminated by Oklahoma City in seven games in the Western semis, were evident again. "We have an unsettled backup point guard situation because (starter) Mike (Conley) played too many minutes and we need more three-point shooters," Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said. "We've got to address these two issues." What kind of point guard? "I want a point guard who is quick and can guard somebody for as long as we need him to guard, and who can get us into some sort of offensive flow," Hollins said. And why an outside shooter? "You got to have somebody to open it up," Randolph said. "(Teams) understand how much damage and how much problems me and Marc (Gasol) cause in the paint. We got to fix that." Arthur, Speights and shooting guards O.J. Mayo and Lester Hudson are restricted free agents. The Grizzlies have between the end of the NBA Finals and June 30 to make a qualifying offer on those players. Guard Gilbert Arenas, a late season pickup by the Grizzlies, and center Hamed Haddadi are unrestricted free agents. The Grizzlies will select 25th in the first round after the Los Angeles Lakers won a tie-breaker that gave them the 24th pick. They don't have a second-round pick because the Grizzlies must send the Philadelphia 76ers their 54th selection to satisfy the trade for Speights. NOTES, QUOTES --Grizzlies majority owner Michael Heisley said he's not going to mope over getting eliminated by the Clippers in round one of the playoffs. "The fact that we got beat by a team that was definitely equal to us in the seventh game makes me feel bad for the city. But it was a very tight, competitive series," Heisley said. "I'm not going to diminish the successes of the season because I lost one basketball game. "I remember I went nine years without winning a playoff game. I'd like to have more, but I feel pretty good about this team. I'm looking at the big picture." --That big picture might not include Grizzlies assistant David Joerger, who interviewed on May 18 with Bobcats owner Michael Jordan. Joerger has been in Memphis five seasons and is the team's defensive guru. He won five minor league championships as a head coach in the NBA Development League, the International Basketball Association and the Continental Basketball Association. --Discounting the Grizzlies' Game 7 10-point loss to the Clippers, in which Memphis led by a point entering the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies lost Games 1 and 3 by a point and Game 4 by four points in overtime. They had fourth-quarter leads in Games 1 and 3 and came from 10 points down with 5:16 left in regulation in Game 4 to force OT only to fold in the extra period. "We know who we are now," guard Tony Allen said. "We're officially a playoff team. That means we have to close games." QUOTE TO NOTE "I have no second-guessing of myself for the season. I have no second-guessing of myself for the series. I'm very secure in who I am as a person and with the job I've done. Once I got over the pain (of losing to the Clippers in the playoffs), I slept like a baby." -- Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. ROSTER REPORT MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: G Mike Conley was a warrior. He had his best year despite having to play extended minutes since the team had no dependable backup point guard. He averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 steals, improved his free throw percentage by almost 13 points from last year (from 73.3 last year to 86.1 this year) and was second in the league in steals (2.19). MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Rookie free agent Jeremy Pargo, who had been playing overseas, was signed to a two-year deal on Dec. 10 as a backup point guard on the basis of his play in training camp. Because of that, the team traded second-year point guard Greivis Vasquez, who improved drastically toward the end of last season, to the Hornets for swingman Quincy Pondexter on Dec. 24, Pargo turned out to be an out-of-control, poor decision-making player who averaged just 9.6 minutes in 44 games. He wasn't activated during the playoffs. Vasquez, meanwhile, played in all 66 games with the Hornets, starting 26 times and averaging 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds. BIGGEST NEEDS: The Grizzlies were 25th in the league in three-point percentage and averaged just 4.2 made threes per game. And in a strike-shortened season when teams were playing four to five games a week with virtually no days off, starting point guard Mike Conley averaged 35.1 minutes per game (26th in the league) and starting center Marc Gasol averaged 36.5 minutes. So check, check, check -- the Grizzlies need another three-point shooter, a backup point guard and a backup post player. FREE AGENT FOCUS: Forward Darrell Arthur, Marreese Speights and shooting guards O.J. Mayo and Lester Hudson are restricted free agents. The Grizzlies have between the end of the NBA Finals and June 30 to make a qualifying offer on those players. Guard Gilbert Arenas, a late season pickup by the Grizzlies, and center Hamed Haddadi are unrestricted free agents. The Grizzlies probably won't try to sign any of the above except Mayo and Arthur. PLAYER NOTES --G O.J. Mayo, who averaged 12.6 points off the bench during the regular season, is a four-year veteran and a restricted free agent who wants to stay in Memphis. "I'd like to finish building what we started," Mayo said. "I also want to play point guard." The problem is the Grizzlies might not have enough to keep Mayo. He's going to demand more than the 5.6 million he got on his original contract, and Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley doesn't want to pay the luxury tax. Plus, Mayo's ballhandling is too shaky for him to be the primary backup point guard behind starter Mike Conley. --F Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies' max contract player, averaged 19 points in the regular season and in the playoffs but disappeared in long stretches of all four playoff losses. His next chance to redeem himself is in the Olympic training camp in early July as he tries to make the U.S. team that will participate in the London Summer Games. "Last year, I spent my summer rehabbing from shoulder surgery and this summer I can spend improving my game," Gay said. "The Olympics is something I want to be a part of. If I don't make it, I still have a job here. The Olympic experience will be good for me." --C Marc Gasol is set for the Olympics and will play again for Spain. "Playing for Spain and playing for the Grizzlies are two different mindsets," Gasol said. "You train for a month for the Olympics, you play for three weeks and that's it. It's hit or miss. But playing a whole NBA season, you go through so many ups and downs with your teammates, it's harder to get over when it ends sooner than you expect."
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