And Away We Go

The wait is over, and on Wednesday night the Wine & Gold tip off the 2021-22 campaign at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.

Tonight’s contest marks the debut of Evan Mobley, the first time Isaac Okoro will play in front of a full house and the initial look at a re-tooled Cavaliers squad, including key offseason acquisitions, Lauri Markkanen and Ricky Rubio.

Mobley was very good in the preseason, posting the team’s lone double-double (15pts, 10reb vs. CHI) while leading Cleveland in rebounding and blocks. Collin Sexton comes into his fourth season after leading the team in scoring during the previous two. Darius Garland had a prolific month of April to camp a strong sophomore season. Jarrett Allen averaged a double-double in 2020-21 and signed a deal to remain in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. And Isaac Okoro, who started a team-best 67 games last year, notched double-figure scoring in 12 of his last 13 outings.

The Grizzlies are coming off a postseason berth last year, and they come into this season with a healthy Jaren Jackson Jr., the dynamic former Spartan who missed the first 56 games of 2020-21.

Jackson – and his new frontcourt mate, Steven Adams – will give Cleveland’s new frontline all they can handle on Wednesday night. And of course, the backcourt will have to tangle with Ja Morant, coming off a dynamic sophomore season in which he led Memphis in scoring (19.1ppg) and was in the league’s top 10 in assists (7.2apg).

Tonight’s meeting is the first of three games in four nights – with the Cavs returning to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for the home opener against Charlotte on Friday night followed by a visit from the Hawks on Saturday. Cleveland hits the road for a five-game West Coast trip after the weekend back-to-back.


The two squads split their season series last year – with each team taking a game on the other’s home floor over a four-day stretch in early January. In Cleveland’s win at the GrindHouse, Isaac Okoro dunked home the game-deciding bucket with 10.6 seconds to play on a nice feed from Andre Drummond. Cedi Osman finished with 16 points and a team-high seven assists.

The Cavaliers lead the all-time series against Memphis, 31-18, with a 19-5 mark in Cleveland and a 12-13 mark just off Beale Street.

Jonas Valanciunas – now with the Pelicans – holds the all-time single-game rebounding mark in the series, grabbing 18 boards in Memphis two years ago. The Wine & Gold’s leader is the Wild Thing, Anderson Varejao, who snagged 22 boards (to go with 15 points, three assists, two steals and a block) in a loss back in 2012.


J.B. Bickerstaff returns to Memphis, where he coached for parts of two seasons in 2017-19, compiling a 48-97 mark for the rebuilding Grizzlies. One of Bickerstaff’s current Cavaliers assistant coaches, Greg Buckner, spent the final season of his 10-year career with Memphis and was on J.B.’s staff in 2017. Another current Cavs assistant, J.J. Outlaw, was an assistant coach/player development and advance scout during that time.

It seems like a long time ago, but remember that Kevin Love was originally drafted by Memphis – taken with the No. 5 overall pick and immediately shipped to Minnesota along with Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins and former Cavalier Mike Miller in exchange for O.J. Mayor, Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric and, yes, Greg Buckner.

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