First, let me say that the stream I found of the game was not the greatest quality. It was hard at times to tell which pixel was Calathes’ bald spot, and exactly what facial expression Dave Joerger was wearing when shouting instructions from the sideline. (Mike Miller’s flowing locks stood out clear as day, thankfully.) Still, here are a few things I took away from this (ultimately meaningless) preseason game.
1. Memphis got off to a fast start, hitting its first five shots and picking up an early 11-2 lead. It was encouraging, for a couple of reasons: yes, the Bulls were missing good looks, but even if the Grizz defense wasn’t the reason, the offense was able to capitalize and build the kind of lead they should have. Not to mention they did so without the incentive of, you know, a regular season win. Obviously they gave up this lead in the second quarter and were unable to claw back in the fourth, but the rosters were nothing close to even, with Memphis sitting Gasol, Prince, Allen, and Pondexter against a resurgent Derrick Rose (23 minutes).
2. Dave Joerger looked comfortable, engaged, and in command on the sideline. He communicated constantly with the team both in live and dead ball situations. He even rightly pestered the refs for their — let’s call it “exuberance” on the whistle.
Joerger to ref: Bulls have 35 FTs. Ref: It doesn’t matter Joerger: IT DOES MATTER!
— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) October 8, 2013
(The Bulls finished with 43 free throws to Memphis’ 29. If you didn’t actually get to watch the game, be glad.)
3. Tony Wroten fans will have to adjust a little to Calathes’ passing style, but I think you’ll like him. I saw a lot of lobs that looked like awkward jumpers and weren’t always intended as alley oops — one found Ed Davis under the basket for an easy down-and-up jam, which Davis found a way to blow by traveling. Another found Tony Gaffney late in the fourth for a pretty jam. Even when he’s not showing off, Calathes looks solid. Definitely NBA ready, and I think a big step up from Wroten. His experience is clear in his style of play: he’s much better at reading the game than Wroten was — T-Dub had a tendency to sling a pass in as soon as he saw it, where Calathes is calmer and more deliberate with his choices.
4. Jon Leuer led Mike Miller with a sweet baseline pass in the first quarter, running a play the Grizzlies loved last year (typically with Rudy receiving the pass from Gasol). I took this as a sign that Joerger will be revisiting the staples of the Grizz playbook but with an eye for involving different personnel. On this play, Miller didn’t have a shot and the ball moved back around to Leuer, who hit a midrange J. #FreeLeuer
5. I’m no coaching guru, but even I noticed the quickened pace on offense and the increased movement off the ball. Even the Chicago TV broadcasters commented on the change. Mike Miller in particular seemed to be all over the floor with and without the ball — a lot of people (myself included) figured he would want to avoid wear and tear by camping on the arc. Apparently not. As for the “12 second shot clock”: the Grizz were obviously more eager to move the ball up the floor, but shots in offensive play sets still came a bit late. Chalk it up to good defense and deep rotation personnel, though. This was not last year’s offense, that much is for sure.
6. Ed Davis’ rebounding is still underwhelming, and he continues to make, frankly, boneheaded plays on offense (the traveling call mentioned earlier was one example). Jon Leuer, meanwhile, had a great game. He quietly tallied 9 points and 5 rebounds, and seemed to fit gracefully into the reserve offensive system. He receives the ball in basically the same high-key position as Marc, and while he obviously doesn’t have the presence of Gasol in the paint, he is formidible from midrange and isn’t scared to drive past you into the lane. I may be alone, but I think the Grizzlies should focus as much on Leuer as they do on Davis as a backup big. (I might even advocate for dealing Davis while he has value, but a higher-definition view of his game might change my mind. He did come up with 5 rebounds and only missed 2 of his 7 free throws!)
7. I know Derrick Rose has a healthy following in Memphis. You’ll be glad to know he looked like his old self last night and against Indy last week.
The Grizzlies face Dallas on Wednesday night at FedexForum in their next preseason matchup.