Jae Crowder

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LeBron James scores 30 as Lakers hold off Ja Morant, Grizzlies 109-108

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers knew they would be tired playing their second game in as many nights.

Experience made the difference against the young and rested Memphis Grizzlies.

James scored on a driving layup with 1:30 left to put Los Angeles ahead to stay as the Lakers held off the Grizzlies 109-108 on Saturday night for their seventh straight victory.

“We just kept our composure,” James said. “That’s what we do. We are a very resilient team.”

The Grizzlies had a final chance with the ball and 1.3 seconds left. Jaren Jackson Jr. went sprawling trying to corral Kyle Anderson‘s inbounds pass.

“I was going to catch it and see if I had time to get a shot off or hit Ja (Morant), who would’ve probably been running full speed right next to me,” Jackson said. “Obviously, we didn’t get to do all that.”

James finished with 30 points. Anthony Davis added 22, Rajon Rondo had 14, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 12 and Dwight Howard had 10.

Morant led Memphis with 26 points. Jae Crowder added 21, Jackson finished with 20, Dillon Brooks had 12 and Anderson scored 10, making rookie coach Taylor Jenkins very proud.

“If we can play like that every night, we have ourselves a chance,” Jenkins said.

The Lakers showed the effects of winning in Oklahoma City on Friday night. James made clear on social media he had trouble getting a nap with their hotel across the street from the FedExForum, where No. 16 Memphis beat Mississippi 87-86 earlier Saturday.

“We’re lucky to get out of here with a win. Credit to the Grizzlies for coming out strong,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who used earplugs to help him rest. “There young guys really came after us, in the first quarter in particular. Morant and Jackson are special talents and they put us in a hole.”

LA never led in the first half and trailed by as much as 15 in the second quarter. The Lakers got going in the third and opened the fourth by jumping out to their biggest lead at 94-87.

The Grizzlies led 105-100 on a tip-in by Brandon Clarke with 3:24 to go. The Lakers scored the next nine with James hitting his layup for the go-ahead bucket, and Davis followed by tipping in James’ miss for a 109-105 lead with 53.5 seconds left.

Morant’s layup with 28 seconds left pulled Memphis within a point. James missed a jumper with the Grizzlies grabbing the rebound to set up the final try.

The Grizzlies lost their third straight on a night they wore their Vancouver teal uniforms for the first time to celebrate their 25th NBA season along with a throwback court.

Memphis led 35-25 after the first quarter and 63-55 at halftime.

 

Jae Crowder gets hit in groin by James Harden, called for foul, ejected (video)

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If the over-the-top dancing travel call on James Harden was cathartic for anyone bothered by the Rockets’ perpetual rule-bender, this was nearly the opposite.

Late in Houston’s win over the Grizzlies last night, Memphis forward Jae Crowder got hit in the groin by Harden. Yet, Crowder got whistled for a foul – and ejected for arguing the call.

At least Crowder’s protests didn’t go for naught. Harden also got hit with a flagrant foul.

But Crowder’s personal foul, technical foul and ejection still stood.

Three Things to Know: Draymond Green is right, the Warriors do f****** suck right now

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Draymond Green is right, the Warriors do f****** suck right now. There is no other way to put this, no sugar-coating for this reality: Golden State Warriors have looked flat-out terrible through two games.

How bad are the Warriors?

Give up 70 points and be down by 33 at halftime bad. Had the lead zero seconds so far this season bad. Get outscored by 51 points in your first two games bad. Give up at least 35 points in seven straight quarters bad. Have the worst defense in the NBA bad. Have the worst net rating in the NBA bad. Shoot 5-of-33 from three bad.

Draymond Green put it bluntly after a 120-92 loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday night:

“The reality is, we f****** suck right now. Hopefully, we’ll get better. We’ll continue to work at trying to get better, but we’re just not that good right now.”

Golden State’s issues start on defense. While Stephen Curry bombing from three and the beautiful game Golden State played on offense has drawn the spotlight, the Warriors dynasty has been built on a stifling, switching defense. That is the end of the floor where they have been the worst this season, with a net rating of 124.3 for two games (for comparison, the Cavaliers had the worst defense in the NBA last season at a net rating of 116.8). Oklahoma City essentially got whatever shot they wanted all game long.

