Grizzlies eager to build off 2 playoff appearances

Grizzlies eager to build off 2 playoff appearances

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies have had just enough success the past two seasons that they are back and craving more.

Much more.

The franchise that simply wanted to win a postseason game two years ago goes into this season with all five starters back and healthy with enough playoff experience to know how much harder they need to work. Knocking off the No. 1 seed as they did in 2011 against San Antonio is not enough anymore, and neither is landing home-court advantage to start the postseason.

``Our expectations are high too,'' Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph said. ``We just want to take one game at a time. ... We don't want to talk about doing this, doing that. We want to take it one game at a time. ... I think we do that and don't look too far ahead, take steps, let it come to us, we're going to be all right.''

The franchise once known for losing an NBA record 12 straight playoff games without a single win has been rebuilt around Rudy Gay, Randolph, center Marc Gasol with Mike Conley at point guard and guard Tony Allen bringing his defensive focus.

Now they want to put together a season where everyone remains healthy to try to see just what they can do together.

``We haven't had everybody together for the start and finish,'' Randolph said. ``I think if we had that, it'd be a big difference. We're going to have it this year and hopefully everybody stays healthy and shows everybody what we're really like when we're healthy.''

Gay missed the Grizzlies' amazing playoff run in 2011 with a shoulder injury that had him cheerleading as Memphis beat the Spurs, then pushed Oklahoma City to seven games in the semifinals.

Last season, Darrell Arthur missed the entire season after tearing his right Achilles last December, and Randolph hustled back after tearing his right MCL in an injury that kept him out 37 games, yet the Clippers knocked Memphis out in seven games in the first round.

The Grizzlies went 41-25, setting a franchise-record 62.1 winning percentage and clinching the No. 4 seed in the West last season. They also led the NBA with 9.6 steals and 17.1 turnovers last season, becoming the first team to lead the league in both steals per game and forced turnovers per game in consecutive seasons since the Seattle SuperSonics in 1995-96 and 1996-97.

Michael Heisley announced in June he was selling the team to California tech company owner Robert J. Pera, a $350 million sale nearing approval by the NBA. Pera has been busy compiling an ownership group including four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning's wife, Ashley, actor and singer Justin Timberlake, a former congressman and key local businessmen.

General manager Chris Wallace went about trying to fill the Grizzlies' need for a backup point guard and outside shooting.

Wallace let guard O.J. Mayo leave as a free agent to Dallas, re-signed Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur to give Gasol and Randolph time to rest, signed guard Jerryd Bayless to help back up Conley and traded forward Dante Cunningham to Minnesota for guard Wayne Ellington for some outside shooting help. Center Hamed Haddadi is back as well.

Conley said the key is all the newcomers understanding the Grizzlies' style as a physical team.

``We like to punch first and dive on loose balls, play aggressively,'' Conley said. ``Defensively, they've got to buy into that right away. We know we got great shooters in the guys we picked up and great players. We expect them to come in and contribute defensively just like everybody else.''

The Grizzlies open the season Oct. 31 at the Los Angeles Clippers with their home opener Nov. 5 against Utah, the same team they conclude the regular season against on April 17. They host the NBA champion Heat on Nov. 11 with visits from the Lakers on Nov. 23 and Jan. 23.

Coach Lionel Hollins, who is starting his fourth straight season with the Grizzlies, has heard them talk about how driven they are by the last playoff loss to the Clippers. Now he wants to see what they do about that feeling.

``It can make you more dedicated when you've gone through something like that,'' Hollins said. ``It's definitely a positive, but you still have to go do it. You can talk about it. `I have a sour taste.' You can talk about, `I'm more dedicated.' You have to be that, and you have to go do it.''


