Brownie Points: Grizzlies reason Suns are making late-season changes - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Brownie Points: Grizzlies reason Suns are making late-season changes

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Posted: Monday, February 25, 2008 11:17 pm | Updated: 10:25 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Phoenix and Memphis haven't played during the first 56 games of the season, but former Suns assistant Marc Iavaroni knows his Grizzlies aren't very popular in the Valley these days.

It was the 14-42 Grizz, of course, who turned the Lakers into Western Conference terrors by not only handing over their best player, Pau Gasol, but by taking Kwame Brown and other garage sale items GM Mitch Kupchak was only too happy to hand over.

Compared to that, Detroit stole Karim Garcia from the D-Backs for Luis Gonzalez.

Now the Lakers are back to chasing trophies and Iavaroni and the Grizzlies are back to square one, rebuilding with Rudy Gay and Mike Conley, a fistful of first-round picks and lots of salary cap space in a city where college basketball's No. 2-ranked Tigers are king and the NBA is second-fiddle in its own building.

It's made for a crazy first season as a head coach for Iavaroni - 19 players have worn a uniform this season (not counting Aaron McKie, who was minding his own business as an assistant coach in Philadelphia before he was paid $750,000 to "re-sign" with the Lakers and balance the books for the Gasol trade.)

Damon Stoudamire, Stromile Swift and Tarence Kinsey were all dealt as well, leaving Memphis painfully young. And with more than half of the Western Conference expected to win 50 games and in the same division with four playoff teams - Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and San Antonio - the schedule often teaches some hard lessons.

But Iavaroni is undaunted, focused and feels the move was the best thing for all concerned - outside of Phoenix.

"We decided to restructure to get out of mediocrity. We've moved our goals back, but higher," Iavaroni said. "We're happy about our future and I'm happy for Pau in the situation he's in now.

"People told us when I got here that we needed to make changes. But we needed to go through an evaluation process and see what we had. Now we all know the cards we hold and we move forward."

The Suns weren't happy to lose their chief assistant and big man coach but knew it was only a matter of time before Iavaroni got his own gig. The only surprise was it took four years.

"He's such a great, great teacher," said Amar�!toudemire, who credits Iavaroni for teaching him to play out of position at center for the last four years. "He's a great advisor, especially from a big-guy standpoint, just talking about the game. Preparation is what he strives on, just knowing personnel. That definitely helped me."

Suns coach Mike D'Antoni chats with Iavaroni often, even seeking him out for some feedback when the Suns brought Shaquille O'Neal to Phoenix.

"He was curious about how I felt about the move and I was all gung-ho for it," he said. "The league is all about versatility now. San Antonio didn't win the championship playing one way, and the Suns are going in that direction.

"It's a bold move. I think adding a dominant physical presence makes sense, but it will also be interesting to see how much impact a Shawn Marion-less Suns will have."

SUNDAY BLUES

What is it about those Sunday afternoon games?

The Suns have rarely shown up for an early call, even with the bright lights of national TV shining. They blew a pair of 17-point leads in Cleveland and Detroit in 2005-06 and were beaten in Sacramento last year. They escaped with an ugly win in Chicago earlier this year, only because the Bulls were injured and played worse than they did, and then came the most recent 30-point humbling at the hands of the Pistons.

Phoenix has two more ABC matinees coming up - both at home and both against elite teams (March 9 vs. San Antonio and April 6 vs. Dallas). Whatever routine they have been using in the past might need a change-up.

QUICK HITTERS

The Tampa Rays (10 years of losing have beaten the Devil out of them) have been the last-chance rest stop for many fading stars before the reality of retirement hits (Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, etc. etc.) and now they are at least mulling the idea of offering asylum to Barry Bonds.

Tampa has stockpiled a lot of young talent and could be ready to make a push for their first winning season. The idea of dropping Bonds into the middle of that in the name of selling a few tickets is the kind of thinking that keeps you in the basement.

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl not only took over the No. 1 spot from Memphis Saturday but snuck in a hug on ABC sideline reporter Erin Andrews during the halftime interview. Be careful Erin, the guy likes to spray-paint himself orange and run around topless, too.

Grant Hill told the Detroit News that he decided to sign with the Suns instead of the Pistons in part because he wanted to keep the memories of being a young, high-flying, triple-double machine in Motown (he averaged 21.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists) intact.

"It would have been hard to go back and not be the same (player)," he said. "I used to play so well in that building (The Palace) ... I came to the conclusion that I'd rather keep my memories of being a Piston ... back in my prime."

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