Brandon Ingram

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Grizzlies, St. Jean, Mathurin

The Pelicans continue to reap the benefits from the trade that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers three years ago, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. The next piece will be L.A.’s first-round draft pick for this year, which landed in the middle of Thursday’s lottery at No. 8.

New Orleans will also have the option to swap first-rounders with the Lakers next summer, with one more first-round pick coming in either 2024 or 2025, whichever the Pelicans choose. The turmoil that surrounded L.A. this season, along with Davis’ injury history and LeBron James‘ age, could make both those future picks extremely valuable.

Clark also examines the other pieces of the deal, including Brandon Ingram, who has developed into a franchise cornerstone in New Orleans. Ingram averaged 22.7 PPG this season and improved his passing numbers under new coach Willie Green, handing out a career-best 5.6 assists per night.

The other two players in the Davis trade are no longer with the Pelicans, but Josh Hart was used in a package for CJ McCollum, who led a late-season charge into the playoffs. McCollum took over the lead role in the backcourt and was New Orleans’ top scorer over the 26 games he played.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Grizzlies, who hold two picks in the draft at No. 22 and 29, are “trying hard” to trade up, according to Marc Stein in his latest column for Substack. Memphis already has 13 players under contract for next season and won’t have much playing time to offer a pair of rookies.
  • Assistant coach Greg St. Jean is expected to move to the front of the Mavericks‘ bench next season, Stein tweets. He will likely take the spot vacated by Igor Kokoskov, who is headed to Brooklyn.
  • Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin said he can envision the Spurs drafting him if he’s still on the board at No. 9, per Jeff Garcia of KENS5 in San Antonio. Mathurin met with team officials at last month’s draft combine in Chicago. “It went pretty good. I was able to meet a lot of the staff,” he said. “It was great, to be honest. I was able to see myself going there with all the players they have on their roster. They have great talent. They have a young core. That is for sure one thing that really caught my eye.”

Brandon Ingram Had Successful Finger Surgery Tuesday

Pelicans star Brandon Ingram will be sidelined for approximately six-to-eight weeks after undergoing successful finger surgery on June 7, the team announced (via Twitter).

Since it’s the offseason for New Orleans, the six-to-eight week recovery timeline means that Ingram should be fully healed and ready to go ahead of training camp in late September.

The surgery, which was performed in Los Angeles, was on Ingram’s “right fifth finger to address a flexion contracture.” According to the National Library of Medicine, flexion contracture of fingers are characterized by a “chronic loss of joint motion in a finger due to structural changes in non-bony tissue.”

As Jeff Stotts of InStreetClothes tweets, a flexion contracture essentially means that Ingram’s finger was bent and unable to be straightened without surgery. It can be caused by a “ligament, muscle or tendon injury,” Stotts adds.

Ingram had another strong season for the Pelicans in 2021/22. In 55 regular season games (34 minutes), he averaged 22.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists on .461/.327/.826 shooting.

The 24-year-old was even better in the postseason for New Orleans, averaging 27.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists on .475/.407/.830 shooting in 39.3 minutes per contest. Ingram helped lead the Pelicans to a surprisingly competitive first-round series against the Suns, but they ultimately fell in six games.

Ingram still has three years remaining on the maximum-salary contract extension he signed with the Pelicans in 2020, so he’s locked up until ’24/25. He’ll earn $31.65MM in ’22/23.

Injury Notes: VanVleet, Mitchell, Ingram, Z. Williams

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has officially been listed as doubtful for Game 6 of the team’s first-round series vs. Philadelphia, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The Raptors will be looking to even up the series at 3-3 with a win in Toronto on Thursday.

VanVleet suffered a left hip flexor strain in Game 4 on Saturday and his comments prior to Game 5 indicated there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to return in the first round.

Although VanVleet was an All-Star this season and will be missed if he’s officially ruled out, the Raptors have actually looked better against the Sixers with their starting point guard on the sidelines. Toronto has a +11.2 net rating in 105 minutes without VanVleet, compared to a -16.0 net rating in the 140 minutes he has spent on the court.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • After getting good news when an MRI on his hamstring came back clean on Tuesday, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said today that he’ll be “good to go” for Game 6 on Thursday, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter links). Mitchell told reporters that he was concerned when he thought his soreness was hamstring-related, but isn’t worried now that he has just been diagnosed with quad bruising.
  • Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram told reporters after Tuesday’s game that he banged up the ring and pinkie fingers on his right hand during the fourth quarter of the team’s Game 5 loss, but he doesn’t expect the injury to be an issue going forward. “(The fingers) got jammed. They’re pretty sore right now,” Ingram said, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “But nothing that treatment can’t fix and get better by next game.”
  • Grizzlies rookie Ziaire Williams exited Tuesday’s win over Minnesota early due to right knee soreness, as Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Williams’ status for Game 6 on Friday is unknown.

