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Pacers begin season of higher hopes vs. Grizzlies

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is convinced last season's surprising strong season whet the players and fans' appetite for this season.

"I know the fans are ready to see us alive and in action and we're ready to compete," Oladipo said. "I know we're ready to go out there and compete. Last year I feel like we left something on the table coming up short in that Game 7 (against Cleveland), so we're hungry and we are still eager to prove we're an elite team in this league."

Pacers center Myles Turner senses enthusiasm building heading into Wednesday's season opener against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies. The Pacers finished the regular season 48-34, earning the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. They stretched LeBron James and the Cavaliers to seven games in the first round before falling.

"The city is very high on us right now and I think it's with good reason," Turner said. "We expecting a lot from ourselves this season and I know the city is as well. We're looking to go out there and represent the best way possible."

The Pacers added guard Tyreke Evans, who averaged 19.4 points in 52 games with Memphis last season, and forward Doug McDermott to bolster their scoring. Evans has a career scoring average of 16.5 points in nine NBA seasons.

"We have some talent," Indiana coach Nate McMillan said. "We got to build that chemistry, that sharpness and execution on both ends of the floor. That starts one day at a time."

Memphis coach B.J. Bickerstaff is ready to start his first full season as Grizzlies coach. Bickerstaff, previously associate head coach, took over when David Fizdale was fired in late November. The injury-plagued Grizzlies finished 22-60, 15-50 under Bickerstaff.

"Preseason was good for us to experiment," Bickerstaff said. "We saw some things that we liked. We saw some groups that liked. We were impressed with some guys. Our bench can change night by night depending what we might need from somebody, but for the most part we have our starting lineup set."

Bickerstaff expects to use a 10-man rotation most games.

"We got to be better," Bickerstaff said. "Our guys have always been willing to do what we ask them to do. Everybody has to collective rebound. Teams are shooting so many 3s now, that is not just your bigs' responsibility to rebound the ball. Our smalls are going to have to chase down the long rebounds. We have to be quick to the ball and be in good defensive position so we can go get them."

Two of the Grizzlies' main questions are whether point guard Mike Conley, who had heel surgery in January, can return to form and whether the 6-10 Chandler Parsons can stay healthy. Conley, who played in only 12 contests last season, has missed 109 games the past three seasons.

Injuries limited Parsons to 34 games in 2016-2017 and 36 last season.

"We'll pay attention to how much he plays, there isn't a number," Bickerstaff said. "We haven't been given any limitations. We hope he can play as many games as he can, as many minutes as he can."

The Grizzlies should get a boost from Jaren Jackson Jr., the fourth played taken in the first round of the draft.

Updated October 16, 2018

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