USA Basketball

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.

Steve Kerr To Step Down As Team USA Coach After 2024 Olympics

Steve Kerr doesn’t plan to coach Team USA beyond the 2024 Olympics, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Kerr intends to follow the same path as Gregg Popovich, guiding the U.S. team through the World Cup and the Olympic Games before turning over the reins to someone else.

“To me, it’s a two-year; it’s a cycle,” Kerr said. “Pop coached a World Cup and the Olympics, now it’s my turn to pass the baton. I think that’s kind of how it should be. Frankly, it’s a huge commitment too. I guess I think it was different the last go-around with Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) and Jerry (Colangelo), when they were really establishing this culture and this system where guys had to commit for a couple years. Made sense for Coach K to stay on. But I think where we are now, one cycle and you move on.”

Kerr, who played for the gold-medal-winning American team in the 1986 world championships, signed on as a coach in 2019, serving as an assistant to Popovich as the U.S. finished seventh in the World Cup. He remained on the staff for the Olympics in 2021, when Team USA picked up its fourth straight gold.

Kerr took over as head coach for this year’s World Cup, which saw the Americans drop three of their final four games for a fourth-place finish. The performance was disappointing, but it still qualified the U.S. for the Olympics next summer.

Vardon notes that candidates to replace Kerr who are currently on the Team USA staff include Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue and Gonzaga coach Mark Few. The next World Cup will be played in Qatar in 2027, followed by the Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028.

Prominent players such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker and Joel Embiid have already expressed a desire to represent the United States in the 2024 Games. Kerr told Vardon that he hasn’t had an “in-depth conversation” about the possibility yet with Curry because they’re both focused on the Warriors’ season.

The process of selecting the 12-man team for next summer is just beginning, Vardon adds. Kerr admits that USA Basketball can’t turn down players with the status of James, Durant and Curry, but the amount of available talent is bound to lead to difficult decisions. Vardon notes that Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Draymond Green are among the other All-Stars who have expressed interest in joining the team.

Kerr said USA Basketball officials will begin sorting through their options “over the next couple of months.” There’s no set date to form a preliminary roster, but they want to let players know fairly soon whether they’re being considered.

You want everybody excited about the prospect (of playing for Team USA); that’s the first sign of, hey, we’re taking this really seriously. A lot of guys are dying to play. Obviously, (USAB managing director Grant Hill) has to lead the way in terms of building our strategy, and we haven’t made any decisions,” Kerr said. “It’s highly likely that guys who want to play may not be … whether it’s established guys or guys who have been with us and guys who just played and played really well this last go-around, no matter how you slice it, you can only take 12, so it’s very, very difficult, and it’s a painful process because, you know, you get really attached to guys.”

And-Ones: Chiozza, Haliburton, Edwards, Team USA, Olympics

Veteran NBA point guard Chris Chiozza will continue his playing career in Spain, having signed with Baskonia through the end of the 2023/24 season, according to a press release from the team.

Chiozza appeared in 91 total regular season games for the Rockets, Wizards, Nets, and Warriors between 2018-22. After seeing NBA action in four straight seasons, he was waived by Brooklyn last October and wasn’t in the league in 2022/23.

However, Chiozza thrived for the Long Island Nets in the G League last season, averaging 12.6 points and 9.1 assists in 34.1 minutes per game across 46 total regular season and Showcase Cup contests, with a .433/.404/.729 shooting line. The performance earned him a spot on the All-NBAGL Third Team — but not another NBA opportunity this fall.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Speaking to Joe Vardon of The Athletic about his experience competing in the FIBA World Cup this summer, Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton said that he and Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards were “recruiting each other” during their team with Team USA and that they both believe they’re deserving of spots on the U.S. roster for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
  • Team USA has secured Olympic berths in both men’s and women’s 3-on-3 basketball, making the U.S. the first national basketball federation to earn spots in Paris in all four basketball competitions (men’s and women’s 5-on-5 and 3-on-3), per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Former NBA lottery pick Jimmer Fredette is expected to be part of Team USA’s 3-on-3 roster at the 2024 Olympics. “People are starting to understand a little bit about 3-on-3, what it is, and as they do, they’re like, ‘Oh, this is kind of a cool sport,'” Fredette said. “We’ve been trying to raise awareness, build a program and become the best in the world at it. We’re headed that direction, but we’re not there yet.”
  • The fact that James Harden ultimately got the trade he sought to his preferred destination in Los Angeles is proof that player empowerment remains very much alive in the NBA, Vincent Goodwill writes in a column for Yahoo Sports.

