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Often overlooked, the long-running trio of Zach Randolph, Conley (#11) and Marc Gasol (#33) have quietly made the Grizzlies into regular contenders. stay that way and stay consistent that way,” he said. “Hopefully I can do my best I can to stay healthy and be consistent.” Gasol staying healthy for a full 82 or close to that should help the offense immensely. But the biggest move the Grizz made to bolster their O was adding Vince Carter this summer to bolster their second unit, a role he’s filled the past few seasons in Dallas. The Grizzlies’ second unit, which averaged 32.9 points last season, 10th in the league, lost three key contributors in Jerryd Bayless, Ed Davis and Mike Miller. But the addition of Carter along with a healthy Quincy Pondexter, limited to just 15 games last year before a stress fracture in his right foot ended his Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images season in December and a returning Nick Calathes, who showed promise last year, his first in the League, could be enough to offset those losses. “Now I’m smarter, I’ve been around, I’ve seen it all. Nothing surprises me now in the game. I still have the ability to put the ball in the basket, so I just have to come up with creative ways to do so now. It’s always a challenge when you reach this age,” Carter said. “I just want to win and see my team do well and I think that’s helped me more than anything.” And for those who wonder what VC might have left at age 37, Joerger feels he still has plenty to offer, on and off the floor. “What he brings to the table is what we need. He’s a good shooter. He’s a good playmaker. He’s a good leader in our locker room,” Joerger said. “We want to play him in a role where we give him the ball and let him do his thing.” OUTLOOK Last season, Memphis showed great consistency in winning games at home (27-14) and on the road (23-18). But one area where Joerger seeks improvement is in how his team starts games. Last season, the Grizz made a habit of starting slowly, so slowly in fact that they often had to come from behind in the fourth quarter. Naturally, that made them one of the NBA’s top fourth-quarter teams, but Joerger would rather not travel down a similar path this year. “We got to get a quicker start. We’re one of the best fourth-quarter teams and we go like crazy. It just can’t be that way,” Joerger said. “We have to get quicker starts in games and to the season.” If the Grizz can start games better and keep Gasol and Randolph healthy, then they could win 50 games for a third straight year and be a factor in the West. SPOTLIGHT: Marc Gasol There isn’t a more important player on Memphis than Marc Gasol. Thanks to a sprained MCL in his left knee, one of the best defensive centers (along with Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah) was limited to 59 games last season and when he wasn’t on the floor, there was no doubt about just how important he is in helping forge Memphis’ strong defensive identity. But Gasol is now healthy and looking to return to the top of his game, like in 2012 when he was an All-Star for the first time. “When Marc got hurt, it totally changed our team. When he came back, you saw what the difference was. He’s our catalyst. He anchors the defense and he runs the team. Without him, there are no Grizzlies,” Randolph said. “This year, he’s going to be aggressive and he’s going to be one of the best centers in the NBA.” In the offseason, Gasol worked on becoming more active on both ends of the floor and would also like to play at a faster pace. Of course, if Gasol can stay healthy, the Grizz could contend in the West. But if he is again slowed by injury, they could struggle. “I’m a big believer in overall consistency and discipline,” Gasol said. “I think when you don’t have a good game or if things don’t go the way you planned, if you rely on those, you execute the gameplan, you’re disciplined and consistent with it, you can pull out some games you’re not supposed to.”


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