Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill traded to Heat from Grizzlies

The Miami Heat are wheeling and dealing ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.

The Heat agreed to a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies involving Andre Iguodala, and Iguodala is not the only veteran player that is headed to Miami. The Heat will also get Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Dion Waiters is being sent to Memphis.

Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports By Steve DelVecchio | Last updated 2/6/20

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The Dramatic Rise Of Ja Morant, The Rookie of Year Favorite

Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant averages 17.9 points and seven assists. Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

When the Memphis Grizzlies traded Mike Conley Jr. to the Utah Jazz last summer, it signaled the end of an era. Conley was the last member of the Grit-N-Grind Grizz, the rough-and-tumble core that revived the franchise with a string of playoff appearances, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2013. Conley’s departure supposedly meant Memphis would be in full-fledged rebuilding mode and far out of the postseason hunt. 

But Ja Morant, the point guard the Grizzlies selected No. 2 overall in the 2019 draft, has other ideas. 

On a seven-game winning streak entering Monday afternoon’s game against New Orleans, the Grizzlies (20-22) occupy the final playoff spot in the West. Memphis’ involvement in the postseason hunt is easily one of this season’s more surprising developments. And make no mistake about it, Morant — the slam-dunk leader in the Rookie of the Year race — is the key reason behind it.

Rookies (and younger players) generally don’t lead teams to the postseason. The Cavaliers, 17-65 the season before LeBron James arrived, finished 37-45 in The King’s 2003-04 rookie season and out of the postseason. As a rookie in 2005-06, Chris Paul led New Orleans to a 38-44 record, but the Hornets also missed the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard was merely a cog in the machine for the Spurs, who finished 50-16 in a lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.

Morant averages 17.9 points and 7.0 assists for the re-invigorated Grizzlies, who finished 33-49 last season, 12th in the West. But a deeper look at stats gives a more complete picture of his impact. The 20-year-old leads the team in usage rate (26.5) — a measurement meant to capture the number of possessions a player is involved in. That mark doesn’t just lead Memphis; his usage rate is highest among all rookies, and it’s the 10th-highest usage rate posted by a rookie in the past decade. Although some first-year players in the past 10 years have posted higher figures, they didn’t have a huge impact on their teams. (See Dennis Smith’s 2017-18 season in Dallas.)

Morant also has the second-best on/off rating on the Grizzlies. His +3.1 mark trails team leader Jonas Valanciunas by just a tenth of a point. Overall, Memphis is nearly four points per 100 possessions better when Morant is playing than when he’s on the bench.

So the obvious question at this point is: What is Morant doing that is causing such a positive impact? And the answer is quite simple: He’s passing.

In the past 20 years, only two rookies — Atlanta’s Trae Young and Kyrie Irving with the Cavaliers — have had a usage rate over 25 while posting a higher assist percentage than Morant’s mark of 35.1 percent. Morant’s ability to create shots for teammates is on a level that’s rarely seen. And the Memphis rookie does it in unique fashion.

When watching Young pass, there’s a clear pragmatism toward his approach. Teammates get open and with cold, calculating precision, Young gets them the ball. With Irving, an ultra-talented scorer, passing has always seemed like a secondary option. The ball leaves Irving’s hand for a teammate almost as a preventative measure to keep defenses on their toes as he hunts shots.

Morant, on the other hand, has a clear enjoyment of passing. He also possesses a knack for putting the ball into spots that most wouldn’t dare. Showmanship for some players is more style than substance, but Morant’s creativity usually manifests itself with dunks and easy buckets for teammates.

To collapse defenses and free teammates for open shots, a player must be a scoring threat. Pure passers with iffy shooting/scoring abilities (see Ricky Rubio and Rajon Rondo) have hit ceilings in their careers. It’s hard to be a truly destructive playmaker if defenses don’t respect a player’s ability to make shots for himself.

The first thing Morant needed to prove at the NBA level was that he could knock down open jumpers. In his last season at Murray State, Morant was merely respectable (36.3 percent) from the shorter college line rather than a true knockdown shooter. That has changed quickly in the NBA.

