David Griffin

Western Notes: Griffin, Williamson, Morant, Grizzlies, Wolves

Pelicans star Zion Williamson is eligible to sign a contract extension with the team this summer, but executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin admitted that negotiations could be challenging, as relayed by Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

“Obviously, that conversation is going to be one that will be a challenge,” Griffin said. “When it’s time to have that, we’ll have it. And right now what we’re focused on is him being healthy, and (being in) kind of elite condition to play basketball, and we’ll start there.”

Clark explores what Griffin could’ve meant by using the word “challenge,” noting that Williamson has dealt with multiple injuries since being drafted. The former No. 1 overall pick expressed optimism last month about staying in New Orleans long-term, but he’s only appeared in 85 games across three seasons with the team.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Speaking of contract extensions, Grizzlies star Ja Morant is eager to sign one with the team this offseason, as shared by Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal (video link). Morant is coming off a career-best season, averaging 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. “I’m definitely happy to be here. Memphis is my home,” Morant said, later offering a “hell yeah” to whether he wants to stay long-term.
  • Morant is also hoping to avoid offseason surgery on his knee, as relayed by the Memphis Commerical Appeal. The 22-year-old suffered a bone bruise in Game 3 of the Grizzlies‘ second-round series against Golden State. He didn’t play for the rest of the series.
  • The Timberwolves have declined to pick up their option on assistant general manager Gianluca Pascucci‘s contract for next season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, who explores what the team’s recent front office changes say about Sachin Gupta‘s future with the organization. Minnesota agreed this week to hire Steve Senior as an assistant GM.

Southwest Notes: Hardaway, Brunson, Zion, Grizzlies

Mavericks swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to recover from the surgically repaired fractured left foot that caused him to miss nearly half of the 2021/22 regular season and all of Dallas’ first-round 4-2 defeat of the Jazz. It certainly doesn’t sound like Hardaway will return in time for these playoffs — he has yet to be cleared to run, per Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

“He’s shooting the ball, but from my eye, he hasn’t done any running or anything yet,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said in discussing Hardaway’s progress. “So that’s more of a medical question, but right now he’s out.” 

Dallas has officially announced (Twitter link) that Hardaway will miss the first game of the Mavericks’ second-round matchup against the Suns. Across 42 healthy contests for the Dallas, the 6’5″ shooting guard out of Michigan averaged 14.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 2.2 APG this season, on .394/.336/.757 shooting splits.

There’s more out of the Southwest:

  • A left calf strain to Mavericks All-Star Luka Doncic allowed his starting backcourt mate Jalen Brunson to step up his own offensive game, per Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. Brunson has earned rave reviews from his former Villanova teammate Mikal Bridges, whose Suns will face off against Brunson’s Mavericks in their upcoming second-round matchup starting Monday. “He’s been hooping all year,” Bridges enthused. “When Luka went out and he had to step up, he was ready for it. “I’m watching games and I could . . . just tell. I know what shots he’s going to make. I just know. I know how talented he is and how hard he works and how much of a dog he is.” While with Villanova, Bridges and Brunson won two NCAA titles.
  • Pelicans team president David Griffin acknowledged that forthcoming contract extension discussions with 2021 All-Star forward Zion Williamson may not be easy, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. The Pelicans will have the ability to offer Williamson a maximum extension worth up to 25% of the salary cap, with 8% yearly raises. “Obviously, that conversation is going to be one that will be a challenge,” Griffin said. “When it’s time to have that, we’ll have it. And right now what we’re focused on is him being healthy, and (being in) kind of elite condition to play basketball and we’ll start there.” Williamson recently indicated he hoped to remain with the Pelicans and get a deal done. Injuries have limited Williamson to just 85 healthy games across his three seasons of NBA action. The No. 1 overall pick out of Duke in 2019 has been quite productive when available, with career averages of 25.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.2 APG and 0.9 APG.
  • The Grizzlies, currently in the midst of their first playoff game against the Warriors in a 2-3 second-round matchup, might have a “death lineup” of their own, writes Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian. All-Star point guard Ja Morant, breakout second-year shooting guard Desmond Bane, swingman Dillon Brooks, forward Brandon Clarke, and big man Jaren Jackson Jr. could give the Warriors’ ultra-small, shooting-heavy lineups plenty of trouble in their first-round matchup.

