Marc Gasol is coming into the season looking like he's in good shape. How will that translate to basketball action?
Tonight's the night: the Grizzlies are taking on the Milwaukee Bucks in the first game of the 2014 preseason. The game is in Green Bay, not Milwaukee, and the TV options are, well, sparse. (League Pass? Those bootleg internet feeds you keep hearing about?) For what it's worth, tomorrow night's game at Houston is on NBATV.That said, it's still a game, and that means it's worth talking about here. Some things I'm going to be looking for tonight:
- How does Jordan Adams look? Jarnell Stokes, too, but Adams is the wild card here, with potential designs on the starting 2-guard spot. It's preseason against a team that will probably be terrible this year, so obviously anything that happens should be taken with a grain of salt, but the "Golden Rule of Summer League" still applies in preseason: it's more about not looking bad than looking good. If Adams comes out and kills, it means he's probably NBA material. If he comes out and looks outclassed and overmatched, he probably won't be starting opening night, anyway.
- Who's starting? That's the question on everyone's mind, because presumably it's going to signal who will be getting the bulk of the minutes in the wing rotation this year. Maybe not. Maybe Dave Joerger will just start the guys who started the last game of last season and throw out Conley/Lee/Prince/Randolph/Gasol. But I expect him to be in the mood for experimentation. We could see Tony Allen starting at the 3, or Quincy Pondexter. Or Adams starting at the 2, or Tony Allen, or... who knows. I don't think the starting lineup tonight will be the starting lineup opening night, but I do think it's worth paying attention to.
- What does Marc Gasol look like? Last year's model came into the season out of shape and looking like he'd rather be anywhere but on the court. This year's model—fresh off a FIBA World Cup early exit and with a new baby at home—is coming into a contract year looking trim and saying he's "totally recovered" from last year's knee injury. But what does that look like on the floor? Is it too early for a self-butt-pat? One can dream.
- Jonny Basketball I think this is a big year for Jon Leuer. The backup 4 spot is probably his for the taking (though I know Michael Beasley would love to take it). Leuer's floor-stretching is well known, but he's also a good player inside and last year showed some flashes on defense. If Leuer can establish himself in the preseason, I think it's going to be a good year for him, minutes-wise and development-wise.
That's pretty much it. The first game of the preseason isn't going to set some grand tone for how the season is going to go, and it isn't going to reveal too much about what the season is going to look like when it starts: it's just an exhibition, a tune-up. But I think valuable insights can be gleaned from it, and more honestly, I'm just excited that it's NBA season again. It's been a while.