Ja Morant

Morant Showing Good Progress From Shoulder Surgery

Ja Morant appears to be ahead of schedule in his recovery from shoulder surgery, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports.

According to Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, Morant and several other players who suffered significant injuries are making good progress. Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., Ziaire Williams, Vince Williams and Marcus Smart were among the other Grizzlies players who missed chunks of time due to injury this season.

“Everything is going well,” Jenkins said on Tuesday. “Ja is the only one when June rolls around, he’s going to be pretty close to full go on the court. Everything that everyone was dealing with towards the end of the season is in a good place right now.”

Morant’s season was essentially a washout.

He missed the first 25 games of the season due to an NBA suspension. Morant averaged 25.1 points, 8.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds in nine games after the suspension, including a game-winning shot against New Orleans on Dec. 19 in his return to action.

Morant was then diagnosed with a labral tear in his right shoulder after a training session. At the time on his January surgery, the recovery process was outlined as a six-month process.

Grizzlies GM Zach Kleiman said in April that their wasn’t a timeline on Morant’s full availability, but that he was “expected to be fully cleared for basketball activities maybe halfway through the offseason.”

Morant will be entering the second year of his five-year, max contract.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, T. Allen, Morant, Williamson

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic had three full days off between the end of the team’s first-round series against the Clippers and the start of the second-round matchup with Oklahoma City, but it looked like the right knee sprain he suffered early in the Clippers series was still bothering him on Tuesday.

As Tim MacMahon of ESPN details, Doncic made 1-of-8 three-pointers in Dallas’ Game 1 loss to the Thunder and has now hit just 5-of-35 threes in his past four contests. That’s the worst three-point percentage (14.3%) for any player who has at least 30 attempts over a four-game postseason run in NBA history, says MacMahon.

“It’s just hurting,” Doncic said of his knee, per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). “Less mobility. Less explosiveness when I’m driving the ball. But it’s about the same. These days gave me a little more time to rest, a little more time to rehab.”

Asked specifically about how big a part his knee issues are playing in his shooting struggles, Doncic declined to speculate, telling reporters that bouncing back from the Mavericks’ fifth consecutive Game 1 loss is his focus.

“Who cares? We lost,” he said. “We’ve just got to move on to the next one. I’ve got to be better. We’ve got to be better. We’re known for Game 1-struggling, but we’ve got to focus.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Grizzlies are expected to retire Tony Allen‘s No. 9 jersey during the 2024/25 season, the former defensive standout tells Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Memphis had originally planned to retire Allen’s number during the 2021/22 season, according to Cole, but the veteran guard asked the team to postpone it due to his legal issues. Allen will join former teammates Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph among Grizzlies players with their jerseys retired. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Hopefully, I have a box of tissue with me.”
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver provided a favorable update on Grizzlies guard Ja Morant on Monday, according to Cole. Silver had “regular check-ins” with Morant over the course of the year, which was one of the conditions attached to his 25-game suspension for multiple off-court incidents. “From everything we have seen, his development has been very positive,” Silver said. “Working with the team and his personal management, having a stronger support team around him seems to be making a difference in his life.”
  • A federal appeals court has upheld a 2021 ruling in favor of Zion Williamson, according to an Associated Press report, determining that the Pelicans forward’s contract with a marketing agent was void because she wasn’t licensed in North Carolina at the time of the agreement. Gina Ford, a Florida-based agent, had been seeking $100MM from Williamson, accusing him of improperly breaking a contract allowing her to represent him for endorsement purposes.

Southwest Notes: Ryan, Morant, Grizzlies, Gafford, Mavs

When the Pelicans converted Matt Ryan from his two-way deal to a standard contract on the day before their regular season finale, they used their mid-level exception to sign him to a three-year deal that paid him $1.5MM in guaranteed money for the final two days of this season, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

In exchange for that substantial end-of-season payday, Ryan gave the Pelicans two additional years of low-cost control — he’s under contract for a non-guaranteed minimum salary ($2,196,970) in 2024/25, with a non-guaranteed minimum-salary team option ($2,381,501) for ’25/26.

