Jaren Jackson Jr.

FIBA World Cup Notes: Barrett, Drummond, Adebayo

RJ Barrett will not participate in the 2019 FIBA World Cup for Canada due to a mild calf strain, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The most recent No. 3 overall pick will join Team Canada for training camp and team activities in Toronto. Barrett represented his country over the last four summers and helped the squad qualify for the World Cup.

There’s also Team USA news. Here is the latest, via USA Basketball’s website:

Southwest Notes: Murray, Arakji, Jackson Jr, Pelicans

Spurs guard Dejounte Murray is almost fully recovered from his torn ACL and is focused on getting ready for the 2019/20 season, Jabari Young details in a story for The Athletic.

Murray, 22, suffered the injury last preseason, a crushing blow to an organization hoping to feature him at starting point guard alongside the likes of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. He was overcome with emotion upon realizing his regular season ended before it even began.

“I’ve never been hurt before,” Murray said. “I pray to God it doesn’t happen again. It was just tears because I know all the hard work that I put in last (offseason). I put in a lot of work.”

Murray, who was drafted by the Spurs with the No. 29 pick in 2016, was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team during his second season. He’s expected to be a focal point in San Antonio’s offense heading into training camp this fall.

“I can’t wait (until) training camp because I’ll know who is on my team and who is not on my team,” Murray said. “I’m just excited to get to work. I want a championship bad, and I just want the players to want it as bad as me. So, if we all get on the same page and get a championship, then everybody is successful.”

  • The Mavericks have reached a summer league commitment with guard Wael Arakji, a promising young star from Lebanon who recently impressed at a free agent mini-camp with the team, a league source told Hoops Rumors. Arakji, 24, also hired agent Scott Nichols of Rize Management as representation to continue his pursuit of an NBA deal, quickly becoming a fan-favorite overseas and impressing Mavs officials during his workout.
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. has become the leader on the Grizzlies, but the team still needs more wing players to be competitive next season, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian writes. Herrington outlines ten takes on the franchise after the draft, including what’s to come in free agency.
  • Zion Williamson is a match made in heaven for the Pelicans, William Guillory of The Athletic writes. New Orleans drafted Williamson No. 1 overall and plans to add him to a young core that includes Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and others.

Injury Updates: Anderson, J. Jackson, Ntilikina, THJ

Considering they haven’t seen any game action since January 30 and February 13 respectively, Grizzlies regulars Kyle Anderson and Jaren Jackson Jr. weren’t considered great bets to return to the court before the end of the regular season. Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff confirmed as much today, telling reporters – including Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal (Twitter link) – that both players are done for the season.

While a shoulder injury cut Anderson’s season short and a quad issue prevented Jackson from getting back on the court, both players figure to be building blocks for the Grizzlies as the team goes through a retooling period. Anderson still has three more years left on the contract he signed with the team last summer, while Jackson has three years remaining on his rookie deal.

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

  • After re-aggravating a groin injury last weekend, Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina will be shut down for the rest of the season, the club announced today (via Twitter). It was a bit of a lost year for Ntilikina, who was limited to just 43 games due to injuries and an inconsistent role, and didn’t take a real step forward after an up-and-down rookie season. His place in the Knicks’ long-term future is unclear.
  • Mavericks wing Tim Hardaway Jr., who has already been ruled out for the season, will likely undergo surgery to insert a rod in his leg and repair his stress fracture, owner Mark Cuban said this week (Twitter link via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com). Assuming he goes ahead with that procedure, Hardaway is expected to be recovered well before training camp begins in 2019/20.
  • In case you missed it, we passed along health updates on Dwight Howard, Dante Exum, and Luc Mbah a Moute on Thursday.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Sidelined By Quad Injury

Grizzlies rookie power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. has suffered a right quad injury and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Jackson, the fourth overall pick in the draft out of Michigan State, has produced an impressive rookie campaign during an otherwise bleak season in Memphis. He’s averaging 13.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 1.4 BPG in 26.1 MPG while playing in 58 games, including 56 starts.

The 6’11” Jackson is shooting 50.6% from the field and 35.9% from long range. He scored a season-high 36 points against Brooklyn on November 30.

The Grizzlies will be cautious with their budding franchise player, Wojnarowski adds. That’s no surprise, as Memphis waved the white flag on a playoff push when it put veteran center Marc Gasol and point guard Mike Conley on the trading block. Gasol was dealt to Toronto but the Grizzlies couldn’t find a palatable trade offer for Conley.

Southwest Notes: Mirotic, Gasol, Spurs, Jackson Jr.

Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic has regained his rhythm with the team, returning to the lineup this past week after missing 12 games with an ankle injury. He scored 26 combined points in his first two games back, draining a handful of threes as an off-ball threat.

“He was trying to get himself going early and I just kind of wanted to tell him to let it come to him,” Anthony Davis said of Mirotic following Wednesday’s win over Cleveland, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate. “I think it was big for him to see his shot go in and from there he started making a bunch of shots.”

Mirotic wound up scoring 17 points against the Cavs, then scored nine points with a positive net rating against the Timberwolves on Saturday. He was acquired by the Pelicans in a trade last year, with the team bringing him on as a catch-and-shoot threat.

“AD said, ‘Take the first one. Don’t hesitate,’ ” Mirotic said. “So I said, ‘He’s right. If you have an open shot, take the open shot.’ Just play simple. That’s what I did. A couple of possessions after that, they went to double against AD and he passed it to me wide open, and I shot that corner in the second quarter. That was all. Playing simple.” 

The Pelicans are striving to make the postseason for the third time since drafting Davis. The team is reportedly active on the trade market, with the NBA’s annual deadline falling on February 7 this season.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has denied that there’s any rift between him and teammate Joakim Noah, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. A video of Gasol brushing by Noah after the team’s win over the Spurs circulated on social media, with Gasol calling the insinuation “f——” unbelievable.” Noah also played with Marc’s brother, Pau Gasol, for two seasons in Chicago.
  • Patty Mills expects an emotional night when longtime Spurs guard Tony Parker returns to San Antonio on Monday, tweets Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. Parker signed a free-agent contract with the Hornets last summer, leaving the Spurs after 17 seasons. “I think he is going to get a very, very warm welcome,” Mills said. “The city loves him. They always have, and vice versa. Looking forward to a pretty cool reception from the fans.”
  • Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff explains his development plan for Jaren Jackson Jr., as relayed by Cobb in a story for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “There’s moments where it may look like we’re being tough on him,” Bickerstaff said. “But we have expectations of him being a franchise player, and your franchise player has to hold himself to those standards. And you only get one chance to coach him as a rookie.” Jackson Jr., the No. 4 pick in 2018, has averaged 13.4 points in 25.5 minutes per game this season, starting in 40 of 42 contests.

Southwest Notes: J. Green, J. Jackson, Bickerstaff, Payton

Trading JaMychal Green is the easiest way to open more playing time for rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., writes David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Jackson has played well in his first season, but his fourth-quarter minutes have been limited. Green, whose broken jaw early in the season opened the way for Jackson to enter the starting lineup, has quietly accepted a reserve role since returning and is among the most respected veterans in the Grizzlies‘ locker room.

However, Green has an expiring $7.87MM contract and doesn’t seem likely to stay in Memphis as a free agent, Cobb states. With Jackson clearly the team’s power forward of the future, the Grizzlies could pick up at least a draft pick in exchange for Green before the February 7 trade deadline.

Cobb offers a few other suggestions for expanding Jackson’s minutes if they decide to keep Green, including cutting back on playing time for Joakim Noah, who has a negative plus-minus rating in seven of his last eight games, and giving more rest to Marc Gasol, who is averaging 34.6 minutes per night.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The GrizzliesJ.B. Bickerstaff came to Houston as a head coach tonight for the first time since serving as the Rockets‘ interim coach in 2015/16, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Bickerstaff led the team to a 37-34 record that season, but wasn’t retained. “I was here for five years, was a part of some really good teams, got to work with a great coach and friend in Kevin McHale, learned from him every single day, was thrown in the fire a little bit at the interim,” Bickerstaff said. “There’s no experience like the experience of being in that seat. My time here, though it ended kind of bumpy, was great for my career, great for me as a coach in learning. And I had some really good times with the people here as well.”
  • The Pelicans had Elfrid Payton in their starting lineup tonight for the first time in more than six weeks. The free agent addition broke his left pinky finger last month and hasn’t played since November 16. Coach Alvin Gentry plans to limit his minutes until he gets back into game shape, tweets Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com.
  • Jordan Greer of The Sporting News looks at six potential targets for the Rockets in their pursuit of wing depth.

Southwest Notes: Davis, Paul, Parsons, Brooks, Smith

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry believes LeBron James‘ comment that it would be “amazing” to play with Anthony Davis constitutes tampering, William Guillory of The Athletic tweets. An NBA statement on Friday indicated the James’ statement did not rise to the level of tampering. Gentry vehemently disagreed. “It’s tampering,” Gentry said. “Should we have AD say, ‘Why don’t we trade for LeBron?'” Gentry went on further to say, “I thought if you talked about a player under contract, it’s tampering. That’s just me. I’ve only been in the league for 31 years, so what would I know?”

