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WOOOOHOOOO!! UNDEFEATED!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sure, it’s only five games. Sure, it doesn’t mean much (except that it can surely add fissile-quality fuel to the debate that rages over draft picks and placement).But darnit, all eleven of us that count ourselves as what could be termed “Grizzlies fans” are jonesin’ for something to view positively, and view summerleague positively we will. There were plenty of things to like about the Grizzlies’ play in Vegas this year, the foremost of which might not be what you think….

….Dave Joerger. That’s right, the coach. He was complimented by several of the scribes in attendance as being readyto take thehelm of anNBA team himself….and I’d tend to agree. There were several things he did in particular to earn such praise, not the least of which was making a foreign-to-any-Grizzly word pleasantly familiar again, that word being DEFENSE. Sure, the “but summerleague is made up of rookies/second-year guys/NBA marginals and it’s disjointed and no one looks that great on offense except the all-world Marcus Williams” disclaimer applies, but the second and third rotations, both on the perimeter and on the inside, were generally well-timed if notsuper-smoothly executed. Yes, there was this one player who proved himself to be more of a project (even without relating his project status to his draft placement….), but the team as a whole played good defense under Joerger (except for the all-world-on-offense Marcus Williams). Something else Joerger did that was encouraging was that he was able to get two guys in particular (Sam Young and DeMarre Carroll) to switch positions from where they were most accustomed to playing. Now one might think that this should be easy when dealing with hopefully-malleable players fresh into the NBA…but many times it’s not due to hardheadedness on the part of the player or an inability on the part of the coach to help the player begin to understand the changes in floor placement, rotations, positioning in transition, etc. that come with a position change. Again, sure, the VSL ain’t gonna be mistaken for the NBA finals or the Olympic gold medal game, but Joerger got these guys to do it on an appropriate VSL level.

As for the players, from the “expected and pleasing” category:

-DeMarre Carroll acting like he’s grateful for the hand he’s been dealt and acting like he plans to completely exhaust himself every time he takes the floor. MY KIND OF PLAYER. Everyone’s kind of player, I would think and hope. The one thing that *marginally* was not superb? He was mighty quick on the transition midrange trigger…but hey, a bunch of them went in, and it’s just not possible to have “too many transition weapons”.

-Marcus Williams having 17 assists in a game. Flash in the pan for sure, but it was still good to see a player playing to his strength.

-Sam Young playing like the experienced player that he is, and showing that he has an idea already how he’ll earn his paycheck in the NBA-knowing how to use hissize on the perimeter on both ends and having enough of a nose for the ball inside to grab some rebounds.

Now from the “expected and not-so-pleasant” category:

-Thabeet proved himself a project of greater magnitude than even the cynical would likely have surmised. The distressing aspect of his being such a long-range success target is that lane coverage on D could very well wind up being all that he can do-he’s so far away that the post go-to move, the transition expertise, and so forth may just get shoved down the list for so long that he could be 30 by the time his defense is solidly established to the degree that he can be allowed to work on other aspects of his game enough to bring them to the level of game-after-game readiness and effectiveness. He also seems to be suffering from a not mild (but not terminal) case of rectal-cranial inversion syndrome, and that’s the first thing that must be beaten back before any of the other items on his long “must improve” list can be addressed.

-no one, save for Brion Rush (who anyone with a head would call somewhat beyond a long shot to make an NBA team) seemed all that interested in doing something that the Grizzlies big-league team DESPERATELY needs: shooting threes. Sure, OJ and Rudy and even Conley (and my secret pick to throw up a few threes this year is Marc G) can see to that need somewhat when the real season starts, but there MUST be a couple of someones on the bench who can fire it from long range…and the term “dearth” is an understatement when used to describe the Grizzlies’ ability to kill it from long range bench-scoring-wise.

No matter the level of importance of summer league, darnit, it’s always better to come away 5-0 than 0-5.

Good Lord Almighty I’m already jonesin’ for the regular season to start, and I’ll REALLY be itchin’ by the time Halloween comes around….

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