Jaren Jackson Jr.

Southwest Notes: Zion, J. Jackson, Belinelli, Cash

After playing limited minutes and sitting in crunch time during the Pelicans‘ first two games – both losses – Zion Williamson logged 25 minutes and was a key contributor down the stretch as New Orleans closed out a Monday win over Memphis. After the game, Williamson told ESPN’s Malika Andrews that he “felt alive again,” per Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

“I ain’t gonna lie to you, it’s just different in a bad way when I’m on the bench in the fourth quarter, and there’s nothing I can do to help my team win,” Williamson said. “So I said I felt alive — it was just great to be out there doing whatever I can to help my team win.”

In addition to Williamson’s contributions, the Pelicans also got 24 points and some key late baskets from Brandon Ingram, while Josh Hart chipped in 15 points and Lonzo Ball was a game-best +15. The performances prompted head coach Alvin Gentry to praise his young core after the win.

“When you have two really young players (Williamson and Ingram) like that who stepped up for you, and Josh Hart, you know, Josh is a very young kid, too,” Gentry said. “I think if you look at it, we have a good, young nucleus of players along with some of the veteran guys we have.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer explores the impact that losing Jaren Jackson Jr. will have on the Grizzlies‘ push to secure a playoff spot. As O’Connor writes, Memphis is well ahead of schedule in its rebuild and should be pleased with the season as a whole, but there’s a chance it will end on a “decidedly sour note.”
  • Speaking of Jackson, he’s staying at the Walt Disney World campus for now, according to Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins (Twitter link via ESPN’s Malika Andrews). However, Jackson may need to leave at some point for treatment and/or rehab work related to his meniscus tear, Jenkins acknowledged.
  • Spurs guard Marco Belinelli, who sprained his left ankle during the team’s first game of the restart last week, is active today after missing a pair of games, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News.
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at Pelicans VP of basketball operations and team development Swin Cash, who is the first Black woman to hold such a high-ranking basketball ops position for an NBA franchise.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Out For Season With Meniscus Tear

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. has been diagnosed with a meniscus tear in his left knee, the team announced today in a press release. The injury, which Jackson sustained during Monday’s loss to the Pelicans, will cause him to miss the rest of the 2019/20 season, according to the club.

Jackson, who will turn 21 in September, is one of Memphis’ most important young building blocks, along with Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke. In his second NBA season, Jackson averaged 17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 1.6 BPG on .469/.394/.747 shooting in 57 games (28.5 MPG). He missed some time in February and March with a sprain to the same left knee that is now injured again.

Although Jackson is expected to make a full recovery, the injury is an unfortunate development for both him and the Grizzlies, who are clinging to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

Having lost their first three games since play resumed this summer, the Grizzlies are now just two games ahead of the Trail Blazers and Spurs and 2.5 games up on New Orleans. Hanging onto that No. 8 spot – in the eight seeding games and possibly in a play-in tournament – will become an even greater challenge now that Memphis is missing its second-leading scorer.

With Jackson unavailable, the Grizzlies figure to lean more heavily on frontcourt rotation players like Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas, and Anthony Tolliver. Josh Jackson and Gorgui Dieng are among the bench players who should move up on the depth chart.

Jackson, meanwhile, will shift his focus to next season, when he’s under contract for $7.26MM. He’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2021 offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lou Williams Expected To Play In Restart; Beal Still Undecided

Seven players so far have opted out of the NBA’s restart this summer, but Clippers guard Lou Williams is unlikely to join that group. Despite previously expressing uncertainty about his status, Williams is expected to suit up for the Clippers as they pursue a title at Walt Disney World, head coach Doc Rivers said on Wednesday.

“As far as Lou, all indications (are) that yes, he is (playing),” Rivers said on a Zoom call, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. “Obviously, up until we get on the plane, anything can happen. But I do expect Lou to be with us. I would be very surprised if he’s not.”

Meanwhile, another high-scoring guard, Bradley Beal, remains uncertain about his status for Orlando, as Youngmisuk writes in a separate story. Beal’s teammate Davis Bertans has already pulled out due to injury concerns ahead of his upcoming free agency. Beal’s backcourt mate and fellow All-Star John Wall won’t be in attendance either, as he continues to focus on his Achilles rehab and a 2020/21 return.

According to Youngmisuk, Beal is considering health factors too as he weighs his options.

“I have yet to make (my decision),” Beal told reporters on Wednesday. “I am still working my tail off every single day as if I am playing. It is more or less a decision that will come down to the medical staff and coming back from zero to 100, and then I have some nagging stuff from the end of the year that we are trying to clean up, too. We are looking at it from all angles. I am definitely working out every single day here. It is good to be back in the facility. … I am not swayed one way or another.”

