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A decade before he drafted Stephen Curry, Larry Riley learned a lot about the NBA and what you require to build a contender.

“Without question those years in Vancouver were as instrumental in forming who I became as anything in my career,” he says in his Hoosier twang over the phone from Atlanta this week, where he’s senior adviser to Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk.

One of the Grizzlies’ first hires was the team’s director of player personnel, who worked from 1994 to 2000.

“It turned out well for me because of the experience that I had and it elevated me. And it destroyed some other people and it could have destroyed me,” Riley said. “But it didn’t and it turned out well.”

Riley believes things could have been so different for Vancouver’s NBA team, whose six-year odyssey launched 25 years ago this month.

But most of the damage that ended with Chicago-based billionaire Michael Heisley moving the team to Memphis in 2001 was self-inflicted, he insists.

“I’ve thought about that from time to time,” he said. “It would have taken a real effort, but if the team had not been sold to Mr. Heisley, if it had stayed two more years, maybe one, the team would have turned the corner. Then a playoff team and they’d still be there today.

“You can blame him in some ways, but you can also blame us because we had the philosophy that we’re going to build the team through the draft and we’re going to do it more slowly. And then you obviously look at Toronto and they flipped their roster faster than we did.

“You could argue in that first draft that Big Country (Cheap Bryant Reeves Jersey) wasn’t what he was supposed to be. … You look at that first draft. It’s crazy but the first five players in that draft were all extremely good players and then at No. 6, which is where we were, there was a drop-off.”

Damon Stoudamire, who the Raptors selected after the Grizzlies picked Reeves, was the obvious other option at No. 6, but in the end Riley said they figured if they were building the team slowly, they could find a point guard later and that Reeves would be a solid piece in the post.

“We felt — whether you can see it was incorrect and you could say that with legitimacy — that if we drafted a centre who was going to be our centre for the next 10 years, that was the way to go.”

But Reeves put on weight and never developed the way the Grizzlies hoped.

Riley had been to a lot of places and seen a lot of basketball before he finally landed in Vancouver. And yet, the six years he spent in Vancouver had more impact than any other job.

Some of that was because he’d decided to change a flight in January 1997 at the last minute, a decision that proved to save his life — the plane he was meant to be on crashed, killing everyone aboard — teaching him a lesson about treating everyone around him with respect .

But more broadly, his role as general manager Stu Jackson’s key lieutenant exposed him to a broad swath of responsibilities.

“That did more for (my future) than anything else,” he said. “My first experience in the front office was in Vancouver and it was tremendous.”

For the Grizzlies, he watched NBA games, he scoured Europe and of course U.S. colleges. Beyond the nuts and bolts of running the scouting department, once the team swung into game action he did a lot of talking to agents and other teams.

“We were getting beat in Vancouver and my stomach was churning and I didn’t like it,” he said. “But being in Vancouver and working toward an objective, we had a lot of good people. There was agony but it was a pleasure to go to work. And then the learning experience.”

The Grizzlies and their expansion cousins were given the chance to build out their rosters during an expansion draft the summer before their debuts in the 1995-96 season. It was slim pickings, with most players never playing for their new teams.

The Grizzlies found three players who would be strong veteran contributors in that first season — point guard Greg Anthony, sixth man Byron Scott and swingman Cheap Blue Edwards Jersey — plus a couple other veterans they’d had hopes for but who struggled with injuries more than they played in Kenny Gattison and Gerald Wilkins.

“The overall philosophy at that time was to get a centre, and then, in all honesty, the second was to get a point guard. And then you fill out the roster, which clearly, it took a while,” he said.

They drafted Cheap Mike Bibby Jersey in 1998, a year after drafting Antonio Daniels. Both went on to have solid careers but neither proved to be a true star. And, of course, they drafted Steve Francis in 1999, a player who’d said before the draft he’d refuse to play for the Grizzlies, a vow he carried through on.

“You could argue that we screwed up and drafted too many point guards,” Riley said. “There’s some validity to it.

“That expansion draft was about balancing a budget and not getting stuck at the end with a bad contract, which I remember well. Both Toronto and us were trying to avoid the Oliver Miller contract,” he said. Miller was a skilled centre but had huge problems keeping his weight down, regularly tipping the scales at more than 300 pounds.

“That’s the most vivid memory I have of the expansion draft.”

The Raptors ended up selecting Miller with the final pick of the expansion draft. He bounced around the NBA for a total of eight years but played another seven both in Europe and in smaller leagues around the U.S.

Both Jackson and Riley were out the door in the spring of 2000, not long after Heisley took over. Heisley moved the team to Memphis a year later.

The team had an almost immediate makeover, with Bibby traded to Sacramento for Cheap Jason Williams Jersey and Cheap Shareef Abdur-Rahim Jersey  traded to Atlanta for a package of players, including the just-drafted Cheap Pau Gasol Jersey.

