Jaren Jackson Jr.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Wood, Valanciunas, Branham, JJJ

Luka Doncic is out tonight against the Warriors and Monday against the Jazz, but the Mavericks are optimistic that his right heel contusion won’t sideline him much longer, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Coach Jason Kidd told reporters that Doncic underwent an MRI on Friday, and the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility that he might play later in its five-game road trip, which runs through next Saturday.

“Luka — right heel contusion —healing, day to day, doing better, but will not join us in Utah,” Kidd said. “We’ll see where he’s at after that Utah game.”

Kidd also provided a few other injury updates, saying that Christian Wood participated in a 5-on-5 scrimmage Friday without a setback and could be ready to play by Monday. Maxi Kleber took part in a 1-on-1 workout for the first time since having surgery on his right hamstring in mid-December. Kidd said Davis Bertans will “probably” be sidelined through the All-Star break after straining his left calf in Thursday’s game.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks appear willing to discuss a two-year extension with Wood, but probably nothing longer, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said on Zach Lowe’s podcast. MacMahon is skeptical that a better deal exists in free agency, saying the teams he has talked to are showing limited interest in Wood. He also identifies Wood as the rotation player that Dallas is most likely to trade before Thursday’s deadline, although he’s not sure the team can find equal value in return.
  • Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas will undergo an MRI Sunday morning after leaving tonight’s game with a right knee injury, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN.
  • Spurs guard Malaki Branham reached new career scoring highs twice this week, notes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio has seen a lot of progress from Branham, who was selected with the first-round pick the team received when it sent Thaddeus Young to the Raptors at last year’s deadline. “Things are just slowing down, picking my spots on the court, and doing what I know how to do,” Branham said. “That’s just as simple as it gets.”
  • In an interview posted on the Memphis Commercial Appeal website, Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. talks about the excitement of heading to his first All-Star Game and a possible matchup against teammate Ja Morant.

2023 NBA All-Star Reserves Announced

The league has announced its 2023 All-Star reserves during a pregame broadcast on TNT, as voted on by NBA head coaches. As usual, the list of 14 selections featured some interesting surprises.

For the Eastern Conference, coaches voted in Sixers center Joel Embiid (the reigning Player of the Month in the East), Heat center Bam Adebayo, Bulls wing DeMar DeRozan, Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton, and Knicks forward Julius Randle.

Holiday, who is making his second overall All-star appearance this year, last earned an All-Star nod a decade ago while playing for Philadelphia.

Randle will receive a $1.2MM salary bonus as a result of being named an All-Star this season, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). Marks adds (via Twitter) that Holiday will get a $324K bonus. And as long as he appears in at least 65 contests this year, Brown will earn a $1.55MM bonus after having qualified for the All-Star game, Marks tweets.

Among the most notable omissions in the East were a handful of point guards: the Knicks’ Jalen Brunson, the Hawks’ Trae Young, the Cavaliers’ Darius Garland, and the Sixers’ James Harden. Miami swingman Jimmy Butler also missed out. Young, Harden and Butler all made the cut last season.

In the Western Conference, Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant, Kings center Domantas Sabonis, Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Clippers forward Paul George, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, and Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. were selected as reserves.

Being named to the All-Star team again this year will earn Sabonis a $1.3MM bonus, per Marks (Twitter link).

Lakers center Anthony Davis, Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox, Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Suns guard Devin Booker, and Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon were among the Western Conference snubs.

Gilgeous-Alexander, Markkanen and Jackson are the lone first-time All-Stars among these 14 picks.

All-Star weekend tips off on February 17 in Salt Lake City. Los Angeles power forward LeBron James and Milwaukee power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, the captains of their respective conferences, will draft their teams ahead of the 2023 All-Star Game on Sunday, February 19.

Southwest Notes: Mavs, Doncic, Jackson, Brooks, Rockets

Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd isn’t pleased with the team’s effort on defense, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, who notes that Dallas’ defensive rating, seventh in the NBA last season, has plummeted to 25th in 2022/23.

Two solid defenders, Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Green, returned to action on Wednesday following injury absences, but it was still the third consecutive game in which the Mavericks gave up at least 130 points.

“It’s attention to detail and focus,” Finney-Smith said. “It’s everything. I tried to come out here with some energy, but we still end up doing the same thing. It’s everybody. It ain’t just one person. We all gotta take the challenge and start guarding. Gotta be about the care factor. We’ve got to care about stopping somebody. You should get mad if they keep scoring.”

The Mavericks’ offense, which ranked 14th last season, is up to fifth so far in ’22/23, but Kidd told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn’t want his club to get in the habit of trying to outscore its opponents in shootouts.