Pelicans Notes: Lineup, Griffin, Ingram, Alvarado

The Pelicans‘ “jumbo” lineups weren’t working in Game 1 of their first-round series vs. the Suns, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. The team found success in the second half of the regular season by starting Jaxson Hayes at power forward alongside center Jonas Valanciunas, but the two big men had matching plus-minus ratings of -11 on Sunday, the worst marks of any player on either team.

Hayes ended up playing just 11 minutes, with Trey Murphy coming off the bench to play 26 minutes. New Orleans was a plus-six when Murphy was on the court and the team’s offense was functioning better, says Guillory. However, head coach Willie Green told reporters on Monday that he’s not planning to change his starting lineup, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).

“Not at the moment,” Green said. “I think as a group, we didn’t have a great first half. That wasn’t one individual, that was us as a team. We have to be better. We have to do the things we do better, harder and with more force and see where we are after that.”

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin has made some mistakes since being hired to head up the team’s front office in 2019, but he deserves credit for putting together a team that made the playoffs even without Zion Williamson available all season, Rod Walker of NOLA.com opines. Walker believes the Pelicans look like a potential top-three squad in the West with a fully healthy Williamson.
  • Griffin’s faith in Brandon Ingram as a franchise leader on and off the court has been rewarded, according to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com, who points to Ingram’s performances in play-in wins over the Spurs (27 points) and Clippers (30 points) as indicators of the forward’s ability to handle the spotlight and step up in big games.
  • Pelicans rookie guard Jose Alvarado is joining Puerto Rico’s national team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). As Charania observes, Alvarado will get a chance to face Team USA this summer in qualifiers for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic takes a look at the long-standing bond between Willie Green and his first-round coaching rival Monty Williams. After the two men were teammates in Philadelphia, Green played for Williams in New Orleans and then was an assistant on his Suns staff. “Monty and I are not just friends,” Green told Quick. “We are like … that’s like my older brother. I look up to Monty.”

Pelicans Notes: McCollum, Zion, Valanciunas, Ingram

New Pelicans lead guard CJ McCollum is looking to elevate his own game and help facilitate a bigger transition in the team’s overall mentality, per Will Guillory of The Athletic.

“They needed more leadership, more guidance,” McCollum said about the state of his New Orleans teammates once he arrived on the team via trade in February. “But they also needed a guy who can really hoop. I thought I could be the perfect fit… It was kind of a blessing in disguise. I could come to a place where I was needed, but it was also a place where I could show everything I have to offer.”

McCollum, who has emerged as the club’s lead ball-handler, is averaging 24.3 PPG, 5.8 APG and 4.5 RPG across his 26 regular season games for the Pelicans this season. Guillory notes that McCollum is scoring at an efficient clip, connecting on 49.3% of his field goals and 39.4% of his three-point attempts.

“I think it’s about shifting the culture here,” McCollum said of his leadership role with the club. “I think the way New Orleans is viewed is a certain way, and when I leave it’ll be different… When my time is up and I walk away, people will view this place differently and they’ll view me differently.”

There’s more out of New Orleans:

  • If Pelicans power forward Zion Williamson, who has missed the entire 2021/22 season with a right foot fracture, can return to the floor for New Orleans during 2022/23, the team would boast one of the best starting lineups in its history, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Starting point guard CJ McCollum would be joined by current rookie Herbert Jones on the wing, 2020 All-Star Brandon Ingram at small forward, Williamson at power forward and big man Jonas Valanciunas.
  • All-Star guard Dejounte Murray and the Spurs consider Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas to be a significant cause of concern for Wednesday’s play-in game, writes Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “He’s a monster,” Murray said. “I’m actually a big fan of his.” Orsborn notes that Valanciunas proved a formidable foe during the 2021 play-in tournament, when he scored 23 points and pulled down 23 rebounds with the Grizzlies as part of a 120-116 win over the Spurs. “He’s a big, smart, talented guy. You don’t just plan for (McCollum and Ingram), you’ve got to plan for him as well.”
  • High-scoring Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram is looking to prioritize team success over his individual numbers on the eve of the team’s play-in contest against the Spurs, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “It’s not an individual game,” Ingram said. “I know San Antonio is going to know everything that we’re going to be doing. We’re going to game plan for them. It’s going to be a physical game — emotional — but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Southwest Notes: Alvarado, Ingram, Zion, Bates-Diop, Spurs Picks

Jose Alvarado has had an eventful rookie season for the Pelicans. He started his NBA career undrafted after four seasons at Georgia Tech, then signed a two-way deal with New Orleans.

