Well, it's preseason, but still. Tonight the Grizzlies welcome the rebuilt New Orleans Hornets to Memphis for the first of two preseason tilts between the squads before the regular season blasts off. New Orleans, no doubt still trying to shake the hangover left from the Chris Paul spectacle, won't have new additions Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Al-Farouq Aminu, as they aren't scheduled to join the team until Saturday, so the Hornets will by no means be complete tonight. But that's okay; this is an exhibition after all, one though, with more up in the air than a regular campaign.
The Grizzlies have the benefit of adding no major new additions to their rotation, and no major stylistic or systemic overhauls are necessary, but it will be interesting to see how coach Lionel Hollins uses this scarce exhibition time on the floor.
Here are five things to look out for as we enter the first leg of the preseason.
The rotation. Will Hollins play the starters more than a usual preseason contest so they can get re-acclimated to one another? Or is it best to save their legs and avoid potential injury as much as possible for the warped tour of a regular season ahead? Again, it's a great advantage Memphis has, not having to so much worry about who's starting and who's coming off the bench and at what point in the game and for who. Keeping the continuity intact from last season means that everyone for the most part should be comfortable with their role, at least to start the season, which should in turn make getting back into the regular flow of a basketball game that much easier.
The rust. It'll be there. This goes hand-in-hand with the rotation point above in that everyone is going to want enough run to shake it off, and there's only so much on-court time to be passed out. Most of these guys, though, didn't just leave the basketball shoes to sit in a closet since last spring: Marc Gasol helped Spain win EuroBasket 2011, Greivis Vasquez gained valuable experience leading Venezuela in the FIBA Americas -- leading the tournament in assists per game -- and Rudy Gay threw a big ol' charity game party, just to name a few. Most players made sure their games were fine-tuned and ready for when the lockout ended, but don't expect things to go off without a hitch or two.
The rookie. Especially with Xavier Henry out about a month, Kansas rookie Josh Selby, who was an active participant in all those lockout-induced summer leagues, could get a chance to provide more firepower off the bench along with O.J. Mayo. But again, will there be enough time allotted for him to get his sea legs? Selby looks to have explosive ability that Memphis could always use in the rotation, so long as he can learn on the fly.
The Rudy. Rudy Gay has probably been stewing through this extended offseason more than any other Grizzly. He didn't get to contribute to last season's postseason run and had to wait longer to get back on the court with his teammates this fall/winter. Whatever or how much we see out of him during the preseason, it'll just be nice to see the Grizzlies' #22 uniform back in use.
The return (of NBA basketball). Because seriously, it's been a long time since we've had actual pro basketball in our lives. I'm not sure what to expect from these exhibition games, if they'll be treated with more, less or the same importance as they would during a normal training camp, but starting tomorrow morning we'll have highlights and box scores and real-life basketball to digest and think about. So, if you're in a market that gets to see the Grizzlies tonight, enjoy. And hey, after tonight we're halfway through the preseason. That was fast.
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