Here’s more on certain players’ participation decisions:

Southwest Notes: Jackson Jr., Ivey, Rivers, D’Antoni

The Grizzlies will have to defend their playoff position if the NBA can salvage a significant amount of its regular season, but Jaren Jackson Jr. doesn’t mind as long as he can get back to basketball, writes Jason Munz of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Memphis held a three-and-a-half-game cushion over the Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Kings for the eighth spot when the hiatus began. The NBA has discussed scenarios that include going straight to the playoffs or fitting in a few more regular-season games.

“I mean, whatever. I’m down just to play, honestly,” Jackson said. “I know there’s talks about if they need games before the playoffs to get us ready for the playoffs, or they just want to hop right into (the postseason). I would be cool with either, honestly. We’re in the playoffs (if the regular season ended today), so I’m biased. I’d rather just run it.”

Jackson, who is among the many players without access to a basketball hoop during the shutdown, also addressed the potential adjustment of playing in empty arenas.

“I think we’ve all, at some point, played AAU or some form of it,” he said. “Whether you were overseas or not, like, you played a certain type of amateur basketball that is kind of like that. So it will definitely remind you of that and bring back memories. I think everybody will be fine, honestly.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies assistant Niele Ivey is the new women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame, the team announced today. She came to Memphis in the offseason after 12 years as an assistant with the Fighting Irish. “In her first year with the Memphis Grizzlies, Niele made a lasting impact on the floor, but even more so off the floor through her relationships with the players, fellow coaches and staff, including the relationship we built coach-to-coach,” said Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins.
  • Rockets guard Austin Rivers is likely to opt out of his $2.4MM salary for next season and test free agency, states Danny Leroux of The Athletic, who previews Houston’s offseason along with Kelly Iko. The Rockets hold Early Bird rights on Rivers and can start his new contract at nearly $10MM per season without having to use their mid-level exception.
  • If Houston decides to part with head coach Mike D’Antoni, who is in the final year of his contract, Leroux suggests the Pelicans might be his best destination. Of course, that could only happen if New Orleans decides to fire coach Alvin Gentry. Leroux notes that D’Antoni has connections with Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin from their time together in Phoenix and might bring the best offensive philosophy to help develop Zion Williamson.

Grizzlies Expect Jackson, Winslow Back Within Next Week

The Grizzlies will be getting some reinforcements off the injured list soon as they continue their push to secure the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. The team announced today in a press release that forwards Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) and Justise Winslow (back) are both likely to return to action within the next week.

Jackson, who is dealing with a sprained left knee, has been on the shelf since suffering that injury on February 21. Before going down, he was one of Memphis’ leading scorers, with 16.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 1.6 BPG in 54 contests (28.0 MPG).

As for Winslow, he has yet to actually appear in a game for the Grizzlies, having been acquired from the Heat in the three-team trade that sent Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder to Miami at last month’s deadline. The centerpiece of that trade from Memphis’ perspective, Winslow has been limited to just 11 games on the season due to injuries. In 2018/19, he recorded 12.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.3 APG in 66 games (29.7 MPG) for the Heat.

The Grizzlies have been holding their own without Jackson and Winslow — their 32-32 record gives them a four-game lead on the Pelicans and Kings for the West’s final playoff spot. Still, Memphis isn’t in the clear yet. New Orleans, in particular, is a candidate to make a run at the No. 8 seed, since the Pels have the league’s easiest schedule for the rest of the season, per Tankathon. The Grizzlies have the second-hardest rest-of-season slate.

Although Jackson and Winslow are close to returning, the same can’t be said for Brandon Clarke, who remains sidelined with a right quad strain. The Grizzlies’ announcement today did offer some optimism on Clarke’s recovery though, indicating that he’s still expected to return before the end of the season.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Sprains Left Knee

Stellar second-year Grizzlies power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. has sprained his left knee and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, according to Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian.

Jackson sustained the sprain after suffering a nasty fall late in the second quarter in Memphis’ 117-102 loss to the Lakers this past Friday. His loss is not insignificant for the ascendant Grizzlies, current holders of the Western Conference’s coveted No. 8 seed. Jackson ranks third on the team in minutes played per game (28), second in points per game (16.9), and fourth in average boards (4.7).

Jackson and rookie Ja Morant are the two core building block factors in a Grizzlies youth movement that has brought the team back to relevance. The Grizzlies are currently 28-28 after losing two straight contests following the extended All-Star break. That record puts them 3.5 games ahead of the 25-32 Trail Blazers (the No. 9 seed) and the 24-31 Spurs (the No. 10 seed). The Pelicans, Kings and Suns are all within 1.5 games of the Spurs’ record.

If the Grizzlies go on a sustained swoon in the standings with rookie Brandon Clarke absorbing most of Jackson’s minutes as the new starting four, one of these other playoff contenders may pounce. Memphis already had an external impediment to securing a postseason berth this year: the most competitive remaining schedule in the NBA, ranked by opponent record.

Jackson’s absence may mean more playing time for new center Gorgui Dieng and for forward Kyle Anderson.

