Hawks, Grizzlies look to bounce back from poor openers
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Two teams whose opening-night performances already have stamped them as among the worst teams in the NBA again this season will get a chance to redeem themselves when the Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies vie Friday night in Memphis.
The season could not have started off much worse for these teams, which earned top-five draft picks in April. The Hawks were drubbed 126-107 at New York, while the Grizzlies were routed 111-83 at Indiana.
Neither of the teams' new marquee rookies performed well individually, either.
Hawks guard Trae Young, acquired in a trade after having been the No. 5 pick in the draft, shot just 5 for 14 overall and 1 for 5 on 3-pointers against the Knicks. He totaled 14 points, but had a minus-20 plus/minus in his 33 minutes on the court.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies' Jaren Jackson Jr., the No. 4 overall selection, shot 2 for 6 on a 10-point night off the bench. He was even less efficient than Young, accumulating a minus-21 plus/minus in 25 minutes.
Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce, who made his Hawks debut in New York, cautioned not to put too much scrutiny on Young.
"Our job as a team is to provide support to your teammate so he doesn't feel the burden of every possession of every game," Pierce said. "It's not about him versus anyone else, or him versus the other team. It's us versus them."
Pierce won't get an opportunity to coach a game at home until next Wednesday, with the Hawks opening with three straight on the road.
Third-year forward Taurean Prince led the Hawks against the Knicks with 21 points.
Two veteran guards also made their Hawks debuts in the loss.
Vince Carter had 12 points, but more impressively a plus-7 plus/minus, in 24 minutes as a starter, while Jeremy Lin came off the bench to chip in with eight points and five rebounds in just 14 minutes.
Atlanta and Memphis split games in their two-game season series a year ago, with each winning at home.
However, the leading scorer in each team's win is no longer with the club. Atlanta traded Dennis Schroder to Oklahoma City in a cost-cutting move that resulted in the acquisition -- and immediate release -- of Carmelo Anthony, while Memphis has since lost Tyreke Evans to the Pacers in free agency.
Each totaled 22 points in his team's win last season.
Memphis' J.B. Bickerstaff, promoted from interim head coach to the fulltime position in the offseason, insisted after his team's debacle at Indiana that Grizzlies fans can expect a better showing in the home opener.
"We're a much better basketball team than we showed," he said. "We still believe that."
On a positive note, the opener produced a successful return to the court for Grizzlies standout point guard Mike Conley, who was sidelined for the final 59 games last season with an Achilles injury.
The veteran contributed 11 points and three assists to the Memphis cause in the opener, shooting just 3 for 11.
Garrett Temple, acquired in the offseason from Sacramento, made his Grizzlies debut in the loss and joined Marc Gasol (13), Conley and Jackson in double figures with 12 points.
Updated October 18, 2018