Ryan’s salary for ’24/25 would become guaranteed if he remains under contract through the start of the regular season, but there are no trigger dates before that point, so New Orleans won’t necessarily need to make a decision on him until the fall.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Grizzlies guard Ja Morant is now being represented by Lift Management, according to a tweet from the agency. Morant reportedly parted ways with longtime agent Jim Tanner earlier this spring. The two-time All-Star has seen his stock drop following multiple suspensions for his off-court behavior, along with a shoulder injury that cost him nearly all of the 2023/24 season, but his maximum-salary contract runs for four more seasons.
  • Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal takes a look at what the Grizzlies want to see from their young players this summer, including projected Summer League participants like GG Jackson and Scotty Pippen Jr. As Cole observes, it’ll also a big offseason for Jake LaRavia, who will be entering his third NBA season, but it’s rare for former first-round picks to return for a third year of Summer League.
  • With center Daniel Gafford listed as questionable for Game 3 vs. the Clippers on Friday due to back spasms, the Mavericks could be forced to make a change to their starting lineup, writes Mike Curtis of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). Dereck Lively would likely be the top candidate to move into the starting five, though Maxi Kleber – who has averaged 27.0 minutes per game so far in the series – would also play a major role. Dwight Powell and Markieff Morris are also in the mix as depth options.

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Rose, Draft Pick, Kennard, More

Although the Grizzlies dealt with a ton of injuries this season, particularly down the stretch, there aren’t many long-term concerns among that group of injured players, according to head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman, who told reporters today that Ja Morant (right shoulder surgery) is the only one expected to have more than a month of recovery time, per Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“I would say he is expected to be fully cleared for basketball activities maybe halfway through the offseason,” Kleiman said of Morant, who is expected to be in Memphis rehabbing for most of the summer. “… He’s been very diligent with his work. He’s been around the team pouring into that everyday.”

Another Grizzlies point guard who missed much of the 2023/24 season for health reasons, Derrick Rose said on Monday that he has no plans to retire and expects to be back in Memphis next season, according to Cole. Rose is under contract for a guaranteed salary worth approximately $3.4MM.

“Yes, I’m coming back,” Rose said. “I talked to Zach, I talked to coach (Taylor Jenkins). … This summer, it’s all about attacking my rehabs, my workouts and continuing to be disciplined.”

The Grizzlies signed Rose and traded for Marcus Smart last summer, envisioning the veteran guards serving as mentors and veteran leaders for Morant during and following his 25-game suspension. However, Rose appeared in just 24 games, Smart played in 20, and Morant suited up for only nine.

Here’s more out of Memphis:

  • While the Grizzlies used Jaren Jackson Jr. at the five frequently this season and will likely continue to do so, Kleiman wasn’t coy about the fact that Memphis intends to add at least one center to its roster this offseason, according to Cole. “I envision we’ll add at least one big,” he said. “Whether that’s a starting big or a rotation big, I think we have some work to do on the roster there. … We’re not trying to hide the ball on that.” The Grizzlies traded away centers Steven Adams and Xavier Tillman at February’s deadline.
  • Memphis projects to have a top-10 pick in this year’s draft, but hasn’t decided yet whether it will keep or trade that first-rounder, Cole writes. “I think we’re going to be open-minded on what we can do with that pick,” Kleiman said. Obviously, no decisions will be made until sometime after May’s lottery, since the team’s plans for a No. 1 or No. 8 overall pick could look very different.
  • Kleiman was noncommittal on the Grizzlies’ plans for Luke Kennard, whose contract includes a 2024/25 team option worth about $14.8MM. “Luke is someone we continue to feel strongly about,” Kleiman said. “Someone who is important for this team and this NBA. We have decisions that we have to make on him coming up.”
  • As Cole relays, Kleiman lauded second-year shooting guard Vince Williams for what he provided the Grizzlies this season and said Williams will be an important part of the club’s plans going forward: “He is someone that we have confidence in to play a significant role. He can play different kinds of roles, but it will be significant next season.”

