The Memphis Grizzlies are playing a “basketball game” for the first time since April 27th. 157 days is a long time to go without seeing basketball from the Bears of Beale Street, but finally, we’re back.
Of course, “basketball game” is in quotes because it’s only the preseason, and we’re still a little more than two weeks away from the beginning of the games that count. But for some players - maybe not for Marc Gasol, who is sitting this one out for precautionary measures with his ankle, or for Mike Conley, whose role on this team is already well-defined - these games could mean a lot.
For several new faces (and old ones trying to make a better impression this season), tonight is the first step of many towards showing what they can do on the court for this new-look Grizzlies roster. The opponent doesn’t matter (sorry Magic fans) in preseason - what matter is who plays well together, and how these players are utilized by David Fizdale.
Here are three things to keep an eye on tonight as Memphis opens preseason play.
Chandler Parsons’ Project
By all accounts, Chandler is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was this time last year. He was never known for his speed to begin with, but there is a little more lift on his shot. He is moving infinitely better after a week of training camp, which was preceded by a full summer dedicated to improving his movement and his game (as this excellent Tim MacMahon piece showed). There is more optimism surrounding Chandler Parsons the basketball player than there’s been since he originally signed with the Grizzlies.
But Memphis wants (needs?) to see it in actual basketball game action. And Parsons should get a shot at showing what he can do, albeit in limited doses, starting tonight. Don’t expect to see many minutes from Chandler, or any locked-in starter for that matter, in this contest. 15-20 minutes works fine for the Conleys and the Greens of the world, and Parsons is in that same boat.
But in the time he does get, it’d be nice to see the flashes we’ve heard about and seen on social media actually happening on the court at FedExForum.
Who will shine through at the 2?
Tony Allen’s departure, coupled with Ben McLemore’s foot injury, has the Grizzlies in an interesting spot. Who in the world will start for Memphis at shooting guard? Wayne Selden Jr. surely will get an opportunity, but all eyes should be on veteran wing Tyreke Evans and what his role will be tonight and moving forward. Many assumed he would be a Swiss army knife-type sixth man, and at this point that still may well be the best use of him and his skill set.
But McLemore’s absence makes things more complicated. If Selden can’t hold his own, Evans may be called upon to fill that spot. Or he may even be asked to be that guy from the beginning. Some of these questions should start getting answered tonight, but this is a process, and a story line to watch, throughout the next two weeks of the preseason.
The battle for the bench
There are jobs on the line for the Grizzlies and their young players...and even some older ones. It’s been said many times over, both here at GBB and elsewhere. Something has to give with this roster. There are simply too many guaranteed contracts/players, and not enough spots. Who will be the odd man out?
That starts to sort itself out tonight. Whether it’s Jarell Martin fighting for his NBA life, or the back-up point guard “competition” between Wade Baldwin IV, Andrew Harrison, and Mario Chalmers, several current Grizzlies may not be Grizzlies for long. That elimination process started with an off-the-court move when Troy Daniels was shipped out of Memphis to Phoenix. Tonight, it starts to shake out through the game.
The best part of all of this is that, once again, Grizzlies Twitter will be alive, and once again, the FedExForum will have music blasting and player introductions, and once again, the city of Memphis will have their Grizzlies back playing basketball. The faces have changed in several spots, and the way they play will likely look a lot different...
But they’re still the Grizzlies. And they’re back, y’all.