Brandon Clarke

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Jackson, Udoka, Wembanyama

The Grizzlies aren’t ready to shut down any of their players, but Mark Giannotto of The Commercial Appeal questions whether that’s a sound strategy. Before Memphis ended its nine-game losing streak Wednesday night, coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters that the team will bring back as many injured players as it can over the season’s final two months.

“We’re actively preparing and training these guys as if they are playing,” Jenkins said. “We haven’t had any conversations about shutting down guys. This is a competitive bunch.”

Injuries have made this a nightmarish season for the Grizzlies, who were one of the West’s top teams the past two years. Players such as Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart could still return, but Giannotto believes it’s wiser for the organization to hold them out to avoid any further injury risk while seeing what the team’s young talent can do after the All-Star break.

Giannotto notes that general manager Zach Kleiman didn’t offer any timeline for Bane or Smart in a news conference last week, but he indicated that it might be beneficial for Brandon Clarke to see some action when he’s cleared to return from an Achilles tear he suffered last season.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies rookie GG Jackson called it a “joyful experience” as his two-way contract was converted to a new four-year deal last week, per Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. The second-round pick has excelled as the team’s injuries have given him an unexpected chance to play big minutes, and he had been hoping to land a standard contract. “I kind of had a feeling with the way everything has been panning out, but I tried to keep the main thing with basketball,” Jackson said. “But nonetheless, I’m grateful.”
  • Rockets coach Ime Udoka said lineup changes may be necessary following Wednesday’s loss at Memphis, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston faced an early 23-point deficit as its pattern of slow starts continued. Jalen Green sat out the entire fourth quarter for the second time in four games, and Feigen notes that little-used Nate Hinton played more second half minutes than Green did. “Maybe I have to look at the rotation and the lineup I have out there starting and try to get five competitors out the court at one time to avoid poor starts like that,” Udoka said. “I will look at all of that over the break, look in the mirror myself and figure out the best way to move forward to get us off to better starts.”
  • Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press previews what Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama can expect as he prepares for his first All-Star Weekend.

Grizzlies Notes: Deadline Moves, Bane, Smart, Clarke, Jackson

Victor Oladipo and Chimezie Metu have already been waived, but the two other players acquired by the Grizzlies in their recent series of tradesLamar Stevens and Yuta Watanabe – are expected to get an opportunity to play over the next couple months, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Stevens is on an expiring deal, while Watanabe holds a minimum-salary player option for 2024/25.

The Grizzlies also hope to get a longer look down the stretch at Ziaire Williams and Jake LaRavia, two former first-round picks who are currently sidelined due to injuries. As Cole writes, head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman showed by trading David Roddy on Thursday that he’s willing to move on from recent first-rounders who haven’t established themselves as consistent, productive rotation contributors, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to give up on players like Williams or LaRavia.

“We’re in a spot where we have a lot of young players,” Kleiman said. “Nothing has been ruled out. Let me say that. I think that everyone at the very least has shown that in stretches, there’s a lot to be encouraged by. What we’re focused on right now is giving those guys opportunity. Wouldn’t surprise me if some guys emerge and maybe surprise people.”

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Having traded away Steven Adams and Xavier Tillman, the Grizzlies’ plans at center going forward are unclear. Their 2024 first-round pick, which projects to be a top-10 selection, may factor into that equation, Cole notes, since it could serve as a valuable trade asset or an opportunity to add a young blue-chipper to the roster. “Wherever that pick might be, we want to be in a position where we’re able to kind of navigate and steer that in different directions,” Kleiman said.
  • The Grizzlies project to be a luxury tax team next season based on their current commitments. Kleiman told reporters, including Cole, that’s not something the club is actively working to avoid. “There’s not a budget that we have to operate from,” Kleiman said. “There’s not a place that we need to be relative to any marker or luxury tax. . . . Those are all things we’ll have to weigh from a team-building standpoint.”
  • There’s still no timeline for the returns of Desmond Bane (left ankle), Marcus Smart (right ring finger), or Brandon Clarke (left Achilles), according to Kleiman. He indicate that Bane and Smart are expected to be out at least through the All-Star break and expressed optimism Clarke can return this season. “Brandon’s doing really well in his recovery,” Kleiman said, per Cole. “We’ll make a determination when we get a little bit closer. . . . Regardless of record, a little cameo at the end of the season just to build momentum going into next season, I think that’s something that’s potentially still on the table.”
  • As Jonah Dylan of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details, the Grizzlies players who remained on the roster through Thursday’s trade deadline were sorry to see Tillman and Roddy go. “I’m obviously upset and gutted and I feel bad,” said Jaren Jackson Jr., who played with Tillman at Michigan State before spending the past four seasons with him in Memphis. “It’s just part of the business. I’ve been here a long time. But it doesn’t get easier, for sure.”
  • GG Jackson‘s new four-year deal with the Grizzlies will be worth $8.5MM over four seasons, with $6.1MM in guaranteed money, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. A minimum-salary deal would be worth in the range of $7MM, so it sounds like Jackson will receive significantly more than the prorated rookie minimum for the rest of the 2023/24 season.

