Luke Kennard

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.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Mavs’ Trade Prospects, Matkovic, Udoka

Thirteen of the Grizzlies‘ 15 players on standard contracts were sidelined by injuries for Sunday’s 40-point loss at Boston, writes Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. David Roddy and Luke Kennard were joined by three players on two-way contracts and three others on 10-day hardship deals as Memphis barely met the requirement of having eight active players for the game.

Coach Taylor Jenkins unveiled a makeshift starting lineup — his 30th of the season — consisting of Roddy, Kennard, G.G. Jackson, Trey Jemison and Jacob Gilyard. Jemison picked up two fouls in the game’s first minute, leaving 6’9″ forward Tosan Evbuomwan to match up with 7’3″ Kristaps Porzingis.

While the Grizzlies were clearly overmatched, some players are taking advantage of the opportunity. Cole singles out Jackson, who became the focus of the offense and scored 18 points on 24 shots, and Scotty Pippen Jr., who led the team with 19 points off the bench, as two who stood out.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Finding a power forward with size — preferably one who can shoot from the outside and contribute on both ends of the court — is the Mavericks‘ priority heading into Thursday’s trade deadline, multiple sources tell Tim Cato of The Athletic. He adds that the team could also use a backup center who can protect the rim, noting that Dallas is often forced to play zone against larger teams. Cato points out that rivals such as the Thunder and Jazz may be in the market for similar players and have more assets to offer than Dallas does.
  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News also assesses the Mavericks‘ trade outlook, observing that the 2027 pick is the team’s only tradeable first-rounder and suggesting that Josh Green, Jaden Hardy or Olivier-Maxence Prosper would likely have to be included in any significant deal.
  • As expected, Pelicans prospect Karlo Matkovic has left his KK Cedevita Olimpija team and is headed to New Orleans, according to Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. Matkovic’s role with the organization hasn’t been defined publicly, but the Pelicans have one opening on their 15-man roster and Malcolm Hill‘s 10-day contract is about to expire. It’s also possible that Matkovic, a 6’11” power forward/center, will be signed to a G League deal and join the organization’s affiliate in Birmingham.
  • Rockets coach Ime Udoka was disappointed after watching his offense sputter against one of the league’s best defenses in Sunday’s loss at Minnesota, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “The lack of reaction was not making the easy play, making the easy pass to a teammate, driving into a crowd, trying to play through double-teams,” Udoka said. “A four-point game at half, we talked about … all these open shots that we left on the table by driving to a crowd (against) the No. 1 team defensively, top five in packing the paint, protecting the paint, what they give up in the paint.”

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Jackson, Smart, Kennard

After being diagnosed with a torn labrum that will require season-ending surgery, Grizzlies guard Ja Morant told his teammates in an “emotional” meeting on Tuesday to “stay locked in and keep grinding,” Desmond Bane tells Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

The Grizzlies, who were also missing reigning Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. due to a right knee contusion, responded on Tuesday with an impressive 120-103 victory in Dallas, their third straight road win over a Western Conference rival. Head coach Taylor Jenkins called it “one of the most impressive team wins of the season,” per MacMahon.

“We have nothing to lose,” guard Marcus Smart said. “Especially without Ja, everybody’s counting us out. Everybody’s expecting us to just lay down and quit, and that’s not what this team is about and not in our heart.

“… We’re going to fight. That’s all we can do. That’s what we know. We’re going to fight until we can’t fight no more. And that’s all you can ask — for you fight to the end, because we understood that coming into the season the odds against us and things have affected our team. We understood that this might not be a year where everything is expected of us, but it’s a year for us to damn well get right for next year as well.”

