Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend Road Recap: Grizzlies win in Orlando and Atlanta

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 7:52 AM

Jerryd Bayless could not miss in Sundays game at Atlanta. Except the one time he did.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Jerryd Bayless could not miss in Sunday's game at Atlanta. Except the one time he did.

After hiding away in my underground lair to work on the big Grizzlies preview for this week's print edition of the Memphis Flyer, which will hopefully be in your hands soon, this weekend gave us a couple of preseason away games for the Grizzlies that happened seemingly in a vacuum: no one was watching in the arena, the action wasn't televised, and since I couldn't get the radio to work inside my house—Eric Hasseltine actually called the game yesterday afternoon in Atlanta by himself—for yesterday's I was reduced to following along with an auto-updating box score on NBA.com while the rest of the world watched football and napped.

I'll start with the game I could actually see with my own eyes: the Grizzlies' 97-91 road win over the Orlando Magic. If you were able to watch the League Pass feed of this game, you noticed instantly that the whole thing was being broadcast via two cameras, one on each baseline. It was like watching some sort of Soviet-era broadcast of an exhibition game between East Germany and Czechoslovakia telecast from a disused hangar for transport aircraft.

Camera jokes aside, there were some noteworthy takeaways from the Magic game: Mike Miller played 30 minutes and was one point short of a 20-10 game, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds. One assumes that sort of performance isn't going to be commonplace from Miller during the regular season, as his health (or lack thereof) was one of the main reasons his role was so limited for the Miami Heat the last couple of years. If Miller has really healed enough to be able to handle that sort of workload on a semi-regular basis, this Grizzlies team just got that much more dangerous. The Grizzlies' other player with a double-double against the Magic was Ed Davis, who racked up 16 and 10 (along with 2 blocks) in 28 minutes. Davis also shot 7-10 from the field (and made 50% of his free throws). Davis, along with Marc Gasol, got in some good minutes against Orlando's up-and-coming young big man Nikola Vucevic, who looks poised to have a breakout year this year.

I don't think the Magic are going to be very good this year. They're in the middle of a full-on rebuilding process that started with the exit of Dwight Howard, and they've got a nice collection of young players at this point, but that's about it. They're still a year or two away from cohesion, to my mind. That means Davis' stat line comes with a large "yeah, but it was in preseason against the Magic" caveat. Still, given the expectations on Davis, it's good to see him have an efficient, productive night playing a lot of minutes. That's the kind of thing he needs to be able to do going forward.

Sunday against the Hawks, well, that was the one I just followed the box score of. But the main thing I took away from Sunday's game was the incredible depth of this roster. Mike Conley had the day off, Tayshaun Prince is still unable to play, and Kosta Koufos sat out again—three starting-quality players not able to go for Memphis—and the Griz were still able to run out a ten-man rotation and beat the Hawks.

That's depth. The starters were Miller, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, and Jerryd Bayless, and the "second unit," Hubie Brown style, was Quincy Pondexter, Jamaal Franklin, Nick Calathes, Jon Leuer, and Ed Davis. All ten of those guys played more than 16 minutes and fewer than 25 or so. That doesn't even count Tony Gaffney and Willie Reed at 9 and 10 minutes respectively, or recent signing Andre Barrett, who saw the court for a couple of minutes. This Grizzlies team is deep. That depth is going to become a huge factor this year, because the minute load on the starters has been one of the biggest negatives for the Grizzlies over the past few years. Even if it only takes four minutes a game off the average workload of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, that's a blessing come playoff time.

I can't talk about Sunday's game without mentioning the fact that Jerryd Bayless' shooting was so hot he almost melted through the floor of Philips Arena. Bayless started out 5-5 from three, and extended the streak all the way to 8-8 from the floor and 6-6 from long range before he finally missed a jumper. If Bayless is going to be perfect from long range and put up 22 points, in addition to what the rest of the offense is doing? Yikes.

All in all, the games are starting to feel more like meaningless preseason games and not vital yardsticks to measure the progress of the team. Every game is starting to feel like it has less to teach us about every single player on the roster and more like "hey, let's try this." This is about the point in the preseason where watching the games just makes me start to miss "real" basketball even more, and we're still nine days away from the Grizzlies' opener on the road in San Antonio. That said, this weekend had some highlights.

Camera angles were not one of them.

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