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Old 01-20-06, 07:17 PM
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Grizzlies likely to acquire Atkins

Griz likely to acquire Atkins
Point guard expected to clear waivers, could be added today

By Ronald Tillery and Don Wade
Contact
January 20, 2006

Barring an unforeseen turn of events, veteran point guard Chucky Atkins will join the Grizzlies in a move that could be final as soon as today.

Atkins is expected to clear waivers this afternoon after agreeing to a buyout Wednesday with the Washington Wizards. Atkins essentially becomes a free agent -- able to sign with any team -- if no squad claims him during the 48-hour waiver period.

He'll likely sign for the veteran's minimum salary.

"We haven't had a final discussion about his options," Atkins' agent, Andy Miller, said Thursday night. "But Memphis is under serious consideration."

Miller and Grizzlies president Jerry West have spoken.

The Grizzlies had Atkins on their short list after Damon Stoudamire's season ended with knee surgery. Initially, the Griz absorbed the loss of Stoudamire and kept winning.

But they arrived at Philadelphia for tonight's game with the 76ers on a three-game losing streak -- their second of the season. Although they have yet to lose as many as four in a row, the Griz made it clear that adding point guard help was a priority.

So they tried unsuccessfully to trade for Atkins.

But there seemingly are no more roadblocks given the reasonable economics and Atkins' expressed desire for playing time.

Atkins, who is in his seventh year, was in the final year of a contract that would have paid him $4.5 million this season. He would earn less than $1 million with the Griz but he'll be afforded significant playing time to share with an aging and injury-prone Bobby Jackson.

"That's a factor," Miller conceded. "(His interest) also speaks to the stability of the organization and the on-going success it will have. The chemistry of the team is important because he's a veteran that's been in winning situations. It's important for him to experience winning and be an active participant in that."

Miller said at least six teams expressed interest in Atkins.

Atkins was uncomfortable with his backup role with the Wizards from the start of the season when his playing time fluctuated. He eventually told The Washington Times that he wanted to be traded.

The Grizzlies' situation offers a win-win solution for both parties.

As the minutes piled on Jackson, it was fair to wonder how much longer the Grizzlies could afford to wait to add another experienced point guard.

Jackson played 37 minutes in Oklahoma City after playing 39 and 40 minutes in the previous two games. That's a lot to ask of a 20-something point guard. Jackson turns 33 in March and has had hamstring problems this season.

"He's doing a great job, playing all the minutes he's played and not exactly 100 percent (physically)," Eddie Jones said. "You have to take your hat off to Bobby for doing that. He's a great team guy. A lot of veteran guys I've played with would have already said (it's too much)."

The circumstance is as tough for the coach as the player.

"Things always change when players are gone," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "You'd rather have all your pieces. I guarantee you, 3-point shooting and depth would be added if they had one more body out there."

Among the Grizzlies' changes without Stoudamire: Playing Antonio Burks, a second-year player, more than they would otherwise, and asking Mike Miller to run the offense some.

"I don't like him doing that a lot, me personally," Fratello said. "Mike has no problem with it, that responsibility. But I just don't think you can be as good at all the other things he does, when he has to get up the floor, get it to the right people ... but he gets it done."

Stoudamire's absence also seems to be that much more of an invitation for teams to double Pau Gasol in the post. Twice in the last four games, Gasol has been held to nine points (against New Jersey and the Hornets), and the Spurs neutralized him in the second half of a game by trapping and doubling.

"Of course, the flow of the game will change if Damon's not there," Gasol said. "We've done a good job overcoming Damon's injury. But we're gonna need our point guards to play well and give us good direction.

"I get the ball a lot in the post, and a lot of offense starts in my hands, so I'm responsible to make plays and make things happen. My mentality hasn't changed at all. I just want to play hard and play well."

Same as they all do.

And preferably sooner rather than later, before the latest three-game streak slides into the season's first four-game losing streak.

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