Monday, January 25, 2021

Ja Morant Is Larger Than Life On and Off The Court

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2021 at 9:00 AM

Longtime Grizzlies fan Roni Matthews was hungry and skipped breakfast so she could eat at the new restaurant Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria in downtown Memphis. 

Matthews was caught off guard after seeing the 30-foot-mural of Ja Morant painted on the side of the establishment. She said, “I was pleasantly surprised to see how vivid and vibrant the colors were in the mural. It tugged on my heartstrings a little bit because it was like a symbolic confirmation for our city  —  our team — that our future is still bright despite the hurdles we have faced.”  

Grizzlies fan Roni Matthew took a picture while visiting Slim and Husky - RONI MATTHEW
  • Roni Matthew
  • Grizzlies fan Roni Matthew took a picture while visiting Slim and Husky

Matthews added, “Ja (Morant) represents newness: a new culture, a new style (of play, determination & just whole new vibe  — the totality of the new Gen X squad. Hence, the VIBE-brant colors in the mural.”

“I would love to have actually seen how it started,” said Grizzlies season ticket holder, Carmen Patton after she visited the restaurant. "The artist kept looking at his phone so I’m assuming it’s modeled after a Panini poster maybe.”

Patton added, It blends in with the culture that Slim & Husky’s seeks to create. "You got hip hop blasting with a guy spray painting a mural of the Grizzlies' star basketball player outside. Then you go inside and see more murals of Memphis artists. It’s just a good vibe.”

Panini America, the official trading card partner of the NBA and NBPA announced an extension of its partnership with Morant. Panini is the exclusive home for the Morant’s autographed trading cards and memorabilia. 

“We started our relationship with Ja (Morant) before the draft last year and we made him one of our athletes going into his rookie season,” said Jason Howarth, Vice President of Marketing at Panini America. “Coming out of his rookie season, he just continued to thrive, we knew that he was the guy that we wanted to put a foothold around, and we decided we wanted to make him a long term exclusive athlete of Panini for trading cards and memorabilia.”

“Once we got to that we wanted to celebrate him and, and really do something a little bit different in terms of how we approached and announced the relationship,” Howarth recalls. “We decided a mural in Memphis would be a great location to celebrate him and highlight him as he continues to progress in his career with the Grizzlies. We built that idea around one of our trading cards — our color blast trading card – and then, it was off to find a location and find an artist.”

Howarth said the color blast card was an iconic card for Morant’s rookie season. The company wanted to find an artist who could hone in on the specific colors to bring a small piece of cardboard to life in a 30-foot canvas on the side of a building in downtown Memphis. 

This is the first mural that Panini has commissioned for one of its athletes. 

Popular local Memphis artist Jamond Bullock, also known as Alive Paint, was commissioned to take on this enormous project for Panini. 

Memphis artist Jamond Bullock - PANINI AMERICA
  • Panini America
  • Memphis artist Jamond Bullock

Bullock says he noticed a few of the people from Panini had started following him on Instagram. Then he said Howarth followed him and shot him a message. “I was just like, wow, okay  —  this is could be something, you know,” Bullock said. “And what was crazy was, he introduced the project, and he didn’t say what it was and he was looking to partner with an artist on a private project with his company.

It was an instant yes for Bullock even though he was unclear what the project was about. “I had a lot of projects going on. But he kind of hit me up at the time where I’m like, in this waiting period,” Bullock said.

Bullock has about 30 or 40 murals around Memphis and surrounding areas, and has been featured in Essence Magazine, on ESPN, Netflix' Uncorked, The Trap Music Museum, and more. 

In 2019 Bullock was commissioned for a project in Frayser to build awareness against trash dumping titled “Stand Up For Our Streets”.

Save Our Streets Frayser - JAMOND BULLOCK
  • Jamond Bullock
  • Save Our Streets Frayser

That the same year, the former Shelby County Schools art teacher completed a historic project sponsored by ServiceMaster that was unveiled on January 17, 2020. He transformed the cafeteria of Bruce Elementary to tell the story of the Bruce 3 who were apart of the Memphis 13 that help integrate Memphis City Schools.

