While the margin was certainly alarming, it is confusing as to why people are surprised. As far as the Grizzlies are concerned, this had to be the most predictable blowout in recent memory (and that’s counting the nightmare that was last season).
First and foremost, the Memphis Grizzlies are historically, and almost comically, awful when it comes to the first game of the season. Since the franchise moved to Memphis, they are now 3-15 in season openers. They have also lost nine of those games by double figures. For whatever reason, it always seems like it takes the Grizzlies more time to settle in than everyone else, with last year being an exception.
The Grizzlies are also a team in the midst of extreme transition. While there are some similar concepts, they are implementing an entirely new offense that specifically emphasizes ball movement at the expense of the pick-and-roll, which has been the lifeblood of the Grizzlies in recent years. Even though he looked solid in preseason, Mike Conley still has to adjust to real NBA basketball again.
And when you add the fact that the Grizzlies have four new rotation players on top of that, it isn’t surprising in the least that they didn’t remain competitive with an Indiana Pacers team that will be competing for home court in the first round of the playoffs this year.
Now are there legitimate concerns? Absolutely.
The Grizzlies were out-rebounded by 29 against the Pacers and generally made Domantas Sabonis look like a cross between Hakeem Olajuwon and Dennis Rodman. Although it is still early, it’s become exceedingly clear from both preseason and last night’s game that rebounding will be a persistent issue all season for them.
While the early part of the season is a ripe time for experimentation, the rotations from last night were still inexplicable. In what cruel, unjust world does MarShon Brooks and Shelvin “Led the Magic with 3 assists per game” Mack play more minutes (22 and 28 respectively) than Kyle Anderson (19) and Dillon Brooks (6!!!!!)?
Yes, Dillon Brooks, one of the two best Grizzlies’ draft picks in recent years and the lone bright spot from last season, played only six minutes in the season opener.
So if you don’t have much confidence in the rotations and game plan of J.B. Bickerstaff going forward, no one will blame you.
Even though there are several legitimate concerns, it can’t be stressed enough that the Grizzlies have almost always pulled it together after a rough start to the season. After all, poor showings on opening night never prevented them from having what was the third longest playoff steak in the NBA at the time.
Of course, the Grizzlies could still later implode this season and render this column from an overconfident writer null and void. And perhaps that will make all of those who are tweeting that “Marc Gasol is washed and finished” and “the Grizzlies are still terrible” feel better.
But for now, I will withhold judgement on this iteration of the Memphis Grizzlies until I have seen much more.