Dan Feldman

Members of the Memphis Grizzlies watch from the bench in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Monday, March 7, 2016, in Cleveland. The Memphis Grizzlies are down to just one healthy starter against the Cavaliers. The team will be missing four starters, point guard Mike Conley, center Chris Andersen and forwards Zach Randolph and Matt Barnes, Monday night when they take on LeBron James and the Eastern Conference's top team. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Grizzlies set record by using 28th (!) player this season

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With trades, waiver claims and in-season signings, the 76ers and Timberwolves each used 25 players last season.

That seemed extreme.

But this year’s Grizzlies put those marks to shame.

Memphis has used a whopping 28 (!) players this season, a single-season NBA record (hat tip: ESPN). Playing Bryce Cotton in a loss to the Magic yesterday broke a tie with the 1996-97 Mavericks.

The 2015-16 Grizzlies:

The 1948-49 Indianapolis Jets are the only other team to use 25 players in a season.

But the Grizzlies differ from those other teams, because they could reach the postseason. Memphis (41-36) is three games inside playoff position.

No team that has used more than 23 players in a season has ever made the playoffs.

That could cause complications for the Grizzlies, who have 20 players under contract thanks to multiple hardship waivers. The typical regular-season roster limit is 15.

Chris Herrington of The Commercial Appeal:

The Grizzlies are apparently exploring being able to carry injury exemptions into the playoffs. But barring that — and it seems unlikely — they’ve got a couple of decisions to make

I’m not as convinced Memphis’ hardship request for the playoffs will be denied. The NBA constitution does not specify separate hardship procedures for the regular season or playoffs, so it stands to reason the same rules apply for the postseason.

But, if not, the Grizzlies will have to start waiving players. They’re not dropping an injured Gasol or Conley just to keep a expendable player for the postseason.

This playoff run could get even more difficult.

Suns’ Brandon Knight out for rest of season

Phoenix Suns' Ronnie Price, left, and  Brandon Knight, endure the closing moments of the Suns' 142-119 loss to the Sacramento Kings in an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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The Suns quit on their season months ago.

Now, Brandon Knight – who had played relatively hard through Phoenix’s misery – is more formally calling it a year.

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:

Knight and the team made a collaborative decision to have him sit out the remainder of the season and get a second opinion this week on his sports hernia. Missing the past two games and the remaining five games puts Knight on an earlier timetable if it is determined that surgery is needed.

The Suns won’t miss Knight these last few games, because they’re better off losing and improving lottery position. Phoenix is only one game worse than the Nets for the No. 3 seed in the lottery.

Knight had an alright year, both showing the Suns gave up too much to trade for him (a top-three-protected Lakers first-round pick) and the Bucks sort of miss him. Knight’s shooting ability and decent ball-handling would look pretty good next to point Giannis Antetokounmpo right now.

Phoenix can’t afford to dwell on the trade, which could still work out. The immediate concern: How do Eric Bledsoe and Knight (who already had coexistence issues) and Devin Booker fit together? The guards are young enough to delay answering the question a little bit, but if the Suns wanted to be proactive, Knight’s injury makes it harder. Teams might be reluctant to deal for him if he’s coming off surgery.

I don’t know whether Knight is a long-term fit in Phoenix, but this injury makes it more likely he begins next season with the Suns.

Bradley Beal doubles down on Wizards criticism after Marcin Gortat tweet

Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) continues to argue with referee Scott Foster after he was charged with a technical foul during the second half of game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, Monday, May 5, 2014. Wizards guard Bradley Beal is at the right.  The Wizards defeated the Pacers 102-96. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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After the Wizards lost to the Kings last week, torpedoing Washington’s already-slim playoff chances, Bradley Beal had harsh words.

Beal, via J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

“We didn’t have any sense of urgency. To me it felt like we just gave up,” Beal said after a 120-111 loss in Sacramento, the Wizards’ fourth defeat in five games in which they allowed 56% shooting to a 29-win team. “We’re just not hungry enough.

“I guess we kind of figure we’re already in the playoffs for some reason. It’s either that or we just want to get to the offseason. As far as why I have no idea. If guys don’t want to play they need to sit down.”

