The Vancouver Grizzlies are just one step away from moving to Memphis and when they arrive, they'll have a new point guard.
The NBA's relocation committee approved the move Thursday. Now, the league's Board of Governors has until July 3 to cast the final vote.
Jason Williams will quarterback the transplanted team. His departure from the Sacramento Kings was every bit as surprising and dramatic as the stylish passes and shots that made him famous.
In a draft-day trade that wasn't finalized until hours after the draft ended late Wednesday night, the Kings traded Williams -- their high-profile starting point guard for the past three seasons -- and Nick Anderson to Vancouver for guards Mike Bibby and Brent Price.
Geoff Petrie, Sacramento's vice president of basketball operations and the NBA's executive of the year in two of the past three seasons, finally decided that Williams' skills were outweighed by his erratic behavior and lack of improvement.
Petrie then used Williams to acquire Bibby, another one of the game's most talented young point guards.
"Trading a player as popular and who did as much for us as Jason did was tough," Petrie said. "But we're really excited about getting Mike. He is another outstanding point guard."
As recently as last week, the Kings claimed they weren't planning to trade Williams, whose flair and style helped make Sacramento's reputation in three straight playoff seasons.
In fact, Williams was at the Kings' practice facility on Wednesday afternoon, working on his game and making plans to join Sacramento's summer league team.
"This happened quickly," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "But when you get a chance to get a player you really like, you get him -- and we have always liked Mike Bibby."
With Williams starting 77 games last season, the Kings finished with the NBA's fourth-best record at 55-27.
But Williams' dazzling playmaking abilities were clouded by his erratic behavior on and off the court in Sacramento. He was suspended for the first five games of last season for violating the league's drug policy, and he was fined three times for uncouth exchanges with fans at road games.
The Kings had a long-standing interest in Bibby, who averaged 15.9 points and 8.4 assists in playing all 82 games last season.
"Mike has improved his assists every year in the league," Adelman said. "He gets to the free throw line, and he goes to the basket. He's obviously a good shooter, and, at this stage in his career, he's a better all-around player than Jason."
The Grizzlies are acting as if Memphis is home already. They moved their basketball operations June 23 and made their 2001 draft picks Wednesday night from temporary offices at The Peabody Hotel, in the heart of downtown Memphis.
"We're obviously looking to the start of the season and the start of a lifetime here," said Grizzlies' General Manager Billy Knight.
The Grizzlies are expected to play at The Pyramid, a 10-year-old arena along the Memphis riverfront, until the new stadium is built.
Mayor Willie Herenton welcomed the newest Grizzlies to Memphis. He said he was at a business luncheon when told about the relocation committee's decision.
"We wanted to jump up and shout hallelujah," Herenton said.
Fisher's injury prompts deal
LOS ANGELES -- Lakers guard Derek Fisher has broken his right foot for the second time in a year, prompting the two-time NBA champions to acquire guard Lindsay Hunter from the Milwaukee Bucks for backup center Greg Foster.
Fisher's latest injury was revealed in tests done two days ago, team spokesman John Black said Thursday. Fisher could be out 4 to 6 months.
"It's a stress fracture, so there wasn't any one incident where it occurred," Black said. "It obviously happened sometime during the playoffs. He had some discomfort, but no pain."
A CT scan revealed an incomplete fracture in the same bone as before. A team doctor recommended Fisher undergo a bone graft and have a screw inserted in his foot.
Black said Fisher may have surgery next week if the guard doesn't seek a second opinion.
Fisher was a key factor in the Lakers repeating their championship two weeks ago against the Philadelphia 76ers. He initially injured his foot last fall, had surgery six weeks before the season started and missed the first 62 games. He returned in March and gained a spot in the starting backcourt with Kobe Bryant.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Fisher's injury and the unlikely return of 37-year-old guard Ron Harper hastened the need for a backcourt addition.
"We'll figure out a way to get through it all and hopefully Lindsay will help us," Kupchak said. "My guess is (Fisher) will be back as strong as ever."
Brown high on Brown
PHILADELPHIA -- 76ers coach Larry Brown couldn't be happier that his team picked Seneca's Damone Brown in the second round of the draft.
The 6-foot-9 Brown, who turned 22 Thursday, played four years at Syracuse and averaged 16.4 points as a senior.
"Damone, for a 6-9 kid, has unbelievable skills," Brown said. "He knows how to play, he's unselfish."
Coach Brown said he'd be surprised and disappointed if Damone Brown didn't make the roster.
Fitch suing the Clippers
LOS ANGELES -- Bill Fitch, fired as Clippers coach in 1998, sued the team, seeking $4 million in back pay and deferred compensation. Fitch, 67, has not coached in the NBA since he was fired in April 1998 after a 17-65 record in his fourth season with the Clippers.
Fitch seeks $4 million placed in escrow until the case is resolved. A hearing is scheduled for July 19.
"The club's position is that it will prevail in this matter after the judge has had an opportunity to review all the facts," said Bob Platt, the Clippers' general counsel.
High school draftees worry Thompson
BALTIMORE -- John Thompson said Thursday that the latest NBA draft sent a negative message about the importance of education and was "a frightening sign of things to come."
A day after three high schoolers were among the first four picks in the draft, Thompson said the impact would be widespread, particularly among minorities and the poor.
"If we get to the point where we start condoning kids going pro, that will have an enormous impact on people who are not in athletics," the former Georgetown coach said at the annual convention of the Associated Press Sports Editors.
In recent weeks, the Hall of Fame coach has called on the NBA to adopt an age minimum of 20 to give players an opportunity to reach emotional maturity before bestowing them with multimillion-dollar contracts.