Taylor Hendricks

Western Notes: George, Holmgren, Ingram, Kennard

Keyonte George became a big part of opponents’ game plans as the season wore on, and Jazz CEO Danny Ainge feels the young guard will benefit from that experience, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune relays.

“He had some ups and downs, and I kind of liked that he had those ups and downs,” Ainge said. “I kind of liked the fact that the scouting report — the most important person to stop on our entire team many nights the second half of the year was him. So the best defender was guarding him, the team defensive schemes were to stop him, and so he had to face some of that.”

Ainge believes George made bigger strides than another of the Jazz’s rookies this season, Taylor Hendricks.

“He’s just a little further behind than Keyonte,” Ainge said of Hendricks. “His shooting was getting better and better. He’s working a lot on his shooting. His arc of his shots has been a little bit flat. But he shot a pretty good percentage. That’s a big step for him, but he’s got to get a lot better defensively.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Thunder rolled into the playoffs as a No. 1 seed despite being one of the league’s youngest teams. Center Chet Holmgren, the likely runner-up in the Rookie of the Year, said his team must take an even-keeled approach to the postseason. “The playoffs are a time of huge swings,” Holmgren told Darnell Marberry of The Athletic. “And you can’t let the swing of things allow your emotions to run wild in one direction or the other, good or bad. If you win one game, the series isn’t over. If you lose one game, the series isn’t over. So it doesn’t matter what fashion you lose or win with. A buzzer-beater, a blowout, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to get ready for the next game because no team’s going to roll over and give you anything.”
  • With Zion Williamson sidelined by a hamstring injury, the Pelicans will need big performances from Brandon Ingram to get out of the first round, Rod Walker of the New Orleans Times Picayune opines in a subscriber-only story. Ingram had 24 points, six rebounds and six assists in New Orleans win over Sacramento on Friday. “He is a leader for us and we follow his lead,” forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “Every single game, I tell him to be the best player on the court and (Friday) I believe he was the best player on the court.”
  • The Grizzlies have a $14.8MM option on Luke Kennard‘s contract for next season and Keith Smith of Spotrac believes they’ll pick it up, even though it would push them closer to the second tax apron. Smith, previewing the Grizzlies’ offseason, notes that Kennard is a solid backup wing due to his shooting ability and play-making.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Jokic, Murray, George, Giddey

The battle for control among Timberwolves‘ ownership isn’t affecting the team’s performance, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. While majority owner Glen Taylor and minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez fight things out in the media and probably in the court system, Minnesota picked up one of its biggest wins of the season Friday night at Denver. The Wolves are now tied with Oklahoma City for the top spot in the West with just nine games remaining.

“I don’t think it affects the players as much,” Mike Conley said of the ownership situation. “Maybe it affects the image of the team, the aura of the team around a little bit. But as far as the players are concerned, I think we just are like, ‘Damn, that’s crazy.’ Then we go back to watching film and worrying about (Nikola) Jokic, Jamal Murray and (Michael) Porter and those guys. It’s a unique situation and it’s something we don’t have any control over. We’re trying to do our job.”

Rudy Gobert didn’t mention Taylor, Lore or Rodriguez by name, but he said ownership in general has improved since he was traded to Minnesota nearly two years ago, creating a better atmosphere for the players.

“Whether it’s nutrition, recovery, facility, family room, how our family is being treated — it’s a lot of things,” Gobert said. “This organization is becoming really a top-notch organization and I think it’s come a long way.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets may need to prioritize health over chasing the No. 1 seed, contends Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. Jokic played with his right wrist taped Friday night, and Durando observes that it was clearly bothering him even though he finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds. “His wrist has been giving him a lot of trouble,” coach Michael Malone said. “But as we know, Nikola plays through things that most guys won’t.” Murray missed his fourth straight game with an ankle injury, but Malone said he’s expected to return before the start of the playoffs.
  • The Jazz dropped their eighth straight game Friday night as they deal with the realities of starting three rookies, notes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George and Brice Sensabaugh are struggling with efficiency as they get accustomed to playing big minutes at the NBA level, but the organization is committed to all three players, with coach Will Hardy complimenting George on his mental approach to the game. “Keyonte is really, really smart. He’s really, really smart in general, and that applies to basketball,” Hardy said. “He watches a lot on his own, which is very rare these days. He’s at home watching League Pass, watching games. So with that he has pretty quick recognition of things. He has an ability to learn things fast. He has really good recall. He can remember plays that we ran three weeks ago that we haven’t scripted in a while.”
  • Thunder swingman Josh Giddey said he used to hate it when teams dared him to shoot from the outside, but he’s learned to use it as a weapon, tweets Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman. “Now I’ve changed my mindset going into games,” Giddey said, “where it’s like, ‘If he’s gonna leave me open, I’m gonna punish them. I’m gonna make them pay and change their defensive scheme.’”

