Xavier Tillman

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.

Grizzlies Notes: Offseason, Morant, Winslow

In the wake of the Grizzlies‘ elimination from the postseason, executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman vowed to “keep pushing forward” and expressed a “massive belief” in the team’s core, as Michael Wallace of Grind City Media writes.

[RELATED: Grizzlies Sign Zach Kleiman To Contract Extension]

Kleiman acknowledged that the team’s growth and progress toward contending for a title may not always be linear, but said he’s confident it’s headed in the right direction and that he believes players will want to be part of what the Grizzlies are putting together.

“The culture we’re building, the way we want to play, the personalities of Ja (Morant) and Jaren (Jackson Jr.), players are going to want to play with these guys,” Kleiman said. “We’re building an organization that’s going to compete at the highest level, have the best medical care, the best player development, no state income tax in Memphis, it’s an incredibly comfortable place to live. We’re building something here guys are going to want to continue to be a part of, and I believe something that players are going to be attracted to.”

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • While the Grizzlies need to continue upgrading the roster around him, Ja Morant‘s leadership and next developmental steps will be a crucial part of the team’s offseason, Wallace writes in a separate story for Grind City Media.
  • Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal weighs the pros and cons of bringing back Justise Winslow for the 2021/22 season. Memphis has until August 1 to make a decision on Winslow’s $13MM team option, though the team could technically re-sign him even after declining his option.
  • In the first part of a two-part series, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian ranks the Grizzlies’ players in order of their importance going forward, starting with the players who aren’t locks to be part of the team’s future. Herrington speculates that Memphis will pick up Winslow’s team option and suggests that if the club makes a major trade, there’s a good chance that at least one of Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman would be on the move.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Could Return On Wednesday

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. could make his season debut on Wednesday. He’s been upgraded to questionable on the team’s injury report for its game against the Clippers, the team’s PR department tweets.

Jackson suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during the summer and has spent the season rehabbing the injury after undergoing surgery in mid-August. He could provide a major boost to a team sitting in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

Last season, Jackson averaged 17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 1.6 BPG in 57 starts. The team exercised its option on his contract for next season prior to this season. He’ll make $9.18MM in 2021/22 and then head into a free agency, either restricted or unrestricted, in the summer of ’22 unless he signs a rookie scale extension prior to opening night next season.

In terms of this season, Jackson’s return could impact the playing time of Xavier Tillman, Brandon Clarke and Justise Winslow.

Jackson will be on a minutes restriction, according to Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“We’re not going to just throw (Jackson) into the fire and play a heavy load,” coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We’re going to be smart about his minutes and his integration, obviously trying to find the right combinations for him to be successful, for our team to be successful.”

Southwest Notes: Morant, Mills, Ball, Tillman

Grizzlies star Ja Morant returned to the lineup on Saturday days ahead of his initial timetable, energizing his teammates and leading the club to a 106-104 victory over Philadelphia, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes.

Morant suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain on Dec. 28 and was given a 3-to-5 week timeline, a brutal blow for a team already playing without Jaren Jackson Jr. In nearly 31 minutes against the Sixers, Morant finished with 17 points and six assists, shooting 7-of-14 from the floor.

“It was huge, in the fact that he wanted to come back so fast,” teammate Xavier Tillman said, as relayed by Bontemps. “For a guy who .. is a franchise kind-of-guy, they’re usually able to take their time and make sure they are 110 percent before they come back. I’m not saying he wasn’t 110 percent, but he was dying and itching to come back and help us win games.

“To see that from your head guy motivates everybody else, including me, being one of the rookies on the team. It’s like, ‘Hey man, forget nicks and bruises. The dude looked like he broke his ankle and he’s itching to get back. If I have nicks and bruises, I can play, and I can give my heart.'”

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Spurs guard Patty Mills confirmed he plans to play for Australia in the Olympics, as relayed by ESPN (hat tip to Sportando). “Everyone who’s a part of that program right now, from the head coach all the way to the equipment manager, everyone’s gotta be locked in and feel the exact same way as we feel: determined, fire burning inside, desire to do everything we possibly can to win this gold medal,” Mills said.
  • Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy issued a brief injury update on Lonzo Ball, who’s currently dealing with bilateral knee tendinopathy. Though Ball didn’t practice on Saturday, Van Gundy is hopeful he can return relatively soon. “He says he feels a lot better,” Van Gundy said, as relayed by Jacob Rude of USA Today. “(He’s) really working hard on strengthening the muscles around that knee which seems to really help. I think he’s pretty optimistic about being able to come at full strength and pretty optimistic that’s (his return) is not in the distant, distant future. I think we’re talking more days to a week than we are weeks.”
  • Grizzlies forward Xavier Tillman also discussed his increased role with the team (as relayed by Evan Barnes of the Commercial Appeal). The rookie finished with 15 points and four steals off the bench on Saturday, proving his worth on both ends of the floor.

Xavier Tillman Signs Four-Year Deal With Grizzlies

NOVEMBER 29: The signing is official, the Grizzlies announced in a press release. Tillman will receive $4.6MM in guaranteed money, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. That breaks down to $1.3MM for the upcoming season, $1.5MM in 2021/22, $1.8MM in 2022/23 and $1.9MM in 2023/24. Marks notes that it’s the second-largest amount of guaranteed money ever for a second-round pick who is headed to the NBA immediately after being drafted.


NOVEMBER 28: The Grizzlies have agreed to a four-year deal with their second-round pick Xavier Tillman, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (Twitter link).

Memphis traded up in a deal with the Kings to get the 35th overall pick Tillman. The team will be able to give him a four-year contract using a portion of its mid-level exception.

Tillman, 21, was regarded as a solid player in the draft who could be a late first-rounder or an early second-round pick. It was with good reason as he posted outstanding numbers as a junior with Michigan State.

The 6’8″ forward averaged a double-double for the Spartans, posting 13.7 PPG and 10.3 RPG to go with 3.0 APG and 2.1 BPG across 31 games. Tillman was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Grizzlies, Kings Swap Second-Round Picks

NOVEMBER 19: The Kings officially announced their trade with the Grizzlies, acquiring the rights to Woodard (No. 40) and a 2022 second-round pick in exchange for the rights to Tillman (No. 35).


NOVEMBER 18: The Grizzlies are trading the 40th pick in tonight’s draft and a future second-rounder to the Kings for the 35th selection, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. The future second will be the lesser of the Pistons’ or Bulls’ picks in 2022 (Twitter link).

Memphis used that pick to draft Michigan State center Xavier Tillman. The 6’8″ junior averaged 13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in 31 games for the Spartans last season.

With the 40th pick, Sacramento selected Mississippi State forward Robert Woodard. The 6’7″ sophonmore averaged 11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in 31 games.