We have more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets All-Star guard Chris Paul has a Grade 2 hamstring strain and will be reevaluated in two weeks, according to a team press release. Paul suffered the injury against Miami on Thursday.
  • The Grizzlies are hopeful that forwards Chandler Parsons and Dillon Brooks will return to action soon, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. Parsons hasn’t played since the third game this season due to knee and back soreness but has ramped up his workouts lately. Brooks, who has not played since November 10th due to a Grade II MCL sprain, should return before the New Year. They could boost an offense that has reached 100 points just once the past 10 games, Cobb adds.
  • On that same topic, Michael Wallace of the team’s website notes that rookie forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and veteran combo guard Shelvin Mack have slumped recently. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes confidence is a factor for the team in general. “We can come up with schemes and tricks and all that, but on the offensive end of the floor, we’ve got to take the shots that are available to us,” he said. “We’ve got to believe the shots are going in. Guys are working their tails off, taking their reps. We’ve got to get them those shots, and when they get them, they’ve got to take them and knock them down.”
  • Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. probably won’t play again until after Christmas, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports.  Smith has missed six of the last seven games due to a wrist injury. He’s unlikely to return until after the team’s road trip, which concludes Sunday.  Their next home game is Wednesday against the Pelicans.
  • Davis’ decision whether to sign a Designated Veteran extension with the Pelicans looms as one of this summer’s biggest stories, as Danny Leroux of The Athletic notes. Davis has no financial incentive to wait until potential free agency the following summer, so if he doesn’t sign it, that probably means he wants out of New Orleans, as Leroux details.

Grizzlies Owner Talks JJJ, Gasol, Bickerstaff, More

Due to an unusual agreement with a pair of minority stakeholders in the Grizzlies, Robert Pera‘s position as the franchise’s controlling owner was tenuous up until April of this year. At that point, Pera reached a deal to buy out those minority owners – Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus – to retain control of the team and to cement his status as the Grizzlies’ owner going forward.

As a result of his newly stable position, Pera became more involved with the team during the 2018 offseason, as he tells Geoff Calkins of The Daily Memphian in a wide-ranging Q&A. According to Pera, he was personally involved in “pretty much every single one” of Memphis’ offseason transactions, which included signing Kyle Anderson and drafting Jaren Jackson Jr.

Pera weighed in on the decision to draft Jackson and several other subjects, including whether Memphis fans should be worried about the threat of relocation. Let’s dive in and round up some of the highlights from the Grizzlies owner…

On drafting Jaren Jackson Jr.:

“One of the biggest reasons we drafted Jaren and also Jevon (Carter) is we did a really in-depth character background and he comes from very good upbringing. His mother is head of the Players Association of the WNBA. When you have players that have the physical attributes, a feel for the game, and they have solid character and solid upbringing, those are all characteristics of players who are some of the most special players in the league, like a Steph Curry.

On whether he’s confident Marc Gasol, who can reach free agency in 2019, will remain with the Grizzlies long-term:

“I can’t read his mind, but if it were up to me I certainly want him to retire as a Grizzly.”

On giving interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff the permanent coaching job instead of conducting a full-fledged search in the spring:

“One of the things I preached to the front office, I wanted continuity. I always say to the front office, if you want to build a high-performance team, the guys in the locker room can’t see a new face every other week. Right? You need to build a continuity and a familiarity where people can depend on each other, they know who’s in the room and they know they are going to war with the same people every night. A lot of the players knew J.B., so there’s continuity. But on top of that, we have this selfless style of basketball and culture and he’s a very selfless guy. He has the team’s best interest in mind. He fits perfectly with the team.”

On his ongoing confidence in GM Chris Wallace:

“I obviously had my hands in a lot of the moves this offseason, but the way I look at it is, collectively you make some bad decisions, and we made some good decisions, but we don’t like to point at certain people. It’s a collective effort. Chris and the front office, I think this offseason we really surpassed a lot of expectations.”

On whether Memphis basketball fans should be at all worried about him moving the franchise somewhere like Seattle:

“I don’t want any part in relocation. I have my own career, I’m trying to focus on it, I want to keep distractions and chaos to the minimum. I’m committed to Memphis for the long term. And in the world today, it’s so virtual. I have 15 research and development offices around the world, I probably only spend a third of my time in the U.S. When I’m in the U.S., I’m in a bunch of different cities. My employees are in a bunch of different time zones. I keep track of everything virtually. To me it doesn’t matter where the team is located. Memphis is as convenient a place as any. So, yeah, there should be no concern.”

