After a nice week of training camp in Santa Barbara, California working on timing, continuity, and injury prevention, the Memphis Grizzlies have returned back to the friendly confines of the FedExForum for an actual basketball game! Even if it is of the preseason variety, it will still be quite comforting to see the Bears of Beale Street roaming the court once again. The city of Memphis, while surely continuing its love affair with Coach Justin Fuente and the Memphis Football Tigers, has missed their Grizzlies and Grizz Nation is ready for the 2015-2016 campaign.
Only so much can be gained from the first preseason game. You should not expect to see the "Core Four" of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and Tony Allen in their usual allotment of minutes (Conley, Gasol, and Randolph especially considering they usually see 30+ minutes in a regular season game), but an appearance and opportunity to get their legs under them is likely. The preseason is more for those behind the key players already soundly on the roster who are trying to either carve out a role in the rotation or a spot on the team in general.
So, while the opponent in a preseason game is not necessarily important (sorry Houston), there is plenty to watch for in this preseason opener for the Grizzlies. Three things to watch for in tonight's game-
Who Starts on the Wing?
This has been debated and discussed in the blogosphere, on Twitter, on GBBLive and everywhere in between. Chris Herrington of the Commercial Appeal has broken this down extremely well, and it will almost assuredly remain the question of the preseason. Tony Allen has already come out on a Grizzlies.com video and stated that he will come off the bench this season; whether or not that is finalized remains to be seen, but if that is indeed true who starts between Matt Barnes, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee bears watching tonight (and almost every night that the starters are going to get some run.)
Allen's supposed removal from the running would place Courtney Lee in the starting 2 Guard slot one would imagine. Jeff Green would seem to have the inside track on starting considering his skill set and the fact that Barnes and Allen coming off the bench as a tandem should strike fear in to the hearts of bench units everywhere, but again, preseason is the time for experimentation. Jeff and Courtney may have the most talent, but the tenacity and experience of Allen and Barnes may rise to the top eventually.
How is Conley Moving?
Mike's health has been a question of mine and others all off-season. He continues to rock the mask protecting his face after his playoff injury, and he was pretty banged up at the end of last season with bad ankles, feet and wrists. 15 pounds of muscle added notwithstanding, how Conley runs and explodes (even if it is in limited minutes) will be interesting to see. Reports are good early, but it always eases concerns when you see it with your own eyes.
Conley is such a big part of what Memphis wants to do. Add on his contract situation, and the only person more concerned with keeping Mike on the court ad healthy is Mike himself.
Vince Carter vs. Jordan Adams
Dave Joerger has recently said that he would like to better use Memphis' depth this season and would not mind a 10-man rotation. Assuming that Gasol/Lee/Green/Randolph/Conley/Beno Udrih/Allen/Barnes/Brandan Wright are 9 of those 10, that leaves Vince Carter and Jordan Adams competing for 10th man minutes. Folks out in California have been raving about Carter's conditioning, saying he looks more healthy and spry than he ever did last season. Adams has another season in Memphis' system and has a skill set that could help the Grizzlies significantly if he can be at worst a net neutral on defense.
The experience and presence of Carter is undeniable. But will this be the season that youth is served in Memphis? This game, and the weeks that follow, could go a long way in determining that.
Preseason games are about your team, not the team you are playing. Very basic game plans are installed, especially considering this veteran group of Grizzlies are quite familiar with the division rival Rockets (although Ty Lawson's addition throws in a very interesting dimension to their roster). Execution of scheme and rotation chemistry will rule the day for the Grizzlies, as will getting out healthy. Expect productive minutes from the bench and younger players, especially those fighting for their roster lives (looking at you Ryan Hollins.) The Grizzlies may well lose, but that doesn't matter nearly as much as how those who played looked and who they looked good, or bad, next to on the court.
Houston 95, Memphis 89
|2015-2016 NBA Preseason
55-27 (31-10 home)
56-26 (26-15 road)
|October 6th, 2015
|FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
|7:00 PM CDT|
|92.9 FM ESPN
|Mike Conley||PG||Ty Lawson|
|Courtney Lee||SG||James Harden|
|Zach Randolph||PF||Terrence Jones|
|Marc Gasol||C||Dwight Howard|
|2014-2015 Advanced Stats|
|94.2 (26th)||Pace||99.3 (2nd)|
|103.1 (13th)||OffEff||104.2 (12th)|
|99.9 (4th)||DefEff||100.5 (6th)|
HOUSTON: Donatas Motiejunas (Out, Back) Terrence Jones (Questionable, Ribs)
For the Houston perspective, be sure to visit The Dream Shake