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VOL. 127 | NO. 42 | Thursday, March 01, 2012

On-the-Job Training for Grizz PGs

DON WADE | Special to The Daily News

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Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins bravely sent rookie backup point guards Josh Selby and Jeremy Pargo into the game … with 25 seconds left in what would be a 96-85 Grizzlies victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, Feb. 29, at FedExForum.

Until then – until the clock had almost struck zero – the coach simply didn’t trust them.

“Nobody’s grabbed the job and said, ‘I’m your guy,’” Hollins said before the game.

Selby played about five minutes in the first half and it was his first appearance after an assignment with the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League. Upon his return, he contributed three points and one assist but really didn’t look any different as the Mavericks outscored the Grizzlies 12-7 while Selby was in and Conley was out.

Truthfully, it probably would have been the same result with Pargo. The rookies are virtually interchangeable – both stronger and quicker than Conley, yet neither a fraction of the player Conley is. Iron Mike played 38 minutes and had a double-double with 20 points and 10 assists against the Mavs.

“They’re both good listeners,” Conley said. “They ask questions and we talk all the time. Pargo’s a great scorer and Josh can get in the paint at will.”

Which would be swell if they were supposed to be scorers first – they’re not – or were enrolled in Point Guard 101 at NBA State and not playing for a potential playoff team.

So, while Zach Randolph (knee) continues to work toward returning to the lineup by mid-March, the Grizzlies continue to have a glaring weakness at backup point guard. Hollins used shooting guard O.J. Mayo at the point through the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, a strategy admittedly aimed at “buying a little bit of time.”

Also, securing a bit more production. Pargo and Selby each average around 3 points and 1.5 assists per game. Pargo has 42 assists with 35 turnovers; Selby has 27 of each. So they do distribute the ball, just to people wearing the wrong jersey.

“My main thing is limiting turnovers,” Selby said of what he learned in the D-League, “taking care of the ball.”

Right answer, but there’s more to the job than that.

“The job of a point guard is first making everybody else comfortable,” Conley said. “You’re second. That’s what they’re learning.”

Here’s hoping against hope one of them somehow graduates early.

Don Wade is a native of Kansas City and a former feature writer for The Kansas City Star and sports reporter for The Commercial Appeal. His column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News.

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