Xavier Tillman

Grizzlies Notes: Brooks, Free Agency, Tillman

Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks is playing on an expiring $11.4MM contract in 2022/23, making him an unrestricted free agent this summer if he doesn’t sign an extension. Will Memphis bring him back for ’23/24?

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon noted on the Hoop Collective podcast that the Grizzlies have already tried to upgrade from Brooks, having made unsuccessful trade deadline pitches to Brooklyn for Mikal Bridges and Toronto for OG Anunoby. MacMahon suggested Memphis might call the Nets about Dorian Finney-Smith if the team chooses not to re-sign Brooks (hat tip to RealGM).

I don’t know if Dillon Brooks is on this team after this (Lakers) series,” MacMahon said. “We’ll see if the Grizzlies can come back and win it. I certainly don’t know if he’s on this team after free agency this summer, but the problem is if he’s not, who’s guarding all the best players? All the stars on the other teams?

If they’re letting Dillon Brooks go, they absolutely have to get a really, really, really good defensive wing player. They can let him go in free agency, they just have to figure out how to replace him. Trust me, they’ve put a lot of thought into that.”

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Damichael Cole and Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal believe it’s looking unlikely that the Grizzlies will re-sign Brooks unless he turns things around in a major way for the rest of the playoffs. Although he is a very good defensive player, Brooks’ shooting has been a liability against the Lakers — through three games (23.5 MPG), he’s posting just a .325/.250/.600 shooting line while averaging more shots (13.3) than points (11.3).
  • Brooks was ejected in the third quarter of Game 3 after hitting LeBron James in the groin while going for a steal, but he won’t be suspended for Monday’s Game 4, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Brooks, 27, believes being labeled as a “villain” is why he received a flagrant foul 2 for the incident, according to MacMahon of ESPN. “The media making me a villain, the fans making me a villain and then that just creates a whole different persona on me,” Brooks said. “So now you think I intended to hit LeBron James in the nuts. I’m playing basketball. I’m a basketball player. So if I intended — and that’s whatever is in the flagrant 2 category — if you think I did that, that means you think I’m that type of person.”
  • One of the primary reasons the Grizzlies were able to win Game 2 is third-year big man Xavier Tillman (22 points on 10-of-13 shooting, 13 rebounds) outplayed Lakers star Anthony Davis (13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, nine rebounds, five blocks). Tillman’s journey this season has been an eventful one, as Cole writes for The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Tillman played in summer league and then spent time with the Grizzlies’ G League affiliate to open the year. However, injuries to Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke have opened up minutes in the middle, and Tillman has taken advantage of his opportunity, Cole notes. “I think it’s a true sign of a winner,” Jenkins said. “It’s a true sign of a pro, and that’s why we love (Tillman), a guy who always stays ready. He wants to impact winning in whatever his role is going to be.” The Grizzlies hold a $1.93MM team option for ’23/24 on Tillman, who will be extension-eligible this offseason.

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Zion, Tillman, Sengun, Porter

The Pelicans were able to survive for a while with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson both injured, but their current 3-8 stretch is raising concerns, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. New Orleans has fallen into fourth place in the West amid a prolonged January slump. The team ranks 22nd in the league in offensive rating and 24th in defensive rating during the month and is coming off three straight double-digit losses.

“We have to find our defensive identity. Right now, we’re not guarding the way we’re capable of,” coach Willie Green said. “Those are things that we can control. We can make a decision as a team that we want to guard better. We just haven’t been doing it.”

Green is hoping to see his team respond better without Ingram and Williamson because there’s no timetable for either of them to return. Ingram hasn’t played since November 25 because of a left big toe contusion, and a report this week suggested some members of the organization are becoming impatient with his long absence. Williamson has a strained right hamstring, and Guillory doubts that he’ll be back before February or possibly even the All-Star break.

“We have a ‘next man up’ mentality, but it’s always nice to have two All-Stars in the rotation,” Trey Murphy said. “That’s just the bottom line. You’re missing about 40 points on a very low night. You’re getting at least 40 from those two.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies power forward Xavier Tillman talks to Spencer Davies of Basketball News about how he tries to stay sharp despite limited playing time. Tillman is averaging 11.3 minutes in 27 games and usually isn’t part of the rotation unless somebody is hurt, so he’s been doing extra work in practice and asked the coaching staff to let him play in the G League. “Being in a (Memphis) Hustle game allowed me to just play and play in a real game,” Tillman said. “So when I got my opportunity called — like now due to injury — I was ready to go and ready to help the team in all ways.”
  • The Rockets are misusing second-year center Alperen Sengun on offense, which makes it difficult to judge his long-term value, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic states in a discussion with fellow Athletic writer Kelly Iko. Vecenie sees Sengun as an exceptional ball-handler and passer, but says the team’s guards frequently don’t get the ball to him when they should. That combined with his shortcomings on defense are limiting his effectiveness.
  • Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. missed his fifth straight game tonight with a left foot contusion. His condition will be reevaluated in about a week, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Southwest Notes: Mavs, Grizzlies, Tillman, Spurs

