Western Notes: George, Holmgren, Ingram, Kennard

Keyonte George became a big part of opponents’ game plans as the season wore on, and Jazz CEO Danny Ainge feels the young guard will benefit from that experience, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune relays.

“He had some ups and downs, and I kind of liked that he had those ups and downs,” Ainge said. “I kind of liked the fact that the scouting report — the most important person to stop on our entire team many nights the second half of the year was him. So the best defender was guarding him, the team defensive schemes were to stop him, and so he had to face some of that.”

Ainge believes George made bigger strides than another of the Jazz’s rookies this season, Taylor Hendricks.

“He’s just a little further behind than Keyonte,” Ainge said of Hendricks. “His shooting was getting better and better. He’s working a lot on his shooting. His arc of his shots has been a little bit flat. But he shot a pretty good percentage. That’s a big step for him, but he’s got to get a lot better defensively.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Thunder rolled into the playoffs as a No. 1 seed despite being one of the league’s youngest teams. Center Chet Holmgren, the likely runner-up in the Rookie of the Year, said his team must take an even-keeled approach to the postseason. “The playoffs are a time of huge swings,” Holmgren told Darnell Marberry of The Athletic. “And you can’t let the swing of things allow your emotions to run wild in one direction or the other, good or bad. If you win one game, the series isn’t over. If you lose one game, the series isn’t over. So it doesn’t matter what fashion you lose or win with. A buzzer-beater, a blowout, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to get ready for the next game because no team’s going to roll over and give you anything.”
  • With Zion Williamson sidelined by a hamstring injury, the Pelicans will need big performances from Brandon Ingram to get out of the first round, Rod Walker of the New Orleans Times Picayune opines in a subscriber-only story. Ingram had 24 points, six rebounds and six assists in New Orleans win over Sacramento on Friday. “He is a leader for us and we follow his lead,” forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “Every single game, I tell him to be the best player on the court and (Friday) I believe he was the best player on the court.”
  • The Grizzlies have a $14.8MM option on Luke Kennard‘s contract for next season and Keith Smith of Spotrac believes they’ll pick it up, even though it would push them closer to the second tax apron. Smith, previewing the Grizzlies’ offseason, notes that Kennard is a solid backup wing due to his shooting ability and play-making.
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