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Pete's Perspective: Game 1 vs. Knicks

2012 NBA Summer League - Las Vegas

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

The question that arises every time a young player has a strong game in the NBA Summer League usually goes something like this: Is he that good, or is he just a “summer league guy”?

After Saturday afternoon’s fairly thorough 93-77 dismantling of the Knicks’ summer league team by the Grizzlies at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, that question was locked in the ready position after watching second-year man Josh Selby and rookie Tony Wroten, Jr.

The last two Grizzlies draft picks combined for 39 points on 12-for-20 shooting and showing that perhaps the Grizzlies’ backcourt won’t be the weak spot that some had fretted it would be. Selby, who made just 2 of 15 from beyond the arc as a rookie, hit four of his five makes from downtown in the second quarter as the Grizzlies built a 54-33 lead at the break.

That the Grizzlies had that large a lead was due in part to Wroten’s energy off the bench midway through the first quarter. He came in and put in a game-high eight points in the first quarter, hitting both of his field goal attempts and all four three throws. After ten minutes (summer league quarters are two minutes shorter than a regular NBA game), the Grizzlies had a 36-15 lead. The lead would balloon to as many as 25 and the Knicks would take advantage of leaky transition defense by the Grizzlies to whittle the lead down. In every case, the Grizzlies would have an answer. After the Grizzlies went dry offensively over the first four and a half minutes of the third quarter, Wroten hit both of his triples to push the lead up to 19.

With less than four minutes left, New York had sliced the lead to a tenuous five-point margin at 77-72. Three-point specialist Matt Janning hit a bomb off a pretty Pargo feed before the latter bulled his way to the cup for a three-point play. Selby spearheaded the decisive 13-2 run with a pretty lob off a Wroten setup and a three-pointer at the shot clock buzzer.

So, was the Selby-Wroten tag team performance an announcement with authority or an aberration? That’s the question that will hang in the air until at least Tuesday afternoon when the Grizzlies meet Washington at 3 pm local time (5 pm in Memphis on NBA-TV).

Selby shot 46% from beyond the arc during his D-League assignments in Reno (20 of 44), a dramatic counterpoint to his 2 for 15 with the Grizzlies. The reality of Josh Selby as a three-point threat probably lies somewhere in between. His D-League attempts came within the flow of the offense while his shots with the Grizzlies didn’t. What was most appealing about Selby’s game, aside from the long-range fireworks, was his high motor. Deprived of summer league a year ago by the NBA lockout, Selby made up for lost time with Saturday’s performance.

Meanwhile, the question will linger around Tony Wroten, Jr. until he actually sees NBA regular season action. Any analysis of Wroten’s game is based on a small statistical sample since he only played one season at the University of Washington.

Wroten’s athletic ability coupled with his rangy frame is undeniable. Whether or not he becomes a valuable NBA player will depend upon his commitment to apply his athleticism to the game at hand. Defensively he got beaten off the dribble and found himself out of position trying to help when he didn’t really need to. One of the question marks surrounding Wroten was his decision-making ability. Saturday, he was sharp offensively making stunning wraparound, no-look passes and a nifty lob to Selby for the fourth-quarter dagger. Defensively, he’ll need to apply himself more fastidiously.

But for one afternoon in July, the Grizzlies saw a very promising glimpse of their backcourt future.

Tip Ins

  • Quincy Pondexter was sitting courtside, admiring the work of fellow University of Washington Husky Wroten. Q-pon had been working out in Los Angeles, but came to Las Vegas to work with the Grizzlies’ coaching staff as had Mike Conley (when he wasn’t playing golf at TPC Summerlin).
  • Newly acquired Jerryd Bayless is scheduled to be in Las Vegas for the Grizzlies’ Sunday scrimmage with the Sacramento Kings.
  • Jerry West was in Cox Pavilion to see his Golden State Warriors take on the Denver Nuggets in the game immediately following the Grizzlies-Knicks tilt.
  • Former Grizzlies assistant coach Brendan Brown, who now does analysis for Knicks games on radio, was in attendance as were George Karl, Steve Kerr, and Nick Van Exel.
  • Both Tony Wroten and Josh Selby wore wireless microphones during the game for NBA-TV.
  • Grizzlies’ assistant coach Bob Thornton warmed up for Saturday’s game by shooting an 82 in a morning round of golf – with rented clubs and wearing sneakers instead of golf spikes.

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Pete Pranica is the Grizzlies Play-By-Play Announcer. Follow him on Twitter @PetePranica for the latest updates from Las Vegas and more!