host Spurs tonight
The Memphis Grizzlies are winners of four of their last five games -not too shabby for a team that only has nine wins in 29 outings this season.
They edged the hapless Miami Heat 91-86 on Friday night and they’re back home at the Pyramid today for a 6 p.m. game against the Midwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs (20-7).
What’s behind the Grizzlies’ recent improvement -including an eyebrow-raising 114-108 win against the defending NBA championship Los Angeles Lakers?
Williams, a sometimes erratic talent acquired in the offseason from Sacramento, had 19 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for the young, improving Grizzlies in their victory against Miami.
“Early in the year, I think he thought he was still playing with the Sacramento Kings,” teammate Shane Battier said after Friday’s victory.
“He had to learn that we have some young guys, and patience is the key with this team. He has been much more patient the past six or seven games.”
Williams said he learned after the game that he came within a rebound of a triple-double.
“I’m not really worried about my stats, with the exception of turnovers, which wasn’t very good,” said Williams, who also had six turnovers. “But I’ll take it as long as we win.”
Williams, who came into the league out of Florida in 1998, is averaging 15.7 points and 8.4 assists, starting 28 of the Grizzlies’ 29 games.
Said his coach, Sidney Lowe: “Jason is playing well. He’s patient with his shots. Jason has the ability to control the players, tempo and the game.
“He’s running the show for us right now.”
But he’s getting plenty of help right now from rookies Battier and Pau Gasol.
Gasol, a rail-thin seven-footer, was an outstanding European player before making himself available for the 2001 NBA draft. He’s second on the team in scoring (15.4) and rebounds (8.3) and leads the team with 60 blocked shots.
Battier, a veteran of Duke’s 2001 championship team -he was national college player of the year last season – is third on the team in scoring (15.1) and is averaging almost 40 minutes per game while starting all 29 outings for the Memphis franchise.
“We’ve figured out what each of us can do better,” Battier said. “We’re getting more comfortable with each other and now we are playing some good basketball.”
Meanwhile, two players who were expected to provide leadership to the young Memphis roster this season -center Lorenzen Wright and shooting guard Michael Dickerson -remain sidelined by injuries.
Wright is out indefinitely with a knee injury after averaging 14.1 points and 11.3 rebounds his the Grizzlies’ first 15 games. Dickerson has appeared in only four games this season.