Well, the lockout-shortened 66-game regular season schedule is out -- take a look at Memphis's right here -- and, as I'd imagine is the same for every other team in the league, it's tough to sort through and find many breaks in the action for the Memphis Grizzlies.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, but the point sure is driven home when you can scan the schedule as a whole, looking for good portions, or those that in a normal 82-game lineup could be considered "breathers," at least for preseason speculation's sake, and realize there won't be much about this NBA season that can be coasted through.
Grueling stretches against quality opponents are followed up with condensed road trips which are followed by tough back-to-backs at home. Eventually, parsing out a week or two-long period that looks inviting becomes a fool's errand. Of course, then you remember that all we have to do is watch more basketball in less time, and it feels better. But yeah, in regards to the Grizzlies, they'll be busy. After a look at the schedule, here are some items that stick out.
- Memphis will begin the 2011-2012 campaign with a mini-replay of their playoff run of a season ago, opening in San Antonio on December 26 and hosting Oklahoma City on the 28th in the home opener (The Grizzlies face their Western Conference Semifinals cohorts three times, and this one's the only home game). I like this sort of "do it again" challenge from the league right off the bat. The Grizzlies next two games are home to the Houston Rockets on Dec. 30 and in Chicago to face the Bulls on New Year's Day. Overall, a good test to see where the Grizz are at in these first four games.
- Part of a four-game home stand in mid-January, the Grizzlies make their first of two appearances on the main stage of the NBA's regular season: TNT. The Knicks come to Memphis on Thursday, January 12 for the nationally televised affair. These squads put together some thrilling contests last year, if you recall. The other TNT game for the Grizz comes later in the month, January 26, where they play the nightcap in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
- Aside from the TNT appearances, Memphis will be featured on ESPN three times and NBA TV five. With the league trying to jam as much Heat, Bulls, Knicks, Mavericks, Lakers, Thunder, Celtics and the like into the primetime slots, this isn't a bad slate for the Grizz, although I would've liked to have seen more towards the end of the regular season. Maybe this will set the league up for another postseason surprise?
- The first extended west coast road trip goes from January 23 to the 28, with games at Golden State, Portland, the Clippers, and Phoenix. Then Memphis will have an off day followed by a home back-to-back (the Grizzlies will play 18 back-to-backs this season) with the Spurs and Nuggets. These are the kind of stretches that start to bleed together when looking at the entire schedule, but look to be quite the grind nonetheless.
- A season-long five-game home stand in Memphis lasts between February 6 - 14, with the Spurs, Timberwolves, Pacers, Jazz, and Rockets coming into town. No month is going to be easy, obviously, but at first glance February at the least appears to be the most forgiving for the Grizzlies. Nine of the month's 14 games will be in Memphis, with the toughest part -- a three-game roadie to Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Boston -- coming in the beginning. At least the Grizz will be able to stop home for a bit and remind their family members of who they are in February.
- The Grizzlies will play only one of the much-adoed back-to-back-to-backs. This, unsurprisingly, falls in what looks to be their toughest month, April. The second through the seventh of April will be, uh, interesting. April 2nd begins the triple-header with another trip to Oklahoma City, the 3rd is a home date with the Warriors, and the 4th sends the Grizz to Dallas. Not easy, especially with the addition, after a much-needed off day, of a trip to Miami on the sixth and back home to face the Mavericks again on April 7.
Whew. Take a breath. Okay, ready? A few days later, April 11, begins two stretches of four games in five days. The first goes at home against the Suns, at San Antonio, home to the Jazz and at New Orleans. The second, after an off day in-between, begins in Minnesota, then home with the Hornets, then at Charlotte and, finally, home to Portland.
- Following that, the last two games of the regular season for the Grizzlies will be home contests with Cleveland and Orlando. Four of their last five will be in Memphis, which could prove helpful. But yeah, April is going to test this team, and we hope there will most certainly be playoff implications as well.
Look, any fan of any team is going to be able to look at their team's respective schedule and gasp a few times. There are some spots -- especially that run in early April -- that look pretty challenging on paper for the Memphis Grizzlies. But this will be fun. Basketball is going to be crammed into every spare ounce of time, it seems, and while the quality may suffer (hard to see how it won't at some point), any poor performance can be wiped away quicker. There's (almost) always going to be chance to shift momentum on a daily basis. The teams that react fastest, the rely on instinct best, will be able to roll with the punches that could come at higher clip.
The grit and grind of the Memphis Grizzlies will be put to a stern (no pun intended) test this season. Someone, though, is going to have to survive this, and a team with that mentality already in place should be no worse off than anyone else.
What in the Grizzlies schedule stuck out to you?