The Grizzlies Beat the Hornets

By:
Published: October 9, 2010

The Memphis Grizzlies beat the Hornets, or rather the end of their bench, in the first preseason game of the year New Orleans. The final score (97-90) really didn’t tell the story as the Hornets clearly didn’t try to win, so just ignore that and move on. It was a positive loss for the Hornets and they showed that their starters are top-notch.

Monty chose to play the expected starting five together for the first nine minutes of the game, where they took advantage of their superiority and grabbed a 26-12 lead. At that point Monty took out just about everybody and within the next 90 seconds the second unit of Willie Green, Thornton, Joe Alexander, Peja and Aaron Gray was on the floor together. Even more than was anticipated, things fell apart offensively.

By the time Monty subbed Paul and West back in, seven and half minutes later, the score was 31-27. Even with Peja and Marcus on the floor, it was a scene eerily reminiscent of past years when backup point guard was a nightly concern. Sigh…

As the starters came back out onto the court, Marcus Thornton stayed on for a while longer, as he’s expected to do throughout the season. One surprise, considering he didn’t see any time at point guard, was his three first half turnovers in less than 12 minutes. He was fantastic last year at holding on to the rock.

David West threw a sweet full court pass to Trevor Ariza with about 6:30 left in the third quarter, giving us all a reminder of how good Ariza is in transition. It seemed like somewhat of a set play, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to some see alternatives to Chris Paul taking it up the court in the future.

Heading into the fourth quarter, with the team leading 74-71, Mustafa Shakur, Pops Mensah-Bonsu (come up with nickname, PLEASE), Watkins, and Darryl Strawberry had yet to see the floor.  Pops started the fourth, but was seemed out of sync on defense and made a selfish keep on a three on one break that led to only a single free throw. Shakur and Watkins saw some time as well, but didn’t do anything noteworthy. It’s not looking as if any of them will be anything more than back of the rotation fodder for the foreseeable future.

Early on it seemed that Monty was coaching to win the game, but it was his lineup with 6:00 to go in the fourth, and the Hornets in a tight game, that really made it clear he didn’t care- Pops, Thornton, Shakur, Watkins, and Pondexter. When the game ended, that same lineup was still on the floor.

You can’t blame Monty for wanting to get the young guys some time, but in the fourth quarter the game turned into something out of summer league. Gone were the set plays and well executed offense from the first quarter and in it’s place fans were treated to sloppy shot selection, poor rebounding and ball handling, and just plain ugly basketball. Let’s just say that it would be really helpful if New Orleans could stay healthy this year.

The Hornets lost this game, but the plus minus numbers from the starters told the real story. They were all between +11 and +17.

Player Notes

Marco Belinelli- Of all the off season acquisitions, this one might be the most underrated and potentially best for the Hornets.  Already a deadly three point shooter, Marco stands to benefit mightily from Chris Paul’s effect on three point shooters. The Hornets offense is best when they have a long bomber in there to spread the floor for Paul. With Peja heading to the bench, Marco needs to be that guy, and it’s looking like he will do just fine. He was calling offensive plays, handling the ball, playing solid defense, cutting and making disgusting 360 degree passes to Trevor Ariza in the corner. He should be an upgrade over Morris Peterson and Rasual Butler, and will allow Marcus to come off the bench where he is most valuable.

Trevor Ariza- His perimeter defense is a game changer, quite literally. Although Zach Randolph had a field day inside, Ariza showed that teams will no longer be able to penetrate the Hornets interior defense like last year. That’s good news for David West and Emeka Okafor.

Joe Alexander- He seems to jump just as high in the low altitude of New Orleans as he does anywhere else. He was seeing time as the primary backup three, with Peja taking time at the four.

Aaron Gray- He’s lost weight, he’s more agile, and he seems to have kept his size and rebounding skill. Although offensively he wasn’t anything to marvel at, and on the defensive end he still commits too many fouls, he’s a solid backup center, and certainly brings more to the table than Hilton Armstrong, Melvin Ely, or Darius Songaila (at the center position at least).