Grizzlies Notes: Clarke, Biyombo, Tillman, V. Williams

Grizzlies forward/center Brandon Clarke, who is making his way back from a torn Achilles, is “trending in a really good direction,” head coach Taylor Jenkins said before Sunday’s game vs. Sacramento.

“His on-court has picked up, he’s still in one-on-zero kind of format right now. He’s starting to move a lot more,” Jenkins said. “Obviously, you’ve seen the videos of him elevate and dunk and all that stuff. We are still being smart obviously with the nature of the injury, but he’s trending in a good direction. I don’t think the timelines are really shifted. Hopefully in the next month or so, we’ll be able to ramp up a little bit more and have a better feel.”

Clarke told Marc J. Spears of Andscape last month that he’s aiming to return at some point right around the All-Star break. Based on Jenkins’ comments, it sounds like that timeline remains realistic.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • While the Grizzlies have played better since Ja Morant‘s return from his 25-game suspension, the team needs more from its centers, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Centers Bismack Biyombo and Xavier Tillman have been solid defensively, but neither player is a great rebounder or contributes much on offense, so Clarke’s eventual return will be a boon up front.
  • Improving their floor spacing and their rebounding numbers are important areas of focus for the Grizzlies if they still hope to secure a playoff spot this season, Cole says in another Commercial Appeal story. Reaching the postseason will be an uphill battle for a Memphis team that is currently six games back of the 10th-seeded Lakers.
  • In yet another article for The Commercial Appeal, Cole takes a look at how Vince Williams went from being a little-used to reserve to being a key defensive X-factor for the Grizzlies. The 47th overall pick in the 2022 draft, Williams logged just 105 total minutes in 15 games as a rookie, but is averaging over 20 minutes per night in 24 appearances so far this season. “I didn’t know he would be this type of defender, but I knew he had that dog in him,” teammate Desmond Bane said. “He’s shown that in his time being here. He got his opportunity, and he’s running with it.”

Injury Notes: Jazz, Lakers, Sixers, Leonard, Payton, Clarke

The Jazz will be shorthanded for Thursday’s back-to-back in Detroit, with Lauri Markkanen (left hamstring — injury maintenance), Keyonte George (left foot inflammation) and Talen Horton-Tucker (left foot soreness) among the eight players who will be unavailable, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link).

Utah is just 2-13 on the road this season, but the team will be facing the Pistons, who have lost 24 straight games, two shy of the single-season record. If Detroit hopes to snap the skid in the near future, tonight certainly seems like a good opportunity.

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

  • LeBron James (left ankle peroneal tendinopathy) and Gabe Vincent are out for Thursday’s back-to-back in Minnesota, tweets Mike Trudell of Spectrum SportsNet. Lakers center Anthony Davis (left ankle sprain/bone bruise), meanwhile, is questionable for the matchup against the West’s current No. 1 seed.
  • Sixers guard De’Anthony Melton exited Wednesday’s victory with a thigh contusion, but it’s not expected to be a serious injury, tweets Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Melton, Nicolas Batum (hamstring) and Robert Covington (illness) did not practice on Thursday, according to Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports (Twitter link). On the league’s official injury report, Melton is questionable for Friday’s matchup with Toronto, while Covington is probable and Batum has been ruled out.
  • He has yet to miss a game this season, but Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard popped up on the injury report ahead of Thursday’s back-to-back in Oklahoma City. He’s officially questionable with a left hip contusion.
  • Warriors guard Gary Payton II has been “making good progress” from his right calf strain and has been cleared to start “various forms of team practice,” the team announced (via Twitter). Payton, who has missed the past nine games, will be reevaluated again early next week, per the Warriors.
  • Grizzlies forward/center Brandon Clarke tells Marc J. Spears of Andscape he expects to return to action sometime around the All-Star break. A key rotation player for Memphis, Clarke has been sidelined since March 3 of last season after tearing his Achilles tendon.