“We bark too much. We say what we need to do. We scream at one another. We can even try to blame Witt if we want to but at the end of the day we still the ones playing,” said Beal, who has had heated exchanges with Nene on the bench. “We still beat ourselves. We do dumb stuff on the floor like just not having a man in transition or not knowing where a guy is at half court or not knowing personnel. We just do dumb mental lapses that just mess up the game and end up hurting us in the long run. Everybody is a grown ass man, you either want to play or you don’t.”

Marcin Gortat, in a since-deleted tweet, responded to a Twitter poll about Beal’s comments:

Beal, via Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post:

“I do not regret what I said at all,” Beal said. “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I’m not going back on it.”

Beal said nobody approached him about his candid stance.

That saga provides insight into Washington’s underwhelming season. If the Wizards don’t look excited to play together during games, this is another sign they’re not.

Beal’s remarks provide an implicit defense of Randy Wittman, who has clashed with Gortat. That’s probably the source of their disconnect. Beal is blaming the players for not playing hard enough, which somewhat absolves Wittman. Gortat has been the team’s most outspoken questioner of the coach.

Interestingly, Wittman has also publicly criticized Beal this season. Apparently, the players took Wittman’s messages differently.

With Kevin Durant dreams looking deader than ever, Washington has its work cut out this offseason. Beal is pointing within the locker room, but it’s hard to see Wittman staying.

The bigger question: Do the Wizards also need to move players to fix chemistry?

Likely No. 1 or No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram declares for NBA draft

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 15:  Brandon Ingram #14 of the Duke Blue Devils brings the ball up the court against the Georgia Southern Eagles during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 15, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram?

The NBA’s lucky lottery winner will have a chance to decide.

After Simmons declared, Ingram is following him into the NBA draft.

Ingram at The Players Tribune:

My time is almost over here in Durham. Today as I declare for the NBA Draft, I’m both excited and sad about this moment.

On one hand, one year at Duke isn’t a very long time. I know that. But I’ve done a lot of growing, and growing up, in that time.

Ingram doesn’t mention hiring an agent, but it’s clear he’s staying in the draft. The piece is a farewell to Duke.

Common sense also says he should go pro. It’d be a major shock if he’s not picked in the top two picks in the draft.

The 6-foot-9 small forward is long and athletic, and he has a smooth shooting stroke. He reminds me of Kevin Durant at the same age.

But Durant separated himself by continuing to add elements to his game. He got stronger. He became a better rebounder. He improved his defense. He passes better. His handle is tighter.

Will Ingram follow suit? A point working in his: He’s still just 18 and will be until September.

I’d favor the versatility and upside of Simmons. Ingram just hasn’t done enough with his tools except shooting, though his developmental arc looks good. Getting Ingram with the second pick would be a fine consolation prize.

76ers got too young. Then, they got Elton Brand

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The 76ers signed Elton Brand in January to mentor a young roster and provide veteran perspective. The organization wanted someone to guide the team’s numerous millennial players, including the one who one day asked Brand:

How did you talk talk to girls before social media?

“We went outside,” Brand said with a chuckle, declining to name the teammate.

The 37-year-old Brand – nine years older than all but one of his teammates and 13 years older than most of them – has proved an intriguing fit in Philadelphia. The 76ers have an average age – weight by playing time, holding a player’s age constant on Feb. 1 – of 23.3. That’s the youngest in the NBA:

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Philadelphia was the NBA’s youngest team two years ago, got even younger last season and was headed toward record-setting youth this season. Even 76ers coach Brett Brown acknowledged the team might have gotten too young, calling a pre-Christmas stretch – including Jahlil Okafor‘s off-court problems – the team’s “dark days.”

“There was six games maybe where you really scratch your head, and you worry, because we got punched hard in the stomach and the wind was taken out of us,” Brown said.

The 76ers hired Jerry Colangelo, traded for 27-year-old Ish Smith and signed Brand. Carl Landry – who, at 32, is easily the team’s second-oldest player – got healthy. Philadelphia’s youngest player, 20-year-old Okafor, got hurt.

