Grizzlies Rumors

Adam Silver To Meet With Ja Morant About Suspension

Commissioner Adam Silver will meet this week with Grizzlies star Ja Morant as he nears the end of his suspension, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

In June, Morant was suspended for at least 25 games following a second incident of brandishing a gun in public. When he announced the suspension, Silver said he wants to assess Morant’s readiness to return before reinstating him. He indicated Saturday that the two-time All-Star is moving in the right direction.

“I have been monitoring this situation closely,” Silver told reporters before the in-season tournament finale in Las Vegas. “We together laid out a program for him over the last several weeks, and to the best of my knowledge, he’s complied with everything he’s been asked to do.”

Memphis has gotten off to a rough start without its best player, languishing toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings at 6-15. If Morant’s suspension is limited to 25 games, he will be eligible to return for a December 19 contest at New Orleans.

The two-time All-Star was suspended for eight games last season after an online video clip showed him waving a gun in a nightclub near Denver. A second video was later posted of Morant holding a gun and dancing while riding in a vehicle with friends, leading to his second suspension.

“We’re going to talk directly once, at least this week, before he comes back,” Silver said, “(and) I think we’ll review the program and just make sure the conditions are in place for him to be successful going forward.”

The commissioner addressed several other topics in his press conference:

  • Silver clarified comments on load management made before the start of the season by NBA executive vice president Joe Dumars, Vardon states. Explaining the league’s new player participation policy, Dumars indicated there’s no data showing that load management is effective. Silver said resting players can lead to better performances, but there’s no hard evidence that it prevents injuries. “The question is, I think the ultimate notion behind load management isn’t so much that there isn’t a fall for performance when you’re tired and fatigued,” Silver explained. “The question is does it lead to more injuries and especially the way load management is now used?”
  • Silver said he was “surprised” that Tamika Tremaglio stepped down as executive director of the NBPA after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was reached this summer, according to Vardon. “As far as I can tell from the outside, it’s been a very smooth transition there to Andre Iguodala as I guess the interim executive director,” Silver said. “Nothing has changed in terms of our day-to-day relations with them, and I have no other knowledge about why either the players association or Tamika decided to, you know, change the relationship.” 
  • Colorful courts will remain part of future in-season tournaments, Vardon adds in a separate story. Silver called himself “a big advocate” of the courts, saying they’re an indication that the game is something special. Silver also hinted that specially designed courts could be used in the NBA Finals. Other aspects of the tournament will be reviewed, particularly using point differential as the primary tie-breaker, the commissioner stated.

Lofton Sheds Weight, Hopes For Bigger Role

  • Kenneth Lofton Jr. has shed 20 pounds in the past three weeks, he told Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Lofton has played sparingly for the Grizzlies this season despite frontcourt injuries. He’s hoping his improved conditioning will lead to a bigger role. “My mental has been good,” he said. “I’m just pretty much waiting on my time, working off the court and getting better at my strengths. Really just focusing on myself.” He needs to show more, as his $2.02MM salary for next season is not guaranteed.

Vince Williams Jr. Earns Playing Time With Defense

  • After spending the majority of his rookie season in the G League, Vince Williams Jr. is now taking on most of the Grizzlies‘ toughest defensive assignments, notes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Williams is hoping to become Memphis’ version of Patrick Beverley, changing games with big plays on defense. “He’s locking up,” Jaren Jackson Jr. said. “He’s being that guy we need to guard the best wings in the game right now. He’s an irritant, and he’s still scoring the ball.”

Jaylen Nowell Signs Second 10-Day Deal With Grizzlies

DECEMBER 4: Nowell’s second 10-day contract is official, the Grizzlies announced today in a press release.

DECEMBER 3: Guard Jaylen Nowell is signing another 10-day deal with the ailing Grizzlies, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Memphis was granted another hardship exception to re-sign Nowell on this short-term contract, Woj notes.

Across his five contests with the club, the 6’4″ shooting guard has been averaging 6.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG and 1.4 APG. He’s logging 18.8 MPG off the bench for an injury-plagued Memphis team.

Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal tweets that combo guard Shaquille Harrison, another 10-day hardship signing, is most likely done in Memphis, at least for now.

Seven Grizzlies are currently sidelined with long-term ailments. Nowell has helped make up for the absences of wings Luke Kennard, Ziaire Williams and Marcus Smart. Point guards Ja Morant and Derrick Rose are also on the shelf. Morant is healthy, but remains suspended for the next six contests.

At a lowly 5-14, Memphis is suffering from all these absences. The team is currently the No. 14 seed in a deep Western Conference.

Luke Kennard Set To Rejoin Grizzlies In 2-3 Weeks

Grizzlies shooting guard Luke Kennard, who has been sidelined since November 14 with a left knee bone bruise, is progressing toward a return to the 5-14 club.

Memphis has revealed (Twitter link) that the team expects the 6’5″ wing back in the lineup within the next two or three weeks.

Across his eight available games, the 27-year-old has averaged 8.3 points per night on .362/.370/1.000 shooting to go along with 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists. The veteran Duke product is averaging 21.5 minutes per game off Memphis’ bench.

