Taylor Jenkins

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.

And-Ones: Newley, Jenkins, Spoelstra, Protocols, Draft

While fans may gloss over the names of draft-rights players included as placeholders in minor NBA trades, the players themselves certainly take notice, even if they don’t expect to ever play in the NBA. Australian wing Brad Newley, who never came stateside after being selected in the second round of the 2007 draft, is one of those players — he had his rights sent from the Lakers to the Knicks in the three-team Rajon Rondo trade earlier this week.

The deal gave Newley an opportunity to reconnect with Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose, who was his agent when he first entered the draft 14 years ago, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Newley knows he won’t ever play for the Knicks, but he and Rose remain friends, and he joked that he’d be ready if he gets the call.

“If the Knicks are rebuilding around a 36-year-old, I’m not sure,” he told Vorkunov. “But I’m open to anything.”

Newley admitted in his conversation with Vorkunov that he probably didn’t prioritize the NBA enough earlier in his career, but he was happy to spend his career playing in international leagues and said he doesn’t have any regrets.

“I played the whole of my career in Europe as a stash guy, thought maybe one day you’d get a chance, but I was on some pretty good contracts over there,” Newley said. “So the NBA, at that time, the guarantees weren’t around as much as they are now, with the way things operate. It would be interesting if you could rewind and do it all again, it might be done a little bit different.”

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world…

  • Taylor Jenkins of the Grizzlies and Erik Spoelstra of the Heat were named the NBA’s December Coaches of the Month for the West and East, respectively, the league announced on Tuesday (Twitter link). Jenkins led Memphis to a 12-4 record despite missing star guard Ja Morant for 10 games, while Spoelstra navigated a series of injuries and COVID-19 cases to lead Miami to a 10-5 mark.
  • In an Insider-only story, Kevin Pelton of ESPN looked into which teams have been hit the hardest by the health and safety protocols this year, concluding that the Cavaliers, Sixers, and Bucks have lost more WARP (wins above replacement player) than any other clubs so far. Zach Kram of The Ringer explored the other side of the health and safety equation, examining how the players signed using hardship exceptions have performed and how they’re affecting the NBA.
  • Looking ahead to the 2022 NBA draft, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz (Insider link) profiled some players whose stocks are rising, including Iowa’s Keegan Murray and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, while Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report has published a new mock draft.

Mike Budenholzer, Billy Donovan Win Coaches Association Award

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan have been voted the co-coaches of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017, isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award is expected to be announced at some point during the postseason this summer.

The Coaches Association’s version of the award – named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg – is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself.

Budenholzer, who also won the NBCA’s award in 2019, has had even more success with the East-leading Bucks this season. His team has a 54-13 record and – before the season was suspended – had been on pace to surpass the 60 victories that last year’s Milwaukee squad racked up.

As for Donovan, he has exceeded expectations with a Thunder team that was viewed as a borderline playoff contender and a candidate for a full-fledged rebuild. Instead of returning to the lottery following the offseason departures of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Oklahoma City is 41-24, good for sixth in the Western Conference. A strong finish over the next couple weeks could result in a top-four record in the conference for the Thunder.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, widely viewed as the favorite to win the official Coach of the Year award in 2020, was one vote away from finishing in a three-way tie with Budenholzer and Donovan, per Wojnarowski.

Sources tell ESPN that Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies), Nate McMillan (Pacers), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), and Brad Stevens (Celtics), and Frank Vogel (Lakers) also received votes.

Community Shootaround: Coach Of The Year Favorites

This season, the Coach of the Year race appears to have plenty of intriguing candidates. With the All-Star break upon us, we at Hoops Rumors deemed it a good time to reflect on where things stand currently.

Mike Budenholzer is leading the 46-8 Bucks towards potentially the NBA’s third-ever 70+ win season. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo may win his second consecutive MVP award under Budenholzer’s tutelage, while wing Khris Middleton has made his second straight All-Star team.