Grizzlies Notes: Bane, Smart, Morant, Jackson, Adams, Clarke

Desmond Bane believes Marcus Smart is a perfect addition for the Grizzlies‘ style of basketball, writes Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. Memphis acquired the former Defensive Player of the Year from the Celtics in a three-team deal that was finalized late Thursday night, and Bane is thrilled to welcome him to the team.

Bane sees Smart as a replacement for free agent Dillon Brooks, who Memphis isn’t expected to re-sign. Bane said Brooks’ defensive prowess relieved him of the burden of having to guard the opponent’s best player, and he expects Smart to do the same.

“Marcus Smart brings a lot to the team,” Bane said. “I mean I think you guys are going to love him. He kind of brings that Dillon edge, a little bit more playmaking. It’s going to be fun.”

Bane added that he’s making progress after having toe surgery in mid-May, and he hopes to resume shooting soon. He’s expected to receive a rookie-scale extension after averaging a career-best 21.5 PPG this season.

There’s more from Memphis:

  • At a post-draft press conference, general manager Zach Kleiman offered the Grizzlies’ first public statement on Ja Morant since his 25-game suspension was announced last week, Cole states in a separate story. Kleiman said team officials have maintained a dialogue with Morant and the relationship isn’t strained, but the troubled guard has to prove he can change his behavior. “We’re going to continue to pour into him, we’re going to continue to hold him to account for everything that he’s doing day-to-day,” Kleiman said. “It’s on him to follow through, but he’s going to have every opportunity to do so.”
  • Second-round pick G.G. Jackson will likely receive a two-way contract and spend most of the upcoming season in the G League, Cole adds in another piece. The 18-year-old forward out of South Carolina was taken with the 45th pick Thursday night. “We see someone who for his size is incredibly skilled,” Kleiman said. “We see someone who is a hard worker and is committed to doing the hard work. … G.G. is going to have to put in the work to achieve his potential.”
  • Kleiman expressed confidence that Steven Adams will be ready for the start of next season, Cole tweets. The team’s starting center wasn’t able to return after suffering an injury to his right knee in January. Kleiman believes Brandon Clarke will be available for a “good portion” of the season after tearing his left Achilles in March.

Western Notes: Landale, Grizzlies, Towns, Gobert

Backup center Jock Landale, who will be a restricted free agent if Phoenix gives him a qualifying offer, hopes to remain with the Suns long term.

“This is a city and a fanbase and an organization I’d love to be a part of for the rest of my career if I could,” Landale said (Twitter video link via PHNX Suns).

The 27-year-old Australian had relatively modest numbers in the regular season, averaging 6.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 69 games (14.2 MPG).

However, after making just one brief appearance in Phoenix’s five-game series against the Clippers, Landale made his mark against Denver, as Phoenix was plus-34 over his 106 minutes in the series, with a positive plus/minus in five of his six games despite the club losing four of those contests and ultimately getting eliminated.

Here’s more from the West:

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: Morant, Adams, Jones, Clarke

At some point before Ja Morant flashed a gun at a strip club on an Instagram Live video over the weekend, the Grizzlies held a players-only meeting in which veteran center Steven Adams spoke out about the need for better discipline during road trips, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (Twitter video link via The Rally).

As Charania explains, the Grizzlies are 26-5 at home this year but just 12-20 in road games, and part of Adams’ message was about cutting back on going out and partying while on the road.

“I’m told those in the room when Steven Adams spoke about, they knew exactly who he was directing this to,” Charania said. “It was no one other than Ja Morant.”

In the wake of Saturday’s incident and the news that Morant will be away from the team for at least two games (and likely longer), Marc J. Spears of Andscape suggests that the young point guard could look to Carmelo Anthony‘s career arc as a blueprint worth following.