The 23-year-old rarely played in the first few months of the season, but made a significant impact when he did, so coach Willie Green started playing him more and the front office took notice — Alvarado was promoted to a four-year, $6.5MM contract last week, with the final two seasons being non-guaranteed.

Alvarado recently spoke to William Guillory of The Athletic about a number of topics. Here are a couple highlights from the interview.

On his new contract:

“It’s amazing. When I found out the deal was happening and I’m officially signing, it was like another dream come true. It was another step for me as I’m continuing to go after my dreams. It was something you can’t really picture or put words to because it’s all you’ve ever dreamed of doing your whole life. When it did happen, all I could do was sit back and thank God. It just felt like something out of a movie.”

On his incredible steals numbers (if he qualified, he’d lead the league in steal percentage and steals per 36 minutes):

“I’ve always felt like defense is 90 percent heart. The other 10 percent you get from developing skill, having length, all that other stuff. With me, I just take every possession personal. I’m not the guy they bring up when they talk about great defensive players, but I’m gonna make sure I am soon enough. It’s more about the mindset.

“I’m not sure I’m eligible for NBA All-Defense or anything like that, but I want to be in that category. I feel like I’m in that category as one of those best defenders, even though I’m a rookie.”

It’s an interesting read and worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • The Pelicans guaranteed themselves a spot in the play-in tournament by beating the Kings on Tuesday night, Guillory writes in a separate article. Brandon Ingram is excited for what the team can show once they get Zion Williamson back in action. “When you look at it on paper, it’s exciting. It’s like, ‘OK, we added CJ (McCollum). If you throw the big fella in there, it’s going to be serious,'” Ingram told The Athletic. “We’re just monitoring him as he continues to go through his rehab and do more work. It’s good to have him back. It looks like he’s having fun around the guys. It’s good to have him around.”
  • After defeating the Nuggets on Tuesday, the Spurs are also guaranteed a spot in the play-in, and Keita Bates-Diop‘s versatility has proven to be valuable, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I am big and long enough to play most positions and I know how to play,” Bates-Diop said. “It’s not just the size. It’s knowing the coverages, knowing one through five. I am knowledgeable about a bunch of different things, so they trust me out there at the five.”
  • The Raptors have earned a playoff berth, which means the Spurs now hold three first-round picks in the 2022 draft, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). The Spurs acquired the lottery-protected pick in the deal that sent Thaddeus Young to the Raptors. The Spurs own Toronto’s pick, Boston’s pick (via the Derrick White trade), and their own.

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Grizzlies, Davis, Pelicans, Green

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing 10 straight games with right hamstring soreness, as the team shared on social media (Twitter link). New Orleans started Ingram alongside CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas for just the 11th time this season.

The Pelicans acquired McCollum from Portland on February 8, of course, but injuries have prevented the club from maximizing its potential. Zion Williamson also reportedly isn’t expected to play this season as he rehabs from a right foot injury.

The Pelicans own a 31-43 record, leading the No. 11 ranked Spurs by one game. By holding the No. 10 seed, New Orleans would qualify for the play-in tournament and could make the playoffs. Ingram has averaged 22.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, playing a key role in the team’s success.

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division:

  • Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal explores why the Grizzlies are 16-2 without Ja Morant this season. Morant is having an MVP-caliber season, averaging 27.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per contest. However, his supporting cast has stepped up on both ends, leading to Memphis’ unexpected jump up the Western Conference standings — the team has the NBA’s second-best record, at 52-23. “They talk about what they got to do going out there every single night to set a tone offensively, defensively, but with their spirit,” head coach Taylor Jenkins said. “It’s not just on the floor, it’s off the floor.”
  • The 2019 Anthony Davis trade between the Pelicans and Lakers has never looked better for New Orleans, Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com opines. The Pelicans have a young core headlined by Ingram, while the Lakers and their veteran core sits just a half-game ahead of New Orleans in the standings. Still, the Lakers won a title in 2020 largely because of Davis. The Pelicans are seeking their first playoff appearance since 2018.
  • Veteran guard Gerald Green has the option to play in Puerto Rico, but he remains focused on landing an NBA opportunity, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Puerto Rican club Gigantes de Carolina announced Green’s signing on Saturday, but his agent cautioned it’s simply an option for after the season. Green retired from professional basketball in October, joined the Rockets‘ coaching staff, then unretired and joined the team’s G League affiliate in January.

Larry Nance Jr. Could Make Pelicans Debut On Thursday

It’s “looking good” for Pelicans forward/center Larry Nance Jr. to return from knee surgery and be available for Thursday’s game against Chicago, head coach Willie Green said today (Twitter link via William Guillory of The Athletic).

For his part, Nance told reporters, including Christian Clark of NOLA.com (Twitter link), that he’ll be playing “soon.”

