Without shimmies, Vasquez shines on big stage

Even though Greivis Vasquez won me over during his last two years at Maryland, I still had doubts about him being an NBA-caliber player when he finished his career in College Park as the program's second-leading scorer behind Juan Dixon.

On the night last June when the Memphis Grizzlies chose Vasquez with the 28th pick of the first round, I wondered whether Vasquez would be better off going to Europe. At the time, I thought he could be a big star overseas, but nothing more than an end-of-the-bench player in the NBA.

I still think he would be huge in Europe, but the past week has changed my mind about Vasquez's NBA future.


Barely on the radar during the regular season as a rookie -- playing a little more than 12 minutes a game and scoring in double figures only five times -- Vasquez played a significant role in Memphis' seismic upset of the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.

In Game 4, Vasquez finished with nine points in 13 minutes, including seven in a 7-0 run in the second quarter to help the Grizzlies take control of what turned out to be a blowout win.

In Game 6, Vasquez had 11 points while playing 23 minutes because of Mike Conley's foul trouble. Vasquez didn't have a turnover, and his only assist resulted in a highlight reel dunk by Darrell Arthur.

   What was most impressive about Vasquez's contribution - aside from the fact that it came against the likes of All-Stars and potential Hall of Famers Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili - was his on-court persona.

Gone are the annoying facial gestures and full body gyrations, in particular those trademark shimmies. His playing style is still herky-jerky, making him hard to figure out, but he is no longer jerky.

"I have been waiting for this chance for a while," Vasquez was quoted as saying in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal after Game 6. "I have so much I need to learn. This was a good opportunity to learn and play my game."

Conley, who picked up two quick fouls early in the game and his fifth with about nine minutes left, was appreciative of what Vasquez had done in helping the Grizzlies win their first playoff series in franchise history.

Memphis will open the second round Sunday at Oklahoma City.


"I give Greivis the game ball," Conley told the Commerical-Appeal. "He did a great job of being poised, especially for a rookie. This was the biggest game he's seen and for him to come out and handle the ball without turning it over ... it was unbelievable to see him."

Considering that Vasquez had never played past the second round of the NCAA tournament -- his biggest game prior to Friday night was probably against Duke for the ACC regular season title as a senior -- what he did against San Antonio was truly remarkable.

Now comes a matchup against the Thunder and Vasquez's former Montrose Christian teammate, a fellow by the name of Kevin Durant. With the likelihood of Conley needing some help against Russell Westbrook, Vasquez will have another chance to silence his skeptics.

Minus one.