Memphis Grizzlies: Way Ahead Of Schedule (Lasted Updated News)
Memphis Grizzlies: For a guy from a small town in South Carolina, Ja Morant is quite at ease in front of the camera. Following the Memphis Grizzlies’ win at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 2, he was in his element entertaining the New York media horde.
“Mic check, mic check — yo, yo, yo,” Morant said, jokingly cupping the microphone as he took his seat next to Jaren Jackson Jr., another 22-year-old franchise cornerstone. “I’m the Unicorn, and I’m here to check in with the Ninja.
“Are you all set?”
When Memphis’ “Grit ‘n Grind” chapter closed in 2019 and a rebuilding project began, the Grizzlies pushed their way into the contender conversation at least a couple of years earlier than many expected.
With Morant and the Grizzlies, things move quickly
That’s the case when Morant sprints coast-to-coast and finishes in under four seconds, as he did after grabbing a rebound off a shot Jackson missed and flying up the floor for a crucial transition layup in the Grizzlies’ recent home win over the New York Knicks.
It’s also true in the big picture, as Memphis went from moribund to a play-in team with massive long-term upside during Morant’s rookie season, then took a big step forward by making the playoffs his sophomore season, and then took another big step forward this season, when only the reigning Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns have a better record.
The Grizzlies, led by vice president of basketball operations Zach Kleiman, 34, and coached by Taylor Jenkins, 37, appear to be extending their window of opportunity to compete. The Grizzlies’ stars are barely old enough to buy a bottle of Casamigos, the tequila Morant gleefully sipped during his Instagram Live session filmed on a private jet en route to the first of what will likely be many All-Star appearances.
The Grizzlies are a wildly entertaining team that often overwhelms opponents with athleticism, leading the league in points in the paint, rebounding, and blocked shots with Morant in constant attack mode. The Grizzlies, who play the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN and ESPN the App), are also the league’s unofficial brash leaders.
We’re going to make sure everyone knows we’re here, Morant said
The Grizzlies have gone from being viewed as a fun, young team on the rise to being viewed as a team with a target on its back. Some detractors, notably veterans from across the league, believe the team’s confidence, which borders on arrogance, is too early for a team that has yet to win a playoff series. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, “ain’t duckin’ no smoke,” as Morant put it that night at Madison Square Garden.
“Wait and see, man,” Jackson advised. “You could compare it to whatever you want from back in the day when young teams came together with a lot of potential and went on to become quite successful.
“You’ll see what I mean. Let’s see what happens. It should be a great time.”
From Grit ‘n Grind to the best entertainment in the league, there’s something for everyone.
The end of the Grit ‘n Grind era marked the start of Memphis’ basketball resurgence. In 2017-18, the Grizzlies still had cornerstones Mike Conley and Marc Gasol despite the departures of Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. However, an Achilles injury limited Conley to only 12 games that season, and Memphis finished 22-60 without him, forfeiting the No. 4 overall pick used to select Jackson.
When Gasol was traded to the Toronto Raptors at the 2019 trade deadline, the Grizzlies genuinely began looking to the future. Despite finishing the season with a 33-49 record, Conley was traded to the Utah Jazz immediately before the 2019 draught in exchange for several first-round selections.
Memphis had already gotten the kind of break that any rebuilding club needs at that point. Because the Grizzlies owed the Boston Celtics a first-round pick as a result of the Jeff Green trade, they didn’t tank down the stretch in 2018-19 in the hopes of clearing their pick commitment. Instead, Memphis jumped from eighth place to second place in the lottery, landing Morant.
The Grizzlies appeared to be on the verge of a multiyear rebuild, even with Morant and Jackson as promising young talents. They did the same thing, wisely leveraging their cap space to acquire contracts from other teams (Andre Iguodala and Josh Jackson) in return for future selections and De’Anthony Melton, then a second-year guard who has evolved into a crucial reserve in Memphis.
The Grizzlies used extra draught picks to add undervalued prospects later in the draught, in addition to their own lottery picks. Memphis received a 2019 first-round selection in the Conley trade, which they used to sign Gonzaga big man Brandon Clarke. The Grizzlies were busy on draught night a year later, getting the 30th pick to take TCU winger Desmond Bane and second-round picks for Jackson’s former Michigan State teammate Xavier Tillman, both in exchange for second-round picks.
