After arriving in Orlando just a few days ago, the Hustle held their annual Media Day availability yesterday and GBB was there (virtually) to cover it. The Hustle are flying through training camp ahead of the upcoming 15 game season in the bubble in Orlando after last year’s season was suspended due to COVID-19. The Hustle were one of the G-League’s top teams last season after starting a G-League record 10-0, and were sitting at 26-15 and second place in the Western Conference before the season was stopped and eventually cancelled.
The Hustle will look to carry that success over to this season, though with a much different roster. Dusty Hannahs, Jarrod Uthoff and the Grizzlies assignment players from last season are gone but the team has brought in some solid replacements in guys like David Stockton, Jahlil Tripp, two-way player Sean McDermott and Freddie Gillespie, the 2nd overall pick in last months G-League draft. The Hustle did get news that they would be getting help from Jontay Porter, who has been sent down on assignment by the Grizzlies to play with the Hustle in the bubble.
Press Release: The Memphis Grizzlies today announced they have assigned forward Jontay Porter to the @MemphisHustle for the team's NBA G League single-site season in Orlando, Fla. pic.twitter.com/pAxo8FZwpA— Grizzlies PR (@GrizzliesPR) February 3, 2021
When asked about Jontay by GBB’s own Parker Fleming, Hustle coach Jason March said he loves adding a big man with Porter’s playmaking ability. Porter will certainly be a valuable addition to a Hustle team that lacked depth down low prior to the Porter assignment.
March also mentioned how the team has been watching the Grizzlies games together since being in the bubble to help build chemistry. On the court, March said that there is a lot of excitement and competitiveness on the roster and that the team is doing a good job staying ready and handling information as it comes to them. With preparations for a 15-game schedule much different than preparing for the normal 50-game schedule, March said the biggest challenge is the unknown, and how they’re still trying to figure out the daily things and roll with the punches to get better as a group.
March admitted it was still too early to have much of a rotation set with such limited practice time, but that building chemistry has been a priority in these circumstances on a team with just two rotation players returning from last season. Things are understandably very fluid in the bubble, as Zhaire Smith has yet to join the team in Orlando. March couldn’t expand further, other than that once Zhaire joins the team, he’s excited to get him on the floor. It’s pure speculation on my part, but I would assume that Zhaire hasn’t joined the team yet due to the protocols set forth by the G-League.
March touched on how he was excited for Bennie Boatwright to be able to get back on the court after missing all of last season with the Hustle due to injury. March touched on all the hard work that Boatwright has been putting in to come back from injury and that he is shooting the ball “really, really well” at the start of camp. March also highlighted David Stockton and how he is excited for the G-League vet to join the team. March mentioned that Stockton’s leadership and experience in the G-League will be helpful as the team adjusts to life in the bubble.
After talking with March, we got to speak with the Hustle’s new point guard in David Stockton. Stockton acknowledged his role as a vet on this team and as the point guard. He said he wants to keep the pace moving and make sure everyone is on the same page. Stockton said in his role as a leader he wants to make everyone better and play well. He also wants to acknowledge what the team is doing wrong if they’re losing.
Stockton admitted that this year is different from his previous 5 seasons as he’s learning how to adjust in the bubble. He said it’s a heightened process in the bubble but he mentioned that his recent stint in Puerto Rico has helped him get in game shape ahead of the bubble. I asked Stockton about his thoughts about being traded to the Hustle for Dusty Hannahs, and Stockton told us at first he didn’t know he was being traded for Dusty. He even sent Dusty a message about how they were going to be playing together and Dusty had to be the one to tell Stockton that they were being traded for each other. Even with Dusty now in Santa Cruz, Stockton is excited to join a great organization and notes he’s been in communication with the GMs from both the Grizzlies and Hustle.
Shaq Buchanan joined us next and spoke about how he wants to learn from last year and put it all together with the new guys. More specifically, Shaq mentioned how he’s been working on his ball-handling and 3-point shot the most and how he wants to have more of a voice on the court. Shaq said it was a “dream come true” to play in the NBA and noted it was made even greater by playing alongside college teammate Ja Morant. Shaq said he and Ja had texted the day of the preseason game against the Hawks and were talking about how cool it would be if they connected on an alley-oop and, sure enough, they were able to throw one down. Shaq mentioned that the preseason stint with the Grizzlies, as well as watching undrafted Fred VanVleet go off for 54 points earlier this week, is real motivation for him this season.
Lastly we got to speak with Bennie Boatwright who says it’s a blessing just to be back on the court again and how he never takes practice for granted. Boatwright mentioned how being on the team last year, despite not playing due to injury, gives him an edge since he was able to still learn March’s system. Boatwright is also optimistic that the bubble experience will only make the team’s chemistry better and bring them closer together. Overall, Boatwright just seemed super excited to be back on the basketball court and ready to play the game again.
The Hustle season will officially start on February 10th when they take on the Austin Spurs to kick off the 4th season in the franchise’s history.