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, Griffin, Nance, Hart

Amid persistent speculation about whether Zion Williamson is happy in New Orleans, veteran Pelicans guard CJ McCollum came to his teammate’s defense on Thursday, essentially telling reporters to back off while the former No. 1 overall pick recovers from a foot injury.

“Leave the young fella alone, man,” McCollum said, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “He’s trying to rehab in peace. Trying to get himself ready to come back. We spoke, and I’ll speak to him later this week or next and just catch up with him. He’s a very talented player. He’s going through a lot. You guys are putting him on the spot on the daily. I think he’s just trying to recover on his own time and focus on his rehab.”

McCollum pointed out on Thursday that he has dealt with multiple foot injuries in his own career, including a hairline fracture that sidelined him for a good chunk of the 2020/21 season. He said he knows what Williamson is going through during his long rehab process.

“You feel disconnected. You feel away,” McCollum said. “It’s tough mentally and physically. I know it’s frustrating.”

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • In a separate story for NOLA.com, Clark takes a closer look at the apparent tension between Williamson and the Pelicans, revisiting some points he made in a September report and sharing some new details. According to Clark, Williamson and his camp seem to have a “lack of trust” in Pelicans head of basketball operations David Griffin. Clark also says that Zion’s stepfather Lee Anderson has “maintained a great deal of control” over the young forward’s career since he was drafted and that some people who knew Williamson and his family before he reached the NBA have discussed whether Anderson has Zion’s best interests at heart.
  • Rod Walker of NOLA.com believes that a lack of communication, both publicly and privately, has exacerbated the divide between Williamson and the Pelicans, arguing that even a brief social media post from Zion reiterating that he wants to be in New Orleans would go a long way toward silencing the noise.
  • Larry Nance Jr. and Josh Hart are good friends and would’ve loved the chance to play on the same team rather than being traded for one another, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. They made the most of the situation by agreeing to temporarily swap houses when Nance was dealt to New Orleans and Hart was sent to Portland.
  • Nance referred to his recent knee surgery as a minor procedure and said he hopes to be back on the floor soon, according to Lopez. It has been two weeks since Nance went under the knife — reports at the time suggested it would take the forward about six weeks to recover, so he could return in a month or so.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Ingram, Alexander-Walker, Young

The Pelicans currently have a 1-11 record, worst in the NBA. They’ve lost eight games in a row. David Griffin, the team’s executive VP of basketball operations, is reportedly on the hot seat.  All-Star Zion Williamson has yet to play a game following foot surgery. Fellow former All-Star Brandon Ingram is out for the seventh consecutive game with a hip contusion, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com (Twitter link).

Coach Willie Green said Ingram could return soon following a full practice yesterday, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). Obviously, that won’t happen tonight.

Needless to say, things are not going well in New Orleans.

According to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com, Griffin has done a poor job building the roster around Zion and Ingram. Kushner says the team’s first-round draft picks under Griffin (aside from Zion) haven’t proven to be reliable rotation players, let alone pieces to build around. He didn’t list them by name, but he was referring to Jaxson Hayes (8th), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17th), Kira Lewis (13th), and rookie Trey Murphy (17th).