Gradually the 76ers’ average age climbed out of record-breaking territory. With just five games left, Philadelphia appears set to finish with the fifth-youngest team of all time – ahead of only the 2005-06 Hawks, 2000-01 Bulls, 2009-10 Thunder and 2015-16 76ers. Here’s how this year’s Philadelphia team’s average evolved through the season:

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The 76ers are so young, 21-year-old Nerlens Noel – in only his second season of playing – is expected to lead. Though he’s in his third NBA season after missing the first due to injury, Noel is still Philadelphia’s third-youngest player (ahead of only Okafor and Christian Wood).

“Honestly, I feel a veteran right now,” Noel said. “I try to help all the younger guys.”

Brown could use the help.

“The magnitude, the volume of that task is significant beyond anything you could’ve sort of guessed,” said Brown, who previously worked as a Spurs assistant coach. “I was spoiled with Ginobili and Parker and Duncan and veterans and gold medalists and NBA All-Stars and MVPs. And it’s a whole different planet that I’m on right now. And I love it. I love it.”

Just because Brown loves it doesn’t mean it’s never challenging.

The 76ers will become just the third team to stand as the NBA’s youngest three straight seasons, joining the 1965-67 Pistons and 1984-86 Pacers. That means three straight seasons of teaching basics. And re-teaching… and re-teaching…

“It happens – and I mean this – it’ll happen 20 times a day,” Brown said.

That’s why Brown is so happy to have Brand around.

Brown can handle practices and games, but he worries about times coaches aren’t around – in the locker room, on the bus, on the road. In those moments, Brand’s voice is key.

The 76ers were 1-24 when word leaked they were interested in Brand, and they bottomed out at 1-30. Brand did his best to shut down any petty griping.

“When I first got here, I kind of felt a little bit of that, ‘Oh, they’re picking on us,” Brand said. “One of my quotes, I told them, I said, ‘Man, we’re last place in the world.’ I was like, ‘We’re last place in the whole world.'”

Though Brand went two months without playing in a game after signing, Brown praised his contributions.

“The power that he wields now, the power that he shares information with the team, is an A-plus,” Brown said before Brand made his season debut. “And if you said that’s all you’re going to get for the rest of the year, I’d give him a big hug and say thank you.”

Brand initially focused on playing hard in practice. As part of Team USA for the 1999 Tournament of the Americas, Brand watched NBA veteran teammates Tim Duncan, Gary Payton, Tom Gugliotta and Jason Kidd. When Brand finished practice, he’d leave to get a sandwich. They stayed for extra workouts.

That made an impression on Brand, who was just drafted No. 1 by the Bulls.

A year later, Chicago would be the second-youngest team of all time. Brand laughs about how he’s come full circle, though he’s quick to note how much veteran leadership he received as a rookie before the Bulls committed more fully to rebuilding.

Brand wants to pass on the lessons he learned, including training hard between games – even when his 37-year-old body isn’t the most cooperative.

“I kind of have to. That’s my role,” Brand said. “Extra treadmill, extra – when we play full court, I’m trying to kick ass. Some days, I am. Some days, eh. But I’m going hard – took a charge in pickup, dove for a loose ball in pick up.”

Brand differs from most veterans, because he’s not worried about a younger player taking his job. He already announced his semi-retirement once. He doesn’t sound like someone who’d mind his career ending here and returning to picking and dropping off his children at school.

This is not the same Brand who became an All-Star with the Clippers.

“Whoever was behind me wanted my spot,” Brand said. “He wanted my spot. If he didn’t play, he was sulking kind of. That guy would be like, ‘I should be playing.’

“I don’t want to take an opportunity from the young guys to grow. Me playing 12, 15 minutes, Richaun Holmes could’ve had that 12 or 15 – you know what I mean? – and really got NBA action.

With the 76ers facing frontcourt injuries, Brand has moved in the rotation. But his mission remains similar: Helping the team’s young players grow. He beams when talking about the progress of Okafor and Holmes.

Brand might be a positive influence, but he alone has not changed Philadelphia’s identity. This team is too young for one player to do that.

The 76ers know who they are, and they embrace it.

“It’s a great experience, being able to have so many guys around the same age, very common goals and common understandings. We all listen to the same music and all that,” Noel said. “So, it’s great. We get a long great.”