When the NBA G League Memphis Hustle take the floor for the first time ever on Saturday night against the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Skyforce at the Landers Center, the first step in Southaven and DeSoto County becoming that league’s version of Hoop City will have been taken.
The Hustle is the developmental league affiliate of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, part of a league expansion to 26 teams that will play a 50-game schedule from November through March, to be followed by playoffs, much like its parent franchise has during its season.
But, as the Hustle looks to win games on the Landers Center floor, it also looks to win over fans in the DeSoto County area, much like the Grizzlies have done throughout Memphis and the Mid-South.
Jason Wexler, Grizzlies’ Director of Business Operations, told a recent Southaven Chamber of Commerce luncheon the Hustle plan to be, in his words, “super engaged” in the community.
“It’s part of our culture and it’s part of who we are,” Wexler said. “We will do community involvement, community work and it’s not just about photo ops. We look for measurable results.”
Wexler noted that the Grizzlies are one of four professional sports teams that were nominated for the ESPN Sports Humanitarian Award and they were the only NBA team nominated, “so we take it seriously and we plan on bringing that to the Hustle and to Southaven,” he added.
In talking about what the team will bring to DeSoto County and North Mississippi, officials have continually pushed its family-friendly ticket prices and game atmosphere. Home games will have the feel of watching the Grizzlies play at FedExForum without the high price tag.
“It is a very family-friendly price point,” Wexler said. “The pricing is intended to be really family friendly. With the Grizzlies there is one price point that everybody understands and for the G League there is another price point. It is geared toward a family-friendly atmosphere.”
That’s not to say the cheap ticket prices will bring a cheap talent level. Wexler said the players taking the floor reflect some of the best basketball talent around, just needing a bit more developing before they hit the NBA floor.
“These are names you will recognize, these are players you will know,” said Wexler. “This is an incredibly high level of talent. Talent matters in the NBA and we work hard to cultivate it and develop it.”
Grizzlies officials have also been high on the Landers Center as the Hustle’s home, as it will make the NBA-type atmosphere easier to accomplish for the franchise.
“The Landers Center is a fantastic facility,” Wexler said. “When we were looking at where to house the Memphis Hustle in the Mid-South region, this facility stood out far and away. It’s a great place to have the team and we think they can carry on the tradition we have established at FedExForum down here for Hustle games.”
Single-game ticket prices will start as low as $10 per game and season tickets will be as low as $8 per game.
Tip off Saturday for the team’s inaugural season opener will be at 7 p.m. at the Landers Center.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.