Grizzlies Rumors

Southwest Notes: Morant, Doncic, Williamson, Jones

Grizzlies star Ja Morant is making progress in his rehab from a left knee sprain, but his timeline for a return still hasn’t changed, according to Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Morant suffered the injury against the Hawks on November 26.

“He’s been responding really well to the treatments, the lift sessions that he’s had and we’re sprinkling in just small doses of on-court work just to make sure his knee’s moving and seeing how he’s responding day to day,” head coach Taylor Jenkins said.

As we previously relayed, Jenkins mentioned that Morant would miss multiple weeks. Prior to injuring his knee, the 22-year-old was averaging a career-high 24.1 points per game in 19 contests. Memphis has still managed to win all three of its games without him — including a record 73-point victory over Oklahoma City on Thursday.

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic (left ankle soreness) will miss Saturday’s contest against the Grizzlies, the team announced on social media (Twitter link). Joining him will be Kristaps Porzingis (left knee contusion) and Willie Cauley-Stein (personal reasons). Dallas is just 4-6 in its last 10 games.
  • Andrew Lopez of ESPN examines whether the return of Zion Williamson can stabilize the Pelicans‘ season. Williamson (foot surgery rehab) has yet to play this season, leading to New Orleans accruing the third-worst record in the West at 7-18. In 61 games last season, he averaged 27 points, 7.2 rebounds and 33.2 minutes on 61% shooting.
  • Speaking of the Pelicans, second-round pick Herb Jones has become one of the league’s best young defenders, William Guillory of The Athletic opines. Jones was drafted by New Orleans in July after spending four seasons at Alabama. “To be great on defense, you have to really want it,” he explained. “You have to play with a different kind of aggression, a different kind of desire. I take pride in always being the guy who’s ready to lay it all out there for my teammates. That’s what I care about the most.”

Trail Blazers Fire Neil Olshey

The Trail Blazers have fired general manager and president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, the team announced (via Twitter).

Olshey has been under a month-long investigation relating to his actions in the workplace, prompted by accusations of misconduct from at least one team employee. Workers have allegedly been subjected to “intimidation and profanity-laced tirades, among other bullying tactics” from Olshey.

The team addressed the investigation in a release announcing the move, stating that Olshey was terminated “due to violations of the Portland Trail Blazers’ Code of Conduct.”

“Out of respect for those who candidly participated in that privileged investigation, we will not release or discuss it,” the release states. “We are confident that these changes will help build a more positive and respectful working environment.”

Director of player personnel Joe Cronin will take over as interim general manager while the team searches for a permanent replacement, the release adds.

Two candidates who will likely receive consideration for the permanent job are Grizzlies VP of basketball affairs Tayshaun Prince and Spurs VP of basketball operations Brent Barry, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Former Celtics executive Danny Ainge may also be in the mix, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

A source tells Jason Quick of The Athletic that Olshey learned of his firing this morning (Twitter link). Olshey got no indication of the move during discussions Thursday night with vice chair Bert Kolde or team owner Jody Allen, Quick adds.

Olshey, 56, had served as Portland’s general manager since 2012, but there have been rumors for some time that his job was in jeopardy. In addition to the workplace investigation, Olshey has been under fire for the team’s string of first-round playoff exits and received criticism for not being more responsive about the hiring of Chauncey Billups as head coach in light of sexual assault allegations against Billups from 1997.

Several pressing issues will face Olshey’s replacement, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). Damian Lillard has repeatedly expressed a desire to play for a contender, and the Blazers are currently in ninth place in the West at 11-12. The organization will also have to decide whether to hold on to Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic, who both have expiring contracts.

Southwest Notes: M. Brown, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Wall

Mavericks fans have been clamoring for Moses Brown to get a longer look at center, but head coach Jason Kidd appears in no rush to insert the 22-year-old into the rotation, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

Dwight Powell and Willie Cauley-Stein remain ahead of Brown on the depth chart, Boban Marjanovic is still in the mix, and Kidd also sounds interested in experimenting more with Maxi Kleber in the starting lineup, shifting Kristaps Porzingis to the five. As a result, the Mavericks’ head coach isn’t making any promises to the fans who want to see more of Brown.

“He could get a chance,” Kidd said, per Townsend. “I think for fans, or for anybody, if they look at our roster we have quite a few centers. So there’s a committee of centers. And at some point, maybe he [Brown] has an opportunity to play.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal takes a look at what’s next for the Grizzlies with Ja Morant sidelined due to a sprained knee. Morant has the league’s third-highest usage rate among point guards, so Memphis will try to replace him using a committee, with Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, and Kyle Anderson all taking on added ball-handling responsibilities.
  • Jaxson Hayes opened the season as the Pelicans‘ primary backup center, but Willy Hernangomez has taken over that role in New Orleans’ last four games. Scott Kushner of writes that Hayes was handed his minutes, while Hernangomez – who re-signed with the team over the summer – has fought to earn his.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic is confused about why John Wall and the Rockets are at an impasse over whether or not he starts. Hollinger thinks Houston should be open to putting Wall in the starting lineup, where he could make life easier for Jalen Green, but also believes Wall shouldn’t be too hung up on starting, since potential suitors aren’t going to view him any differently if he’s coming off the bench.

