May 27, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies small forward Quincy Pondexter (20) shoots between San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green (4) and power forward Tim Duncan (21) in the second half of game four of the Western Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at FedEx Forum. The Spurs won 93-86. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
(KSDK Sports) -- The St. Louis sports scene has exploded recently with all three major league teams in action. The Cardinals are highlighting the play as they continue their drive to another World Series appearance and championship.
The Rams got a much needed win on Sunday night, and the St. Louis Blues are off to a great start, winning their first two games at home this season.
But tonight more professionals sports in the STL, as the NBA returns to our city in the form of an NBA preseason game featuring two regional teams, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Chicago Bulls.
The Grizzlies are a team on the rise, and their visit to the Scottrade Center is a part of their effort to grow their regional fan base. This offseason, the team sent Quincy Pondexter on tours all across the region to entice fans without the NBA to fall in love with the underdog Grizzlies.
Now the effort arrives in St. Louis as the organization looks to grow the Grizzlies "territory" beyond the boundaries of the Memphis area and out to the whole region.
But let's put all that geography aside. Tonight's game means a lot in terms of the both team's gearing up for the regular season.
We went to visit some of the local Memphis and Chicago fan sites to see what they say fans should look for tonight. Here is what Kevin Lipe of the Memphis Flyer had to say.
Things to Watch
The Bulls are coming off an 82-76 win over the Pacers Saturday that saw Derrick Rose return to action for the first time after missing a whole season while recovering from an ACL injury.
This isn't just the Tigers fan in me talking: the basketball world is a better place with Derrick Rose in it, and I hope this season proves he made the right decision in sitting out a whole year.
That said, I expect him to play pretty limited minutes against the Grizzlies tonight, especially by Tom Thibodeau standards. Rose played 20 minutes against Indiana. I'd expect to see the same sorts of numbers tonight.
More importantly for the Grizzlies universe, tonight gives us our first look at what we've been talking about for months: we get to see what a Dave Joerger-coached Grizzlies team looks like in a game.
We've heard all of the talk about uptempo play, about getting into sets quicker, about living with turnovers as a price of faster play, so on and so forth, but tonight the rubber meets the road for the first time. I expect to see a team that is familiar-there are too many of the same players on the roster for it not to be recognizable as the Grit & Grind Grizzlies-but changed, like your friend in high school that came back from summer vacation a foot taller than when you left. I, for one, welcome our new up-tempo overlords.
The Grizzlies made the surprising move of waiving Josh Akognon yesterday. (They also waived Derrick Byars, but that wasn't surprising given that the team hasn't been buzzing about Byars all summer long).
He was expected to make the roster as a shooting specialist, someone who could come in and heat up at a moment's notice. All summer long, the Grizzlies were supposedly making moves to clear roster space for Akognon, and now he's gone.
To me, this means one of two things (or maybe both): (1) Akognon had a terrible training camp and obviously wasn't going to be a good fit and/or (2) the Grizzlies feel like they've got their outside shooting situation handled-at least enough so that it wasn't possible to justify keeping Akognon around. At any rate, it was a curious decision, but probably the right one.
I'm not normally one to put much stock into preseason performances, opting to treat them more like scrimmages than a thermometer to tell me how good the team will be this year.
That said, I think we're going to be able to see the chemistry of this year's Griz squad on the court; this is a veteran group, a core that has been together for a long time, and the new faces this year are (with the exception of Jamaal Franklin, alias "The Grindson") guys who have been around the block and know what it takes to win basketball games.
(Yes, I know Calathes hasn't been proven in the NBA, but he's got a sterling track record in Euro ball-he's a proven winner at that level.) That should translate to a high basketball IQ, and a team that is able to feel its way out of tight spots by falling back on instinct.
If it doesn't, my guess is that we're in for a little turbulence while the team adjusts to the new offense and the new mindset. But. Even if there's a period of adjustment, I think this group of players is too smart-and too talented-not to gel just like last year's model.
All sorts of player combinations are potentially going to be visible for the first time tonight: the Kosta Koufos/Ed Davis frontcourt, Jamaal Franklin against real NBA competition, the Nick Calathes Experiment at backup point... we might see if Joerger really plans on playing Mike Miller at the 4, how much Zach Randolph is going to run, whether Marc Gasol is really turning himself into a more aggressive scorer... I'm excited for the chance to see every one of those things happen, and ten or fifteen more that you probably don't want me to ramble on about.
Can we all just agree that it's good to be back here, that we've missed NBA basketball and we've missed our Grizzlies, and that we're excited to see what they look like, even if it's "just" a preseason game? And that we've been irrationally excited about this day for months: the return of basketball to our lives, months and months of game after game after game, the punishing grind of the NBA season captivating as ever, and destined to be interesting no matter what the actual outcomes of the games?
Good. I like it when we all agree.