Kennard’s floor-spacing acumen would be a welcome boon to the Grizzlies’ depleted offensive attack. He’s a career 43.5% three-point shooter on an impressive 4.4 attempts per game. His 37% conversion rate this season arrives on a robust 5.8 three-point tries per contest.

Memphis needs all the available bodies it can get. Seven other Grizzlies are currently unavailable, including the suspended Ja Morant. The club has leaned on hardship exception signings for help. Earlier today, word broke that Memphis would be signing guard Jaylen Nowell to a second 10-day contract.

Davon Reed To Join Grizzlies’ G League Affiliate

Free agent guard/forward Davon Reed is signing an NBA G League contract to play with the Memphis Hustle, the Grizzlies‘ affiliate, sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).

The 32nd overall pick of the 2017 draft, Reed spent his first two seasons with the Suns and Pacers before spending time in the NBAGL and playing professionally in Taiwan. He returned to the NBA in 2021/22 with the Nuggets and re-signed with Denver as a free agent last summer.

Reed was traded to the Lakers in February in a multi-team deal that sent Thomas Bryant to the Nuggets. The 28-year-old wing was waived by Los Angeles on the last day of the regular season to create roster space.

Reed, who averaged 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game while shooting 40.9% from deep over the past two seasons (91 games, 11.1 minutes), signed with Ukrainian team Prometey BC as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

His stint with Prometey — which is currently in the EuroCup tournament and competes in the Estonian-Latvian Basketball League due to the ongoing war in Ukraine — was short-lived, however, as he’ll reportedly be returning stateside in an effort to make it back to the NBA.

It’s worth noting that Reed holds four seasons of NBA experience and is thus ineligible for a two-way contract. In order to return to the league, he’ll have to be offered a standard deal.

It’s possible Reed could be competing for a chance at a 10-day contract with Memphis — the Grizzlies currently have guards Shaquille Harrison and Jaylen Nowell on 10-day deals after qualifying for a couple extra roster spots via the hardship provision. Those contracts expire on December 3.

Southwest Notes: Murphy, Williamson, Brooks, Tillman

Pelicans wing Trey Murphy tore the meniscus in his left knee in September, missing the first 19 games of New Orleans’ season. The injury was a major setback for a player who had increased his scoring average from 5.4 points per game in 2021/22 to 14.5 last season, establishing himself as one of the Pelicans’ key rotation pieces.

Murphy made his 2023 season debut on Friday, immediately picking back up where he left off. He scored 18 points in his return and helped the Pels to a 15-point victory over the Spurs.

He’s been a big part of our success the last two seasons,” coach Willie Green said, per Christian Clark of “We all were rallying for him to get on the floor and get back. It was like he didn’t miss a beat. Now it’s about building that chemistry with everyone on the team.

The Pelicans, who have dealt with a litany of injuries over the past few seasons, are getting healthier and healthier. The only rotation player currently dealing with a long-term injury is Larry Nance Jr., who is out four-to-six weeks, a far cry from what the injury report has looked like in season’s past.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans star forward Zion Williamson is expected to play in the team’s Saturday matchup against the Bulls, according to Green (Twitter link via ESPN’s Andrew Lopez). Lopez notes that this would be the first back-to-back Williamson has played this season. The two-time All-Star is averaging 23.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists this season.
  • The Rockets entered Friday tied for the fourth-best defense in the league, in large part to wing Dillon Brooks‘ contributions on the floor, according to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko. Iko breaks down Brooks’ unique approach to defense, including the fact that he guards players in an unconventional way — by clapping in their face. “I feel like everyone in the league knows I slap people’s hands on jump shots after the ball’s released,” Brooks told The Athletic.So it puts a thought in their mind that when I close out, you’re not getting a free shot. When they work out, they’re so used to following through. But when I close out, I like to mix in different things like that.
  • Grizzlies center Xavier Tillman played in Memphis’ Friday matchup with the Mavericks (Twitter link via team), playing 21 minutes and helping the Grizzlies to a 14-point win. Tillman had appeared in just one game since Nov. 3, so his return to the lineup is welcome for a Memphis team that won back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Western Notes: MPJ, Alexander-Walker, Wemby, Morant, A. Holiday

With Aaron Gordon unavailable for the Nuggets‘ past three games due to a right heel injury, Michael Porter Jr. has seen more action at power forward and said the transition has been a smooth one, per Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette (Twitter links).

“It’s easier for me, I think, at the four. It’s more of a matchup for me,” Porter explained. “Those bigger guys guarding me, they don’t want to chase around screens. They don’t want to close out all the way. I can get by them easier. So, it’s fun playing the four. It’s fine playing the three, too, but it hasn’t been too much of an adjustment, because our offense is very fluid.”

