Taylor Jenkins

Southwest Notes: Morant, Brooks, Murray, Pelicans, Rockets

Tonight marks the final game of Ja Morant‘s suspension, but coach Taylor Jenkins confirmed that Morant is unlikely to play on Monday when the Grizzlies host the Mavericks, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Monday will be Morant’s first day back at the team facility after being out of action since March 3, and Jenkins said his All-Star guard will need some time to get ready.

“It’s a good chance he’s probably out for the Monday game because it’s going to be his first day back with the team,” Jenkins said. “Our anticipation is he’s at least out Monday, and then we’ll cross the bridge for Wednesday as we get a little bit closer.”

The Grizzlies will host the Rockets on Wednesday and Friday, and although Morant is likely to play in at least one of those games, Cole states that the team hasn’t reached a final decision. He adds that Morant’s minutes will be monitored whenever he returns.

“From a basketball standpoint, we know this guy and how he is wired,” Jenkins said. “I know he’s putting in work, staying ready, and he’s going to be chomping at the bit to get out there with his teammates on Monday and Tuesday, and we’ll see what Wednesday holds.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Grizzlies are talking to league officials about rescinding Dillon Brooks‘ most recent technical foul, his 17th this season, Cole tweets. Jenkins said Brooks was walking away from a confrontation when the technical was assessed. Brooks was already suspended for one game when he reached 16 technicals this season and would face an additional one-game suspension for every two techs he accumulates the rest of the way.
  • Dejounte Murray isn’t sure what kind of reception to expect Sunday in his first game back in San Antonio since the Spurs traded him to the Hawks, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Some fans are upset about statements and social media posts from Murray regarding his time in the city. “At the end of the day, I love this city, I love the San Antonio Spurs organization, the Austin Spurs, I love everything about it,” Murray said Saturday. “However it goes (Sunday) is however it goes. But I am excited to see the people I love and care about.”
  • The Pelicans‘ decision to let Zion Williamson run the offense has resulted in a lot of inefficiency when he’s not available, states Christian Clark of NOLA. New Orleans has the fourth-worst record in the league since Williamson was lost with a hamstring injury in early January and is 26th in points per 100 possessions over that span.
  • The Rockets will likely be aggressive in trying to trade down in the draft if their first-round pick doesn’t land in the top three in the lottery, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Grizzlies Coach Says There’s No Timetable For Ja Morant To Return

The Grizzlies announced Saturday that Ja Morant will be away from the team for at least two games, but his absence could last much longer than that, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Speaking to reporters before Sunday night’s contest in Los Angeles, coach Taylor Jenkins said there’s no set length for how long the embattled point guard will be out of action.

“We have said that it’s going to be at least these two games,” Jenkins said. “I mean, this is going be an ongoing healing process. … It’s really not a timetable situation.”

Morant’s latest controversy began with an Instagram Live video that appears to show him waiving a gun around while shirtless at a strip club at 5:19 am Saturday. It’s the latest in a string of incidents that have caused many to question Morant’s off-the-court behavior.

Morant issued an apology for the video Saturday afternoon while announcing that he was going to “take some time away to get help.” He also deactivated his Instagram and Twitter accounts, which he had been using frequently to promote his business interests and interact with fans.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” Jenkins said. “There’s a supportive element for someone that’s got to get better and needs some help. But then there’s also accountability to the team that we’ve got to stand for.

“Obviously nationwide, leaguewide, there’s been a lot of attention on gun violence, and so for us, that’s the stance that we’ve taken about how we can support Ja throughout this growth opportunity. It’s a learning opportunity, and hopefully we can be better from it.”

On Sunday, the Grizzlies played their first game since Morant stepped away, squandering a big fourth quarter lead in a loss to the Clippers. Afterward, players expressed support for their teammate, per Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“We’re wrapping our arms around him and showing him our love,” said Desmond Bane, who scored 30 points Sunday and took over more ball-handling responsibilities with Morant not in the lineup. “Whenever he is ready to come back, we’ll welcome him with open arms.”

Jenkins is also counting on Jaren Jackson Jr. to help make up for Morant’s lost production, Cole adds. The All-Star big man took 18 shots Sunday and finished with 24 points.

“I’m happy for whatever he decides to do,” Jackson said. “I trust his judgment. He’s doing what’s best for him. He’s going to come back and take over the league again.”

Southwest Notes: Brunson, Gelfand, Clarke, Johnson

The Knicks are under investigation by the league regarding potential tampering during their pursuit of free agent Jalen Brunson, but that probe wasn’t instigated by Brunson’s old team. According to Marc Stein’s sources, the Mavericks did not file an official complaint against the Knicks, as he reports in his latest Substack post. The Knicks made a series of salary-dumping moves prior to free agency, then snagged Brunson away from Dallas with a four-year, $104MM contract.