Northwest Notes: Ayton, Murray, Wolves, Jazz

After an uneven first few months with his new club, Trail Blazers center Deandre Ayton has been living up to his self-styled nickname (“DominAyton”) over the past several weeks, according to Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report.

I think we’ve unlocked him,” head coach Chauncey Billups said. “We’re getting the best version of him. He’s been a monster.”

As Highkin writes, since January 24 — a stretch that covers 16 games for Ayton — the Bahamian center has averaged 20.0 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG and 0.9 BPG while shooting 63.2% from the field and 94.7% from the free throw line in 33.5 MPG. In Wednesday’s victory over Atlanta, the 25-year-old scored a season-high 33 points (on 15-of-20 shooting) and pulled down 19 rebounds, the second time in three games he’s had at least 30 points and 19 boards.

Coming into these games, I’m trying to do everything,” Ayton said, per Highkin. “Not only do my requirements, my role for this team, but do a lot more. That’s where I’m at. I’m more dominant. People like to laugh at it, but it’s the truth.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray doesn’t hold any individual awards, but he knows he’s respected and feared by his opponents, he told Melissa Rohlin of Fox Sports. “Of course,” Murray said when asked if he thought he was one of the best players in the league. “And I strive to be the greatest. I want to be the best player ever. Obviously, if you don’t shoot high, then you’re never going to get there. I think (Nikola) Jokic is the greatest player right now. And I try to be a close second.” A brilliant postseason performer, the 27-year-old said he has his sights set on the award his teammate Jokic won last year: Finals MVP.
  • With Karl-Anthony Towns out at least four weeks following knee surgery, it’s natural that people would begin to question the Timberwolves‘ status as a postseason contender, despite their excellent season to this point — they’re currently 45-21, one game back of the top-seeded Nuggets. According to Chris Mannix of SI.com, Minnesota is embracing being an underdog. “We got a team full of dogs, man,” said point guard Mike Conley. “We got guys who want the opportunity that we have. It’s all uphill and people are doubting and that’s where we work best, I think. We’re just going to go out there and do what we do, block the noise out and kind of hold it down until he gets back and be ready to go.” The Wolves have gone 2-2 since Towns was injured.
  • The Jazz provided injury updates on three injured players on Wednesday, per Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter links). Rookie forward Taylor Hendricks (toe sprain) was a full practice participant yesterday, while Lauri Markkanen (right quadriceps contusion) was a partial participant. Hendricks has missed the past three games, while Markkanen has missed four straight. Jordan Clarkson (right groin strain) did not practice. Larsen speculates that Hendricks could return on Friday vs. Atlanta, but the other two players may take a little bit longer to return.

Jazz Notes: Bulls’ Scuffle, Collins, Hendricks, Dunn

The Jazz’s 119-117 loss to the Bulls on Wednesday included a scuffle in the closing seconds, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic reports.

With Utah down one and nine seconds left, Collin Sexton fouled DeMar DeRozan next to the Bulls’ bench. Sexton and injured Bulls forward Torrey Craig exchanged words, leading to an escalation. Bulls assistant coach Chris Fleming shoved Utah big man John Collins, who reached for Fleming’s neck before they were separated.

“I ran over. I’m standing there. And the coach comes over and just shoves me for no reason,” Collins said. “Y’all can go watch the film. And I just protected myself. I’m literally just standing there, and the dude puts a forearm in my chest and is pushing me back. So I don’t know. He needs some more self-control. But it’s whatever. I don’t know what to say about that. That was weird.”

A technical foul was called on Craig, while Collins and Fleming were handed double technicals. DeRozan’s free throws proved to be decisive but Bulls coach Billy Donovan was upset with his team and staff.

“We’ve got to be able to do a better job than that all the way around,” he said. “And I’m not just saying the players. On the bench. Everybody. We’ve got to be better in those moments.”

We have more Jazz news:

  • Rookie forward Taylor Hendricks will be reevaluated next week after injuring his left big toe, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News tweets. Hendricks, whose playing time has expanded since the trade deadline, was injured during the second quarter of the Jazz’s game against Washington on Monday. An MRI confirmed a ligament sprain to the toe.
  • Kris Dunn has revived his career with the Jazz after stints in the G League during the 2021/22 and ’22/23 seasons. The 2016 lottery pick never lost faith that he’d return to the NBA, he told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I always knew I was going to get back,” he said. “The main thing with me was the health part. I had to get my body back and then my shooting. I had to clean those two things up.” Dunn will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
  • In case you missed it, Isaiah Thomas has joined the Jazz’s G League, the Salt Lake City Stars, with the aim of getting another NBA contract.

