Ja Morant

Southwest Notes: Walker, Morant, Rose, Johnson, Daniels, Giddey

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban hopes Kemba Walker can be a dynamic offensive presence for the team, as he told Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

We wanted to add some flexibility to our offense,” Cuban said. “Like last year at this point, we have great shot quality, particularly from the three, but we have struggled to make enough of them. Kemba will give (head coach Jason Kidd) more offensive flexibility.”

Townsend adds (via Twitter) that Walker’s contract, which hasn’t been officially signed yet, will be for the veteran’s minimum, as that’s all the Mavericks have to offer — they’re over the salary cap and used their taxpayer mid-level exception to sign JaVale McGee and give second-rounder Jaden Hardy a three-year deal.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Grizzlies star Ja Morant views Derrick Rose as a trailblazer for athletic point guards, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He really made it to where people believe in guys like me,” Morant said after recording 27 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in Sunday’s victory over the Knicks. “Coming in, athletic guards, I felt like he was pretty much the one who kind of made it more famous. With how acrobatic his finish is, his touch around the rim, and how explosive he was. Coming in, he was my comparison. It’s crazy to be out there on the floor sharing a court with him.”
  • Spurs forward Keldon Johnson had a mature approach to being benched last week, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I was letting myself down, my team down, my coaches down,” he said. “I just knew I had to play better.” Johnson signed a four-year, $74MM rookie scale extension in the offseason that begins in 2023/24. He’s averaging a career-high 20.4 points per night through 19 games.
  • Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels and Thunder guard Josh Giddey could make history on Monday. If they both play in their matchup, they would be the first NBA Global Academy teammates to play against each other in an NBA game, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The two Australian point guards have been friends for several years and competed together for the Global Academy in Canberra, Australia, Mussatto notes. Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin, another lottery pick, is the third Global Academy alumnus to make it to the NBA.

Grizzlies’ Ja Morant Returns To Action

6:50pm: Morant is active and in the starting lineup on Tuesday, the team tweets.

10:15am: When the Grizzlies announced on Saturday that Ja Morant had been diagnosed with a Grade 1 left ankle sprain, they said he was considered “week-to-week,” signaling that he’d likely miss at least a few games. However, Morant appears to be on the verge of returning after missing only Sunday’s game in Brooklyn.

Originally listed as doubtful for Tuesday vs. Sacramento, Morant has been upgraded to questionable, the Grizzlies announced this morning (via Twitter). That doesn’t guarantee the All-NBA guard will play tonight, but it sounds like there’s a good chance he’ll do so.

If Morant doesn’t end up being activated for Tuesday’s contest, he’ll get a couple extra days off before Memphis hosts New Orleans on Friday night, so he’d be well positioned to play in that game.

With Desmond Bane sidelined due to a toe injury, Morant’s ankle sprain meant the Grizzlies were missing both parts of one of the NBA’s best backcourts on Sunday, a 12-point loss to the Nets. While Bane’s return isn’t imminent (he’s listed as out on Tuesday and will likely miss another week or two), having Morant back would be a major boon for Memphis against a Sacramento team riding a six-game win streak.

11 Players Affected By Poison Pill Provision In 2022/23

The term “poison pill” doesn’t actually show up in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it’s used colloquially to refer to a provision in the CBA that affects players who recently signed rookie scale contract extensions.

As we explain in our glossary entry, the so-called poison pill provision applies when a player who signed a rookie scale extension is traded before the extension takes effect.

In that scenario, the player’s incoming value for the receiving team for matching purposes is determined by averaging his current-year salary and the salaries in each year of his new extension. His current team, on the other hand, simply treats his current-year salary as the outgoing figure for matching purposes.

For instance, Heat guard Tyler Herro is earning a $5,722,116 salary in 2022/23, but signed a four-year, $120MM extension that will begin in ’23/24. Therefore, if Miami wanted to trade Herro this season, his outgoing value for salary-matching purposes would be $5,722,116 (this year’s salary), while his incoming value for the team acquiring him would be $25,144,423 (this year’s salary, plus the $120MM extension, divided by five years).

[RELATED: 2022 NBA Rookie Scale Extension Recap]

Most of the players who signed rookie scale extensions aren’t candidates to be traded anytime soon. But even in the event that a team does want to look into trading one of these recently extended players, the gap between the player’s incoming trade value and outgoing trade value could make it a real challenge to find a deal that works for both sides.

