The Memphis Grizzlies signed point guard Jamaal Tinsley on Saturday, adding a player with a checkered past and a 1 1/2-year layoff to their troubled team.
The Grizzlies announced the signing in a press release before their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Tinsley was bought out by the Indiana Pacers in July, but has not played in the NBA since the middle of the 2007-08 season. He was still under contract with the Pacers, but told to stay away from the team last season.
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In his seven seasons with Indiana, Tinsley averaged 10.4 points and seven assists. The assists average puts him seventh among active players.
Tinsley’s signing comes as the Grizzlies are in limbo regarding the length of Allen Iverson’s absence. Iverson, who signed with the team in September, is away for an indefinite length of time to deal with personal matters.
General manager Chris Wallace said the Iverson situation was not a factor in the decision.
“We had decided to move on this front regardless of what happens with Allen,” he said. “It was an opportunity to bolster the position, and get a real proven commodity.”
Tinsley was in Memphis earlier Saturday for a workout. He was already on the Grizzlies’ roster, but listed as inactive for the Timberwolves game. He’s expected to be with the team and begin practice Monday.
“Jamaal was the best available player out on the board,” Wallace said. “Secondly, he’s a veteran. We’re a young team. He’s a proven commodity as a playmaker.”
Memphis, 1-8 entering Saturday night’s game, ranked last in the league last season with 17.4 assists per game and is 21st this season with an 18.8 average.
While his talent as a playmaker is a plus, Tinsley has been in trouble during his career. There was a bar room scrap, and the 6-foot-3 guard was the target of a drive-by shooting before the Pacers broke ties with him. Wallace said the Grizzlies checked on those matters and acknowledged that Tinsley was part of a Pacers team in disarray at the time.
“He wants to be back (in the league),” Wallace said, adding that despite the layoff, Tinsley has remained in shape and his weight is below what it was when he last played with Indiana.
Tinsley was originally drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the 27th pick in the 2001 draft, but a series of draft night trades landed him in Indianapolis.
Mike Conley, the fourth pick in the 2007 draft, is the current starter, and is averaging 8.6 points and 5.3 assists. His backup is Marcus Williams. Wallace said no promises were made to Tinsley about playing time or starting, only that he will be able to compete for the position.
Adding a point guard seems to be a change in direction for Memphis, which had the second pick in the draft and chose 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet of Connecticut. In doing so, Memphis passed on guards such as Tyreke Evans of Sacramento, Jonny Flynn of Minnesota, Brandon Jennings of Milwaukee and Ty Lawson of Denver.