Dwania Kyles, one of three students who integrated Bruce Elementary in 1961, stands in front of Jamond Bullock's mural. - JAMOND BULLOCK
  • Jamond Bullock
  • Dwania Kyles, one of three students who integrated Bruce Elementary in 1961, stands in front of Jamond Bullock's mural.

Harry Williams, one of three students who integrated Bruce Elementary in 1961, in front of his image in Bullock's mural. - JAMOND BULLOCK
  • Jamond Bullock
  • Harry Williams, one of three students who integrated Bruce Elementary in 1961, in front of his image in Bullock's mural.
Menelik Fombi, one of three students who integrated Bruce Elementary in 1961, in front of his image in Bullock's mural. - JAMOND BULLOCK
  • Jamond Bullock
  • Menelik Fombi, one of three students who integrated Bruce Elementary in 1961, in front of his image in Bullock's mural.

Bullock was excited when he found out he would be working on a mural of Morant after a Zoom meeting with Howarth. The hard part was nailing down the right location. On his reconnaissance mission to find a location, Bullock says he was snapping photos of possibilities, and sending them to Howarth. 

“We landed on Slim and Husky’s through the grace of God,” Bullock explained. “So I met with the owners of Slim and Husky’s to discuss doing some interior artwork. And during that meeting, I brought up the Ja Morant project.”

“It was it was one of those situations where it was an instant, yes,” Bullock continued. “Those guys are fans of Morant and said it would be a perfect location for the mural  —  he’s the future of the league. You know, why not? It worked out perfectly once we got to Slim and Husky’s. It was an incredible feeling to know that that was honestly the only hard part of this entire process. You know trying to make sure we nailed a location that was visible and also was accessible to the public.”

PANINI AMERICA
  • Panini America


PANINI AMERICA
  • Panini America
Bullock spent seven days working on the project before it was unveiled on December 21.

“For me anytime I can create a mural, or install a mural, it’s an opportunity for someone to share a story," Bullock says.  " I think Ja Morant has an underdog story. In a city that’s an underdog, he’s showing that an underdog can win. And I think this mural is allowing people to tap into that type of belief for themselves.

"Some people may not know who Ja Morant is, but once they figure out who he is and find out his story, they’re gonna fall in love with him and the team. In the city we’re in, he’s a symbol of hope. And he has this explosive, aggressive basketball playing ability. When people see this mural, they’re gonna see that is larger than life, just like his abilities.”

“For a city like Memphis a majority-black city, a lot of times, you can go into a museum and not see someone that’s African American. To showcase such a player at the level of Ja Morant, who happens to be African American, to put him on the outside of a building larger than life — it makes a statement.”

On a media availability Zoom call, Morant was asked about the mural. He said, “It means a lot, especially for me being here only a year and things like that are already happening in the community. As far as me going to see it, it’s emotional. I’m thankful and grateful for it all. Really can’t say nothing besides that I’m blessed. As much as Memphis loves me, I love Memphis.”



Ja Morant taking a selfie in front of his mural - PANINI AMERICA
  • Panini America
  • Ja Morant taking a selfie in front of his mural



Bullock says it was an honor to see that Morant was happy with the finished product. “To paint someone that’s still living you get to see their reaction, especially dealing with a portrait of this magnitude, you want the person to be happy with their resemblance. He was just like, 'Man, I can’t believe this — I got my own mural.' I was super excited to just see him in person and see his response, because I was thinking if he says it doesn’t look like him, I might have to rearrange his face.”

He says Morant was impressed to see his tattoos on the mural and told him he did a great job and said he wished he could paint like that. Bullock said, “I told him we all are given gifts and yours is dunking over people.”

Slim & Husky’s is located at 634 Union Ave.

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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Grizzlies at Blazers Game Postponed

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 at 8:15 AM

The Grizzlies game scheduled for Wednesday night in Portland at the Moda Center against the Trail Blazers has been postponed. Because of ongoing contact tracing within the Grizzlies, the team would not have had the league-required 8 available players.

The NBA announcement came Wednesday afternoon:

Grizzlies PR sent out an email saying that shoot-around was canceled prior to scheduled virtual media availability on Wednesday. 