On offense, the Warriors just can’t hit shots. They are shooting 26.7 percent from three this season, have the worst eFG percentage in the league, the third-worst true shooting percentage (48.9 percent, when the league average is a little above 55 percent), and they have a bottom 10 offensive rating.

Green is right in his postgame interview, those shooting and offensive woes start because the Warriors are not getting easy points in transition, a staple of the offense during their dynasty. Through two games, just 11.5 percent off their offense has been generated in transition, a number that was at 20.3 percent the last time they won a title. (Stat via Cleaning The Glass.)

Before the season, the Warriors were given “institutional credit” — we knew that Kevin Durant was gone, as were key role players such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, and we knew Klay Thompson was injured, and we knew the roster had major changeover and the talent level was down. But these were the Warriors, five straight Finals appearances, they still had Stephen Curry and Green and they added an All-Star in D’Angelo Russell. Much like the Spurs or the past couple of decades, we just assumed they would win.

No. Not even close.

It’s just two games into the marathon 82 game NBA season, it’s too early to shovel dirt on the Warriors dynasty. They have time to turn things around this season, and next season when fully healthy the Warriors could be a serious threat again.

But right now? They f****** suck.

2) Ja Morant would like to throw his name in the hat for Rookie of the Year after dropping 30 on Nets. On a podcast before the season, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports and myself debated this question: How many games will Zion Williamson have to play to still win Rookie of the Year? That question assumed two things. First, that Zion would return around Christmas and almost immediately look like the guy who was a dominant force in the preseason.

Second, that other rookies wouldn’t just step up and take charge of the award before Zion even got on the court.

Meet Ja Morant, the No. 2 pick in the draft. He dropped 30 on the Nets Sunday night and was putting up highlights.

But Morant was not all sizzle and no steak; when the game was on the line he blocked a Kyrie Irving jumper to force overtime.

In overtime, it was Morant with the assist to Jae Crowder for the Memphis win.

Morant isn’t the only rookie putting up early numbers, RJ Barrett has impressed in New York, Tyler Herro has looked good in Miami, and the list goes on. Whenever Zion gets back on the court, he is going to have a lot of catching up to do with the rest of his class. Morant in particular.

3) Tacko Fall made his NBA debut and the crowd went wild. It happened on Saturday in the Celtics blowout win over the Knicks, but we had to bring it to you: Tacko Fall made his NBA debut.

“The lead was 11, then 13, 15 … it got up to 20 and I was like, ‘it’s time,’” Fall told NBC Sports Boston.

Fall racked up impressive per-minute numbers with four points and three rebounds in 3:38 of playing time at the end of the game.

Fall — obviously a fan favorite, the Garden went wild with his every play — is on a two-way contract and will spend most of the season with the Maine Red Claws of the G-League. As he should, this Tacko needs a lot more seasoning.

But the 7’6” big man out of Senegal and Central Florida has his first NBA bucket, and nobody is taking that away from him.

Ja Morant blocks Kyrie Irving to force OT, dishes game-winning assist (VIDEO)

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Most people feel like Zion Williamson will be taking home the 2020 Rookie of the Year award in the NBA, but Memphis Grizzlies youngster Ja Morant might have something to say about that.

As the Grizzlies took on the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night, Morant came up big in an overtime thriller in more ways than one. At the end of regulation, Morant shut down noted clutch shooter Kyrie Irving with an incredible block on the Nets star’s final field goal attempt.

Via Twitter:

Then, as the two teams exchanged blows throughout the extra period, it was Morant who came up with the game-winning assist to Jae Crowder, who sank a 3-pointer as time expired to give the Grizzlies a win, 134-133.

Via Twitter:

It was a pretty incredible outing for Morant, who finished with 30 points, nine assists, and four rebounds.

Morant has been explosive since Summer League, and with Williamson having to sit out a couple months with his meniscus surgery, he might get ahead in the minds of Rookie of the Year voters.

NBA players most likely to be traded this season

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This story is part of our NBCSports.com’s 2019-20 NBA season preview coverage. Every day between now and when the season opens Oct. 22 we will have at least one story focused on the upcoming season and the biggest questions heading into it. In addition, there will be podcasts, video and more. Come back every day and get ready for a wide-open NBA season.

NBA teams had historically high roster churn this summer. With so many newcomers around the league, there are fewer than usual obvious in-season trade candidates entering the year. But a few still stand out:

Nene (Rockets)

The NBA nixed the Rockets’ plan to have Nene as a $10 million trade chip. But that might have made it even more likely they trade him.

