Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grizzlies-Pistons Pre-Game Three-Pointer

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 8:43 AM

This is not the Allen Iverson fans wanted to see on opening night.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • This is not the Allen Iverson fans wanted to see on opening night.
Opening night! The Grizzlies open the 2009-2010 season at 7 p.m. tonight at FedExForum against the new-look, sketchy-defense, depressing-frontcourt-rotation-having Detroit Pistons, a team the Griz dispatched in a riveting but ultimately meaningless 115-94 preseason route a couple of weeks ago.

Lil Rounds and Three 6 Mafia will be in the house tonight, and so will I. Though it will be the exception, not the norm, this season, I will be live-blogging the opener. So check back here around game time. And local readers be sure to pick up a print edition of the Flyer around town today, which features a preview piece on the team and a few predictions for the coming season.

In the meantime, here are few things to think about relative to tonight's game:

1. No Iverson: It looks like Allen Iverson will miss the team's opener as he still hasn't been able to conduct a full practice with the team. This will somewhat dampen the excitement of opening night and will mean Iverson will miss one of two chances this season to play against the franchise he had such a bad experience with a year ago.

This also would have been a good game to see the Grizzlies work through all their possible backcourt combinations, as the Pistons are likely to play some three-guard sets and probably some minutes with a small backcourt, perhaps with Will Bynum and Ben Gordon on the floor together.

As it is, with Iverson out, Marko Jaric not with the team, and Sam Young perhaps questionable, the Grizzlies will face off against a backcourt-heavy Pistons team with a rather thin group of guards. Look for the team to use a double-point-guard backcourt of Mike Conley and Marcus Williams some in this game, and for Conley's ostensibly improved three-point shooting to get an early test.

2. Zach Randolph vs. Charlie Villanueva: Though he was one of the team's two major free-agent signings, the Pistons are making noises about bringing Charlie Villanueva off the bench. Even if they do, look for him to get plenty of minutes and shots as clearly the Piston's most offensively talented frontcourt player. Villanueva was a prolific scorer last season for Milwaukee, averaging more than 16 points per game in under 27 minutes a game, and his offensive repertoire is heavily perimeter focused, as he averaged 3.3 three-point attempts.

Matching up with Villanueva will provide an early look at what could be an ongoing Grizzlies' subplot this season — how to deal with the increasingly common perimeter-oriented "power" forwards around the league.

Kwame Brown: Cautionary tale for the raw, under-skilled, highly drafted big man.
  • Kwame Brown: Cautionary tale for the raw, under-skilled, highly drafted big man.
A weak defender, Villanueva is ill-equipped to handle Zach Randolph on the block. But Randolph isn't likely to be very effective — or attentive — about chasing Villanueva out to the three-point line. Which team will take advantage of this mismatch? If Villanueva starts hurting the Grizzlies on the perimeter, look for DeMarre Carroll to get some minutes guarding him. With Darrell Arthur out until February, there are minutes open at the four for Carroll, who could prove very valuable in these kinds of match-ups. He'll get a chance to show it tonight.

3. Hasheem Thabeet's Ghost of Christmas Future: Though it's far, far too early to pass judgment on Hasheem Thabeet, there's no denying that the Grizzlies' top pick has looked rough so far. This is not a surprise to those of us who warned the Grizzlies against reaching for size high in the draft in the form of a raw, under-skilled center. Many teams have made that mistake in the past and few players embody the trend as well as Kwame Brown, the former top overall pick, who never developed much in the way of basketball skill and seemed on the fast track out of the league in his brief Grizzlies' stint two seasons ago. But, surprisingly, the Pistons signed Brown to a two-year contract and he may well start in the middle for this team.

Regardless, there are sure to be minutes on the court tonight in which Thabeet and Brown match up. Take a good look at your opponent, Hasheem, and consider him a cautionary tale.

The Jacob Riis Report: Kwame Brown isn't the only former Grizzlies player on this Pistons roster. Chucky Atkins (famous for "The Chucky Atkins Offense" as a fill-in Griz point guard) has made the cut despite the Pistons already being heavy on point and combo guards. Atkins will be asked to provide some veteran leadership.



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