Among the points of emphasis Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins mentioned to the assembled media following Sunday’s preseason game against the Atlanta Hawks was that the Grizzlies can’t possibly demonstrate it is a balanced team when his veteran bunch balks at displaying “a hundred percent effort.”
Though Grizzlies’ pivotal third quarter surge enabled them to rally for a 110-102 grind-it-out win against the Hawks, Hollins apparently was alluding to Memphis’ lethargic first-half play. The Grizzlies, for instance, came out flat against an Atlanta team that shot a blistering 65 percent from the field in the opening quarter, scored the game’s first eight points, and never trailed in a first half in which it took a 59-54 lead into intermission.
A team that enjoyed its highest winning percentage in franchise history last year, in large part because it had become accustomed to getting double-digit scoring from as many as six players, Memphis went into the half Sunday after shooting just 45 percent from the field with only one starter having registered double figures (Mike Conley’s 11 points).
Conversely, there is a silver-lining, of sorts, about which Hollins can be pleased as the Grizzlies prepare to take on the Houston Rockets Wednesday night at 7 in the Toyota Center. That is, recently-acquired reserve guard Jerryd Bayless provided the Grizzlies with some solid minutes, particularly during the game’s opening half when the team’s top two players from last year, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol, struggled to convert baskets.
Signed as a free agent by the Grizzlies on July 13, Bayless, who was drafted with the 11th overall pick by Indiana in 2008, played a preseason-best 26-plus minutes, nearly 10 minutes better than starter Tony Allen. Bayless, of course, didn’t disappoint, scoring each of his 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting in the first half, joining Conley as the only other Grizzly to reach double figures before the break.
Fortunately for the Grizzlies, though, they managed to make the necessary adjustments, particularly in the crucial third as they outscored the Hawks 33-20 and took an eight-point advantage into the fourth. By game’s end, seven players had scored double figures for Memphis, including four starters.
Despite the Grizzlies’ less-than-impressive effort against Atlanta, Hollins admittedly was pleased, in part because the Grizzlies exhibited cohesiveness during the game’s crucial stages. Also, he couldn’t dismiss the fact that Bayless essentially held his own as one of the new faces on this year’s roster.
Hollins, in fact, is hopeful that Bayless’ latest outing is a sign of things to come, considering the
Grizzlies are less than two weeks away from their season-opener at the Los Angeles Clippers.
“This was only his third preseasoning game, but this was his best overall game,” Hollins said of Bayless. “Jarryd played well. His ball movement at times was crisp. The thing that really impressed me was that we had guys making threes.”
Though Bayless — who also played briefly for Portland, New Orleans, and Toronto in four pro seasons — misfired on each of his three 3-point attempts against the Hawks, the 24-year-old showed he’s capable of helping fill the void left by former Memphis and current Dallas Mavericks guard O. J. Mayo. Mayo has been considered among the NBA’s top reserves in recent years.
“Honestly, it’s about getting comfortable,” Bayless said in assessing his performance against Atlanta. “It’s a new system, so I want to get comfortable. I just want to go out there and play and do my part to help this team be successful.”
Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph was among those who was highly complementary of Bayless’ play Sunday.
“I told him myself I’m expecting big things out of him this year,” Randolph said. “What was he, like the 11th pick? That kid can ball. And coach wants to see what he got. That kid got alot of talent.”
During the Grizzlies’ final five preseason games, Hollins said among his biggest priorities is ultilize the players he feels will be on the roster throughout the 2012-13 campaign. Bayless, given his solid 6-3 frame and ability to play both the one and two positions, is seemingly making a strong case that he could very well be in for the long haul with a team that is expected to compete for its third consecutive postseason appearance.
“I really didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Bayless, who missed the final 16 games last year after he sustained a partialy torn oblique muscle in a March 26 game against Orlando. “When I signed here, they told me what they need me to do and that’s play backup to Mike. Hopefully, by the time the season starts, I’ll be comfortable.”
If nothing else, he showed, at least in his latest outing, that he’s adjusting quite comfortably as one of the new faces with the Grizzlies.