Three things to know: Jaren Jackson Jr. game-winner helps Grizzlies keep covering up defense

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz
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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Jaren Jackson Jr. game-winner helps Grizzlies keep covering up defense

Jaren Jackson Jr. has been shooting a pedestrian 33% on above-the-break 3s this season and was 3-of-10 on them in the game Monday night against Utah. But all that is forgotten because he hit the one that matters — Jackson won jump-ball against Rudy Gobert (after a controversial basket interference call ruled an inadvertent whistle after replay) then drained the game-winner to give the Grizzlies a 119-118 win against Utah.

That shot was set up by the threat of Ja Morant scoring inside — Morant leads the NBA in buckets at the rim, as Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN points out. Not Giannis Antetokounmpo or some big man like Nikola Jokic, it’s skinny 6’3″ Morant who gets to the rim and finishes more than anyone.

In the closing seconds Monday, it was the threat of Morant scoring at the rim that forced a scrambling Jazz defense to collapse in the paint, opening up the kick-out to JJJ, who drained the game-winner. Utah led by six with less than 90 seconds remaining in this game, that is a tough loss for it.

Morant has Memphis at 9-8 on the season and in the mix to avoid the play-in games in the West, which is amazing for a team with the worst defense in the NBA. The Grizzlies have a 115.8 defensive rating, worse than rebuilding Orlando (113.9) or just bad New Orleans (113.2). The Jazz had a 119.2 offensive rating in Monday night’s games, it was just the usually stout Utah defense couldn’t get the stops it needed.

If the Grizzlies want to avoid the play-in the defense has to improve. They are the worst halfcourt defense in the NBA so far this season, and they have struggled in transition defense as well. They have suffered from some bad shooting luck — teams are shooting 40.1% on 3-pointers against them, a ridiculously high number that will come back to earth some over the course of the marathon NBA season — but a lot of this is on the Grizzlies. There is no grit and grind in their defense.

There are moments with Morant the Grizzlies look like a team on the rise, but the question of who can be the No. 2 next to Morant, and if the team can get stops, is holding them back. The Grizzlies have been the luckiest team in the NBA this season — their -4.7 net rating suggests they should be 6-11, not above .500. That luck will run out unless the Grizzlies change it by getting some more stops.

2) LeBron earns one-game suspension, Isaiah Stewart gets two

The way Isaiah Stewart did his Earl Campbell imitation — running over anyone and everyone who got in his way — the only question was whether he would get a two- or three-game suspension for the league after the Pistons/Lakers dust-up.

The bigger question was: Would the league suspend LeBron James? It may have been inadvertent and unintentional (don’t expect Pistons fans agree with that), but LeBron still punched Stewart in the face.

The answer to those questions:

Stewart got a two-game suspension without pay

LeBron was suspended one game without pay for “recklessly hitting Stewart in the face and initiating an on-court altercation.” This is the first suspension of LeBron’s career and will keep him out against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. It will also cost him $284,000.

In the end, this seems fair… unless you’re a Knicks season ticket holder. LeBron could not get off with just a fine here; that was a punch to the face that drew blood and required stitches. That earned a suspension.

Stewart… he got a reputation he will like out of this.

3) New coach, same problems for Kings in loss to shorthanded 76ers

Maybe it was time for Luke Walton to go — he wasn’t the solution. He wasn’t solving the problems of this imbalanced Kings’ roster.

However, the Alvin Gentry era in Sacramento didn’t look any better in its debut.

Sacramento lost 102-94 to a Philadelphia team without Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Danny Green, or, of course, Ben Simmons. That’s four-fifths of the pre-season projected 76ers starting five in street clothes, and Philly was still the better team in crunch time.

After the game, Gentry used the one tool he could to light a fire under his team, threatening to bench guys who aren’t competing. Via NBC Sports Bay Area:

“We’ve got to find the combination of guys that are going to play. Don’t really care what the hell the back of the jersey says, we’re going to play the guys that are going to play hard and do what we try to ask them to do. If you don’t want to run and you don’t want to get out and play in the open court, then we’ve got to find somebody that will…

“The one message I said from Day 1 is that the only thing and the only one that’s going to rescue us from this is us. There’s nobody in this league, not in the 35 years I’ve been in it, that has any sympathy for us. So you have to come together and you have to find a way to bail yourself out of this.”

Tristan Thompson was again blunt about this team.

