MikeCheck: My ‘5 Can’t Miss Games’ at FedExForum as Grizzlies embark on 2021-22 season
The NBA schedule is out, and it can only mean one thing: the countdown to the first look of the 2021-22 season at the Nxt Gen Grizzlies is officially underway.
Another productive offseason of dealing and development has delivered the Grizzlies to the doorstep of growth as one of the league’s most exciting and compelling young teams.
Anchored by franchise catalysts Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., and augmented by retooled roster depth, the Grizzlies aim to build on a breakthrough season. With a 38-34 finish last season, Memphis made the playoffs for the first time in four years and became the youngest team in a decade to reach the postseason.
All the work we put in (last) season to get to the playoffs, it just makes you hungry. We said after our first year and after my second year, we’ve got more work to do, because these guys are ultimate competitors who want to get to the highest level. And it takes work. That’s what’s motivated everything this offseason.
With a restored 82-game regular season scheduling format back in place, NBA teams are optimistic about returning to form after two seasons of disruptions by a global pandemic. For the Grizzlies, encouraging growth continues as coach Taylor Jenkins enters his third season.
“Experience is everything – it’s the most valuable thing you can gain year in and year out,” said Jenkins, whose team opens training camp late next month. “All the work we put in (last) season to get to the playoffs, it just makes you hungry. We said after our first year and after my second year, we’ve got more work to do, because these guys are ultimate competitors who want to get to the highest level. And it takes work. That’s what’s motivated everything this offseason.”
With the Grizzlies’ 2021-22 schedule set, here are my ‘Five Can’t Miss Games’ at FedExForum:
Oct. 20 – Cavaliers at Grizzlies
Expect plenty of energy and pulsating anticipation entering the Grizzlies’ season and home opener against the Cavaliers. With Morant ready to take the next leap in his game, and with Jackson eager to restore his standout production after returning to full health, the Grizzlies have a great chance to make an opening statement at home on Opening Night. On top of that, this is a matchup of two of the NBA’s explosive young point guards in Morant and Collin Sexton.
Dec. 9 – Lakers at Grizzlies
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the Lakers have assembled plenty of aging superstars to make another run at a title. And it shapes up as the ultimate boom-or-bust season for the four future Hall of Famers, who make the first of two December visits to Memphis on this night. In fact, the Grizzlies face the Lakers four times in their first 42 games this season – with the series wrapping up by the second week of January.
Jan. 17 – Bulls at Grizzlies
The Grizzlies host these Bulls on the most important home date of the regular season in the annual MLK Celebration Game. A weekend of inspirational community events culminates once again in a compelling game. Outside of the Lakers, no team in the league revamped their roster more this season by taking huge, risky swings than the Bulls. By trading for Lonzo Ball and adding DeMar DeRozan in free agency, Chicago is going all in to restore itself among the East’s elite.
March 8 – Pelicans at Grizzlies
The Grizzlies play nearly a dozen nationally televised games on TNT, ESPN or NBA TV. Among that group is this tilt with a developing division rival in the Pelicans. Morant and Zion Williamson are the marquee names as the top two picks from the 2019 draft solidify All-Star status. But this game also marks the return of beloved big man Jonas Valanciunas to FedExForum to face his former team after being traded this summer following a career season.
March 26 – Bucks at Grizzlies
The Grizzlies get their lone visit from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending NBA champs as Jenkins also faces his mentor in Mike Budenholzer. The last time Giannis came to FedExForum, he celebrated teammate Jrue Holiday’s game-winning shot by praising those Memphis lemon-pepper wings in the locker room. The Grizzlies have held their own against the Bucks recently, as the only team with an undefeated record (2-0) in Milwaukee’s new arena.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.