New Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger says he’ll play starters less than Lionel Hollins did

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The Grizzlies didn’t overly rely on any single player last season. Marc Gasol played 35.0 minutes per game (32nd in the NBA), Mike Conley 34.5 (40th) and Zach Randolph 34.3 (45th).

But collectively, Memphis was extremely reliant on its starters

Just three other teams – the Warriors, 76ers and Trail Blazers, who had four – had as many players average so many minutes per game. After Feb. 1, when they replaced Rudy Gay with Tayshaun Prince, the Grizzlies played their starting lineup on the court together more than any team but the Thunder.

New Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger plans to change that. Via Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal:

“I like our roster. I’m hoping we’ve created depth,” Joerger said. “I’m hoping Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos keep growing. If they do that and have a good year this year, then we have some really nice depth.

“We need those guys to make shots. They’ve got to play. And I’m looking forward to having that. I know what Mike Miller is going to give us from the perimeter. Hopefully, those other guys have a big year. I want the bench to be successful. It’s a long season and the West is a gauntlet.”

This is framed is a minute-allocation issue for the coach, but it’s really a player-development issue.

Memphis has a young bench, and at this point, it’s unclear just how large of roles Bayless, Pondexter, Davis and Koufos can handle – at least in Joerger’s eyes.

It’s easy for a coach to say he wants to play youngsters more. But when faced with a decision between the sometimes-erratic Pondexter and the always-dependable Prince, few coaches – Gregg Popovich being the notable exception – have the stomach to play Pondexter more. With their jobs seemingly always on the line, many coaches are risk averse.

So, if Joerger works with Memphis’ young players, helps improve their skills and sand the rough edges of their games, this problem will take care of itself. Otherwise, it will be a real test of Joerger’s fortitude.

Potential No. 1 pick James Wiseman suspended by NCAA 11 more games

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Starting on Jan. 12, James Wiseman can return to playing for the University of Memphis.

The NCAA — the self-appointed arbiters protecting the myth of amateurism — have investigated the fact that then high school coach Penny Hardaway, paid $11,500 to help Wiseman’s family move to Memphis. Hardaway, a graduate of Memphis, has since become the coach of the Tigers, and before that was considered a booster. That made helping Wiseman move an illegal benefit, and the NCAA has made its ruling to punish Wiseman for this.

Memphis reportedly plans to appeal the ruling. Wiseman had this reaction to the decision:

Here’s why fans of certain teams near the bottom of the standings — and the front offices of those teams — care: Wiseman has the potential to be elite.

He could be the top pick in next June’s draft and is a lock top-three selection. He is by far the best big man in a guard-heavy draft class coming up.

Wiseman was ranked 37th by the basketball writers here at NBC in our “50 Best Players in Five Years” project this past summer. Here is what College Basketball Talk’s Rob Dauster wrote about Wiseman for that project:

Wiseman has a chance to be really good. He stands 7-foot. He has the kind of length, mobility and athleticism that should allow him to thrive at the five in the modern NBA. He is a capable defender with the potential to be very, very good with some added strength and a bit of motivation. And he is skilled enough where he has the potential of one day doing all four things modern fives are asked to do – protect the rim, switch ball-screens, space the floor to the three-point line, be a lob target as a roll-man in ball-screens…

If Wiseman embraces the fact that he can be a top five center in the NBA doing the four things I listed above at an elite level, then he’ll make himself a lot of money while making some NBA GM very, very happy.

Wiseman also has worked on a face-up game and wants to add some Greek Freak like skills to his game. We’ll see how that goes, but his floor seems to be a very good NBA big man. A lot of teams could use that.

Rob Gronkowski, Venus Williams dance with Laker Girls (video)

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Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said he doesn’t plan to play football this season.

How is he spending his time?

Dancing with the Laker Girls cheerleaders along with tennis legend Venus Williams. They put on quite a show. I’m sure comedians James Corden and Ian Karmel, mostly off camera, were also great.

But the most-impressive stoppage entertainment in Los Angeles last night? That might be Maxx.

Portland waives Pau Gasol as he tries to recover from foot surgery

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Portland signed Pau Gasol to a one-year contract this summer, hoping the aging Spaniard could help the team stay afloat while Jusuf Nurkic recovers from surgery on his leg.

It didn’t work out that way. Gasol suffered a foot injury that required surgery and he has yet to recover enough to get back on the court. Meanwhile, an injury to Zach Collins left Portland even more shorthanded up front. Wednesday, the Trail Blazers waived Gasol, something the player confirmed.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news and had more details.

Is this the end of Gasol’s Hall of Fame career? He’s 39 years old, and last season with the Bucks he looked like a shell of the All-NBA big man who joined forces with Kobe Bryant to win the Lakers a couple of titles. Injuries limited him to 30 games last season, he doesn’t move like he once did, and he averaged a career-low 3.9 points per game.

If so, one of the good guys of the NBA will be missed.

If not, if he can get healthy, some teams certainly would be interested in having him for depth and his locker room presence during a playoff run.

Report: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George to play first game together on Wednesday

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The way they tell it, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard wanted to play together on the Spurs in 2017.

They’ll finally share the court as teammates tonight.

The Clippers signed Leonard and traded for George this summer. But alternating injuries have prevented the forwards from playing together. That’ll change against the Celtics tonight.

Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

George dominated three games without Leonard, scoring like crazy and hitting a game-winner against the Thunder. Leonard excelled before his knee injury.

It’s scary to imagine how Leonard and George will perform together.

Boston could provide a stiff first test. The Celtics have plenty of wings – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye – to throw at the Clippers stars.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an adjustment period for Leonard and George. They have similar styles, and that can create complications. But Leonard and George are so versatile and talented. I expect them to thrive together in the long run.

There’s certainly excitement surrounding tonight’s game, but it’s only one night in what should be a long season in L.A.