Brandon Clarke

Olympic Notes: Butler, Olynyk, Birch, Bjorkgren, Jokic, Australia

Jimmy Butler will not play for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Butler had an invite but he battled through a variety of ailments this season and had a short turnaround between seasons after Miami surprisingly reached the NBA Finals last summer.

We have more info on this year’s Olympics:

  • The Rockets’ Kelly Olynyk and Raptors’ Khem Birch are among the prominent players not listed among the 24 players Team Canada submitted to FIBA in advance of its Olympic qualifier, Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet tweets. They’re both unrestricted free agents. The Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke is also not on the preliminary list, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. The 24-man roster can be found here.
  • Nate Bjorkgren, who was let go by the Pacers after one season as head coach, will join Nick Nurse’s Team Canada staff, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Bjorkgren was one of Nurse’s top assistants before his stint with Indiana.
  • MVP Nikola Jokic won’t play for the Serbian team at the Olympic qualifier due to an exhausting NBA campaign, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Jokic told Serbian news agency Tanjug, “Simply, the condition of my body requires a longer absence from the court for recovery.” The Denver Post story asserts Jokic won’t play in the Olympics even if his national team qualifies, while an ESPN story says it’s unclear if Jokic would participate in Tokyo.
  • The Australian national team will play exhibitions against Team USA, Nigeria and Argentina in Las Vegas before departing for Tokyo, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets. The 19-man preliminary roster, which will be trimmed to 12, is expected to be loaded with NBA players, including Ben Simmons and Joe Ingles.

Grizzlies Notes: Offseason, Morant, Winslow

In the wake of the Grizzlies‘ elimination from the postseason, executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman vowed to “keep pushing forward” and expressed a “massive belief” in the team’s core, as Michael Wallace of Grind City Media writes.

[RELATED: Grizzlies Sign Zach Kleiman To Contract Extension]

Kleiman acknowledged that the team’s growth and progress toward contending for a title may not always be linear, but said he’s confident it’s headed in the right direction and that he believes players will want to be part of what the Grizzlies are putting together.

“The culture we’re building, the way we want to play, the personalities of Ja (Morant) and Jaren (Jackson Jr.), players are going to want to play with these guys,” Kleiman said. “We’re building an organization that’s going to compete at the highest level, have the best medical care, the best player development, no state income tax in Memphis, it’s an incredibly comfortable place to live. We’re building something here guys are going to want to continue to be a part of, and I believe something that players are going to be attracted to.”

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • While the Grizzlies need to continue upgrading the roster around him, Ja Morant‘s leadership and next developmental steps will be a crucial part of the team’s offseason, Wallace writes in a separate story for Grind City Media.
  • Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal weighs the pros and cons of bringing back Justise Winslow for the 2021/22 season. Memphis has until August 1 to make a decision on Winslow’s $13MM team option, though the team could technically re-sign him even after declining his option.
  • In the first part of a two-part series, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian ranks the Grizzlies’ players in order of their importance going forward, starting with the players who aren’t locks to be part of the team’s future. Herrington speculates that Memphis will pick up Winslow’s team option and suggests that if the club makes a major trade, there’s a good chance that at least one of Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman would be on the move.

14 NBA Players On Canada’s Preliminary Olympic Qualifying Roster

Team Canada has yet to secure a place in the men’s basketball event at the Tokyo Olympics, but the club should have a loaded roster as it looks to lock up a spot in a qualifying tournament next month.

Canada Basketball issued a press release today announcing its 21-player preliminary roster for the Olympic qualifier, and the group includes 14 players who finished the season on NBA contracts. Here’s the full list:

Of the seven players who didn’t play in the NBA this season, one (Bennett) is a former first overall pick, another (Nicholson) was also a first-round selection, and a third (Alexander) has NBA experience. Bell-Haynes has played in the G League, while Doornekamp, Ejim, and Nembhard all have extensive experience representing Canada in past international competitions.

Still, a few noteworthy names are missing from the list. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is recovering from a torn ACL and won’t be able to participate. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is also dealing with an injury, announcing on Instagram that rehabbing the plantar fasciitis in his right foot will prevent him from representing Team Canada.

Raptors big man Chris Boucher is a third notable omission. According to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link), Boucher is focused on rehabbing a knee sprain and wants to make sure he’s 100% healthy heading into 2021/22. He also has a somewhat uncertain contract situation — his $7MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed, though I’d be shocked if he’s not retained.

