Grizz Desperately Seeking Strong Finish to Preseason

By DON WADE

Seven practice tests down, one to go. So far, the results have been mixed as the Grizzlies under first-year coach Dave Joerger at times have looked more dynamic, but also more erratic on offense and less devoted to playing defense.

“Everything’s new. We’re just trying to adapt,” guard Tony Allen said before Thursday’s practice and about 18 hours removed from a 108-72 loss in Toronto against the Raptors and old friends Rudy Gay and Austin Daye. “Doesn’t concern us. It’s preseason.

“We take good things out of each game and try to build on it,” Allen said, adding, “Getting beat by 30, gonna be hard to take something good out of that.”

One solution: finish strong in the last preseason game Friday at 7 p.m. at FedExForum when the Grizzlies play the new-look Houston Rockets, who, since adding center Dwight Howard, are getting a lot of love from those in the prediction business.

The Grizzlies are 4-3 this preseason, 3-3 if you eliminate the victory over a traveling team from Israel. The preseason records and statistics – which show the Grizzlies to be more turnover prone, and they had 19 against the Raptors – ultimately mean nothing.

What matters is how the Grizzlies are coming together, how they adjust to the faster-tempo offense while not losing sight of the fact they made their run to the Western Conference Finals by being a defensive-minded team.

“That’s one of the things we’d like to tighten up,” Allen said. “Like helping the helper (on defensive rotations). We got away from that (against Toronto).”

Point guard Mike Conley says he has a “good grasp” of the new offense and a couple of other players do, too. But team-wide?

“We’re about 75 to 80 percent of doing what’s possible within the flow of the offense,” Conley said. “We’re still learning, just waiting for everyone to get on the same page.”

Not good enough, Joerger says.

“We should be 100 percent right now,” he said. “I’m disappointed that we’re not. I can handle guys learning reads and making decisions that maybe they haven’t had to make before. But as far as knowing where to be and where to go, they should be on top of that already.”

Joerger said he does not believe the focus on offense has detracted or will detract from defense, which he sees as a separate entity.

“Defense for us is effort, communication, activity,” the coach said. “Defense has to be first. We’ve always been able to stay in games when we’re not playing well offensively because our defense has been solid.”

Forward Zach Randolph agrees that the Grizzlies can’t afford to lose that quality and he doesn’t believe they will.

“That’s what we hang our hat on, defense,” Randolph said. “We’re working through our kinks right now and we’re getting there. We’ll try to keep pushing, keep believing.”