MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 21: Jaren Jackson Jr. #13 and Desmond Bane #22 high five Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies during Round 1 Game 3 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 21, 2022 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 21: Jaren Jackson Jr. #13 and Desmond Bane #22 high five Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies during Round 1 Game 3 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 21, 2022 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

MikeCheck: Grizzlies successfully sought the smoke, secured the NBA’s scheduling spotlight

MEMPHIS – The history-making trend continues for the Grizzlies.

Coming off a season in which Memphis set or matched multiple franchise records, the Grizzlies and their growing national fanbase are destined for another season of firsts as they embark on the 2022-23 NBA schedule.

For the first time in franchise history, the Grizzlies are featured as part of the league’s five-game slate of marquee Christmas Day games when they visit the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Dec. 25. The matchup between teams that met in the Western Conference semifinals last season will culminate a four-game trip when the Grizzlies face the Thunder, Nuggets and Suns before arriving in San Francisco.

It's one of four showdowns against the Warriors, who escaped a hard-fought playoff series by defeating Memphis 4-2 after Grizzlies All-NBA point guard Ja Morant missed the last two contests with a knee injury. The Warriors went on to beat the Mavericks in the conference finals and got past the Celtics to win their fourth NBA title in seven years.

The Grizzlies finished that season matching the franchise record with 56 regular-season wins and advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in seven years. They now press ahead with a core of Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, along with key role players on the cusp of returning largely intact

“We can’t wait to get back to work, to figure out how we can keep moving forward in this progression,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said entering the summer. “It’s been an unbelievable year, but there are also plenty of ways we can get better. Our guys on this team have never wavered in their ability to adjust and adapt to whatever challenges we’ve faced. And we’ve found success together.”

The Grizzlies open the 2022-23 season Oct. 19 at FedExForum against the New York Knicks, bringing the NBA’s biggest media market and ESPN’s broadcast to Memphis from the start. All it takes is a quick glance at the Grizzlies schedule to see that at least two things are now obvious about one of the NBA’s most dynamic teams.

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - MARCH 11: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies handles the ball against RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks during the first half at FedExForum on March 11, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee.

First, the Grizzlies have arrived as a national attraction – with a franchise-record 18 regular season games to be broadcast on ABC, ESPN or TNT. Secondly, despite what players from either side refuse to admit publicly, the Grizzlies and the Warriors are widely considered rivals when it comes to intriguing NBA showdowns.

The NBA revealed as much when Wednesday’s league-wide announcements included special initiatives and designations such as NBA Rivals Week.

A month after their Christmas Day clash, the Grizzlies return to Chase Center on Jan. 25 to play the Warriors during a week when the NBA showcases “classic and budding rivalries between teams and players that will take center stage for NBA Rivals Week.” Running from Jan. 23-28, Rivals Week includes 11 games on four national networks over five days.

Other highlights on the Grizzlies upcoming schedule include; the lone visit from the Eastern Conference champion Celtics on Nov. 7, a New Year’s Eve-New Year’s Day back-to-back at FedExForum against the Pelicans on Dec. 31 and the Kings on Jan. 1, the MLK Celebration Day game against the Suns on Jan. 16; and LeBron James and the Lakers’ only visit on Feb. 28.

The Warriors complete the regular-season series with two spring visits to Memphis over a nine-day span, first coming to FedExForum on March 9 and then March 18. All four of the Grizzlies-Warriors matchups this season will be on one of the NBA’s four national television networks.

The Grizzlies view the Warriors as battle-tested champions, led by future Hall of Fame players in Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Meanwhile, the Warriors have shown much respect for the Grizzlies, labeling them a young, brash and hungry team that reminds the Warriors of themselves when they were a budding contender on their way to champion status.

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 3: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors during Game 2 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals on May 3, 2022 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.

“You’ve got to keep that team together,” Green said of Memphis after last season’s playoff series. “That’s a group of young guys that are hungry, they are talented, they are athletic. They’ve got it. It will be good to see their progression over these next few years and where they can take it. Because that’s an incredible young team. They can be really special.”

Bane shared similar sentiments earlier this month when speaking about how the Grizzlies can ultimately blossom into a title contender.

“You look at the best teams, Golden State and the top teams across the league that have been able to build something over a long period of time . . .” Bane said. “That’s part of our journey.”

The journey resumes when training camp opens in late September. Among other accomplishments coming out of last season, Morant and his teammates got the national spotlight they wanted from the league.

Now confirmed as an NBA marquee attraction, these Grizzlies are right on schedule.

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.