Grizzlies Rumors

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Mamukelashvili, Collins, Brooks

The Grizzlies will be without 13 of their 15 standard contract players when they take on the Lakers on Friday (Twitter link via Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Damichael Cole), epitomizing an injury-mired and disappointing season.

Memphis dealt with long-term injuries to almost everyone on its roster and continues to cycle through 10-day contract hardship players to see what sticks. Two-way players have started over 50 combined games for the team that has seen an NBA-record 33 individual players suit up this year.

That leaves the Grizzlies, a team that is widely expected to be a playoff contender at full health, in a unique position this offseason. Players like GG Jackson and Vince Williams proved themselves as valuable young rotation pieces, while others like Jake LaRavia and Lamar Stevens are shouldering big minutes down the stretch. But with the likes of Luke Kennard, Marcus Smart and Desmond Bane set to return from injury next season, the Grizzlies will have crucial decisions to make.

Cole writes about the Grizzlies’ wing rotation logjam, noting that if you factor in Yuta Watanabe (player option), Ziaire Williams and John Konchar, the Grizzlies have nine wing players to account for next season. Some sort of movement on the roster, either by way of trade or waiver, would need to take place to balance the rotation.

Cole says that all signs point to the team picking up Kennard’s $14.7MM team option next season, but ponders whether the team could trade Ziaire Williams, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Grizzlies have shown a tendency to trade players in the final years of their deals, like Steven Adams and Tyus Jones, as well as former first-rounders on rookie contracts, such as David Roddy.

The Athletic’s Kelly Iko and John Hollinger explore a similar topic, with Hollinger expressing that he expects Memphis to trade Kennard or decline his option in an effort to dodge the tax. The pair also discuss the fact that the Grizzlies hold a lottery pick and explore potential free agent options the team could look to sign.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs big man Sandro Mamukelashvili is playing a prominent role in the rotation as of late, including starting two of San Antonio’s last three games. As Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News writes, Mamukelashvili has become something of a favorite for coach Gregg Popovich, who has played the Georgian forward 20 or more minutes in his last five games. He has been on a rebounding tear over that stretch, pulling down 9.8 boards per contest, including a career-high 16 on Tuesday. “He’s like a perpetual motion kind of thing,” Popovich said. “He’s moving all the time, with or without the ball. Sometimes I think he doesn’t know exactly why, but I love his movement and his IQ. He knows how to play.” Mamukelashvili will be eligible for restricted free agency after the season.
  • After a disappointing start to the season, Spurs center Zach Collins is determined to finish the year in a strong fashion, according to Tom Orsborn of San Antonio Express-News. Collins lost his starting job after 20 games during a shooting slump, but it looks like he has regained his form from beyond the arc as of late. He shot 42.9% from three in March and has made 33.3% of his outside attempts through five games in April, a big improvement from the 29.3% he shot from October to February. “He’s becoming a real pro, a consistent player who we know what we can get from night after night,” Popovich said. “He’s a good competitor. His skills are improving, his understanding of the game is improving, and he’s getting more confident.” Collins is under contract with San Antonio for two more seasons.
  • Dillon Brooks has been thankful for his season with the Rockets but said he wants to be more like himself next season, writes Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen. According to Feigen, Brooks would like to be a more physical defender next year. “I don’t want to stir the pot too much, but I feel like the NBA restrained me from playing that type of game,” Brooks said. “But I’ve got to be on a ‘I don’t care’ mentality and just deal with what comes with it.

And-Ones: Australia, McLemore, York, Jerebko, Calipari, Klutch

The Australian national team has revealed its preliminary roster for the 2024 Olympics, announcing a list of 22 players that are in the mix to play in Paris. That group will have to be cut down to 12 players ahead of this summer’s tournament.

Australia’s preliminary roster includes several NBAers, including Thunder guard Josh Giddey, Mavericks guard Dante Exum, Trail Blazers forward Matisse Thybulle and big man Duop Reath, Mavericks wing Josh Green, Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels, Magic forward Joe Ingles, Heat guard Patty Mills, Rockets center Jock Landale, and Grizzlies forward Jack White.

As Olgun Uluc of ESPN notes, the newest addition to the Boomers’ roster is 19-year-old Johnny Furphy, who played for the Kansas Jayhawks in 2023/24 and is projected by ESPN to be a potential first-round pick in this year’s draft.

The most notable absence is Ben Simmons, as the Nets guard underwent back surgery last month that will sideline him for the Olympics. Simmons doesn’t have much history with the Australian national team, so it’s unclear if he would’ve been part of the Boomers’ roster in Paris even if he’d been healthy.