Kusher notes that despite modest expectation from fans, the team is failing to deliver an interesting, competitive product that has a clear direction, and that falls squarely on Griffin.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Alexander-Walker has been heavily scrutinized for a slow start to the season, but he was one of the silver linings of the Pelicans‘ loss to the Thunder on Wednesday, scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter. Will Guillory of The Athletic opines that keeping Alexander-Walker in attack-mode is one of the keys for the Pelicans to turn their losing streak around. Guillory also believes the team needs to shorten the rotation and keep believing in each other.
  • Despite being in-and-out of the lineup, Thaddeus Young‘s professionalism and workman-like mentality have rubbed off on the young Spurs. He’s also been highly productive in his limited minutes. Young is a free agent at the end of the season and is viewed as a valuable trade chip. He knows he may not last the entire season with the team, but that hasn’t impacted his mindset, writes Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News. “I am not sure what is going to happen with me, whether I will be here next year or if I will be here past the trade deadline,” Young said. “But, at the end of the day, at this point in time, this moment, I am here, I am a San Antonio Spur and I am planning on giving 120 percent each night.”
  • Check out our Pelicans and Spurs team pages for the most recent notes and rumors on the two teams.

Pelicans’ David Griffin Reportedly On Hot Seat

There has been more and more chatter around the NBA in recent weeks about David Griffin‘s job security, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says that Griffin’s hold on his position as Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations appears increasingly tenuous.

The Pelicans came into the season with playoff aspirations, but have lost eight consecutive games and own a league-worst 1-11 record. The team has been without Zion Williamson so far, and Griffin has faced criticism for making misleading comments on Media Day about when the former No. 1 pick would be ready to return from his offseason foot surgery.

[RELATED: Williamson Out Until At Least Mid-To-Late November]

When Griffin took the reins in New Orleans in 2019, the Pelicans were in position to draft Williamson and cash in on trades involving stars Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, giving them a massive leg up in the rebuilding process.

Although Griffin did well to stock up on draft picks in the Davis and Holiday blockbusters, he has made a handful of other questionable moves, including extending Steven Adams and then dumping him a year later before the extension even took effect. Additionally, besides Williamson, Griffin’s first-round picks in 2019 and 2020 – Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Kira Lewis – have yet to make a major impact at the NBA level.

According to Fischer, another recent incident raised eyebrows around the league. A NOLA.com report in September claimed that Griffin blamed the Pelicans’ poor start in 2019/20 on former head coach Alvin Gentry, telling one person, “I give Alvin all the answers to the test, and he still fails.” After Sacramento beat the Pelicans in New Orleans on October 29, Griffin approached Gentry – now a Kings assistant – to say hello, but Gentry viewed Griffin’s friendliness as inauthentic, per Fischer.

During that interaction, Fischer says, Griffin denied multiple details from that NOLA.com report, while Gentry pointed out that the Pelicans had essentially the same record under Stan Van Gundy (31-41) in 2020/21 as they did under Gentry in ’19/20. “You must not have given Stan the answers to the test, either,” Gentry shouted at Griffin, per Fischer’s sources, who say the two men had to be separated.

Meanwhile, Willie Green, the third coach of Griffin’s tenure with the Pelicans, expressed frustration following the club’s loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday night, as Andrew Lopez of ESPN details. Four New Orleans players combined for five technical fouls in the game, prompting Green to call out his players after the game for complaining about foul calls they “haven’t earned.” The first-year head coach also wasn’t happy with his players’ compete level.

“It’s not the losing streak. It’s not one quarter. It’s our approach to this game,” Green said. “There were moments in the game where we just didn’t have guys who didn’t compete hard enough for me. Hard enough for our team. That’s a non-negotiable for me. That’s the deal. That’s who we are. As the leader of this team, I can’t have that. I can’t have guys on the floor if they aren’t going to give 110%.”

Getting Williamson and Brandon Ingram (hip) back on the court will go a long way toward making the Pelicans competitive again, but the club’s early-season slump is creating an increasingly difficult path to playoff contention. If New Orleans doesn’t bounce back in a major way, significant changes could be coming, and the head coach is unlikely to be the fall guy for a third straight year — that means Griffin finds himself firmly on the hot seat.

Southwest Notes: Jackson, Nwaba, Zion, Luka

The lucrative four-year, $105MM rookie extension that power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. signed this week with the Grizzlies is very much predicated on his ceiling. Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal details why he considers the agreement mutually beneficial to both sides in a new piece. A big reason: the contract will decrease in value every season once it kicks in, which will give Memphis room to further bolster the roster.