Atlantic Notes: Watford, Nets, Barnes, Holiday, White

Nets forward Trendon Watford, who is battling for a regular season roster spot, strengthened his case on Monday by scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 16 minutes vs. Philadelphia, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. As Lewis notes, Watford also hit a pair of three-pointers and even operated as a secondary play-maker.

“(Nets coach Jacque Vaughn) is always just encouraging me, telling me little things to get better at and little things he sees. In the time I’ve been here, he’s put the ball in my hands a lot. So he likes how I play-make and stuff,” Watford told Lewis. “So yeah, that’s really it; he just wants me to keep doing that and keep getting better defensively. And I think I’ve took a step forward in that.”

The Nets have 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts, plus Watford, Darius Bazley, and Harry Giles on non-guaranteed deals, so those three players may be vying for two regular season roster spots. As Net Income of NetsDaily observes, with one two-way slot still open, there’s a path to keeping all three of those non-guaranteed players into the regular season — giving one of them a two-way contract.

However, while Watford and Giles are both eligible to sign a two-way deal, they can’t be converted directly since their contracts don’t include an Exhibit 10 clause. That means they’d have to pass through waivers and re-sign with Brooklyn in order to receive a two-way contract from the team.

Let’s round up a few more notes from around the Atlantic…

  • The Raptors made former Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes “off limits” in trade talks for Kevin Durant last year and Damian Lillard this offseason, league sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN. Reports that linked Toronto to Durant and Lillard when they were available strongly indicated the team wasn’t willing to include Barnes in its offers.
  • A report earlier this month suggested that USA Basketball is aggressively pursuing Jrue Holiday for its 2024 Olympic roster. The Celtics guard said on Monday that he hasn’t heard directly from Team USA yet, but expressed interest in playing in Paris, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “Why not?” Holiday said. “I want to see what we can do out there.”
  • After starting 70 of the 82 games he played for the Celtics last season, Derrick White isn’t necessarily guaranteed a spot in the starting five following the acquisitions of Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis. White said this week that he’s fine with starting or coming off the bench and will go with the flow, tweets Weiss.

USA Basketball Aggressively Pursuing Jrue Holiday For Olympics

Jrue Holiday has had a whirlwind offseason. The new Celtics point guard now has something else to ponder — a spot on Team USA’s roster for the Olympics.

USA Basketball is aggressively pursuing Holiday to return to Team USA and play in Paris, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

Holiday, 33, is still mulling whether to accept the offer. There are 12 coveted spots on Team USA’s Olympic roster.

USA Basketball is trying to bounce back from this summer’s disappointing showing in the FIBA World Cup, in which it failed to win a medal. Many of the country’s star players skipped the World Cup.

USA Basketball officials considered Holiday the second-most-impactful player, after Kevin Durant, on the 2021 gold medal team. Holiday’s on-ball defense, play-making and leadership are among the factors behind USA Basketball’s recruitment, Wojnarowski adds.

The Olympic team is expected to include LeBron James, Durant, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum, if they accept invitations. Some other star players who publicly volunteered recently won’t be extended invitations, according to Wojnarowski. There’s no timetable on a Holiday decision.

Holiday, of course, has other things on his mind as he tries to adapt to another Eastern Conference contender. He was traded twice in recent weeks, first to Portland from Milwaukee in the Damian Lillard blockbuster and then to the Celtics.

And-Ones: Embiid, Olympics, Bronny, Abu Dhabi

Team USA head coach Steve Kerr said on Thursday that he “couldn’t be happier” when he heard from executive director Grant Hill that Joel Embiid has committed to play for the U.S. in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The Kerr-led USA Basketball squad that finished in fourth place and missed out on a medal at this year’s World Cup was thin up front, lacking the size to match up with some of the bigger, more physical teams in the tournament. Embiid should certainly help address that issue.

As Joey Linn of Sports Illustrated writes, French forward Nicolas Batum told reporters on Thursday that he wasn’t surprised about Embiid committing to the U.S. over France (or his native Cameroon). He even admitted that, “as a basketball fan,” it could be “amazing” to see Embiid playing alongside some of the other Team USA stars. Still, he joked that he didn’t need to see FIBA’s No. 1 ranked team add even more talent.