Quincy Pondexter- Remember that excitement that everyone used to feel about Julian Wright? Well, that’s how you should feel about Q-Pon. He’s a player to watch this year, and could go a long way toward solidifying the bench if he works hard. If he can bring the defense, he might earn some important minutes with the second unit.

Marcus Thornton- He was still handling the rock a good amount, specifically with the second unit. He was aggressive, fearless, and worked especially hard on the defensive end of the floor. He doesn’t look like someone who is willing to accept just good, but instead aspires for greatness.  Oh, and he was off. Like, really off. He finished the game 2-12 with 4 turnovers. Don’t be worried. It’s only preseason.

Chris Paul- Bet you forgot about this guy, huh? Long story short, he looked great all over. If the injury is at all lingering, he doesn’t show it. he finished with 12 points on 7 shots, 4 assists and a single turnover. It’s nice to see him back healthy.

Okafor- He rebounded very well, and showed yet again how important he is to the team. If he’s not grabbing rebounds, the team will struggle in that regard.

New fan competitions

The Tissue Pull- a lucky (is that the right word?) fan gets to go onto the middle of the court during a commercial break and attempt to pull out all the tissues from two tissue boxes, alternating between hands. They have one minute total. Seems run, but in reality there are no means of really controlling how tissues they pull out at a time. The woman tonight cheated by pulling out 5, even 10 at a time. If you ever find yourself in at center court, it’s advisable that you bend the rules.

P.S.- Hornets247 has full season credentials this year, so get ready for all the in-depth coverage you can stomach.

32 comments
tyler
tyler

they should have started Marcus cause he cant do nothing off the bench

QueenBee
QueenBee

Any word on how long West will be tending to that sprained wrist? For the rest of the preseason or what?

QueenBee
QueenBee

We'll get em back when they get to NOLA.

JCS
JCS

Will any of these preseason games be on TV?

Hollis21
Hollis21

Reading this article and it's comments is encouraging. Unable to watch any preseason action in Ohio/Indiana, so I was hoping I'd see good coverage here, and like usual, you delivered. "Monty chose to play the expected starting five together for the first nine minutes of the game, where they took advantage of their superiority and grabbed a 26-12 lead." That has me the most excited. Obviously, this doesn't work out every single game but for the first unit to make a big statement in their first game together has me with a smile on my face. Hopefully another solid performance tonight.

Forever504
Forever504

this has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever read (from nola.com of course) hornetspoetsshadow October 10, 2010, 9:02AM Byron Scott would probably be dumb enough to trade Varejao for D West. Can you imagine Varejao, Ariza and Chris Paul energy on the same team, same court at the same time. WOW! FUN! Rebounds too. Defense too. Hell, Varejao averaged 17 points playing under Lebron. Imagine Varejao and Ariza flying down the court with CP3 feeding. WOW! Demps, trade West, trade hime now. Throw Peja into the deal and Scott will bite. We start Varejao, Ariza, Thornton, Okafor, CP3. They all play 36 to 38 minutes. WOW!

Ryan Schwan
Ryan Schwan

Just to rain on people's parade, I'd be more cautiously optimistic about Belinelli and Ariza. Their historical numbers suggest that their shooting performances yesterday are not likely to be repeated very often. Same is true with Thornton too. :)

StefanC
StefanC

It's okay. We're not expecting them to do it every night, but at least we know they're capable of doing that. Other teams will know they're threats from the outside, so they'll have to stay honest on defense. Hearing Julian Wright's last name with the starters last year just made me cringe. Belinelli should also be just as or more serviceable than Peterson/Butler as well. Also, remember how well Peja did last year when he was given a task to score the ball rather than being just a spot up shooter? He wasn't the best, but he did give us some nice production during that stretch. Him alongside Thornton should be nice. It's the defense of the second unit that is making me cringe this year. Yikes!

frijole ghost
frijole ghost

it seems a little weird that monty made a big deal about joe alexander being strictly a 4 and then played him at the 3 in the first game... was he guarding rudy gay most of the time? his stat line looked pretty ugly...did he at least play some D?

