Josh Jackson

Grizzlies forward Justise Winslow
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Grizzlies: Justise Winslow out rest of season with hip injury

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The Grizzlies have the inside track for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

They’re in eighth place, 3.5 games up from the chasing pack. If the ninth-place team forces a play-in by getting within four games of eighth, the eighth-place team would have to win only one play-in game before the ninth-place teams win two.

But Memphis will finish the season without Justise Winslow, who never played for the Grizzlies after they got him from the Heat just prior to the trade deadline.

Grizzlies release:

During Monday’s practice, Justise Winslow fell after absorbing contact during an intra-squad scrimmage. Medical evaluation revealed a hip injury, which will cause him to miss the rest of the season.

What a bummer for Winslow and Memphis. He looked like an excellent fit between point guard Ja Morant and bigs Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke.

The Grizzlies paid a substantial price for Winslow – taking on the burdensome contracts of Dion Waiters and James Johnson and surrendering Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. Winslow was sidelined by a back injury at the time, and his health history is troubling.

Maybe he’s injury prone. Maybe this latest setback was unrelated to prior problems. But even if random, this hip injury could leave him susceptible to future injuries.

The Grizzlies are young, and Winslow is locked up another two seasons. So, hopefully he’ll get on the court with Memphis’ other top talent next year.

In the meantime, Kyle Anderson and De'Anthony Melton could fill expanded roles. Josh Jackson might even get an opportunity.

Jayson Tatum almost skipped pre-draft workout in Boston because he liked Phoenix

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Jayson Tatum is part of one of the most dynamic young combinations in the league, paired with Jaylen Brown in Boston on one of the East’s best teams.

However, before the 2017 NBA Draft, Tatum wanted to go to Phoenix and then Suns coach Earl Watson really wanted Tatum to pair with Devin Booker — what would have been a dynamic combo in the West.

Tatum went on the All the Smoke podcast this week and said he wanted to play for the Suns.

“I called my fam, my mom, I’m like, ‘Yo, I think I want to go to Phoenix.’ Earl Watson, he’s like, ‘You come to Phoenix, you and D-Book, two light-skinned killers, I’ mma let y’all rock out.’ I’m sitting in the car, like, ‘This sounds good! I think I want to come here.'”

The feeling was mutual. The Suns were drafting No. 4 that year and Watson wanted Tatum, even if that meant trading up to get him, as Watson told Jay King of The Athletic.

Tatum warmed up with a ballhandling drill, Watson recalled during a phone call Monday afternoon, and then the wing went straight to the corner to shoot 3-pointers. Players normally work their way out to the arc slowly, taking closer shots first. Tatum did not bother. Even without any shots to loosen up, he was already hot.

“He drilled 40 straight off the first shot,” Watson said. “Forty straight. So I immediately turned to the owner and the GM. And I said, ‘What else do we need to see?’”

Two things conspired against Watson’s dream of pairing Tatum and Booker. The biggest one was that Suns owner Robert Sarver — one of the more meddling owners in the league — had fallen in love with Josh Jackson, who the Suns ended up selecting at No. 4. Watson wanted to trade up to make sure Phoenix landed Tatum, but that was not happening. Watson even Tweeted about it Monday.

The other thing in the way in Phoenix was Danny Ainge wanted Tatum in Celtics’ green. Boston had the No. 1 pick that year, but traded down to No. 3, moving Philadelphia up to No. 1 to select Markelle Fultz. Ainge wanted to workout Tatum — Jackson had just canceled his workout with Boston — and while Tatum was reluctant, it was his college coach Mike Krzyzewski who called up and convinced Tatum to workout for the Celtics right before the 2017 NBA Draft.

The rest is history.

Would Tatum be an All-Star and potential All-NBA player three seasons in if he played for the Suns? We’ll never know, Phoenix doesn’t have quite the same reputation for developing players that Boston does. Brad Stevens knows how to bring guys along. Also, Boston is a more stable, consistent organization that gives a player sound footing to take big steps forward, that’s not always the case in Phoenix.

For Tatum, things have worked out as well as he could hope.

 

Mock NBA expansion draft: Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs

Mock NBA expansion draft
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division, Central Division, Pacific Division, Northwest Division and Southeast Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Southwest:

Dallas Mavericks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: Seven of Dallas’ protections were easy calls. They’re all players locked up long-term. That left deciding between Tim Hardaway Jr, who has been a starter for the Mavericks but has a player option, and several other useful players.

Ultimately, the Mavs can’t afford to lose Hardaway, who has rediscovered his solid offensive play from his Hawks years. That leaves Justin Jackson and three big men in Dwight Powell (coming off a torn Achilles’) and Boban Marjanovic and Willie-Cauley-Stein (both backups for Dallas). The most likely to be selected player is probably Jackson, but that’s a risk Dallas has to take.

Houston Rockets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: No decision points for the Rockets. Houston is protecting the entirety of their eight-man rotation.

Chris Clemons could make for an interesting expansion pick because his scoring ability at guard. Isaiah Hartenstein has shown some flashes in the G-League as well.

Memphis Grizzlies

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: Just how hard the Grizzlies’ protection decision were is a testament to how well their rebuild has gone. Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke and De’Anthony Melton were all locks. Justise Winslow was just acquired at the trade deadline as the centerpiece of a deal. Tyus Jones is the ideal backup point guard behind Morant, so he stays as well. That left Jonas Valanciunas vs Kyle Anderson for the final protected spot. Valanciunas’ presence allows Jackson to play power forward, so the big man gets the final spot.

