The Bucks regular season is underway, but as a part of my preseason recap series and as promised, their game against the Memphis Grizzlies in preseason meant --- well, a lot.
It all started with the Bucks vs Memphis Grizzlies. The Bucks hadn’t stepped on the hardwood floor since May during a playoffs that didn’t end with a trip to the NBA Finals. Their matchup was the Grizzlies, a hardworking gritty team known for this and their breath of fresh superstardom in Ja Morant these days.
Both teams sat players. Giannis Antetokounmpo was out and Ja Morant sat on the sideline for the Grizzlies. It was a night and because it was preseason, the resting players and sluggish return was expected. Still, in this preseason matchup, the billing of Grizzlies-Bucks is one that looks good on paper and seems poised for a future matchup between two good teams on opposing Conferences.
That’s what the Bucks and Grizzlies tried to give us, even in preseason: a preseason warmup, a rare matchup between two teams. It was rare, especially for the hometown Milwaukee Bucks who hosted the game at Fiserv Forum and had the debut of their new rookie, MarJon Beauchamp on their hands. Beauchamp had a lot on his hands. He played in Summer League, but that’s Summer League with an incomplete roster of G-League stars and free agents, not the big leagues with all of the pro's and veteran stars.
Beauchamp handled it well, as he played it like Summer League without his star teammates and opposing stars on the floor. He had to start and he finished. He only posted 4 points, but he added an astounding 6 rebounds. At 6’6" and a daring high-flyer, the rookie can easily have a sharpshooting night of scoring and rebounding, and the story seems to be where he lacks in one area, he can make up in another, especially at this stage in his career. There were no early worries.
With that being said, it wasn’t the MarJon Beauchamp showcase fans were looking for based on the stat line he produced alone, but it was the Jordan Nwora show. Nwora was the Bucks rookie in 2020, having been drafted in the second round along with Sandro Mamukelashvili in 2021 who posted 15 points. Don't forget Grayson Allen's 15 points. Nwora's 21 points led the scoring charge for all Bucks. This is a good look for the Bucks, a team that's known for adding some roster spots in the off-season nearly to overcapacity and yet their two latest rookies haven’t been waived or anything. That’s not to say they should, especially after seeing Nwora turn up his biceps above his head and flick his wrist beyond the normal shooting line. Perhaps, Nwora's shooting ability and knack for showing maturity on a team like the Bucks is what’s keeping his roster spot safe. The fact that the Bucks use guys like Nwora during preseason speaks volumes. The Bucks let them in, and they showed and proved.
The Bucks did the dirty work on the night, although they didn’t come up with the win. The Grizzlies, who now own Danny Green and a plethora of young shooters, still couldn’t stop Nwora. The key word here is "almost" won, and it went that close. The Bucks stood in front and the deer were coming until the grizzlies took control in the last few minutes of the 4th quarter. Perhaps, bears are stronger and scarier than deers, at least that's what the preseason game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies says. There were plenty of stars who contributed on the Grizzlies end that helped them get the win, namely undrafted rookie Kenneth Lofton Jr. who has been impressing the NBA community recently and has shades of Zach Randolph, Glen Davis, and even the legendary Charles Barkley. His 17 points wasn't anything to skip over on the night.
The first matchup in preseason didn’t prove a lot about what’s already happening and what's to come in the regular season, but the Bucks as a team did show some things. They got a chance to show off their young core, brush off some rust, and most importantly, hype up the deer district before the start of the regular season. That’s more important than all of the extra, added hoopla of the regular 82-game season.
One night of preseason can be worth 82 games if that makes sense. Preseason shows, above all, the strengths as well as the weaknesses and there’s a clear room to look at the errors and improve them. In the regular season, when the bright lights are on, you have to win that night or lose and take the ending in stride. The Bucks took a loss against Memphis, but it didn’t count. It may count on Dec. 15 and Apr. 7 when the Bucks and Grizzlies matchup in the regular season, so the Bucks may want to prepare for that until then. Did the Bucks look ready for the regular season against the Grizzlies? Not exactly, but they didn’t look terrible either. In the words of NBA legend Allen Iverson, "It’s practice man, practice." The Bucks got to practice and against a team like the Grizzlies, and that’s all that counts.
The Bucks preseason started with the Grizzlies and ended against the Brooklyn Nets, which was the total opposite of the Grizzlies and a rival matchup as expected. Not quite as sluggish and many of the starting five players who didn't play against the Grizzlies played in this one. The Nets write-up is after this one, and thanks for reading.
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