Grizz, down 2 starters, set to open season against young Wolves - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Grizz, down 2 starters, set to open season against young Wolves

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

Grizz fans, this is the day you’ve been waiting for!

Memphis is set to open their 2016-17 season at FedExForum on Wednesday night.

The Grizz will open their season against the upstart Timberwolves, who are finally expected to compete in the West after years of irrelevancy.

New head coach David Fizdale has been waiting patiently for opening night. The night will be special for him; his mother surprised him Tuesday night by making the trip to Memphis to see her son coach.

"I think I got it out of the way, emotionally. My mom surprised me last night at about 9:30. That was a big time surprise," Fizdale said.

The two teams will tip off with much different injury reports. While Minnesota’s roster is clean of injuries to start the season, it appears last year’s injury-plagued Grizzlies team has carried over.

The newest Grizzlies signee, forward Chandler Parsons, has been ruled out for the season opener. Parsons is battling a knee injury and is not expected to miss significant time, but the Grizz will likely ease him into the lineup, starting by withholding him from game 1.

Jarell Martin and Troy Daniels both have uncertain statuses going into the game with nagging injuries, and Brandan Wright is out again after missing a huge portion of last season.

The heart of the Grit N’ Grind, Tony Allen, will also miss the opener. Allen has been dealing with a knee injury that limited him in the preseason and has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game.

Despite all this, Grizz fans will be excited to see team leaders Marc Gasol and Mike Conley back on the court. Both missed significant time in 2015-16 and did not finish the season or suit up for the playoffs. The duo has been shooting lights out in the preseason and look to adjust their games to complement new head coach David Fizdale’s style.

Another storyline to watch will be Zach Randolph’s transition to a bench role. Z-Bo expressed disappointment in the new, diminished role, but said he is willing to do what is best for the team. He and coach Fizdale have discussed a goal of winning NBA’s 6th Man of the Year.

Memphis will match up against the young and hungry Timberwolves. Minnesota has not made the playoffs in over a decade, but appear to be ready to make a huge leap after last year’s 29-win performance.

Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns will look to give former Defensive Player of the Year Gasol fits on offense, while the Grizz will be tasked with the tough role of trying to stop former number 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins without their top defender in Allen.

"It's a lot of fun, you know, getting a chance to play against one of the best bigs in the league," Towns said of Gasol. "You know, I've always said I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, and I just know when Marc Gasol's on the list, you got to step up your game to another level."

The Wolves have a plethora of young talent, with players like Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, and Gorgui Dieng ready to make an impact.

"They're very talented," Conley said. "Each year, you say that they're just missing one piece, and it seems like they added that piece every year. They have a team; they have a great coaching staff.

Memphis has the clear advantage in experience, and will look to give the young pack a gritty battle at the Grindhouse.

Coach Fiz expected a pumped crowd.

"It's going to be rocking tonight," he said. "I think it's going to be rocking. I sat in the lobby; I gave out 500 tickets to folks. They were lined up around the corner. It was unbelievable."

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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