Even without Murray, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Boucher, Canada Basketball is in position to run out a roster stacked with NBA talent and led by former NBA Coach of the Year Nick Nurse.

While the final roster will depend in part on which players are available, none of the 21 players on the preliminary are on teams expected to still be alive for the conference finals. However, a club like Powell’s Mavericks or Barrett’s Knicks could surprise.

Team Canada will compete against Greece, China, Uruguay, Turkey, and the Czech Republic in a qualifying tournament in Victoria, British Columbia between June 29 and July 4. If the club wins that six-team qualifier, it will be part of the 12-team field in Tokyo and would be a legit contender for a medal.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Could Return On Wednesday

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. could make his season debut on Wednesday. He’s been upgraded to questionable on the team’s injury report for its game against the Clippers, the team’s PR department tweets.

Jackson suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during the summer and has spent the season rehabbing the injury after undergoing surgery in mid-August. He could provide a major boost to a team sitting in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

Last season, Jackson averaged 17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 1.6 BPG in 57 starts. The team exercised its option on his contract for next season prior to this season. He’ll make $9.18MM in 2021/22 and then head into a free agency, either restricted or unrestricted, in the summer of ’22 unless he signs a rookie scale extension prior to opening night next season.

In terms of this season, Jackson’s return could impact the playing time of Xavier Tillman, Brandon Clarke and Justise Winslow.

Jackson will be on a minutes restriction, according to Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“We’re not going to just throw (Jackson) into the fire and play a heavy load,” coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We’re going to be smart about his minutes and his integration, obviously trying to find the right combinations for him to be successful, for our team to be successful.”

NBA Announces 2020/21 Rising Stars Rosters

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the pared-down nature of the NBA’s 2021 All-Star weekend, a Rising Stars Game showcasing the league’s top rookies and sophomores won’t be played this year.

However, the league has still announced the rosters for the event, via NBA Top Shot, naming the 20 players who would have been selected to participate if the game was taking place. Here are those rosters:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

The 20-man group includes eight rookies and 11 sophomores. The 20th player, Porter, made the cut as a sophomore since he missed his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to an injury — this is technically his third year of NBA service.

Winslow To Make Grizzlies Debut Saturday

6:42pm: Winslow will be active for tonight’s game, the Grizzlies announced (via Twitter).


2:38pm: More than a year ago after being traded to the Grizzlies, Justise Winslow could make his Memphis debut on Saturday.

Winslow is listed as questionable against Phoenix on Saturday by the team’s PR department (Twitter link).

Winslow was part of the package the Grizzlies received from the Heat for Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder last February.

Winslow hasn’t played since last January 8, initially due to a hip injury. He was expected to return in March but the pandemic delayed his debut.

During the summer restart in Orlando, Winslow suffered a left hip displacement. He has been rehabbing from that injury during the first 25 games this season.

Winslow, the 10th pick of the 2015 draft, needs to reestablish himself, since he could be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The team holds a $13MM option on his contract for next season.

Coach Taylor Jenkins may not have much choice but to use him, since Kyle Anderson, Grayson Allen and Brandon Clarke are being rested in the second part of a back-to-back while starting shooting guard Dillon Brooks is sidelined by a right thigh injury. Anderson has emerged as the team’s starting power forward with Winslow sidelined.

Winslow, 24, has averaged 9.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 2.7 APG in 241 career games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Clarke, Mavericks, Richardson

While the Pelicans need more leadership from second-year forward Zion Williamson, the team still has no shortage of blame to go around for a poor 5-10 start to the season, William Guillory of The Athletic writes.

New Orleans sports an impress nucleus of Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and others, but the team’s overall fit remains in question. The club has two point guards (Ball and Eric Bledsoe) in its starting group, with another questionable offensive pairing in the frontcourt (Williamson and Steven Adams).

“We’ve just got to compete a little bit harder,” Bledsoe said. “It has nothing to do with talent or anything like that. When the games start to pile up, and your body starts to wear down, that’s when you’ve got to lock in the most.”

The question isn’t whether New Orleans has enough talent, but rather how the team uses its talent and whether a consistent effort will be given on both ends.

