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VOL. 133 | NO. 63 | Wednesday, March 28, 2018

G League Memphis Hustle Finish First Season

Team finishes 21-29, but development matters more than record

By Don Wade

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How successful was the first year of the Memphis Grizzlies’ G League team, the Memphis Hustle? Truth is, it may be a while before that judgment can be made.

By record, the Hustle went 21-29. They finished strong, though, winning four of their last five games.

But development is the name of the game in the G League and what rookies Kobi Simmons, Ivan Rabb and other players become will ultimately be the measurement of the team’s first season at the Landers Center in Southaven.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Kobi Simmons (2) attempts a layup as Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 10, 2018, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Hustle head coach Glynn Cyprien also points out that the Hustle were the youngest team in the G League.

“Kobi had a good year for us, averaged 15 points a game,” Cyprien said. “Ivan played 18 games with us, he averaged 15 (points) and nine (rebounds). So he was very productive … Austin (Nichols) was seventh in the league in blocked shots, playing limited games because of his injuries, but showed he’s a potential NBA talent. We were able to get Marquis Teague called up, which is a big deal.”

Teague, in fact, signed a 10-day contract with the Grizzlies a few days ago. Since then, Cyprien said guard J.J. Frazier had agreed to a contract to play in Italy and guard Mark Tyndale was going to go play in Mexico. Meaning, the G League experience had enabled still more players to get opportunities to play for more money.

“(Center) Chance Comanche made the biggest jump from beginning of the year to the end of the year,” Cyprien said. “He’s made himself a potential NBA player, got all kinds of teams calling about him. Omari Johnson, spectacular shooter.”

Teague and Johnson were Cyprien’s captains. Johnson said having access to FedExForum and all that comes with the NBA gave the Hustle an advantage.

“Other teams don’t have quite the facilities we do,” Johnson said. “Having access – we live like five minutes walking distance (from FedExForum) – we can come in here anytime, work out, cold tub, hot tub, get treatment.”

Nichols was one of several players that said they were happy to see Teague get the call-up: “He deserved it so much. It was only a matter of time.”

After transferring from the University of Memphis to Virginia and getting dismissed from the team there, Nichols found a new basketball life playing for the Hustle this season.

Asked if he had a sense of how close or far he might be from becoming an NBA player, Nichols said he had a lot to work on, adding, “I really haven’t any gauge of that. Just continue to space out my threes, getting stronger of course, ball-handling …”

Injuries to the Grizzlies kept the Hustle’s roster fluid and Cyprien said that’s why it took until late in the season for the team to find some consistency.

“That’s the toughest part of it, not knowing from game to game who you’re going to have on your roster,” he said. “It was tough on these guys at times, practicing with the Grizz in the morning and playing with us at night. Or vice-versa.”

Johnson says players noticed fan support picking up as the season progressed: “They started to realize this is a good brand of basketball.”

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