By Ron Wynn
If it seems like the 2019-20 NBA season just ended, that’s because it really did less than two months ago. When the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, it occurred on October 11. That was 377 (12 days longer than a calendar year) days since the opening preseason game, and concluded what was easily the longest season in NBA history. While that certainly wasn’t the plan, considering the impact of COVID-19 on both the nation and world as a whole, perhaps the most impressive thing is that the league was able to even get a completed season done.
But now the league’s trying to accomplish what may be an even greater feat. They’ve planned an ambitious 72-game regular season schedule with preseason games beginning this weekend. The regular season tips off Tuesday Dec. 22. The Memphis Grizzlies last week announced their schedule for what will be the 20th year of NBA basketball in the city. It begins Dec. 23rd against the San Antonio Spurs. The league is breaking up the season into halves, and the Grizzlies will play 37 games during that first portion, 20 at home and 17 on the road. The second half schedule will be announced later, as well as a decision on whether fans will be allowed, and if so what percentage of capacity.
The Grizzlies enter the year with quite a bit of optimism, coming off a surprising campaign that ended just one game short of making the playoffs. A disappointing stretch run in the bubble cost them the lead for the eighth spot, and they concluded their season being edged out by the Portland Trailblazers.
However Jah Morant won Rookie of the Year, and even greater things are expected of him. They hope to get a healthy Jaren Jackson back for much of the season as well. Plus, they open the year with six of their first nine at home. Some major games during the first half include the 19th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration game against the Phoenix Suns, a home back-to back set against the Los Angeles Clippers Feb. 25 and 26th, and the final game of the first half against the Milwaukee Bucks March 4.
The Grizzlies will play six back-to-back sets in the first half, four of those with Memphis hosting both games. There’s also a trio of three-game road trips. Once again there will be play-in games for the final Western Conference spots, and the West looks super tough once more. A good start is critical, as will be avoiding long losing streaks. The Grizzlies play the first of four preseason games Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. They’ll play two home preseason games against the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 17 and Dec. 19.