Despite the transactions, Memphis still has further draught picks on the way. If the Los Angeles Lakers’ pick (now No. 12 overall) slips outside the top 10 and the Grizzlies obtain Golden State’s first-rounder in 2024 from the Iguodala deal, the Grizzlies might have as many as three first-rounders this season.
Jenkins’ selection, as a first-time head coach plucked from relative obscurity on the Milwaukee Bucks’ coaching staff, seemed to indicate the Grizzlies were more concerned with long-term growth than instant success. Despite this, Memphis held the No. 8 seed heading into the 2019-20 season’s bubble restart, thanks to Morant’s early success and a deep bench headed by Melton, Tyus Jones, and rookie Brandon Clarke (acquired via the Conley deal).
The Grizzlies’ hopes were not dashed by their loss in the play-in game. Memphis was right back in the play-in tournament a year later, amid fears of slippage, with fresh talent in important roles. Bane and Tillman, as well as second-year players Morant and Clarke, all played more than 1,000 minutes as rookies.
Memphis defeated the Golden State Warriors in the Bay Area this time to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2018. While the Grizzlies fell to the Jazz in five games, their young core getting a taste of the postseason set the tone.
The Brooks gaffe and the emergence of a defensive stalwart
On Dec. 14, 2018, Dillon Brooks was minding his own business on the Grizzlies’ bench, watching his team play the Miami Heat while he was out with a knee injury, when supporters at FedExForum alerted him of the news they had seen while reading through their Twitter accounts. Brooks had been sent to a different team.
That’s according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He was rumoured to be on his way to the Suns as part of a three-team trade. In order to acquire Trevor Ariza, the Washington Wizards agreed to send Kelly Oubre Jr. to Memphis and Austin Rivers to Phoenix.
One significant stumbling block: the Grizzlies refused to deal Brooks.
The Grizzlies believed they were relocating MarShon Brooks, a journeyman guard who had spent the previous season in China. In his second season, Dillon Brooks, a promising second-round pick, figured heavily in the franchise’s long-term aspirations. Because then-Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace talked with the Wizards’ front office rather than directly with the Suns, the confusion occurred.
The transaction fell through, leaving Memphis with an unpleasant, humorous footnote.
Brooks has developed into an essential component of the Grizzlies’ core, just as the Grizzlies had intended. Over the last three seasons, he has averaged 16.8 points per game and has established himself as one of the league’s most tough on-ball defenders. Brooks’ snarling swagger has earned him the moniker “The Villain” among colleagues. Brooks, who signed a three-year, $35 million agreement in 2020, has been sidelined for much of the season due to wrist and knee problems, returning only lately after an 11-week layoff. He was reintroduced to the starting lineup and is expected to play a significant role in the team’s playoff run, notably as the thorn in the side of the opponent’s leading scorer.
Jenkins stated, “We realise how important he is to us.”
Regardless of what their trading partners thought, the Grizzlies knew all along.
Will children and teenagers be served? Why is Memphis fighting history?
Despite the team’s postseason run in 2021, Memphis had low expectations heading into this season. Last summer, Memphis made another forward-thinking trade, sending starter centre Jonas Valanciunas to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for centre Steven Adams and additional compensation. The Grizzlies moved up from 17th to 10th overall in the draught, selecting Stanford forward Ziaire Williams, as well as acquiring a protected first-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021.
Memphis was ranked sixth in the West with an over-under of 41.5 wins at Caesars Sportsbook. The Grizzlies were a part of it. Morant was on pace for 500 points and a 9-10 record when he suffered a knee sprain, a setback after his great start to the season.
Memphis, however, went 10-2 without Morant thanks to solid defence, depth, and some good luck with opponents, only to lose when he returned.
Morant didn’t waste any time reminding everyone how good the Grizzlies could be when he was on the court. Memphis ripped off a pair of statement wins just before New Year’s Day, travelling on the road to beat the Suns 114-113 and the Lakers 104-99, kicking off an 11-game winning streak that included a home win against the Warriors.
Around that time, the Grizzlies went from being a good tale to being a West top team.
A club as young as Memphis — the league’s fourth-youngest team by minutes played this season — making a deep playoff run is certainly unique. Only six teams in NBA history have gone to the playoffs with an average weighted age of less than 25 at season’s conclusion (a group that includes last season’s Memphis team).
This season, five teams with youthful players are in the NBA, including the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves, who are both on course to make the playoffs. The other three teams, Detroit, Orlando, and Houston, have the league’s poorest records.