Northwest Notes: Porter, Hayward, Biyombo, Billups, Nuggets

The Jazz have allowed Otto Porter to return home to contemplate where he wants to finish the season, sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic. The team is willing to negotiate a buyout with Porter, Jones adds, but it will have to be completed by March 1 to make him eligible for the playoffs with another organization.

Porter hasn’t played since being acquired from Toronto two weeks ago, even though Jones’ sources say he is completely healthy. Utah is committed to giving more minutes to rookie forward Taylor Hendricks, according to Jones, which is why the front office is open to a buyout.

Jones notes that Porter was in uniform last Thursday for the final game before the All-Star break, even though he wasn’t used. He only played 15 games for the Raptors this season before the deal, but Jones points out that Porter had an important role in Golden State’s 2022 championship and could draw attention from several contenders if he hits the open market.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Gordon Hayward expects to be ready to make his Thunder debut when the season resumes Thursday night, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The veteran forward, who hasn’t played since December 26 because of a calf injury, appreciated having extra time to prepare after Oklahoma City acquired him from Charlotte at the trade deadline. “The nice thing about when I got traded was I’ve had another week and a half, because of the break, to continue to get work in,” Hayward said. “I was here for most of the break.” 
  • Coach Mark Daigneault sees newly signed center Bismack Biyombo as a “situational player” for the Thunder, per Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder. “That was something we were honest about upfront [with Biyombo],” Daigneault said. “… He is a great professional, very serious competitor, and I think he will help the environment in that way.” 
  • Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups had his arm in a sling at Wednesday’s practice after undergoing surgery this week to fix a long-standing problem with his right wrist, according to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. The issue involves a ligament tear that Billups suffered as a player in 2009.
  • Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports looks at three issues that will define the closing part of the Nuggets‘ season: how hard they’ll pursue the No. 1 seed, whether coach Michael Malone will consider expanding his rotation, and how effective Christian Braun and Peyton Watson can continue to be.

Jazz Notes: Frustration, Markkanen, Hendricks, George, Porter

Following the Jazz‘s 129-107 loss to Golden State on Monday, Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that the team’s locker room was as frustrated as he’d seen it following a regular season game. As Larsen explains, Utah players weren’t just upset about the loss but by the trade-deadline deals that sent out three rotation players (Kelly Olynyk, Ochai Agbaji, and Simone Fontecchio) and returned none.

Asked prior to the 2023/24 season about Lauri Markkanen‘s desire to make the playoffs, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge said the front office shared that desire and was on board with it, Larsen notes. But with the team in a play-in position in the West entering last Thursday’s deadline, Ainge essentially sold off players for draft picks, leaving the remaining players feeling as if “they were sold a bill of goods,” Larsen writes.

Jazz general manager Justin Zanik explained the front office’s thinking in a post-deadline press conference last week, essentially saying that the goal is to build a roster capable of legitimate contention in the long term rather than focusing on sneaking into the play-in tournament in the short term.

“All of us want to win,” Zanik said, per Tony Jones of The Athletic, pointing out that Utah hasn’t won more than a single playoff series in a season since 2007. “But I want to win for a long time. We don’t want to just have a year where we had a good run. The goal isn’t the play-in or the first round of the playoffs. Those aren’t the goals. The goal is to win a championship.”

Since the trade deadline, the Jazz have gone 0-2 while the Warriors have gone 3-0, pulling ahead of Utah by 1.5 games for the No. 10 seed in the West.

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • The primary focus for the rest of the season in Utah will be the ongoing development of Markkanen and rookies Taylor Hendricks and Keyonte George, according to Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Todd takes a look at what to look for and what the Jazz will be expecting from those three players down the stretch.
  • There has been some confusion over the health of newly acquired forward Otto Porter Jr., Todd writes in a separate Deseret News story. Zanik said during last week’s presser that Porter is “not fully healthy right now, which we knew,” and the veteran forward was ruled out on Monday due to left foot soreness. However, when asked on Saturday how he was feeling, Porter stated that he was “OK, health-wise.” Informed of Zanik’s comments, the former Raptor replied, “Just got to figure some things out as far as my health. There’s some things that I just can’t go into detail with, but with the new training staff here, they should be able to get me back.” As Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca tweets, Porter wasn’t on Toronto’s injury report and was active for several games prior to the trade sending him to Utah. He’s not on the Jazz’s injury report for Wednesday’s contest vs. the Lakers.
  • As we wrote on Tuesday, Utah is one of many teams around the NBA that currently has an open 15-man roster spot. The Jazz could create a second opening by waiving either Porter or Kira Lewis if those newly acquired players on expiring contracts aren’t in their plans, but there has been no indication yet that such a move is coming.

