By Lorenzo Tanos
Together with the Toronto Raptors, the Vancouver Grizzlies brought NBA basketball to Canada almost 18 years ago, but six seasons later, the Grizz headed to Memphis, leaving Toronto as the only Canadian representative remaining in the league. Since those troubled first few six years up North, the Grizzlies have slowly risen from perennial lottery team to Playoffs contenders to one of the best teams in the Western Conference, especially on the defensive end. Here's our look back at the Grizzlies' NBA history, both in Vancouver and in Memphis.
1. What was the name of the yearly preseason game played between the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000?
The Naismith Cup. It may sound ironic considering these two expansion teams were among the NBA's worst for most of those years, but we must remember where the inventor of basketball, James Naismith, originated from. The Naismith Cup was played at a neutral Canadian venue in all NBA preseasons from 1995-96 to 2000-01 except 1998-99.
2. True or False – In his time with the Vancouver Grizzlies, ShareefAbdur-Rahim never saw a season where his team won more than 25 games.
True. Abdur-Rahim was a very good player, someone who regularly scored over 20 ppg and often flirted with double figure rebounding averages. He was also a very good passer and decent, though not great outside shooter for a big man. It was just his luck, unfortunately, to be surrounded by limited talent; he was the NBA's record holder for most career games played without making the Playoffs prior to finally making it to the postseason with the Sacramento Kings in 2006.
3. True or False – Present Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins is the only man to coach the Grizzlies in both of their home bases.
False. Hollins did coach part of the 1999-00 season in Vancouver, almost a decade before beginning his second run as Grizzlies head coach, this time in Memphis. Sidney Lowe, however, was the Grizz'scoach in their last year in Vancouver all the way to the eighth game of their second season in Memphis, at the start of the 2002-03 season.
4. Who did the Grizzlies receive in return for 1999 second-overall pick Steve Francis and quintessential journeyman forward Tony Massenburg?
Aside from a few first- and second-rounders, the Grizzlies were compensated in this 3-team, 11-man trade with a solid young starter and three veterans best suited for backup roles. The solid starter was guard Michael Dickerson, then in his second year in the league – he responded to the trade by averaging a career-best 18.2 ppg. Power forward Othella Harrington actually became a starter for the Grizz, averaging 13.1 ppg and 6.9 rpg in 1999-00, also career highs that would never be reached again. Antoine "Big Dawg" Carr, then 38, was past his point of usefulness, and averaged only 3.2 ppg. And Brent Price was little more than a three-point specialist, as he normed only 3.4 ppg that year, less than half of his production with the Rockets.
5. Which veteran head coach took the Grizzlies to their first winning season and first Playoffs appearance in the team's history?
It took a while for the Grizzlies to start winning in Memphis, with a new face of the franchise in Pau Gasol to go with the relocation. But when they did behind head coach Hubie Brown, in 2003-04, it was long overdue. The Grizzlies finished fourth in the West with a 50-32 record, but got swept in the first round of the 2004 Playoffs by the tried and tested San Antonio Spurs of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich. For his efforts, Brown won Coach of the Year for the 2003-04 season.
6. What year did Jerry West step down as Grizzlies general manager?
2007. This came right after a terrible 2006-07, where Gasol was struggling with injuries, among other problems within the Grizzlies. 2006-07 was also the first of three straight seasons where the Grizz reverted back to their losing ways, winning between 22 and 24 games in those years. As Grizzlies GM, West won the Executive of the Year award in 2003-04, his second time to win it following the 1994-95 season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
7. What is Grizzlies Vice President of Basketball Operations John Hollinger's main claim to fame?
Basketball stats geeks will definitely recognize the name John Hollinger, as he's contributed his incisive basketball analysis to ESPN and Sports Illustrated, among other publications, and written several books under the Pro Basketball Prospectus/Forecast series. He's also the creator of the PER (Player Efficiency Rating) stat, arguably the most accurate means of determining a player's overall contribution.
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