Ja Morant To Miss Multiple Weeks

Grizzlies star Ja Morant will be re-evaluated in “a few weeks” after suffering a knee sprain during Friday’s game, head coach Taylor Jenkins said, according to Evan Barnes of The Commerical Appeal (Twitter link).

As previously relayed, Morant avoided a serious injury and is expected to make a full recovery. Memphis will still be without its best player for several more games, meaning guards Tyus Jones and De’Anthony Melton will likely see increased minutes. The team started Jones against Sacramento on Sunday.

After sustaining the injury, Morant was able to return to the club’s bench without crutches. He underwent an MRI later that night to confirm a knee sprain, but an official timetable still hasn’t been issued by the Grizzlies.

Morant was in the midst of an electric season, averaging 24.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game on 48% shooting. Memphis entered Sunday’s game with a 9-10 record, good for the ninth-best in the Western Conference.

Ja Morant Suffers Left Knee Sprain

NOVEMBER 27: Morant has been diagnosed with a left knee sprain following preliminary imaging, the Grizzlies announced late on Friday night (Twitter link).

The Grizzlies will conduct further tests on Saturday, but assuming that initial diagnosis is confirmed, it’s great news for the team and for the star point guard, who were fearing a more significant injury, says ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links).

Memphis should get a better idea of a potential recovery timeline for Morant once Saturday’s tests are completed and the club can fully assess the severity of the sprain, Woj adds.

NOVEMBER 26: Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant suffered a left knee injury Friday night against Atlanta and will not return to the game, per Rob Fischer of Bally Sports (Twitter link, with a video link underneath).

Morant immediately started limping after an awkward step and was holding his knee on the sidelines before being taken to the locker room with the help of training staff. John Collins appeared to make very minor contact with his right leg, but it’s not clear if that had anything to do with the injury.

Ja was able to return to the team’s bench and was walking on his own, without crutches, according to Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian (via Twitter). Hopefully that’s a good sign that it’s not major, but testing will determine the specific nature of the injury. Morant sent out this tweet after the game, indicating that his status is up in the air.

Morant is one of the most exciting players in the league to watch and has had an outstanding start to the season. Through 18 games (33.9 MPG), he’s averaged 25.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 7.1 APG and 1.7 SPG.

And-Ones: Ferrell, Red Sox Owners, Mobley, Allen

Former NBA guard Yogi Ferrell has left Greece’s Panathinaikos in order to seek a better opportunity, per Stavros Barbarousis of Ferrell was unhappy with his limited role — he was averaging just eight minutes in five EuroLeague games. The 28-year-old point guard was waived by the Clippers in September after spending the last five years in the NBA.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Fenway Sports Group wants to buy an NBA team once its acquisition of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins is completed, Axios’ Dan Primack reports. FSG has been buying marquee franchises in different geographic markets. It not only owns the Boston Red Sox, it also has also acquired a NASCAR team and the Liverpool F.C. soccer club. Additionally, it has an investment in Spring Hill Group, a content production firm co-founded by LeBron James.
  • Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley tops ESPN’s first rookie power rankings this season. Writer Mike Schmitz ranks the Raptors’ Scottie Barnes and the Pistons’ Cade Cunningham second and third, respectively. Mobley is currently out due to an elbow injury.
  • Tony Allen has asked the Grizzlies to postpone his jersey retirement until next season, according to Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Allen is currently dealing with federal charges for his alleged role in a multi-million dollar health insurance fraud scheme. Allen’s jersey retirement was scheduled for January 28.

Southwest Notes: Anderson, Hart, Williamson, Morant, Garuba

Kyle Anderson enjoyed a career year for the Grizzlies as a fixture in the lineup in 2020/21. He’s had a difficult time adjusting to a bench role this season, Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes. Anderson, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, posted averages of 12.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 3.4 APG in 69 starts last season. In 14 games off the bench this season, he’s playing approximately five fewer minutes per game while averaging 8.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 2.4 APG.