The “poison pill” provision applies to 11 players who signed rookie scale extensions in 2022. Here are those players, along with their outgoing salaries and incoming salaries for trade purposes:

Player Team Outgoing trade value Incoming trade value
Zion Williamson NOP $13,534,817 $34,639,136
Ja Morant MEM $12,119,440 $34,403,240
RJ Barrett NYK $10,900,635 $23,580,127
De’Andre Hunter ATL $9,835,881 $19,967,176
Darius Garland CLE $8,920,795 $33,870,133
Tyler Herro MIA $5,722,116 $25,144,423
Brandon Clarke MEM $4,343,920 $10,868,784
Nassir Little POR $4,171,548 $6,434,310
Jordan Poole GSW $3,901,399 $26,380,280
Keldon Johnson SAS $3,873,025 $15,574,605
Kevin Porter Jr. HOU $3,217,631 $15,234,726

Once the 2023/24 league year begins, the poison pill provision will no longer apply to these players. At that time, the player’s ’23/24 salary would represent both his outgoing and incoming value.

Until then though, the gap between those outgoing and incoming figures will make it tricky for these players to be moved, with one or two exceptions.

The small difference between Little’s incoming and outgoing trade figures, for instance, wouldn’t be very problematic if the Blazers wanted to trade him. But the much larger divide between Poole’s incoming and outgoing numbers means there’s virtually no chance he could be moved to an over-the-cap team in 2022/23, even if the Warriors wanted to.

Ja Morant Incurs Mild Ankle Sprain

All-Star Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has incurred a Grade 1 left ankle sprain, the team has announced (via Twitter).

Morant sprained the ankle on Friday night during the team’s 121-110 win against the Thunder, and needed assistance as he headed off the court and back to the team locker room. According to the Grizzlies, Morant is considered “week-to-week” at present, so it sounds like he’ll miss at least the next few games.

The 10-6 Grizzlies are now without both of their high-scoring starting guards, as shooting guard Desmond Bane is still unavailable due to his sprained big right toe.

Through 14 games, Morant has averaged 28.6 PPG with a .465/.391/.792 slash line. The 23-year-old All-NBA guard is also chipping in 7.1 APG, 6.2 RPG, and 1.1 SPG.

As Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com reports (Twitter link), Memphis posted a 20-5 record without Morant. That was due in part to the production of Bane, who will be simultaneously unavailable for at least a handful of games in this upcoming stretch.

Grizzlies’ Morant, Pacers’ Haliburton Suffer Ankle Injuries

NOVEMBER 19: There’s some hope that neither Morant’s ankle injury nor Haliburton’s is a significant one.

As Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal relays, Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke expressed optimism about whether he’d seen Morant in the locker room after the game: “He was walking. I don’t know how serious it is … It doesn’t sound super serious.”

In Houston, Haliburton told reporters – including Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star – that he isn’t overly concerned about his own ankle injury: “It feels all right right now. It’s the same ankle that I hurt against Toronto (last Saturday). I think it’s more precautionary than anything. We’ll see how it feels in the morning.”

It seems likely that Morant will miss some time, and Haliburton might too, but hopefully neither injury is one that will require a star point guard to be sidelined for a big chunk of the season.

NOVEMBER 18: A pair of rising guards suffered injuries late in the fourth quarter of victories and had to be helped off the court on Friday night.

Grizzlies star Ja Morant turned his left ankle in Friday’s win over the Thunder, per Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. According to Lang Whitaker of Grind City Media (Twitter link), head coach Taylor Jenkins said Morant “tweaked” the ankle and there will be an update on his status Saturday.

As Tim MacMahon of ESPN notes (via Twitter), Morant missed Sunday’s game against the Wizards after injuring the same ankle last week. Through 13 games, he’s averaging 29.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.2 steals for the Grizzlies.

Point guard Tyrese Haliburton also suffered a lower leg injury with less than a minute left in the Pacers‘ victory over Houston, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. It appeared as though Rockets big man Usman Garuba may have landed on Haliburton’s foot or ankle after contesting his layup.

Through 13 games in his first full season in Indiana, Haliburton is averaging 20.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, a league-leading 10.4 assists and 1.9 steals. The Pacers have been a pleasant surprise early on in the 2022/23 season, currently holding an 8-6 record.

