Jazz Rumors

Lauri Markkanen (Hamstring) To Be Reevaluated Next Week

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen will miss his fifth consecutive game on Saturday vs. Portland due to a left hamstring strain.

According to Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter links), Markkanen is set to be reevaluated at some point next week, with Utah saying its leading scorer “continues to make progress” from his injury.

A first-time All-Star in 2022/23, Markkanen had a breakout season with the Jazz, winning the Most Improved Player award in the process. He’s off to a strong start in ’23/24 as well, averaging 23.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG and 0.9 BPG on .484/.383/.840 shooting in 15 games (34.1 MPG).

It’s unclear when Markkanen suffered the injury, but he last played on November 22 against the Trail Blazers. The 26-year-old is on a bargain contract relative to his production, as he’ll earn about $35.3MM over the next two season until he hits free agency again in 2025.

After tomorrow’s game, Utah has multiple days off — the team doesn’t play again until next Wednesday.

Guards Jordan Clarkson (thigh) and Kris Dunn (personal reasons) will also be out on Saturday, per Larsen. It will be Clarkson’s second straight missed game, while Dunn will miss his fourth consecutive contest.

The Jazz are currently 6-13, which is the third-worst record in the Western Conference.

Western Notes: MPJ, Alexander-Walker, Wemby, Morant, A. Holiday

With Aaron Gordon unavailable for the Nuggets‘ past three games due to a right heel injury, Michael Porter Jr. has seen more action at power forward and said the transition has been a smooth one, per Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette (Twitter links).

“It’s easier for me, I think, at the four. It’s more of a matchup for me,” Porter explained. “Those bigger guys guarding me, they don’t want to chase around screens. They don’t want to close out all the way. I can get by them easier. So, it’s fun playing the four. It’s fine playing the three, too, but it hasn’t been too much of an adjustment, because our offense is very fluid.”

Porter scored a season-high 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting in Denver’s victory over Houston on Wednesday. It remains to be seen which position he’ll spend the most time at on Friday, as Gordon is listed as questionable for the Nuggets’ contest in Phoenix.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker didn’t have much of a role for the rebuilding Jazz last season, but after a trade to Minnesota, he’s playing key minutes for a contending Timberwolves team, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Alexander-Walker had his best game of the season in a win over his former team on Thursday, racking up 20 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and five steals in 36 minutes.
  • Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama has been on a tear lately, averaging 21.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, and 2.5 steals per night in his past four games. However, all four of those games were losses. The Spurs know they need more production out of other players on the roster to help the young phenom, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).
  • Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has been subpoenaed to testify next month in an ongoing civil case related to an incident that occurred during a pickup game at his house during the summer of 2022. Lucas Finton of The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the details.
  • Speaking to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Rockets guard Aaron Holiday discussed a handful of topics, including his new role as a locker room leader, his early impressions of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks as teammates, Alperen Sengun‘s development, and whether he and brothers Jrue Holiday and Justin Holiday have talked about playing on the same team. “Yeah, but everything has to work out perfectly for that to happen,” Aaron said of his teaming up with his brothers. “It would be tough for that to happen, but obviously we’re all for it.”

Northwest Notes: George, Yurtseven, Kessler, Brown, Green

The early part of the season has been a struggle for the Jazz as they battle through stints of inconsistency, according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones. Still, there have been some bright spots, the biggest of which is finding their starting point guard of the future in rookie Keyonte George, Jones writes.

George is running the floor with confidence and his efforts helped the Jazz earn back-to-back wins over the Pelicans on Saturday and Monday, as he put up a combined 34 points and eight assists over that stretch. George is averaging 11.8 points and 6.3 assists to 2.4 turnovers in the 10 games since becoming Utah’s full-time starter.

Other highlights from that two-game stretch for the Jazz include players like Simone Fontecchio, Omer Yurtseven and Talen Horton-Tucker stepping up.

The best thing for me watching us is that we felt like a team,” head coach Will Hardy said.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Yurtseven and Walker Kessler, the latter of whom moved to the bench with the former starting, were key factors in the Jazz‘s back-to-back wins, according to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Players and coaches on the team agreed that Yurtseven’s strength allows the Jazz to be more physical with traditional centers, per Walden. “Those two guys are giving us a big presence on both sides of the ball,” Hardy said. “… Having a couple of traditional bigs has definitely helped us the last two games.
  • Timberwolves guard Troy Brown was mostly out of the rotation to begin the year, but began earning minutes after Jaden McDaniels went down with an ankle injury. Now, Brown is playing late into games and impressing with his performance, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Brown scored 17 points in a win over the Thunder on Tuesday and is averaging 11.0 points per game and hitting 46.2% of his threes since receiving an uptick in play time. “At this point, that’s the NBA. You can literally go from being sixth man to not in the rotation,” Brown said. “It’s just based off what the team needs at the time. To me, I’ve had my ups and downs in the career. Just being in different positions and learning how to deal with all that mentally has helped me a lot. Now I just try to be as happy as I can and bring energy to my teammates and stay ready.
  • As the Nuggets sort through their bench rotation, it’s clear they miss forward Jeff Green, writes The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando. “I wish Jeff was still wearing a Nuggets uniform,” head coach Michael Malone said. Green broke down his decision to join the Rockets this offseason, leaving the Nuggets he spent two seasons and one championship run with. “It’s very hard [to leave], especially when you do what we did last year,” Green said. “You create a bond, and that’s something that’s forever. And the relationships that were built last year off the journey that we had, it’s tough to kind of deter away from that. But at the end of the day, it’s a business.