The Kings are 6-12 and sit 12th in the West, 2.5 games back of even making the play-in. Watch this team play and it’s hard to see any identity — what kind of team do they want to be, and who is their leader? De'Aaron Fox looked better on Monday (23 points on 7-of-15 shooting), but he is working off the ball in crunch time because their bread-and-butter halfcourt play is the Tyrese Haliburton/Richaun Holmes pick-and-roll. Harrison Barnes has been good this season but was 2-of-8 shooting against the 76ers.

Maybe Gentry can instill an identity in this team, and maybe they can get a little nasty. The Kings can be better.

But the real fixes to turn this team around fall on GM Monte McNair and the front office — it doesn’t matter who the coach is if he doesn’t have the talent to win games.

Highlight of the night: Iman Shumpert is the “Dancing” king

Iman Shumpert can dance.

The 10-year NBA vet couldn’t land a contract this season, so he took his leg and championship ring to “Dancing With The Stars” and became the first NBA player to win the contest, and he did it with this dance.

Last night’s scores:

Brooklyn 117, Cleveland 112
Charlotte 109, Washington 103
Atlanta 113, Oklahoma City 101
Boston 108, Houston 90
Indiana 109, Chicago 77
Milwaukee 123, Orlando 92
Minnesota 110, New Orleans 96
Phoenix 115, San Antonio 111
Memphis 119, Utah 118
Philadelphia 102, Sacramento 94

PBT Podcast: Golden State Warriors season preview

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors will enter the season hanging banner number four from this era and passing out their championship rings, but this is a team with more questions than most returning champs.

Otto Porter and Gary Payton II are gone and their minutes will go to a young core — Jordan Poole, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — who are going to be asked to carry a larger load. Particularly during the regular season.

Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area joins Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to break down this coming Warriors season, what to expect, and if the young core can get the older vets to the playoffs rested and ready to defend their title. There’s also talk of what comes next in Golden State, as some hard contract choices are coming in the next few years.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at

Khris Middleton says he will miss start of season following wrist surgery

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Two
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

When Khris Middleton first went under the knife this summer to clean up issues with his left wrist, he expected to return in time for the start of the season.

At Bucks media day Sunday, Middleton said he’s not going to make that opening night goal but should be back early in the season, as reported by Jamal Collier of ESPN.

The Bucks open the season on the road Oct. 18 against the Celtics (who have their own set of issues heading into this year).

Middleton’s importance to the Bucks was evident in the playoffs, when not having him as a secondary shot creator was a key aspect of their seven-game loss to the Celtics.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds a game last season. A healthy Bucks team — with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Jrue Holiday as the core — enter the season as serious title contenders. But they need Middleton, so they will not rush him back.

Zion, Nash, Davis: Seven players, coaches who enter NBA season under pressure


Every NBA season comes with pressure — the pressure to win, the pressure of fan emotions and expectations, and for players the pressure that this is their livelihood. There is real pressure to stick in the NBA and earn that handsome paycheck.

But some players and coaches enter this season under more pressure than others.

Here are seven players and coaches who are under added pressure this season.

Anthony Davis

“This is not going to work without AD. No disrespect to Bron, no disrespect to Russ. They’re going to be who they are… but AD, having AD available…. it’s going to be invaluable. He’s the centerpiece to that championship table we’re trying to build.”

That was new Lakers coach Darvin Ham talking about Anthony Davis — the lynchpin to everything Ham hopes to do in Los Angeles. As he said, LeBron James will be LeBron (read: elite, even at age 37), and Russell Westbrook will be Russell Westbrook (he’s saying all the right things, but…), but if the Lakers are going to be any threat in the West it starts with Davis. Ham needs the Davis from the bubble — healthy, elite defender, playmaker, solid midrange jump shot — because he plans to run the offense through AD.

More than just this season, the Lakers have to come to a decision: Is Davis the No.1 option they can turn the franchise over to after LeBron steps away? Can he physically carry that burden and not break down? Davis can be one of the game’s elites, but is he ready to carry the Lakers franchise? Their future direction depends on that answer.

Zion Williamson

The acquisition of CJ McCollum last season helped bring the Pelicans together. They made a push into the playoffs with a solid core of McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance, Devonte' Graham and others. Watching New Orleans you couldn’t help but think, “If Zion Williamson were healthy…”

Now we get to find out. Williamson is reportedly in the best shape of his life (take all offseason conditioning comments with a shaker of salt) and ready to resume his role as a No.1 offensive option and maybe the best interior scorer in the game. The pressure of getting paid is off Williamson — he got his max extension — but the pressure of living up to it is just starting.