We have more Southwest Division news:

  • In the same Substack article, Stein indicates that the Pelicans are making a hard push to hire Pistons analytics expert Sammy Gelfand. Gelfand and Pelicans coach Willie Green previously worked together with the Warriors.
  • Brandon Clarke would be a logical choice to replace Jaren Jackson Jr. in the Grizzlies‘ lineup until Jackson is ready to return from foot surgery. However, that would create other issues, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes. Clarke didn’t play much with center Steven Adams last season due to the fact that both operate out of the paint. Coach Taylor Jenkins also liked having Clarke on the second unit due to his scoring ability.
  • Keldon Johnson won’t rest on his laurels after signing a four-year, $80MM extension. The Spurs forward told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News that he held a little celebration with family and friends, then went back to work. “I was in the gym the next day,” he said. Johnson wants to live up to the contract. “It’s always been full-time basketball,” Johnson said. “I knew as long as I put in the time and the effort, the extension would come. … I’m in some of the best shape of my life, the strongest I have been in my life.”

Grizzlies Sign Taylor Jenkins To Contract Extension

The Grizzlies have signed head coach Taylor Jenkins to a multiyear contract extension, the team announced today in a press release.

“Taylor has done an outstanding job leading our team and this extension is well-deserved,” executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman said in a statement. “The year-over-year progress under Taylor speaks for itself, but his growth-oriented, selfless and competitive approach has been a driving force in the establishment of a sustainable culture. We have full confidence that Taylor will steer us to Memphis’ first championship.”

A former assistant under Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta and Milwaukee, Jenkins was hired by the Grizzlies in 2019 to replace former head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. He led Memphis to a 34-39 record in 2019/20 and a 38-34 mark in ’20/21, earning consecutive play-in spots. The team made the playoffs in 2021, but lost in the first round to Utah in five games.

Jenkins’ Grizzlies broke out in a major way this past season, putting up a 56-26 regular season record and winning a playoff series for the first time since 2015. Jenkins finished second in Coach of the Year voting behind Monty Williams, whose Suns were the only team to post a better record than Memphis.

In total, Jenkins has a 128-99 (.564) regular season record and a 7-10 mark in the playoffs since becoming the Grizzlies’ head coach.

The terms of Jenkins’ contract aren’t known, but the extension was classified as a multiyear deal. Even if we conservatively assume Jenkins had just one year left on his previous contract and got two new years on his extension, he’ll be under contract for the next three seasons — I’d guess the new deal locks him up for even longer than that.

Taylor Jenkins: “We Are The Furthest Thing From Dirty”

Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins is defending his team against accusations of “dirty” play, writes Drew Hill of The Daily Memphian.

The label started after Dillon Brooks was ejected from Tuesday’s game following a flagrant two foul that knocked Warriors guard Gary Payton II out of the series. Brooks has been suspended for Saturday’s Game 3, and Golden State coach Steve Kerr said he “broke the code” regarding safety among NBA players.

“I also wanted to address a narrative out there that was said between Game 1 and Game 2,” Jenkins said. “It was said that we have to play more physical, and the word dirty has been thrown out there. I look at my locker room and I look at our culture and what we exude — we are the furthest thing from dirty. We are competitive. I want that to be squashed pretty quick here. I know words only mean so much right here. We feel for what Payton is going through and that’s not going to change the course of action, but our guys are going to rally and focus on Game 3.”

Jenkins added that the league has been communicating with Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations Zach Kleiman since Tuesday night about the possibility that Brooks could be suspended. That gave Jenkins additional time to work on a game plan without Brooks available.

Brooks is Memphis’ best perimeter defender and is extremely valuable in countering the Warriors’ small-ball lineup. He has also become an important part of the offense, averaging a career-best 18.4 points per game this season.

“It’s disappointing,” Jenkins said of the suspension. “It’s an unfortunate circumstance and we will honor the league’s decision. It’s a tough play. We wish Gary Payton a speedy and healthy recovery. You don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”

Brooks’ absence on Saturday will likely mean a larger role for rookie Ziaire Williams, who served as the primary defender on Stephen Curry after Brooks was tossed from Game 2, Hill adds. De’Anthony Melton, who had three blocks and two steals on Tuesday, should see more time as well.

“It’s going to be even more of a grind,” Melton said. “It’s going to take mental focus and physical focus even more. We’ve played without guys before, and great teams without guys. We just have to go in and continue to play hard and play our game and have fun.” 

Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, Taylor Jenkins Fined By NBA

12:05pm: Sixers center Joel Embiid has also been fined $15K for publicly criticizing the officiating following a loss on Saturday, according to the NBA. Embiid mockingly applauded the referees as he left the court following a Game 4 loss to Toronto, then sarcastically praised them during his post-game press conference, insinuating they wanted to push the series to a Game 5.

“I’m going to take my own advice and not complain about fouls,” he said, “but like I was doing at the end of the game: They did a great job. I admire the job that they did today. To me, it felt like they had one job coming in here tonight. And they got it done. Congrats to them, tonight.”

11:57am: Jazz center Rudy Gobert was fined $25K by the NBA on Sunday for “using profane language during a live television interview,” the league announced in a press release.

The fine stems from Gobert’s comments in a live, post-game interview following Utah’s Game 4 win over Dallas on Saturday. Asked by Matt Winer of NBA TV about the Jazz’s potential in this postseason, Gobert replied, “Man, f— the talk,” referring to the ongoing speculation about the team being headed for an early playoff exit and a summer roster overhaul (video link).