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Donaldson's 9th-inning single lifts Braves over Nats 4-3 despite Robles' heroics

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Donaldson's 9th-inning single lifts Braves over Nats 4-3 despite Robles' heroics

Donaldson's 9th-inning single lifts Braves over Nats 4-3

ATLANTA -- Josh Donaldson's bases-loaded single off Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning lifted the Atlanta Braves over the Washington Nationals 4-3 on Friday night after Luke Jackson allowed a tying, two-run homer to Victor Robles in the top half.

Ronald Acuna Jr., who had three hits, led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk off Rodney (0-3) and took second on Dansby Swanson's single. Freddie Freeman walked on four pitches, loading the bases.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez brought in left fielder Juan Soto as a fifth infielder, including three on the left side against the right-handed hitting Donaldson.

Donaldson hit a 2-0 pitch over Robles to center-field warning track, and the Braves boosted their NL East lead to 6 games over the second-place Nationals. Atlanta had lost its previous five home games against Washington.

Robles' homer went 446 feet to left, giving Jackson his seventh blown save in 24 chances.

Julio Teheran gave up one hit through five scoreless innings and retired 14 consecutive hitters before pinch-hitter Gerardo Parra singled with one out in the sixth. Anthony Rendon chased Teheran with a two-out RBI single.

Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin couldn't win on his 30th birthday while paired with catcher Yan Gomes, who turned 32. Corbin and Gomes became only the second pitcher-catcher tandem to start together on their birthdays since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Chicago Cubs pitcher Dave Hillman and catcher Jim Fanning did it against Pittsburgh on Sept. 14, 1957.

Corbin allowed two runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out Ozzie Albies with the bases loaded in the first and fanned Albies to end the fifth with two out.

Albies hit a two-out double in the fourth and scored on Austin Riley's double. Freeman was 2 for 20 in his career against Corbin before his RBI single in the fifth.

Acuna's RBI double against Tanner Rainey gave the Braves a 3-1 lead.


Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer, on the 10-day IL since July 10 with an injury originally announced as a mid-back strain, was given a cortisone shot on Tuesday to address inflammation in the bursa sac under his right shoulder blade. Scherzer still has some discomfort and must throw a bullpen session before cleared to pitch in a game. With Scherzer unavailable, RHP Austin Voth is expected to start in Sunday night's series finale.

Braves: RHP Patrick Weigel, who had Tommy John surgery in 2017, was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to make his major league debut Saturday. RHP Wes Parsons also was recalled from Gwinnett. RHPs Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint were optioned to Gwinnett.


Nationals: RHP Anibal Sanchez (5-6, 3.71) is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts this season against the Braves, his former team.

Braves: Rookie RHP Mike Soroka (10-1, 2.24) will try to win his sixth straight decision on Saturday night. The 21-year-old right-hander became the youngest pitcher in franchise history to be selected an All-Star.


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A timeline of Tommy Sheppard's moves as interim Wizards GM

A timeline of Tommy Sheppard's moves as interim Wizards GM

The Wizards are naming Tommy Sheppard their permanent GM after he served in the role on an interim basis since April 2. 

Let's take a look back at the moves which earned Sheppard the long-term GM job:

April 2: The Wizards fire GM Ernie Grunfeld. Tommy Sheppard takes over the role on an interim basis. 

June 20: The Wizards select Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura with the No. 9 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Later in the evening, Washington acquires Jonathan Simmons and the draft rights to Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield from the Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons was placed on waivers on July 7.

July 5: The Wizards acquire Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, and Jemerrio Jones, and a 2022 second-round draft pick as part of the deal which sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers. 

July 6: The Wizards trade Dwight Howard to the Grizzlies in exchange for C.J. Miles and acquire Davis Bertans from the Spurs in a three-team deal with Brooklyn and San Antonio, sending the draft rights of Aaron White to the Nets. 

July 7: The Wizards re-sign center Thomas Bryant on a three-year deal and trade guard Tomas Satoransky to the Bulls for a 2020 second-round pick.

July 9: The Wizards sign guard Ish Smith to a two-year deal.

July 10: The Wizards sign guard Isaiah Thomas to a one-year deal.