The Mavericks made a series of roster cuts on Wednesday, waiving four players who were in training camp on non-guaranteed contracts. With the preseason schedule set to wrap up on Friday, most teams will make their cuts on Saturday, but head coach Jason Kidd said it was “a little awkward” last year when Dallas made its moves just hours after the team’s final preseason game.

“We’re just trying to be a little bit more sensitive to that situation,” Kidd said, per Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. “Learning from that last year, we’ll make the cuts now with guys being around to be able to say ‘bye’ or ‘see you later’ or whatever it may be. We just felt it was a little insensitive the way things went down last year, so as an organization, we just wanted to be better.”

The Mavericks still likely have at least a couple more roster moves to come. They’re believed to be preparing to sign guard Facundo Campazzo to fill the lone open spot on their 15-man roster, and could finalize their roster by converting their only remaining camp invitee, McKinley Wright IV, to a two-way deal.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Mavericks are hoping to schedule an exhibition game in Spain against Real Madrid, Luka Doncic‘s former team, next fall if the NBA is able to work out the logistics, Caplan writes in a separate story for The Dallas Morning News. “I don’t know that we’ll be able to play a preseason game in Slovenia,” team owner Mark Cuban said, referring to Doncic’s home country. “But we’re working really hard to play one against Real Madrid.”
  • While the possibility of regression looms and the team had a relatively quiet summer, John Hollinger of The Athletic is bullish on the Grizzlies‘ chances of having another strong season, projecting the team to win 51 games and finish third in the Western Conference.
  • Xavier Tillman is accustomed to playing center, but he may have to adjust to life at power forward if he hopes to see regular minutes for the Grizzlies this season, says Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. There should be playing time available at the four to open the season, with Jaren Jackson Jr. on the shelf. “Playing the four is a learning adjustment,” Tillman said. “I’m all about evolving, I’m all about getting better.”
  • The Spurs‘ home arena continues to be known as the AT&T Center — for now. The team has extended its arena naming rights agreement with AT&T into the 2022/23 season, but continue to search for a more permanent arena sponsor, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News.

Grizzlies Notes: Crowder, Jackson Jr., PF, Clarke, Brooks, Adams, Green

Grizzlies star Ja Morant would like to reunite with former teammate Jae Crowder, who is sitting out training camp as the Suns seek a trade partner for the veteran forward. In reply to Crowder’s tweet about seeking work “where he is wanted..where he is needed,” Morant sent out a “back soon” emoji (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Morant noted that Crowder hit a game-winning three in overtime to help him get his first NBA win.

Crowder didn’t shoot well in 45 games with Memphis in 2019/20, Morant’s rookie season, but he caught fire with Miami after being dealt away. Crowder has spent the past two seasons with Phoenix after signing a three-year, $29MM deal as a free agent in 2020. He’s making $10.2MM in ’22/23, the final season of his contract.

Here’s more from Memphis:

  • Starting power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. underwent surgery to repair a right foot stress fracture at the end of June, with the team saying he’d miss four-to-six months at that time. At Monday’s Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations and general manager Zach Kleiman said that timeline remains accurate. However, Jackson said that while he’s unlikely to suit up for opening night, he believes he’s ahead of the team’s schedule (Twitter links via Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian). Jackson hopes to win Defensive Player of the Year in ’22/23 after coming fifth last season, tweets Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I want it badly,” Jackson said.
  • With Jackson injured, second-year big man Santi Aldama was the first name to pop up as a possible replacement in the starting lineup from both Kleiman and head coach Taylor Jenkins, but Jenkins said that there are a number of other candidates for the role, including Brandon Clarke, Ziaire Williams, Dillon Brooks, Xavier Tillman, David Roddy and Jake LaRavia, so it sounds like there might be a training camp battle for the job, or even fluctuate depending on matchups (Twitter links from Cole).
  • Speaking about the contract statuses of Clarke, Brooks and Steven Adams, all of whom are extension-eligible, Kleiman didn’t want to go into specifics of negotiations, but he said the Grizzlies like all three players. “We view them as potential long-term pieces of our group,” Kleiman said, per Cole (via Twitter). Clarke would be a restricted free agent in 2023 if he doesn’t receive an extension, while Brooks and Adams would both be unrestricted. In case you missed, we broke down what an extension for Clarke might look like earlier today.
  • Despite being injured with a torn ACL, it doesn’t sound like veteran wing Danny Green is in danger of being waived anytime soon. “Danny Green is part of this group,” Kleiman said, adding that Memphis expects Green to return in ’22/23. However, his status as a free agent next summer is “to be determined.” (Twitter link via Cole). Green has a nearly $7MM partial guarantee on his $10MM contract this season, so he could be used as a trade chip for salary-matching purposes, but it also makes it expensive to waive him. If the Grizzlies retain Green, Killian Tillie is probably the odd man out, as the team is facing a roster crunch. Tillie will earn a guaranteed $1.9MM this season.