Memphis' last game was against the Phoenix Suns on Monday afternoon. The Suns had three prior games postponed due to contact tracing. The Grizzlies big man Jonas Valanciunas was listed as out due to “health and safety” protocols for Monday’s contest against Phoenix. 

The Philadelphia 76ers, who played the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 16th, had their game on Jan. 17 against the OKC Thunder postponed due to contact tracing.

Wednesday's postponement was the 16th game postponed this season due to the league’s new health and safety protocols. The Grizzlies had a previous game postponed against Minnesota on Jan. 15th. The NBA has yet to announce when the 16 games will be rescheduled.

It's going to be a long season.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A "Bunch of Hoopers" Defeat the Suns on MLK Day

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2021 at 8:03 AM

Tanking!! 

There’s gonna be no tanking this season, said Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant, after the team secured its fifth straight victory — against the Phoenix Suns, 108–104 — before a national audience during the 19th Annual MLK Day Celebration Game. 

“We had a slow start, and people were saying that we needed to tank,” Morant said after the win. “That is never on our minds. We want to go out and win. Once again, coach is preaching that 'next man up' and to be ready. I feel like we all embrace adversity. We know we have to do even more when adversity hits. I feel like we love that.”

Morant garnered his first double-double of the season in his second game back from injury with 17 points and 10 assists.

Brandon Clarke finished with 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 35 minutes. Clarke praised Mr. Fourth Quarter after the game.

He said, “Ja (Morant) has a crazy good feel for the game. I feel like those first three quarters. He’s just kind of like watching the defense, watching us  —  seeing what the defense gives him. And I think by the fourth quarter, he's just kind of already figured out everything, and he’s able to get in the paint, get his shots off, and get his teammates shots. I feel like he’s a really, really bright player and that he’s able to read the game and then by the fourth quarter. It’s pretty much over.”

During his post-game walk-off interview, Grayson Allen said the team has a "bunch of hoopers." The Duke alum hit clutch free throws down the stretch to help his team get the win. Allen led the bench with 16 points and six rebounds. The Grizzlies' reserves outscored Phoenix 49-31. Memphis bench currently ranks seventh in the NBA in bench points per game at 38.5. 


i

With 1:06 to play, Morant found Allen in the corner for a go-ahead 3-pointer to give the Grizzlies a 101-98 lead.



It wasn’t pretty, but Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins will take this win. He said, “Tonight, it was struggling. We just had to continue to find ways just to breakthrough. As I said a moment ago, just great execution down the stretch, but you need that on both ends. You need your defense to be there for 48 minutes every single night. That’s what we’ve had. Our offense will get there. We’re seeing a lot of different things thrown at us that are really testing, I guess, and really helping us grow, and we’ll be better for it.”

Jenkins added: “Down the stretch, I just decided that I’m going to put as many playmakers out there: Ja (Morant), Tyus (Jones), (Kyle Anderson). They were able to load up on Ja a lot, at times throughout the game, so I just wanted to see if we could maybe release pressure and get a couple of extra ball-handlers out there, decision-makers, and I’m just proud of the effort that those guys gave late in the game. I’ve told them two games in a row now; it comes down to the last couple of possessions in the fourth quarter.”

Rookie Xavier Tillman garnered his first career start on Monday night in the absence of big man Jonas Valanciunas, who sat out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He posted 12 points and six rebounds on 5-8 shooting. Tillman said he and his wife were in the car geeked and screaming when he learned he was starting. 

After the game, during the Zoom conference, I asked Tillman about what he was thinking during his free throws at the end of the game. He said gleefully, “’Give me one.’ We were up three with one second left. I said, just give me one and close it out, so we don’t have to get the stop. That was the biggest thing.”

Ja Morant was proud of the rookie for his first career start. “I was very excited for him,” Morant explained. “Being a rookie, he has been playing really well. When he first came in and found out he was starting, I said congrats on your first start; now let’s go get the win. He is playing big-time for us. He has guarded multiple positions, knocking down the three, playing in the mid-range, rebounding; he is doing a lot for us on the floor. That is just a lot of credit to his work.”

The Grizzlies are now one game above .500 this season (7–6) after going 2–6 early.

