The Grizzlies opened their preseason with an 87-85 home win over the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night. There's only so much you can learn from one game, with information even more unreliable in preseason contests. So, at the risk of putting too much emphasis on one night, a few reactions:
Hasheem Thabeet's performance was a pretty even mix of good and bad, which makes it a fairly big upgrade over most of his games last season. On the plus side, Thabeet was productive in his minutes, scoring 10 points on 3-3 shooting (4-6 from the line), with 5 rebounds and a steal and a block in 13 minutes. Two of those baskets were point-blank looks, but one was a nice little baseline jumper. Thabeet generally seemed more alert and comfortable than he looked most of his rookie season. On the downside, Thabeet only played 13 minutes because that's how long it took him to foul out. At least a couple of those fouls were on the offensive end. And one bad offensive possession, where he tried to make a post move against Pacers reserve Solomon Jones but wasn't able to get the ball over his head and get off a shot, demonstrated that he still needs to add much more upper-body strength. On the whole, though, given the meager expectations, this was a promising start to Thabeet's sophomore season.
Rookie Xavier Henry got off to a rough start. He was tentative and overly deferential early, not taking a shot in the first half. Then when he started shooting, he couldn't hit, missing his first three field-goal attempts and first two free-throw attempts. On one fastbreak, Henry approached the basket in a way that suggested he'd want to finish with his right hand, but switched to his strong hand (Henry is a lefty) at the last minute, creating a more awkward angle and missing the lay-up. Henry needs to be able to finish with either hand at the rim. I also noticed a little hitch in Henry's jumper — a slight pause at the height of his delivery — that I hadn't taken note of before. This won't matter if the shots go in, as they did at Kansas. Henry settled down late, hitting two jumpers down the stretch and seemed to have his head in the game. We have to remember that, after missing summer league, this was Henry's first real game against NBA competition. And that he's still just 19. For what it's worth, Henry played better than the Pacers' two rookie wings, Paul George and Lance Stephenson.
Quick hits on a few other players:
With Thabeet fouling out and Hamed Haddadi still MIA, Marc Gasol played a team-high 26 minutes, which surely wasn't the plan. Journeyman Josh Davis got 9 minutes of mop-up time as a result of the dearth of available bigs.
For what its worth, Mike Conley had a nice game in one of the areas the Grizzlies most need him to improve: As a more dynamic playmaker. Conley had 7 assists to 1 turnover in 24 minutes and most of these assists were more catalytic than merely swinging the ball to an open shooter. Conley was creating shots for teammates off his own penetration and making sharp passes in transition. More please.
Darrell Arthur had some lapses but did two things he absolutely has to do to be useful to the Grizzlies: He was active on the boards (7 in 19 minutes) and knocked down some mid-range jumpers.
Acie Law looked exactly like what he's been his whole career and what the Grizzlies have deployed behind Mike Conley ever since Kyle Lowry was traded: A third-string point guard. Law shot 1-6 in 24 minutes, with 4 assists to 3 turnovers. It's a shame that Greivis Vasquez is still out because the team really needs a strong look at Vasquez vs. Law. Even if the Griz use Tony Allen at the point some, one of those players will at least get consistent spot minutes. The Grizzlies have much more invested in Vasquez, whose primary attributes (playmaking ability and backcourt size) are things the team really needs.