MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Memphis Grizzlies 2018-19 season opener was not how the team hoped the new era of Grizz basketball would start. A 111-83 loss to the Indiana Pacers has a bad taste in the mouths of the Beale Street Bears, one they hope to change against the Atlanta Hawks in the season home opener at FedExForum Friday.
“We want to move past that," Grizzlies head coach JB Bickerstaff said. "The guys have, but to be able to do it in front of our crowd, get the fans involved and give them an opportunity to see who we are, who we want to be, with all the new guys and the changes that have been made. This is an opportunity for people to see first hand what we’re going to look like for real.”
A season after missing the playoffs, making a lottery pick in the NBA Draft and retooling the roster to return to a more defensive minded Grit and Grind approach, the Grizzlies looked flat defensively against the Pacers. Rebounding was a big problem in the loss, as Indiana outplayed Memphis on the boards 67-39.
“Defense is the key. It really judges how we do offensively," Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said. "The amount of rebounds we gave up. Offensive rebounds we gave up didn’t allow us to get into transition at all. Didn’t allow us to have easy opportunities and more possessions. You can’t win when you don’t have the ball and using no energy in one end.”
Conley said thinking too much at times also caused problems for the Grizz against the Pacers.
“After watching film it looked like we were in slow motion," Conley said. “We were really in mud as far as thinking goes. I feel like we were doing too much thinking and not enough moving with our body, and being decisive. There was a lot of doubt with a lot of things we were doing, and I just think we needed to, in the last few days, just shore of a couple of things. Really be definitive on what we were trying to do.”
The Atlanta Hawks are also coming off a season opening loss. Former Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale and the New York Knicks trounced Atlanta 126-107 on Wednesday.
The Hawks were out rebounded 60-53 and turned the ball over 24 times in the loss to the Knicks, but Atlanta did shoot 45.6 percent from the field.
“They’ve got a bunch of young athletic guys who get out in transition, Bickerstaff said. "I think in the preseason they averaged around 38 three point attempts a game. They’re trying to catch them and get them up. If you listen to the reports they’re trying to get shots in the first eight to 10 seconds of the shot clock. So we have to make sure we do a great job of getting back in transition, locating shooters and make them play in spaces that they’re not comfortable.”
Grizzlies rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. played 25 minutes off the bench, scoring 10 points, with five rebounds, an assist, three steals and a block against the Pacers. Bickerstaff said Jackson Jr.'s role will continue to expand.
“We’re obviously in the process of developing Jaren into the type of player that he can be," Bickerstaff said. "We think he can become an elite basketball player. In order for that to happen guys have to play. He’s got to earn his minutes just like anybody else, but he’s a guy who’s proven to us that he can win basketball games, so he will be on the floor for sure.”
Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies fourth overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft will face fellow rookie Trae Young, the Hawks fifth overall pick. Jackson Jr. said the two are friends and that friendly competition will be on display in Friday night’s matchup.
“We’re cool. I definitively mess with Trae," Jackson Jr. said. "We saw a lot of each other this summer going through everything we went through. Every time you go against people you rock with you want to beat them probably more, because you don’t want them to have bragging rights, because then they’ll probably text you back.”
Young, who started in his rookie debut, played 33 minutes and scored 14 points with six rebounds and five assists against the Knicks. He shot 14 times in the loss to the Knicks, shots Jackson Jr. hopes to block against the Grizzlies.
“Trae already knows what the deal is when we play each other,” Jackson Jr. said. “It’s always competitive, but at the end of the day we’ve got respect for each other.”
Hawks vs. Grizzlies is set to tip off at 7 p.m. at FedExForum.