Grizzlies’ 2020 Season Resumes

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On March 11, 2020, the NBA suspended its season after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Now, more than four months later, 22 teams are in Orlando, Florida, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (Walt Disney World). All 22 teams have had mini training camp sessions and will participate in three inter-squad scrimmages before the remainder of the shortened "regular season" kicks off on July 30, closely followed by the playoffs.

All teams will be playing eight regular-season games before the playoffs. The Grizzlies will face the Philadelphia 76ers today (July 24) at 2:30 p.m. CT. The other two scrimmages will be against the Houston Rockets on July 26 at 7 p.m. CST and the Miami Heat on July 28 at 1 p.m. CST. The scrimmages will be shown live on with commentary from Pete Pranica and Rob Fischer. 

When the season was interrupted, The Grizzlies sat in the eighth spot in the West with a 32–33 record — 3.5 games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, and Sacramento Kings. 

Here’s the play-in scenario for the eighth seed. If the team in eighth place is more than four games ahead of the team in ninth place, the eighth-placed team qualifies for the playoff berth. If the team in ninth place is within four games, those two teams would compete in a play-in tournament for the eighth seed in the playoffs. The ninth-place team must win two games before the eighth-place team wins one to clinch the eighth playoff spot. 

The Grizzlies eight seeding games are as follows:

  • Friday, July 31  —  Trail Blazers, 3 p.m.
  • Sunday, August 2  —  Spurs, 3 p.m.
  • Monday, August 3  —  Pelicans, 5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 5  —  Jazz, 1:30 p.m.
  • Friday, August 7  —  Thunder, 3 p.m.
  • Sunday, August 9  —  Raptors, 1 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 11  —  Celtics, 5:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 13  —  Bucks, TBD

Here are five questions that face the Grizzlies as the NBA restarts:

. The Grizzlies roster makeup has changed since the start of the regular season, and since the hiatus. Do you think the new-look Grizzlies can succeed?

Aimee Steigemeyer: It will be the core group of players that put together wins before the hiatus who will be the deciding factors in whatever success the Grizzlies have going forward. Having all those key guys healthy when the season resumes will be a huge asset in the team’s favor. The new additions are like sprinkles on a cupcake  —  nice if you can get it but not critically necessary.

Sharon Brown: Yes, I believe it will lead to success. If Gorgui Dieng or Anthony Tolliver can go in to knock down shots or defend to give the starters a bit of rest then it will be beneficial for the team. But make no mistake about it, success will ultimately rely on all the players that are there. 

At the beginning of the season, Josh Jackson was in Southaven, playing for the Hustle, before he was called up to the main roster. Jackson had been performing well and was finding a groove before the season was suspended. In his last five games, the Kansas product averaged 16.6 points. 

2. Speaking of success, how will the season be viewed if the Grizzlies make a playoff run — or not?

Aimee: Given where this team was “supposed” to be, the season is already a success. But it would absolutely make it much sweeter to see them hold onto the eighth seed and try to make whatever kind of splash they can in the playoffs. I know that I am still eating crow for my comments in January about the playoffs not being a realistic goal for this team. I don’t have a problem admitting when I am wrong, and I will happily wear my clown mask and root for a playoff run. I don’t think you put an asterisk on this season either.

And if ever there were a year when a young and hungry team could be a dark horse threat in the postseason, it is this year and this team. If by some chance #GrzNxtGen manages to run through the Lakers in the first round, it will not be the craziest thing to happen in 2020.

Sharon: The 2019–2020 will be a success for the team whether they clinch the playoffs or not. Memphis was supposed to be at the bottom of the league and projected to win 20 to 23 games. This is a fun team that fans can be proud of for years to come. This season will be something the players can build upon and grow to eventually become a championship contender. 

3. According to a number of reports, the NBA informed teams that the 2019–20 NBA Awards (MVP, Rookie of Year, Sixth Man, Defensive Player, etc) will be based upon the regular season through the date the season was suspended on March 11. What are the chances the Grizzlies guard Ja Morant will win Rookie of the Year?

Aimee: I’d say damn near 100 percent. Morant should be the unanimous Rookie of the Year (ROY) and it’s not even close. I know the national media loves Zion Williamson, but it would be outright favoritism to consider him a ROY candidate having played less than two dozen games.

Sharon: Morant most definitely should be the Rookie of the Year and it should be a unanimous decision. Morant has put in the work and then some. He leads all qualified rookies in scoring (17.6), assists (6.9) and double-doubles (11). The three-time NBA Rookie of the Month for the Western Conference (October/November, December, January) is the only rookie this season to post a triple-double (with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists against the Washington Wizards in February). 

There’s more  —  the first-year guard also is Mr. Fourth Quarter. He ranks sixth in fourth-quarter scoring at 7.3 points. 

4. Besides Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., who will be the X-factor in the season restart?

Aimee: [Justise Winslow could be another piece that fits.] That would have been my answer to this question before the announcement of his hip injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Said injury is unfortunate, but if you take into account that no one really expected Winslow to play at all until next season, I don’t think this puts them in any worse shape.

Brandon Clarke and Grayson Allen being healthy and available will be significant factor in any success the Grizzlies achieve during the restart. I also hope that Coach Jenkins has paid attention to the campaign to #FreeJoshJackson, especially now that he’s spent some time under Tony Allen’s wing.

Sharon: Dillon Brooks is definitely an X-factor. This season the Grizzlies are 18–4 when he scores 20 or more points a game and are 4–15 when he scores in single digits. Memphis needs Brooks to ball out along with the other young core in order to stay on pace to clinch its first playoff berth since 2017. 

Also, the Grizzlies bench is a big key to victory and is ranked in the top five in efficiency. The Grizzlies' reserves average 41.4 points a game, which ranks sixth in the NBA. The bench ranks first among benches in field goal percentage (.479) assists (12.1) and steals (4.1). The hiatus was a blessing in disguise since Brandon Clarke and Grayson Allen will be healthy and back in action. 

5. Have your expectations for Memphis changed from the beginning of the 2019-2020 season through the hiatus and the season restart?

Aimee: Honestly, I will be happy just to watch some basketball again. That said, I hope to see them retain their position as the 8th seed. If they do, no one can say they didn’t earn it. (I’m looking at you, Pelicans Twitter)

Sharon: Of course. Many thought it would take years for this version of the Grizzlies to be successful. But somehow, the team found a way to win and are knocking on the door to the playoffs. The team collectively isn’t afraid to compete with any other team and has the mindset of proving everyone wrong. Jackson Jr. summed up that feeling back in February. He said, “Nobody really thought that we’d be in this position at this point. People just said to us, “Oh, you have time. Don’t worry about it! You’re young!” We kind of were just like, “We don’t care.” That’s how we play and how we are  —  we just don’t care.”

My apologies for doubting the team, Jaren. It won’t happen again. 

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