I’ve only said this a few times in my life, but I was encouraged by a loss. I’m not a “fan’s fan” meaning I can’t be blindly optimistic when my team sucks. I just don’t have it in me.
The Grizzlies lost to the Thunder 98-95 Wednesday night in the home opener. Some obvious flaws were exposed but my main takeaway is “Whew, we are still awesome.” Something within my Memphis sports fan complex had me worried it was all a dream and this team would end up being the same old Grizzlies. Ridiculous I know but there are a lot of people out there that know exactly what I’m talking about.
What I saw last night after the jump:
Despite a rough start and three crucial misses on open jumpers I thought Rudy Gay looked good. He played hard and hit some incredible shots.
When Mike Conley went down at the beginning of the game I assumed the Grizzlies would lose by 15-20 but not so fast. Jeremy Pargo was what some expected he could be coming out of college- a high intensity, aggressive guard. I hate to use a cliche, but he was all over the floor. In his second NBA game he scored 15 points in 37 minutes and had seven assists to only one turnover. If you watched the game, you know he was even more impressive than the stat line. The Grizzlies still need Conley back as soon as possible but it’s good to know he has a more than capable backup.
After a rough start the Grizzlies were impressive when the majority of the core was on the floor together. There are honestly only two teams in the league I would trade starting fives with (Miami and Oklahoma City).
Fans were awesome, arena was electric. In short, it was good to be back.
Conley re-aggravated a left ankle sprain in the opening moments of the game. It doesn’t appear to be serious but with the hectic schedule of the shortened season you don’t want players getting dinged up early.
It would seem his days are numbered. The coach hates him and he looks lost. He made one of the worst passes I’ve ever seen in the NBA at a crucial point in the game. I would expect he will be headed out of town as a means to solve the next issue…
It’s bad. Really bad. Obviously, the Darrell Arthur injury hurt but it’s hard to understand how badly until you see the scraps that rotate in for Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Honestly, while the rightful attention has been paid to the lack of frontcourt depth, the team is relatively shallow as a whole.
The drop-off in quality is only part of the issue. It is going to be a struggle to keep Gasol and Randolph fresh in a condensed season. They need players who can provide quality minutes while the horses catch their breath. Despite his improved physique I don’t think Randolph can hold up playing 40 minutes a night.
They have none. Grizzlies: 2 of 16
Thunder: 10 of 25
In theory, Mayo should be the answer but it appears that may never happen. The need for dedicated shooters is obvious but the Grizz also need Gay to find his stroke.
There is no shame in starting 0-2 against the Spurs on the road and Thunder at home but it adds pressure. The matchup on Friday with the Rockets becomes an extremely important early season game and Houston has a solid if uninspiring roster. If the Grizz don’t get that win they are looking at a trip to Chicago and a likely 0-4 record. After the Bulls game, four of the next eight games are against the Lakers, Thunder, Knicks and Bulls. Yes the Grizz overcame a poor start last year but the expectations are different. They should be a top five seed in the West at worst. Furthermore, this season is 16 games shorter than normal. They won’t have as much time to dig out of a hole. A realistic goal would be to have a .500 record heading into a January 21 matchup with the Kings.
It is hard to argue against Lionel Hollins for a couple reasons. The first being that he just led this team to unprecedented success. The other being that he doesn’t have a lot to work with on the bench. Still, there were times I looked on the floor and was just disturbed. Then there was this…
First, let me say I am no Sam Young fan. I spent much of the OKC playoff series screaming at him for sucking and Hollins for leaving him in. Despite his limitations, he is a valuable rotation player relative to the other options this team has available. This all leads to the strangest part of last night’s game. In a game in which you lose a guard in the first minute, a guy who averaged nearly 20 minutes in the playoffs last year has a DNP next to his name. It was listed as a coach’s decision and I’ve not heard any explanation to this point. Oh Lionel, you are a mystery.
Friday Prediction: Grizzlies 94, Rockets 85