One thing Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins tries to preach to his players, especially the younger ones, is "playing free."
Like in the Grizzlies' 85-80 victory over the Kevin Love-less Timberwolves Wednesday night in FedExForum, Hollins talked about guard Quincy Pondexter, who scored a career-high 17 points in starting in place of the injured Tony Allen.
"I want to commend Quincy for a nice game and playing free," Hollins said. Explain "playing free," Lionel?
"It's just when you have an open shot, you take it," said Hollins, whose team plays its third game of a five-game homestand on Friday against the Pacers. "You have an open drive, you make it. If there's a play to made. It's not rocket science. You do the same thing at the 'Y' or at the playground.
"The stakes are a bit higher here, but you've got to be mentally tough and live with the results. Some nights you're going to be very good, some nights you're going to be very bad. Young guys have to learn that whatever you do, you have to be comfortable with yourself."
Pondexter, acquired in a Christmas Eve trade with the Hornets, made just the eighth start on Wednesday of his two-year career.
"I've just worked really hard lately," Pondexter said of his improved performance. "I've been the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. I've been waiting for a moment like this. I hope to build on it. It's truly a blessing."
After forwardcenter Josh Davis scored five points in Monday's loss to the Spurs, the Grizzlies released him for salary cap reasons. They did not want to guarantee Davis' 854,000 for the rest of this season. The Griz cut him to make progress getting under the NBA's luxury-tax threshold. The Grizzlies are still over the luxury tax and team owner Michael Heisley said he won't pay a luxury tax and forfeit the league's revenue-sharing checks that would come his way as a non-taxpayer.
Griz center Marc Gasol finds out Thursday whether he has made the Western Conference All-Star team. Coach Lionel Hollins hopes that Gasol gets the call, but at the same time wonders about the validity of choosing teams for an All-Star game in a strike-shortened season.
"What is the All-Star Game for this season?" Hollins pondered. "We've played around 24, 25 games. Guys can have good 24-game stretches, but that doesn't necessarily make them an All-Star.
"The All-Star Game is so subjective, even beyond the fan votes, to the coaches' votes (on the reserves). They may vote for a guy who played well against them, or a coach may call another coach and ask for a favor.
"Being an All-Star doesn't matter. What matters is how many games you win, whether you can play for a championship at the end of the year. That's what this league is all about.
"In my opinion, the All-Star Game is nothing but a glorified pickup game. Nobody competes."
Gasol, though, would still love the honor.
"It would be great to represent my city and my teammates," Gasol said. "I don't really believe in personal recognition. It would be beautiful to represent everybody, the city, the Grizzlies, and my teammates."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I was playing terrible lately. I had to find a way to get myself going." -- Griz guard Quincy Pondexter.
F Mareese Speights hadn't given the Griz much in the previous 10 games before Wednesday night, shooting just 32 percent and averaging 3.6 rebounds in 18 minutes.
Speights came out with fire against the Timberwolves, grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds. He had eight of the Grizzlies' season-best 21 offensive rebounds.
"We knew they were one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league (6th), so we had to get as many offensive boards as possible ourselves," Speights said.
G Jeremy Pargo had a nice night, and really needed one. The rookie backup had nine points including a 3-pointer and a monster baseline dunk.
Griz coach Lionel Hollins has been using veteran O.J. Mayo as the backup point, though Mayo is technically a shooting guard. Pargo has been like a lot of new Griz players -- a bit lost because the schedule in this strike-shortened season hasn't allowed for many practices.
"You can show a guy something on film and he can try to do it in a game," Hollins said. "But you need the repetition of practice to get the plays down."
Pargo said he's been trying to pick up as much knowledge from starting point guard Mike Conley as possible.
"I just watch Mike's entire floor game," Pargo said.