Up Next

The Grizzlies travel to Portland for a two-game series against the Trail Blazers, starting on Wednesday at 9 pm CT. 

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Can the Grizzlies Keep the Streak Alive in Minnesota?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 2:31 PM

The Memphis Grizzlies are proud owners of their first winning streak this season, currently at three games after a win Wednesday night against the Minnesota  Timberwolves. Tonight, the Grizzlies get another shot against the Wolves, this time in Minneapolis.

The winning streak is particularly notable as it has occurred after reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant was sidelined with a left ankle sprain three games into the season.  

Brandon Clarke
  • Brandon Clarke

 

There are some reassuring signs though – Brandon Clarke appears to have returned to his true form; Dillon Brooks is maturing into the player I always knew he could be. Tyus Jones continues to impact the game on both ends of the floor; Desmond Bane is just plain good. And Jonas Valanchiunas has become a double-double machine.       

 

Another notable mention: Shorthanded or not, this squad does not give up on the game. The clearest evidence of this came from their most recent win over Minnesota.

The Timberwolves cooked the Grizzlies for most of the first three quarters, and yet thanks to an extraordinarily strong fourth quarter, they came out with a win.     

 

I've included a visual recap of the Grizzlies win at Minnesota:

grizz-at-twolves-bear-essay-1024x924.jpg

 

Three keys to keeping the winning streak alive:

  • Turning defense into offense. They will need to continue forcing turnovers and converting those into points on the offensive end. Keeping up with good ball security is also related.

  • Get the bench involved. The Memphis bench outscored the Minnesota bench by nearly 30 points and came away with the win. Bench performance was and remains a huge key to success.

  • Get in the paint. The Grizzlies had a franchise-record 80 points in the paint in their win over the Timberwolves. When the outside shots are not falling, drag your opponent into the paint and keep them there.

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Saturday, January 9, 2021

Brooks, Clarke Help Grizzlies Pull Past Brooklyn

Posted By on Sat, Jan 9, 2021 at 12:41 PM

The Grizzlies (3–6) were able to secure their first home win of the season after defeating the Brooklyn Nets (5–5), 115–110 on Friday night. Memphis finished the game shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from three. The Grizzlies take the season series 2-0. 

Dillion Brooks led the Grizzlies with a season-high 24 points, while going 10-of-19 from the field. Memphis is now 3–0 this season when Brooks scores 20 or more points and 23–6 going back to last season.

Brandon Clarke arguably had his best performance of the season after struggling in previous games. Clarke finished with a season-high 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two blocks in 33 minutes. After the game, Clarke said, “It was hurting, obviously losing those games ’cause we all just really really want to win  —  we got a bunch of winners, so it just feels really good to get that first game at home.”

Tyus Jones recorded his second double-double of the season with 11 points, 10 assists, and a team-high four steals. Meanwhile, De’Anthony Melton led the bench with 14 points, five rebounds, one block, and one steal.


Caris LeVert led the Nets with a game-high 43 points, five rebounds, and six assists on the night. Taurean Prince chipped in 16 points and four rebounds, while Joe Harris added 13 points while going 6-of-9 from the field as a reserve in 28 minutes of play for Brooklyn.

Notes

It was announced at halftime that Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas wouldn’t return to the game due to health and safety protocols.

“As soon as we got the notification in conversations with the league, we had to pull him from the game out of an abundance of caution and put him into the Health and Safety Protocols,” said Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins. “The big thing is he’s not (tested) positive, but it’s an abundance of caution.”

Up Next

The Grizzlies will head to Cleveland to seek revenge against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, Jan 11. Tip-off starts at 6 pm CST.

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Friday, January 8, 2021

Grizzlies Fall to Cavaliers 94-90

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2021 at 10:29 AM

In what might be the worst loss of the season, the Grizzlies put on a disappointing performance on their home court against the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday. Unfortunately, there is no time for reflection, as the team plays again tonight, this time facing off against the Brooklyn Nets.  

 

But enough about that. First, let’s unpack this lopsided game from Thursday night. With such a narrow margin of defeat, little things here and there added up quickly to spell out big problems. 

 

What Went Wrong?

The short answer: Everything.

