Ja Morant

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.

Jazz Notes: Mitchell, Snyder, Fan Incidents

In limited minutes, Jazz All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell looked like his old self Thursday night, his first game back since spraining his right ankle on April 16, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Mitchell scored 25 points in 26 minutes of game action.

The 24-year-old’s return to the floor helped galvanize the Jazz. Utah ultimately beat the Grizzlies 141-129 to knot their first-round series at 1-1.

“I felt better than I anticipated, and as a whole, I think the biggest thing as a team is we did a lot of good things tonight … so it made my job easier,” Mitchell said of his return to the Jazz. “I didn’t have to come in and just do everything. I was able to find my spots and attack. And kind of just do what I do. And my teammates made it really easy for me.” 

There’s more out of Utah:

  • Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune examines the circuitous journey Jazz head coach Quin Snyder undertook before landing in Utah. Snyder had stints with the now-Austin Spurs of the G League (then the Austin Toros of the D League), the Sixers, the Lakers, CSKA Moscow, and the Hawks. He began his journey from the college ranks to the pros in a cross-country adventure in a 2002 Volkswagen Eurovan, after his seven-year tenure as the men’s basketball head coach for Missouri ended in 2006. “I was in North Carolina living by myself, I had a great black Lab, and I was trying to figure out, kind of, ‘What next?’ And, the (next) question is, ‘Where?’ And ‘What?’” Snyder said. “And I came to the conclusion that, really, it was like, ‘Anywhere,’ because it really didn’t matter at that point. And it was a little bit of ‘Anything.’ I wasn’t sure I wanted to coach again.”
  • During the Jazz’s Game 2 victory over the Grizzlies, Vivint Arena security ejected three fans for unruly verbal behavior directed toward the parents of star Memphis point guard Ja Morant, writes Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The team has banned the individuals from Utah’s home arena indefinitely.
  • A Utah judge has rejected a $100MM lawsuit filed by two other Jazz fans against Wizards point guard Russell Westbrook and the Jazz, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The fans, who claimed defamation and infliction of emotional stress in their suit, had also been banned indefinitely for comments and taunts directed towards Westbrook, then with the Thunder, in a March 2019 Jazz game.

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.

Southwest Notes: Brooks, Šamanić, Tate, Morant

Grizzlies swingman Dillon Brooks has had trouble finding his shooting touch thus far this season, prompting Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal to wonder if the fourth-year player out of Oregon has already peaked in his development.

Brooks is in the first season of a three-year, $35MM extension he signed with the Grizzlies during the 2019/20 campaign. Though his scoring output has not decreased significantly (he is averaging 14.9 PPG compared to his career-high 16.2 PPG last year), Brooks is connecting on career-low percentages from the floor (37.5%) and the three-point line (28.4%).

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs power forward Luka Šamanić, the No. 19 pick in the 2019 draft who continues to try to carve out a place in the NBA, is returning to an Orlando “bubble” campus. After playing for San Antonio during last year’s summer restart at Disney World, he’ll join the team’s G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, in the NBAGL bubble campus set to tip off on Wednesday, as Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News details.
  • Undrafted Rockets rookie small forward Jae’Sean Tate, now a crucial rotation piece for a retooling Houston squad, had an interesting conversation with Kelly Iko of The Athletic, touching on his experiences in his first 22 NBA games and why he almost stopped playing basketball. The 6’4″ wing is averaging 8.5 PPG (on 52.1% shooting from the floor), 4.9 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.8 SPG and 0.7 BPG across 25.9 MPG in Houston. “He has a lot of responsibility and he has to do things right on both sides of the floor,” head coach Stephen Silas said of Tate. “He’s getting better every game and you can see it.”
  • Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has struggled over his past three contests. Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian examines the potential root causes behind the trouble for Morant, who has shot just 13-of-39 from the floor in his last three games for Memphis, all losses.

And-Ones: Team USA, Monroe, Jerebko, Cuban, Beal

USA Basketball has sent out approximately 60 invitations to players who have expressed interest in being part of the Olympic player pool, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Team USA could be without players advancing to the NBA Finals, based on the timing of July Olympics in Tokyo, Wojnarowski notes. Among the players invited are some of the league’s young stars, including Duncan Robinson, Zion Williamson, Trae Young and Ja Morant, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA big men Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko had their contracts terminated by BC Khimki Moscow, the team tweets. Monroe played in nine Euroleague games with averages of 10.3 PPG and 6 RPG. Jerebko was averaging 11.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG. The team cited “personal circumstances of (the) players” as the reason for the termination.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he is in talks with the NBA to organize some preseason games in Europe against Real Madrid or in Slovenia, according to Sportando. Cuban would like to give European fans a chance to watch Luka Doncic in action.
  • The Wizards have endured a number of postponement due to COVID-19 protocols and Bradley Beal wouldn’t mind if the league considered another bubble or regional sites as the season progresses, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. Beal didn’t play in the summer restart in Orlando. “I probably wouldn’t be totally against it as long as we had the same success that we did the first go-around,” he said. “I wasn’t part of the bubble in the first go-around, so I don’t necessarily know how all that worked down there every day. But I know going through it every day here, it’s a lot. We test twice a day at least for the last week. That’s very overwhelming at times.”