Southwest Notes: Chriss, Okafor, Grizzlies, Mavs

The Rockets hope Marquese Chriss will develop into the type of backup center they thought they acquired when they signed Brandan Wright late last season, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Wright got hurt quickly and only played one game for Houston, but the team sees Chriss as the same style of player, a mobile big man who can attack the rim on pick-and-rolls.

Chriss was acquired from the Suns at the end of August in the trade that sent Ryan Anderson to Phoenix. The former eighth overall pick had a solid debut for the Rockets on Tuesday with 11 points and four rebounds and welcomes a more defined role.

“The difference is they know what they want me to do,” Chriss said of the Rockets. “They’re asking me to do a specific job. I’m trying to do it to the best of my ability. There really is no question about what they want my role to be. They made it straightforward to me when I first got traded here. I embraced it, and I’m working to do it as best as I can. Being on the Suns, it was kind of touch and go what we were capable of doing or I was able to show.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Jahlil Okafor‘s ankle injury won’t prevent him from making the Pelicans‘ roster, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Okafor is expected to miss a week or two after spraining his right ankle late in Sunday’s game, but coach Alvin Gentry said that won’t affect his decision on Okafor’s status.
  • The Grizzlies should have plenty of minutes for both rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. and JaMychal Green, the returning starter at power forward, writes Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. Jackson attracted more attention at media day, but Green is entering the final year of his contract at nearly $7.7MM and has incentive to put up big numbers heading into free agency.
  • Mavericks‘ forward Ding Yanyuhang hasn’t practiced yet because of knee tendinitis, but may be able to make his preseason debut in his home nation of China, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Coach Rick Carlisle said Ding has been ruled out for the team’s game in Shanghai, but he may practice and play in Shenzhen. Carlisle also said the next update on Dirk Nowitzki‘s condition will come October 12 (Twitter link).

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Nowitzki, Gentile

The Grizzlies will hold their annual media day on Monday and Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian is looking at six key questions that loom over the team’s upcoming campaign. Among them are how much Mike Conley and Marc Gasol can still contribute, what rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. can provide and how the rotation will play out in the backcourt and on the wing.

After a disappointing, injury-riddled 2017/18 season that saw the Grizzlies win just 22 games, the team added Jackson, Kyle Anderson and Garrett Temple (among others) in the offseason in hopes of returning to the playoffs. All of Memphis’ offseason additions point to a return to “grit and grind,” the style of play that brought the Grizzlies a lot of success over the past decade, including four playoff series victories.

Conley will play a deciding role in the team’s success. Back in 2016/17, he was a borderline All-Star averaging 20.5 points and 6.3 assists per game while knocking down over 40 percent of his 3-pointers. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a significant foot injury, but if Conley can produce at that level this season the Grizzlies will be competitive.

The same can also be said for Gasol, the 33-year-old center who looked disengaged throughout most of last season as the team shifted its focus on developing young players and maximizing its draft pick. With the addition of several veterans in the offseason and the return of his point guard, Gasol should bounce back and continue to be a force in the middle for the Grizzlies.

Despite all of their additions and a clean bill of health, it will be very tough for the Grizzlies to make it back to the postseason given the improvements that several teams in the Western Conference made, including Denver, Dallas, and the Lakers.

There’s more from the Southwest division:

  • While Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki has made no clear indications that this upcoming season will be his last, Rick Carlisle told Dwain Price of Mavs.com (Twitter link) that he believes there’s a real chance Nowitzki will call it quits after this campaign. If Nowitzki does indeed retire after the 2018/19 season, he will join another future Hall-of-Famer in Dwyane Wade, who announced that this upcoming season will be his last.
  • Speaking of Nowitzki, Carlisle also revealed that the 40-year-old will likely come off the bench, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). This would pave the way for Carlisle to start Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes and DeAndre Jordan, and would allow Nowitzki to be an offensive focal point for the Mavericks‘ bench units.
  • With the Rockets starting training camp on Tuesday, the team released the roster of players participating in camp this season. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter) pointed out that Alessandro Gentile is not on that roster, despite previous expectations and wishes for him to join the team and try to make the jump to the NBA this season. Gentile, who was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft, has been recovering from hand surgery and will likely have to wait another year in his attempt to make it to the NBA.