Originally created 04/27/04

West says playoffs exposed Grizzlies' flaws



MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jerry West was not happy.

The day after being swept by San Antonio in the first round of the NBA playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies gathered Monday for a team photo.

West, who is trying to build the franchise into a league contender, watched as the players gathered in small groups, some laughing and joking.

"I wouldn't be laughing. I'll guarantee you that, not me," West said.

The Grizzlies had an outstanding regular season, winning 50 games - 22 more than ever before - and earning a franchise-first playoff berth in the tough Western Conference.

But for West, the regular season and the playoffs must be evaluated independently.

Playing the toughest opponents in the most important games is when a team's weaknesses become most apparent, he said.

Except for Game 3, which the Spurs won 95-93, the Grizzlies were shoved around handily. And even in that game, the Spurs had 48 rebounds to 31 for the Grizzlies, including a 21-10 advantage on the offensive boards.

For the series, the Spurs shot 50.7 percent from the field to 42.4 percent for Memphis. From 3-point range, San Antonio hit 47.7 percent to 29.4 percent for the Grizzlies.

West declined to name names, but said he was disappointed with individuals and the team as a whole.

West is regarded as one of the best judges of talent in the league and changes are expected in the lineup by next season.

The Grizzlies have long needed more strength and size inside, but "we've got a lot more needs than that," West said, declining to go into specifics.

He had nothing but praise, however, for coach Hubie Brown and his staff.

"You couldn't do any more than they've done," West said. "I don't think there's a coach in basketball who could have won 50 games with this team besides our coach."

West said his highlight of the season was when Brown received the league's coach of the year trophy to a standing ovation from Memphis fans.

Brown's plans for next season are unsettled, though West and team owner Michael Heisley hope he stays.

Brown, who will be 71 in September, is the oldest coach in the NBA.

"I've just got to step back and discuss this with my wife and my family, and then also, I want to get checked out again to make sure I'm OK physically," he said. "Then I'll make a decision."

West has added nine players to the roster since taking over in April 2002, and Heisley said he expects more personnel changes.

"Jerry West makes all those kinds of decisions. Quite frankly, I don't even make suggestions to him," Heisley said. "I love every one of our players, but I'm sure he's going to be looking to make changes to make the team better."

As general manager of the Lakers from 1982 to 2000, West built them into a championship team led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

His hiring of Brown in Memphis raised eyebrows around the league, with many observers questioning if Brown could communicate with a team of 20-something millionaires.

But the Grizzlies took quickly to Brown, describing him as tough but fair, and adopted his fast-paced style that used a 10-man rotation, beating San Antonio three times.

Next season, the Grizzlies move to a new $250 million arena beside the city's Beale Street entertainment district.

At The Pyramid, their temporary home along the downtown riverfront, the Grizzlies drew an average of 15,188 this season. They closed the regular season with three straight sellouts of 19,351 and both home playoff games were sold out.