Warriors Notes: Moody, Thompson, Green, Paul, Payton

Moses Moody hit several big shots in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, but he wasn’t on the floor for the closing minutes as the Warriors fell to the Kings. That’s something coach Steve Kerr may have to change if the third-year guard remains productive, writes Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic.

Moody scored 11 points in the first seven minutes of the quarter, making all four of his shot attempts. However, Kerr opted to replace him with Andrew Wiggins with 4:26 remaining.

“Moses was awesome tonight,” Kerr said. “We needed (Wiggins) on the floor for defense against (De’Aaron) Fox, and we decided to go with Klay (Thompson) and our vets. We thought about keeping him out there. But we made the move that we made.”

Kerr’s loyalty to his veterans cost the Warriors an important division game and a possibly a chance to reach the in-season tournament quarterfinals, according to Marcus Thompson. With Moody and rookie Brandin Podziemski both playing well, Thompson believes Kerr will eventually have to trust them with a game on the line.

There’s more on the Warriors:

  • Stephen Curry remains as productive as ever, but Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are no longer playing at a championship level, contends Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. He notes that Thompson has been forcing shots and can’t stay in front of quicker players on defense, while Green’s intensity has been out of control lately, resulting in a five-game suspension for an incident with Rudy Gobert and a near ejection for mocking the officials in Tuesday’s game. O’Connor’s recommendation is for the Warriors to shake up their roster with a trade, using Chris Paul‘s salary and some of their young talent. He suggests targets such as the RaptorsPascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, the BullsAlex Caruso, the WizardsKyle Kuzma, or possibly Lauri Markkanen from the Jazz or Kawhi Leonard or Paul George from the Clippers if those teams continue to struggle.
  • Golden State could be heading toward a difficult place with Thompson if he can’t shake his early-season slump, observes Connor Letourneau of The San Francisco Chronicle. Thompson has an expiring contract, and if he can’t prove that he’s worth the four-year, $220MM extension that he reportedly expects, his only choices next summer will be to either leave the Warriors or re-sign for significantly less.
  • A pair of injuries added to the team’s woes in Tuesday’s loss, notes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Paul was ruled out with lower left leg soreness shortly after halftime, and Gary Payton II hobbled to the locker room with a right calf injury late in the third quarter.

Western Rumors: Rockets, Grizzlies, Jazz, Kings, Brogdon

After making several significant changes to their roster during the 2023 offseason, the Rockets figure to remain active on the trade market during the season. League sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype that Houston has interest in pursuing further roster upgrades, with Victor Oladipo, Jock Landale, Jeff Green, and draft picks among the team’s potential trade chips.

None of those three players are owed guaranteed money beyond 2023/24 and all are being paid between $8-10MM this season, making them logical salary-matching pieces. Forward Jae’Sean Tate has also generated exploratory interest from playoff-caliber clubs in recent years, according to Scotto, who adds that Reggie Bullock also had several suitors before signing with Houston, making him a name to watch too.

One player we shouldn’t expect to end up in Houston? Bulls guard Zach LaVine. Scotto says the Rockets aren’t involved in the LaVine sweepstakes.

Scotto has more trade-related items of interest from around the Western Conference. Here are a few:

  • Sharpshooter Luke Kennard and forward John Konchar are among the Grizzlies players who are candidates to be dealt before February’s deadline, Scotto writes, identifying the Celtics, Warriors, and Lakers as some of the teams that have “kept tabs” on Konchar.
  • Rival executives think the Jazz may attempt to stabilize their backcourt by acquiring a veteran point guard, according to Scotto. While rookie Keyonte George has played well, he’s more of a combo guard, Scotto explains, naming Talen Horton-Tucker and Kelly Olynyk as a couple potential trade candidates on Utah’s roster.
  • Keegan Murray is the Kings player whom potential trade partners would covet most, but Sacramento views the young forward as an important part of its core and would be more inclined to move future first-round picks in any deal for an impact player, per Scotto.
  • Three executives who spoke to Scotto believe the Trail Blazers could land a protected 2024 first-round pick – or a similar asset – if they decide to trade Malcolm Brogdon this season.