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

  • Former NBA guard Ben McLemore was arrested and jailed this week in Oregon and faces multiple felony sexual assault charges, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN. The charges, which include first-degree rape, stem from an alleged incident in 2021, when McLemore was a member of the Trail Blazers.
  • Former NBA guard Gabe York, who appeared in five games for the Pacers across two seasons from 2021-23, has signed with Basquet Girona, the Spanish team announced this week in a press release. York played for the G League Ignite earlier this season.
  • Following a two-year hiatus from basketball, Swedish forward Jonas Jerebko is making a comeback, having signed with Puerto Rican team Santeros de Aguada, according to Eurohoops. Jerebko, who turned 37 last month, appeared in 635 NBA regular season games for four teams from 2009-19. He last played professionally for CSKA Moscow in 2022.
  • Shams Charania and Kyle Tucker of The Athletic take an in-depth look at John Calipari‘s decision to leave Kentucky for Arkansas after 15 years with the Wildcats, detailing how Calipari’s deal with the Razorbacks came about.
  • One Legacy Sports Management, led by veteran agent Mike George, is becoming part of Klutch Sports, CEO Rich Paul tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Jamal Murray, Dillon Brooks, and Shaedon Sharpe are among George’s clients, per RealGM.

Jackson, Bane Unlilkely To Play Again

A Tennessee judge ruled Monday that Grizzlies star Ja Morant properly raised self-defense in a lawsuit filed by a teenager he punched in July 2022, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reports. The altercation occurred during a pickup game at Morant’s home.

The judge ruled the Grizzlies’ guard “enjoys a presumption of civil immunity” under Tennessee’s self-defense immunity statute and that the burden of proof shifts to his accuser, Joshua Holloway, whose legal team must prove that Morant didn’t act in self-defense. A trial had been scheduled for late April, Holmes writes, but is now expected to be pushed back to a later date.

  • Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said there’s a “good chance” Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane won’t play again this season, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal tweets. Jackson’s current injury is listed as right quad tendonitis, while Bane has a lumbar disc bulge. Both Jackson (22.5 points per game) and Bane (23.7) are averaging career highs in scoring.

Grizzlies Sign Zavier Simpson, Jack White Via Hardship Exceptions

The Grizzlies have re-signed guard Zavier Simpson following the expiration of his initial 10-day contract, the team announced today in a press release (Twitter link).

Simpson, 27, appeared in three games during his first 10 days with Memphis, averaging 5.3 points, 3.7 assists, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals in 24.0 minutes per night. He made just 22.7% of his field goal attempts, though he did knock down 3-of-8 three-pointers (37.5%).

The Grizzlies have also signed forward Jack White, according to today’s announcement. It will be White’s first time back on an NBA roster since he was waived by Oklahoma City in October.

White, who appeared in 17 NBA regular season games in 2022/23 as a member of the Nuggets, has spent this season with the South Bay Lakers in the G League. In 29 total appearances for the Lakers’ NBAGL affiliate, he averaged 9.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 1.8 APG on .442/.321/.595 shooting.

Both Simpson and White were technically signed to 10-day contracts via hardship exceptions, which the Grizzlies qualified for due to the number of injured players on their roster. The deals will cover only the six days left in the regular season, however, before both players return to free agency. The club won’t hold any form of Bird rights this offseason on either player.

White will take Maozinha Pereira‘s spot on Memphis’ roster. Like Simpson, Pereira was on a 10-day contract that expired overnight on Monday, but it was his second 10-day deal with the Grizzlies, so he was ineligible to sign another one. The team is now carrying three extra players beyond its standard 15, with Simpson and White joining hardship signee Timmy Allen.

And-Ones: Porter, Gasol, Hall Of Fame, Carter, Cooper

Kevin Porter Jr. made his European debut on Saturday, scoring 14 points in his first game with PAOK in Greece. Porter had just one point before halftime, according to a Eurohoops report, but he began driving to the basket more frequently in the second half.

It was good, honestly,” Porter said. “I didn’t play up to my level, of course. I had a slow start, but playing with this group of guys, they made sure that I stayed positive. The chemistry on this team is beautiful. It wasn’t down. It was always joyful out there. I haven’t been on the court like that and played regulation in a long time. So it’s good to have a group of guys like that to lift me up when I started off slow. It was dope.”

The former Rockets guard is hoping to revive his career, which was derailed by an assault case involving his former girlfriend, ex-WNBA player Kysre Gondrezick. Porter said there are a lot of adjustments in Europe, such as a smaller court and a different style of play, but he already likes his new surroundings.