“I’m just still trying to figure it out. It’s a different role,” Anderson said. “People may look at last year and say why aren’t you doing what you did last year? It’s just that’s over. This is a different role. I’m a professional. I’ve got to figure it out.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans are floundering with a 2-14 record and guard Josh Hart doesn’t want to hear excuses for their poor start, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets. “We have to grow up. (Bleep) being young, inexperienced,” he said. “I don’t really care for that right now. We have have to focus on growing up. We have to focus on having better attention to detail.”
  • When Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were drafted 1-2 in 2019, it should have sparked a spirited division rivalry between the Pelicans and Grizzlies, It hasn’t worked out that way, at least not yet, because of Williamson’s injury issues, Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian writes. The teams have only met six times since that draft due to the pandemic and only three have included both Williamson and Morant, Herrington notes. Just one of those matchups had a full complement of fans in the stands due to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Rockets first-round pick Usman Garuba has been assigned the G League Rio Grande Valley Vipers and that’s needed in order to get him some experience, Rahat Huq of the Houston Chronicle writes. Garuba hasn’t cracked the Rockets’ regular rotation, appearing in just seven games and averaging 6.4 MPG. Garuba is noted for defensive prowess but needs to develop his offensive game, Huq adds.

Southwest Notes: Alexander-Walker, Brooks, Wood, Poeltl

Like many of his teammates, Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has struggled out of the gate this fall, prompting Christian Clark of to take a look at his season thus far. The 1-10 Pelicans currently have the NBA’s worst record, and while a lot of that is a result of the extended absences of All-Star forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, Alexander-Walker’s slow start certainly hasn’t helped.

Clark notes that Alexander-Walker has been one of the worst volume shooters in the league, connecting on 35.5% of his 15.4 field goal attempts a game, including 25.3% on his 7.9 three-point looks. Among players attempting at least 10 field goals per night, he currently ranks 114th out of 117 in true shooting percentage. Clark wonders if Alexander-Walker, and the Pelicans, would be better served by correcting the 6’6″ shooting guard’s shot profile (he shoots more from long-range than from within the arc) and attempting more shots inside the paint and fewer from the three-point arc.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • With stalwart Grizzlies swingman Dillon Brooks poised to return to the hardwood for Memphis for the first time since the 2021 playoffs, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian takes a look at how Brooks could spruce up the club’s defense. Brooks has been absent for the entire 2021/22 season to this point with a left hand fracture.
  • Though Rockets power forward Christian Wood seems to be irked about the club’s clear desire to tank in the short-term, he has made a point to express publicly that he wants to stick around, per Rahat Huq of The Houston Chronicle“I’m here to stay in Houston through the good and bad,” Wood tweeted this week.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has revealed that he does not expect center Jakob Poeltl to return from the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols this week, per Tom Orsborne of the San Antonio Express-News“I am not exactly sure” of the big man’s timetable, Popovich said. “They tell me every day, but I’m not a scientist. I listen to what they say, but I know he is not going to be ready for tomorrow or Friday.”

And-Ones: 2022 Cap Room, Stephenson, G League, More

Only four NBA teams currently project to have significant cap room in the 2022 offseason, writes Danny Leroux of The Athletic. Not only is that number lower than usual, but none of those four teams appear likely to have enough space for a maximum-salary player worth 30% of the cap, Leroux adds.

The Pistons currently project to have the most space, with Blake Griffin‘s dead money coming off their books. According to Leroux, the Magic, Spurs, and Grizzlies join them as the other clubs likely to have at least $15MM in room. Teams like the Wizards and Bulls could have room too, but that would be a worst-case scenario for those clubs, since it would mean losing Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine, respectively, in free agency.

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

  • Veteran NBA swingman Lance Stephenson spoke to Jack Green of Betway about his decision to play in the G League and the role he expects to have with the Grand Rapids Gold, the Nuggets‘ new affiliate. Stephenson, who worked out for several NBA teams during the offseason, hopes to show in the NBAGL that he still has plenty left in the tank. “My body feels amazing,” he said. “I don’t feel like an older guy, I still feel like a young guy. So I think I’ve got a couple more years left.”
  • The original plan for the Mexico City Capitanes was to join the NBA G League for the 2020/21 season. However, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed their debut back by a year, and the team has now been uprooted from its home in Mexico due to pandemic-related travel concerns. Eric Gomez of ESPN takes an in-depth at the new G League franchise and the adjustments it has had to make over the last couple years.
  • Former CAA agent Michael Tellem has joined Excel Sports, the agency announced (via Twitter). Danilo Gallinari, Jakob Poeltl, and Daniel Theis are among the most notable NBA clients for Tellem, whose father is Pistons vice chairman and former agent Arn Tellem.
  • It’s not just NBA scouts and executives who have been impressed so far by the new Overtime Elite league — the program’s level of professionalism and credibility has also made an impact on its players, writes Kyle Tucker of The Athletic. “It’s even more than I thought it would be,” said 2022 draft-eligible forward Kok Yat. “If I didn’t come here, no NBA scouts would know who I am. You want to be seen, so this feels like a huge step.”

Dillon Brooks Scrimmages With G League Team

  • Dillon Brooks, who is recovering from a broken hand, was one of five Grizzlies players sent to the G League on Wednesday to participate in a simulated game, according to the team (Twitter link). The move is a sign that Brooks is nearing a return to action.