I, for one, had a lot of fun at the game last night as the Grizzlies knocked off the Rockets for the second night in a row by a score of 96-90. Starters for the Grizzlies: Damon Stoudamire, Tarence Kinsey (a TK sighting!), Rudy Gay, Stromile Swift and Darko Milicic. Three of those guys will be starting on Opening Night. I'll let you figure out which three. I'll give you a hint: Damon Stoudamire will be one of them. Sorry Conley/Lowry superfans.
I enjoyed the game from a seat close enough to hear Bonzi Wells say "Wouldn't be me if I didn't get a tech" after receiving a technical foul for trash talking while attempting to guard Casey Jacobsen. Oh, yeah, the "Bonzi Ban" was lifted with 2:28 left in the 1st quarter.
Here are my thoughts on the game:
Tarence Kinsey can still play. He didn't forget how to play solid defense or knock down mid-range jumpers in the offseason. In fact, although it was just one game, he had a better all-around game than either Navarro or Jacobsen have experienced through the preseason. I can see him getting some quality minutes -- especially as a defensive stopper off the bench.
Damon Stoudamire looked like a starter last night. He posted 11 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals against the Rockets in 19 minutes. Mighty Mouse made great decisions in running the offense and actually played above average defense on rookie Aaron Brooks. Having seen him up close, I agree with Marc Iavaroni's decision to name him starter for Opening Night.
Rudy Gay really does have that potential that Jerry West indicated when he traded Shane Battier away to acquire him on draft night last summer. And......he's starting to fulfill it. He had one play that will go down as a simple goaltending in the stat sheets that was a statement, nay a declaration of his emergence. He swatted a ball that was near the top of the backboard.....simply because he could. He then stared down Stromile Swift, who had a similar block last night, and I read his lips to say "Good enough?". Rudy is developing an attitude -- you know, the one thing that scouts said he was lacking when he went from surefire #1 overall pick at the end of his freshman season at UConn to #8 pick after his sophmore year, landing in Memphis as a result. The rest of the league should be worried about this development.
Hakim Warrick is a tremendously talented offensive player. He can score in a variety of ways from a number of angles. He rebounds at a fairly reasonable level. Now he needs to learn how to do other things that make for a good basketball player: passing, dribbling, defending. Chip and I kept track of how many times he passed in the game. I counted once, he never saw any. I know it is just preseason, but he had the same problem last year. I don't say this to be unfairly critical of Hak, but because I want him to be a successful part of this team -- and the team needs him to be a more well-rounded player.
Andre Brown might be a guy who is best described as "just happy to be here", but he brings hustle, energy and grit off the bench, so I'm glad to have him on the roster. He could shoot less often for my taste (especially since his free-throw shooting is abysmal), but it is still preseason, so I'll chalk it up to him displaying what he's capable of to the coaching staff. He's definitely willing to mix it up in the paint and fight for rebounds and loose balls, which will surely have some value this season.
Stromile Swift continues to look like he's motivated this season. I don't know if it is the new coaching staff, the fact that he can opt out of his contract at the end of the season, or something we haven't even considered, but there is a noticeable change in his on-court demeanor this year. I hope that he can keep it up all season long.
Michael Conley....looked like a rookie PG last night. He was the fastest guy on the court, even blowing by Aaron Brooks on one transition play, but that extra gear also got him into trouble, as he made a few bad decisions because he was in a rush. Once again, he showed flashes of the player that is going to terrorize the league for the next decade, but his consistency level isn't there yet, nor do I expect it to be for quite some time. No shame in that, as most rookies, especially PG's, take time to adjust to the NBA game. He has to be 3rd on the depth chart right now -- for his own good as much as anything else.
Juan Carlos Navarro looked a little off last night, which could be explained by the fact that this was his first back-to-back experience in the NBA -- with travel, no less. He never really got his offensive game going and struggled to stay in front of quick guards Luther Head, John Lucas and Aaron Brooks. He appeared to bang his elbow on the floor in the 4th quarter, but I've been unable to find any information about his status. Likewise, there hasn't been an update on Pau Gasol, although it was clear to us that he was walking without any discernible limp last night. Maybe we'll get some news later today.
Darko Milicic was still suffering from "flu-like symptoms" and only played in the first half again, but he managed to block 3 shots in 20 minutes, providing an intimidating presence in the paint. His rebounding wasn't to the same level we saw the night before, but there weren't that many missed shots, as the teams shot a combined 47% in the first half, including 63% from beyond the arc. Darko might not start on Opening Night, but he provides the Grizzlies with the ability to do so much from the high post (expect a post on that later this week) and possesses such a big, athletic body that I cannot see him not getting quality minutes throughout this season.
Casey Jacobsen didn't set the world on fire in playing 30 minutes last night, but he didn't allow his man (either Bonzi or Steve Novak) to go nuts either, so I'd call it a wash for the night. CJ seemed to enjoy the verbal sparring with Bonzi, as Wells repeatedly told him "you can't stop me", but Casey did a decent job on him all night. CJ will never be mistaken for Ron Artest or Ben Wallace on defense, but he's not a sieve either. On Tuesday night, the Rockets' broadcast team made several mentions of how hard he was working, hustling on every play and just generall being a solid gamer.
Kyle Lowry didn't drop another triple-double on the Rockets, but he did show that he is the obvious choice as the primary backup to Damon for the next few weeks, at the very least. His bulldog-like tenacity garnered him 3 fouls in only 13 minutes, but I don't think he was intended to play much after logging 44 minutes the previous night. Can't wait to see him when the games actually mean something. He changes the dynamics of the game when he enters the fray.
Last night was our first ever Shades of Blue: Blog Party. It was a resounding success!
Chris Herrington from the Memphis Flyer dropped by and we discussed several aspects of this intriguing Grizzlies team. There was also......ummmm.......well, Chip was there........and........uhhhh........I was there. Did I mention Chris Herrington was there? Well, I guess you could say that all the fans of our writing were there then. Ok, so it was the three of us and I think Chris just dropped by to get away from the allegedly horrific offering in the media room. I've never actually eaten the food they give to the members of the media, but I have hear many, many horror stories about it. *shudder* Herrington didn't let the poor showing for our Blog Party affect his ability to write, as he provided a running Live Blog over on Beyond the Arc -- always a treat for those who don't get to view the game live. Thanks for dropping by and chatting with us Chris -- it was greatly appreciated.