It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done: last night the Grizzlies pulled off an ugly, predictably sloppy win in their first preseason game over the Houston Rockets. It's going to take some time for the Griz to be able to integrate their new parts into a coherent whole—we knew that already. What might have been a little surprising was how rough some of those parts looked (Matt Barnes, especially, but also Jeff Green with the starters and Courtney Lee as a "point guard" at the end of the second half), but it's still early, and there's plenty of time for those issues to work themselves out.
There were a few things worth noting during Tuesday's game, though. Herewith, the first installment of Next Day Notes for the 2015-16 Grizzlies season:
➭ Jordan Adams was out still recovering from offseason knee surgery, and Jarnell Stokes was out because he was sick, leaving the other two of last year's rookies to get some minutes: Russ Smith and JaMychal Green. I'll talk some more about Russ later, but Green looked really solid in his minutes last night. He looks much more comfortable in the Grizzlies' offense, he looks like he's in better shape, and I've heard good things about him from more than one person with the team.
Last night I saw why. I think Green can insert himself into the frontcourt rotation and stay there. It's just preseason, sure, but the way Green looked with just about every bench lineup (except the one that put up 12 points in the second quarter), I think it's more of a "plausible" than merely "possible."
➭ Russ Smith is fun to watch. In 21 minutes last night, he had 12 points despite going 2-8 from the floor, because he got to the line for 9 free throws and made 8 of them. Smith pushed the ball relentlessly last night, and was (rightfully) determined to prove he deserves to be the backup point guard this year.
The issue with Smith last year in the few NBA looks he got was that the "Russdiculous" switch was always on, and sometimes Smith got out of control and made mistakes. That's still an issue, but last night Smith looked more composed (though the crazy speed and explosiveness are still there) and I thought he played very well.
➭ Both of these two guys were a part of my favorite bench unit of the whole night, and a lineup I think we'll see again in the near future: Smith, Vince Carter, Jeff Green, JaMychal Green, and newcomer Brandan Wright. In the third quarter this lineup got an extended run and I liked what I saw from it: Wright and Carter have a well-established pick & roll chemistry from their days together in Dallas, Smith pushes the pace to an extent that allows (Jeff) Green to take advantage of his athleticism to make plays (and this lineup also allows him to defend the opponent's 1 or 2 spot, or at least it did last night, and I think Green is a much better defender when he's guarding a guard and not a forward), and JaMychal Green fills the "big guy getting rebounds" role nicely finding gaps around Wright around the basket and hoisting the occasional 8-to-10-footer at the end of the shot clock.
It's a bench unit that had chemistry together, something the Grizzlies didn't always have last year, and when they did, it usually involved Kosta Koufos, who isn't around anymore to anchor the front line of the second unit. Clearly that 5-man unit from last night is going to need to get a lot more time together before we really know anything about them, but I thought last night was an encouraging sign for a unit that could conceivably get a great deal of time together throughout the season.
Should Jeff get the start?
The debates will rage. I say:
Dance with who brung you.
This one from Ben Brown certainly made me laugh the hardest:
You won't believe what happened to the man who ate McDonald's every day for three months. ...Marcus Thorton ate him.— Ben Brown (@BenTBrown) October 7, 2015
But if you're looking for something a little more uplifting in nature, it could also be this one from ESPN's Kevin Pelton:
I would be OK canceling the fourth quarter of Rockets-Grizzlies in favor of a Corey Brewer-Russ Smith footrace.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) October 7, 2015
The Grizzlies' next preseason game is Thursday night against Maccabi Haifa, a team from the Israeli Basketball Super League (where they finished with a 17-16 record last year, I might add). I don't expect it to be much of a contest, not in the way some of the other NBA teams playing international clubs have faced a challenge.
That means we'll probably see more minutes out of the end-of-the-bench guys: Ryan Hollins (who I presume only played 14 minutes against Houston because Jarnell Stokes was in a suit), Yakhouba Diawara, Michael Holyfield, et al. I'm fine with that. All those guys, since I find it exceedingly unlikely that the Grizzlies are going to carry any of them into the regular season, are going to need time to audition for scouts and maybe get picked up somewhere else down the line. That's part of the preseason too.
I'm not sure why the Grizzlies are playing Maccabi Haifa—it's a bit like the Tigers playing a middle-of-the-pack high school team—but they are, so we'll cover it.