Southwest Notes: Mavs’ Roster, Jackson Fill-In, Porter Jr.

The Mavericks will look to keep their 15th roster spot open as the season approaches for a variety of reasons, as Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News explains.

Dallas doesn’t have the assets or interest to pursue trades for either Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, but could sign a role player waived after other teams make a significant deal. The Mavericks will also maintain the flexibility to bring in a player in a trade without having to cut someone on a guaranteed contract.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

Southwest Notes: Tillman, Jackson Jr., Bane, Alvarado, Ivey

As Michigan State graduates, the Grizzlies’ Xavier Tillman and Jaren Jackson Jr. have a tight bond with the Warriors’ Draymond Green, but those feelings are put on hold during the playoffs, writes Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Green and Jackson have sniped at each other through the first two games of their series, and Tillman hit Green in the eye with an elbow as they chased a loose ball, causing him to need stitches.

“They’re going to try to take your head off. I’m going to try to take their head off. That’s just the reality of it,” Green said. “You’re competing for something that you put your heart into … you dedicate a lot of time to this, you sacrifice a lot of things for this. So ultimately, they stand in the way of what I want, I stand in the way of what they want.”

Tillman and Jackson both view Green as a mentor, Barnes adds. Spartans coach Tom Izzo frequently compared Tillman to Green when he was in college, and Tillman incorporated aspects of Green’s game into his own.

“I’ve watched his career every step of the way, trying to figure out how I can mold mine like his and stay in this league for a long time and be productive on the things I’m most comfortable at,” Tillman said.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane, who was listed as questionable before Game 2 because of back soreness, is feeling better, tweets Mark Medina of USA Today. “I don’t think he’s at full strength like he was in the regular season, but he’s the ultimate competitor,” coach Taylor Jenkins said.
  • Coming off an impressive playoff performance, Pelicans rookie Jose Alvarado announced this week that he wants to eventually win Defensive Player of the Year honors. “One day I’m going win DPOY,” he tweeted Thursday. “Mark my word!”
  • Purdue’s Jaden Ivey may be the most talented guard in the draft, but he might be an awkward fit with the Rockets, who already have Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green in their backcourt, observes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. If Houston ends up taking Ivey, who is consistently projected as a top four pick, Iko believes Porter would move from lead guard to playmaking forward, which was his original position when he entered the NBA.

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Jones, Jenkins, Adams

Grizzlies star Ja Morant suffered a left thigh injury in the Game 2 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday, according to Nick Gray of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Morant was hit by a hip-check screen from Karl-Anthony Towns in the third quarter and went down in pain, but was able to return to action in the fourth quarter with his leg wrapped, Gray notes.

Morant finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists on 9-of-16 shooting in 30 minutes of action, recording a +24 plus/minus, tied for the highest in the game. It’s unclear if the injury will impact Morant’s availability or performance going forward, but it’s definitely worth monitoring. Memphis evened the series at one game apiece with the 124-96 win.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Backup point guard Tyus Jones has been a nice fit for Memphis, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune  writes, as the Minnesota native returns home to face his former team. “He’s just a great connector out there. I love the spirit, leadership he plays with, the way he moves the ball,” head coach Taylor Jenkins said. “He’s improved defensively from the first two years we’ve been here. He’s taken ownership there. I love how he’s shooting the ball as well. Obviously when he’s played a bigger role, he’s filled those shoes brilliantly. He plays so well, plays great team basketball.” Jones averaged a career-high 8.7 PPG and shot a career-best 39% from three this season in addition to leading the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio for the fourth consecutive year. The 25-year-old is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • Jenkins’ “gut call” to pull Steven Adams in favor of a smaller lineup paid off in Game 2, per Fred Katz of The Athletic. Adams played just under three minutes prior to picking up a couple of early fouls and sat out the remainder of the game. Xavier Tillman Sr. provided an energetic lift off the bench, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 21 minutes after not playing at all in Game 1. Tillman has been out of the team’s rotation for parts of 2021/22, appearing in 53 games with an average of just 13.2 minutes per contest during the regular season.
  • Morant’s adjustments to better control the flow of the action also proved crucial to the victory, Katz relays in the same article. Morant was especially lethal in the third quarter when the Grizzlies went on a big run, scoring 12 points and handing out three assists. “I felt like I balanced very well looking for my shot and also making the extra pass,” Morant said. “It got us some open looks, and the lead went up from there.”

