Pundits and Grizzly fans largely believed that Andrew Harrison was inadequate.
But after spending last season in the NBA Development League, the former University of Kentucky star has won the Grizzlies’ backup point guard spot 13 games into the regular season.
Grizzlies Coach David Fizdale said he’d give Harrison and 17th pick Wade Baldwin six games each to distinguish themselves.
Baldwin is headed to the Iowa Energy of the D-League while Harrison will resume his role as Mike Conley’s understudy Monday night when the Grizzlies face the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night.
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“It’s not surprising for me,” Fizdale said when asked about Harrison’s “surprising” development. “It’s just young guys, at some point they start to get it. Playing in the D-League really helped (Harrison). He went through summer league with me and had a really good training camp. He understood what I was going to ask of him, whether it was playing on the ball or off the ball, offensively and defensively.
“He went from one minute guarding the point guard to the next minute he was chasing (Minnesota’s) Zach LaVine. He gives us a lot of luxury because of his size. The kid is 6-4 or 6-5 and he plays physical. He’s really starting to understand his role — keep it simple. All I need him to do is defend, keep us organized but at the same time stay aggressive about what he’s good at. He’s really buying into that.”
The Grizzlies’ road win against the Los Angeles Clippers last Wednesday epitomized Harrison’s impact. He isn’t flashy. But the 2015 second-round pick earned respect in the locker room and from the bench with his hard-nosed defense and grit in that Clippers game.
He chased down Chris Paul for a blocked shot in an open-court transition play after delivering a hard foul to prevent a layup in a similar situation.
Harrison also is becoming more comfortable on offense, whether he’s attacking the rim and scoring off the dribble, or making open three-pointers.
“I’ve been just trying to win. I haven’t worried about the spot. I’m trying to make sure the guys start trusting me on the court,” Harrison said. “I’m thankful to be here but, at the same time, I’m trying to be confident just knowing you can play at this level. I’m getting comfortable with the speed of the game.”