“That’s what put them over the top,” said Riley. “But who’s to say we would not have drafted Gasol in Vancouver and gotten the same result? And you know that (Gasol) would have been tremendously embraced. I mean, it’s just one of those could-have-been scenarios.”

Riley defended Jackson, who took a job with the NBA after resigning in Vancouver and now heads up men’s basketball for the NCAA’s Big East Conference.

“Stu is a good basketball man and his record doesn’t show it. He was just outstanding to work with. He knows the game, he knows coaches, he knows people who can get jobs done,” he said. “I think we ran out of time. You can say that’s a lame excuse. OK. … But I don’t think the business failed because of Stu Jackson.”

Another could-have-been scenario was the Grizzlies adding Steve Nash, a player he would come to learn about.

Nash was taken by the Phoenix Suns 15th overall in the 1996 draft, when the Grizzlies grabbed Abdur-Rahim third overall. The Victoria point guard was expected to be a solid pro, not play on a path toward all-time greatness.

When the Suns added Jason Kidd during the 1996-97 season, Nash’s future with Phoenix became doubtful. There was plenty of clamouring in Vancouver that maybe this was the local hero the team needed.

At the 1997 draft, the Suns told Jackson that they’d trade Nash to the Grizzlies, but only if they gave up the fourth overall pick. Jackson wasn’t interested. And Riley insisted their judgment at the time was correct.

“I don’t recall a good trade (offer) where we could have gotten him,” he said. “The reason I say that is I don’t remember all the details and it’s one of those things that you throw away and say, ‘To hell with it.’ I do that, I get things that come across my desk, so to speak, and it’s no good and you just throw it in the trash.”

After he was let go by the Grizzlies, Riley was hired by the Dallas Mavericks and their legendary coach Don Nelson to work as an advance scout and as an assistant coach.

Nash’s breakout season, his third in Dallas, just happened to be Riley’s first with the Mavs. Michael Finley, who the Mavericks had drafted late in the first round in 1995, and Dirk Nowitzki, drafted in 1998, were also on the team.

“That was an awfully damn good group,” he said, laughing. “Nowitzki used to rage me on, he’d say, ‘Yeah, you didn’t draft Nash and you had a chance!’ He never let me forget it. Steve wasn’t sticking a fork in me. It was good-natured ribbing. Dirk never liked me forgetting.”

In 2009, after nearly a decade as Nelson’s assistant coach in Dallas and then Golden State, he became the Warriors’ general manager. Stephen Curry was his first pick. Two years later, he picked Klay Thompson.

A lifetime of watching basketball, combined with lessons learned in Vancouver, led him to draft one of the all-time greats. And while he was moved out of the GM’s job in Golden State in 2012, the rest is history.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — — Cheap Ja Morant Jersey had 17 points and 10 assists and took a key charge late as the Memphis Grizzlies won their fifth straight, beating the Phoenix Suns 108-104 on Monday.

Morant assisted on Cheap Grayson Allen Jersey 3-pointer with 1:06 left to give Memphis a 101-98 lead, then scored on a drive with 30.8 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, Morant took a charge against Chris Paul to help maintain the Memphis lead.

“Ja has a crazy good feel for the game,” said Cheap Brandon Clarke Jersey, who matched Morant’s 17 points. “I feel like those first three quarters, he’s just kind of like watching the defense, watching us, seeing what the defense gives him.

“By the fourth quarter, he’s just kind of like already figured out everything with that, and he’s able to get in the paint, get his shot off, get his teammates shots.”

Allen, who finished with 16 points, converted four free throws down the stretch to preserve the win.

“We didn’t get stops. We didn’t execute,” said Paul, who finished with 16 points and seven assists. “I had six turnovers. This ain’t it. This ain’t it. … We shouldn’t be losing this many close games like that.”

Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 18 points and tied a season high with 16 rebounds, while Mikal Bridges had 17 points.

Devin Booker added 12 points but struggled from the field, converting only five of his 21 shots.

Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said the Grizzlies tried to share the load of defending Booker.

“I thought Grayson, in particular, did a really, really nice job,” Jenkins said. “We had a lot of guys switching on to (Booker) throughout the game. That’s just discipline team-wise.”

The game — part of Memphis’ 19th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration — marked the first time Phoenix had played in a week after having three games canceled under the league’s health and safety guidelines.

Monday’s game was a matchup of pieced-together lineups as both teams were dealing with injuries and the league’s health and safety protocols. Three players didn’t travel with the Suns, including Dario Saric. The Grizzlies had Cheap Jaren Jackson Jr. Jersey and Cheap Justise Winslow Jersey out with injuries and starting center Cheap Jonas Valanciunas Jersey entered the health and safety protocols after Saturday’s win over Philadelphia.

In the end, the Suns were not able to hold the advantage in the final 2:39. After taking a 98-94 lead, Phoenix was outscored 14-6.

Suns coach Monty Williams called Allen’s 3-pointer “a microcosm of the whole night,” adding: “Down the stretch, we had some shots, we just missed them.”