“I’m locked in, I’m blessed, I’m happy I get to be here and be around people I love,” the 6’11” big man said of the deal and his chemistry in Memphis. “It’s a good experience.”

Due to Jackson’s extensive injury history, the agreement contains injury protection related to his left knee, but it only applies to the last year of the deal (for 2025/26), a source informed John Hollinger of The Athletic.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Following two injury-plagued years, Rockets swingman David Nwaba is relishing his good health heading into the 2021/22 season, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Nwaba suffered an Achilles injury in December 2019, and then a right wrist injury in February of this year that ultimately required surgery. “Hopefully, just take care of my body for the length of this season,” Nwaba said of his hopes for the year. “I think we’ve had a lot of improvements on the defensive end.” All told, the 28-year-old has been healthy for just 50 of his past 144 games with Brooklyn and Houston.
  • Thanks to an uncertain recovery timeline for the injured foot of All-Star power forward Zion Williamson, the Pelicans have already proved frustrating to fans ahead of the 2021/22 season, opines Scott Kushner of the NOLA.com. Williamson and team president David Griffin made it seem like the former No. 1 pick could be back in time for the beginning of the year, but it appears that the team was either too hopeful or being deliberately disingenuous, Kushner says.
  • Mavericks All-Star point guard Luka Doncic expressed his excitement about the club’s development ahead of the 2021/22 season, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “I think we’re playing great, sharing the ball,” Doncic said of the team’s 4-0 preseason showing. “Especially on the defensive end, we’ve been way better, and I think that’s the key for us.” 

Pelicans Rumors: Williamson, Griffin, Coaches, Front Office

There hasn’t been much noise surrounding Zion Williamson since a June report suggested some of his family members want him out of New Orleans, but the 2021/22 season will be crucial for the Pelicans and their long-term relationship with the former No. 1 overall pick.

Williamson will be eligible for a rookie scale extension, and while no player has ever turned down a maximum-salary rookie scale extension, New Orleans will want to take a major step toward contention this season to reduce the risk of Zion becoming the first.

In a deep dive into the situation in New Orleans, Christian Clark of NOLA.com suggests Williamson grew frustrated back in the Pelicans back in his rookie season when they handled his return from a preseason knee injury with extreme caution, extending his recovery timeline and then having him play in short “bursts” when he returned. Williamson detested those “burst” limits, according to Clark, who says there was significant tension between the star forward and the team’ medical staff that season.

Additionally, while executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin tried to forge a bond with Williamson during his rookie season, Zion’s relationship with the head of the team’s front office had “begun to sour” by the end of the year, says Clark. The two men don’t communicate frequently now, Clark adds.

Here’s more from Clark’s report, which includes several interesting tidbits and is worth checking out in full:

  • Griffin isn’t particularly popular among a segment of Pelicans employees, who referred to him in a group chat last year as “Griff Krause” while ‘The Last Dance’ was airing, according to Clark. The moniker was a reference to former Bulls GM Jerry Krause, whom the ESPN documentary portrayed as disliked by the team’s stars and head coach.
  • Although many people in the Pelicans’ organization believed the team needed to replace head coach Alvin Gentry in 2020, some didn’t like the way the change was handled. According to Clark, Griffin blamed Gentry for the Pelicans’ poor start that season, telling one person, “I give Alvin all the answers to the test, and he still fails.”
  • Tyronn Lue was believed to be the Pelicans’ top choice when they replaced Gentry, but Lue opted to join the Clippers. When Griffin pivoted to Stan Van Gundy, some people in the organization raised concerns that the fit would be awkward, Clark writes, but the Pelicans hired him anyway. The team dismissed Van Gundy this spring after just one season.
  • While J.J. Redick‘s public criticism of the Pelicans’ front office earlier this year placed Griffin and his group under a microscope, Jrue Holiday praised the team for sending him to a contender after he quietly asked to be traded, and several prominent agents – including Mark Bartelstein – told Clark that their interactions with New Orleans’ head of basketball operations have been positive.

