The good news, the Memphis Grizzlies are now five days away from opening night at San Antonio. The bad news, the Grizzlies have looked up and down in all areas for the entire preseason. Yes, we all know the preseason does not count, especially when you look over the last two years and the Grizz have a 4-6 record in the preseason (reminder: 2011 was the short season Memphis only played two preseason games). However, nights like Wednesday’s Toronto game do not give fans comfort heading into the biggest season in Grizzlies history. Nevertheless, the 2013-14 season is full of contenders on both the East and the West, giving the Grizzlies numerous times to prove they belong in the championship discussion.
Tough Tests Early
Not only does Memphis start the season AT San Antonio, where the Spurs where 35-6 last year, they also have early tests in Indiana, the L.A. Clippers and Houston. The nice part is the majority of the early season tests come a home for Memphis, and the “Grind House” has proven to be a very tough place to play, proof by the 32-9 home record last year. Furthermore, during the first two months of the season the Grizz will see the Clippers, Spurs, and Rockets twice, each time will be once away and once at home. The up and coming Golden State Warriors are on the schedule three times in the first two months, twice at Golden State and once in Memphis, this will truly be a battle of offense vs. defense with the Warriors sharp shooters. After the first 30 games, which will take us to the end of December, we will accurately know if the Grizzlies are a real contender in the West.
Last year Memphis had 18 back-to-back games and being a grind-it-out team with older veterans they fared very well as they won 11 of the back-end games. This season they have the same number of back-to-backs (18) and now with veteran Mike Miller in the fold, along with Randolph and Allen a year older, the back-to-backs could be even harder this year. Of the 18 back-end games, nine of them are against teams that made the playoffs last year, including a hard home-and-home against Houston on Jan. 24 and 25. The back-end game will need to be where younger players like Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless and Kosta Koufos will have to step up with more minutes off the bench.
How the West Was Won
Looking through many rankings of how the Western Conference will shake down this upcoming season, it seems most of them have the Spurs repeating, Rockets, or Clippers winning the conference. Very few mentioned the Thunder or Grizzlies. It is extremely difficult to predict how games will be played out and which teams will stay healthy all year. However, if anything has been proven during the last few playoffs and finals is that championship contenders can and will win on the road. For this reason I just cannot see the Rockets or Clippers being able to win tough playoff games on the road. But the Spurs are still the Western Conference champs and someone will have to dethrone them before they can reach their goals. Therefore, it seems that the Grizzlies and Thunder have what it takes to do it this year and I for one cannot wait to see it all unfold.