Justise Winslow

Southwest Notes: Mbah A Moute, Burke, Mavs, Winslow

Another Rockets veteran has reported to the NBA’s campus, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link), who hears from a source that forward Luc Mbah a Moute arrived in Orlando on Wednesday.

James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Mbah a Moute didn’t initially travel with the Rockets to Orlando, but Harden and Westbrook have since arrived and started practicing with the club. Mbah a Moute will have to go through a brief quarantine period and return a pair of negative COVID-19 tests, but after that, Houston should be at relatively full strength.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

Grizzlies’ Winslow Out For Season With Hip Injury

Grizzlies forward Justise Winslow, acquired from the Heat at the trade deadline, won’t get a chance to make his debut with his new team this summer after all. According to a press release, Winslow fell during an intra-squad scrimmage on Monday and injured his hip. The injury will force him to miss the rest of the season, per the club.

It’s a tough break for the Grizzlies and for Winslow, who had already missed the majority of the 2019/20 season due to a back injury. The 24-year-old appeared in just 11 games for Miami before being shut down, and had yet to suit up for Memphis.

Winslow averaged 12.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.3 APG with a .433/.375/.628 shooting line in 66 games (29.7 MPG) in 2018/19, showing impressive versatility on both ends of the court and taking on primary ball-handling duties at times.

Winslow was the centerpiece of the deadline deal that saw the Grizzlies take on Dion Waiters‘ and Gorgui Dieng‘s pricey multiyear contracts and send Andre Iguodala to Miami. The hope was that the young swingman would emerge as a long-term building block on an up-and-coming Memphis squad led by Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. If that’s going to happen, it’ll have to start in 2020/21 — Winslow has a $13MM salary next season, with a $13MM team option for ’21/22.

Although the Grizzlies got some bad news on Winslow, the club’s roster as a whole should still be healthier than it was in March before the season was suspended. Jackson and Brandon Clarke are on track to return from injuries of their own, so Winslow’s absence won’t create a major hole in coach Taylor Jenkins‘ rotation.

The Grizzlies have a 3.5-game cushion for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, but holding onto that final playoff berth won’t be easy. Memphis has one of the summer’s most challenging eight-game schedules, which concludes with games against the Jazz, Thunder, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks.

Before that, the Grizzlies will have to face the Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Pelicans, three teams chasing them for the No. 8 seed. The Kings and – to a lesser extent – the Suns are also in the running.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Williamson, Rockets, Winslow, Mavs

Pelicans star Zion Williamson primarily worked on fundamentals and conditioning during the NBA’s months-long hiatus, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com.

Williamson spent significant time with his stepfather, Lee Anderson, harping on the core principles of his game in recent weeks. With the 2019/20 NBA season officially restarting in Orlando, Williamson is looking to build on what’s already been an impressive rookie campaign.

“His stepfather did a fantastic job of working him out every day, of making him be in good conditioning when we got him back,” head coach Alvin Gentry said. “He’s made a lot of strides in his shooting, I think. Although we weren’t together, he did a lot to improve his game.”

Williamson is averaging 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 29.7 minutes in 19 games this season, displaying unprecedented athleticism and power in his first year with the team. New Orleans is tentatively scheduled to have its first scrimmage on Wednesday, July 22 against Brooklyn.

Here are some other notes out of the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets stars Russell Westbrook and James Harden are expected to arrive in Orlando soon, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Houston had its first team practice on Saturday without the star duo, with head coach Mike D’Antoni hinting that the two All-Star guards will likely join the club in the next few days.
  • Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal examines how Justise Winslow fits in with the Grizzlies, particularly under head coach Taylor Jenkins’ offensive system. Jenkins indicated that Winslow will likely be used in a play-making role during the NBA’s resumed season, Barnes writes. “His versatility is really going to come out in our style of play,” Jenkins said. “That’s why I talk about him being just a great fit and a perfect fit for our system because he can play multiple positions on offense.”
  • Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News explores how much playoff experience will matter for the Mavericks, whose top two players (Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis) have yet to see postseason action in their careers. The typical home and road atmospheres that teams usually encounter in the playoffs naturally won’t be the same this year due to COVID-19. “It’s hard for me to predict that, how it’s going to be,” Porzingis admitted. “This is going to be my first experience and no matter what the circumstances are, I’m going to try to get the most out of it and get the most experience and play the highest level basketball I’ve ever played.”