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Turnovers – Memphis turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 24 points scored off turnovers for Cleveland. It is true that the Cavaliers also didn’t practice great ball security, as their 16 turnovers allowed for 20 points by the Grizzlies. But it's hard to beat any NBA team with 18 turnovers.

Free throw disparity – This one stings a lot. The Grizzlies shot just 8 free throws, compared to the Cavaliers' 16. What’s even worse, Cleveland only made 9 out of those 16. Losing a game where your opponent shoots 56 percent from the charity stripe is a bad look no matter who you are. 

 

Lineups – Perhaps the most questionable of a lot of questionable decisions were some of the lineups the Grizzlies had out on the floor. Being short of able-bodied players factors into those decisions, and some experimentation with rotations is to be expected, but this young Memphis team looked so lost at times against a mediocre Cleveland squad. Do better.

 

Who Got Next?

The Grizzlies will face off against the Brooklyn Nets Friday night to close out a four-game homestand. Tip-off is at 7 pm. 

 

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Monday, January 4, 2021

Lakers Top Grizz; Bane Impresses

Posted By on Mon, Jan 4, 2021 at 11:53 AM

Grizzlies rookie Desmond Bane continues to impress in his first season. In 21 minutes Sunday night, he finished with 13 points (5-8 FG, 3-4 3Pt) to go along with two assists in a 108-94 loss to the Lakers. 

Bane has scored in double figures in the last three games and is averaging 13.0 points on the season while shooting 48.4 percent from the field as a reserve. 

Bane has made multiple three-point shots in the first six games of his career, the second-longest such streak to start a career in NBA history, behind Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, who recorded 10 straight in 2017. 

The TCU standout has become more comfortable with his game, and it is showing. He gives credit to his teammates and the organization. “The older guys have given me a lot of confidence,” he said after the game. “The player development program here is really strong, really good. It’s definitely helped my game. Learning the system, learning my teammates, learning the NBA. ... As I continue to get more comfortable and gain more experience, I’ll get better," he added. “I think experience is definitely the key right now. The game is slowing down, learning the offense, and kind of where I can get to my spot, and things like that are why those numbers are going up.”

Bane was also excited to share the court with fellow rookie Xavier Tillman for the first time. “So happy for him. He’s a competitor. For him to have to sit out on the road trips knowing that he could help our team, especially when guys were going down,” Bane said. “I know it was tough on him. I was super excited for him to not only get out there but to play well in the minutes that he had.”


Tillman recorded his first points of the season with a dunk off of a pass from fellow big man Gorgui Dieng. “After the dunk, it really boosted my confidence, Tillman explained. “It allowed me to take a breather and get my energy out — especially after I dunked it — and lock back in.”

The Michigan State standout admitted he was a bit timid before his first game at the FedExForum. He said, “I can’t lie, going into it, minutes beforehand, I was nervous, but as the game was getting ready to start, I got into that competitive mode. It was fun.”

GRIZZLIES INSTAGRAM
  • Grizzlies instagram
Tillman finished the game with 6 points and 6 rebounds on 3-of-3 shooting in 17 minutes of play. Critiquing his first NBA game, Tillman said, “I did okay, especially for the first game. There were a couple of times when I was supposed to dive to the corner on defense and get the steal or deny somebody. I gave up a couple of offensive rebounds. Those types of plays, as I get going, those will be nonexistent because those are the plays I have to make sure I have. Other than those two, it was pretty good.”

The Grizzlies’ big man was appreciative of having a chance to get into action after missing the first five games. “It was great, especially me being able to get in the first quarter after I’ve been sitting out a few games,” Tillman said. “Coach trusted me, like, ‘Hey, I’m going to give you a couple minutes early on.’ That was huge. It was a big confidence builder in me. If you have faith in me like that to get it going in the first quarter then I have to bring it.”

After the game, Coach Taylor Jenkins said, “It was great to see X’s [Xavier Tillman] first game of the season. I thought he gave us some great contribution, and that’s how we are built.” 

Welcome Home, Marc Gasol

The Grizzlies played a tribute video for Marc Gasol. It was Gasol’s first game back in Memphis since being traded to the Toronto Raptors in 2019. 

