GritGrindGrizz

Playing on MLK’s actual birthday is better.

Lee Eric Smith, lesmith@tsdmemphis.com | 1/14/2017, 11:49 a.m.
Playing on MLK’s actual birthday is better.

Since our last episode . .

Quite a bit has happened since our last installment back in December — the main thing being space constraints and the pressures of newspaper publishing have pushed my Grizzlies writing to the backburner. Plenty has happened and there’s plenty to get to, so let’s get this party started.

The MLK game:

When the NBA announced its schedule last summer, there was a bit of grousing over the fact that the Memphis Grizzlies would NOT be playing on Martin Luther King Day — despite having launched an MLK celebration that has now been adopted by the whole league. Seems weird.

Upon further thought, this current arrangement is much better, methinks. First of all, Dr. King was born on Jan. 15, 1929 — so the MLK matchup against the Chicago Bulls actually occurs ON Martin Luther King’s birthday. And on top of that, it will be the marquee game at 8 p.m. on ESPN — a nice dessert after a Sunday of NFL Playoff action. And I think it’ll give the team more shine than the midday matinee they usually play.

As usual though, the weekend is about much more than basketball. In conjunction with the National Civil Rights Museum, the team will present Sports Legacy Awards to former NBA stars Grant Hill and Steve Smith as well as former WNBA star Lisa Leslie. There’s also a symposium and a 3-on-3 tournament. That’s not even including Vince Carter’s participation in a Youth Summit at Grizzlies Prep earlier this week.

Finally, for the first time ever, the Grizzlies will trot out in those sleeved “T-Shirtzees” that have been cropping up all over the league. I’ll go out on a limb and say that unlike other teams’ versions, these jerseys are infused with reverence. The sea-foam coloring and the piping both pay homage to the Lorraine Motel, and the front of the jersey has a wreath to match the one on Room 306, where Dr. King spent his last night on Earth.

So what will the Grizzlies be doing on the actual MLK holiday? Well, while the rest of the league is playing, The team will provide, prepare and serve a holiday meal to over 200 homeless and families in need through a partnership with Memphis Union Mission, the largest homeless shelter in the city.

I’ll get into my projections about the MLK game and more in just a few, but just as we shouldn’t take Dr. King’s vision for granted, we should also appreciate that we have a major league team that celebrates his life and pays tribute to it — both on the court and off.

Halfway home

With the Grizzlies XXX-XXX (win/loss) to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Grizzlies played their 41st game of the season. Halfway through the season, what do we know about the home team? I’ll see if I can break it down right quick.

At XX-XX, the Grizzlies are on a pace to finish with 50 wins. Barring injury, if the team does what they historically do, they’ll play close to .650 ball from now to the Playoffs, where I believe they can leapfrog Houston and/or the Los Angele Clippers to secure home court in the first round.