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VOL. 128 | NO. 155 | Friday, August 09, 2013
Don Wade

Don Wade

Countdown Begins for Grizzlies Tip-Off

DON WADE | Special to The Daily News

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Are you ready for some basketball?

What’s that you say, the word is FOOTBALL? Meaning it’s time to talk about walking through The Grove, running in space and snapping cell phone pictures of Johnny Manziel?

OK, sure, it’s football season in the South. But we are, perhaps more than ever, Hoops City. The Grizzlies’ 2013-14 schedule just came out and given what the team did last year, how can you not look ahead to tip-off as much as kick-off?

And no, Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien did not order me to write this under threat of kidnapping and detention in a darkened room where I must listen to the front office recite their favorite basketball analytics. And yes, I’m going to occasionally poke fun at their numbers obsession all season even as I increasingly believe in the value of basketball metrics.

But I digress.

Anyway, here’s a truth I didn’t expect: The schedule came out in the first week of August, just as PED races were heating up (I’m a baseball guy at my core), and yet I was ready for the NBA schedule.

I wanted to know when the two-time defending Miami Heat is coming to FedExForum. Answer: Wednesday, April 9, or right around the beginning of the next baseball season.

I wanted to know when the Grizz would get their first crack at the San Antonio Spurs, the team that swept them out of their first-ever Western Conference Finals. Answer: Opening night, Oct. 30, in a return visit to The Alamo. Even now, Gregg Popovich is practicing snarky one-word answers to reporters.

I wanted to know how many times the Grizz would appear on national television. Thirteen times, if you count NBA-TV games. Which I don’t. So make it six, with five on ESPN and one on TNT. Apparently the networks will not be embracing the small-market-team-that-could storyline again unless the Grizzlies make another deep playoff run.

I wanted to know if the schedule would be front-loaded or back-loaded. I guess the answer depends on your perspective, but the Grizzlies play 11 of 17 games on the road during March. Probably a good thing from a ticket sales perspective when all the local focus will be on the Memphis Tigers and the NCAA Tournament, but a huge challenge if the Grizzlies are chasing a playoff spot, not merely a seed.

I wondered when the new-look Brooklyn Nets would come to town. Answer: On Nov. 30, and at the start of a season-long six-game homestand that also features the L.A. Clippers on Dec. 5 and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 11.

Of course, I wanted to know when the Lakers and their pathetic purple and gold entourage would invade The Grindhouse (Dec. 17 and Feb. 26). And I wondered if the Grizz would get an uninspiring home-opener opponent. They did, with the Detroit Pistons here for the first game on Nov. 1.

The big question, though, when looking over the whole 82-game schedule, is how many wins can first-year coach Dave Joerger & Co. get? More than last year’s franchise-best 56 or less?

And what kind of playoff seed is realistic?

Ah, but this is getting ahead of things, isn’t it?

Training camp is still two months away.

By then – let’s be honest – many of you will be frustrated with your favorite college football team and looking for a distraction, any distraction. So as a public service I tell you this:

The first preseason game at FedExForum is Oct. 9 vs. Dallas. Good seats are still available.

Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.

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