Associated Press

Missing 4 starters, Grizzlies stun sloppy Cavaliers 106-103

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CLEVELAND (AP) — When word reached the Cavaliers’ locker room shortly before tip-off that the Memphis Grizzlies were down four starters, LeBron James got an uneasy feeling.

His fears were warranted.

Tony Allen scored a season-high 26 points and the Grizzlies, playing with just one of their starters, stunned the Cavaliers 106-103 on Monday night.

“We’re all in this league for a reason,” James said. “We didn’t respect them tonight and they beat us.”

Vince Carter made four free throws in the final 13.4 seconds to steal the upset by a Memphis team missing Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Chris Andersen, Matt Barnes and had more coaches than players sitting on the bench.

A day after the Los Angeles Lakers shocked the Golden State Warriors, the Grizzlies dazed the Cavs.

“The guys played their hearts out,” Memphis coach David Joerger said. “We had guys cramping, but they left it all out there. It’s a happy locker room. The phones are blowing up from everybody in Memphis. All of our guys that (are) back home like Marc (Gasol) and Birdman (Andersen) are jumping and down in their living room right now.”

Lance Stephenson added 17 points and JaMychal Green 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who forced the Cavs into a season-high 25 turnovers and never backed down against the Eastern Conference’s top team.

Data curated by PointAfter

Allen returned after missing eight games with a knee injury for Memphis, which only dressed eight players.

“I don’t care who you are playing, if it’s my son’s little league team you’re going to lose when you give up that many points off turnovers,” James said. “We were very careless with our mindset – and with the ball.”

James scored 28 points and Kyrie Irving had 27 – 14 in the fourth. James also moved past Hall of Famer John Havlicek into 13th place on the NBA’s career scoring list.

Perhaps overconfident following weekend wins over Washington and Boston, and against a wounded Memphis team without, the Cavs were outplayed at both ends. Cleveland trailed the Grizzlies the entire game before taking its first lead on Irving’s steal and layup with 2:42 remaining.

Memphis figured to buckle, but the Grizzlies wouldn’t give in and took a 101-100 lead on Mario Chalmers‘ layup with 25 seconds left.

Allen then tied up James on a drive, forcing and winning a jump ball with 17 seconds to go. Chalmers made a free throw and Carter made two free throws before James hit a 3-pointer to bring the Cavs within 104-103.

Carter, who finished with 15 points, made two more from the line and the Grizzlies escaped with an unexpected win when Irving’s 3-pointer at the horn hit the back of the rim.

“I just thought they were tougher than us tonight,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Thought they played hard and out-scrapped us. You got to respect everybody in this league. Everyone gets a paycheck.”

Only an hour before tip-off, Joerger still wasn’t sure who would start.

The Grizzlies initially said only Conley (foot) and Andersen (shoulder) would be out, but then Joerger broke the news that Randolph (knee) and Barnes (hamstring) were also sidelined, making things even tougher on a Memphis team already without Gasol, done for the season with a broken right foot.

The short-handed Grizzlies faced a daunting task, but they weren’t intimidated and nearly led from start to finish.

“This is big time for us,” Carter said. “We had a lot of guys out. When you see shots go down you gain confidence. We did a great job of executing and not getting rattled.”

LEARNING CURVE

James chalked up the unexpected loss to a team still figuring things out.

“We’re a team that’s still learning, man,” he said. “We got some young guys and a group that’s been together for a little over a year. It’s another learning experience for us.”

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: Conley underwent an MRI and the team is hoping to have a better sense of how long he will be sidelined later this week. … Memphis has lost more playing time due to injury or illness this season than any other current playoff team. … The four missing starters average a combined 42.9 points.

Cavaliers: James said the chance to play one final game against Olympic teammate Kobe Bryant would not take precedence over any decision for him to sit out and rest. The Cavs visit the Lakers at Staples Center on Thursday night. Bryant is retiring at the conclusion of his 20th season in the NBA. James said he and Lue have discussed possible games he’ll sit but “it’s still day-to-day.”