Schedule For NBA Tournament Non-Qualifiers Set

The NBA in-season tournament will reach the quarterfinal stage next week and the eight qualifiers and their seeds were finalized on Tuesday. The 22 teams that failed to advance had two holes in their schedules that needed to be filled.

Those matchups were determined late Tuesday evening, with each team receiving a home and away contest, NBA Communications tweets. The newly-scheduled games will take place next Wednesday (December 6) and Friday (Dec. 8).

The Cavaliers and Magic, who missed the quarterfinals despite their 3-1 tournament records, will face each other in Cleveland on Wednesday. Cleveland will then visit the Heat (2-2 tournament) on Friday.

The Nets, who also had a 3-1 tournament record, wound up with a road game against the Hawks (1-3) and home game against the Wizards (0-4)

The Sixers, who finished 2-2 in the tournament, drew a road game against the Wizards and a home game against the Hawks.

In the West, the Timberwolves were the only 3-1 tournament team that didn’t reach the quarterfinals. They’ll host the Spurs (0-4) and visit the Grizzlies (0-4).

The defending champion Nuggets will visit Los Angeles to face the Clippers (1-3), then head home to take on the Rockets (2-2). The Warriors, who were knocked out of contention by Sacramento on Tuesday, drew a home game against the Trail Blazers (1-3) and a road contest against the Thunder (1-3).

Here’s the full schedule for next Wednesday and Friday:

Wednesday, Dec. 6

  • Orlando at Cleveland
  • Memphis at Detroit
  • Miami at Toronto
  • Philadelphia at Washington
  • Brooklyn at Atlanta
  • San Antonio at Minnesota
  • Charlotte at Chicago
  • Oklahoma City at Houston
  • Utah at Dallas
  • Portland at Golden State
  • Denver at LA Clippers

Friday, Dec. 8

  • Toronto at Charlotte
  • Detroit at Orlando
  • Atlanta at Philadelphia
  • Washington at Brooklyn
  • Cleveland at Miami
  • Minnesota at Memphis
  • Golden State at Oklahoma City
  • Chicago at San Antonio
  • Houston at Denver
  • LA Clippers at Utah
  • Dallas at Portland

Two more regular season games will be added to the NBA’s schedule after the quarterfinals of the in-season tournament are complete, since the four teams that lose those matchups will require an 82nd game on their respective schedules.

Injury Notes: McCollum, James, Reddish, Murray, Markkanen, Durant, Connaughton

Pelicans guard CJ McCollum has been upgraded to questionable for Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia, the team’s PR department tweets. McCollum has been out since Nov. 4 after being diagnosed with a collapsed lung. McCollum has missed New Orleans’ last 12 games.

Trey Murphy III (knee) and Matt Ryan (calf) have been upgraded to doubtful. Murphy, a starter most of last season, has yet to make his season debut. Ryan hasn’t played since Nov. 18.

We have more injury-related updates:

  • Lakers star LeBron James is listed as questionable to play against Detroit on Wednesday due to a left calf contusion, according to the team’s PR department (hat tip to Orange County Register’s Khobi Price). Cam Reddish (left groin strain) and Anthony Davis (left adductor) are listed as probable, while Gabe Vincent, Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt will not play.
  • Jamal Murray has been upgraded to questionable for the Nuggets’ game against Houston on Wednesday, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. Murray has been out since Nov. 4 due to a hamstring strain.
  • Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen will miss at least two more games due to a left hamstring strain, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. He’ll be reevaluated after the team returns from its two-game road trip.
  • The Suns have listed Kevin Durant (right foot contusion) and Grayson Allen (illness) as questionable to play Wednesday against Toronto, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets.
  • Pat Connaughton exited the Bucks’ game on Tuesday early with a right ankle sprain, the team tweets.

Injury Notes: McCollum, Markkanen, Luka, Nuggets, Williams

Pelicans guard CJ McCollum has been ruled out of Monday’s contest in Utah, which will be his 12th consecutive missed game. However, the 32-year-old veteran is aiming to return to action later this week, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that McCollum could play either Wednesday against Philadelphia or Friday vs. San Antonio.

McCollum, who has been out since Nov. 4 with a collapsed lung, is averaging 21.7 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.8 RPG and 1.5 SPG on .440/.380/.742 shooting through six games this season. He was a full practice participant last week.

Another marquee player will be also sidelined for the matchup between the Pelicans and Jazz. Lauri Markkanen has been ruled out for the second straight game, tweets Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.