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:

Restart Notes: COVID-19, Schedule, Winslow, More

With NBA teams just a couple weeks away from traveling to Orlando to enter the Walt Disney World “bubble,” the stats on coronavirus cases in Orange County, Florida continue to be worrisome. As Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press relays (via Twitter), data from Wednesday morning showed that the area had 561 new cases on Tuesday, with a positive test rate of 17.3%.

The recent COVID-19 numbers in Florida are “extremely concerning,” epidemiologist Zachary Binney tells Henry Bushnell of Yahoo Sports, who spoke to a series of experts to get their thoughts on the NBA’s restart plan. Binney noted that he thought the NBA’s plan was a good one, but cautioned that it’s being compromised by Florida’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Since Walt Disney World staffers have to go in and out of the bubble, there’s a greater chance that one of them will bring the virus with them now that it’s becoming so prevalent in the Orlando area.

Despite some worrying COVID-19 trends, people around the NBA are still expressing confidence that the plan can work. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently told Steve Selby of The New York Post that the Orlando bubble will likely be safer than a player’s home city, given all the testing happening at Disney. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, meanwhile, said on CNBC on Tuesday that the NBA and other sports leagues will have to prepare to deal with some positive test results.

“I think (the NBA season) is going to get off the ground,” Fertitta said, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay. But we’re going to do whatever. You’re going to follow the protocols. It’s no different from one of our businesses. If somebody’s sick, you send them home. Everybody else watch themselves. Sanitize the establishment, and you have to move on.

“If you’re not willing to say, ‘Oh my gosh, (hypothetically) three people tested today for the Houston Rockets, and three people tested today for the L.A. Lakers. Those guys go home, and we’re going to play the games’ — if we’re not willing to recognize that that’s going to be what happens, then we’re not going to complete the season, not in football, baseball, basketball or whatever.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s restart:

  • Magic CEO Alex Martins told Orange County officials today that the NBA’s plan is for games to be played “all day long” inside three Disney arenas when the season restarts (Twitter link via Tim Reynolds). A “stringent sanitation process” will occur between games, Martins added.
  • The NBA and NBPA each issued press releases today announcing that they’ve made progress in talks to advance social justice issues. The two sides “agreed in principle that the goal of the season restart in Orlando will be to take collective action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice,” according to the announcements from the league and the players’ union.
  • Although he hasn’t given any indication that he plans to opt out of the NBA’s restart, Grizzlies forward Justise Winslow recently questioned the league’s plan, suggesting that the NBA and NBPA are focused on money rather than player safety. Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the details.
  • In an opinion column, Mark Medina of USA Today contends that players who voluntarily opt out of the NBA restart this summer shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so.

Southwest Notes: Gordon, Ball, Hart, Winslow

Rockets guard Eric Gordon hopes a weight-loss program over the hiatus will help him overcome the knee issues that have slowed him this season, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. A team source tells Iko that Gordon has managed to drop 12 pounds through diet changes and track sprints.

“I think Eric Gordon’s a big key for us,” coach Mike D’Antoni said recently. “He has the potential to put us over the top.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets have been preparing to face the Nuggets in the opening round of the playoffs, Iko adds in the same piece. That would be the pairing if the league goes straight to the postseason and uses its traditional formula. If conferences are set aside and the teams are seeded 1-16, Houston would face the Jazz in the first round, which Iko believes is a more favorable matchup.
  • William Guillory and Danny Leroux of The Athletic discuss whether the Pelicans should give rookie scale extensions to Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. Leroux recommends offering Ball a deal starting in the $13-$15MM range with the willingness to match a larger offer when he becomes a restricted free agent in 2021. Leroux believes there’s more urgency to get a deal done with Hart because his value may rise by next year and suggests that he might get something in the range of the four-year, $52MM contract that the Celtics gave Marcus Smart. Looking at other New Orleans free agents, Leroux expects the team to try to re-sign Kenrich Williams, while Jahlil Okafor will probably be let go. Frank Jackson is a tougher call that depends on whether the front office believes he will become a rotation player.
  • Justise Winslow discusses the hiatus with Evan Barnes of The Commercial Appeal, including a plan to adopt a full vegan diet after his 25th birthday next March. Winslow is still waiting to make his debut with the Grizzlies, as a back injury kept him out of action after being traded in February. “I’ve just been waiting to put on that jersey,” Winslow said. “I’ve been grinding, but I miss the team. There’s just something special about this team.”

