In less than a month, the Memphis Hustle will start its inaugural NBA G League season at the Landers Center in Southaven.
Last weekend, the team that Hustle players are striving to be a part of took to the Hustle’s home court in an open scrimmage for fans.
More than 3,000 fans of the Memphis Grizzlies and, hopefully, future fans of the Hustle, came out to watch this year’s edition of the NBA team take to the floor for the squad’s annual open scrimmage. It was a first for the Landers Center to host the event.
With the exception of Marc Gasol, being held out while nursing an ankle injury that also kept him out of the team’s preseason games against Orlando and Philadelphia this week, the Grizzlies’ training camp roster went through a live scrimmage to show their skills.
Afterward, coach David Fizdale felt the players enjoyed playing for the Southaven fans.
“The cool part about this team is that they take it serious that they put a good product on the floor,” Fizdale said. “We played hard and that was the fun part about it.”
In addition to the open scrimmage, fans were able to check out the view from the seats and snap up any available season tickets for the Hustle season coming up.
Broadcaster Pete Pranica, who served as public address announcer for the scrimmage, believes DeSoto County now has an even closer connection with itself and the Grizzlies in the addition of the Hustle.
“I think Southaven wins with great family entertainment and quality basketball,” Pranica said. “People don’t understand if they haven’t been exposed to it just how good this is. There are guys who have played in the NBA and who are on the cusp of getting into the NBA and some guys who are trying to resuscitate their careers after being away for awhile. It’s tremendous to have a G League affiliate this close.”
Last year, the Grizzlies were affiliated with the Iowa Energy team, but last minute call ups between Memphis and Des Moines, Iowa became travel challenges and were difficult.
In response, the Grizzlies purchased an expansion franchise in the G League and located it in Southaven. The Minnesota Timberwolves now own the Iowa franchise, which remains in Des Moines.
“We’re really lucky to have that connection being this close to our G League team,” Fizdale said. “Most teams don’t have this kind of setup. Part of that is being a part of a new community, having our team be a part of this community. It was cool to see the fans come out and I think our guys really enjoyed it.”
Pranica said the players to hit the Landers Center floor next month will be players who fans can in the future will say, “I remember when this guy played for the Hustle.”
“When people go to summer league games they go so they can see players who will be in the NBA some day,” Pranica said. “That’s what they’re going to have here at the Landers Center.”
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.