As his Grizzlies teammates look to continue battling for a play-in spot without him, Morant is in the process of deciding – along with the Grizzlies’ staff – which surgeon will perform his shoulder surgery, according to MacMahon.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Smart exited Tuesday’s win in the third quarter due to a dislocated right ring finger. The finger isn’t broken, but Smart will undergo an MRI when the team returns to Memphis, tweets Michael Wallace of
  • Speaking to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, orthopedic surgeon Brian Schulz explains how a labral tear occurs and what Morant’s recovery process will look like. According to Schulz, while Morant will be able to begin physical therapy almost immediately following his surgery, a typical return-to-play timeline for this sort of injury is approximately six months, which is why the club has already ruled him out for the season.
  • ESPN’s experts take a look at how Morant’s injury will impact the team, with Kevin Pelton pointing out that drafting in the 2024 lottery could put Memphis in position to add another young player to its long-term core at a relatively team-friendly price. Bobby Marks, meanwhile, notes that next year’s roster projects to be in the tax if Luke Kennard‘s team option is exercised, which could impact the Grizzlies’ trade deadline plans with Kennard and/or others on the roster.
  • Mark Deeks of HoopsHype explores what the Grizzlies could do with the disabled player exception they’re likely to be granted as a result of Morant’s injury, and explains why that exception is more likely to simply expire without being used.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Smart, Kennard, Wembanyama, Murphy

After watching his team post a miserable 6-19 record while he was serving a 25-game suspension, Ja Morant has the Grizzlies looking like winners again, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Morant had 30 points, six rebounds and 11 assists in Saturday’s victory at Atlanta as Memphis improved to 3-0 since his return. The secret to the success, according to Morant, is that the players are enjoying themselves again.

“The tough part was not being able to be out there and enjoy and have fun with my guys, but now that I’m out there, I’m making sure that we’re all having fun no matter what,” Morant said after Thursday’s game. “So that was pretty much just my message. You could just tell by the energy of the team. We catch a lob, you got the bench going crazy, you got the players screaming, yelling, dapping each other up. That’s our type of basketball. That’s how we are. That’s the team we are, the people we are.”

Memphis fans are enjoying having Morant back as well, MacMahon adds. They took part in a parade outside the arena to celebrate his first home game, which marked just the fourth sellout of the season at FedEx Forum.

“You got to play the game with a lot of joy,” Desmond Bane said. “And when you’re losing and down, sometimes it’s hard to find that spirit and that swag. But regardless, winning, losing, up, down, you got to have that fire and that fight. And I think we got that now.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins indicated that Marcus Smart may be ready to return on Tuesday, tweets Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. Smart has been sidelined since November 14 with a left foot sprain and has only appeared in 11 games this season. Jenkins hopes Luke Kennard can begin playing five-on-five next week and can be back in the rotation by the end of December, per Rob Fischer of Grind City Media (Twitter link).
  • A pregame mishap prevented Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama from playing tonight at Dallas, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Wembanyama suffered a right ankle sprain when he stepped on a ball boy’s foot during warmups. He went to the locker room to get his ankle retaped, but coach Gregg Popovich opted to hold him out of the game for precautionary reasons.
  • Trey Murphy has become a valuable part of the Pelicans‘ offense since returning from left knee surgery that forced him to miss the first 19 games of the season, notes Christian Clark of NOLA. Murphy made his first start Thursday and delivered 28 points in a win at Cleveland. “I feel great,” he said. “I’m getting back into my rhythm. I’m getting back into the flow of things. It’s just in time for the dog days of the season. I have fresh legs for those times.”

Injury Notes: Smart, Kennard, Smith, LeBron, Zion, Suns

The Grizzlies are aiming to get some 5-on-5 work in for Marcus Smart this weekend, head coach Taylor Jenkins said on Wednesday (Twitter link via Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal). Jenkins added that Luke Kennard is “probably a step behind” Smart in the recovery process, per Cole.

Smart was diagnosed with a left foot sprain on November 17 and was expected to miss three-to-five weeks. He’s four weeks into that process now, and could be nearing a return. Kennard, meanwhile, has been dealing with a left knee bone bruise. Almost two weeks ago, the Grizzlies said he was expected to be back in two-to-three weeks.

