Grizzlies Rumors

Grizzlies’ Lofton Named G League Rookie Of The Year

First-year forward Kenneth Lofton Jr., who is on a two-way contract with the Grizzlies, has been named the G League Rookie of the Year for the 2022/23 season, according to the NBA (Twitter link).

Lofton has appeared in just 19 games and averaged only 5.5 MPG at the NBA level in his first professional season after signing with the Grizzlies as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech. However, he played a major role for the Memphis Hustle, the team’s G League affiliate.

In 17 regular season games for the Hustle, Lofton averaged a double-double (20.2 PPG, 10.5 RPG) despite logging a modest 28.6 minutes per night. He shot 53.9% from the floor and also chipped in 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals per contest. Lofton’s performance helped the Hustle secure the No. 2 seed in the NBAGL’s Western Conference with a 23-9 record.

Lofton will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, since his two-way contract only covers the 2022/23 season.

According to the NBA (Twitter link), Warriors two-way guard Lester Quinones and Rockets two-way forward Darius Days finished second and third, respectively, in Rookie of the Year voting.

Quinones averaged 21.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 4.8 APG in 31 G League regular season games (32.0 MPG) for the Santa Cruz Warriors, while Days put up 24.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG on .486/.371/.857 shooting in 29 contests (35.6 MPG) for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Southwest Notes: Irving, Doncic, Kennard, Rockets

All-Star Mavericks point guard Kyrie Irving acknowledged that things have not gone smoothly since he arrived in Dallas last month and teamed up with fellow All-Star guard Luka Doncic, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I think that now, again, just where we are in the season, and where other teams are positioned already, it kind of looks like a bit of a clusterf—, to be honest with you,” Irving said. “Because we’re 37-40, and we’re trying to fight to get into the play-in game. It’s not the expectations I don’t think any of us had in that locker room.”

The team has gone 6-14 across its last 20 games and is currently on the outside of the Western Conference looking in, as the No. 11 seed.

“I just have to be at peace with where I am and which I am, and trust of the guys that I’m going to be in that war room with every single day,” Irving said. “So, I’m appreciative of them giving me the opportunity. It’s been nothing but great here. And I’ve been at peace.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks‘ most recent loss, a 116-108 defeat Wednesday against the Sixers, could help accelerate the end of the burgeoning on-court partnership of Doncic and Irving, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic. The team has just five games left and is currently one game behind the West’s tenth-seeded Thunder. As Cato notes, Irving could leave in free agency, which would be an indictment of the Mavericks’ team-building, coaching, and extant personnel.
  • Grizzlies reserve guard Luke Kennard may not have been the buzziest trade deadline roster addition, but he could be a crucial X-factor for Memphis in the playoffs, opines Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • Like every other tanking team this season, the rebuilding 18-59 Rockets are hoping to nab the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft, almost certain to be high-upside prospect Victor Wembanyama. Kelly Iko of The Athletic takes a look at a variety of lottery selection scenarios for the Rockets, who are in position to claim – at worst – a top-six or -seven pick.

Injury Notes: Morant, Grizzlies, SGA, Markkanen, Cavs, Pacers

Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant missed Tuesday’s game vs. Orlando due to right thigh soreness, but there are no long-term concerns about the injury, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. It sounds like the team was simply playing it safe with Morant, who recently returned from an eight-game absence and will be available on Wednesday for the second game of a back-to-back set.