 

Andrew Bogut appears to take shot at LeBron on Twitter

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The NBA wants it to, and it will eventually fade some (only to flare up again later), but the NBA/China relationship issue is not going away.

The latest spark comes from across the ocean, down in Australia, where former Warrior (and Buck and a couple other teams in the middle) Andrew Bogut takes what is a pretty clear a dig at LeBron James over the China issue.

Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Rockets GM Daryl Morey Tweeted support for the Hong Kong protesters just before the NBA was about to send the Lakers and Nets were about to head to China for a couple of exhibition games. China flexed its muscle to punish the NBA for touching a third-rail issue by having corporate sponsors pause their involvement with the league and preseason games were not shown in China. Adam Silver issued a milquetoast statement that seemed aimed to appease China, and when a backlash from the United States — still by far the largest NBA market — came swiftly Silver adjusted his position and came out more backing Morey’s right to free speech.

After all that, once back in the states, LeBron vented about the situation, saying Morey wasn’t “educated” on the topic, and seeming frustrated because the Tweet put the players in China on the front lines of an international trade dispute — remember, there is a trade war and tariffs. However, LeBron’s meandering comments came off as being more concerned about money than free speech. LeBron said he was saying Morey didn’t think through the consequences of his Tweet (true) and that he doesn’t have to take a public stand on every issue (also true) but it all came off as LeBron prioritizing protecting his brand,

Which leads to a lot of criticism. Some a lot more direct than what Andrew Bogut said.

Report: Grizzlies, Bulls have conversations with Iman Shumpert

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Iman Shumpert is just 29 years old, which seems crazy because it wasn’t that long ago he was making the All-Rookie team in New York or winning a title with LeBron James.

The point is he’s still young, was on the court for the Rockets during the postseason last year, and is the best free agent available. He turned down a contract offer from the Rockets before the preseason (which may have been incentive heavy, like Nene’s) and remains on the market.

Some team is going to snap him up. That team could end up being the Memphis. Or, maybe Chicago. That according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Free-agent guard Iman Shumpert has had conversations with teams, including Memphis and Chicago, league sources said. Shumpert, an eight-year NBA veteran, is one of the best players remaining on the market.

Chicago has Zach LaVine and Otto Porter starting on the wing, but they may want more veteran depth behind them. Memphis has the combination of Dillon Brooks and Grayson Allen at the two, they may want to add some veteran depth to that mix.

At this point, teams are just starting to accurately assess where they are and where they need help — players they thought would step up didn’t, or there are injuries creating gaps — and that will continue into the first weeks of the season. As that happens, a few of the veterans on the sideline will get picked up (no, probably not Carmelo Anthony, that’s another topic).

Shumpert should be at the front of that line. He’s already got interest.

 

Pacers reportedly testing trade market for Domantas Sabonis

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Two factors are in play here.

First, the Pacers and Domantas Sabonis‘ representatives are reportedly nowhere near an agreement on a contract extension.

Second, there are real questions about how Sabonis and Pacers’ center Myles Turner can play together. If they can’t, then the question becomes how much do the Pacers want to pay Sabonis to be a backup five (because Turner is the better player and a guy they can build their defense around).

That has led to the Pacers exploring possible Sabonis trades, reports Sam Amick of The Athletic.

…sources say the Pacers have engaged in active trade talks with several teams this week about the fourth-year forward. Sabonis, the 23-year-old who arrived with Victor Oladipo in late June 2017 in the Paul George trade with Oklahoma City, is clearly on the market.

There is no lack of interest in Sabonis, who averaged 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season as the Pacers — who lost Oladipo to a season-ending ruptured quad injury in a game against Toronto on Jan. 23 — pulled off such a surprising campaign (48-34; lost in the first round to Boston). Thus far, sources say the Pacers’ asking price in talks with several teams has been too high.

Sabonis is a skilled offensive big man who is versatile. That makes him a fantastic pick-and-roll or dribble hand-off guy who can help create space for the ball handler to find a lane, then he rolls into open space. He’s strong around the basket and plays a crafty, high IQ game. He can help a lot of teams. However, two things limit Sabonis: He is not good defensively and he does not space the floor (76.4 percent of his shots came within 10 feet of the basket last season, and he doesn’t make many beyond that range).

