On Monday, the NBA released the 2019-2020 regular season schedule. This announcement was good timing on the part of the league because there has been the need for some NBA news since the end of the crazy free agency period. The lull has been nice, but it has been just long enough to have that craving for a new season.
The Memphis Grizzlies will come in to this season with a clean slate. NBA Champion Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are no longer on the team, and that impact will be noticed immediately. It will be a bittersweet opening to a new year. Headed by new head coach Taylor Jenkins, the fan base knows they have much to look forward to with this young Grizzlies’ roster.
At first glance, the schedule tends to favor the Grizzlies right out of the gate. The team stays in Memphis for 12 of the first 18 games of the season spanning over October and November. This will be huge to get the rookies acclimated to playing at an NBA pace mostly on their own floor. Let’s go month by month and take a deeper dive looking at this schedule
Coming in to this season, the Grizzlies do not have much to lose. The main goal all season is still probably to convey the Boston pick and avoid the top 6 of the 2020 Draft. Outside of that, the team only needs to focus on developing together as a young core and getting their minds right to compete in the NBA. They will be tested on this (on and off the court) right away as the Grizzlies start the season down in Miami with their new acquisition Jimmy Butler.
Following that, they come back to Memphis for their home opener against the Chicago Bulls. It will be a great opportunity to get a big home win in front of the Forum faithful. The schedule really kicks into gear at the end of the month when the Grizzlies head west for their first West Coast road trip of the new season. They’ll take on LeBron James and Anthony Davis in their last game of the month.
If you are planning to go see the Grizzlies play in Memphis, November is your month to see some great teams come through town. The first week of the month the Grizzlies will host both the Houston Rockets with James Harden and now Russell Westbrook on the team and the Dallas Mavericks with last year’s rookie of the year Luka Doncic and (hopefully) Kristaps Porzingis making his debut with the Mavs this season.
Then, it is the moment Grizzlies fans have been waiting for since the trade happened. On November 15th, it is the return of Mike Conley to Memphis. It will be awfully dusty in FedExForum that night when the tribute video starts to roll. The place will be wild cheering on Mike Conley for everything he gave to this franchise. It will be a scene unlike any other.
The excitement doesn’t stop there. The Grizzlies will also be hosting the Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers with new faces Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, and the Golden State Warriors towards the end of the month. Not to mention hosting Mike Conley and the Jazz once again on the 30th. This will be a quite grind for this young team and will test them only a few games into the season.
December is a much more manageable month for the Grizzlies. It will not be as star-studded as November, but the schedule will have them on the road a bit more. They will go on another West Coast trip facing Golden State, Phoenix, and Utah before coming back home to face reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. This is the premier home game of this month.
In the second half, they will travel to Denver and Oklahoma City twice. The Western Conference does not let teams have an easy month, or even an easy week, so these young guys will have to stay focused through the Christmas holidays.
As the new year rolls in, the Grizzlies will have played in enough games to have an identity. We will know how special Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke are in this league at this stage of their young careers, and we will also be able to see if Jaren Jackson Jr. has taken that next step in his development. The expectations do not need to be rooted in wins and losses, only on how these younger players adapt to the NBA.
So, in January the Grizzlies go west again to face the Clippers in Los Angeles. After this, the team is able to have a nice two weeks back home. The major date for this month is the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day game played in Memphis. This will fall on January 20th and will be the Grizzlies second national television game. They will face off against the New Orleans Pelicans and rookie Zion Williamson. The headliner will be the rookie battle between Williamson and Morant with a national TV audience.
This is where the season starts to drag for the players, coaches, fan bases, and even the bloggers. Everyone is pushing forward until the All-Star Break. However, this is where the Grizzlies’ youth and stamina can turn into a few more wins. With the right mind set, they can fight through and catch teams off guard. They have the Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks, and Washington Wizards as winnable games before the break. Closing on a good two week long stretch can do some good building into the “second-half” of the season.
The team will need it because once back from the Break, they head west for another gauntlet against the Lakers, Clippers, and Rockets, then coming back home to face the Lakers again in the final day of February. No rest for the weary in the Western Conference.
The month of March will be another month of reunions as Marc Gasol finally makes his return to Memphis. The Toronto Raptors finally travel down to FedExForum on March 28th. It will be another dusty night in the arena as the tribute video plays on the Jumbotron. Last season, the Raptors had already traveled down to Memphis before Gasol was traded, so this has been a long time coming for the Memphis fan base to reunite with Marc Gasol.
Not to be out-shined, but there is another reunion that we can not ignore. Chandler Parsons makes his long-awaited return to Memphis (if he’s still on the team) when the Atlanta Hawks come to town March 7th. The crowd will welcome him with open arms...er...maybe.
Outside of these two reunions, the Grizzlies will really need to be pushing to convey the pick outside of the top-6. Yes, the lottery can change everything, as we saw last year, but the months of March and April will determine their lottery odds.
Once in April, the Grizzlies will have these last seven games to mark their claim on the league as the next up-and-coming teams to watch out for. A solid record and people will have them pushing for the playoffs the following season. The Portland, Denver, and Houston road games will be tough, but they must fight through even if they are out of playoff contention.
In conclusion, the Memphis Grizzlies’ season will not come down to wins and losses. They will need to show they can beat the weaker teams in the league routinely and then develop as a young core for the future. The first few months will show what the fan base should expect from these guys, of course open to improvements or unfortunate injuries.
The schedule release was a nice break in this quiet part of the off-season. It puts some concrete dates and games to plan and speculate for. October 23rd can not come soon enough