Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Udoka, Brooks, Eason, Ryan

The injuries that have short-circuited the Grizzlies‘ season are providing more minutes for their young players and giving management a chance to evaluate them for the future, writes Michael Wallace of Grind City Media. With Ja Morant out for the rest of the season and Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart not expected back until late February, Memphis is relying on some unfamiliar names in an effort to remain competitive.

“It’s an opportunity for us young guys to develop and to try to win games, too,” said second-year power forward David Roddy. “It’s something we’re going to rely on in years to come, these pivotal games and this pivotal point in the season for our development. Just make it simple. Share the ball as much as we can, attack the rim and the paint. Be calm, relax and have fun.”

Among those getting an opportunity is 19-year-old rookie G.G. Jackson, who started the season in the G League but recently became the second-youngest player in league history with back-to-back 20-point games. Coach Taylor Jenkins said he’s still determining the best way to use the 6’9″ Jackson, who’s versatile enough to handle several positions.

“Figuring out what position he’ll play will come in time,” Jenkins said. “We want to continue to challenge him to be a better defender and rebounder. But the fact he’s super coachable, loves the game and wants to get better each day, I’m excited to see what transpires moving forward.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets held their first practice session of 2024 on Friday as they try to fix the defensive issues that led to a 1-5 road trip, per Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle. Coach Ime Udoka emphasized to his players that they need to concentrate on what worked earlier this season. “With a younger team, you want to keep giving them reminders of what made us successful early, and the chance to get through and walk through some things and bang around a little bit, it was good for us,” Udoka said. “It felt just normal to what we were doing earlier and that’s why we had the success.” 
  • Dillon Brooks and Tari Eason weren’t available for Friday’s practice, Lerner adds, and while Brooks is playing tonight against Utah, the Rockets will have to survive a while longer without Eason, who is missing his 10th straight game. “No setback,” Udoka said. “He just is on the timeline where we’re giving him the time to operate and try to get healthy. And you know, the pain tolerance is a thing. Like I said, he was playing through some pain and we want to make sure that’s gone before he comes back. So an extended amount of time is what has been diagnosed for him.” 
  • Pelicans forward Matt Ryan said he feels “92%” recovered after undergoing elbow surgery last month, tweets Will Guillory of The Athletic. Ryan adds that his shot feels fine and he’s working toward his return.
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