Pelicans Notes: Lowry, Playoffs, Griffin, Williamson

Now that the dust has settled on Monday’s Grizzlies-Pelicans trade, William Guillory of The Athletic takes a look at why the Pelicans made the move, what it means for the future, and the man assumed to be at the center of the sudden push for cap space: Kyle Lowry.

After getting off of the contracts for Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams, the Pelicans project to have about $22MM in cap space, and if they renounce Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and their remaining free agents, that number could climb to $36MM, more than enough to make a competitive offer to Lowry.

But despite the obvious on-court and leadership appeal of Lowry, Guillory preaches caution when thinking that Lowry could have the same impact that, say, Chris Paul had on the Suns. Lowry, while a great player in his own right, has been limited by injuries the last three seasons, and doesn’t have quite the same track record of raising a team’s expectations as Paul.

Guillory also points out that because of the reported interest in Lowry from teams like the Sixers, Heat and Lakers, it’s likely that New Orleans, which is not a prime free agent destination, would have to overpay for the 35-year-old guard.

We have more news from the Pelicans:

  • New head coach Willie Green just finished a miracle run to the Finals with the Suns, and he’s looking to see a similar leap with the Pelicans next year, writes ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. “We’re really close to taking the next step,” Green said. “I believe going into next season that’s our goal, that’s our mindset. That’s what makes us a sleeping giant. We have two young All-Stars. Putting a lot of talent around those guys and really just making this team go.”
  • Within the same piece from Lopez, executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin lays out what he considered his vision for the offseason: “What we hope we’re able to do in the coming weeks in the offseason and heading up through the following years is build a sustainable winner that’s rooted in that gratitude and joyfulness led by Willie Green and the players… that leadership voice, that shooting we need to put around our great young stars. We’re heading towards that.”
  • While gameplans and racking up wins may be part of Green’s agenda, one priority stands out above all others, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst: ensuring Zion Williamson wants to stay in New Orleans long-term. Green has the reputation of creating deep bonds with his players, but this will be a new challenge as a first-time coach of a superstar in a small market. Williamson reportedly had some concerns with former head coach Stan Van Gundy, making Green’s ability to be a player’s coach even more crucial.

Southwest Notes: Kidd, Pelicans Draft Choices, Pelicans Roundup

New Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd joined ESPN’s The Jump on Wednesday to discuss his time with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, as well as what’s in store for his relationship with Luka Doncic in Dallas.

Asked about what he was focused on helping Doncic improve on, Kidd replied, “My job is to help make the game easier for him. Understanding the game within the game. Understanding how to get guys going, becoming a better leader.”

Kidd was also asked about Kristaps Porzingis. “Getting KP back to what he did in New York,” Kidd said. “Putting the ball on the floor, one dribble stop-and-pop… I remember a lotta highlights when he was putting the ball on someone’s head. So getting him back to that era in his basketball when he was having fun.”

We have more from around the Southwest Division:

  • In part one of his offseason mailbag, The Athletic’s Will Guillory explored some of the big questions of the Pelicans’ offseason. One such question regarded whether the disappointing seasons of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams were more about personal decline or bad fit with the team’s stars. Guillory maintained that Adams, who had trouble fitting in, has been serious about adding a three-point shot to extend his career, and that he’s been “shooting the snot out of the ball,” according to a source. But he also warns that Bledsoe could face boos at home if he’s still on the roster next season.
  • Guillory also confirms that many believe Jacque Vaughn was the favorite for the Pelicans’ head coaching position before withdrawing, but that Willie Green won many in the front office over immediately upon his first meeting with them.
  • In a piece for NOLA.com, Pelicans beat writer Christian Clark breaks down five prospects the Pelicans are likely to consider with the 10th pick in the draft. Clark quotes executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin on the need to improve the roster construction: “We need to make the pieces fit a little bit better. I think you could all see that this was a rather wonky group at times.” Clark names Corey Kispert, Trey Murphy, Moses Moody and others, in a clear sign that wing shooting is going to be at a premium for New Orleans