WHEN: Saturday 12-12 and Monday 12-14 at 7 PM CT
WHERE: Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota/
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
INJURY REPORT AS OF 12-12:
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Justise Winslow (Out, hip), Killian Tillie (Out, hamstring), Brandon Clarke (Doubtful, groin), Jontay Porter (Doubtful, knee), Kyle Anderson (Questionable, back soreness), De’Anthony Melton (Questionable, thigh)
MINNESOTA: Naz Reid (Out, not with team)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS FOR SATURDAY NIGHT-
MEMPHIS- Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Xavier Tillman Sr., Jonas Valanciunas
MINNESOTA- Ricky Rubio, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jarrett Culver, Karl-Anthony Towns
Memphis Grizzlies basketball is back! And the more things change, the more they stay the same - Memphis already has seven players on the injured list before a second of actual basketball is played. That, even for the Grizzlies, is impressive. Of course, if these games actually counted it is likely Kyle and De’Anthony would be good to play. But this is the preseason, and those are two “veteran” players that Memphis knows can play. There’s no need to rush anyone out there for the preseason opener, especially as the NBA approaches a season unlike any other in terms of combining adversity with schedule.
What that means is lots of opportunity for younger players to shine. While Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, and Jonas Valanciunas will likely see some playing time as they find they game conditioning, they won’t be eating minutes with opening night less than two weeks away. That is where the likes of Jahlil Tripp and Ahmad Caver - future Memphis Hustle players - will come in to play. These preseason games will almost surely be extensions of practice for Coach Taylor Jenkins and his staff - a chance to get the Desmond Bane/Xavier Tillman types additional reps that are so desperately needed as they acclimate to the NBA game at an accelerated rate.
So no, it’s not ideal that seven players are 50/50 shots or worse to play the first game of this preseason mini-series. But that will likely change throughout the next week as different players rest different “nagging” issues. The key will be how the guys on the court on any given night in the preseason perform, not in terms of raw numbers but in terms of comfort with scheme.
No offense to Minnesota, but this preview isn’t about them. It is about what to expect from the team as they spend the next few days with the Timberwolves.
It has been nine months since Desmond Bane, Sean McDermott, and Xavier Tillman played a meaningful basketball game. The rust will likely be apparent - as will the excitement of being back to doing what they do better than a vast majority of the world. But considering these rookies went without Summer League and were drafted/signed in to the NBA roughly a month ago, the fact they may appear a bit lost at points shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Expect Coach Jenkins to try to keep things as simple as possible for this trip, as well as Killian Tillie once he is healthy enough to compete. They are already being thrown in to the deep end...you want to help them stay afloat as much as possible. That means putting them in positions to be successful, orchestrating scheme when they’re in the game that fits their style of play they thrived in while in college. You don’t change the Grizzlies “standard” - you just make sure the layers of it that are close to the same language that these guys are used to are present when they’re on the floor.
The best way to learn is to do. Look for lots of opportunity to gain knowledge on the fly for the young Grizzlies.
Eyes on Grayson Allen
Grayson Allen would not be this writer’s choice to start alongside Dillon Brooks on opening night. Desmond Bane was the focus of my attention both in written word and on our GBBLive Podcast. In the Bane article I even spoke on how the choice should perhaps be Desmond vs. De’Anthony Melton, discounting Grayson almost entirely.
So of course the Grizzlies appear to have Allen in line to be the starter, if social media practice video posts are any indication.
This makes sense, despite my apprehensions. Grayson proved in the Bubble that he is capable of offensive firepower, especially from range, and with Jaren Jackson Jr. out the Grizzlies must find spacing somewhere for the starters. That place probably isn’t with De’Anthony Melton, as has been seen both in and out of Orlando...and we mentioned above why Bane may not be quite ready to make the jump from nine months off to NBA starter. We know how much Taylor Jenkins values that willingness to shoot the three - it’s why Anthony Tolliver started in the Bubble once Jaren went down. Of the available options, in this moment maybe Grayson Allen should be “the guy”.
It may not stick. But Grayson figures to be given opportunity to make the job his, starting with this series in Minnesota. How he plays, and fits, alongside the likes of Morant and Brooks is well worth keeping an eye on. With Melton potentially out you can also count on some time for John Konchar to show what he can do.
The world is struggling mightily right now. America is suffering in a variety of ways. But a welcome distraction returns...the NBA and their Memphis Grizzlies are back. We will continue to analyze the team and their talents here at GBB. But I know I will take a moment to be thankful that the team is back in action at all. In a year we’ve all lost so much, to make a little gain in this way could go a long way.