Northwest Notes: Hendricks, Jazz’s Trades, Biyombo, Waters

The Jazz‘s deadline trades will thrust lottery pick Taylor Hendricks into a larger role, according to Sarah Todd of The Deseret News.

With Kelly Olynyk, Simone Fontecchio, and Ochai Agbaji no longer on the roster, the Jazz will take a longer look at their young players. Hendricks, who has appeared in 14 games off the bench, tops the list. He played 18 minutes against Phoenix on Thursday.

“Taylor’s life is very different now,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “Taylor is going to be a part of our rotation. He’s going to be playing every night. How much he plays every night will be determined by how well he plays.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz general manager Justin Zanik went into detail about the team’s future plans and why they made those trades during a post-deadline press conference. Zanik laid out his reasoning for dealing the above-mentioned trio. “Two of those guys were going to be free agents. Maybe we bring them back, maybe not,” he said, per Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake City Tribune. “We didn’t trade anybody of our core. We traded one starter who has started during our run that started basically half the year. The other two were rotation players. Last year, we traded three starters. This is the second kind of calibration around our core, and sometimes that takes time. I wish that it was quick and then all of a sudden we have a long and prosperous run right now. We’ll do that in a second. It’s just not available.”
  • The Thunder added veteran big man Bismack Biyombo after the Grizzlies waived him. He’ll play a situational role, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. Biyombo will basically be used as insurance and add some size and rebounding when needed.
  • The Thunder also made another personnel move after the deadline, promoting Lindy Waters from two-way status to a standard deal. According to Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype (Twitter link), Waters inked a two-year deal, which is fully guaranteed for the rest of this season and includes a team option for next season.

Northwest Notes: Hayward, Morris, Jazz, Strawther

Gordon Hayward has battled injuries for the past several seasons and is no longer playing at the same level as he was back in 2017 when he made his first and only All-Star game. But Hayward is the sort of big wing who has real value on a playoff roster, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who notes that the price the Thunder paid to acquire the veteran forward – three matching salaries and a pair of second-round picks – was relatively modest.

Hayward may end up being no more than an insurance policy for the Thunder, Mussatto acknowledges, but in a best-case scenario, he’ll become a regular rotation piece and perhaps even a player who could be part of closing lineups. And, as Mussatto points out, the three players Oklahoma City gave up for Hayward (Davis Bertans, Tre Mann, and Vasilije Micic) almost certainly wouldn’t have been playoff contributors.

Hayward, who has been sidelined since December 26 due to a calf injury, appeared to be nearing a return for the Hornets, but he won’t play until after the All-Star break for Oklahoma City, tweets Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman.

As Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder notes (via Twitter), head coach Mark Daigneault suggested Hayward is probably healthy enough to play today, but the Thunder want to put him through their return-to-play protocol and let him adjust to his new surroundings before he takes the court.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch is enthusiastic about having the opportunity to add newly acquired guard Monte Morris to his rotation, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes. “He’s a winner. He just kind of makes the right play. Super solid, low-turnover guy,” Finch said. “He’s used to playing off of a lot of star players really well. I think it’s a fairly seamless partnership with Mike (Conley). It’s not like this other type of guard that you have to adjust to. Just his high basketball IQ, you can’t have enough of those guys.”
  • Morris also expressed excitement about joining the Timberwolves and said on Friday that he’s still getting up to game speed after spending most of the season recovering from a quad injury, per Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. “I was out for a long period of time,” Morris said. “Realistically, I’d say just ramp up my strength and conditioning running. I’ve played in games. I’m not dead tired, but I know there’s another notice I can get to, and I’ll get to it really, really soon.”
  • The Jazz‘s moves at the trade deadline signal that they continue to prioritize the long term over the short term, despite the fact that they currently hold a play-in spot, writes Andy Larsen of The Star Tribune. As Larsen observes, the departures of Kelly Olynyk, Ochai Agbaji, and Simone Fontecchio should open up playing time for rookies Taylor Hendricks and Brice Sensabaugh.
  • Nuggets forward Julian Strawther, who was sidelined for over a month due to a knee injury, played on Friday for the first time since January 4, scoring seven points on 3-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes. According to Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (subscription required), head coach Michael Malone said prior to Friday’s game that Strawther wouldn’t necessarily be assured of a consistent rotation role going forward.

