Observations from Las Vegas Summer League: Game 4: Grizzlies vs. Wizards

USA TODAY Sports

After the Grizzlies were battered and beaten in three straight preliminary games, the team started the elimination rounds with a much-needed win against the Washington Wizards, 90-83.

Last night, the Grizzlies were able to pick up an important win not just in terms of the team's longevity at summer league, but also for the players' morale. The Grizzlies did not fair well in any of their three preliminary games, and it was a nice change of pace to get a win for the players and fans alike even if it is just summer league.

One of the most positive things from the game is that the players seem to have really started playing for each other. Many players come into summer league with the mindset of making it 'their personal showcase', but if they were smart they would know that every single NBA front office is looking for guys who are team players that can fit in their *team's* scheme. The Grizzlies summer league team seems to have figured that out. When Jack Cooley fought hard and scored a nice putback layup, Wroten was just as happy as Cooley jumping up and down and screaming on the bench.

Those kind of things are what summer league is all about. It's supposed to be a fun exciting time for these young players, and tonight is really the first night you could tell the Grizzlies were having a good time out there.

Game Notes

  • Obligatory injury notice: Jon Leuer and Jamaal Franklin are not participating in summer league due to injuries.
  • Starting 5: Gerald Robinson, Tony Wroten, Donte Green, Matt Howard, and Jack Cooley. This was the Grizzlies third different starting lineup in four summer league games.
  • Wroten got an easy breakaway dunk for the first basket of the game off the tip off, and that was an indication of how the rest of the game would go for him. He still has *A LOT* to work on, but his performance was much improved tonight. The best thing I saw was his effort. I don't mind a bad shooting night or even a lot of turnovers, but a player must show effort. For the first time in four games, Wroten played a full game with maximum effort.
  • Matt Howard and Jack Cooley kill the Grizzlies on defense when they are both on the floor together. They just do not have the quickness to guard their position in the NBA, and both of them are tweeners which complicates matters.
  • Howard and Cooley often looked liked boys among men against Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton. Both of them couldn't stay in front of either of the Wizards young guns with consistency.
  • Tonight, it was Wroten with the play of the game. He brought the ball up the left side of the court on a bit of a transition play after a made basket by the Wizards. He feigned like he was heading straight to the corner before executing a killer spin move into the lane while to split his defender, Glen Rice Jr., and the help defender for an easy layup.
  • The last two games, Donte Greene has looked like a guy that could at least fill out an NBA team's roster. He has a decent game, and maybe more importantly for an end of the bench guy is that he carries himself very well on the court. Teams don't want players with bad attitudes at the end of the bench that will suck the life and energy out of the players that actually play. Greene is always smiling and building his teammates up.
  • On one play tonight, Greene backed down Chris Singleton on the baseline and gave him a shimmy shake before turning baseline and hitting a fadeaway jumper over Singleton, who is a very good defender.
  • The Wizards deployed an interesting strategy tonight. They would have somebody deny Gerald Robinson the inbound pass so he couldn't bring the ball up the floor. That tells me that they would rather have Wroten bringing the ball up the floor which isn't exactly the way you want to see team's handling your backup point guard. However, the Wizards have done a lot of guarding guys full court during all their summer league games, so I could just be reading too much into this.
  • It's obvious that the Grizzlies have implored Wroten to work on his free throws. Every time an opponent gets a defensive three second call, Wroten is the guy to shoot the free throw. He just can't get enough reps in that department right now. He is 26-43 from the line in four summer league games. While his ability to draw fouls to get to the line is impressive, it really doesn't matter if he can't knock them down. After all, it's the only thing in the game he's going to get for free.
  • Jack Cooley can really shoot the ball. He has incredible range for a guy his size, and his shot has nice touch every time. He knocked down the one three he took tonight and he was able to hit at least one more jumper that I can remember. It looks like it's going in every time it leaves his hand because he doesn't take bad shots. He finished with 20 points on 9-14 from the field while also gathering 12 rebounds. That's just par for the course for Cooley in that department. His motor is unparalleled.
  • I think it's time to admit that Wroten's range on his jumper doesn't extend to the three-point line. He was 2-7 from deep tonight, which brings his total to 4-22 in four games. That's obviously terrible. However, if you're wondering why he keeps shooting them it's because the coaching staff and the front office have told him to.
  • I'm not sure Wroten has it in him from a basketball iq standpoint. I know he needs playing time to develop his decision-making ability on the court, but he just doesn't seem to have it right now. Sure, he had six assists tonight, but he also committed four turnovers. As a matter of fact, he has 16 assists in four games and 17 turnovers. That's right. He has more turnovers than assists thus far in summer league play. He just plays flat-out reckless at times, and that's when most of his turnovers come. He is never one to really play within himself when the ball is in his hands.
  • Wroten's scoring ability was on full display tonight. He finished with 23 points, and he did a little of everything. He scored from deep, hit a mid-range jumper, showed off his footwork to get to the rim, used his athleticism to complete the reverse layup for an and-1. Wroten scored in about every fashion imaginable.
  • I know I've been Wroten's toughest critic during summer league, but I don't want anybody to think I don't like him. Wroten could still pan out. He is still very raw. It's just about converting that raw ability into useful NBA skills, and that's something that's a concern for me. He doesn't seem to be improving very much. I mean, he's had performances like this before. He just hasn't done it consistently. The biggest thing for me about Wroten is after watching just four *summer league* games, it's blatantly obvious that he needs a lot of work.
  • Timma has struggled to adjust to the pace of the NBA so far, and his minutes tonight reflect that. He only played 4:06 tonight. He's just not ready yet. I can't wait to see him after another year in Europe though. He seems like a guy that is motivated to get better and learn from his mistakes. We'll see come next year's summer league.
  • For the Wizards, a guy that really impressed me is Vesely. He is so athletic for a seven footer, and he runs the floor so gracefully. Everything he does looks so smooth, and he is starting to look like he's refined his offensive game a lot. He is clearly better in transition than in half court sets, which could be a problem, but boy will he be fun to watch with John Wall, Bradley, Beal, and Otto Porter leading the charge.
  • I wasn't impressed by what I saw from Glen Rice Jr. He gets way too upset when things don't go his way, but he'll learn.
  • Chris Singleton had an excellent game on both ends of the floor tonight. If he can just be a decent offensive player, the Wizards might really have a nice player in him.
For the full box score click here. The next game is today at 5:30pm CT against the Charlotte Bobcats. Win tonight, and the Grizzlies are in the quarterfinals. Go Griz!
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