In their second year under Nick Nurse, the Raptors are miraculously on pace for a better record than they had during a champion run last year, minus 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Pascal Siakam has blossomed into an All-Star starter. Fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry has remained a steadying presence on the court. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell have all taken notable leaps.

Erik Spoelstra has coached the new-look Heat to a 35-19 record in the East, helped center Bam Adebayo become a first-time All-Star, and made the most out of promising rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, plus second-year sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency over the summer, and signed Kemba Walker in Irving’s stead. Team chemistry appears to have improved significantly, and coach Brad Stevens has helped Walker return to the All-Star game and Jayson Tatum make his first appearance in the big show, while leading Boston to a 38-16 record (including a recent eight-game win streak).

Though the Lakers missed out on signing priority head coach options Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams over the summer, their supposed “consolation” option Frank Vogel has impressed in his first season with the team. The Lakers have a 41-12 record, tops in the West thus far, and have been able to incorporate several mercurial veterans into an upbeat, defensive-oriented locker room atmosphere.

There are several contenders elsewhere in the NBA. Billy Donovan has helped take the Thunder to a surprisingly robust 33-22 record. Rick Carlisle has brought the Mavericks back to the thick of the playoff hunt with an identical record to the Thunder’s and helped Luka Doncic become a first-time All-Star starter. 35-year-old coach Taylor Jenkins has brought the young Grizzlies back to relevance after the team offloaded former franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in 2019.

Who do you think will walk away with Coach of the Year hardware in 2020? Let us know!

Western Notes: Harden, Westbrook, Jenkins, Clippers, Dozier

Rockets star James Harden expressed confidence that he and Russell Westbrook will get adjusted to playing with each other quickly this season, sharing his thoughts in a recent interview with Alex Shultz of GQ.com.

“I don’t really do a lot of interviews, so I actually don’t answer it that much,” Harden said when asked if the questioned about him and Westbrook irritate him. “The questions are usually the same, though: How are you and Russ going to fit in? It’s like, yo, we’ll figure it out. Everything isn’t necessarily going to be smooth at first, there are going to be ups and downs, and that’s part of an 82-game season. Hopefully by the end of the season, we’ve caught a rhythm and everybody is on the same page going into the playoffs. That’s all you can ask for.”

Harden and Westbrook, known as two talented, ball-dominate players, will play in the same backcourt for the first time since the 2011/12 season with Oklahoma City. The duo is eager to prove they can co-exist, with both players still seeking their first NBA championships.

“We’ve formed into the players that we want to be, in terms of superstar status,” Harden said. “We had opportunities to be at the top, at the peak; he won an MVP and I won an MVP. And there were conversations before, when me and Chris [Paul] joined the same team about whether it was going to work. We ended up with the best record in the NBA and were a game away from the Finals.

“It’s not like me and Russ were just teammates in Oklahoma City for three years. We’ve known each other since we were 10 years old. There’s a different kind of relationship and communication that we have, a different type of excitement that we have for each other. We don’t really care or pay attention to what other people say or think.”

There’s more out of the Western Conference today:

  • New Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins is eager to lead his young team into a promising future, Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com writes. “So, for me, it’s that mentality of defining each day who we are,” Jenkins said as part of a larger quote. “We’re naturally and organically going to grow and not just have this set plan for how we’re going to be from Game 1 to 82. That excites me, because organically, we’re going to get to a really good spot with everything we’ve laid down already. We’ve hit the ground running, and Oct. 1 (first training camp practice) is rapidly approaching.”
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic examines what the other newcomers (not named Kawhi Leonard or Paul George) could bring to the Clippers this season. Buha discusses the talents of players such as Maurice Harkless, Rodney McGruder, Mfiondu Kabengele and more in his piece.
  • PJ Dozier hopes to make a strong impression with the Nuggets in training camp this fall, Alex Labidou of Nuggets.com writes. “I love the city [of Denver], it’s a beautiful city,” Dozier said. “[I want to] continue to show that I belong and that I belong for a reason. I feel like I have a lot to show for — a lot to bring to the table. It’s just all about getting the opportunity and being prepared for it.”