New-look Grizzlies target long-term success and support

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After nearly a decade of Grit and Grind, the new-look Memphis Grizzlies are at FedExForum on Friday with a home opener against the Chicago Bulls.

Ten Grizzlies played double-digit minutes in their season opener in Miami, and five of those 10 will be playing their first regular season game Friday night at FedExForum.

That leads to the question: Will fans support this new version of their team, or will attendance continue to decline for the rebuild on Beale Street?

The Grizzlies will be the first to admit, their goal is not necessarily to win as many games as possible this season.

Armed with the 7th-youngest opening day roster in the league, with an average age of about 24 years old, most team goals center around individual improvements.

“Obviously, we are young,” said rookie Brandon Clarke, who was picked 21st overall in this year’s NBA Draft. “It’ll be a bit tougher playing against the older teams, but with that being said, we just kind of want to get better every game, and that’s our main focus.”

“At the end of the day, it’s playing basketball,” Grizzlies’ No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant said. “Watching film or whatever we got to do, just to see what we can get better at. I feel like everybody’s smart enough and can figure out what we need to do to get better.”

With seven straight playoff appearances from 2011 to 2017, the Grizzlies had their highest attendance average in franchise history in 2015, with more than 17,300 fans per game. But attendance has dipped every year since with the Grizzlies clocking in at just under 15,600 fans per game last season at 86% capacity, their lowest since 2011.

First-year head coach Taylor Jenkins said although the wins won’t pile up right now, they’re using a long-term approach.

“Who knows what the results will be over the course of the season, but are we making the strides that we know will carry us on year after year to have that sustainable success that we talk about,” Jenkins said.

Even if they take some lumps, the Grizz are projected to have one of the most talented, exciting young teams in the league. Their rookies are hopeful Grizz Nation will give them a warm welcome in the home opener.

“Hopefully them being loud; them really, really happy to see us play,” Clarke said. “It’s my first NBA game playing here, so I’m really looking forward to that.”

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. against the Chicago Bulls.

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