Grizzlies prepare for 10th season in Memphis with a trip to playoffs goal for both team, owner

Rudy Gay has a gold medal from the world championships and a patch on the front of his jersey marking the Grizzlies' 10th season in their second hometown.

With his success and the franchise milestone, there is pressure to make the playoffs.

The owner and the fans are impatient, they want to see the Grizzlies back in the postseason.

"It could be a great season for us," Gay said Monday at the Grizzlies' media day. "We have a lot of high hopes. ... We're one year older. They say we're a young team. We're one year older. We had some success last year. Now we want to build on that. I think we have the tools to be a great team."

The Grizzlies are coming off a 40-42 season with Gay signed to an $82 million contract in July, coach Lionel Hollins has his own new three-year deal and with new additions like defensive stopper Tony Allen and draft picks Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez added to provide much-needed minutes and points off the bench.

Owner Michael Heisley has made no secret of his desire to see the Grizzlies finish their 10th full season in Memphis in the playoffs for only the fourth time in the franchise's 15-year history and the first time since being swept in the opening round in 2006.

General manager Chris Wallace said he believes the owner's three-year plan is on track. But Wallace said he won't imitate Joe Namath before his Super Bowl prediction. Hollins is a bit more realistic.

"In the big picture, we really haven't done anything. We didn't make the playoffs. We didn't even finish .500. There's a lot of good talk going on around town, which I appreciate. But the reality is we haven't accomplished anything. We have a lot of work to do in order to get better," Hollins said.

He noted the Grizzlies led the NBA in scoring in the paint last season, ranked third in fast-break points, jumped to fourth in rebounding. Memphis also boosted its scoring to 102.4 points per game, and Hollins said their 46.9 percent shooting was the best in team history.

But defensive struggles meant the Grizzlies also gave up the most points in the paint, and Hollins said they were near the bottom in points allowed off turnovers and off the fast-break. That led to Memphis finishing 10th in the West, two spots out of a playoff berth. That's why defensive improvement will be a big focus when training camp starts Tuesday.

Hollins also put to rest any thought that O.J. Mayo will be used at point guard. Mayo played the position a bit during the summer.

"O.J. is a shooter and a scorer. That's what we need him to do is get open and hit shots, not run the team," Hollins said.

It's a much different atmosphere now than a year ago when Heisley brought in Allen Iverson hoping to sell more tickets. The Grizzlies went to Birmingham, Ala., for training camp to meld a roster featuring lots of new faces along with Iverson. That experiment failed as the Grizzlies opened the season 1-8. Iverson didn't stick around and was waived in November.

The Grizzlies are spending training camp in Memphis, taking advantage of the practice gym inside the arena built to lure this franchise from Vancouver back in 2001. They open the preseason Oct. 6 hosting Indiana with the season opener Oct. 27 against Atlanta.

Zach Randolph, the franchise's second All-Star after leading the team with 20.8 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in his first season in Memphis, said he sees a team that got off to a bad start a year ago.

"I think it's important for us to get off to a good start and look at the big picture, and the big picture is making the playoffs. That's what we've got to remind ourselves each and every game what we're playing for," he said.

That could be challenging. Randolph is in the final year of his contract and wants a new deal. Guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol also will be restricted free agents at the end of this season without new contracts.

Randolph said he's only playing, leaving the talks to his agent and team officials. He's busy thinking about all the games Memphis blew double-digit leads in last season and how the Grizzlies can turn those into wins.

"We're at a point where we have to finish our games, and we know what to do to win the game," Randolph said.

Now the Grizzlies just have to prove that.

Notes: Vasquez is recovering from surgery on his right ankle to remove a bone spur. Wallace said the rookie is a couple weeks away from being cleared to run, then will start working himself back into shape. Vasquez was the 28th pick in the June draft.