As Larsen observes (via Twitter), Markkanen was previously listed as having a sore left hamstring, but the injury is now classified as a strain — it’s possible the All-Star forward may have undergone some imaging to confirm the diagnosis. On a more positive note, Jordan Clarkson will return tonight after missing the previous game due to an illness.

Here are some more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • The Mavericks received good news on Monday, as the left thumb injury that Luka Doncic sustained on Saturday isn’t serious. After undergoing an MRI, Doncic was diagnosed with a low-grade sprain and he will be available for Tuesday’s matchup with Houston, though he did wear a wrap on his thumb during Monday’s practice, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscriber link). Rookie center Dereck Lively practiced as well, but he’s questionable with a lower back contusion, Townsend adds.
  • Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon will miss his second straight game on Monday due to a right heel strain, while reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokic is questionable due to lower back pain, tweets Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette. As we previously relayed, Jamal Murray is out tonight, but he could return later this week.
  • Thunder wing Jalen Williams is available for Tuesday’s matchup vs. the Wolves, according to Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder (Twitter link). Last season’s runner-up for Rookie of the Year has missed three consecutive games with a left hip strain.

Jazz’s Hardy Makes Statement With Starting Lineup Change

After expressing his displeasure – both before and after Wednesday’s blowout loss to Portland – with his team’s effort level and approach to the game, Jazz head coach Will Hardy made a statement with the new starting lineup he sent out on Saturday vs. New Orleans, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.

With Lauri Markkanen (hamstring) and Jordan Clarkson (illness) unavailable and center Walker Kessler playing in his first game back from a seven-game injury absence, Hardy dug deep on his bench and sent out Kris Dunn, Simone Fontecchio, and Omer Yurtseven alongside usual starters John Collins and Keyonte George to open Saturday’s contest.

Dunn, Fontecchio, and Yurtseven have each received multiple DNP-CDs in the past month and aren’t among Utah’s top nine most-used players, but Hardy decided it was the right time to start them for the first time this season. As Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune relays (via Twitter), in explaining the changes before the game, Hardy cited Dunn’s perimeter defense and ball-handling, Fontecchio’s size and length, and Yurtseven’s ability to play physically against Jonas Valanciunas.

Really though, as Larsen points out, the revamped starting lineup represented Hardy putting his money where his mouth is after telling his players earlier this week that a lack of effort would result in a reduction in playing time.

“I go home after every game win or loss and I’m constantly beating myself up about things that I did or didn’t do,” Hardy said on Wednesday. “And I just want them to take the same responsibility and ownership over this program. If you’re gonna wear a Utah Jazz jersey, you have to give a s–t about the Utah Jazz.”

The new-look lineup came through on Saturday, helping to lead the Jazz to a 105-100 upset win over New Orleans that included an impressive fourth-quarter comeback.

“I don’t believe in free minutes,” Hardy said after the game. “I think that some of the guys that were on the floor tonight are showing that they’ve earned some minutes and that they’re willing to make sacrifices for the team.

“… This is for sure the first game this year that we’ve won because of our defense,” he added. “I thought that every player that took the court tonight really, really competed on that end of the floor.”

With neither Markkanen nor Clarkson likely to be out for long, it’s unclear how Hardy will adjust his starting five – and his rotation as a whole – when they return. They’re the team’s top two scorers, and obviously Markkanen won’t be coming off the bench, so they’ll presumably reclaim key roles.

Still, when Utah’s roster healthy, with Markkanen, Clarkson, and Kessler all available, there presumably won’t be enough playing time to go around for Saturday’s new starters and reserves like Talen Horton-Tucker, Collin Sexton, Ochai Agbaji, and Kelly Olynyk. Based on his comments earlier this week and his lineup decision vs. New Orleans, Hardy has made it clear how those players can make their cases for regular minutes.

Jazz Notes: Markkanen, Clarkson, Kessler, Hornacek

  • There’s good news and bad news for the Jazz on the injury report for Saturday’s game vs. New Orleans, tweets Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah will be without its top two scorers, as forward Lauri Markkanen has been ruled out due to left hamstring soreness while Jordan Clarkson will be unavailable due to an illness. However, the Jazz appear likely to have their starting center back in the lineup, as Walker Kessler, who has missed the last seven games due to a sprained left elbow, has been upgraded to probable.
  • Former Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek remains involved with the organization behind the scenes as a coaching consultant. In a story for The Salt Lake Tribune (subscription required), Larsen explores what that role entails and the impact that Hornacek has had on head coach Will Hardy. “He’s been a really, really good friend and confidant and in some ways like a mentor for me in this role, because he also knows what it’s like to be a head coach and a first-time head coach,” Hardy said. “There are tough moments during the season where sometimes he just offers a ‘Hang in there, you’re doing what you should be doing.’ It’s just a tough stretch over 82 games and so he’s been a really calming influence for me.”