Grizzlies, Hornets face diverging paths
Memphis is poised to become a contender, while New Orleans' future is uncertain
The New Orleans Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies finished with identical records (46-36) last season. By the time the dust settled on the Western Conference playoffs, the No. 7-seeded Hornets had only managed to give a bit of a scare to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round before being ousted in six games. But the Grizzlies? As the No. 8 seed, the team upset the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and were a win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals, falling in a hotly contested semifinal series to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
While some questions remain about the feasibility of keeping Memphis' roster intact going forward, the team appears poised to be a serious challenger in the West. The Hornets' future, due to free agency and ownership uncertainty, is less certain.
The situation: After making some unexpected noise in last season's playoffs, the Grizzlies' first order of business on the other side of the lockout is to retain restricted free agent Marc Gasol. While the starting center figures to draw some interest around the league -- which could bump up his final price tag if he signs an offer sheet elsewhere -- owner Michael Heisley told ESPN's Marc Stein in May that the team will be aggressive in trying to bring him back. Shane Battier will also be a free agent, and it's possible with the Grizzlies focusing in more on Gasol, Battier could sign with another team.
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