Grizzlies Rumors

Grizzlies’ Postponements Represent Evolution In NBA’s Approach

The NBA’s decision to postpone the Grizzlies‘ next three games – despite the team only currently having one confirmed case of COVID-19 – represents an evolution in the league’s approach to the virus and to the 2020/21 schedule, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

For most of the season, when a player has tested positive for the coronavirus, the NBA has conducted a contact tracing investigation for a day or two, then required players to self-isolate for one week if they’re deemed to be a close contact to the person who tested positive. If the affected team still has at least eight players available after the initial investigation, that team has continued playing its games as scheduled.

As Wojnarowski explains, today’s decision to postpone three Grizzlies games essentially means “parking a team and taking them out of circulation” once the club has a player test positive.

There’s no indication at this point that Memphis’ one positive case will result in a larger outbreak, but the league – which tightened many of its COVID-19 protocols last week – appears committed to minimizing the risk of creating a chain reaction among its teams.

If the NBA continues to err on the side of caution and takes teams off the schedule for several days at a time once a player tests positive, it would mean certain teams spend longer periods on the sidelines. However, the hope would be that fewer total teams would be affected by contact tracing and possible positive tests.

NBA Postpones Grizzlies’ Next Three Games

The NBA has postponed the Grizzlies‘ next three games, the league announced in a press release. Memphis is being affected by the NBA’s contact tracing protocols and, as a result, has a number of players unavailable.

The affected games are as follows:

  • Friday, January 22 at Portland vs. the Trail Blazers.
  • Sunday, January 24 at Memphis vs. the Kings.
  • Monday, January 25 at Memphis vs. the Kings.

The Grizzlies had been scheduled to play in Portland vs. the Blazers on Wednesday night, but that game had to be postponed as well.

As of Monday, Jonas Valanciunas was the only Grizzlies player who was ruled out due to the league’s health and safety protocols, with Jaren Jackson Jr., Justise Winslow, and Jontay Porter all sidelined due to injuries.

While the NBA’s contact tracing protocols have affected more players since Monday, it doesn’t sound as if those players have been asked to complete week-long quarantine periods yet, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Wojnarowski tweets that the COVID-19 exposure within the Grizzlies’ organization may be isolated, and that the league is “erring on the side of caution” by deciding to not have the team play its next few games as scheduled.

Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian adds (via Twitter) that the Grizzlies, for now at least, have just one active case of the coronavirus.

Following this series of postponements, the Grizzlies’ next game (vs. the Bulls) is set to be played on Wednesday, January 27 in Memphis. At that point, it will have been more than a week since the team was first affected by contact tracing. If there are no additional positive tests or other setbacks, that game shouldn’t be in jeopardy.

The NBA has now postponed 20 games in 2020/21, as seen in our tracker. The growing number of postponements will make it a challenge for certain teams to play a full 72-game season.

NBA Postponing Wednesday’s Blazers/Grizzlies Game

The game between the Trail Blazers and Grizzlies scheduled to be played in Portland on Wednesday is being postponed due to COVID-19 contact tracing, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

The Grizzlies, who last played on Monday night vs. Phoenix, are the team being affected by the contact tracing protocols, per Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The NBA, in officially announcing the postponement, confirmed that Memphis doesn’t have the league-mandated minimum of eight players available.

As of Monday, Jonas Valanciunas was the only Grizzlies player who was ruled out due to the league’s health and safety protocols — it’s not clear if today’s contact tracing is related to the veteran center, or if members of the team have had possible close contact with someone else who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Blazers and Grizzlies are scheduled to play again in Portland on Friday, so unless the NBA’s contact tracing investigation resolves quickly, that game may be in danger of being pushed back as well.

This is the 16th NBA game so far during the 2020/21 season to be postponed. The full list can be found right here.

Protocols Force Valanciunas Out Of Action

Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas missed Monday’s game against the Suns due to the league’s health and safety protocols, the team’s PR department tweets. It’s uncertain how long Valanciunas will be sidelined. He was instructed to leave the bench area 10 days ago due to COVID-19 contact tracing but it turned out to be a “false alarm,” as Valanciunas described it. Rookie Xavier Tillman started in his place.

And-Ones: Franchise Valuations, G League, Two-Way Deals

We’re likely still a few weeks away from Forbes’ publication of its annual NBA franchise valuations, which are typically revealed during the first half of February. However, new sports-business website Sportico has gotten the jump on Forbes in 2021, trying its hand at projecting the values of all 30 NBA teams.