Southwest Injury Notes: Morant, Jackson Jr., Wesley, Langford, Tate, Bertans

Ja Morant missed Sunday’s game against Washington with an ankle injury but it apparently will only be a one-game absence. The Grizzlies’ star guard is not on the injury report for Tuesday’s game against New Orleans, the team’s PR department tweets.

Meanwhile, Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. could make his season debut on Tuesday, as the forward is listed as questionable. Jackson has been rehabbing from offseason right foot surgery. Morant’s backcourt partner, Desmond Bane, is doubtful due to toe soreness.

We have more injury updates regarding the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs rookie guard Blake Wesley has begun his rehab from a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News reports. Wesley is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks of action. “It’s going good,” he said. “I’ve started jogging, lifting and getting my routine back. I’m on the court, not moving, but getting up shots and taking it day by day.”
  • Spurs guard Romeo Langford has been placed in the league’s health and safety protocols and will miss Monday’s game against Golden State, Orsborn tweets.
  • Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate has appeared in just three games due to an ankle injury and he’ll miss several more games. Coach Stephen Silas said Tate will be reevaluated in two or three weeks, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
  • Mavericks forward Davis Bertans, who has been sidelined with a right knee injury, participated in his first full practice on Monday since early in training camp, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Bertans is still listed out for the team’s game against the Clippers on Tuesday, the team’s PR department tweets.

Southwest Notes: Jackson Jr., Anderson, Doncic, Bassey

Jaren Jackson Jr. is close to making his season debut for the Grizzlies, according to Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Jackson was listed as doubtful to play against Washington on Sunday, then was declared out. He was listed as out for all previous games this season as he rehabbed from foot surgery. Jackson recently started playing in 5-on-5 situations during practice.

Memphis’ backcourt of Ja Morant (ankle) and Desmond Bane (toe) also missed the game, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post tweets.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Former Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson signed with the Timberwolves as a free agent this summer but the veteran forward is rooting for his former team when they’re not playing his current one, Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. “They’ve taken it to a whole new level. Those guys put the work and they work very hard so I’m always happy for them on their journey for sure, watching from afar,” Anderson said. “So it’s pretty awesome to see them do big things.”
  • Luka Doncic‘s usage rate is higher than any other player in the league, prompting Tim Cato of The Athletic to consider whether Doncic can keep going at this pace. The Mavericks star admitted after a loss this week, “I’m just feeling more tired on the court these last two games than anything,” and his shooting percentages in the fourth quarter are much lower than in any other quarter. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today explores the same topic, noting that Doncic is playing a career-high 36.9 MPG and has a usage rate of 39.14%, which would be the third-highest all-time behind Russell Westbrook’s 41.65% in 2016/17 and James Harden’s 40.47 in 2018/19.
  • With Zach Collins out approximately a month with a leg fracture, Charles Bassey has an opportunity to get rotation minutes at center for the Spurs, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News points out. “He kind of looks the part,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He doesn’t look like a deer in the headlights or anything like that.” Bassey signed a two-way contract with San Antonio in late October.

Southwest Notes: Washington, Porter, Zion, Morant, Bane

Rockets rookie first-round pick TyTy Washington was sent to Houston’s NBAGL affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, this week as he continues to rehabilitate from his sprained left knee, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

 “I’m excited,” Washington, the No. 29 pick out of Kentucky this summer, said. “I can’t wait. I can play and get my feet under me, go down there, have fun. This is the game I love. I can go down there and handle my business. And when I get back up here, get my moment and do what I’ll do down there and help win games.”

“He just needs to play,” Rockets GM Rafael Stone said. “We very obviously value the G League. Almost all of our players have spent real extensive time down there. It’s more of an abnormality for people not to. He’s coming off an injury. He needs to get back in game shape and play minutes. Right now, we don’t have that opportunity for him here.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Starting Rockets point guard Kevin Porter Jr. may have unlocked something as a passer lately, having averaged 11 assists per game across his last two contests, Feigen writes in a separate piece. “It’s just the flow of the game,” Porter said. “I’ve just been able to balance sharing the ball and taking my shots, knowing my guys, where they like the ball and just getting them where they’re open. It’s been easy to read these last couple games. I want to continue to do that and find my shots, too.”
  • Pelicans star forward Zion Williamson has struggled defensively thus far this season, to the point where William Guillory of The Athletic wonders if it could impact how far New Orleans can actually go in the postseason this year. Guillory notes that Williams has exhibited promising flashes as a defender thanks to his speed and strength, but overall has struggled communicating on the floor to teammates and has had trouble defending against dribble penetration.
  • Grizzlies All-Star point guard Ja Morant opines that he and breakout shooting guard Desmond Bane are the NBA’s current best backcourt, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “Top two, not [number] two,” Morant responded to a question about where the duo ranks among league backcourt tandems. “That’s the easiest question ever.” Morant was already an All-NBA guard, but Bane has taken a major leap in expanding his breadth as a scorer. “That was the goal this summer,” Bane said. “Not just be a 3-point shooter, be able to affect the game. Being able to set it up for myself and my teammates, getting to the free-throw line. All of that will help me remain consistent.”