“As an opponent it’s like, ‘You didn’t need that much. You got plenty already, so you need to bring Embiid?'” Batum said with a smile. “But hey, good for them. It’s going to be an interesting tournament anyway, so we’ll see.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Speaking to reporters this week, LeBron James provided a positive update on his son Bronny James, who suffered cardiac arrest during a July workout. The 19-year-old USC prospect is “doing extremely well” and still plans to play for the Trojans at some point this season, according to LeBron. Myron Medcalf of has the story and the quotes.
  • In a conversation with Chris Hine of The Star Tribune about the league’s decision to hold a pair of preseason games in Abu Dhabi, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said he believes the NBA’s values of diversity, inclusion, and equity travel with the league. “We demonstrate that through our actions. We have a female referee (Ashley Moyer-Gleich) on the court (in Thursday’s game),” Tatum said. “I think that will send a message here to have a female referee on the court refereeing an NBA game here in the Middle East and Abu Dhabi. The way that we operate, we bring our values with us.”
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN (Insider link) has unveiled his win total projections for all 30 NBA teams. There are a few surprises among those projections, particularly in the West, where Pelton’s top two teams are the Grizzlies and Timberwolves. The Lakers and Clippers are all the way down at Nos. 8 and 10 in the conference, respectively.

Heat Notes: Adebayo, Butler, Richardson, Ellington

Even with Joel Embiid manning the paint for Team USA, Heat center Bam Adebayo is still expecting to be on the national team’s roster, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. Adebayo told reporters that he’d already received an invite from Team USA to be on the roster for next year’s Olympics.

If he remains healthy, Adebayo plans to play for Team USA in Paris after winning a gold medal with the Americans in Tokyo in 2021. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is an assistant under national team head coach Steve Kerr and is looking forward to coaching Adebayo in the event, according to Chiang.

I think it’s awesome for Bam,” Spoelstra said. “I think it’s continuing to help establish him as one of the ultimate winners in this league. He was one of the most impactful players in USA Basketball, and we understand why. I don’t even know what his stats were in the Olympics. But in talking to everybody at Team USA, they felt like he was a must for that roster because of everything he does on both ends of the court and because he’s such a winner.

Adebayo is entering his seventh season in the NBA and holds career averages of 14.7 points and 8.5 rebounds.

We have more from the Heat:

  • The NBA implemented new rules impacting teams resting healthy players this offseason. Though Jimmy Butler is defined as a star player who is subject to these rules, he says it will have “zero” effect on how many games he plays in the regular season, Marc Berman of The Palm Beach Post writes. “I’m going to play the games that I am healthy and I’m going to go out there and help my team win,” Butler said. Butler also said he didn’t care about any postseason awards. Players must now play in a minimum of 65 games to be eligible for postseason awards, like MVP.
  • After sending Josh Richardson out in the trade that brought Butler to Miami in 2019, head coach Erik Spoelstra always thought his return was inevitable, Chiang writes in a separate story. Spoelstra was right, as Richardson signed with the Heat this offseason. “It almost happened a couple times,” Richardson said. “But all the chips didn’t fall in place. But I mean, when I left, me and Spo talked about it, that it was going to happen eventually. It’s just one of those things.
  • Even though Wayne Ellington played with nine franchises during his 13-year career, Miami left a lasting impression on him, Chiang writes in another story. That’s why Ellington decided to come back to the Heat as a player development coach, replacing Anthony Carter, who left to join the Grizzlies’ staff. “When I got here, I really bought into what the culture was about, I really bought into what the coaching staff was preaching and I put the work in and I saw that change and it helped me become who I thought I could be as a player,” Ellington said.

Joel Embiid To Play For Team USA In Olympics

Sixers center Joel Embiid has committed to Team USA for the 2024 Olympics, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Embiid informed USA Basketball executive director Grant Hill of his decision Thursday morning, sources tell Shelburne. She adds that Embiid and Hill met for nearly an hour earlier this week in Fort Collins, Colorado, where the Sixers are conducting training camp.

Because Embiid was born in Cameroon and has citizenship with both the U.S. and France, he was eligible to play for any of those teams. Shelburne’s sources said he wants to help Team USA become the No. 1 nation in international basketball again after it failed to medal at this year’s World Cup.

Embiid recently told ESPN that he would love to represent his home nation, but he was hesitant to commit because Cameroon hasn’t qualified for the 2024 Olympics. France reportedly gave Embiid an October 10 deadline to reach his decision.

Next year’s competition, which will be held in Paris, will mark Embiid’s first appearance in the Olympics. He will be a welcome addition to an American team that was routinely out-rebounded by larger opponents during the World Cup.