According to Peter J. Schwartz of Sportico, the average NBA franchise is worth nearly $2.4 billion. That projection dipped slightly as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, since teams around the league have missed out on anticipated revenues as a result of playing without fans. However, the fact that the NBA’s national revenues have remained relatively stable means Sportico’s projected valuations have only dipped about two percent.

In Sportico’s view, the Knicks ($5.42 billion), Warriors ($5.21 billion), and Lakers ($5.14 billion) are far and away the most valuable NBA franchises, followed by the Nets ($3.4 billion) at No. 4. The Pelicans ($1.35 billion), Grizzlies ($1.36 billion), and Timberwolves ($1.43 billion) are at the other end of the spectrum.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA G League announced in December of 2019 that it would be expanding to Mexico City for 2020/21, but given the circumstances surrounding this season, the Capitanes franchise won’t be debuting now after all. While the league has been quiet about its plans for that Mexico-based franchise, the club is now expected to begin playing in the NBAGL in 2021/22, says Marc Stein of The New York Times.
  • Although most coaches and general managers around the NBA support the idea of giving teams a third two-way contract slot – an idea being discussed by the league and the players’ union – some would have liked to see a different tweak made to the two-way rules, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “We are in support of (the proposal),” a Western Conference GM said. “But (we) might prefer to have current two-ways with unlimited game-day restrictions.” Players on two-way contracts are limited to being active for 50 of 72 games this season.
  • In an interesting article for HoopsHype, Michael Scotto explores the “art of the smokescreen,” speaking to agents and team executives about why they might be motivated to leak information to reporters.

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.

Pacific Notes: R. Jackson, Morris, Bjelica, Suns

Reggie Jackson gave the Clippers a solid performance Friday night in his first action since learning he was out of coach Tyronn Lue‘s reduced rotation, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Jackson contributed 11 points, four rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes after sitting out the previous two games. The 30-year-old guard, who will be a free agent after this season, was told last Saturday that he will no longer have guaranteed minutes every night.

“It was a hard conversation for me because I thought he was actually playing well,” Lue said. “But we couldn’t play all the guys, you know that coming into the season. … I talked to Reggie and he took it well. When you are a veteran and you’re a pro and you want to win, you do whatever it takes to try to win. I told him to stay ready, it’s a long season, with the COVID, injuries, things like that, you got to be ready.”

Jackson found out at Friday’s shootaround that he would be in the starting lineup, and Lue was happy that he didn’t try to do too much on his own. One highlight for Jackson was a rare dunk in the second half.

“Feels good, especially at 30, getting teased by my teammates, seeing an open lane and having a chance to attack,” Jackson said. “I had an injury-plagued past few years so just feeling like I’m getting my legs back under me and to feel somewhat 20 again, it felt great to go out there and get a dunk.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers forward Marcus Morris says the NBA’s decision to begin the season in December threw off his recovery timeline, Greif adds in the same story. Morris said tendinitis prevented him from doing offseason workouts and he was timing his recovery for a January start. He remains on a minutes limit, but hasn’t had any trouble with his knees since training camp began.
  • The Kings haven’t used Nemanja Bjelica in their past three games, but the decision is only temporary, tweets Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Coach Luke Walton is experimenting with defensive rotations and has told Bjelica he will get another chance soon.
  • The Suns‘ last three games have been postponed due to health and safety protocols, but a league source told Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic that Monday’s contest in Memphis “looks good to go.” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins is also optimistic that the game will be played. “All I know is that everything is kind of full go right now,” he said. “There’s some final checkmarks that need to be taken care of, obviously, for Phoenix to get back on track, but we’re all hopeful we are able to play on Monday.”

Jackson Jr. Believes He'll Be Back Soon

  • Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. vows that he’ll return to action this season, as he told Marc Spears of The Undefeated. He suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee in August. “I’ll be back this [season]. Who knows when, but it won’t be too long,” he said.

Timberwolves-Grizzlies Game Postponed

The TimberwolvesGrizzlies game, scheduled for Friday evening, has been postponed in accordance with health and safety protocols, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter link).

Minnesota is the latest team with COVID-19 issues. The Timberwolves do not have the required eight players available to play the game due to ongoing contact tracing, according to a team press release.

The Timberwolves previously announced that power forward Juan Hernangomez would isolate for at least 10 days due to health and safety protocols and that point guard Ricky Rubio would miss Friday’s game due to those regulations. The postponement suggests that Minnesota’s COVID-19 issues may have worsened.

This mark the 13th postponement in the league this season. The Wizards, Suns, Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Rockets have been in the same predicament, forcing at least one postponement for those teams.

All of the previous postponements can be found here.

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.