Pete's Perspective: Grizzlies take on Spurs tonight
San Antonio, TX --
At long last, it's time to begin again.
With the Christmas lights still twinkling on the Riverwalk, the Memphis Grizzlies head over to the AT&T Center tonight (7 pm pre game on SportSouth) to start what unquestionably is the most anticipated season of Grizzlies basketball.
Off a season that still raises goosebumps in the retelling, the Grizzlies return virtually their entire core (short of departed Shane Battier and Greivis Vasquez as well as injured Darrell Arthur) in a quest to prove that last season's playoff run was no fluke. The Grizzlies enter the regular season that was marked by a good training camp and two very uneven and turnover-filled pre-season games against a mashed-up New Orleans team. The Grizzlies kicked it away 43 times in two games, a far cry from their middle-of-the-pack average of 14 per game a year ago. In fact, the Grizzlies led the NBA in turnover margin, forcing 222 more turnovers than they gave up. In just two pre-season games, they were a disturbing -17 on turnover margin.
One key to tonight's game will be the Grizzlies' ability to play with poise and cohesion, two things that seemed to be lacking in the pre-season. Of course, Mike Conley didn't play at all in the first game and Marc Gasol has yet to see game action, so you can take the pre-season games with a rather large helping of sea salt.
The Spurs are largely the same crew that Memphis beat in six games last season, but traded George Hill away for the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard. Gary Neal, who hit the remarkable buzzer-beater to force overtime in Game 5, underwent an appendectomy in the pre-season and his availability is unknown.
Otherwise, it's the ageless trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginolbili buttressed by DeJuan Blair in the middle and Matt Bonner off the bench raining threes (except in the playoffs, when the Grizzlies shut down the Spurs' league-best long-range game).
It's go time and I can't wait.
Budweiser Watch Party - Join us tonight to watch the game at Buffalo Wild Wings on Hacks Cross Road. Gametime is 7:30pm!