Anthony entered the NBA as No. 3 overall pick and a rising star who had just won a title at Syracuse, but made a series of off-court headlines in his first few years in the league — he allegedly got into a fight at a New York nightclub, was charged for possession of marijuana, and was arrested for a DUI, among other incidents. However, he eventually surrounded himself with more positive influences and shifted his focus more to basketball. The onus is now on Morant to choose a similar path.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • In an appearance on ESPN’s First Take (YouTube video link), Brian Windhorst suggested that while the NBA announced a new investigation into Morant on Saturday following the Instagram Live video, that was more like a continuation of an ongoing process due to previous allegations. “The NBA isn’t starting an investigation into the situation because their last investigation from Ja never stopped,” Windhorst said. “They’re concerned, and they have been doing background information and gathering information even more than normal over the last few weeks trying to understand what’s going on here.”
  • Grizzlies point guard Tyus Jones has long been considered one of the best backups in the NBA. Now, with Morant away from the team indefinitely, Jones will be a key factor in ensuring the team keeps pace in the West’s playoff race, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Jones adjusted nicely in his first game as a starter on Sunday, racking up 25 points, 12 assists, and five steals in a six-point loss to the Clippers. Memphis outscored L.A. by three points when Jones was on the court.
  • While Morant and Dillon Brooks – who was suspended for Sunday’s game – have dominated the headlines, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider-only link) writes that Brandon Clarke‘s season-ending Achilles injury shouldn’t be overlooked. As Pelton writes, Clarke has proven his value in certain playoff matchups – like last year’s series vs. Minnesota – and his absence will further weaken a frontcourt that has already been shaky without Adams in recent weeks.

Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke Suffers Torn Achilles, Out For Season

Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke will miss the rest of the 2022/23 season after sustaining a torn left Achilles tendon, agent Mark Bartelstein tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

The Grizzlies have put out a statement (via Twitter) confirming the diagnosis and announcing that Clarke will be out indefinitely. He’s expected to make a full recovery, per the team.

It’s a brutal blow for Clarke, who exited Friday’s game vs. Denver in the first quarter due to a non-contact lower leg injury that was feared to be serious. It generally takes upwards of a year for an NBA player to return from an Achilles tear, so Clarke is unlikely to be ready to go by the time the ’23/24 season gets underway in the fall.

Clarke, who signed a four-year, $50MM contract extension with the Grizzlies last fall, was having another strong season, averaging 10.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 56 appearances (19.5 MPG) while shooting a career-high 65.6% from the field.

The 26-year-old has been an important part of Memphis’ frontcourt rotation along with Steven Adams, Jaren Jackson, and Santi Aldama. With Clarke sidelined, the Grizzlies may have to lean more heavily on reserves like David Roddy and Xavier Tillman. The team could look to free agency to fortify its front line, but doesn’t currently have an open spot on its 15-man roster.

It has been a day of bad news in Memphis, as the Clarke update comes shortly on the heels of an announcement that Ja Morant will miss at least the next two games while the NBA investigates a video that appeared to show him brandishing a gun at a strip club.

Southwest Notes: Mamukelashvili, Spurs, Clarke, Ingram, Mavs

When a team with a full 15-man roster trades for a new player, it must waive someone to make room for the newcomer — that’s true even if the plan is to immediately cut the newly acquired player, as we saw when the Spurs traded for Noah Vonleh in January.

However, the Spurs were able to claim Sandro Mamukelashvili‘s two-way contract off waivers on Friday despite not making any related moves with Dominick Barlow or Julian Champagnie, their current two-way players.

Teams aren’t permitted to carry more than two players on two-way contracts, but as Bobby Marks of ESPN explains (via Twitter), the Mamukelashvili claim was made possible because the Spurs opened a spot on their standard roster (by waiving Isaiah Roby) and immediately promoted Mamukelashvili to fill that spot by unilaterally converting his deal to a standard rest-of-season contract.

If the Spurs had wanted to keep Mamukelashvili on his two-way deal or to negotiate a standard contract with him that covered two or more seasons, they wouldn’t have had the same roster flexibility and would have been required to waive Barlow or Champagnie when they claimed him, per Marks.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke sustained a lower left leg injury in the first quarter of Friday’s loss to Denver and didn’t return, as Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details. We’ll have to wait for more clarity on Clarke’s prognosis, but the non-contact nature of the injury is concerning (Twitter video link). “I pray that everything is okay,” head coach Taylor Jenkins said after the game (Twitter link via Cole). “… I have no idea what’s going on, so we’ll get more results there.”
  • The two months that Brandon Ingram spent rehabbing a toe injury earlier this season felt like the longest two months of his life, the Pelicans forward told William Guillory of The Athletic. “It was hard. There were certain days when it felt like I had to fight just to be there mentally for my teammates and for myself. I had to fight just to keep a smile on my face so they wouldn’t see me down,” Ingram said. “I’m a person that believes everything happens for a reason. So, I just tried to dig deep, real deep down and get myself out of that dark place. I learned a lot about myself during that time.”
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Tim Cato addresses a handful of Mavericks-related topics, including Luka Doncic‘s questionable on-court body language and the odds of Josh Green signing a rookie scale extension with the team this offseason (Cato believes the chances are “very high”).