The upside Nene’s contract provided would’ve been to add salary, which would’ve almost certainly pushed Houston into the luxury tax. Obviously, that was at least a consideration. Otherwise, why sign Nene to that deal? But it’s unclear just how good of a return Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta – notorious for dodging the tax – would’ve required to greenlight a trade.

Fertitta won’t have to worry about that now. With the NBA’s ruling, Nene counts $2,564,753 against the cap. His salary would nearly double if he plays 10 games, which therefore almost certainly won’t happen. He has become too-expensive dead weight on a team flirting with the luxury-tax line.

The Rockets attaching a sweetener to dump Nene is most likely. He could also be dealt as an expiring contract to facilitate something else. But one way or another, expect Houston to trade Nene before the luxury tax is assessed the final day of the regular season – which of course means trading Nene before the trade deadline.

Several other deep reserves (Rockets)

Of the five minimum-salary players who began last year with Houston and didn’t hold an implicit no-trade clause, three got traded during the season.

The Rockets have figured they can move players on full-season minimum salaries and replace them with players on the pro-rated minimum. It’s a clever way to meet the roster minimum all season and still get more breathing room under the luxury tax.

So, Tyson Chandler, Thabo Sefolosha, Ryan Anderson, Gary Clark and Isaiah Hartenstein all look like prime candidates to get traded this year. If any of Ben McLemore, Anthony Bennett, Jaron Blossomgame, Michael Frazier, Shamorie Ponds or Chris Clemons make the regular-season roster, add them to the list.

Jae Crowder (Grizzlies)

Andre Iguodala isn’t Memphis’ only veteran forward on an expiring contract who’d help a winner more than this rebuilding outfit. Crowder also fits the bill, and he’s more likely to get traded for a couple reasons:

1. Crower’s salary ($7,815,533) is far lower than Iguodala’s ($17,185,185). Interested teams will have a more difficult time matching salary for Iguodala. Acquiring Crowder is much more manageable.

2. Iguodala is a 15-year pro with supporters all around the league, First Vice President of the players’ union and former NBA Finals MVP. Crowder lacks those credentials. Iguodala has far more cache to command a buyout.

Iguodala is more likely to change teams this season, but it could be by trade or buyout. Crowder is more likely to change teams via trade.

Josh Jackson (Grizzlies)

Iguodala isn’t even the second-most-likely Grizzly to be traded. That’s Jackson, who’s so far from Memphis’ plans, he didn’t even report to training camp.

With his fourth-year option sure to be declined, Jackson will become a $7,059,480 expiring contract. That makes him useful in so many possible trade constructions. He could allow Memphis to acquire an undesirable long-term contract plus an asset. He could grease the wheels of a larger trade. Maybe another team even wants to take a flier on the 2017 No. 4 pick.

Between all the possibilities, it seems like a decent bet one comes to fruition.

Danilo Gallinari (Thunder)

Chris Paul has generated all the headlines, but in its star trades, Oklahoma City acquired two quality veterans to match salary. Gallinari, 31, is younger and maybe even better at this stage. His contract (one year, $22,615,559 remaining) is definitely more favorable than Paul’s (three years, $124,076,442 remaining)

Plenty of contending teams could use another talented forward like Gallinari – if he’s healthy. That’s the big catch. Gallinari thrived with the Clippers last year, but that was his healthiest season in years.

Paul, Dennis Schroder (two years, $31 million remaining) and Steven Adams (two years, $53,370,785 remaining) are also candidates to get moved. But there will probably be more urgency from the Thunder to get assets for Gallinari and more of a market for him.

A couple notes on prominent players not yet mentioned:

I predicted Bradley Beal will tire of the Wizards’ losing and leave Washington. It doesn’t have to happen this season. Though I wouldn’t rule out a trade before the deadline, Beal will like ride out the year in hopes of making an All-NBA team and gaining super-max eligibility. That might be his best ticket to staying, though paying Beal and John Wall the super-max would sure limit the Wizards.

The Warriors insist they didn’t acquire D'Angelo Russell just to trade him. I believe them. I also believe he’s a difficult fit with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, especially defensively. A Russell trade remains very much on the table. But if Golden State plans to give it an honest shot with Russell – and with Thompson sidelined most of the season – a Russell trade won’t necessarily happen before the deadline.