Southwest Notes: Morant, JJJ, Bane, G. Williams, Mavs, Williamson

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.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • 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.
  • Hornets forward Grant Williams says he has harbors no ill will toward the Mavericks for trading him after Dallas added him in a sign-and-trade last offseason, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News tweets. “No hard feelings on my end or, I think, their end,” he said. “We communicated well throughout the process. (Dallas GM) Nico (Harrison), I respect those guys a lot from an honesty perspective.”
  • Even Mavericks teammates marvel at the ability of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, according to The Athletic’s Tim Cato. “I never play NBA 2K, so I don’t know if there’s a self-created player who does stuff like they do,” Maxi Kleber said. “But it’s just incredible what they do.”
  • Pelicans forward Zion Williamson took note that teams were seeking him out defensively and he’s playing harder at that end of the floor, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune said. “The other teams were trying to hunt me on defense,” Williamson said. “I was watching the film, and I didn’t like that.” Williamson had five blocks against Phoenix on Sunday.

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.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Claxton, Zeller, Luka, Washington

The Nets‘ trip to Memphis earlier this week wasn’t exactly a homecoming for Nic Claxton, but it gave him an opportunity to see some familiar faces, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, who notes that Claxton played AAU ball in his native South Carolina with Grizzlies star Ja Morant and Morant’s close friend Davonte Pack.

“Playing that last year of AAU with (Morant) and seeing where he is now with his career and everything he has achieved so early, it’s definitely good to see,” Claxton said. “… I didn’t see him being the player that he is now with the athleticism. He was always talented, skilled, could always really pass the ball. When he got that athleticism, he just started to take off.”

As Cole notes, Claxton – who has worn Morant’s signature shoe this season – will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Grizzlies will be in the market for help at center after trading away Steven Adams and Xavier Tillman. A deal with Claxton may be a long shot, given that Memphis will be well over the salary cap and won’t be in position to offer the young center the type of lucrative deal the Nets can.

Still, Claxton didn’t close the door on the idea – replying, “We’ll see” when asked about the possibility – and Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. didn’t sound opposed to it either, Cole writes.

“He’s good for that team,” Jackson said of Brooklyn’s starting center. “He’s doing his thing. Who knows, man. I can play alongside a lot of different types of players. Credit to what he’s doing over there.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • After beginning the 2022/23 season without an NBA home, Cody Zeller wasn’t sure if his days in the league were coming to an end. However, as Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star relays, Zeller got another shot last February with Miami, which led to a new deal with the Pelicans this past offseason. The veteran big man is happy to be serving as a veteran leader in New Orleans and grateful to still be in the NBA. “I had already had a good career (before joining the Heat last season),” Zeller said. “That gave me a different perspective that each additional game that I play or contract that I get or extra year that I get is icing on the cake. If I can be a good veteran guy even if I’m not playing, I’m totally happy with that, totally cool with that.”
  • Cautioning Mavericks fans not to take Luka Doncic‘s ongoing greatness for granted, Tim Cato of The Athletic explores the star guard’s case for this season’s MVP award.
  • Coming off a 23-point game on Wednesday in Toronto – his best performance since joining the Mavericks last month – P.J. Washington is making a case to be Dallas’ third option on offense behind Doncic and Kyrie Irving, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. “We would like to be consistent with a third,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “Yes, that would make coaching or being a teammate a little bit easier, knowing who’s going to be there on a consistent basis. And I think P.J. is starting to trend that way.” Kidd added that he believes Washington is “up for the challenge” of being more of an offensive play-maker.

And-Ones: Cauley-Stein, Rondo, Curry/Ionescu, Silver, Morant

Longtime NBA big man Willie Cauley-Stein, whose last brief stint in the league came with the Rockets at the end of the 2022/23 season, has signed with Indios de Mayaguez, the Puerto Rican team announced (Facebook link).

The sixth overall pick in 2015, Cauley-Stein signed with Italian club Pallacanestro Varese last summer, but the two sides parted ways in December, freeing up the veteran center to join a new team.

