5 Things We Learned About Memphis Grizzlies During First Week of Training Camp

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIOctober 7, 2013

5 Things We Learned About Memphis Grizzlies During First Week of Training Camp

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    The Memphis Grizzlies put on a characteristically hard grind as they began training camp. Veterans, such as Tayshaun Prince and Zach Randolph, went out running. Mike Miller took his fair share of shots. Ed Davis won sprinting heats, as The Commercial Appeal's Geoff Calkins noted (subscription required).

    The most noticeable change in training camp from last year is that Dave Joerger is running practices. Nevertheless, he's shown the same intensity as his predecessor, Lionel Hollins, did.

    Joerger's primary objective is freshening the offense, but he's also planning improvements on the other end of the floor.

    The Grizzlies already are making roster moves. On Sunday, they waived Derrick Byars and Josh Akognon, as The Commercial Appeal's Chris Herrington tweeted.

    Follow along for a full breakdown of Memphis' first week of training camp.

Defensive Tweaks

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    The Grizzlies can take much pride in their defensive results. They've finished in the top-two opponent turnover percentage the past three years and second last year in defensive rating. Three of their players made the All-Defensive Team in 2012-13.

    That doesn't leave Dave Joerger satisfied. Among the improvements he wants to make are tightening attacks and pick-and-roll defense.

    While mentioning that Memphis failed to stop Tony Parker during those sets in the Western Conference Finals, Joerger told The Commercial Appeal he wants to change the approach. Joerger said, "There are some things we'll do a bit differently. There are some wrinkles, but I'm not telling you."

    Better pick-and-roll defense would boost the Grizzlies' ability to contain Parker and other elite point guards. Also, it would neutralize Dwight Howard's impact in meetings with the Houston Rockets if the Rockets roll to him often.


Some Players Don't Last

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    Having 13 players with guaranteed contracts and several more who are either nonguaranteed or training camp invitees, the Grizzlies didn't waste time making personnel decisions. 

    Derrick Byars' removal wasn't as surprising as that of Josh Akognon. Byars, 29, played two games for the San Antonio Spurs in 2011-12. He also spent three seasons with the NBDL's Bakersfield Jam. By now, the Vanderbilt product has become a man who periodically attracts looks from scouts but isn't appealing enough to win a full season on an NBA bench.

    Meanwhile, Akognon still seemed like someone teams could use. The Memphis Flyer's Kevin Lipe tweeted that the Grizz had high hopes for him, saying, "Heard all summer that they liked Akognon's game..."

    Akognon, 27, had been a summer league star the past two years, averaging 17.5 points per game this year for the Dallas Mavericks and 19.3 per game last year for the Sacramento Kings.

    The Cal State Fullerton product had a shot at providing extra depth at point guard. Alas, the Grizz decided that a fourth point guard was unnecessary.

    Among those still fighting for a roster spot are Melvin Ely, Willie Reed, Tony Gaffney and Janis Timma.

Dave Joerger Can Push Players Like Lionel Hollins

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    Former Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins was known as taskmaster who drove players to the limit and extracted a great amount of effort from each one.

    Questions arose after the Grizz tabbed Dave Joerger to succeed Hollins concerning whether he had the demeanor to control the roster. The Commercial Appeal's Ron Tillery described Joerger as "fun and easygoing."

    Thus far, Joerger has had a strong camp. Calkins noted that Joerger seemed at ease in early practices. He ran fast, detailed sets. 

    The rookie coach wasn't afraid to yell. Tillery tweeted, "Joerger is literally losing his voice."

    Indeed, keeping the team focused and under control requires constant attention through the entire season. Grizz fans should watch how his tone develops in the next eight months.

The Older Players Return with Energy

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    Three of the Grizzlies' starters are past age 30—and each one started camp feeling young. 

    As The Commercial Appeal reported, Tony Allen entered October with a sore left knee but still charged through practices. At the end of the week, he was described as "fun fireworks."

    Nothing less can be expected from the defensive specialist, who raises the intensity of practices.

    Zach Randolph had made a habit of easing into position on offense. In the initial practices, he was seen "sprinting to his spots."

    Additional moments like this would alleviate concerns that Randolph would trail others down the court as the Grizz look to speed up the offense.

    Prince is strong. He was said to be in "great shape."

    Guarantees aren't easy to make for players past their peak, especially for Prince and Randolph, who have missed large parts of campaigns in the last few years. Fans can only hope that they stay healthy.

Shooters Arriving Sharp

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    The Grizzlies need great three-point numbers from Mike Miller and Quincy Pondexter this season to open the offense after placing last in three-point field-goal attempts last season.

    Miller, a 40.6 percent career long-range shooter, is continuing his remarkable shooting routine. According to The Commercial Appeal, he captivated a crowd by drilling a series of downtown attempts.

    Miller, who has missed more than 20 games in each of the past four seasons, said he felt good. He stated that he hadn't felt any back pain in the first few days of camp. The journeyman remarked that he feels "as good as when I was 28."

    Fans of the three shades of blue shouldn't hold their breath since the season will bring many late nights, back-to-backs and long road trips.

    Pondexter, who shot 39.5 percent from beyond the arc, is keeping up his stroke while trying to expand his game. After he hit a long two, Mike Conley told The Commercial Appeal, "He's definitely turned that corner."

    His 2012-13 three-point clip was 8.9 percent better than the year before. Further development will cement him as a reliable outside option.