Grizzlies 7th in ESPN’s first NBA Power Rankings

ESPN’s Marc Stein has released his first edition of the 2015-16 NBA power rankings and the Memphis Grizzlies check in at No. 7, just behind the Houston Rockets and just ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Not surprisingly, the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors are No. 1. The reigning Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who help the Grizzlies open the season Oct. 28 at FedExForum, are No. 2. The San Antonio Spurs, whom Stein says “won the summer” with their moves, are third. From Nos. 2-8, it’s all the Wild, Wild West. The L.A. Clippers are 4, the OKC Thunder 5, and then the Rockets, Grizz and Pelicans.

Stein writes: “The Grizz are still waiting on the trade out of the West they dream about. They still need more shooting too. But the deals for uber-athletic Brandan Wright (to complement Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph) and Matt Barnes (who was seemingly born to grit ‘n’ grind) look like sneaky-good moves to keep Memphis in the elite.”

– Don Wade

AutoZone honored for commitment to the arts

Congratulations are in order to Memphis-based AutoZone, which the organization Americans for the Arts is honoring next month at its annual awards gala as being among 10 U.S. companies honored for their “exceptional commitment to the arts.”

The honor will be formally bestowed at a bash in New York City on October 6.

Reasons cited by the organization for its inclusion of AutoZone are things like the company’s founder and former CEO in 2004 spearheading an endowment campaign that raised $27.2 million for the arts in Memphis. AutoZone, according to the organization, also commissioned Opera Memphis to create two iterations of “AutoZone: The Opera” for the company’s national conferences in 2013 and 2014.

AutoZone was nominated for the honor from Americans for the Arts by ArtsMemphis.

On the Josh Pastner Q&A

Josh Pastner isn’t going to budge on certain things. It’s his greatest strength and most pronounced weakness.

That’s one takeaway from a Q & A with the Memphis Tigers head coach that you can read in its entirety here.

Pastner speaks on many subjects: from Austin Nichols’ transfer to his thoughts about how he is sometimes portrayed in the local media.

He responds to Tiger Nation’s loud displeasure over the university’s initial plan to honor John Calipari, and talks about being compared to Calipari’s best four years at Memphis.

Pastner also recalls the unique way in which he was hired and says he will always take the positive view on things, even though he says he has sometimes been “burned” by doing so.

You can also read shorter versions of in the interview in the print copy of The Daily News and the weekly Memphis News.

– Don Wade

Memphis releases 2015-16 basketball schedule

The University of Memphis basketball team face 11 opponents that played in the 2015 postseason and will play Ole Miss for the first time since meeting in the 2010 NIT and 2006 regular season.
uofmlogoThe Rebels come to FedExForum Dec. 18; it is one of seven home December games. The Tigers play 11 of the first 12 games at home, with a Nov. 27 neutral site game vs. Ohio State.
Memphis opens with a Nov. 6 exhibition game against LeMoyne-Owen. The season opener is at home vs. Southern Miss, and three days later Oklahoma’s Sooners come to FedExForum. Oklahoma could be a preseason Top 10 team.
Other opponents listed in early preseason rankings include American Athletic Conference foes SMU, Connecticut and Cincinnati. The Tigers play the Huskies and Bearcats at FedExForum on Feb. 4 and 6, respectively.
The AAC postseason tournament will be March 10-13 in Orlando, Fla.

Here’s the entire schedule, including which network(s) will televise each game.

– Don Wade

Memphis Football Players Suspended for BYU Brawl

When last we saw the University of Memphis football team in action they were winning the Miami Beach Bowl and then fighting on the field afterward with Brigham Young University players.

It was an ugly scene, with plenty of blame to go around though BYU apparently isn’t going to hand out any real punishment until after playing at Nebraska in the first game of the season. Convenient.

The Tigers open this Saturday at home against Missouri State (not exactly Nebraska), but several players will miss time.

Memphis head coach Justin Fuente announced at his weekly press luncheon on Monday, Aug. 31, that linebacker Leonard Pegues would miss the Missouri State game and the first half of the Sept. 12 game at Kansas. Defensive lineman Isadore Outing also will miss the Missouri State game.

Four players will miss the first half of the Missouri State game: offensive linemen Nick Thomas, Michael Stannard and Trevon Tate, and cornerback Chauncey Lanier. Linebacker Noah Robinson had to fulfill additional requirements but was not suspended. Combined, the affected players also did more than 300 hours of community service, according to Fuente.

The suspensions were determined in coordination with the American Athletic Conference.

“This was not an incident that I was proud of or we were proud of,” Fuente said in announcing the punishments. “Our kids have done a great job of owning it, standing up to it, understanding that it’s not what we represent.”

– Don Wade