“NBA Rivals Week.”
It is scheduled to take place at the end of January and will include 11 competitive matches. These showdowns feature classic competitions such as the Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers. It will also see more recent competitions such as the Toronto Raptors against the Golden State Warriors and the Celtics against the Miami Heat.
The NBA has scheduled last year’s first-round Minnesota Timberwolves game, the Memphis Grizzlies, at Rivals Week. Longtime Wolves fans may not look back on the history of the league and see these two franchises as natural rivals. However, it is an excellent idea by the league to put these two teams against each other. It will begin to shape the story of a new and exciting rivalry between these two teams.
Memphis and Minnesota feature some of the league’s best young talent: Ja Morant, Anthony Edwards, Karl Anthony Towns, Garen Jackson Jr., and Desmond Payne – just to name a few. Both teams also have some great player matches in their rotation which could lead to a very interesting and interesting rivalry in the upcoming seasons. Grizzlies and Wolves have an exciting future to look forward to. Each team’s history contains interesting similarities that add more nuances to this emerging rivalry.
Timberwolves and Grizzlies entered the league around the same time. Wolves played their first game in 1989 and struggled during their early years as a franchise, winning no more than 29 games in their first seven seasons. The Grizzlies were initially based in Vancouver and first played in 1995. They were one of the two Canadian expansion franchises, along with the Raptors, to join the NBA that year.
Like Wolves, the Grizzlies also struggled at the start, winning no more than 19 games in each of their first four seasons. The impact of Vancouver’s uncompetitiveness on profitability and attendance rates. In 2001, ownership transferred the franchise to Memphis.
However, the Wolves and the Grizzlies eventually turned things around by forging the stars forward.
In 1995, the Timberwolves acquired Kevin Garnett, the greatest player in franchise history, with the fifth pick. Garnett led the Wolves to their first playoff berth in 1997 and their first winning season in 1998. While Garnett couldn’t take the Wolves further than the Conference Finals, it was the most successful period in time for the Wolves Series.
Similarly, the Grizzlies’ fortune shifted when forward Pau Gasol took over for third place in the 2001 draft. Gasol became Memphis’ first star player. In the 2003-04 season, Gasol helped lead the Grizzlies to a 50-win season and their first playoff berth in franchise history. However, Memphis has not been able to get past the first round in three consecutive seasons with Gasol. In 2008, they swapped it with the Los Angeles Lakers. In the end, neither Garnett nor Gasol could carry either team to an appearance in the Finals. However, they similarly constituted a transformation of both franchises.
The two teams will face each other four times during the upcoming regular season. Wolves are 49-48 at all times against the Grizzlies, so the two teams have met fairly competitively against each other thus far.
Memphis had even more success in 2010. The Grizzlies were always in the playoffs from 2012 to 2016 during the ‘Grindhouse’ era, and the Wolves reached the playoffs only once during this decade, after a 14-year drought, in 2018 with a team centered around Jimmy Butler and a young Karl Anthony town.
The trajectories of these two franchises were very similar in their respective histories. It thus becomes all the more compelling that these two teams now appear to be heading toward an ongoing battle in the Western Conference.
Many fans still remember the sharp and competitive first-round confrontation between these two teams in last year’s qualifiers. Almost every game in the series featured frantic action with a big comeback and small shots. The skills of the stars of both teams, especially Morant and Edwards, were fully displayed and made for a highly entertaining series. While the wolves couldn’t get over the annoyance, they pushed the talented and successful Grizzlies team to their limits.
Entering the 2022-23 season, both teams are only aiming to be better than last year. Minnesota has made big moves off the season, most notably trading for Rudy Gobert. The Grizzlies kept most of their starting players, helping them win record 56 games last season. Therefore, it is very likely that both teams will compete for some top seed in the Western Conference.
From their similar franchise history to their current stellar duels between Ja and Ant, KAT and Jackson, and even the perfect mascot battle between two of the most dangerous creatures of the wildlife, these two teams seemed almost destined to become a major rivalry.