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VOL. 133 | NO. 72 | Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Grizzlies Set to Pick in Top Five; Bickerstaff’s Future Cloudy

By Don Wade

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Memphis Grizzlies guard MarShon Brooks (8) drives to the basket in the second half of an NBA game against the Detroit Pistons Sunday, April 8, 2018, in Memphis. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

On Wednesday, the Memphis Grizzlies will play their last game of this difficult season at Oklahoma City. They are on track to finish with the second-worst record in the NBA and to have just under a 20 percent chance in the NBA Lottery to wind up with the overall No. 1 pick.

With the second-worst record, the Grizzlies can slide no lower than fifth in draft position and there would be only a 12.4 percent chance of that happening. Their odds, in order would be: 1) 19.9. 2) 18.8. 3) 17.1 4) 31.9 and 5) 12.4. All this according to tankathon.com. And yes, that’s a real website.

The Grizzlies, of course, did not tank on Sunday when they beat Detroit 130-117 in the last home game of the season. Which seems right, given that the last home game of the season is Fan Appreciation Day.

Meanwhile, there is the business of interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s future with the franchise. As in, does he have one? He hopes to return to next season.

J.B. Bickerstaff

“We have started to build a culture,” Bickerstaff said. “I think there’s going to be a tremendous bump next year, health permitting. I would love to be a part of it.”

As for his contact with the front office, he said: “We’ve had conversations. Chris (Wallace, GM) has done a good job staying in contact. The front office has been supportive in that way. At the end of the season you will be evaluated like everyone else and see where it goes.”

Tigers Missed All of $800,000 Payment from Grizzlies

It was hardly a surprise given the poor attendance at University of Memphis basketball games this season, but through an open record request via The Commercial Appeal fans learned that, yes, the school did not receive even a dollar of a potential $800,000 payment from the Grizzlies, per the lease agreement at FedExForum.

Memphis averaged 4,583 fans this past season and on the day the university formally announced the hiring of Penny Hardaway to replace Tubby Smith as coach, school president M. David Rudd shared with media that season ticket sales had dropped to just 4,115. The Tigers’ attendance in 2017-18 was the lowest in 48 years.

Per the FedExForum lease, the Tigers have to average more than 10,000 fans to receive the full $800,000 payment, but can receive a portion of it if averaging at least 6,000 fans.

With the excitement over Hardaway’s hiring, reaching the average of 10,000 fans might be the most important metric in Penny’s first year. And would seem to be very reachable.

As for the roster, three players – David Nickelberry, Jamal Johnson and Malik Rhodes – have indicated they are transferring from Memphis, clearing up more scholarship space for Hardaway. So far, four-star recruit Alex Lomax and Penny’s son, Jayden, have committed to Memphis.

Hardaway will reportedly hire former Grizzlier player Mike Miller as an assistant (cbssports.com first reported this), and Larry Brown may still be in the mix, too. Interest in Brown (also first reported by cbssports.com) is understandable if complicated. He’s won an NBA title and NCAA championship. He is a brilliant basketball mind. He also has had numerous run-ins with the NCAA, though he is not currently under any sanction and eligible to be hired.

Still, the U of M administration may be wary enough to impose some restrictions, if it allows Hardaway to move forward with Brown.

Not Your Typical No. 212 Prospect

Normally, it’s not big news when Nick Saban gets a commitment at Alabama from the 212th-ranked prospect in the country.

It is this time. Junior quarterback Paul Tyson, from Trussville, Alabama, is the No. 212 prospect in the class of 2019. He also is the great-grandson of legendary Crimson Tide coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Michigan, LSU and Tennessee were among the other schools after Bear Bryant’s great-grandson. They should have known better.

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