Southwest Notes: Jones, Chandler, Luka, Mavs, Spurs

With Ja Morant sidelined on Monday due to left ankle soreness, Tyus Jones showed why the Grizzlies made him the NBA’s highest-paid backup point guard this past summer, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Inserted into the starting lineup, Jones responded by scoring 28 points and dishing out 10 assists en route to an impressive Memphis win over Miami.

While we could quibble over whether Jones is technically the NBA’s highest-paid backup point guard (Russell Westbrook is coming off the bench in Los Angeles while earning more than three times as much), the Grizzlies point guard is perhaps the league’s highest-paid point guard who signed his contract expecting to be a backup — even if he doesn’t think of himself that way.

“I feel like I view myself as a starter in this league,” Jones said. “I feel like I am a starter in this league. I just come off the bench, and I have no shame in that. I love being in Memphis, and I take pride in my role.”

Morant’s absence and Jones’ promotion gave Grizzlies rookie Kennedy Chandler the rare chance to play a major role off the bench, and he logged a season-high 26 minutes in the win over the Heat. As Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details, Chandler has taken advantage this season of the opportunity to lean from the two veteran point guards ahead of him on the depth chart, but admits he has had to adjust to not playing regularly.

“It’s hard. It’s the first time I’ve ever dealt with this. My whole entire life I’ve played 30 minutes (a game),” Chandler said. “This is a business, it’s a growing up moment for me to just keep my mind right.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd recognizes that the workload Luka Doncic has handled so far this season isn’t sustainable, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Doncic ranks first in the West with a 37.9% usage rate and is second in the conference in minutes per game (36.8). “For 82 games, it’s no way that he can play at this level, the usage is just way too high. No one can. You know, the things that we ask him to do on the offensive end and then asked him to defend on the other end. It’s a lot,” Kidd said, noting that other players will have to step up for Dallas.
  • Now a member of the Wizards, former Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis is willing to admit in a conversation with Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports that he “just wasn’t the right guy” to be Doncic’s co-star. “On paper, it would be the perfect fit, but it just didn’t mesh the way that we wanted to,” Porzingis said. “We just did not mesh together well. Sometimes it’s like that in the workplace, you know? It just didn’t work out the way you expected.”
  • The Spurs are doing a ton of homework to prepare for the possibility of landing Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 draft, including considering how their current players might mesh with him, according to LJ Ellis of The Spurs won’t have more than a 14% chance of winning the No. 1 pick in next year’s lottery, but it seems likely they’ll be among the top contenders for Wembanyama — San Antonio is currently just 6-18, dead last in the West.
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