Doncic, Young, Zion Headline Rising Stars Rosters

The NBA has officially announced the 20 rookies and sophomores who have been named to the league’s Rising Stars game for All-Star weekend. Those 20 players, selected by assistant coaches from around the league, will be divided into a U.S. Team and a World Team, as follows:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

Williamson’s inclusion is notable since he has appeared in just four games due to injuries. It’s not surprising that the NBA found a way to get him into the game, since he’s one of the most exciting prospects to enter the league in years, but it’s a tough break for youngsters who have been on the court since the fall for contenders, such as Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle. or Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.

Snubbed players like Thybulle, Porter, and others could eventually make their way into the Rising Stars game if players have to pull out due to injuries, or if All-Stars like Doncic and Young opt not to play in both events.

The Rising Stars game will take place in Chicago on Friday, February 14.

Elfrid Payton Among Three Suspended For Knicks-Grizzlies Fight

The NBA has handed out the punishments for the fourth-quarter scuffle between the Knicks and Grizzlies brawl on Wednesday night.

According to the league, Knicks guard Elfrid Payton has been suspended one game for pushing Jae Crowder at the end of the contest. Grizzlies players Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marko Guduric have each been suspended one game for leaving the bench.

Crowder, who took the late-game three-pointer that irked the Knicks, did not get suspended but instead will receive a $25K fine. Marcus Morris has also been fined $35K for his role in escalating the fight.

The Memphis players will serve their suspensions on Friday when the team plays the Pelicans in New Orleans. Payton will miss Saturday’s contest against the Pacers.

For more details on the altercation, be sure to check out our earlier story.

Grizzlies/Knicks Fight Could Result In Suspensions

With less than a minute left in Wednesday’s Grizzlies/Knicks game and Memphis leading by 18 points, Grizzlies forward Jae Crowder stole an inbound pass and ran to the three-point line to get a shot up, drawing the ire of Knicks guard Elfrid Payton. As Crowder launched his three-pointer, Payton delivered a two-handed shove to his chest, knocking him over and instigating a scuffle between the players on the court (video link).

As Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes, the altercation could lead to fines and/or suspensions for some of the players involved. Payton, Crowder, and Marcus Morris were ejected from the game, with Payton receiving a flagrant 2 foul.

Payton, who seems like the most probable candidate for a suspension, expressed no remorse for his actions after the game, suggesting that Crowder “knows better” than to do what he did with the game’s outcome already decided, per Garrett Stepien and Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

“I’d do it again,” Payton said. “Didn’t matter who took that shot. Don’t disrespect the game like that … you just don’t do that.”

Barnes points out that Grizzlies players Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marko Guduric could also be subject to league discipline, since they left the team’s bench area during the incident before eventually being pulled back by assistant coaches. The NBA’s rules call for a one-game suspension for any player that leaves the bench to enter the fray during an on-court altercation.

The Knicks don’t play again until Saturday, but the Grizzlies are in action tomorrow, so if the NBA plans on handing out suspensions, we’ll hear about them before Friday night.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies/Knicks fracas:

  • As Mike Vornukov of The Athletic details, Morris faced a backlash after the game for using sexist language while criticizing Crowder’s “unprofessional” play. He’s just — a lot of female tendencies on the court, flopping and just throwing his head back the entire game,” the Knicks’ forward said. “And like I said, it’s a man’s game and you just get tired of it, man.
  • Morris, who may face NBA punishment for his comments about Crowder, later apologized on Twitter: “I apologize for using the term ‘female tendencies.’ I have the upmost respect for women and everything they mean to us. It was a heat of the moment response and I never intended for any women to feel as though in anyway I’m disrespecting them. Again I apologize for my comments.”
  • Following the late-game altercation, fans at Madison Square Garden aimed a “Sell the team” chant at owner James Dolan for about 20 seconds, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Dolan shouted at security during the chants, and a source tells Berman that the Knicks’ owner also singled out a teenager who was the nearest chanting fan in his vicinity.

Grizzlies Exercise Contract Options On Jackson Jr., Allen

The Grizzlies have exercised their 2020/21 contract options on big man Jaren Jackson Jr. and guard Grayson Allen, according to a team press release.

Jackson, the fourth pick in the 2018 draft, averaged 13.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 1.4 BPG during his rookie campaign. He’ll now make a guaranteed $7,257,360 next season after collecting approximately $6.93MM during his second season. The option was a mere formality for Memphis, which is building around Jackson and 2019 lottery pick Ja Morant.

Allen was selected with the No. 21 overall pick last year by the Jazz. He averaged 5.6 PPG in 10.9 MPG over 38 appearances with Utah.

Allen was part of the package Memphis received in the Mike Conley blockbuster. Allen, who is making approximately $2.43MM this season, will receive $2,545,320 in 2020/21. Allen is competing for minutes at shooting guard with Dillon Brooks and European import Marko Guduric.