A six-time All-Star, Embiid is the NBA’s reigning MVP, having averaged 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.7 blocks on .548/.330/.857 shooting in 66 games (34.6 minutes) in 2022/23. The 29-year-old led the league in scoring for the second straight season.

Durant, Curry, LeBron, Other U.S. Stars Express Olympic Interest

The 2024 Olympics in Paris were a popular topic of discussion on media days around the NBA in Monday, with many of the league’s biggest American stars expressing interest in representing Team USA next summer.

Suns forward Kevin Durant, who won Olympic gold medals in 2012, 2016, and 2020, was adamant in addressing his 2024 plans, telling reporters, “I will play in the Olympics next year,” according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Durant’s Suns teammate Devin Booker also indicated that he would accept an invite from USA Basketball, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes, while KD’s former Warriors teammate Stephen Curry told reporters, “(I) definitely want to be on the team,” per Reynolds.

Lakers forward LeBron James, who was rumored last month to be recruiting his fellow U.S. stars to play at next year’s Olympics, confirmed his interest, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic. His teammate Anthony Davis wasn’t prepared to commit yet, telling reporters that it’s too early to say whether he’ll play (Twitter link via Buha).

Of course, one of the biggest question marks for Team USA is Joel Embiid, who has yet to take part in an international competition and has citizenship in France and the U.S. in addition to his native Cameroon.

As Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays (via Twitter), Embiid said today that he’d like to play in the Olympics but is still weighing his options. While the U.S. and France have already qualified, Cameroon will compete in a qualifying tournament next summer in the hopes of earning a spot in the 12-team Olympic field. Embiid, who was reportedly given an October 10 deadline by the French team, said he hopes to make his decision “in the next few days.”

“I love all three options,” Embiid said, per ESPN. “Cameroon, I’m born there, I’m from there and I always want to represent my country. But the goal is also to play in the Olympics. If we had a chance, or if we would qualify for the Olympics, that will be an easy decision. But that’s still up in the air. And I really do want to play in the Olympics.”

Here’s more on the potential Team USA roster, which can only accommodate 12 players:

Giannis “Happy” With Lillard Trade, Bucks’ Commitment

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo made it very clear this offseason that he wanted the organization to be as committed to winning as he was in order to sign a long-term deal with Milwaukee.

While Antetokounmpo still has no plans to sign an extension in 2023 (he can make far more money if he waits until next offseason), he says he’s “happy” following the Bucks’ blockbuster trade for All-NBA guard Damian Lillard.

Big trade having Dame here,” he said, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link). “We added another level to our team…They’ve shown they’re committed to winning a championship. I’m happy.”

I want to be a Milwaukee Buck for the rest of the my career, as long as we are winning…the commitment from the team for me, is there,” Antetokounmpo added, according to ESPN’s Jamal Collier (Twitter link).

Here some more notes from the Bucks’ Media Day session:

  • According to Nehm (Twitter link), Antetokounmpo says he and Lillard have a similar mentality. “Having a guy like Dame on the team, it’s unbelievable…Built from the same cloth,” Antetokounmpo said. “Wants to win, he’s extremely hungry.”
  • Lillard believes he and Antetokounmpo will complement each other on the court as well, tweets Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. I’m the best version of myself as a player,” Lillard said. “So I think we’ll complement each other really well. I think he’s the kind of guy that he’s not going into it worried about being the man or anything like that either. So I think it’ll work out perfectly.”
  • Antetokounmpo once again praised former teammate Jrue Holiday, who was sent to Portland in the Lillard deal and then was traded to Boston yesterday. “We’re definitely going to miss him… He’s always going to be a champion forever. He’s always going to be my friend, the best person I’ve ever met,” he said, per Nehm (Twitter link).
  • Center Brook Lopez talked about free agency this summer, as Nehm of The Athletic relays (Twitter links). The big man eventually returning to the Bucks on a two-year, $48MM deal. Lopez prioritized “finding the place that I had the best chance to win and finding a place where I was valued,” adding that Milwaukee “was the only place I really wanted to be…(re-signing) means everything to me.”
  • If they’re invited, both Lopez and Khris Middleton would like to play for Team USA in the 2024 Olympics, Nehm tweets.
  • Speaking of Middleton, he says he’s fully healthy following offseason knee surgery, according to Nehm (Twitter link). The three-time All-Star was limited to 33 regular season games in 2022/23 after undergoing wrist surgery in the 2022 offseason and then being bothered by his right knee. “I feel great,” he said. “Don’t have the pain that I had last year. It was a decision that was made halfway through the season that I was going to have to get it fixed. It wasn’t a hard decision at all.”