While Morant will suit up on Wednesday, the Grizzlies may give a few other regulars the night off when they host the Clippers. According to the team (Twitter link), Desmond Bane (right foot soreness), Jaren Jackson Jr. (left calf soreness), and Tyus Jones (left foot soreness) are all considered doubtful to play.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Two teams still in the thick of the Western Conference play-in race won’t have their All-Stars available on Wednesday. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (left ankle sprain) will miss a second consecutive game when the Thunder host the Pistons, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter link), while forward Lauri Markkanen (left hand contusion) won’t play for the Jazz in San Antonio, according to Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link).
  • Jarrett Allen (right groin strain) and Isaac Okoro (left knee soreness) missed Tuesday’s game for the Cavaliers, but Chris Fedor of hears their absences were precautionary, with the team having already clinched its playoff spot. “Isaac is extremely disappointed because Isaac wanted to play all 82 games,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “But this is something where just big picture we need to make sure we take care of him. We know how important he is and how impactful he can be for us. So, you just have to keep an eye on him. Isaac will keep running through a wall if you don’t pull him back some. We’re trying to do our best to protect him.”
  • Tyrese Haliburton (right ankle sprain; left elbow soreness), Buddy Hield (non-COVID illness), and Chris Duarte (left ankle soreness) will all be unavailable for the Pacers on Wednesday vs. Milwaukee for a second consecutive game, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Myles Turner, who has missed the last two games due to left ankle soreness, is listed as questionable.

Injury Notes: Brunson, Bulls, Cavaliers, KAT, Grizzlies

Knicks starting point guard Jalen Brunson will miss his second straight game on Monday with a sprained right hand, the team has announced (Twitter link).

The 6’1″ Brunson is enjoying a career season with his new club. Across 65 healthy games, he’s averaging 23.8 PPG on .489/.411/.833 shooting. The 26-year-old is also averaging 6.2 APG, 3.6 RPG and 0.9 SPG for New York.

Reserve guard Derrick Rose, who has been out of the rotation since the calendar rolled over to 2023, will also be inactive for this evening’s bout against the Rockets due to an illness, the Knicks add.

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

  • Bulls forward Javonte Green, who continues to recover from a January knee surgery after making a brief return to the lineup last week, will be out tonight against the Clippers, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Johnson adds that veteran Chicago guard Alex Caruso is considered questionable to play.
  • Several Cavaliers players comprise the club’s injury report ahead of the team’s game Tuesday against the Hawks, per Chris Fedor of (Twitter links). Starting center Jarrett Allen is questionable with a groin strain, while starting small forward Isaac Okoro is also questionable due to a sore knee. Swingman Danny Green and point guard Raul Neto will not play. Wing Dean Wade is doubtful to play through an illness. Isaiah Mobley, Sam Merrill and Dylan Windler are all going to be working with Cleveland’s NBAGL affiliate, the Cleveland Charge.
  • Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns will sit out tonight’s game against the Kings as he manages his right calf strain injury on the second night of a back-to-back, the team has announced (Twitter link). Two-way player Matt Ryan is out with an illness. All-Star shooting guard Anthony Edwards is questionable due to a sprained right ankle. Guard Jaylen Nowell is also questionable with a left knee tendinopathy.
  • At least five Grizzlies players will be shelved for Tuesday’s contest against the Magic, Memphis has announced (via Twitter). Beyond Brandon Clarke, who’s out for the year with a left Achilles tear, Ziaire Williams, Vince Williams, Jake LaRavia and Steven Adams are all also sidelined. All-Star point guard Ja Morant is considered doubtful to play due to a sore right thigh.

Grizzlies Notes: Williams, Kennard, Jackson, Morant

Grizzlies wing Ziaire Williams is considered week-to-week due to right foot and ankle soreness, the team announced on Saturday (Twitter link).

As a result of injuries and Memphis’ depth, Williams has played less this season than he did as a rookie. After starting 31 of his 62 appearances last season and averaging 21.7 minutes per night, he has logged just 14.7 MPG in 36 contests (three starts) this season. His shooting numbers (.424/.247/.778) have also dipped this season, so he’s extremely unlikely to have a regular rotation role in the playoffs even if he does get healthy by then.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Acquired at last month’s trade deadline, Luke Kennard has already entered the Grizzlies’ record books, having knocked down a franchise-record 10 three-pointers in Friday’s blowout win over Houston, Damichael Cole writes for The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Kennard, who went 10-of-11 on threes, became the first player in league history to shoot at least 90% of the field while making at least 10 three-pointers (Twitter link).
  • The Grizzlies have been challenging Kennard to be more aggressive in seeking out his shot and the veteran wing has helped add stability to an inconsistent area of the team’s offense, according to Cole at The Commerical Appeal.
  • In the latest episode of their podcast, Cole and Evan Barnes of The Commercial Appeal discuss how Jaren Jackson Jr.‘s recent offensive surge and the return of Ja Morant will raise the Grizzlies’ ceiling entering the postseason.
  • In case you missed it, the Grizzlies became the second Western Conference team to clinch a playoff spot this season, doing so on Friday night (Twitter link). Memphis is 3.5 games back of Denver for the No. 1 seed in the conference and has a 1.5-game cushion on No. 3 Sacramento