Entering Monday, Morant was shooting 40.2 percent from beyond the arc. And while he gets his fair share of catch-and-shoot opportunities, Morant has posted that figure with a number of much tougher, off-the-dribble 3-pointers that he needs to make to keep sagging defenders honest. Against a switching Houston defense last week, Morant hit a pair of those off-the-dribble 3’s en route to a dominant 26-point, eight-assist performance.

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Originally posted to Yardbarker | By Brett Koremenos  |  Last updated 1/20/20

NBA Players Who Should Be First-Time All-Stars

There are only so many available slots on NBA All-Star squads, meaning recognizable veterans and rookies attempting to break through glass ceilings are ultimately snubbed in fan voting and player-selection processes each season. Twenty-year-old Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant is an example of a player who could be an odd-man-out by February. The human highlight reel leading all first-year pros in scoring and assists is the uncrowned Rookie of the Year heading toward All-Star weekend, but he’ll likely have to wait until next winter to receive his first paid trip to the exhibition contest. 

Meanwhile, a pair of special NBA sophomores are all-but-guaranteed to represent their respective conferences and teams in Chicago. They could be joined by a member of their draft class who enjoyed a breakout first half for a club that punched above its weight considering its tumultuous and disappointing offseason. While All-Star competitions across different sports theoretically should feature the best vs. the best, adding a feel-good story to the mix would propel the status of an athlete who is still anonymous to the majority of casual fans.

Luka Doncic 

Last January, in-arena cameras appeared to capture the exact moment Dallas Mavericks then-rookie Luka Doncic learned he hadn’t made the All-Star team. Spoiler: He won’t have much to worry about this month. The 20-year-old who was the MVP of the opening half of the campaign (debate yourselves) began 2020 leading the Western Conference in fan All-Star voting, and he was averaging 28.9 PPG, 9.6 REB, and 8.8 AST on Jan. 15. Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports recently offered the following: “Only two players have ever posted a 28-9-9 over a full season — Robertson and Russell Westbrook — and nobody has done so at age 20.” 

Trae Young  

We understand Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young remains a defensive liability who sometimes seems to give minimal efforts in that aspect of his game. To borrow from ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith: We don’t care. The 21-year-old second-year pro currently leads all point guards in offensive real plus-minus, he sits in the top four overall in PPG (29.1) and AST (8.5) and he produced such impressive figures while John Collins served a 25-game suspension. The Hawks are awful — the worst team in the league. In time, discussions will arise regarding if Atlanta or any team can build a championship roster around a player who is a human traffic cone on defense. None of that should affect Young’s All-Star status. 

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By Zac Wassink  |  Last updated 1/15/20

NBA free agency: Winners and losers from Day 1

NBA free agency officially tipped off around the league Sunday evening. It’s been one of the most highly anticipated free agent classes in modern history.

We got answers to some pretty big questions as free agency got going on Day 1. The Boston Celtics netted All-NBA guard Kemba Walker to replace Kyrie Irving, who ended up signing with the Brooklyn Nets.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic retained star center Nikola Vucevic on a less-than max contract. More than anything, the Nets’ ability to team Kyrie Irving up with Kevin Durant changes the entire dynamic around the Association.

It’s in this that we give you the biggest winners and losers from the first day of NBA free agency.

Winner: Kemba Walker

Walker traded the small market of Charlotte for the bright lights of Boston. While that’s going to come with a lot of pressure as the face of the Celtics’ franchise, Walker appears to be more than up for the task. He also joins a championship contender after toiling in mediocrity with the Hornets over the past eight seasons.

Equally as important, Walker netted a max four-year, $141 million deal from Boston after the Hornets low-balled him with a five-year, $160 million contract. Now the face of a contending team, Walker is a major winner.

Loser: Free agent big men

Nikola Vucevic receiving less than the max from Orlando represented a major hit for other free agent big men. In fact, his four-year, $100 million contract is well below market value. The same thing can be said about the three-year, $45 million contract Jonas Valanciunas signed with the Memphis Grizzlies.

This does not bode well for other free agents at the center position. Specifically, the market is going to be bare for DeMarcus Cousins.