I’ve only been here five days and feel at home,” Porter added. “It’s how the team welcomed me and the fans who were at the airport, and I met them every day. I don’t know exactly what I will do in the future, but I will return here again.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Many of Marc Gasol‘s former teammates were on hand Saturday in Memphis for his jersey retirement ceremony, per John Hollinger of The Athletic. The event represented a throwback to the Grizzlies‘ “Grit N Grind Era” as the “Core Four” of Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Tony Allen were together on the court for the first time since 2017. “I had a very unique perspective because I came as 16-year-old (to watch his older brother, Pau),” Gasol said. “I had the perspective of a fan, of what is expected from the team in Memphis, and then followed the team in Spain. When I came back as a Grizzlies player, I carried that with me, and I carried that kind of pride. And I hope everyone enjoyed what they saw for so many years.”
  • In a separate story, Hollinger calls for changes to the selection process for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He argues that the voting shouldn’t be kept secret and contends the Hall contains too many “outliers” and “contributors” instead of just recognizing historically great players.
  • Vince Carter learned about his Hall of Fame selection on April Fool’s Day, so his first thought was that it might be a prank, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Once Carter realized the call was legitimate, he was overwhelmed by the honor. “You think about the people that are in there. … It’s mind blowing for me,” he said at his press conference. “And I enjoy playing the game of basketball every day, and I’m just overjoyed now that my career is over, like somebody said, the cherry on top: This is it.”
  • Magic Johnson is thrilled to see longtime teammate Michael Cooper receive Hall of Fame recognition, telling Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, “My boy made it! My boy made it! My boy Coop made the Hall of Fame! Damn! I was hollering, man, when I heard it. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited for him, man.”

Grizzlies Sign Timmy Allen To 10-Day Contract

The Grizzlies have signed G League forward Timmy Allen, the team announced (via Twitter). The signing was billed as a 10-day contract, but with the regular season ending next Sunday, Allen will only get nine days, including tonight.

After going undrafted out of Texas, Allen signed with Memphis in October so the team could obtain his G League rights, and he was only on the roster for two days before being waived. He joined the Grizzlies’ G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle, where he appeared in 46 games during the Showcase Cup and regular season, averaging 9.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.o steals in 26.4 minutes per night.

Allen joins the Grizzlies via the hardship exception, which they also used to add Zavier Simpson and re-sign Maozinha Pereira to 10-day deals last week. Both of those deals will expire Monday. Memphis has a full roster, but the team has been hit hard by injuries throughout the season.

As Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal notes (via Twitter), another roster addition was necessary so the Grizzlies would have the league minimum of eight active players for tonight’s game with Philadelphia. Jake LaRavia and Lamar Stevens are both out of the lineup after playing last night, while Brandon Clarke is returning to action.

Southwest Notes: Zion, Luka, Kyrie, Clarke, Spurs

The Pelicans got some good news on Thursday. As Christian Clark of writes, Zion Williamson exited Wednesday’s loss to Orlando with a finger injury, but appears to have avoided a significant injury. Head coach Willie Green said the former No. 1 overall pick is considered day-to-day, with his status for Friday’s game up in the air.

Z is good,” Green said at Thursday’s practice. “X-rays were negative. Everything structurally was fine. Just some soreness in his finger.”

New Orleans has dropped four of its past five games to fall to 45-31, the No. 7 seed in the West. Only two games separate the No. 5 Mavericks from the No. 9 Lakers in the hotly-contested conference, Clark notes.

Williamson, 23, recently became eligible for postseason awards after appearing in his 65th game this season.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • When asked whether the Mavericks would consider resting Luka Doncic and/or Kyrie Irving in the final few games before the postseason, head coach Jason Kidd said it would likely depend on the standings, per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “As we go forward, somewhere over the weekend, we could talk about where we stand,” Kidd said as part of a larger quote. “ … But right now it’s full go and those guys are playing.” With seven games remaining, Dallas is a half-game ahead of No. 7 New Orleans.
  • Grizzlies big man Brandon Clarke had an uncertain future after tearing his left Achilles tendon in March 2023. However, the 27-year-old forward/center has looked good in his first four games of 2023/24, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, which is an encouraging sign for both the player and the team. Clarke, who is in the first season of a four-year, $50MM extension, is averaging 12.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 1.3 BPG while shooting 60.5% from the floor in 21.0 MPG.
  • The Spurs have one of the worst records in the league at 18-58, but they have gone 7-10 over their past 17 games and head coach Gregg Popovich said watching the team progress has been a “real joy,” writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “They have gotten better and better as the year goes along,” Popovich said. “In the beginning, it was weird. Nobody knew what to do around Victor (Wembanyama). He didn’t know what to do around them. They had never played before and with someone of Victor’s size. So it took time, but they are much more comfortable now.

Grizzlies’ Morant, Knicks’ Burks Seek Out New Agents

Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant and agent Jim Tanner have parted ways, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Morant has been represented by Tanner since he declared for the 2019 draft. Morant was the No. 2 overall pick that June and blossomed into a max-level player.