Porter scored a season-high 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting in Denver’s victory over Houston on Wednesday. It remains to be seen which position he’ll spend the most time at on Friday, as Gordon is listed as questionable for the Nuggets’ contest in Phoenix.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker didn’t have much of a role for the rebuilding Jazz last season, but after a trade to Minnesota, he’s playing key minutes for a contending Timberwolves team, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Alexander-Walker had his best game of the season in a win over his former team on Thursday, racking up 20 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and five steals in 36 minutes.
  • Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama has been on a tear lately, averaging 21.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, and 2.5 steals per night in his past four games. However, all four of those games were losses. The Spurs know they need more production out of other players on the roster to help the young phenom, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).
  • Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has been subpoenaed to testify next month in an ongoing civil case related to an incident that occurred during a pickup game at his house during the summer of 2022. Lucas Finton of The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the details.
  • Speaking to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Rockets guard Aaron Holiday discussed a handful of topics, including his new role as a locker room leader, his early impressions of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks as teammates, Alperen Sengun‘s development, and whether he and brothers Jrue Holiday and Justin Holiday have talked about playing on the same team. “Yeah, but everything has to work out perfectly for that to happen,” Aaron said of his teaming up with his brothers. “It would be tough for that to happen, but obviously we’re all for it.”

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, McCollum, Zion, Thompson

A practice led by the players preceded the Grizzlies‘ first home win of the season Wednesday night, writes Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. Reeling from injuries to several rotation members and the absence of Ja Morant amid his 25-game suspension, Memphis played one of its worst games of the season Sunday in a 22-point loss to Minnesota.

Marcus Smart and Derrick Rose both spoke out about the poor performance, and the result was a lengthy practice session that focused on fundamentals and communication. Head coach Taylor Jenkins was the only member of the coaching staff who spoke up during practice, as the players had to call out one another for mistakes.

“That was one of the hardest practices of my career,” Ziaire Williams said. “It was like training camp, for sure. When you’re three and whatever, sometimes you need those.”

Wednesday’s victory over Utah brought some optimism to the team for at least one night. Players were more aggressive from the start, chasing down loose balls and grabbing a season-high 51 rebounds. Despite their early-season struggles, the Grizzlies are only four games away from a play-in spot and Morant is just eight games away from returning.

“As I told them, don’t be satisfied,” Jenkins said. “This isn’t good enough. We got to be better moving forward. But this sets a tone.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum was able to play 28 minutes and score 20 points on Wednesday in his return after missing 12 games with a collapsed right lung, per Christian Clark of NOLA. McCollum talked to reporters about his recovery process, which included using an oxygen tank. “I felt like an old person,” McCollum said. “I needed oxygen for a while. I asked my wife, ‘Is this what it’s going to be like when I’m older? Pushing oxygen to the bathroom?’ I did that for four or five days and felt great in terms of my breathing. Then it was about ramping up.”
  • Pelicans star Zion Williamson spoke with Mark Medina of Sportsnaut about how he has been able to overcome his history of injuries and stay on the court this season. The team hasn’t used Williamson in any back-to-backs, but he has played in 15 out of 19 games so far. “A lot of recovery and a lot of extra things off the court in order to keep my body in great shape to lower the risk of injury,” Williamson said. “The training staff has been a big help with that, and setting up things away from basketball. I’m making the most of the technology and equipment that we have.”
  • Rockets rookie Amen Thompson is getting closer to returning from the ankle injury that has kept him out of action since November 1, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Thompson participated in non-contact drills on Sunday and is expected to join the team’s G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley before returning to the Rockets.

Western Rumors: Rockets, Grizzlies, Jazz, Kings, Brogdon

After making several significant changes to their roster during the 2023 offseason, the Rockets figure to remain active on the trade market during the season. League sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype that Houston has interest in pursuing further roster upgrades, with Victor Oladipo, Jock Landale, Jeff Green, and draft picks among the team’s potential trade chips.

None of those three players are owed guaranteed money beyond 2023/24 and all are being paid between $8-10MM this season, making them logical salary-matching pieces. Forward Jae’Sean Tate has also generated exploratory interest from playoff-caliber clubs in recent years, according to Scotto, who adds that Reggie Bullock also had several suitors before signing with Houston, making him a name to watch too.

One player we shouldn’t expect to end up in Houston? Bulls guard Zach LaVine. Scotto says the Rockets aren’t involved in the LaVine sweepstakes.

Scotto has more trade-related items of interest from around the Western Conference. Here are a few:

  • Sharpshooter Luke Kennard and forward John Konchar are among the Grizzlies players who are candidates to be dealt before February’s deadline, Scotto writes, identifying the Celtics, Warriors, and Lakers as some of the teams that have “kept tabs” on Konchar.
  • Rival executives think the Jazz may attempt to stabilize their backcourt by acquiring a veteran point guard, according to Scotto. While rookie Keyonte George has played well, he’s more of a combo guard, Scotto explains, naming Talen Horton-Tucker and Kelly Olynyk as a couple potential trade candidates on Utah’s roster.
  • Keegan Murray is the Kings player whom potential trade partners would covet most, but Sacramento views the young forward as an important part of its core and would be more inclined to move future first-round picks in any deal for an impact player, per Scotto.
  • Three executives who spoke to Scotto believe the Trail Blazers could land a protected 2024 first-round pick – or a similar asset – if they decide to trade Malcolm Brogdon this season.