Winner: Golden State Warriors

Even after both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson suffered serious injuries in the NBA Finals, it was reported that Golden State would extend max-contract offers to both free agents. While Durant ultimately signed with Brooklyn, the Warriors did in fact offer him a five-year, $221 million deal. Meanwhile, Thompson committed to a five-year, $190 million max deal with Golden State.

It’s rare in today’s sports landscape to see a team show this type of loyalty to players. Thompson’s ACL injury is less severe than Durant’s ruptured Achilles. But both are serious. Offering up $411 million in guaranteed cash represents a major commitment for a team that’s facing billions in payroll over the next few seasons, even with Durant on his way to Brooklyn.

Loser: Kyrie Irving

Irving might have received a max contract from the Brooklyn Nets Sunday night. But it did not come without his reputation being tainted big time. Reports of his diva-like mentality ruining the Boston Celtics gave way to Irving’s former team not showing any real interest in re-signing him. That’s a major black eye for the NBA champion.

It’s also important to note that Boston did not waste any time replacing Irving with fellow All-Star Kemba Walker. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Should Walker lead Boston to championship contention with Irving’s Nets struggling while forming a super team, it would represent another major hit for the veteran.

Winner: Brooklyn Nets

Irving as a loser with the Nets as a winner? Both can be true. Brooklyn targeted Irving immediately after the 2018-19 season. It culminated in a max contract agreement Sunday evening. It also represents the biggest free-agent signing in Nets history.

Well, that was until later on Sunday when Kevin Durant announced he was signing with the Nets . He’s going to be joined by best bud DeAndre Jordan to form a new big three in the Big Apple. While KD is out for all of next season, the Nets still have a team worthy of competing in the Eastern Conference until he returns the following season. It was a memorable day Sunday in the Mecca of the basketball world. That’s putting it lightly.

Loser: Charlotte Hornets

Michael Jordan’s tenure as the Hornets’ owner has been an unmitigated disaster. The latest example of this is Charlotte offering Kemba Walker a five-year, $160 million contract, about $61 million less than it could have offered the All-NBA performer.

Instead, the Hornets head into next season with Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller counting a combined $71-plus million against the cap. That’s just horrible stuff right there. And it’s certainly enough to make MJ and Co. major losers in free agency. But hey, at least they’re now paying Terry Rozier nearly $20 million annually.

Full Article

By: Vincent Frank

Grizzlies looking to add another piece?

The Grizzlies have been one of the surprise teams to start the season, as they sit firmly in the Western Conference playoff picture at 13-8. As the season continues to unfold, it looks more and more clear that the Grizzlies hit on nearly all of their offseason moves as they’ve built a team that thrives on playing tough, physical defense at a slow pace.

Mark Giannotto of Commercial Appeal is now asking another question related to the Grizzlies’ season, focusing on how the team can improve its roster during the year to capitalize on this fast start. While the Grizzlies do have several expiring contracts on the roster in the form of Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green, those two are key cogs in the team’s rotation, especially defensively.

The Grizzlies could use another go-to perimeter player to help Mike Conley, but it may be tough to find an ideal trade that doesn’t see the Grizzlies sacrifice too much on the defensive end. Regardless, Memphis may become an active buyer at the trade deadline should their strong play continue.

There’s more from the Southwest division:

  • In a recent mailbag for The Daily Memphian, Chris Herrington addresses potential trade targets for the Grizzlies as they look to address their needs on the perimeter.
  • The Spurs are certainly struggling, as they sit at 10-12 and in 14th place in the Western Conference. As Chelsea Howard points out for Sporting News, Gregg Popovich is putting a lot of blame on himself as he expects more from his coaching performance moving forward.
  • One bright spot for the Spurs has been the play of Bryn Forbes, who looks to be developing into one of the league’s best shooters, as Bryan Kalbrosky writes for HoopsHype. Forbes has received a much larger role due to the various injuries in the backcourt and is averaging 16.1 points and 3 three-pointers per 36 minutes.

By Eric Spyropoulos

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Mario Chalmers Returns To Memphis On One Year Deal

Written by Ronald Tillery at Commercial Appeal.com

Former Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers used Instagram late Tuesday to indicate his return to Memphis.