Southwest Notes: Morant’s Return, Zion, Sochan

Ja Morant received an enthusiastic reception from Grizzlies fans as he returned from his suspension Wednesday night, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Fans showed their support when he took the floor for warmups, when he entered the game in the first quarter and when he touched the ball for the first time.

Morant wore headphones during his pregame routine to block out the outside noise, Cole adds. He also meditated before the game, which was among the recommendations he received during his two weeks of counseling in Florida.

“I’m thankful and grateful for everybody who has been supporting me during this time,” he said. “It definitely helped me a lot. It definitely made me feel a little better, eased everything that’s going on.”

Morant admitted feeling rusty after being away from the game, but he hit 6-of-13 shots and scored 17 points in nearly 24 minutes of action. The idea to come off the bench in his first game back was his, as Morant didn’t want to upset the Grizzlies’ recent hot streak.

“I didn’t want to come right back and mess any of that chemistry up,” Morant said. “I was watching film once my time was getting closer to being back, watching how they was playing. Obviously, it’s different from watching it to being out there.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Ja’s father, Tee Morant, told Kelly Iko of The Athletic that the past few weeks have been “rough” for his family, but he believes his son will benefit from the experience. Ja Morant has been criticized for a series of incidents that culminated with an Instagram Live video from a Denver-area strip club in which he appeared to be waving a gun. “I saw growth,” Tee Morant said in talking about Ja’s time away from the Grizzlies. “I saw growth, and I saw grace. And I know that he knows that God is in control of everything. Forget what the world got to say about you; you can only be judged by one.”
  • Pelicans coach Willie Green couldn’t offer any insight into whether Zion Williamson will play again this season, according to Christian Clark of NOLA. The team announced Wednesday that Williamson is able to resume on-court activities after being sidelined since January 2 with a hamstring injury, but he won’t be reevaluated for two more weeks, which will delay a potential return until at least the final week of the season. “Because of the re-injury, we are taking a slower approach with his rehabilitation,” Green said. “He’ll get on the floor. He’s starting to do some running, doing some shooting. But we’re taking it kind of slow.”
  • Jeremy Sochan returned Wednesday after missing two games with right knee soreness, but the Spurs rookie was still in obvious pain, observes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “He has grown a lot this year, playing through injuries and all that,” said teammate Keita Bates-Diop. “I think most of us are as well, but you can visibly see he is going through some stuff. But he wants to be out there, wants to play, wants to help us compete. I love that about him.”

Dillon Brooks Acknowledges Need To "Tone It Down"

  • After picking up his 18th technical foul of the regular season and earning another automatic one-game suspension, Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks acknowledged that he needs to stop accumulating techs at such a rapid rate, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “I’ve got to tone it down and get back to my mindfulness practice and find ways to channel it better,” Brooks said. A player’s technical foul count resets when the postseason begins, but seven playoff techs would result in a one-game suspension.

Ja Morant Expected To Play Wednesday

Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant is expected to return to action against Houston on Wednesday, coach Taylor Jenkins told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon and other media members (Twitter link).

Morant has missed nine games since he stepped away from the game due to a number of concerning offcourt issues. He was later handed an eight-game NBA suspension, which was retroactively applied to the games he had already missed.

Morant participated in practice on Tuesday and expressed remorse for his prior actions while speaking to the media afterward, MacMahon writes.

“Obviously, I’ve made mistakes in the past that cause a lot of negative attention — not only to me, but my family as well, my team, the organization — and I’m completely sorry for that,” said Morant, who leads the team at 27.1 points and 8.2 assists per game. “So my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more.”

