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VOL. 128 | NO. 211 | Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Troubling Trends Emerge as Grizz Begin Season

By DON WADE

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First-year coach Dave Joerger had two goals heading into the Grizzlies’ eighth and final preseason game: “Don’t get anybody hurt, get better.”

Dave Joerger is in the final stages of preparing for his first year as head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies with two lackluster losses in the preseason in the rearview mirror.

(Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Grizzlies came through their 92-73 loss to the Houston Rockets at FedExForum Friday, Oct. 25, without injury. But they did not get better. Rather, they followed up their dreadful showing in Toronto two nights earlier – a 108-72 defeat – with a performance that raises many more questions than it answers.

The first game of the regular season is near, on Wednesday, Oct. 30, in San Antonio, in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals. Meanwhile, the preseason ended with rather alarming questions considering the games didn’t actually count.

Joerger’s over-arching answer to “what’s wrong?” questions of various stripes was that he is not concerned, saying, “I don’t read anything into it if we’re winning or losing in the preseason.”

For the record, the Grizzlies finished 4-4 (3-4 against NBA teams). But even Joerger admitted to having some concern over a few “trends.” Against Houston, the Grizzlies took offensive ineptitude to a new level. Not until Marc Gasol hit a 17-foot jump shot with 2:17 to play in the first quarter did the Grizzlies have more points (seven) than turnovers (five).

They finished the game with 21 turnovers, shot 31.9 percent from the floor and were beaten 48-28 on points in the paint. Gasol had a game-high 17 points with eight rebounds and Zach Randolph notched a double-double (10 and 10), but those numbers were as meaningless as the ultimate result. The offense, again, was disjointed.

Joerger says though the Grizzlies are trying to play an up-temp offense with greater movement, they aren’t changing things as much as some might believe. If the game at San Antonio is tight, he says their offense will look familiar.

“We’ll still do what we’ve always done to win close games – play through Mike (Conley), Marc and Zach,” he said.

But Conley, the starting point guard, says the new offense presents enough different reads and options that some players are struggling.

“When you’ve got two, three, four options, for some guys that’s a lot and for others it’s not,” Conley said. “Guys are having to think a little too much.”

Part of it, Conley says, is that some players are trying to force plays they believe they should make instead of recognizing when an option has been shut off.

“If they’re denying, we gotta take what the defense gives us,” Conley said.

“This isn’t something obtuse, like the triangle,” Joerger said, referring to the offense Phil Jackson ran to great effect with the Bulls and Lakers. “Everything is not a read.”

Still, fans might be a bit worried – or at least puzzled – by what they’ve seen thus far.

“It’s preseason,” Randolph said. “Gotta keep pushing, just be us.”

Conley admitted there is some “frustration,” mainly because of how the Grizzlies lost the last two preseason games. Defense was often absent and there was no pushback once the team fell behind.

Everyone, it seems, is ready for the games to start for real.

“I can’t wait, trust me,” Conley said. “I hate when I get subbed out and only get 20 minutes to play and (can’t help the team).”

Swingman Quincy Pondexter said the Grizzlies’ preseason present and the Grizzlies’ regular-season future don’t have to be one in the same. In part, because of everything this group accomplished in the recent past.

“We have a long ways to go. We’re not happy with where we are right now,” Pondexter said. “But I have all the confidence in the world in this team. We have the same heart. We have the same grit-grind.”

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