Chalmers posted a picture of himself in a Grizzlies uniform with a caption that reads “GNG… enough said.” The 31-year-old combo guard has recovered from a torn right Achilles he suffered in March 2016 while playing for the Grizzlies.

A league source confirmed Chalmers’ one-year deal.

Chalmers received numerous congratulatory messages from fans and friends on his Instagram account.

GNG….enough said……

A post shared by Mario Chalmers (@mchalmers6) on

The Grizzlies released Chalmers on March 10, 2016, after he suffered the season-ending injury during a road loss to the Boston Celtics. He sat out the entire 2016-17 NBA season.

Chalmers, however, has a close relationship with Grizzlies coach David Fizdale after they both worked together for several seasons with the Miami Heat.

The Grizzlies acquired Chalmers from the Heat for Beno Udrih shortly after the 2015-16 season began. Chalmers averaged 10.8 points on 41.7-percent shooting to go with 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals in 55 games with the Grizzlies.

He played both guard positions.

“Mario did an incredible job for us since coming to Memphis,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said at the time of Chalmers’ injury. “Right from the start, he embraced his change of scenery and endeared himself to his teammates and coaches on the court and the Memphis community off of it.

“He has been an important part of our success this season, both coming off the bench and when called upon as a starter.”

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Rumor: Celtics To Go After Marc Gasol?

Written by Michael D Sykes III at SB Nation.com

After a hectic Fourth of July that had fans of both the Celtics and the Jazz on edge for hours, Danny Ainge and Co. finally got the star they’d been after this offseason, as Gordon Hayward finally announced himself that he was indeed going to rejoin Brad Stevens and play for the Boston Celtics.

Yet less than a day later, the Celtics could once again be on the hunt for another big addition. According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics’ original plan this offseason was to sign Hayward, and then try to trade for Paul George. But with the Pacers preempting them by dumping George to the Thunder, that plan is now out the window.

However, perhaps there is still hope for the Celtics trading for a star after acquiring Hayward. Per a report from Chris Mannix, league executives believe that the Celtics could trade for Marc Gasol, as the Grizzlies’ future is in flux. Via The Vertical:

The trade market for stars has momentarily dried up. One player worth keeping an eye on, two league executives told The Vertical: Memphis’ Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies lost Zach Randolph, Tony Allen could be next out the door, and if you were filling out your Western Conference playoff bracket today, Memphis probably wouldn’t be in it. Would the Grizz move the 32-year-old Gasol for a ready-made rebuilding package of players and picks? Would Boston – which has to be wary of putting together a team that would beat Cleveland but still get pulverized by Golden State – be interested? Again, worth watching.

The stars haven’t aligned properly yet to create the opportunity for the Celtics to go after the Grizzlies’ All-Star big man, but a time could come when they do. We know the Celtics have tons of assets. If the Grizzlies struggle this year, do they think about moving Gasol and triggering a rebuild?

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Tony Parker Rolled Back The Years To Take Series From Grizzlies

Written by Michael C. Wright at ESPN.com

Tony Parker groaned in discomfort from the visitors locker room at FedExForum, having plunged both feet into an orange Gatorade cooler filled to the brim with ice water.

At least now something would finally cool off Parker after the point guard combined with Kawhi Leonard to burn the Memphis Grizzlies into elimination on Thursday, as the duo combined for 56 points in the San Antonio Spurs’ 103-96 victory in Game 6 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The victory pushes the Spurs into the Western Conference semifinals, where they will host the Houston Rockets on Monday in Game 1.

“Tony wasn’t just effective today,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s done a masterful job of getting in shape down the stretch of the season and playing his best basketball during this playoff — finding people, scoring himself, working hard defensively. He had a magnificent playoff.”

Parker will need more of that throughout the Western Conference playoffs, as San Antonio’s side of the postseason bracket features plenty of formidable point guards, including James Harden, Chris Paul and Stephen Curry.

Throughout the first-round series, Parker, 34, matched up against 29-year-old Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, who appears to be coming into his own as one of the league’s premier players at the position.