Steve Nash

When your star player says “him or me” during the offseason — even if that ultimatum gets rescinded — you enter the season under a microscope. Nash would have been getting a close look even if Kevin Durant didn’t drag his name into his offseason drama — there are plenty of front office people around the league not convinced Nash is up to the task in Brooklyn. There is enormous pressure on this team to get things right — to avoid a meltdown — and if things go at all sideways in Brooklyn Nash will be the fall guy. His seat is already warm.

Kyrie Irving

While we’re in Brooklyn… Ben Simmons is the logical first name to pop into your head when thinking of players under pressure with the Nets — and with good reason. We haven’t seen him on an NBA court in over a year and his play and fit are critical to the Nets’ hopes of contending. But there is another player who faces real contract pressure in Brooklyn.

Kyrie Irving wanted a trade out of Brooklyn this summer, the Nets said “go ahead and find one,” and Irving found his market was not nearly as deep and strong as he expected (the Lakers were interested, and he reportedly was interested in them, but any trade would have involved Russell Westbrook and got too tricky). Irving is in a contract year now and there is pressure on him to remind everyone that, when focused and committed, he is an All-NBA point guard and game changer. But will he stay focused and committed this season?

Tom Thibodeau

Knicks president Leon Rose came out this week in a softball-filled interview on MSG Network and backed his coach. When asked if Thibodeau was under pressure, Rose said, “I don’t see it that way at all. The way I say it is we’re continuing with the plan.” Nothing went according to plan with the Knicks last season. While not all of that was Thibodeau’s fault — he didn’t cause Julius Randle‘s shooting regression — if things get off to another slow start after spending money on Jalen Brunson this summer, somebody is going to have to pay the price. Thibodeau’s job may not be as secure as Rose tries to paint.

James Harden

James Harden is positioned to have a monster regular season. He’s asked to be more of a playmaker, get the ball to MVP candidate Joel Embiid, put Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris in positions to thrive, and score a few points in there as well. Harden could be poised for an All-NBA level regular season — and then the playoffs start. That’s where the pressure is. Harden’s long history of playoff foibles (including some flat outings against the Heat last year) will be under a microscope this season because Daryl Morey has built a team of solid role players — this team is good enough. It’s up to Harden (and Embiid) to prove he can also be an elite player in the postseason.

Kawhi Leonard

Steve Ballmer has paid an enormous… well, it’s chump change to him, but it’s still an enormous amount of money to turn the Clippers from league laughing stock into a respected franchise (sorry, it’s true Lakers fans). These Clippers are contenders. But that title contention rests on the shoulders of Kawhi Leonard. He has to both be healthy and play like the guy who helped lift the Raptors to a title. If Leonard and Paul George are healthy and playing like their All-NBA selves come the postseason the Clippers are a massive threat — two-way wings win playoff series and the Clippers would have two of them. It’s just on Leonard (and Paul) to be that guy.

Westbrook says he’s ‘all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win’

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to NBA media day, when optimism overflows and everyone swears there are no chemistry problems, no fit questions, it’s all puppies and rainbows with their team.

The night before Lakers media day, Russell Westbrook got a head start on saying the right thing in an interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Trade? Not worried about it. Fit? Not going to be a problem. Everyone is good now if you ask Westbrook, and he was in trade talks all summer is irrelevant.

“I need to just do my job. Whether I’m wanted [by the Lakers] or not doesn’t really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I’ve always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete…

Maybe [he is] as a starter or maybe it’s off the bench. “I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”

Words are nice, but actions are what will matter. Westbrook reportedly said all the right things to LeBron James and Anthony Davis a year ago before getting traded to the team, but his not wanting to play a role and fit in was a big issue. Westbrook swears it won’t be this time, whatever Ham wants Westbrook will execute.

“There’s so much optimism on how we can be great, how AD, LeBron, myself — can be unstoppable in my opinion,” Westbrook said.

That’s optimism. Even if Westbrook fits in, Davis stays healthy all season, and LeBron continues to defy father time, these Lakers are not title contenders. A playoff team for sure, but not contenders.

These Lakers will face adversity — maybe early, Los Angeles has a rough first couple of weeks — and how the Lakers, under new coach Darvin Ham, respond to those challenges will define their season. Last season’s response from the Lakers was… not good. They rolled over. Ham has promised not to let that happen, but there will be things out of his control.

Last season Westbrook was one of those things for Frank Vogel, we’ll see how he responds this season.