Here are some more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • Pacers big man Jalen Smith (left knee bone bruise) has begun on-court work, head coach Rick Carlisle told reporters, including Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). It’s possible within the next week to 10 days we could see him in a game,” Carlisle said. Smith is averaging 10.0 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 70.7% from the field through 14 games (15.4 MPG).
  • Lakers star LeBron James was held out of Wednesday’s back-to-back in San Antonio after playing 40 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to Dallas, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. The Lakers said James, who was initially listed as questionable, was dealing with left calf soreness, but it doesn’t sound like anything serious, as he was interacting with teammates on the sidelines throughout the contest.
  • Pelicans forward Zion Williamson missed Wednesday’s win over Washington with left ankle soreness, but it should be a short-term injury, according to Christian Clark of “His ankle is getting better,” head coach Willie Green said. ” ... His ankle is fine. Day to day.” Williamson sustained the injury late in Monday’s game, Clark notes.
  • Suns wing Josh Okogie sustained a right hip injury and was sidelined for Wednesday’s loss to Brooklyn, per Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports (Twitter link). It’s unclear how long Okogie might be sidelined. Guard Eric Gordon also missed the game with a calf injury. On a more positive note for Phoenix, fellow wing Nassir Little returned to the lineup after clearing the NBA’s concussion protocol, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Little wore a black face mask during the contest, as he sustained an orbital fracture last Friday against Sacramento. Surprisingly, Little only missed one full game and most of another with the injury.

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.

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.

Southwest Notes: Kennard, Tillman, McCollum, Thompson, Eason

The Grizzlies, who have already been ravaged by injuries this season, got some more bad news on Monday. Wing Luke Kennard has a left knee bone bruise and will be reevaluated in two weeks, the team’s PR department tweets. Kennard was off to a slow start, but the Grizzlies will miss the perimeter threat of a 43.5% career 3-point shooter.

Meanwhile, Grizzlies big man Xavier Tillman is considered week-to-week as he recovers from a left knee injury. He’s averaging 9.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists this season.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • CJ McCollum remains out indefinitely due to a collapsed lung. Pelicans head coach Willie Green offered an update on McCollum on Monday, relayed by Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune (Twitter link). “They are still working it out with the doctors,” he said. “They want to make sure CJ gets to the floor healthy and safely. … Once they give us his timeline, we will know more. Right now, he can work out. But it’s really in their hands.”
  • Rockets rookie Amen Thompson, who has been out since Nov. 1 due to a right ankle sprain, is not close to returning, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Thompson has not been cleared to practice and the Rockets will gradually ramp up his activity until he’s ready to play.
  • Rockets forward Tari Eason is still being eased back into action after suffering a stress reaction in his left leg during the preseason, Feigen reports. He’s playing an average of only 17.2 minutes per night and has been limited in practices. That has prevented him from getting into a rhythm in the games he has played. “I feel all right,” said Eason, who sat out Monday’s game against Golden State. “Right now, we’re going to do injury prevention, stuff like that. So for me, it’s just been hard to get my groove, not be able to get certain extra reps and being able to play and practice. My only time to really be able to play basketball is in games.”

Grizzlies’ Marcus Smart Out 3-5 Weeks With Foot Sprain

Grizzlies guard Marcus Smart is expected to miss three-to-five weeks after being diagnosed with a left foot sprain, the team announced in a press release (via Twitter).

Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) first reported that Smart is expected to miss multiple weeks as a result of the injury, which occurred during Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers. Smart left the game in the first quarter after landing on Austin Reaves‘ foot while contesting a shot (Twitter video link via Bally Sports).

Smart, 29, was acquired in a three-team trade this offseason that involved Boston and Washington. The 2021/22 Defensive Player of the Year is averaging 12.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals on .429/.295/.810 shooting in 11 games this season (29.9 minutes per night).