Western Notes: Kawhi, Suns, Grizzlies, Omoruyi

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out for two more games, with the team deciding that the veteran forward won’t travel to Houston and San Antonio for games on Wednesday and Sunday, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Leonard, who continues to deal with stiffness in his surgically repaired right knee, has already missed Los Angeles’ last four games.

“He’s frustrated,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said before Monday’s game vs. Houston. “He wants to be out on the floor and then not being on the floor, and then now he can’t travel. He wants to travel, but the doctor said it’s not the right thing to do right now with the stiffness and what he is going through.”

Although Lue said that Leonard is feeling a little better, it remains unclear whether he’ll be available on Sunday, when the Clippers return from their brief road trip to host Utah.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The potential sale of the Suns is complicated by the fact that Robert Sarver only owns 35% of the franchise, while owners of 60% of the team’s shares don’t have “tag-along” rights, explains Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. That means that those minority shareholders won’t necessarily have to sell their stakes in the franchise when Sarver does, though he could require it as part of a deal. Prospective buyers aren’t sure what path Sarver will take, according to Kaplan, who suggests that the valuation of the team would spike if minority shareholders aren’t obligated to sell — in that scenario, a buyer would be able to gain controlling rights of the Suns while only purchasing 40% of the franchise.
  • The Grizzlies‘ increased focus on three-point shots isn’t just about analytics, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. It’s also about helping Ja Morant thrive by opening up more space on the floor. Memphis is 11th this year in three-point attempts per game after ranking 23rd last season, and in games when the team makes at least 15 threes, Morant is averaging 40.3 PPG and 8.0 APG.
  • Thunder two-way player Eugene Omoruyi has seen some action in the early part of the 2022/23 season, appearing in four of the club’s six games so far. Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman takes an in-depth look at Omoruyi’s unique path to the NBA.

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Jones, LaRavia

Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant is listed as doubtful to play on Saturday vs. Utah due to a non-COVID illness, the team announced (via Twitter). Morant was added to the injury report on Friday night and his status remains unchanged in the latest update.

An illness may be just about the only thing capable of slowing down Morant at this point. The All-NBA guard is off to a terrific start this season, averaging 32.6 points, 6.8 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game in his first five contests (32.8 MPG), with an outrageous shooting line of .529/.565/.875. If the 4-1 Grizzlies and Morant stay hot, the 23-year-old could emerge as a legitimate MVP candidate this season.

Here’s more out of Memphis:

  • After re-signing with the Grizzlies this summer on a two-year, $29MM deal, Tyus Jones is playing a slightly bigger role and is facing a tougher challenge, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Jones, who is averaging a career-high 23.8 minutes per game so far, is one of the few holdovers in a second unit that lost De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson and is currently without injured wing Ziaire Williams.
  • Those departures and injury absences have Jones looking for his own shot more and unable to maintain his usual league-leading assist-to-turnover ratio so far this season. Still, he’s not too worried about an up-and-down start, and remains focused on helping his teammates – including multiple rookies – get comfortable. “As far as our unit goes, (I’m) just talking to them before practice, during practice trying to help them on that learning curve as I can,” Jones said, per Cole. “That’s part of my job as a leader on this team.”
  • Injuries to Williams and Jaren Jackson Jr. have helped open up a regular rotation role for rookie forward Jake LaRavia, and the former Wake Forest standout showed on Thursday what he’s capable of providing the club, Cole notes in a separate Commercial Appeal story. LaRavia had 13 points and nine rebounds while making 3-of-4 three-pointers in Memphis’ win over Sacramento. “They drafted me here because I’m a shooter, play defense, too, and that’s what I’m going to do,” LaRavia said.
  • In case you missed it, the Grizzlies ranked 29th out of 30 NBA teams when Forbes released its annual franchise valuations. Forbes estimates the team to be worth $1.65 billion.