Nance was part of the blockbuster trade that sent CJ McCollum from Portland to New Orleans, but underwent a procedure to address a right knee injury just three days after that deal was completed and has yet to suit up for the Pelicans. Getting him back will give New Orleans another option in a frontcourt that’s currently missing Brandon Ingram (hamstring) and Zion Williamson (foot).

A report earlier this week stated that Williamson is unlikely to play this season. However, the former No. 1 overall pick has been telling people around him that his right foot feels good and that he wants to return before the end of the season, sources tell Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Williamson posted a video on Instagram on Tuesday that showed him throwing down a between-the-legs dunk, as Clark relays (via Twitter).

Still, according to Clark, there’s doubt within the organization that Williamson has enough time to make it back this spring. Green said today that Zion has been cleared to participate in 1-on-1 drills, but there are still several more steps to go in his rehab process before he’ll be able to play in a game, so he remains out indefinitely (Twitter link via Clark).

We’re still working toward being fully healthy, which he’s not,” Green said. “But he’s getting there. We’ll update you guys at that point, if we get to that point.”

Ingram, meanwhile, was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice and Green sounded uncertain that he’d be ready to go on Thursday vs. the Bulls, tweets Clark. Ingram hasn’t played since March 6 due to a hamstring issue and a non-COVID illness.

Southwest Notes: Mavericks, Nelson, Doncic, Walker IV, Ingram

The Mavericks issued a statement in response to former general manager Donnie Nelson suing the organization, Tim MacMahon of ESPN shares (via Twitter). As we previously relayed, Nelson alleges he was fired by team owner Mark Cuban as retaliation for reporting sexual misconduct.

Dallas vehemently denied the allegations, claiming that the team was investigated by outside counsel and that Nelson refused to cooperate.

“Nelson’s claims of being terminated because of retaliation are completely unfounded and the lawsuit filed today is baseless and full of lies,” the club said in its statement. “Mr. Nelson is fully aware, as is the NBA, of the reasons for his termination at the end of the 2020/21 season. The Mavs have always intended to hold private the inappropriate actions of Donnie Nelson that led to his termination.”

As relayed by MacMahon (Twitter link), the Mavericks’ formal legal response accuses Nelson of extortion and demanding “in effect, a blackmail payment in exchange for his promises not to expose the sexual orientation of a former Mavericks front-office employee.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division today:

  • Speaking of the Mavericks, Luka Doncic revealed an interesting strategy for keeping his composure and avoiding technical fouls, MacMahon writes in a separate story for ESPN. “It’s a funny thing — I just start singing a song in my head,” Doncic explained. “One of my favorite songs I pick and just start singing and let [the frustration] pass. I think these last couple of games I’ve been great with officials. If I think I’m fouled, I just go to him and talk to him normal. But that’s it. It’s got to be this way.”
  • Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV has been heating up ahead of free agency this summer, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News writes. Walker is set to become a restricted free agent. He’s had a respectable campaign, averaging a career-high 12.2 points and 2.1 assists per game.
  • Pelicans star Brandon Ingram (illness) didn’t travel with the team on its three-game road trip, Christian Clark of NOLA.com tweets. Head coach Willie Green is unsure if he’ll join the club on the trip. New Orleans won 124-91 at San Antonio on Friday and has upcoming games at Golden State on Sunday and Portland on Wednesday.

Pelicans Notes: Ingram, Hayes, Alvarado, Graham, McCollum

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram didn’t practice on Thursday, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets. Ingram is recovering from a hamstring strain that has kept him out of action since March 6. New Orleans has lost four of five games since Ingram was sidelined and will begin a three-game road trip at San Antonio on Friday. The team has listed Ingram as out for the opener of the trip.

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • The team’s struggles without Ingram reinforces the need to keep him on the court by any means necessary, Scott Kushner of NOLA.com opines. They may have to reduce his playing time, or Ingram may need to get stronger this offseason. New Orleans is 3-16 in the games he has missed.
  • Jaxson Hayes has expanded his offensive game this season, which complicates the team’s long-term picture, William Guillory of The Athletic writes. Hayes has thrived at power forward and would have to move back to center on a regular basis once Zion Williamson returns from injury, whether this season or next. Both players are eligible for rookie scale extensions this summer and the Pelicans will have to decide whether to lock up Hayes long-term or see how the situation plays out.
  • Jose Alvarado (finger) and Devonte’ Graham (hip) are listed as questionable to play on Friday, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets.
  • One bright spot for the club in the Pelicans’ loss to Phoenix on Wednesday was the return of CJ McCollum. After exiting the league’s health and safety protocols, McCollum played 32 minutes, scored 21 points and dished out nine assists.