Only the 2011 Oklahoma City Thunder, who beat Memphis in a seven-game series in the second round, won a series out of that bunch of playoff teams. The Grizzlies have every reason to believe they can do better. Only one of the first-round losers in that series (the 2009 Portland Trail Blazers) had home-court advantage, which Memphis will undoubtedly have.
Although inexperience enhances the odds of an upset in the first round, performance is more important. And the Grizzlies have looked every bit the part of a championship contender.
PSG’s Champions League Hopes Dashed as Bayern Munich Advances in Last 16
On Wednesday night, Paris St Germain rued their failure to capitalize on early chances as they fell 2-0 to Bayern Munich and exited the Champions League in the last 16. Despite missing several early chances, PSG were able to salvage something from this game with their fans cheering them on from the sidelines.
Coach Christophe Galtier’s star-studded team, featuring Kylian Mbappe and world champion Lionel Messi, failed to score against Bayern Munich over two legs, falling 3-0 on aggregate and dispelling any hopes of clinching Europe’s top club trophy for another year.
Galtier lamented, “This is a huge disappointment. We need to deal with it and accept it – there’s plenty of anger in the dressing room.”
“I don’t know if there is a lesson to be learned here, but there’s certainly frustration. Had we scored first, things would have been different – but that wasn’t the case.”
PSG made a promising start and France forward Mbappe had an early chance before Messi almost identical double chances in the 25th minute.
“We missed an opportunity to score when we had it. Despite playing well in the first half, we felt we could match up against our opponents but unfortunately didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Galtier lamented. “Our chances were there for us to take, and unfortunately it didn’t materialize for us.”
Instead, Bayern Munchen took the lead with Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting’s tap-in in the 61st minute before Serge Gnabry added a late second goal to secure their victory.
Galtier lamented, “We conceded a truly stupid first goal at this level. Yes, there was pressure from Bayern, but sometimes you need to play it long in order to overcome the pressing.”
“After an hour-long play, being behind is never fun.”
Galtier’s team’s latest European failure — their fifth last-16 exit in seven years — adds further pressure to him, who refused to speculate about his future at the club.
“This is a huge disappointment, but we must move forward. At this stage it’s too soon to talk about my future plans. For now, my focus and determination remain intact as I focus on finishing the season strong.”
7 Crucial Questions for Milwaukee Bucks Stretch Run
The Milwaukee Bucks are in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race, leading the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers by 2.5 games with 11 games remaining. With a 51-20 record, they hold an edge over both teams by 2.5 games.
Though they would love to earn the top seed in the East, their primary focus is on improving each day and reaching their full potential heading into postseason play. Here are seven big questions that will determine how effective they are down the stretch:
Can they take care of the rock?
One of the major weaknesses of the Bucks’ offense has been their inability to protect the ball, with them ranking 18th in turnover percentage according to Cleaning the Glass.
Turnovers for the Phoenix come in all forms and sizes, from bad passes and lost balls out of bounds to other types of dead-ball turnovers (if there’s any good news). They rank 10th for live ball turnovers per 100 possessions and second in travels per 100 plays; Joe Ingles, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday–their primary ball handlers–are among the worst culprits.
Milwaukee has made progress since the end of January, ranking sixth in turnover percentage since January 29th. They must continue to cultivate positive habits with the ball in their hands if they want to maintain their halfcourt defense which makes them tough to score against; giving opponents easy opportunities in the open court would prove counterproductive.
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Will their offense continue to progress in the right direction?
Mike Budenholzer’s offense has had a down year this season. They ranked third, sixth, seventh, and fifth during his first four years but have slumped all the way to 15th according to Cleaning the Glass’ rankings this season.
The good news is that Milwaukee’s offense has been on a roll lately. Since January 16th, they boast the fifth-best offensive rating in the NBA and have achieved their highest effective field goal percentage during that span.
Middleton’s return to health will continue to benefit Milwaukee’s offense. He and Ingles give Milwaukee four players (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Holiday being the other two) who can run their offense when needed. Add shooters like Brook Lopez, Grayson Allen, Jevon Carter, and Bobby Portis around them and it’s game over – these next 11 games will be crucial in building chemistry within their system.
What will the outcome of the wing rotation be?
At the start of the season, Milwaukee needed more quality wing players. Now that it is nearly over, they find themselves with an abundance of them.