COVID-19 Updates: Grizzlies, Harrell, Thybulle, Bolmaro, More

All the Grizzlies players who were recently placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols have now been cleared, head coach Taylor Jenkins said on Thursday evening (Twitter link via Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal). After three Memphis players exited the protocols on Wednesday, John Konchar and Xavier Tillman were the only players still affected — they’re apparently out of the protocols now too.

Here are more updates on COVID-19 and the health and safety protocols:

  • Wizards big man Montrezl Harrell has cleared the protocols and is questionable to play on Friday in Chicago, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.
  • Matisse Thybulle is no longer on the Sixers‘ injury report, as Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer tweets, which is a good indication he’s out of the protocols.
  • Timberwolves rookie Leandro Bolmaro has entered the COVID-19 protocols, according to the team (Twitter link). He’s the only Minnesota player in the protocols for now.
  • The NBA’s latest injury report lists Mavericks guard Isaiah Thomas as simply “not with team” and Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman as probable to play on Friday in Portland as he takes part in return to competition reconditioning, so it sounds like both players have exited the protocols. However, Thomas has been ruled out for tonight’s game and his 10-day contract will expire overnight.
  • Hawks guard Chris Clemons has entered the protocols, per Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Clemons’ 10-day deal expires tonight, so his time in Atlanta could be over.
  • The NBA will continue daily COVID-19 testing of players who haven’t received a booster shot through the All-Star break, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. All players and coaches, regardless of vaccination status, will also continue to be tested daily through January 15, Wojnarowski adds.

COVID-19 Updates: Wizards, Trail Blazers, Heat, Rockets, Sixers, I. Thomas, More

The league continues to be battered by players entering and exiting the health and safety protocols. If any of the players entering the protocols registered a confirmed positive COVID-19 test, they’ll remain sidelined for at least six days or until they can return two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

Here are the latest updates from around the NBA:

Southwest Notes: Thad, Spurs Youth, Wood, Clarke, Tillman

New Spurs forward Thaddeus Young appears to be staying put in San Antonio for the time being. The Suns continue to be intrigued by the versatile veteran, but an immediate move is “doubtful,” per John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (Twitter link).

Young was sent to the Spurs from Chicago in the sign-and-trade package that netted the Bulls pricey small forward DeMar DeRozan during the 2021 offseason. The 33-year-old Young enjoyed a stellar year with the Bulls in 2020/21, averaging 12.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 4.3 APG while logging time at the small forward, power forward, and center positions for a Chicago team in desperate need of his veteran leadership, passing skills, and defensive savvy.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • With longtime leaders DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay now all gone from the Spurs‘ roster, the club’s young players have developed a strong bond together, writes Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News“The Spurs do a great job of picking people who have great personalities off the court,” said 22-year-old shooting guard Lonnie Walker. “We all hang out every other day, going out to eat, doing something as a team… As we continue to build that trust, it starts to lead onto the court, knowing what each other can do, knowing what each other can’t do, what we should be better at.”
  • When Rockets center Christian Wood first inked a three-year, $41MM deal with Houston in the 2020 offseason, he was not anticipating that he’d soon find himself on a rebuilding roster. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle details how Wood continues to look on the bright side of his new situation. At the time, the club still sported then-All-Star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook, along with veteran power forward P.J. Tucker. Now all those players have moved on. Westbrook was subsequently traded to the Wizards later in the 2020 offseason (and has now been rerouted to the Lakers), while Harden forced his way onto the Nets and Tucker was sent to the 2021 title-winning Bucks. “I know what we’re trying to build and develop,” Wood said. “I’m looking ahead at the future at what this team has to offer. I know we have a bunch of young talent. I said before, we’re not going to go in try to be the No. 1 seed or No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. But we’re going to try to play every game like it’s our last.”
  • Though they could play together, defensive-oriented 6’8″ Grizzlies bench big men Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman Sr. seem poised to compete with each other to carve out rotation roles in Memphis, writes Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian. Herrington suggests that Tillman may have an edge edge over Clarke in the eventual rotation, thanks in part to his solid shooting and half-court passing acumen.