MikeCheck: The 10 most intriguing games along the Grizzlies’ 2018-19 schedule
MEMPHIS – Franchise catalyst Mike Conley is vowing a healthy and productive return, Marc Gasol is determined to bounce back from a frustrating campaign and rookie lottery pick Jaren Jackson Jr. is eager to prove he’s the most impactful talent coming in from the draft.
The revamped Grizzlies get a chance to turn those lofty expectations into realities when their 2018-19 regular season opens Oct. 17 at Indiana before making their FedExForum debut two nights later against Atlanta.
The Grizzlies’ mission is clear: Regroup from last season’s tumultuous 22-60 meltdown that thwarted a run of seven straight postseason appearances and grind their way back into playoff contention. To help accomplish that goal, nearly half the roster has been upgraded with versatile, high-IQ role players as the team gears up for the start of training camp late next month.
Now that the NBA’s full 2018-19 schedule has been released, here are Grind City Media’s 10 most intriguing games as the Grizzlies embark on the season.
Oct. 17, 2018 – Grizzlies at Pacers
The Grizzlies open on the road for the first time in five years and face a Victor Oladipo-led Pacers squad that may be the most improved in the East, especially if they learned from squandering that first-round series lead against the eventual Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers. The Grizzlies won’t have to wait long to see Tyreke Evans, who joined Indiana in free agency after one productive yet enigmatic season in Memphis. It’s also a homecoming for Indiana natives Conley and Jackson as the Grizzlies look to win their third consecutive season opener. The Grizzlies will also roll out at least six new players on the roster after retooling the supporting cast.
Oct. 19, 2018 – Hawks at Grizzlies
The home opener comes against the first of three top-five lottery picks in a stretch of four games when Trae Young and the Hawks visit. The Grizzlies are unveiling their new home unis and new FedExForum court design this season. Evidence of newfound health for Conley and Chandler Parsons in the home opener would be ideal, too. And count on that familiar Grit-N-Grind approach as J.B. Bickerstaff coaches his first home game since having the interim tag lifted. The last time the Grizzlies saw the Hawks, Jackson drilled eight three-pointers in his Utah summer league debut and Jevon Carter defensively locked down Young … again.
Nov. 5, 2018 – Grizzlies at Warriors
The Grizzlies have recently enjoyed their fair share of regular-season success against the defending champion Warriors, having gone 3-4 the past two years, including an overtime loss at Golden State last season. This is the first of two visits to the Bay before Christmas for the Grizzlies. They get two return trips from Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and crew in the season's final weeks when they could have a healthy and productive DeMarcus Cousins. If the trend continues, the Grizzlies could catch the Warriors slipping early before they really get rolling.
Nov. 25, 2018 – Knicks at Grizzlies
Despite best intentions on both sides, it just didn’t end well in Memphis between David Fizdale and the Grizzlies, who parted ways amid a long losing streak and irreconcilable differences. Fizdale landed on his feet with the Knicks and returns for the first time since last November's dismissal in New York’s lone visit to FedExForum. The Grizzlies recovered from last season's turmoil with a great draft, and solid offseason roster moves. Brace for an emotional night, with Fizdale still tight with Bickerstaff, Conley and fans. Take that for nostalgia.
Dec. 8, 2018 – Lakers at Grizzlies
LeBron James in purple and gold will be a sight to see. The four-time league MVP tipped the balance of power further to the west when he bolted Cleveland again. This time, he locked himself into a four-year max contract to play out the final seasons of his dominance as a Laker. This is the first of two marquee visits from King James, and the Grizzlies will be on the tail end of one of their 13 back-to-back sets this season. Still, it’s the highlight of a home schedule that features two visits each from the Lakers, Warriors and Rockets.
Dec. 29, 2018 – Celtics at Grizzlies
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are long gone. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish are long, long, long gone. Yet, the Celtics remain a major draw in Memphis and will be again over the holiday break as Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward get reacclimated with the East favorites. The game closes out the 2018 home portion of Memphis' schedule. It’s one of 13 games in December against teams that made the playoffs and/or boasted winning records last season. And that doesn’t even include the month’s two matchups with the Lakers.
Jan. 21, 2019 – Pelicans at Grizzlies
The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Game tradition continues in Memphis as the Grizzlies host MVP candidate Anthony Davis and the Pelicans as part of a nationally televised holiday triple-header. The Grizzlies hung 123 points on the Lakers in last season’s MLK50 game for their second-highest scoring total of the season in a home victory. The annual game is just one of many highlights in a special slate of tributes and community service to honor the MLK legacy as league executives and legends descend on Memphis. It kicks off a potentially pivotal five-game homestand that is the longest of the season for the Grizzlies.
Jan. 25, 2019 – Kings at Grizzlies
At age 37 and entering the final season of his two-year deal with the Kings, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this could potentially be Zach Randolph’s final NBA game in Memphis. The 17-year veteran and rugged forward remains beloved in Grind City. He'll soon see his No. 50 jersey hanging from the FedExForum rafters when he retires. The Kings make one trip to Memphis this season, which means this may be one more time to see Z-Bo don that headband and bully somebody in the paint. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies aim to make the most of a January in which they play nine of 16 games at home.
Feb. 12, 2019 – Spurs at Grizzlies
Speaking of ‘catch them while they last’ opportunities, even Gasol admits he no longer takes games against big brother Pau Gasol for granted as both push deep into their decorated careers. A decade worth of clashes adds another matchup when the new-look Spurs come to Memphis for the first game of a back-to-back set the Grizzlies play entering the All-Star break. DeMar DeRozan's addition starts a new chapter. Oddly, for the first time since 1996, the Grizzlies face a Spurs’ roster without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Kawhi Leonard.
March 20, 2019 – Rockets at Grizzlies
Reigning league MVP James Harden and the Rockets are still fuming over losing that 3-2 series lead to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals after Chris Paul got hurt last spring. They’ve tweaked the roster by adding future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony and former Grizzlies’ swingman James Ennis in the wake of Trevor 'Tell Me Why' Ariza’s departure. Even if healthy, the Grizzlies will likely face a brutal fight to contend for the playoffs. This visit from the Rockets launches a regular-season closing, 12-game stretch that also includes two home games against the Warriors and visits from the T’Wolves and Thunder.
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