42
42

I thought his D was good and better than Pops'.

42
42

Also, I should say Emeka looked better on offense and defense compared to last year. He was getting those rebounds. 9 rebounds, 1 for 3, 4 of 6 free throws. He only went 33%, but he going at the basket and drew fouls. He just looked more `offensive'. The starters in general seemed to get to the line more, and that is great. Great.

42
42

StefanC: Can you rub our noses in it a little more after the Heat game? Really, if you could compare what Juju is doing up there and compare it to what Marco is doing down here . . . I'd absolutely love it. I'm liking Marco. He just fit. It's actually amazing how well the starters fit together. I saw a couple of busted plays, one early, but that happens to all units. He and Ariza just slid right in. Oh, and Emeka looked better out there. Far more natural than last season. Thoughts?

JayJay1312and11
JayJay1312and11

Idk, but I would like to see more of Mustafa running the second unit just to see, because I still don't believe Willie Green could do it

NOEngineer
NOEngineer

Did their starters really include Thabeet and Henry like the Hornets.com box scoe says? Our starters actually played more minutes than theirs if so, but Gasol and Mayo came off the bench!

Joe Gerrity
Joe Gerrity

They did, but Gasol played most of his time with the first unit. It was funny watching Aaron Gray and Gasol battle it out.

StefanC
StefanC

Just reminding everyone: We traded Julian Wright for a starting shooting guard. Dell Demps FTW!

StefanC
StefanC

I just LOVE having Belinelli as the starting SG. He's the perfect compliment to our offense. He can shoot very well, he can make plays for other guys, and he's quite tall (for his position, that is). I'm loving it! Thornton played a lot more freely when he wasn't playing next to Chris Paul anyway, so this works out wonderfully (not taking his performance tonight into effect). Oh and I'm also loving how Ariza perfectly fit into his new role right away. I don't think him taking inefficient shots like he had to last year will be a problem. He's a wonderful 3rd/4th option on our team. I am BEYOND excited for the regular season, and even our game tomorrow since it'll be the 1st time I get to see the Bees this season! Playoff time!!

L_Reazy
L_Reazy

Ariza, Belinelli, Pondexter.... These three players were the ones who stood out based on expectations being that they're new aquisitions. Ariza is a stud on both ends of the floor. Belinelli proves his efficiency with high percentage shots, good three point shooting, and no mistakes. He is an up-grade at the 2-guard position and better than Thornton as a starter. Thornton 2-12 ... ouch!!! However, we know he'll shoot a higher percentage as the season goes on. Pondexter is a lot more aggressive than Peja, and should get the SF back-up minutes ... not Peja! Peja just does not have it. Every game last year began with 0-3 nights, and a lot of times that's where it ended for Peja, as was the case for him tonight. It was refreshing to witness someone like Pondexter score right when he entered the game. On nights when Pondexter might have trouble scoring we know one thing that he'll do consistently ... play aggressive "D"! I like our starters - West, Ariza, Okafor, Belinelli, Paul I like our back-ups - Green, Thornton, Pondexter .... however, I'm still confused about the PF and C spots. Who gets those minutes? Peja? Alexander? Gray? Smith? Mensah-Bonsu? Watkins? I have a feeling that it will be Peja at PF and Gray at Center. F-Stojakovic, F-Pondexter, C-Gray, G-Thornton, G-Green

George
George

I only followed the play-by-play provided by nba.com so i can only analyse the game from a statistical standpoint but i think quincy was the only positive coming off the bench. Gray did a good job on the boards, but turnovers and fouls were a issue. The bench definitelty appears to be a work in progress at the moment, however the starting lineup seems somewhat polished.