“Tonight, we gave up 130 points and a team shot 57 percent,” Kidd said after the loss to Atlanta. “It’s a shootaround. In this league, if you do that, no matter if you have Luka or Kareem or LeBron, you’re going to lose. It doesn’t matter how many points you score, you’re always going to be short.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Echoing Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Luka Doncic denied a report that suggested he has “strongly indicated” he wants the team to make roster upgrades by the February 9 trade deadline, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. “Obviously, I know, the people who are next to me, who I talk to, they know that’s not true,” Doncic said. “I didn’t say nothing about that. I talk to (president of basketball operations) Nico (Harrison). I talk to Fin (assistant GM Michael Finley) more than I used to. But that’s just not the way I talk to them. We have great communication and that just stays between us.”
  • Grizzlies guard Ja Morant isn’t just advocating for one of his teammates to win Defensive Player of the Year — he thinks two of them should share the award. As Evan Barnes of The Commercial Appeal writes, Morant believes Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks both deserve DPOY honors, jokingly suggesting that voters (who can pick just one winner) write in “Jaren Brooks.”
  • Responding to John Wall‘s criticism of the Rockets and their culture, head coach Stephen Silas said he understood the veteran’s frustration about how his time in Houston played out, but pushed back against the notion that the team let its young prospects get away with too much, per Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle. “As far as holding them accountable, some of it is learning from mistakes, learning through adversity, and learning from film sessions,” Silas said. “It’s important for me to lay out what the expectations are. But to expect young kids not to make mistakes is unrealistic.”

Southwest Notes: Williamson, Popovich, Pelicans, Jackson Jr.

Zion Williamson suffered a right hamstring strain in the second half of the Pelicans’ loss to Philadelphia on Monday. Williamson, who scored 26 points before departing, will undergo some additional evaluation to determine the severity, according to Willie Green, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets.

“That was extremely difficult,” the Pelicans head coach said. “It was at a pivotal moment during the game. We’ll get some imaging and look at him. Hopefully, he’s OK. Tough loss for us.”

Williamson has appeared in 29 Pelicans games this season after sitting out last season with a foot injury.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Spurs’ Gregg Popovich says he’ll knows it’s time to retire when he loses his enthusiasm for coaching his team to play the right way, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. “I think a little voice in my head will tell me, ‘That’s enough.’ If I’m tired of telling somebody, ‘Why are you getting beat back door so much? Can you please stay in front of somebody?’…When I stop wanting to do that, I will know,” he said.
  • Not only do Memphis fans consider their team the real deal, the rest of the league now considers the Grizzlies a true threat, Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal opines. They emerged from their toughest nine-game stretch of the schedule thus far with a 5-4 record, with those victories coming by double digit margins.
  • Continuing with that storyline, The Athletic’s John Hollinger notes that the Grizzlies’ defense has been top-notch since Jaren Jackson Jr. returned to action. Jackson is blocking 5.8 shots per 100 possessions this season, by far the best in the league, and has been a force on both the perimeter and the paint in coverages.

Southwest Notes: Wesley, Green, Bane, Rockets

Spurs rookie guard Blake Wesley was assigned to the G League Austin Spurs on Tuesday for practice, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. He’s expected to return to the NBA team on Wednesday. Wesley could soon be back in action after being sidelined since late October with an MCL sprain. At that time, he was expected to be out six-to-eight weeks, so it appears he’s progressing as scheduled. 

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Josh Green will miss the Mavericks‘ game against the Cavaliers on Wednesday, the team’s PR department tweets. Green hasn’t played since Friday due to a right elbow sprain. He did some dribbling drills and an individual shooting workout after practice on Tuesday, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News tweets.
  • The Grizzlies went 1-5 without Desmond Bane at one point but have now won six straight with the shooting guard sidelined by a toe injury. They’ve achieved that due to Ja Morant‘s playmaking, Dillon Brooks getting more minutes with the second unit and Jaren Jackson Jr. becoming a dominant force, according to Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • The Rockets will have significant cap space after this season. How should they use it? The Athletic’s Kelly Iko and Danny Leroux explore that topic.

Injury Updates: Harden, Wiggins, Poole, Grizzlies, Jazz

James Harden is on track to return tonight for the Sixers as they face the Rockets in Houston, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The star guard has been sidelined for a month with a right foot strain, missing 14 games in the process.

As much as I love basketball, I want to be out there to compete, especially for my teammates,” Harden said. “So this month has been patience, putting the work in, making sure I’m ready to come back and help this team get to where we can get to.”

Head coach Doc Rivers indicated on Sunday that Harden would be on a minutes restriction.

