Grizzlies will be a welcome sight in tonight's preseason opener
Indiana Pacers coach Jim O'Brien will get his first opportunity see his team in action against another opponent tonight when they open the preseason against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Pacers host the Orlando Magic at Conseco Fieldhouse on Friday, then play at Houston on Saturday.
O'Brien plans to use different rotations to test various player combinations. He doesn't expect any player to play more than 24 minutes in the first four preseason games, with the possible exception of rookie Paul George.
The Pacers will be without power forward Tyler Hansbrough and point guard T.J. Ford. Ford is out at least a week with a strained right hamstring. Hansbrough is working his way back from vertigo.
Here are some of the key story lines to watch during the preseason:
George pushing Mike Dunleavy for the starting shooting guard position
The veteran Dunleavy has been shooting great and moving exceptionally well without the ball after dealing with knee problems the past two years.
George is showing why he was the No. 10 pick in the draft. He already has a good understanding of the system. He's quick and has active hands on defense. And the coaching staff usually has to tell him something only once.
O'Brien feels George can be a rotation player early in the season. "He's a special talent," O'Brien said.
Last season's starter, Brandon Rush, is suspended for the first five regular-season games for failing the league's mandatory drug test three times.
Collison's continued progress
Darren Collison has lived up to the hype so far in training camp.
He pushes the ball at the point, thinks pass first and pressures the ball defensively while leading by example.
Collison's play has given the Pacers hope they will finally have stability at the position.
"He's been terrific," O'Brien said. "When the ball is in his hands, he makes very mature, effective plays as a point guard."
The last roster spot
The Pacers need to trim their roster from 17 players to the league-mandated 15 by Oct. 25.
Center Lance Allred will likely be cut. He was brought in as an extra body for camp.
The Pacers will have to make a two-for-one trade or release a player to get to 15.
They would like to trade one of their wings because that position remains the deepest on the team.
The defense continues to lag behind the offense. That's not a good sign for the Pacers, if history is any indication.
"They have to understand there are two ends of the court," O'Brien said. "We have to prove to ourselves that we can protect our basket. I haven't seen that yet in training camp. They've got to prove it to themselves. If they can do that, they can be a playoff team. If they can't, they won't be."
The Pacers have struggled defensively every year under O'Brien.
He is already behind the rest of his teammates because he has yet to take part in the daily five-on-five scrimmages.
The Pacers say Hansbrough has not suffered a setback, but they have chosen to gradually to ease last year's first-round pick back into the mix so he doesn't get overwhelmed.