October makes for some great postseason baseball. But the preseason basketball? Not so great.
The Grizzlies were, at times, flat-out ragged in their play while losing 95-90 to the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday, Oct. 9, at FedExForum. It was especially rough in the early going as in the first half the Grizzlies made 13 of their 17 turnovers while running first-year coach Dave Joerger’s new offense aimed at moving the ball sooner in the 24-second shot clock.
“It’s about reads,” said point guard Mike Conley. “And that takes time.”
On Monday, the Grizzlies lost their first preseason game, 106-87 to the Chicago Bulls in St. Louis. So on Wednesday when someone asked Joerger about the new “up-tempo” offense, he had to smile.
“We put up 87 and 90,” Joerger said. “Super.”
What Joerger did like from the first two games was the opportunity to evaluate multiple players and combinations.
“We’ve got some competition for spots and that’s not a bad thing,” he said.
Consider forward Jon Leuer, who played sparingly last season, as one player making an early good impression. Leuer followed up his performance against the Bulls – nine points, five rebounds and four assists – with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds and five assists against the Mavs.
Joerger’s only complaint? “He needs to be more selfish. I thought he passed up a bunch of shots tonight.”
So far, Leuer has found the new offense a good match.
“As a big you get to make plays on the perimeter,” he said. “And I feel like I have some guard skills where I can do that.”
Several key Grizzlies did not play at all: centers Marc Gasol and Kosta Koufos, guard Tony Allen, and swingman Quincy Pondexter and forward Tayshaun Prince. That led to forward Ed Davis starting at center.
Former coach Lionel Hollins was not necessarily a big Ed Davis fan. The new front office and Joerger are believers. Against Dallas, Davis grabbed 10 rebounds in a game-high 32 minutes and scored 10 points. He also had his shot blocked more than once under the basket and was just 2-for-10 from the free-throw line.
“He knows we’ve got a lot of confidence in him and I tell him on a daily basis,” Joerger said.
Davis said he was “disappointed” with his foul shooting but, like Leuer, believes he will find opportunities in the new offense.
“Up and down, running the floor, that fits my game,” Davis said.
Meanwhile, the veterans say there is no need to fret about two no-count losses and some disjointed play when there’s a new coach, a new offensive system, new players and new combinations.
“We’re learning, we’re out there working,” forward Zach Randolph said. “This is what preseason’s for.”
The Grizzlies next play a 5 p.m. game Sunday, Oct. 13 at FedExForum against Maccabi Haifa B.C.