Two days after having his contract bought out and being released by the New York Knicks, point guard Beno Udrih was claimed off waivers by the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, as first reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Despite being over the salary cap with just over $71 million on their cap sheet, the Grizzlies were able to place a waiver claim on Udrih because he was making the league minimum. While a player who spent the lion's share of the season in Mike Woodson's doghouse, being used mostly as a last-resort injury replacement over the course of just 31 appearances for the dreadful Knicks, wouldn't seem like a needle-moving addition, the 31-year-old veteran lefty offers some competition for rookie Nick Calathes as the backup point guard spot behind Mike Conley, a position the Grizzlies have been looking to fill for what feels like decades.
Ever since trading Kyle Lowry to the Houston Rockets in February 2009 in a three-way deal that netted them a first-round pick, Memphis has struggled to find consistently competent backup point guard play. It hasn't been for lack of trying — the Grizzlies have brought in the likes of Allen Iverson, Jamaal Tinsley, Marcus Williams, Ish Smith, Acie Law, Jason Williams, broken Gilbert Arenas, Lester Hudson, Jeremy Pargo, Josh Selby, Keyon Dooling, Jerryd Bayless, Seth Curry and Calathes over the past five years to see if they could keep the offense humming when Conley took a seat. Some have been more successful than others, and Calathes hasn't been awful this year, averaging right around 11 points and six assists per 36 minutes of floor time, while shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from 3-point land. He's struggled at times, though, especially with turnovers — he's coughing it up on 23.7 percent of the plays he uses while on the court, nearly equivalent with the share of possessions on which he drops dimes (25.4 percent).
That's the kind of thing that can make a head coach (like, say, Memphis' Dave Joerger) antsy, especially with the Grizzlies fighting tooth and nail (fang and claw?) to move into the top eight in the Western Conference. Memphis entered Wednesday's action in ninth place in the conference at 31-24, 1 1/2 games behind the eighth-seeded Phoenix Suns. Udrih gives Joerger a veteran secondary ball handler, which is something he's been missing since the trade that sent Bayless to the Boston Celtics in exchange for shooting guard Courtney Lee, as well as a player who's proven crafty in the pick-and-roll in the past, who shot well from the perimeter in New York in limited attempts (17 for 40, 42.5 percent), who has some playoff experience from his early-career days with the San Antonio Spurs, and who figures to be thrilled at a fresh start in a new city after a super-disappointing experience in New York. If Memphis can just keep him out of short sleeves, he could be a steal.
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