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

  • Four-time NBA All-Star Rajon Rondo was arrested on Sunday in Indiana for unlawful possession of a firearm, drug paraphernalia, and marijuana, reports Jason Riley of WDRB.com. An initial court hearing has been scheduled for February 27. Rondo appeared in nearly 1,100 total regular season and playoff games from 2006-22 but hasn’t been in the NBA since finishing the 2021/22 season with Cleveland.
  • The NBA confirmed on Tuesday in a press release that Warriors star Stephen Curry and WNBA sharpshooter Sabrina Ionescu will compete in a one-on-one three-point contest for charity on All-Star Saturday next month. Ionescu, who racked up 37 of 40 possible points in the final round of last season’s WNBA three-point contest, will shoot from the WNBA three-point line using WNBA balls, while Curry shoots from the NBA three-point line using NBA balls.
  • Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press lays out why Adam Silver‘s contract extension as NBA commissioner was seemingly a “no-brainer,” noting that that seems to be the consensus among players around the league as well. “Our league, from the time that I came in until now, it’s 10 times better,” Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “Everything’s more organized. … I think he’s done a tremendous job. He’s definitely a max player.”
  • Grizzlies star Ja Morant is launching an AAU basketball program called “Twelve Time” that will be based in South Carolina and Georgia. Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the story.

Grizzlies Awarded Second Disabled Player Exception

The NBA has granted the Grizzliesrequest for a second disabled player exception following Ja Morant‘s season-ending shoulder surgery, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The exception will be worth $12,405,000.

A disabled player exception gives an over-the-cap team some extra spending power – but not an additional 15-man roster spot – when it loses a player to an injury deemed likely to sideline him through at least June 15. As we explain in our glossary entry, the exception can be used to sign a free agent, to claim a player off waivers, or to acquire a player in a trade.

The disabled player exception can only be used on a single player and can only accommodate a player on a one-year deal. A free agent signee can’t get a multiyear contract, and any trade or waiver target must be in the final year of his contract.

The exception is worth either half the injured player’s salary or the value of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, whichever is lesser. Since Morant is earning $34MM+ this season, the Grizzlies’ DPE is worth the amount of the non-taxpayer MLE.

Memphis had already been granted one disabled player exception this season — the team was awarded a $6.3MM exception following Steven Adams‘ season-ending knee surgery, as our DPE tracker shows. The Grizzlies will have until March 11 to make use of one or both exceptions.

Disabled player exceptions often expire without being used, but the Grizzlies have some breathing room below the luxury tax line and appear lottery-bound, so they could be a candidate to take on an unwanted contract along with an asset (such as a future draft pick or cash) to help another team trim payroll. They also have one available trade exception worth approximately $7.5MM.

Grizzlies Apply For Second DPE; Spurs Granted One

The Grizzlies have formally applied for a disabled player exception following Ja Morant‘s shoulder injury, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

The move had been anticipated since Memphis announced earlier this week that Morant would miss the rest of the season following surgery to repair a torn labrum. The Grizzlies faced a deadline of January 15 to submit their request to the league.

A disabled player exception gives an over-the-cap team some extra spending power – but not an additional 15-man roster spot – when it loses a player to an injury deemed likely to sideline him through at least June 15. As we explain in our glossary entry, the exception can be used to sign a free agent, to claim a player off waivers, or to acquire a player in a trade.

The disabled player exception can only be used on a single player and can only accommodate a player on a one-year deal. A free agent signee can’t get a multiyear contract, and any trade or waiver target must be in the final year of his contract. The exception is worth either half the injured player’s salary or the value of the mid-level exception, whichever is lesser. Since Morant is earning $34MM+ this season, the Grizzlies’ DPE would be worth $12,405,000, the amount of the non-taxpayer MLE.

Memphis has already been granted one disabled player exception this season — the team was awarded a $6.3MM DPE following Steven Adams‘ season-ending knee surgery. While the Grizzlies may not end up using both exceptions (assuming their request for Morant is approved), their team salary is well below the luxury tax line, so they have some financial flexibility to explore possible uses for those DPEs on the trade market.

In other disabled player exception news, the Spurs’ request for a DPE following Charles Bassey‘s season-ending ACL tear has been approved, Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter). Bassey was only earning $2.6MM this season, so that exception will be worth a modest $1.3MM, limiting its usefulness.

The deadline to use as disabled player exception this season is March 11. Any DPE that hasn’t been used by that point will expire. The full list of available disabled player exceptions can be found right here.