Sabonis is in the final year of his rookie contract and has a healthy pay raise coming next season, up from the $3.5 million he will make this time around. The Pacers, however, just forked out big cash for Myles Turner (four-years, $72 million) and Malcolm Brogdon (four years, $85 million). They may be a little gun shy about doing that now for Sabonis, and there are other teams interested. That doesn’t even count Victor Oladipo’s payday. All this for a team not likely to venture into the luxury tax.

How much the Pacers can get for Sabonis remains to be seen, but the Pacers may want picks because not much salary needs to be exchanged. Of course right now the Pacers are asking for everything but the GM’s firstborn son from other teams, and of course the other teams are lowballing the Pacers with their first offers. That’s how negotiations work. When things start to evolve to a middle ground, the Pacers may well find a deal because, as much as they like him, it’s hard to make everything fit with Sabonis on the team.

Draymond Green says teams deserve blame for draft picks not developing, Marquese Chriss agrees

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Marquese Chriss was a No. 8 pick in the NBA draft who has yet to pan out. He showed a little promise as a rookie in Phoenix, but by Summer League the next July issues already seemed to pop up. His shooting percentages dropped, mostly because of questionable shot selection — every season he has taken more threes and made a lower percentage (22.2 percent last season). He wasn’t strong on defense. He looked like a player who might not be long for the NBA.

Now he’s going to make the Warriors roster. Maybe injuries to other frontcourt players — Willie Cauley-Stein, rookie Alen Smailagic, and Kevon Looney are — made keeping the 6’10” forward a smart move, but Chriss’ play in the preseason helped earn him that spot.

After a preseason game against the Lakers Wednesday, Draymond Green stuck up for Chriss, saying it may be less about the player and more about the organization. Via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole.

“He’s been in some pretty tough situations,” Green told reporters… “No one ever blames the situation, though. It’s always the kid. No one ever blames these s***y franchises. They always want to blame the kid. It’s not always the kid’s fault.

“He’s getting older now, so he’s not a kid anymore. But he came into this league as a kid. But it’s never the organization’s fault. It’s always that guy. So I’m happy he’s got another opportunity to show what he can really do. Because he’s a prime example.”

Chriss was grateful for what Green said, as reported by Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“I appreciate him for having my back and I wholeheartedly believe what he said,” Chriss said. “Being a person to go through things like that. Having a lot of blame on you for stuff you can’t really control is tough and its growing pains with being in the NBA. I feel like it takes time to develop and learn.

“It bothers me when people try to come for my character,” he added. “I know what type of person I am and I know how my mom raised me and I know how I want to represent myself and my family so that’s the biggest thing for me is just showing that things that have been said are not true.”

Jared Dudley, who was with Chriss in Phoenix, said that it was a combination of an immature Chriss but also a Suns organization that did not create a good environment to develop players.

“He was immature,” former teammate Jared Dudley told NBC Sports Bay Area Friday afternoon. “But it’s not a bad immaturity, he just had to grow up and they threw him into the fire and sometimes kids aren’t ready for that…

“At the time Phoenix didn’t have the infrastructure to manage and control people and to develop people at that time,” Dudley added. “Three coaches in his year and a half. He was partially to blame, he was getting technical fouls, he was shooting bad shots but sometimes it’s on the organization and they failed him.”

The Warriors have a strong development program for young players, and a strong culture, on that Chriss seems to be thriving in.

Injuries helped open the door for Chriss in Golden State, but to his credit he has pushed it open wide with his play and it would not have been easy for the Warriors to let him go. He’s attacking the rim and scoring 9.5 points per game on 60.9 percent shooting (he’s still struggling from three, 20 percent, but he’s only taking 22 percent of his shots from there, down from nearly half last season). Chriss also has been a beast on the boards, grabbing 8.3 rebounds a game.

That’s impressive, but it’s also the preseason. If he can do it when things get serious starting next week, Chriss will have the redemption he wanted.