MikeCheck on Grizzlies: Two takeaways from the win over Portland and a look-ahead to Friday’s game against Utah

MikeCheck on Grizzlies: Two takeaways from the win over Portland and a look-ahead to Friday’s game against Utah

MEMPHIS – As MarShon Brooks moves forward on his 10-day contact with the Grizzlies, don’t expect the veteran guard and 2011 first-round NBA draft pick to lack confidence or motivation.

His first taste of NBA action in four years alone is enough to maintain his hunger for more. But there’s also the group texts that keep him going. As Brooks set out on an 18-hour travel day that took him from China to Detroit several days ago before he ultimately arrived in Memphis, he received a series of texts from a close-knit group of American players on rosters this season in the Chinese Basketball Association.

“They were like, ‘You have a chance to make it again – make the most of it,’” Brooks said of the group that keeps in contact almost daily. “And they were like, ‘Show them that we play good ball over here (in China), that we’ve got some really good players over here.’ So that’s what I’m trying to do.”

I just want to seize the opportunity. I understand exactly what’s going on now. At 25, I took it seriously, but maybe not as seriously as I should have. But like I said, it’s a testament to hard work. With me playing in China, one thing I can say is that I had the ball and I shot it a lot. So, the reps work.

MarShon Brooks

More than anything, Brooks is trying to stick around this time in his NBA comeback. It’ll be tough to top his Memphis debut when the Grizzlies (21-54) open a three-game trip with Friday’s visit to face the Jazz (42-33). Brooks, who wrapped up his third straight CBA season in China earlier this month, scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s 108-103 win over Portland.

It was Brooks’ first action in an NBA regular-season game since he knocked down three of four shots to finish with seven points in nine minutes off the bench for the Lakers in a 113-100 win over San Antonio on April 16, 2014. Brooks spent time with four teams in his first three NBA seasons after he was selected late in the first round of the 2011 draft out of Providence College.

And the past four years have included stops along the global pro basketball circuit in Italy and China in addition to stints in the NBA G League. So, it almost goes without saying that Brooks is savoring the opportunity he has in Memphis. The Grizzlies have signed four different players to 10-day contracts in the past month as they close the season evaluating prospects for their summer conditioning and development program, and for potential spots in next season’s training camp.

“I’m 29 years old (and my) last NBA game, I was 25,” Brooks said. “You look at things differently, and I just want to seize the opportunity. I understand exactly what’s going on now. At 25, I took it seriously, but maybe not as seriously as I should have. But like I said, it’s a testament to hard work. With me playing in China, one thing I can say is that I had the ball and I shot it a lot. So, the reps work.”

MarShon Brooks

The Grizzlies could definitely use the scoring punch.

Memphis has been without leading scorer Tyreke Evans for more than a week as he’s been excused to deal with a family matter, and guard Andrew Harrison has been in and out of the lineup the past month while managing a wrist injury. Brooks is on board to provide instant offense.

In China, he averaged 36.6 points a game and scored at least 50 in three contests this season. So it wasn’t too surprising when he started firing up shots as soon as he entered his first game with the Grizzlies. Brooks shot 7-of-12 from the field, including makes on all five three-point attempts, while scoring at a point-a-minute pace. It mattered little that Brooks had only one day of practice with the team before he suited up for the game.

“I was able to create some shots for myself,” Brooks said. “I think I left some (shots) out there, honestly. I left some floaters out there, but that will come with me getting more comfortable as well.”

The challenge is to grow comfortable and settled despite being on the go. Brooks said he’s still dealing with jetlag from the long flight and has yet to get on a solid sleeping pattern as he readjusts from the 12-hour time difference in China. He came to Memphis a few days before he signed his contract after a brief stopover in Detroit to visit with his young son.

Now with the Grizzlies, Brooks was on the move again Thursday as the team departed for games against Utah, Portland and New Orleans.

“To be honest, I have a hard time sleeping at night because of the time difference from the city I was staying in,” Brooks said. “I kind of get a lot of energy around 1 a.m., and I’m tired in the daytime. But these last couple of days, I’ve been coming along.”

KANSAS CONNECTION

Having won consecutive games for the first time since mid-January, the Grizzlies are experiencing a bit of their own madness in March. To some in the locker room, they’re every bit as hot as Kansas.

Anytime anyone wants to place a friendly dinner bet, we’re taking them all. We take on all comers.

Mario Chalmers

Well, at least according to former Jayhawks Mario Chalmers, Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden.

“People have been counting them out all year, but look at where they are now,” Chalmers said of Kansas, which is headed to the NCAA Final Four this weekend. “Me, Wayne and Ben got their backs.”

This weekend marks the 10-year anniversary of the Jayhawks’ 2008 National Championship team led by Chalmers, who made one of the biggest shots in Final Four history when he nailed a three-pointer against the University of Memphis to force overtime on the way to Kansas’ eventual victory. That makes it even a more sentimental run for Chalmers as he pulls for his alma mater this weekend.

Mario Chalmers

“Anytime you get to be the man on a team and are one of the reasons why we went into overtime and why we won that championship – to leave a lasting legacy like that means a lot to me and my family,” said Chalmers, who also went on to win two NBA titles with the Miami Heat. “It’s in the top three of my favorite (basketball experiences). It feels like 10 years for me, because I’ve got a 10-year-old son. He was born during that time around (the 2008 Final Four).”

The Grizzlies’ Kansas connection won’t just own bragging rights from a distance. If the Jayhawks beat Villanova on Saturday, Chalmers has arranged a trip with Selden and McLemore to San Antonio to watch the national championship game in person. Monday’s NCAA final matchup comes on an off day for the Grizzlies, who play in Portland on Sunday and don’t play again until Wednesday in New Orleans.

“We’ll be ready to get down there for the championship game on Monday when they make it,” Chalmers said before the Grizzlies departed Thursday from Memphis. “So hopefully, it works out. We need them to take care of business, and we’ll be there.”

Kansas talk has permeated the Grizzlies locker room recently.

“Every day,” Chalmers insisted with a laugh. “Anytime anyone wants to place a friendly dinner bet, we’re taking them all. We take on all comers.”

KEEP AN EYE ON …

Rudy Gobert – Friday’s game will pit the 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year in Marc Gasol against the Utah Jazz center who is likely among the frontrunners to win the same award this season.

The Jazz boast by far the NBA’s most dominant and efficient defense with Gobert on the floor, allowing 97.9 points per 100 possessions during those stretches. Gobert is also third in the league at 2.4 blocks per game and eighth in rebounding at 10.8 a night. The only problem is that he’s missed 26 games this season with knee issues and is scrambling to make up for lost time as the Jazz push for a playoff spot.

The Grizzlies are 2-0 so far in the midst of facing five consecutive opponents desperately jockeying for playoff position. The Jazz currently sit in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West and have already won two of the three meetings with Memphis this season, including a 95-78 victory on March 9 when Gobert finished with a game-high, plus-22 rating.

“He’s always been a big battle for me,” Gobert said of his most recent matchup against Gasol. “I mean, he’s the offense. They play through him a lot. I think we did a good job stopping him.”

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.


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