Southwest Notes: Z. Williams, Adams, Mavs, Vassell

Following a promising rookie season in 2021/22, Ziaire Williams battled injuries and was limited to just 37 games in ’22/23 — and he was inconsistent when he did play, with his shooting percentages dropping across the board. That down year would seemingly make him a long shot to crack the Grizzlies‘ starting five this fall, but he’s making a case for that open lineup spot with his defensive play in training camp, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“I talked to him after practice about how he’s doing a great job in situations using his length, using his mobility,” head coach Taylor Jenkins said earlier this week. “His attention to detail has been spot-on right now defensively.”

According to Cole, making an All-Defensive team and being named Most Improved Player are among Williams’ lofty goals for the season. While those accolades may ultimately prove out of reach, he’s determined to avoid a repeat of last season, telling reporters that he worked hard this summer and is now stronger and weighs more than at any other time in his playing career.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Coming off a right knee injury, Grizzlies center Steven Adams was a full participant in scrimmages on Thursday and showed no ill effects of his long recovery process, per Cole of The Commercial Appeal. “He’s looked great,” teammate Luke Kennard said. “He’s done everything. Every drill, all the scrimmages and he’s been dominant down low. He looks good to me.”
  • Although Jason Kidd has trended to trust veterans over young players in the past, Tim Cato of The Athletic believes the Mavericks‘ head coach may have a longer leash with Dereck Lively II and Olivier-Maxence Prosper, two defensive-minded rookies who will know not to try to do too much on offense.
  • Devin Vassell isn’t a perfect player, but based on the improvements he has made since entering the league and the rising NBA salary cap, he’s worth the five-year, $135MM+ contract extension the Spurs signed him to this week, says Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. As Vecenie points out, by the end of the deal, Vecenie should be earning approximately 15% of the cap, which is about what players like Myles Turner, Bruce Brown, and Mikal Bridges are currently making.
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