Blazers-Grizzlies: A Very Special Preview

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Several divergent strains are combining to make this night and this game important. Dave runs them down right here.

The Memphis Grizzlies visit the Rose Garden tonight in a 7:00 p.m. Pacific game telecast on KGW TV. You'll remember the Grizzlies from last week's preview. They're that little team who has sandwiched a single loss to the Miami Heat between 12 wins. That's right, 12. Now granted, the Brooklyn Nets were by far the toughest of the lot but still, a dozen victories in 13 games is nothing to sneeze at...as the Blazers, losers of their last effort against the lowly New Orleans Hornets, know well.

Things you need to know:

1. Zach Randolph and Darrell Arthur still haven't returned from injury but both are on the brink of a comeback and either could play tonight and/or in Memphis' game tomorrow against the Clippers. Ed Davis has been doing fine filling in but they're going to want more bodies active in a back-to-back situation.

2. The Blazers held a second-half lead in their loss to Memphis 6 days ago. It's a revenge game for Portland.

3. Memphis still has that killer defense and still hasn't allowed an opponent to score 100 in their last 13 games save for a 108-101 victory over the Kings a month ago today.

Now here's what else you need to know.

Thanks to your generosity we're in the high 300's as far as tickets sold for Blazer's Edge Night, our annual event where members of this community band together to send underprivileged kids to a Portland Trail Blazers game. That's a great number but our requests are going to exceed that amount. The deadline for ticket purchases is March 25th and we need a couple hundred more tickets by then.

In the vast majority of cases this will be the only game these kids see this year. For many of them it's the only game they've ever seen in person or will see for a long while. Principals, teachers, counselors, youth workers write and tell us stories of kids who don't have the same chances as everyone else. Their worlds are small, their words few, their obstacles high. "Normal" for them is something most of us can't imagine. It certainly doesn't include our "normal" of, "Hey, want to see a game tonight?" and "Well sure, I'll just grab the wallet and let's go!"

Seriously, we've heard stories from teachers who have spent a hundred days in the classroom with students who have never raised a hand or spoken more than four words at once. We've heard stories from coaches who are scrambling to buy shoes and socks for kids so they can have a chance to play on the court. We've heard stories from counselors of kids who literally never dare to walk outside of a straight, three-block line to school and a straight, three-block line home. We've heard from directors of services for special-needs kids who fall through the cracks of the system. We've even had letters from regular folks saying things like, "My neighbor just took in 7 foster kids and they're scraping by to eat, let alone get out of the house."

These people don't know us. They don't expect to hear "yes". Most of them write timidly, saying, "I have a class of 25 kids in need and I can think of 3 for whom this would really, really make a difference. I don't know if you can help us but..."

You know what we say? Here are 25 tickets. And here are 4 more for you and anybody who can chaperon or drive. Bring them all, and you come too. This is your night.

Then on that night, as we've said before, those kids and their chaperons come into the arena not believing their eyes. They're here. They're free. They're in awe. But they're alive. And so is the whole upper bowl...alive with cheering, dancing, sign-toting kids. Oh yeah, they have signs. This wasn't just a single-night event. For lots of them it became a class project as soon as they found out they were going. Art becomes making huge poster boards, English and grammar filling them correctly. Math morphs into figuring out game statistics. Hands are shooting up, advancing theories, asking questions. Conversation start. Multiple times we've seen teachers walk into the Rose Garden slack-jawed because they've never heard their kids discuss, debate, and just laugh as much as they did on the MAX ride there. They are kids again. This one night made that possible in a way that never could have been duplicated in the classroom.

How does this all happen? It's simple. We give freely, asking nothing in return, just hoping to share some of the joy that we've had in following this team...growing the next generation of fans. Most of us had some kind of sports-transformation moment when we were kids, right? (You can share yours below if you wish.) We're just opening that opportunity to kids who might not otherwise get one.

And when I say we give freely I mean it literally. The number of corporate sponsors backing this effort? Zero. Hundreds and hundreds of tickets--opportunities for these children--come from readers like you. Tickets are bought by ones and twos, tens and twenties. Little by little the meter fills up until it overflows into that wonderful night. It's like Trail Blazers Christmas for hundreds of people and we all get to be Blazer Santa.

But as I said, the deadline is the 25th. Today is the 12th. And we've hundreds of tickets to go. This is where we need you.

Tickets are $13 each. Nobody's going to step in and buy 300 at once. But no matter who you are, could you find enough to send one kid to the game? Most of us burn through ten bucks like sneezing and this is only $3 more. If you're a college student and somebody asks you to go drinking this weekend, could you say, "I'm gonna stay in and watch a movie this week and send a kid to a game"? Could you look at your spouse and say, "How about mac and cheese tonight instead of going out--just once--to send a couple kids to a Blazers game"? Could your kids scrape up that much in a week? If you're salaried, how much is 5 or 10 tickets out of your pay?

My money's where my mouth is too. I've already committed to 15 tickets and I'm about to commit to more. I'm not rich by any means...not even close. But I'm a lot richer when I see those young faces come into that arena and know that we gave that to them without expectation or charge.

It's easier to give this year than it has ever been. You can do it online or by phone directly with the Blazers. Here's the info:

What: The Blazers-Warriors game on April 17th

Who: Underprivileged kids from all around the area: schools, churches, community organizations.

Cost: $13 per ticket.

How:

Donate tickets online at http://tickets.trailblazers.com/deals Password: BlazersEdge

[Update: As of 1:30 p.m. Pacific the online site is down due to heavy traffic. I'd suggest calling Lisa Swan to donate as described in the next sentence.]

If you want to give a different amount like $10 or $100 or you want to buy more tickets than the online system will permit, contact Lisa Swan at 503.963.3966

So now...in last week's GameDay Thread I said that I'd donate 10 tickets myself if the Blazers beat the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio. I figured that this would give us even more reason to root for the victory and would throw even more inspiration out into the universe to ensure that victory. The Blazers did win in historical fashion...by 30 points. See how that worked?

So let's do this again, folks. If the Blazers win tonight I will add 5 more tickets to my total and if they score over 100 against that tough Memphis defense in the process I will make it 10 more...putting me on the hook for a total of 25 tickets.

But this isn't going to work if I'm alone. The universe won't listen to me. You know it'll listen to Blazer's Edge though. Join me. Use this GameThread to put up tickets if the Blazers win and then EVERYBODY root for that to happen! Seriously, when the score is 99-100 for Memphis and the Blazers have the ball with the last possession, how much are you going to root for that shot to fall if you know it will also send a few dozen more kids to that Warriors game? You'll have double the reasons to celebrate!

So let's make it happen. Let's turn the next two weeks into an amazing tour de force by us and the team!

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

P.S. Be sure and e-mail me with any questions you have about the event.

P.P.S. Grizzly Bear Blues talks Grizzlies with you.

Your Jersey Contest Form for this game.

Portland Trail Blazers tickets

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