TIP-INS

Suns: With the absence of Saric, Damian Jones and rookie big man Jalen Smith, that left only Ayton and Frank Kaminsky in the low post for the Suns. “I’m just grateful to have those two guys,” Williams said. … The Suns have played in two other MLK Jr. Day games in Memphis — 2007 and 2010. … Cameron Johnson moved into the starting lineup for Jae Crowder, who started the first 11 Phoenix games. … Cameron Payne, who missed the previous two games with a sprained right ankle, returned to action.

Grizzlies: With Valanciunas unavailable, rookie Cheap Xavier Tillman Jersey made his first NBA start. “Me and my wife (Sunday) were in the car geeked and screaming (thinking) ‘No way this is happening,’” Tillman said. “When coach told me, Cheap Jaren Jackson Jersey was kind of ready for it, hoping it’s going to happen. So, I was kind of prepared for it.”… Memphis shot 13 of 18 in the second quarter, including missing on one of six 3-pointers.

COVID CHAOS

With the cancellations around the league because of health and safety protocols, every game seems up in the air until tipoff. “For us, we just kind of take it moment by moment, day by day, not trying to look too far ahead,” Jenkins said. “We always prepare that we’re playing a game until we’re not.”

UP NEXT

Suns: Face the Rockets in Houston on Wednesday.

Grizzlies: Play the first of two games against the Trail Blazers in Portland starting Wednesday.

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BARTLETT, Tenn. (WREG) — The Cheap Allen Iverson Jersey Roundball Classic is in Memphis for the Battle in the Bluff high school showcase.

The event is hosted by former NBA star Stephen Jackson and will include special appearances from Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady, Matt Barnes, and Ja Morant.

The three-day event is being held at Bartlett High School, featuring the Panthers, Arlington, Briarcrest Christian, MUS, ECS, and PURE Youth Academy. University of Memphis men’s basketball commit Jordan Nesbit and St. Louis Christian will also be playing in the showcase.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) DeMar DeRozan had 28 points and nine assists, Dejounte Murray added 21 points as the San Antonio Spurs used a balanced attack to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 131-119 on Wednesday night, overcoming a huge game by Cheap Ja Morant Jersey.

Morant — the reigning rookie of the year — had 34 of his career-high 44 points in the second half. While that helped carry the Grizzlies offensively, it wasn’t enough to put a deep dent in San Antonio’s double-digit lead through much of the second half.

”I’m not happy at all,” Morant said when asked about the career-high, adding: ”We came up short. So, learning from this game and prepare for the next.”

While the game tipped off the Grizzlies 20th season in Memphis, things were toned down from the normal baptism of a new campaign. FedExForum was void of any fans, leaving any crowd noise to recorded reactions.

”I thought our guys, our young guys competed hard, really showed themselves well for the first game we played together,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. He later added that Murray’s defense ”did a good job making Morant work.”

”At the end, I think we were probably a little bit tired. But Morant just took it in his own hands and decided to attack the rim. I don’t think we got back really well the last six, seven minutes of the game. But, fortunately, we were able to continue scoring.”

LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 points for San Antonio, while Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson had 16 each, part of seven Spurs finishing in double figures.

”I think we got a little sloppy toward the end,” Murray said. ”But like I said, we fought, we played together, and we made it happen and we came out with a win.”

Cheap Dillon Brooks Jersey scored 16 for the Grizzlies, while Cheap Jonas Valanciunas Jersey added 15 points and 13 rebounds.

The Spurs, who fell behind early as Memphis was connecting on 3-pointers, clamped down on defense in the second quarter. The stingy defense and much better shooting by the Spurs helped San Antonio to a 66-53 lead at the break.

”They really picked up their pressure in the second quarter, which I think really think impacted both sides of the ball,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Fourth-year G Derrick White was out recovering from left toe surgery. .Wore their City Edition jerseys with the fiesta colors – teal, pink and orange – across the chest and down the side of the shorts. . G Patty Mills connected on a 3-pointer in the second quarter, moving him ahead of Allen Iverson for 99th on the all-time made 3-pointer list with 1,060.

Grizzlies: Are 9-17 in home openers, and had won six of their last eight entering the game. .Memphis remained without F Cheap Jaren Jackson Jr. Jersey (left knee meniscus surgery) and swingman Cheap Justise Winslow Jersey (left hip displacement). . Valanciunas reached 1,000 career rebounds in the third quarter.

DANCIN’ POP: Spurs swingman Lonnie Walker IV apparently is trying to help coach Gregg Popovich into music, teaching the San Antonio coach about some of the better rap artist. ”The only ones that I listen to are the ones you can dance to,” Popovich said. ”If you can’t dance to it, then it’s not good.”

UP NEXT

Spurs: San Antonio has its home opener Saturday against the Toronto Raptors.

Grizzlies: Face the Atlanta Hawks in a Saturday matinee before heading out on its first road trip of the season – three games against Eastern Conference opponents.

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