Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, McCollum, Zion, Thompson

A practice led by the players preceded the Grizzlies‘ first home win of the season Wednesday night, writes Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. Reeling from injuries to several rotation members and the absence of Ja Morant amid his 25-game suspension, Memphis played one of its worst games of the season Sunday in a 22-point loss to Minnesota.

Marcus Smart and Derrick Rose both spoke out about the poor performance, and the result was a lengthy practice session that focused on fundamentals and communication. Head coach Taylor Jenkins was the only member of the coaching staff who spoke up during practice, as the players had to call out one another for mistakes.

“That was one of the hardest practices of my career,” Ziaire Williams said. “It was like training camp, for sure. When you’re three and whatever, sometimes you need those.”

Wednesday’s victory over Utah brought some optimism to the team for at least one night. Players were more aggressive from the start, chasing down loose balls and grabbing a season-high 51 rebounds. Despite their early-season struggles, the Grizzlies are only four games away from a play-in spot and Morant is just eight games away from returning.

“As I told them, don’t be satisfied,” Jenkins said. “This isn’t good enough. We got to be better moving forward. But this sets a tone.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum was able to play 28 minutes and score 20 points on Wednesday in his return after missing 12 games with a collapsed right lung, per Christian Clark of NOLA. McCollum talked to reporters about his recovery process, which included using an oxygen tank. “I felt like an old person,” McCollum said. “I needed oxygen for a while. I asked my wife, ‘Is this what it’s going to be like when I’m older? Pushing oxygen to the bathroom?’ I did that for four or five days and felt great in terms of my breathing. Then it was about ramping up.”
  • Pelicans star Zion Williamson spoke with Mark Medina of Sportsnaut about how he has been able to overcome his history of injuries and stay on the court this season. The team hasn’t used Williamson in any back-to-backs, but he has played in 15 out of 19 games so far. “A lot of recovery and a lot of extra things off the court in order to keep my body in great shape to lower the risk of injury,” Williamson said. “The training staff has been a big help with that, and setting up things away from basketball. I’m making the most of the technology and equipment that we have.”
  • Rockets rookie Amen Thompson is getting closer to returning from the ankle injury that has kept him out of action since November 1, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Thompson participated in non-contact drills on Sunday and is expected to join the team’s G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley before returning to the Rockets.
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