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VOL. 130 | NO. 158 | Friday, August 14, 2015
Don Wade

Don Wade

Scheduled Good Times: The Next Grizzlies Season

By Don Wade

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Turns out, Marc Gasol was wrong.

“I don’t think LeBron is coming through that door anytime soon,” Gasol said after the end of last season.

But in fact LeBron James, albeit wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform, will come through the doors at FedExForum for the 2015-16 season opener on Wednesday, Oct. 28.

The next Memphis Grizzlies season is, well, sort of like those words on your car’s rearview mirror: closer than it appears.

And how cool is that? The Grizzlies have made five straight playoff appearances. Marc Gasol of Memphis just signed a long-term deal to remain a Grizzly.

Call me crazy, but I swear when I left the house this morning that even my Stromile Swift bobblehead had a twinkle in its eye.

And if Elvis was really to come back in Memphis, wouldn’t opening night at FedExForum against LeBron be as good a time as any?

Look, I’m not normally much for hyperbole – especially when it strays into the territory of paint-your-face fanaticism. I try to keep up a quasi-dignified front about the teams I cover.

But here’s some complete honesty: There’s nothing worse than having the 82-game NBA schedule come out when the team you follow is bad, when you know garbage time will usually start in the third quarter. Cezary Trybanski, anyone?

So speaking strictly from a selfish point of view, which my wife will tell you I’m very good at, I’m happy that all signs point to another fun and competitive Grizzlies season.

Even the NBA seems to be catching on to this reality because – sit down for this – the Grizzlies will make five appearances on ESPN this season and five on TNT. A year ago, the combined scheduled appearances was one. So if my math is correct, that’s a 10-fold increase. Plus, there are another nine games on NBA-TV.

The rest of the country is increasingly awake to what Memphians have known for a long time: The Grizzlies are entertaining. Gasol is the anti-superstar, just wanting to win, play the right way and grind, and vehemently opposed to diva moments. In other words, he wouldn’t last one second in the minds of Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard.

Mike Conley, after his broken-face performance at Golden State during the NBA Playoffs, is now the undisputed and unassuming tough-guy point guard in the league.

Tony Allen will jump into America’s living rooms, point and shout “First-Team Defense!”

Zach Randolph is able to leap thick phone books in a single bound. He’s happy to outwork superstars who are better at making commercials than advancing in the postseason. And he will cheerfully pay your heating bill.

Former enemy/L.A. Clipper Matt Barnes is now part of the crew and even coach Dave Joerger is warning opponents that the paint is increasingly dangerous, enter-at-your-own-risk, territory.

So yeah, it’s nice to look at this season’s schedule – www.nba.com/grizzlies/schedule – and imagine the battles ahead.

The defending NBA champion Warriors make their first visit to Memphis on Nov. 11 and are here April 9 for the last home game of the season. The Clippers’ only visit comes on March 19, by which time Barnes will be a full-on-nasty Grizzly.

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are here Dec. 27 and Feb. 24 (though it’s hard to believe he’ll still be healthy by then), and the OKC Thunder are here Nov. 16 and Dec. 8 (though it’s hard to believe both Westbrook and Kevin Durant still will be healthy then).

The San Antonio Spurs are here Dec. 3 and March 28. The over/under on total Gregg Popovich smiles: one. The over/under on “who, me?” Tim Duncan expressions after he is called for a foul: six.

But first, LeBron is walking through that door on Oct. 28.

Let the games, and the fun, begin.

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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