Memphis is gambling that Anderson’s slow-mo style of play and $9.5 million salary isn’t what an expansion team is looking for. Jontay Porter is another risk, but he’s got a lengthy injury history of his own. The Grizzlies will hope one of the other three is selected and might be willing to offer a small incentive to make it happen.

New Orleans Pelicans

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: New Orleans’ protections are cut and dry. Every player protected, minus Brandon Ingram, is signed for at least one more season. This includes several players on rookie scale contracts. Ingram will most assuredly be re-signed this summer, so that decision was easy as well.

The only gamble among the unprotected players is Nicolo Melli. He’s become a rotation player for the Pelicans, but he’s not as valuable as the younger players. The other three players are mostly out of the New Orleans’ rotation and not anyone the team will worry about if they are selected.

San Antonio Spurs

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: The Spurs are banking on keeping DeMar DeRozan this summer. He either opts in or re-signs in San Antonio. LaMarcus Aldridge is an easy decision as well. Dejounte Murray will start his extension this coming season. Everyone else is on their rookie scale contract, minus Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl is a restricted free agent that the Spurs hope to retain this offseason.

San Antonio is gambling that the big salaries of Rudy Gay and Patty Mills will keep them from being selected. That exposes Trey Lyles, who has a relatively small guarantee, and young big man Chimezie Metu. The Spurs would like to keep both, but not at the expense of losing a rookie scale player.

Watch LeBron James score 32; Anthony Davis’ big second half lifts Lakers past Grizzlies

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LOS ANGELES — LeBron James scored 32 points, Anthony Davis recovered from an early injury scare to get 28 points and 13 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers returned from the All-Star break with a 117-105 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Avery Bradley added 14 points for the Western Conference-leading Lakers, who finished strong after blowing most of their 25-point lead accumulated in a superb first half. Davis had 14 points and seven rebounds in the fourth quarter as Los Angeles improved to 42-12 with its fourth straight win since Feb. 6.

Josh Jackson scored a season-high 20 points for the Grizzlies, who have lost back-to-back games in California after heading into the All-Star break with eight wins in 10. Ja Morant added 17 points as Memphis dropped to 0-2 on its four-game West Coast trip, which matches its longest road stretch of the season.

Davis departed less than two minutes after the opening tip when he bruised his right calf on an opponent’s knee. The All-Star went to the locker room and missed the rest of the first quarter, but returned early in the second before scoring 24 points in the second half.

Although James, Davis and Dwight Howard were busy in Chicago over the break, the Lakers returned with impressive defensive focus across the roster. Los Angeles held Memphis to 15-for-38 shooting and forced 11 turnovers in the first half to jump to a 19-point lead.

The Grizzlies trimmed the lead to four points early in the fourth quarter with a prolonged surge. The Lakers hung on with a series of big plays, including a jaw-dropping rebound dunk by Alex Caruso off a missed free throw by Davis with 6:16 to play.

James clinched it with a driving layup followed by a gorgeous fadeaway jumper with 1:12 left. Davis then hit his second 3-pointer in the final minute.

The Lakers improved to 3-0 against the Grizzlies this season. They meet again in Memphis on Feb. 29.

Miami, Memphis reportedly finalize trade that sends Andre Iguodala to Heat

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UPDATE: The trade has been finalized and the sides have agreed (although it will still need to be approved by the league office) — Andre Iguodala is headed to Miami.

And if you wonder whether he wanted to be there or not, he has agreed to a two-year, $30 million contract extension, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That extension has a team option on the second year, which allows Miami to create cap space should a major player in the 2021 free agent class — *cough* Giannis Antetokounmpo *cough* — want to come to Miami.

As for what other players are in the trade, Justise Winslow is part of it, but it will take more and this could be a trade with multiple players going both ways.

Still, this looks like a win for Memphis, too.

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Iguodala has been sitting at home all season — surrounded by his three championship rings and Finals MVP trophy — collecting checks from the Memphis Grizzlies, and waiting for Thursday’s trade deadline, trying to make sure he ended up on a team in position to do damage in the playoffs.

The Miami Heat seem close to winning the Iguodala sweepstakes, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Lakers and Clippers were the two most mentioned teams, with Iguodala being part of the arms race in between the West powers, but both seem to have struck out (but neither team loses Iguodala to a rival in the West, either).

Miami is hard-capped because of the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade, plus they have few future draft picks to send out, so the construction of this trade to match Iguodala’s $17.1 million salary will be interesting. James Johnson and Duncan Robinson would work, as would Justise Winslow and Tyler Herro (although the Heat have shot down teams calling about Herro before). Also, the Grizzlies could make this a Josh Jackson and Iguodala for Meyers Leonard and Winslow. There are options.

This is not Miami’s only move, the Heat also are in talks about OKC’s Danilo Gallinari.

Iguodala was traded by Golden State to Memphis last July (in what was a cost-cutting move for the Warriors). Iguodala talked buyout with Memphis but would not give up significant money towards it, plus the Grizzlies wanted another or young player. So the sides agreed to wait, with Iguodala away from the team and working out on his own.

Now Miami has come calling and Iguodala is taking his talents to South Beach.