|13/14 NBA Preseason|
|October 15, 2013|
|FedEx Forum | Memphis, TN|
|No Local TV | 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass|
|Brandon Knight||PG||Mike Conley|
|O.J. Mayo||SG||Tony Allen|
|Caron Butler||SF||Mike Miller|
|John Henson||PF||Zach Randolph|
|Larry Sanders||C||Marc Gasol|
|2012/13 Advanced Stats|
|94.7 (3rd)||Pace||88.4 (30th)|
|103.6 (22nd)||ORtg||104.9 (17th)|
|105.2 (12th)||DRtg||100.3 (2nd)|
Grizzly update. They played big (Marc Gasol and Z-Bo, yo), they played slow (30th in pace), and they did it all with enough ferocity to win 56 games and make it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. That was the story of the 12/13 Memphis Grizzlies, and few could argue with the end result.
But it may not be a rinse-and-repeat type of year.
Known as the architect of Memphis' suffocating defense, newly promoted assistant Dave Joerger will bring continuity to a Grizzly team that was just four wins short of the Finals last spring. He replaces former Bucks assistant Lionel Hollins, who never seemed to see eye to eye with new(ish) owner Robert Pera. But that doesn't mean Joerger plans on doing everything the same; he's already talking up the idea of Memphis running more and getting into their sets earlier.That makes a fair bit of sense given their defense will force plenty of misses and turnovers (3rd in EFG%, 2nd in TO%, 9th in DReb%) and they have a number of guys who theoretically should fare well pushing the pace (none so more than Mike Conley).
The issue: their two offensive building blocks are big men not exactly known for getting up and down the court with any rapidity, which is a big reason why playing slow worked rather well for them a year ago. In that sense the Grizzlies are real throwbacks. While the rest of the league is trying to play fast and jack up as many threes as possible, Memphis built their offense around their two big men, started a defense-first non-shooter at shooting guard and not surprisingly finished dead last in both three pointers made and attempted. The Grizz will hope that bringing back Mike Miller will help address that, though their strength clearly remains up front. Aside from Gasol and Z-Bo, they've also added quality youngsters like Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis to their stable of bigs over the past year. In short: don't expect the injury-depleted Bucks front line to have an easy time of it tonight.
Like the Bucks, Memphis has yet to beat an NBA opponent this preseason, having dropped their first two outings to the Bulls and Mavs. They did claim their first win of the exhibition season on Sunday when they clobbered Israeli team Maccabi Haifa 116-70, while resting a number of players including Tayshaun Prince.
Banged-Up Bango. Let's start with better news: Andrew Gruman reports that Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) is off crutches and holding out hope of being ready for the Bucks' opener in New York on October 30. The bad news: beyond Ilyasova, the Bucks continue to practice without Gary Neal (left arch, unlikely to play in Memphis), Ekpe Udoh (knee surgery, out 4-6 weeks), Zaza Pachulia (Achilles), and Carlos Delfino (foot), adding an extra degree of difficulty to their preseason preparations. Via Gruman:
"My biggest concern is it's key guys," Drew said. "What we are teaching and putting in here, we are not in a position or situation where those guys are a part of it physically. When they come back we're going to have to teach it all over again."
Larry Sanders and John Henson will once again be more or less going it alone up front, so expect to once again see Giannis Antetokounmpo, Olek Czyz and Stephen Graham grabbing small-ball minutes at power forward.
The Bucks' hopes of claiming their first win will probably ride largely on their perimeter players finding their rhythm, and O.J. Mayo will have the added incentive of playing against his former team. Aside from his continued insistence on shooting long two pointers over threes, Caron Butler has looked much improved over the past two games, while Brandon Knight did manage to dish out seven assists to go with nine rebounds against Charlotte (accentuate the positive, y'all). The Grizzlies' willingness to give their key big men short nights would also help, as the paper-thin Bucks figure to have a hard time keeping Memphis from their having way down low.
Either way, usual preseason viewing rules apply: hope the key rotation guys show signs of finding both offensive and defensive rhythm, look for the young guys to flash their talents, and cross your fingers for no new injuries. Knight is nursing a sore hamstring and that opened up first team minutes for Luke Ridnour yesterday, but Charles Gardner reports that it doesn't indicate any change in Drew's planned starting lineup:
"That's just training camp and throwing out different combinations," Drew said of Ridnour working with the first unit. "I want Luke to play more with the first team. The first week and a half I have not had him with the first unit a lot, but moving forward I'm going to be mixing up different combinations just to get guys familiar with one another."
Daily dose of Giannis. Gruman writes that Larry Drew still doesn't know exactly how he'll use everyone's favorite 18-year-old come the regular season.
"Right now, I don't know to be perfectly honest," Drew said about Antokounmpo's role in the regular season. " ... Once this thing starts up, hopefully he'll be in a position where we can get him in the games, but he's a very intriguing talent with his size, with his ability to pass the ball. He can make shots. When he's out on the floor in the open court, things do happen. I'm excited about developing this kid. I think this kid has an opportunity to be a terrific NBA player."
Oh, and one final note: until further notice, the picture at the top of this story is the best Bucks photo of the season.