SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports activities’ Mark Medina discusses the tough resolution dealing with gamers to renew the season and the way groups have reacted to the few who’ve already opted out.


There used to be sufficient there Friday night time when the NBA launched its restart agenda to play the disrespect card, to shout as loud as you’ll be able to that the league’s Disney Global bubble will as soon as once more be “Memphis vs. Errrbody.”

There used to be Zion Williamson enjoying extra video games on nationwide tv than everybody however the Lakers and Celtics. There have been the Pelicans dealing with the perfect agenda of all of the contenders for the Western Convention’s ultimate playoff spot, together with a recreation in opposition to the Grizzlies by which Memphis will probably be enjoying the second one time in as many days.

There used to be ESPN’s choice of former players-turned-analysts speaking up New Orleans and Portland as their option to snag the No. eight seed the Grizzlies recently personal.

There have been various slights for Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and corporate to name upon as motivation when they head right down to Orlando subsequent month.

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However now that the Grizzlies know precisely what stands between them and that coveted playoff spot, let’s additionally recognize this fact: Memphis is about as much as have the benefit of this experiment in pandemic basketball as a lot or greater than every other staff that doesn’t have authentic NBA name hopes.

Let me provide an explanation for.

Memphis and its core of 20-somethings are assured 8 video games of playoff-like depth that may function precious reps must this crew transform the contender all of us hope it is going to transform within the years forward.


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The Grizzlies could have as many video games on ESPN and TNT over those 8 seeding video games as they did over the former 65 video games they performed earlier than the season used to be suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So consider all that amusing we had looking at this staff emerge in January and February in the back of Morant’s goggles, Jackson’s Three-point barrages, Dillon Brooks’ warmth tests and Brandon Clarke’s talent to fly within the air for alley-oops and finesse funky floaters into the ring?

The NBA League Move junkies had been already catching on again in March. However because of those peculiar cases, those Grizzlies have a greater probability than ever earlier than of taking pictures the eye of the typical NBA fan.

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In the event that they play smartly, in the event that they earn that final playoff spot in the end those nationwide commentators are selecting everybody however Memphis, if Morant and Jackson appear to be the burgeoning 20-year-old stars they looked to be thru 65 video games and provides LeBron James and the Lakers the whole lot they are able to care for, if the NBA bubble isn’t disrupted via COVID-19 (which could be the most important if of all of them), this is able to grow to be the instant when Morant and this “NXT GEN” model of the Grizzlies transform greater than an area sensation.

The transformation from nationwide interest to nationwide headline may just occur actually temporarily, too.

The Grizzlies get Portland and Damian Lillard on NBATV of their first recreation on July 31. They play Williamson and the Pelicans on ESPN of their 3rd recreation on Aug. Three. The ones effects may just dictate the tenor of the Grizzlies’ complete time in Orlando.

Young cornerstones: Ja Morant, left, and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Younger cornerstones: Ja Morant, left, and Jaren Jackson Jr. (Picture: Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports activities)

The NBA restart would be the jewel of the sports activities calendar when it starts July 30. Each and every recreation will probably be magnified on account of the drought of are living sports activities attributable to the pandemic. Right here in Memphis, the place the Global Golfing Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational is scheduled to happen along the first week of the NBA’s revised schedule, these Grizzlies games will be appointment television above all else around town.

While the Lakers and Clippers and Bucks have the advantage of using these eight “seeding games” to ramp up in preparation for the playoffs, the Grizzlies needs them to make the playoffs. They have a 3½-game lead in the standings over New Orleans, Portland and Sacramento at the moment.

The No. 8 seed must be more than four games ahead of the No. 9 seed to avoid a play-in scenario under the NBA’s new seeding policies adopted for this special situation.

What else to keep an eye on?

The good: Memphis plays the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference (Milwaukee, Toronto and Boston) in its last three seeding games when those opponents could very well be locked into their seeding for the playoffs.

The bad: There’s no time for Memphis to settle into the Disney World bubble with their first three games against Portland, San Antonio and New Orleans, including that nationally televised matchup with the Pelicans on the second day of a back-to-back. Go 2-1 or 3-0 in those games and the Grizzlies will be in a great spot. Go 1-2 or 0-3 and they’ll be fighting for their playoff lives the rest of the way.

The weird: Marc Gasol’s first game against Memphis will take place on a Sunday at 2 p.m. ET in a mostly empty gym in Orlando when the Grizzlies play the Raptors on Aug. 9.

Still, the NBA mostly did right by the Grizzlies.

They went from having the hardest remaining schedule among the four other top contenders for the No. 8 seed (New Orleans, Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio) to having the second-hardest. Those four other teams, meanwhile, saw the opponent winning percentage in their new eight-game seeding schedules rise significantly more than the Grizzlies did when compared to the schedule remaining had the regular season gone on as planned.

But go ahead and shout “Memphis vs. Errrbody” like it’s the Grit and Grind era again. Go ahead and come up with your best conspiracy theory for why the NBA wants LeBron vs. Zion more than LeBron vs. Ja in the playoffs.

Go ahead because Morant, like Memphis, thrives on being slighted and overlooked, and Disney World might be where the basketball world gets another reminder of that.

Follow Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Mark Giannotto on Twitter @mgiannotto.


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