Budenholzer will have 96 minutes of wing play available to him to divide between the 2 and 3. Middleton will receive approximately 38 of those minutes when the postseason commences, while Ingles and Crowder can expect at least 20 minutes each (and could see as many as 30 depending on matchups) depending on their positions.
At most, Pat Connaughton, Allen, Crowder, or Ingles will receive 18 minutes in playoff action. Unfortunately for one or two of those wings, playoff time may bring nothing but disappointment for them.
Will Pat Connaughton finally break out of his slump?
Connaughton could be one of those wings. He’s had difficulty hitting threes this season, hitting only 33.6 percent of his threes and posting his lowest effective field goal percentage since his rookie year. With shooting percentages down across the board, Connaughton could become an offensive liability in the postseason.
He still offers average defense and can cover multiple positions, which has allowed him to remain on the court during past postseason runs. His rebounding is better than ever – will that be enough for him to earn consistent playing time over Ingles, Crowder, or Allen?
Will the Bucks ever find health?
We keep saying, “Wait until the Bucks get healthy”–but will that ever come? With only 11 games remaining this season and no sign of improvement yet, many are wondering when exactly their return from injury will occur.
They’re as close to a playoff spot as any this season with Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Holiday all in the lineup; however, Antetokounmpo’s wrist could remain an issue. Additionally, role players such as Jae Crowder, Goran Dragic, and Wes Matthews are out due to injury. With three weeks left for the Bucks to get things back on track, here’s hoping!
Who pays attention to individual awards?
Milwaukee currently has several players in contention for major individual awards–Antetokounmpo for MVP and Lopez for Defensive Player of the Year. Their teammates publicly support them as deserving of these accolades, yet who really pays attention?
At this stage of the season, the Bucks aren’t focused on winning individual awards. Winning an NBA Championship would be a nice side note but that will only serve to highlight their journey towards their second championship in three years – and their only focus remains one thing: Winning the NBA Finals. This team is here to accomplish one task and one task only: victory in the NBA Finals.
Can they maintain their lead in the East?
Milwaukee’s lead was slim over the weekend, as they were only 1.5 games ahead of Boston and 2.5 ahead of Philadelphia at one point. However, on Saturday night the Celtics fell to Utah Jazz while Philadelphia pulled into a tie with them by beating Indiana Pacers. On Sunday afternoon, Milwaukee won against Toronto Raptors by 2.5 games again to extend their lead back up to 2.5.
The Bucks still have some challenging games left (at Nuggets on March 25th, vs Celtics on March 30th, 76ers on April 2nd, and Grizzlies on April 7th) but should still have enough wins to stay atop of the East. They must still play Spurs, Jazz Pistons Pacers Wizards Bulls, and Raptors).
Markelle Fultz unties Terrence Ross’ shoes before clutch FTs stuns Suns fans
Markelle Fultz unties Terrence Ross: On Thursday night at Footprint Center, the Phoenix Suns had to battle past the Orlando Magic to earn a win of 116-113. Their resilient opponent did not give up, pulling off every trick in the book to try and steal the game – Markelle Fultz even untied former teammate Terrence Ross’ shoe via Bally Sports!
Just before Rick Ross headed to the free throw line with just six seconds remaining in the game, Fultz reached down and grabbed his foot, causing it to come undone and send him stumbling. Despite this setback, Ross still managed to sink both clutch free throws. Josh Okogie then sealed the win by blocking Paolo Banchero’s last 3-point attempt for an emphatic Suns victory.
Fultz’s actions caused consternation among both those in attendance and NBA viewers watching from home. Many were particularly puzzled that the former No. 1 overall pick wasn’t even given a technical foul for his display of disrespect.
On the surface, this may appear to be a tacky non-basketball move that crosses the line of sportsmanship and personal space. But digging deeper into their respective histories suggests it was simply some friendly rivalry between former teammates – as their postgame embrace per the Magic’s Twitter suggests.
Both players were part of the Magic for more than three-and-a-half seasons before Fultz was acquired by the Suns. While in Orlando, both men experienced a much-needed rebirth.
Fultz had become something of an afterthought in the league due to health issues that hindered his shooting mechanics. Yet he’s back on track, averaging 13.5 points per game on more than 50% shooting from the field – providing Magic fans with a heartening story and encouraging sign that their young team can still improve.
Still, he should remain vigilant as Ross could be planning his revenge when they next cross paths.
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