It’s a tough blow for the Grizzlies, who won 50-plus games each of the past two seasons but are currently 2-9 and rank last in the Western Conference. Injuries and a suspension have played a major part in that, and losing Smart certainly won’t help matters.

Luke Kennard also left Tuesday’s game early after sustaining a left knee bone bruise, and he has been ruled out for Saturday’s game in San Antonio (Twitter link via the Grizzlies). The sharpshooting guard led the NBA in three-point percentage the past two seasons.

The Grizzlies are particularly shorthanded at point guard, with Ja Morant out for the first 25 games of 2023/24 after being suspended multiple times in the past year. Derrick Rose has also been out since October 30 due to a left knee injury, but he’s officially listed as questionable for Saturday’s game, so he may be back soon.

The frontcourt is another area of the roster that has been decimated by injuries. Steven Adams is out for the year after undergoing season-ending knee surgery, while Brandon Clarke figures to remain on the shelf for most of the season after tearing his Achilles tendon in March. Xavier Tillman has missed four of the past five games with a left knee injury, and he’s out Saturday as well.

For what it’s worth, the Grizzlies could qualify for a second extra roster spot via a hardship exception, but that would require four players to have missed at least three consecutive games due to an injury or illness, with an expectation they’d remain sidelined for some time beyond those three games, and they don’t meet that criteria right now. Bismack Biyombo currently occupies the first extra spot after Morant was placed on the suspended list.

Two-way player Jacob Gilyard, a 5’9″ point guard, has started the past three games for Memphis and will likely continue to receive extended run until the Grizzlies get more reinforcements back.

Grizzlies Notes: Smart, Kennard, Injuries, Roster, Jackson

Already missing two point guards in Ja Morant (suspension) and Derrick Rose (knee), the Grizzlies saw another one go down in Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers.

As Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes, Marcus Smart left the game in the first quarter with a left ankle injury after landing on Austin Reaves‘ foot while contesting a shot (Twitter video link via Bally Sports). Smart was wearing a walking boot on his left foot after the game and will undergo further evaluation to determine the severity of the injury, per Cole.

Luke Kennard also left Tuesday’s contest due to left knee soreness and didn’t return, but head coach Taylor Jenkins referred to that decision as precautionary, so it sounds like the veteran wing won’t miss much – if any – more time. With the Grizzlies off for three days before resuming their schedule in San Antonio on Saturday, Kennard will have some time to rest that knee.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • When the Grizzlies placed Morant on the suspended list and opened up an extra roster spot, they used it on Bismack Biyombo because they were short on frontcourt depth, with Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke out and Santi Aldama and Xavier Tillman banged up. The original expectation was that they’d use that 16th roster spot to add a point guard during Morant’s absence, according to Cole of The Commercial Appeal, who notes that Memphis could certainly use an extra body in its backcourt now. Two-way player Jacob Gilyard is the only healthy point guard on the roster, though Desmond Bane figures to continue to shoulder plenty of the ball-handling and play-making responsibilities.
  • For what it’s worth, the Grizzlies could qualify for another extra roster spot via a hardship exception, but that would require four players to have missed at least three consecutive games due to an injury or illness, with an expectation they’d remain sidelined for some time beyond those three games. For now, only three players fit that bill (Adams, Clarke, and Rose).
  • Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. spoke to Mark Medina of Sportskeeda about several topics, including the team’s slow start this fall, how his role has changed with Adams and Clarke on the shelf, his position as a team leader, and his experience playing with Team USA. Jackson said he’d “for sure” be interested in playing in the Olympics if he gets the call from USA Basketball. “I haven’t gotten the word. I’ll do it if they ask me,” Jackson said. “It’s random. You never know. It’s whenever they want to call.”
  • Medina also conducted a Q&A with Smart prior to Tuesday’s ankle injury. The veteran guard discussed, among other subjects, his adjustment to a new team, the message he’s trying to impart his younger teammates, and the conversations he has had with Morant in practices.