While he was intoxicated during his infamous gun waving incident at a nightclub, according to the league’s investigation, Morant says he’s not an alcoholic. He sought out counseling during his hiatus.

“I don’t have an alcohol problem, never had an alcohol problem,” Morant said. “I went [to Florida] for counseling to learn how to manage stress, cope with stress in a positive way instead of ways I’ve tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes.”

However, Morant knows he has to prove he can avoid similar issues in the future.

“Obviously took that time to better myself, get in a better space mentally,” Morant said. “It’s an ongoing process, a continued process for me. Obviously, I’ve been there for two weeks, but that doesn’t mean I’m completely better. So that’s an ongoing process for me that I’ve still been continuing since I’ve come out.”

Morant has started every game of his 240-game NBA career but might come off the bench in the short term. Morant said he’s willing to do that as he returns to a normal workload and Jenkins said it’s under consideration, MacMahon tweets.

Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks Suspended One Game

Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks has been suspended one game without pay for receiving his 18th technical foul this season, the league’s PR department tweets.

Brooks will serve his suspension on Wednesday when the Grizzlies host the Rockets.

Brooks has already served a one-game suspension for racking up excessive technicals. For every two additional technical fouls he receives, he’ll be subject to another automatic suspension.

He’ll lose $78,621 for the latest suspension and has now been fined a total of $336,863 this season, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, via Spotrac (Twitter link).

Brooks’ latest technical was assessed during the third quarter of the Grizzlies’ 112-108 victory over the Mavericks on Monday. He was T’d up for for taunting Dallas’ bench after a dunk and the league chose to not rescind the technical.

Mavs/Grizzlies Notes: Kyrie, Brooks, Pinson, Morant

Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving, who recently missed three games due to a right foot issue, reaggravated that injury during Monday’s loss in Memphis, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News.

As Caplan details, Irving ended up leaving the FedExForum in a walking boot after Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks stepped on the back of his foot during the third quarter. While Kyrie referred to the boot as “just precautionary,” Caplan suggests the Mavs’ star was walking with a bit of a limp after the game.

“I just got to make it back home to Dallas and then start my recovery work and do everything I can to prepare for the next game,” Irving said. “Take time to rest and exhaust all my options possible to be ready to play the next game.”

Despite Brooks’ reputation, Irving made it clear that he didn’t believe there was anything intentional or malicious about the play.

“I would’ve felt different up here if I feel he did it on purpose, but I didn’t,” Irving said. “It’s just one of those plays where he’s trailing me, and I think his feet got caught up in mine and twisted my ankle. Just bad timing, but the game has to keep going.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Although Irving professed no hard feelings toward the combative Grizzlies wing, he declined Brooks’ postgame request to swap jerseys, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, who notes that Kyrie gave Brooks his Mavs jersey but didn’t accept Brooks’ Grizzlies jersey (Twitter video link). “Probably get it next time,” Irving said with a smile. “Not this time. I was really onto the next thing.”
  • It was another night, another feud for Brooks, who faces a second automatic one-game suspension after picking up his 18th technical foul of the season for taunting Dallas’ bench after a dunk (Twitter video link). He explained after the game that he was aiming a “pom-poms” gesture at Mavs reserve Theo Pinson. “I just wanted to let him know he’s a cheerleader. That was it,” Brooks said (YouTube video link). “Same class. I grew up watching him play, he was a great basketball player. And now he gets paid to cheerlead. Love it.” Responding on Twitter, Pinson wrote, I got some real estate I see, followed by a crying-laughing emoji.
  • Both the Grizzlies and Mavericks are close to getting their All-NBA guards back. Ja Morant rejoined the Grizzlies on Monday following his eight-game suspension and though he didn’t play vs. Dallas, head coach Taylor Jenkins said the team is “hopeful” Morant will be back on Wednesday vs. Houston, according to MacMahon. “So long as everything medically clears out,” Jenkins said. Meanwhile, Mavs head coach Jason Kidd said on Monday night that Luka Doncic (left thigh strain) is trending in the right direction and will “hopefully” return soon.