42
42

I had a few notes: The crowd was expectedly light due to the game being an exhibition and LSU playing (and defeating) the University of Florida. Ariza got a warm welcome for the fans during intros. No sleeve, brace, apparatus, etc. for Chris or his knee. There was a 15-0 run by the Memphis starters (mostly) against our bench. Okafor looked like he may have hurt an ankle but shrugged it off. Alexander warmed up and looks energetic. If he can do what he did tonight and settle down some of the yips, he'll be the second PF. Pops was definitely off defensively and had issues offensively. In my mind, he back-pedaled. For others, he may have performed exactly as expect. Q looks like he'll be worth the trouble. Before the game on the radio, Dell said the Hornets were not seeking deals at the moment, but they are open to the. Rather, preseason performance will dictate, at least partially, which moves are made, for what, and for how long? The game stagnated under Green. Despite errors, the bench did well with Shakur at point. I'm not sure how Strawberry will factor in, but as of now, I'd like to see Shakur on the team and take over the backup 1 when we deal Geen.

Hornet
Hornet

I didn't get to see the game but followed really closely on GameCast. If Trevor Ariza and Marco keep that up, we've got a fantastic shot at the playoffs and I think we can challenge Dallas for the division. Rudy Gay missed his first 6 shots and Trevor was 3/3 from 3 and 4/4 from the line. That's awesome. Marco was also spot on from 3 and was basically 100% (I don't count that half court shot). I think Marcus will be fine. He didn't all of a sudden forget how to shoot in only his second year and he seemed to be getting good lucks from what I've read. Future looks bright and I'm excited to see the Orlando game tomorrow since it will be on NBAtv. Just one question though, how good is Marco's ball handling and driving skills? I didn't expect anything but I read he had a drive in lay up so are they actually pretty good?

DownUnder
DownUnder

My player of the game would either go to Trevor Ariza or Marco just because they played their role so well giving me alot of hope it that first quarter. Quincy did quite nicely for the minutes he recieved and compared to what Peja and Joe Alexander did tonight I would say he will take the primary back-up SF spot before to long. Rudy and Mayo were ineffective, good to see (: The un-guaranteed guys showed why thats their contract status and I have lost a bit of hope of 1 or 2 of them being significant bench players. But after all it was only the first game of the season and people have good nights and bad ones and for these guys they might just have to get used to the game more. Marcus was just not lucky tonight but he got some nice looks. When the ball bounces the other way he will only miss 2-12 shots. Overall I think Memphis has the more ready team as in terms of same coach as last year and similar players as apposed to our overhauled team. We will be alot better by the end of the month.

cl0verstreet
cl0verstreet

I completely agree with this article. Our starters looked as if we could compete with the top talent in the league. Bellinelli looked great out there as a starter. He played well at both ends of the court, stayed with his guy on the defense end, and at least contested nearly every shot by the guy he guarded. I guess I really like him because you think what we gave up to get him (Julian Wright) and it then brings a big smile to your face. Ariza looked very good as well. Dwest was his typical self, strong. But our bench was exposed for what it was tonight--nearly worthless. The "plays" our bench ran looked eerily similar to the plays my friends and I do when we play basketball. This is not a testament to my basketball skills, this is more of a knock on our Hornets bench. I hope we can shore this part up and I think we can make a run. Oh, what is it meant by full season credentials? Sounds cool though. Great feeling to bee back in the hive tonight.

Joe Gerrity
Joe Gerrity

That smile is ear to ear on my end. I was a fan of Julian and thought he could still be a good player one day, but not showing up for summer league ended that chance in New Orleans. Having full season credentials means that we can go to every Hornets game, bring a computer, hear the coaches talk before the games, get increased access to players, check out some practices, etc.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

Joe, make sure you make a lot of them! I'll watch them all. :D I can't watch Hornets games regularly, so i'm going to rely on Hornets247 full season credentials for some video(offcourse with analysis)

ticktock6
ticktock6

I feel that Willie Green at PG can only end in tears...

42
42

If by tears you mean chains of cusses, with some of the links being 12 letters long, then I agree 100%.