From Games 1 through 5, Conley served as the primary defender on Parker for 44 percent of the plays, with the latter scoring 21 points on 9 of 27 shooting with five turnovers, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information research. In Game 6, Parker found Conley guarding him on 59 percent of his touches. Still, Parker bludgeoned Conley for 17 points on 7 of -8 shooting with only one turnover; four of those shots went uncontested.

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Spurs Take 3-2 Lead Over Grizzlies

Written by Tim Cato at SB Nation.com

With two minutes and 12 seconds left in the San Antonio Spurs’ 116-103 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, both coaches unloaded their benches. This is normal procedure during a playoff blowout, which each coach hanging on for a few minutes longer than usual, juuuuust to be sure. You can never be too cautious.

The difference in Tuesday’s game from a normal, run-of-the-mill blowout is how we got there. Only two and a half minutes prior, Memphis was surging and cut San Antonio’s lead to 102-97. Then, the Spurs rattled off a 12-0 run that effectively ended the game and triggered both coach’s closing lineups, one that sent the Memphis stars headed to the bench with their backs to the wall, and San Antonio’s contemplating the importance of finishing this series off in Memphis in Game 6.

Throughout these playoffs, this season, and even the past few years, we’ve seen huge leads evaporate in minutes. But the flip side is an obvious one: teams can grow them in moments, too, and San Antonio is a perfect example. They’re the Spurs, coached by the league’s consensus best coach and still geared to show up for a death blow when the time comes. Once the clock ticked under five minutes, something clicked in for San Antonio. After that happened, it was over.

This series took a sharp left turn when it shifted back to Memphis. For two games, the Spurs were exactly who we thought: a team that isn’t spectacular, isn’t sensational, but is consistently better than whomever they’re playing.

Once the Grizzlies were in their home confines, though, everything changed. They took Game 3 rather handily, and Game 4 might have been the game of the year so far when it ended on a Marc Gasol buzzer beater. But Memphis still cannot guard Kawhi Leonard, and that bit them once again.

Leonard dropped 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting, with six assists and a telling plus-19 while on the court. A bench lineup featuring him, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and Patty Mills (20 points, plus-22) annihilated Memphis. Leonard’s stats could have been gaudier, but there were times where he basically sat at the half-court line, drew a defender out past the three-point line, and allowed his teammates to play four-on-four basketball. The extra spacing tends to work out, and their 53-percent shooting and 50 percent from downtown tells you all you need to know.

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Grizzlies Steal One From The Spurs, Series 2-1 Spurs

Written by The AP at US News And World Report.com

Memphis coach David Fizdale set the tone with his memorable rant about the officiating in Game 2, which led to a $30,000 fine by the NBA.

Then the Grizzlies matched his intensity on the court.

Mike Conley had 24 points and eight assists, helping the Grizzlies snap a 10-game postseason skid against the San Antonio Spurs with a 105-94 victory Thursday night.

Faced with the possibility of a daunting 3-0 deficit in its first-round playoff series, Memphis responded with a physical, rugged effort.

“I mean the Spurs were punking us. Let’s be real about it,” Fizdale said. “Those first, probably out of the eight quarters, they just bullied us for like five and a half of those, and you’re not going to beat the Spurs letting them dictate everything. So we had to match them, or otherwise we were going to get pummeled. And so I was just really proud of the way we stepped up and took the challenge.”

It was the Grizzlies’ first win over the Spurs in the playoffs since April 2011, when Memphis beat San Antonio in six games. It also was Fizdale’s first postseason victory as a head coach.

Game 4 is Saturday night.

“It wasn’t about the last two playoff series we’ve had against them,” Conley said. “It was about tonight and showing that we have heart and showing that we have enough in the tank to show that we can win and give ourselves confidence and allow us to believe that we can make this a series.”

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each scored 21 points for Memphis, which outscored San Antonio 31-17 in the third quarter and led by as much as 22 in the second half.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the game got away from San Antonio in the first minute of the third quarter.

“We turned it over twice to start the minute like we were out on a picnic some place,” Popovich said.

San Antonio star Kawhi Leonard, who scored 32 and 37 in the first two games, was held to 18 points. LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 and Kyle Anderson finished with 15 as Popovich pulled his starters quickly in the third quarter and benched them for most of the fourth.

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