Go ahead coach; pick a number, any number. Put that opportunity before Grizzlies Head Coach Lionel Hollins and he might just say “6.”
“We’re going to have six days of training camp and we’re going to play 66 games,” said Hollins.
The NBA lockout has ended, after 149 days of pure mayhem. Players are back in their practice facilities, working with strength and conditioning coaches.
And yes, that really was backup point guard – and fan favorite – Greivis Vásquez standing in line at the Starbucks across from the FedExForum on Wednesday (Dec. 7) morning.
On Tuesday, the new NBA schedule was announced. The Grizzlies will tip-off their 11th season with two playoff rematches – on the road against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, Dec. 26 at 7:30 p.m., and the home opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m.
The Grizzlies will open their 2011 preseason schedule against their Southwest Division rivals, the New Orleans Hornets, on Friday, Dec. 16 at FedExForum, with a road rematch on Dec. 21.
The 2011-12 version of the Grizz will almost mirror last season’s roster.
“The more experience you have together the better it will flow. I think that’s an advantage to getting started,” said Hollins.
“But it’s no advantage to how you play during the season once it starts. We have to rebuild our chemistry. We have to redefine our roles and everybody has to accept those roles again and the way they were defined last year.”
Among the key notations: Star forward Rudy Gay has recovered from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the playoff run; and Grizzlies Center Marc Gasol, who had a strong post season, now is an unrestricted free agent.
Meanwhile, Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace wants to deliver a message.
“I want to say to the fans that we’re so appreciative of how they rallied behind the team in the playoffs,” Wallace said last week, during the first press conference since last season.
“Our fans created a college type pit environment in the playoffs last year and that meant so much to our team. It was just a phenomenal atmosphere. It reinforces the fact that Memphis is the best basketball city in the south and one of the greatest basketball cities in the country.”
Coming off of the most successful post-season in franchise history, defeating the San Antonio Spurs and advancing to battle in a seven-game rumble with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Grizzlies will need fan momentum to continue that surge.
“I’m excited about picking up where we left off last year,” Wallace said. “There are real expectations for this team and I embrace those expectations. It’s much better to operate in a climate where they have expectations instead of one where there’s apathy about your team.”
• With the exit of Damon Stoudamire and Johnny Davis, the Grizzlies announced the addition of Assistant Coach Bob Thornton and Player Development Coach Lloyd Pierce.
• Thorton has almost 30 years of collegiate and professional basketball experience as a player, scout and coach. He arrives in Memphis after spending the past four seasons (2007-11) as an advance scout for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
• Pierce, with over 15 years of and collegiate and professional basketball experience, joins the Grizzlies after spending last year (2010-11) at Golden State, where he served as an assistant under head coach Keith Smart. Prior to his stint with the Warriors, Pierce worked for the Cleveland Cavaliers as a player development coordinator for three seasons (2007-10).
• Memphis will be featured on national television a franchise-record 10 times this season (three on ESPN, two on TNT, five on NBA TV). That includes the 10th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Game against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on ESPN on Monday, Jan. 16 at noon at FedExForum.
• Overall, the Grizzlies will play 13 of their 33 home games on weekends – including four games on Friday, seven on Saturday and two on Sunday.