Hopeful, he’ll be ready for [Monday],” Rivers said. “And if he is, he’ll be in a limited role. But it’s still better to have him than not, if we can have him.”

After winning four of five, the Sixers have dropped two straight games and currently hold a 12-11 record.

Here are some more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins will miss Monday’s contest against the Pacers with right adductor tightness, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Golden State guard Jordan Poole is questionable with an ankle injury, which he suffered on Saturday.
  • Grizzlies star Ja Morant is doubtful for tonight’s game vs. Miami due to left ankle soreness, Memphis announced (via Twitter). In addition to Morant, injury-replacement starter John Konchar (right toe soreness) and rookie forward Jake LaRavia (left foot soreness) are also doubtful, while All-Defensive big man Jaren Jackson Jr. has been ruled out on the second of a back-to-back for injury management (he had offseason foot surgery and just returned a few weeks ago). On a positive note, second-year wing Ziaire Williams, who has yet to play this season due to right patellar tendinitis, is listed as doubtful instead of out for the first time and was sent to the G League to practice ahead of Monday’s game (Twitter link). Head coach Taylor Jenkins recently said Williams was nearing a return.
  • Jazz veterans Mike Conley (knee) and Rudy Gay (hand) were full participants in Monday’s practice and both hope to play on Wednesday against Golden State, though they’re still experiencing some pain (All Twitter links via Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune). If Conley returns Wednesday, he’ll likely be on a minutes restriction, tweets ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. The Jazz have missed Conley’s steadying influence, going just 2-6 over the past two weeks without their starting point guard.

Jaren Jackson To Start In Season Debut Tuesday

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. will make his season debut and be in the starting lineup against New Orleans on Tuesday, the team’s PR department tweets.

He was listed as out for all previous games this season as he rehabbed from foot surgery. Jackson started playing in 5-on-5 situations during practice last week.

Jackson underwent surgery in late June for a stress fracture in his right foot. He was expected to miss four-to-six months at the time of the surgery, made steady progress in his recovery, and is now back in action four-and-a-half months after the procedure.

Jackson signed a four-year extension last fall. He’ll make $28,946,605 in the first year of the extension this season, though the salary numbers decline through the life of the deal.

His return is an obvious boost to a team already on the path to serious contention, especially with Desmond Bane expected to miss some time due to a toe injury. In 78 regular season games last season, Jackson averaged 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

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: J. Smith, Fernando, Bassey, Jackson Jr.

The RocketsJabari Smith and the Magic’s Paolo Banchero had their first regular season matchup Monday since Orlando’s last-minute decision to bypass Smith and make Banchero the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Banchero has gotten off to a sizzling start and is the early favorite for Rookie of the Year, while Smith is still adjusting to the NBA.

“He just needs to feel comfortable on the floor so we’re figuring that out as we go along,” Houston coach Stephen Silas said. “Having him on the elbow not just as a scorer but as a passer, we’re going to explore that. He has shown the ability to shoot the pull-up in transition as well as give it up and trail in transition. His 3-point shooting really sets up the rest of his game. People are hugged up to him and they close out to him. So, he can get to his drives or his pull-ups or whatever off that.”

Smith, who is shooting just 30.3% from the field and 30% from three-point range, said he hasn’t been discouraged by the slow start. He admits the transition from college is difficult, but he’s focused on learning to play at the NBA level.

“I feel like it’s just confidence, just trusting my work, being aggressive, being real precise with what I’m doing, not hesitating, and just playing my game,” Smith said. “I feel like it’s going to come. I’m not worried at all.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Bruno Fernando, who was the Rockets‘ starting center for the first two games of the season, is working to return from left patellar tendinosis, Feigen adds in a separate story. The team estimates he may need two more weeks to get medically cleared. “Bruno is … moving around pretty well but he has to see the doctor when we get back (from the road trip),” Silas said. “We’re making sure that he’s OK to continue ramping up. He’s ramping up. Hopefully, he’ll be back sooner than later. Conditioning definitely is a part of it.” Silas couldn’t offer a timetable for Jae’Sean Tate, who has been limited to three games because of a sore ankle.
  • The injury to Zach Collins will create an opportunity for Charles Bassey, who signed a two-way deal with the Spurs last month, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Coach Gregg Popovich has been impressed with what he’s seen from Bassey so far. “He kind of looks the part, doesn’t look like a deer in the headlights or anything like that,” Popovich said (Twitter link). “He is out there playing. He is aggressive, a good defender, moved the ball well.”
  • Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. recently played five-on-five for the first time since offseason foot surgery, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “It’s kind of baby steps right now,” coach Taylor Jenkins said.