Southwest Notes: Morant, Mills, Ball, Tillman

Grizzlies star Ja Morant returned to the lineup on Saturday days ahead of his initial timetable, energizing his teammates and leading the club to a 106-104 victory over Philadelphia, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes.

Morant suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain on Dec. 28 and was given a 3-to-5 week timeline, a brutal blow for a team already playing without Jaren Jackson Jr. In nearly 31 minutes against the Sixers, Morant finished with 17 points and six assists, shooting 7-of-14 from the floor.

“It was huge, in the fact that he wanted to come back so fast,” teammate Xavier Tillman said, as relayed by Bontemps. “For a guy who .. is a franchise kind-of-guy, they’re usually able to take their time and make sure they are 110 percent before they come back. I’m not saying he wasn’t 110 percent, but he was dying and itching to come back and help us win games.

“To see that from your head guy motivates everybody else, including me, being one of the rookies on the team. It’s like, ‘Hey man, forget nicks and bruises. The dude looked like he broke his ankle and he’s itching to get back. If I have nicks and bruises, I can play, and I can give my heart.'”

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Spurs guard Patty Mills confirmed he plans to play for Australia in the Olympics, as relayed by ESPN (hat tip to Sportando). “Everyone who’s a part of that program right now, from the head coach all the way to the equipment manager, everyone’s gotta be locked in and feel the exact same way as we feel: determined, fire burning inside, desire to do everything we possibly can to win this gold medal,” Mills said.
  • Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy issued a brief injury update on Lonzo Ball, who’s currently dealing with bilateral knee tendinopathy. Though Ball didn’t practice on Saturday, Van Gundy is hopeful he can return relatively soon. “He says he feels a lot better,” Van Gundy said, as relayed by Jacob Rude of USA Today. “(He’s) really working hard on strengthening the muscles around that knee which seems to really help. I think he’s pretty optimistic about being able to come at full strength and pretty optimistic that’s (his return) is not in the distant, distant future. I think we’re talking more days to a week than we are weeks.”
  • Grizzlies forward Xavier Tillman also discussed his increased role with the team (as relayed by Evan Barnes of the Commercial Appeal). The rookie finished with 15 points and four steals off the bench on Saturday, proving his worth on both ends of the floor.

Ja Morant Could Return Friday

Star Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant, the 2019/20 Rookie of the Year, has had his availability status for Friday’s bout against the Timberwolves upgraded to “questionable,” Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

This is the first time Morant has been listed as questionable since incurring a Grade 2 left ankle sprain in a 116-111 victory against the Nets on December 28. A return tomorrow for the 6’3″ guard out of Murray State would be on the early side of the initial three-to-five-week recovery projection given at the time of the injury. Tyus Jones started in Morant’s stead, averaging 9.5 PPG and 6.75 APG.

The Grizzlies have weathered the storm without their lead playmaker relatively successfully thus far. The club is currently 4-4 across the eight games Morant has missed for Memphis and is the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference.

Morant looked to be on track for his first All-Star berth before the ankle sprain, averaging 26.3 PPG, 6.3 APG, 2.3 RPG, 0.7 SPG and 0.7 BPG during the first three games of his sophomore season.

Ja Morant Expected To Miss 3-5 Weeks With Ankle Sprain

Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant is expected to miss the next three to five weeks recovering from a left ankle injury, the team announced today (via Twitter). According to the Grizzlies, Morant was diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain after undergoing tests today.

The 21-year-old suffered the injury on Monday night in the second quarter of Memphis’ game vs. the Nets, when he landed on Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot‘s foot while trying to contest a shot. He left the court area on a wheelchair.

While the injury could have been worse, it’s still an unfortunate setback for Morant, who was looking to build off his Rookie of the Year campaign and was off to a strong start this season. In his two full games before suffering the injury on Monday, he averaged 36.0 PPG and 8.0 APG on .583/.333/.813 shooting.

With Morant sidelined, the Grizzlies will have to lean more heavily on Tyus Jones in the short term. De’Anthony Melton also should see an uptick in minutes once he clears the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Grizzlies’ Ja Morant Sprains Left Ankle

Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant sprained his left ankle during the second quarter of his team’s game against the Nets on Monday, the team’s PR department tweets.

The severity of the injury wasn’t immediately known but Morant hopped around in severe pain after he landed on Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot‘s foot while trying to contest a shot. X-rays revealed no fracture, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets, and the team will await the results of an MRI as soon as Tuesday.

Morant was eventually brought back to the locker room in a wheelchair. He returned to the bench in the second half wearing a walking boot.

If Morant is sidelined for a long stretch, it would have a huge impact on the team’s goal of reaching the playoffs. Tyus Jones would likely be thrust into a starting role in his absence.

Memphis is already a little shorthanded in the backcourt as De’Anthony Melton has missed playing time due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

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.