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division:

  • Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal explores how Grizzlies big man Brandon Clarke has thrived as a starter this season. Clarke, 24, has averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 29.3 minutes in the team’s first 13 games, starting in nine of those contests. “Last year, I would rather be in the sixth man role just because I was more comfortable with that but now I feel like that it’s what the team might need,” Clarke said about receiving a larger role. “If I can step up and be the player that I know I can be, I can come in and help us out with the first five.”
  • At least two of the Mavericks‘ players who tested positive for COVID-19 were “pretty sick,” Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News tweets. The team received four positive tests, with some of those players recovering quicker than others, according to Townsend.
  • Mavericks guard Josh Richardson could return to the lineup this week, Townsend notes in a different tweet. The most likely return order is Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber, Townsend reports, though head coach Rick Carlisle cautioned that everything remains fluid.

Grizzlies Exercise Options On Four Players

The Grizzlies have exercised contract options for the 2021/22 season on Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke and Grayson Allen, the team announced in a press release (via Twitter).

Morant, the second pick in the 2019 draft, had an outstanding first season, capturing Rookie of the Year honors and helping the Grizzlies reach the playoffs. He averaged 17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 7.3 assists in 67 games. Morant is part of the foundation for the future in Memphis, along with Jackson, the fourth overall pick in 2018, who averaged 17.4 points and 1.6 blocks per game last season.

Clarke set a rookie record in 2019/20 by shooting 61.8% from the floor. He posted a 12.1/5.9/1.4 line in 58 games, earning a spot on the All-Rookie team and finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Allen, who was acquired from the Jazz last summer, averaged 8.7 PPG in 38 games in his first season with the Grizzlies.

Morant’s third-year option for ’21/22 will be worth $9.6MM, while Clarke’s has a value of $2.7MM. The fourth-year options for Jackson and Allen will pay them $9.2MM and $4.1MM, respectively.

Ja Morant, Kendrick Nunn Headline All-Rookie Team

Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, who previously won the Rookie of the Year award, was the only player unanimously selected to this year’s All-Rookie First Team, the league announced in a press release.  A panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters selected the team.

Heat guard Kendrick Nunn collected the second-most First Team votes (98) and total points (197). Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke, Pelicans forward and top overall draft pick Zion Williamson, and Warriors forward Eric Paschall rounded out the First Team.

Morant and Clarke became the first Grizzlies duo named to the All-Rookie First Team since the 2001/02 season, when Pau Gasol and Shane Battier earned the honor. Nunn is the first Heat player named to the First Team since Michael Beasley in 2008/09.

Heat guard Tyler Herro, Raptors guard Terence Davis II, Bulls guard Coby White, Hornets forward P.J. Washington, and Wizards forward Rui Hachimura gained All-Rookie Second Team honors.

Knicks wing and third overall pick RJ Barrett finished 13 points behind Hachimura for the final spot on the Second Team, with Sixers forward Matisse Thybulle narrowly missing a spot as well.

The voting was conducted based on regular-season games played prior to the restart.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Favors, Rockets, Clarke

When the Pelicans announced on Monday that they’d signed Sindarius Thornwell, they indicated in their press release that the guard is a substitute player, but didn’t reveal which player on the roster he’d be replacing. More than 24 hours later, we have no further clarity on which New Orleans player will be supplanted by Thornwell.

According to John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link), Thornwell is replacing a player who tested positive for the coronavirus and the Pelicans can’t name that player for privacy reasons. The team previously announced that three players tested positive for COVID-19, but the identities of those players wasn’t reported. Still, it will likely just be a matter of time until we know which Pelican won’t participate in the summer restart, if only by the process of elimination.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Pelicans center Derrick Favors, whose contract expires at season’s end, admitted today that he weighed the risk of suffering a pre-free-agency injury this summer before ultimately deciding to play. I definitely thought about it,” Favors said, per Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link). “But I trust my body and I trust what I’ve done.”
  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey said this week that he isn’t too concerned about the 2020/21 salary cap uncertainty, having concluded that any fluctuation is “probably not going to impact us too much,” tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets – and as I pointed out when I previewed Houston’s ’20/21 cap – a shifting tax line could affect the Rockets, since they already have more than $123MM committed to six guaranteed contracts.
  • Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke, who missed the team’s last eight games before the hiatus due to a quad injury, said on Monday that he feels like he’s back to full health, as Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. “Over these past five to six weeks, I’ve gotten back to the player that I was. I feel like I’m pretty much the same health that I was pre-injury,” Clarke said. “I got the same balance and running habits, so it’ll all just be about my habits on the court.”