Southwest Notes: Johnson, Winslow, Rockets, Mavs

A first-round pick in the 2019 draft, Spurs forward Keldon Johnson spent most of his rookie season in the G League, having appeared in just nine games at the NBA level so far. As Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News details, Johnson was likely in line for more minutes – and a more regular role – down the stretch if the season hadn’t been suspended and was disappointed not to get that opportunity. Still, he didn’t mind the team taking it slow with him over the course of the year.

“You’ve got to earn your stripes here,” Johnson said, per Orsborn. “You’ve got to put in the time, put in the work. It’s a long process, a grind. But for me, it’s always been about looking at the bigger picture. I knew as long as I stayed focused and stayed level-headed and continued to work hard, the Spurs had a plan for me.”

In addition to attempting to stay ready for a potential resumption of the season, Johnson has been staying busy by reaching out to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Orsborn details. The Spurs’ rookie launched his “Keldon Kares” campaign last week to raise money for food banks in San Antonio and his hometown of South Hill, Virginia.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Justise Winslow has yet to make his debut for the Grizzlies after being acquired by Memphis at the trade deadline, but he tells Michael Wallace of Grind City Media in a Q&A that he hopes the NBA is able to finish its season so he can help his new team clinch a playoff spot and compete in the postseason.
  • Kelly Iko and Danny Leroux of The Athletic explore some free agent options for the Rockets, assessing whether there are will be any available forwards or big men capable of playing the P.J. Tucker role in Houston — making outside shots, guarding bigs, and providing switchability on defense. Unsurprisingly, there likely won’t be many – or any – of those players available at a discount in free agency.
  • Although the Mavericks reentered the playoff picture this season, they’re not yet a legit title contender. Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News examines how the club might try to ascend to that level during the 2020 and 2021 free agency periods.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/9/20

Here are Monday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • Forward Donta Hall has been recalled by the Pistons, James Edwards of The Athletic tweets. Hall is nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the club. He has appeared in three Pistons games since signing his first one.
  • The Grizzlies assigned and then recalled swingman Justise Winslow, the team’s PR department tweets. Winslow participated in a practice with the G League club as part of a rehab assignment for his back injury.
  • The Hornets recalled guard Dwayne Bacon from their Greensboro affiiliate, according a team press release. Bacon has appeared in 39 games with Charlotte, posting averages of 5.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 1.3 APG in 17.6 MPG.
  • The Knicks assigned rookie Ignas Brazdeikis to their Westchester affiliate, according to the G League transactions log. Brazdeikis, a second-round pick out of Michigan, has appeared in nine Knicks games.
  • The Jazz assigned guard Miye Oni to the Salt Lake City Stars, according to the same log. The rookie out of Yale has played in five Utah games.

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.

Western Notes: Harkless, Lakers, Winslow

If New York buys out Maurice Harkless, the Lakers may be interested in signing the wing, Sam Amick of The Athletic said on The Sedano Show earlier today (h/t The Lakers Review). The Lakers, who missed out on Reggie Jackson to their L.A. rivals, are monitoring the Harkless’ situation.

Harkless came to the Knicks in the Marcus Morris deal at the trade deadline and it’s unclear whether he’ll reach a buyout agreement with the team. Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson may be angling for a sign-and-trade this summer and the Lakers would be a good fit for his services, as I wrote for Heavy.com. The team doesn’t have a long-term option at the center position and Thompson would be a nice partner to Anthony Davis in the frontcourt.
  • The Grizzlies traded for Justise Winslow to be in the team’s starting lineup eventually, Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian writes. Winslow is still recovering from a back injury, so Memphis is expected to bring him along slowly.
  • Bill Oram of The Athletic chronicles Dwight Howard‘s redemption story with the Lakers. “He’s been a guy that’s always put up great numbers,” former teammate J.J. Redick said, “but I think he’s having an impact in a really meaningful way defensively on the boards, screening, rolling to the boards.”