Northwest Notes: Smith, Conley, Blazers, Hendricks

Journeyman guard Ish Smith nearly remained with the defending champion Nuggets before he signed with the Hornets but not as a player, Bennett Durando of the Denver Post reports. He was offered a front office role that he described as an apprenticeship. He would have been based out of Charlotte while making trips to Denver to learn the ropes of being a front office exec from various people in basketball operations.

“I was gonna do some consulting, and start learning the business a little bit more,” said Smith, who appeared in 43 regular season and four postseason games with the Nuggets last season. “Start transitioning to some front office. Some coaching.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves guard Mike Conley will enter unrestricted free agency following this season. Conley has been a key figure in Minnesota’s blazing start, averaging 11.5 points and 6.2 assists, and there’s early optimism among league figures that he’ll re-sign with Minnesota, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Conley, who entered the league in 2007, will turn 37 prior to next season.
  • The Trail Blazers were late to the party but they finally have their own G League team in the Rip City Remix. Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report details how two-way player Ibou Badji and 2023 draft picks Kris Murray and Rayan Rupert have benefited from the experience they’ve gained with the G League club. “It’s so much easier to have them in the same building and have them around,” Remix coach Jim Moran said.
  • Jazz lottery pick Taylor Hendricks is also getting additional experience in the G League after appearing in 11 NBA games. Coach Will Hardy believes that will beneficial to his development, Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. “He’s gonna get way more minutes than he was when he was with us and continue to improve,” Hardy said. “The road is long for Taylor. I’m not overreacting to anything that goes on with him right now.”

Jazz Notes: Hendricks, Markkanen, Samanic, Injuries

The Jazz have been patiently developing their No. 9 overall pick in the 2023 draft, Taylor Hendricks, which resulted in a slow start to his career — he only played in one game prior to Dec. 2. However, Hendricks has seen playing time in nine of Utah’s last 10 games, averaging 6.3 points per night.

Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (subscriber link) spoke to the 20-year-old rookie, whose role has grown due to injuries to Utah’s rotation and his own development through time in the G League.

It was kind of up and down,” Hendricks said of the start to his career. “I’ll just start from the beginning. Obviously, starting with the injury, kind of being behind, and then starting the season off in the G League — that was pretty hard for me mentally. That first week, it was tough; I was trying to tell myself, ‘This is for the best.’ Once I figured it out, that I can use this to my advantage, everything started to work in my favor.

When I got called up, then I was ready because of the mindset I had when I was in the G League. I’m still trying to get better, still trying to improve. I’m not perfect.

Walden speaks to Hendricks about a myriad of topics, including learning Utah’s system, improving both offensively and defensively, and what aspect of his game he’d like to work on most.

The best thing you can feel is you can help a team win,” Hendricks said. “I feel that I do that, I help this team win. That’s all you can ask for.

We have more from the Jazz:

  • Recent rumors indicated that opposing teams have been monitoring what it would take to acquire Jazz star Lauri Markkanen. Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (Subscriber link) reviews the situation and confirms that Markkanen would like to stay with Utah. Larsen also writes that the Jazz have a star player, coaching staff and front office in alignment on a competitive timeline, which is rare and should be savored. “He knows what I believe in. He believes in the same things,” head coach Will Hardy said. “We’re really in lockstep in this whole thing — we both want the same thing for the Utah Jazz.
  • Forward Luka Samanic hasn’t played much for the Jazz this season, appearing in just 13 games. However, he found a way to make an impact in the second half of Utah’s win over the Pistons on Thursday night, drawing unprompted praise from Hardy, who specifically singled him out for staying ready and making the most of his opportunity, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News writes. “His impact on the game was much bigger than his stat line,” Hardy said. “To give us 10 really good minutes in the second half, in an important part of the game, after not playing meaningful minutes for a long time, I think speaks to him and his growth as a young pro.” The 23-year-old forward was the 19th pick in the 2019 draft by the Spurs but bounced around after that before landing with the Jazz. His deal is currently partially guaranteed for $600K, but becomes fully guaranteed for roughly $2.1MM if he’s on the roster beyond January 7.
  • Keyonte George remains out for the Jazz, but Jordan Clarkson and Talen Horton-Tucker are both questionable for Utah’s Saturday night game against the Raptors, Larsen tweets. Clarkson hasn’t played since Dec. 11, while Horton-Tucker missed his first game of the season Thursday against Detroit.