Meanwhile, Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins was hit with a $15K fine by the NBA on Monday for his own comments to the media after Memphis lost Game 4 in Minnesota on Saturday. The league said in its statement that Jenkins was penalized for “public criticism of the officiating.”

“In my opinion, one of the most poorly officiated games I’ve ever seen in my NBA career,” Jenkins said on Saturday, noting that many of his starters were in foul trouble from the first quarter onward (video link). “… I’ve never seen a more inconsistent and arrogant officated game.”

Jenkins expected to be fined when he made those comments after the loss, telling reporters that he’d “take whatever hit’s coming my way” in order to protect and advocate for his players.

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Jenkins, Jackson, Clarke

Grizzlies star Ja Morant admitted Saturday that he hasn’t fully recovered from the right knee soreness that forced him to miss nine games late in the season, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Morant returned for one game at the end of the regular season, then went straight into the playoffs. He has worn a bandage on the knee in each game since he has been back.

Memphis may need the best version of Morant to escape a tight series with the Timberwolves that is now tied at 2-2. He averaged 27.4 points per game during the regular season, but Minnesota has limited him to 20.5 PPG through the first four games of the first round, using multiple defenders to block his path to the basket.

“I can be honest right now,” Morant said. “I’m not Ja right now. I’m not playing above the rim. Most of the times when I go to the rack, I’m getting bumps. I just got to worry about finishing the bucket instead of worrying about the guys with stripes on.”

There’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Coach Taylor Jenkins didn’t hold back his criticism of the officials after Saturday’s loss, per Fred Katz of The Athletic. The Wolves shot 40 free throws as all five Memphis starters collected at least four fouls. “I’ve never seen a more inconsistent, arrogant officiated game,” Jenkins said. “So, I’ll take whatever hit is coming my way, protect our guys. We know we’ve gotta get better. But from the get-go, it was foul, foul, foul, foul, foul. Inconsistency. There was actually one play where a foul whistle was blown before contact was even made. It’s embarrassing.”
  • The Grizzlies’ problems go far beyond the officiating, according to Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Among them is a disappointing performance from Jaren Jackson Jr., who is misfiring from three-point range and hasn’t played more than 27 minutes in any game this series. “He still has a bunch of time to come out and play well,” Brandon Clarke said. “Jaren knows the player that he is. We all know who he is.”
  • Nekias Duncan of Basketball News looks at the challenges that the Morant-Clarke pick-and-roll creates for Minnesota’s defense.

NBA Announces 2021/22 Award Finalists

The NBA has announced the 2021/22 season award finalists for the league’s six major awards: Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2022 NBA Award Picks]

The awards were voted on by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. The three top vote-getters for each award are the finalists. They are as follows:

Most Valuable Player:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Coach of the Year:

  • Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies)
  • Erik Spoelstra (Heat)
  • Monty Williams (Suns)

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Winners will be announced during TNT’s coverage of the NBA playoffs, according to the league.

COVID-19 Updates: Grant, Batum, Herro, McConnell, Smart, T. Jones, Jenkins

Sidelined since December 10 after surgery on his right thumb, Pistons forward Jerami Grant has now entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Grant has been making progress toward playing again and began a rehab assignment with the G League’s Motor City Cruise this week.

Grant is considered the “grand prize” by some observers heading into the trade deadline and has been the subject of rumors involving at least nine teams. His time in the protocols could further limit the number of games he can play before Detroit has to make a decision on a deal.

He and rookie center Luka Garza are the only players currently in the protocols for the Pistons, who recently were among the hardest-hit teams in the league by COVID-19.

Here are some more protocol-related updates:

  • Clippers forward Nicolas Batum has been placed in the protocols, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Batum also spent time in the protocols in November.
  • Heat guard Tyler Herro has entered the protocols, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Herro is the only Miami player currently in the protocols.
  • Pacers guard T.J. McConnell, who may miss the rest of the season after having hand surgery, has been placed in the protocols, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.
  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart has exited the protocols, the team announced in its injury report. However, he’s not playing tonight due to “return to competition reconditioning.”
  • Spurs guard Tre Jones has cleared the protocols, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News. He missed seven games while he was out of action.
  • Taylor Jenkins is out of protocols and is coaching the Grizzlies tonight, according to Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian (Twitter link). Jenkins missed six games.

Grizzlies’ Taylor Jenkins Enters Protocols

Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). Assistant Brad Jones will coach when the team plays the Clippers on Saturday, Mannix notes.

Jenkins is one of many coaches to enter protocols as the league deals with a surge in COVID-19 cases this season. Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd entered said protocols this month, while Lakers coach Frank Vogel, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups and Thunder coach Mark Daigneault all recently exited them.

Jenkins guided Memphis to a 12-4 record in December despite missing Ja Morant for 10 games, receiving Coach of the Month honors for the Western Conference. The Grizzlies own a 26-14 record on the season and have won seven straight games.

Aside from coaches, the NBA has also seen over 200 players enter health and safety protocols this season. As shown in our tracker, nearly 50 players are currently in the league’s protocols.