The change in representation won’t impact his on-court earnings for a while, since Morant is under contract through the 2027/28 season. He signed a five-year, maximum-salary extension in 2022.

It has been a lost season for Morant, who was handed a 25-game league suspension in June for a series of off-court incidents. The two-time All-Star scored 34 points and made a game-winning shot in his season debut after serving out the suspension. However, he only appeared in nine games before he required season-ending surgery for a labral tear in his right shoulder.

Morant has four years and $163.2MM left on his contract after 2023/24, including an approximate $36.7MM salary next season.

Knicks guard Alec Burks is also changing agents, Newsday’s Steve Popper tweets. He’s moving on from Octagon to join Rich Paul and Anthony Fields of Klutch Sports.

Burks will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Burks, who is making $10.49MM in 2023/24, was dealt back to New York by Detroit at the trade deadline. Burks has struggled with his shooting in 20 appearances since the trade, averaging 7.2 points in 14.6 minutes with a 31.6% overall field goal percentage, including 30% from deep.

Burks, who averaged 12.6 points on 39.4% shooting (40.1% on 3-point attempts) in 43 games with the Pistons this season, should still attract interest in the free agent market. He’s a career 38.3% three-point shooter and has averaged double digits in scoring, mostly off the bench, over the last five seasons.

Zion, Holiday, Jackson Meet 65-Game Criteria For Award Eligibility

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson met the criteria for end-of-season award eligibility on Wednesday by appearing in his 65th game of the season, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

It’s a career high for Williamson, who appeared in 61 games in his second NBA season in 2020/21 but had otherwise never played more than 29 times in a season. The former No. 1 overall pick has built a legitimate case for All-NBA consideration this season, averaging 22.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in 31.3 minutes per contest, with a .581 FG%.

The bad news for Williamson and the Pelicans is that he didn’t play the final seven-plus minutes of Wednesday’s loss to Orlando due to a finger injury on his left hand. As Andrew Lopez of ESPN details, Zion had his left middle finger taped up after the game, but declined to speculate on the severity of the injury when he spoke to reporters.

“I don’t want to say anything that’s not right, to be honest,” he said. “But yeah, I tweaked it a little bit. I’ll have more information on it [Thursday] morning and I’m going to get it looked at and go from there.”

Appearing in 65+ games and potentially earning an All-NBA spot this season wouldn’t have any real impact on Williamson’s contract situation, though as Marks outlines in a YouTube video, the 23-year-old is on a unique deal and his games played in future seasons will help determine how much of his salary is guaranteed or non-guaranteed going forward.

Williamson was one of three notable players to reach the 65-game threshold for award consideration on Wednesday, according to Marks, who points out (via Twitter) that Celtics guard Jrue Holiday and Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. also got there. It was technically Jackson’s 66th outing of the season, but he played fewer than 15 minutes in one of those contests, so it didn’t count toward the 65-game minimum.

Neither Holiday nor Jackson is a legitimate candidate for an All-NBA spot or for any other major award except for All-Defense. Holiday has made the All-Defensive First Team three times, including last season, and has also earned a pair of Second Team nods, while Jackson is the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year and has made the First Team in each of the past two seasons.

There’s essentially no chance that Jackson will repeat as Defensive Player of the Year for the lottery-bound Grizzlies, but it’s worth noting that if he did – or if he wins the DPOY award next season – he would become eligible for a super-max extension in July 2025.

Grizzlies Sign Simpson, Pereira To 10-Day Deals

March 30: The Grizzlies officially signed Pereira to a second 10-day deal and added Simpson on a 10-day contract, the team announced (Twitter link).

March 29: The Grizzlies plan to sign free agent guard Zavier Simpson to a 10-day contract, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Memphis will also re-sign forward Maozinha Pereira to a second 10-day deal, Wojnarowski adds.

A 6’0″ point guard who went undrafted out of Michigan in 2020, Simpson holds one year of NBA experience, having signed a 10-day deal with Oklahoma City at the very end of the 2021/22 season. He appeared in four games and got extended playing time, averaging 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 block in 43.5 minutes per contest.

Simpson has spent the majority of his four professional seasons playing in the NBA G League, suiting up for the affiliate teams of the Thunder, Magic and Pistons. He has spent the entire ’23/24 campaign with the Motor City Cruise (Detroit’s affiliate), averaging 19.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 48 combined regular season and Showcase Cup games (36.6 minutes).

A rookie who hails from Brazil, Pereira averaged 2.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in 6.5 minutes during his first four games with Memphis. He had spent the ’23/24 season with the NBAGL’s Mexico City Capitanes before inking his first NBA contract with the Grizzlies.

Memphis technically has a full 18-man roster, but they’ve been shuffling through 10-day signees throughout the season via hardship exceptions, which is how they’ll be able to sign Simpson and re-sign Pereira.