SCREENGRAB FROM FOX SPORTS SOUTHEAST
  • Screengrab from Fox Sports Southeast
Gasol scored seven points, and added six rebounds and four assists. The Lakers big man also had to receive four stitches above his left eye after a nasty fall before halftime.

Gasol was thankful to be back in Memphis and appreciated the video tribute, but he missed the fans. “You’re missing a huge part of all this, which is the fans and the people from Memphis that have been there,” Gasol said. “But, obviously, I’m very thankful for what the franchise has done for me, not just now in recognition, but throughout the years that I was here.”

Big Spain thought it was awkward being in a different locker room and warming up on the other side of the court since Memphis had been his home for nearly 11 seasons.


Gasol said his favorite parts of the tribute videos were the interactions with fans and with the children from St. Jude's and LeBonheur hospitals. He said his work with the kids at the hospitals was his most important work of all.




Memphis will always have a special place in his heart. “It’s a special place to me that’s been my home, like, I’ve been here so long,” Gasol said. “I got here in 2001 when the franchise actually moved here, so imagine how many years. This is the 20th year since I got here, so the franchise means a lot to me. It’s a part of who I am.”


Up Next
The Grizzlies will host the Lakers again on Tuesday at 7 pm CST. 

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Saturday, January 2, 2021

Here’s How the Grizzlies Can Prosper in the New Year

Posted By on Sat, Jan 2, 2021 at 9:28 AM



1xuiij.jpg
New year, new energy. Here are a few things the Grizzlies need to leave behind — and a few things they need to carry forward into the new year. 

 

 

Things the Grizzlies Need to Leave in 2020

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In honor of the new year, here’s a list of things I would like to see the Grizzlies leave behind in the Year That Shall Not Be Named.

In no particular order:

  • Foul Trouble — Specifically, stupid careless fouls that put a valuable player on the bench during crunch time. 
  • Turnovers — good ball security is paramount to success. Tell your friends.
  • Excessive shooting from three — When you are shooting 0 for 11 from deep after one quarter, it's time to look at your choices. Drive to the basket and finish around the rim. Especially Dillon Brooks. If your shot doesn’t fall after 5 tries, stop shooting from outside and go to the basket.
  • Injuries — No further explanation needed.

 

On the flipside, here's some advice for continuing success in 2021:


Jonas Valanciunas
  • Jonas Valanciunas


Feed the large Lithuanian — Jonas Valanciunas needs to eat, early and often. The Grizzlies led the league in points in the paint last season, and they have the league’s longest streak of 40 or more points in the paint per game. In other words — drag them into the mud and beat them there. Let Valanciunas post up whenever possible. 

 

Start Desmond Bane You Cowards — With Grayson Allen out for however long, this appears to be happening now. Bane might be an NBA rookie but his composure and decision-making thus far reflects his four- year collegiate career. Say what you will about one-and-done players, but there is something to be said for honing the discipline required to have a meaningful impact on a team for four years. 

Kyle Anderson
  • Kyle Anderson

Kyle Anderson needs to keep eating his Wheaties.

Slo Mo has been a force for the Grizzlies so far this season. I don’t believe we have yet had the opportunity to see full-strength Anderson in Beale Street Blue, but there is no time like the present. He looks to be fully recovered from the thoracic outlet decompression surgery he had in 2019 and is making a big difference on both ends of the floor.  

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Grizzlies Buzz Hornets in Charlotte 108–93

Posted By on Sat, Jan 2, 2021 at 9:24 AM


The Grizzlies got the new year started off right with a sound thrashing delivered to the Hornets, bringing them to 2-1 for the first road trip of the season. 

 

Injuries left Memphis with only nine available players against Charlotte. Despite the unfavorable odds, several players stepped up to fill the gaps in the roster. Six out of nine Grizzlies finished the game in double digits. Here's the breakdown:

Dillon Brooks
  • Dillon Brooks

Dillon Brooks led all scorers with 21 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals, including 5 of 10 from beyond the arc. 

Kyle Anderson continues to be critical to the success of this squad, finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. 

Brandon Clarke had his best night of the young season, looking a lot more like last season’s self, with 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. 

Jonas Valanciunas had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Gorgui Dieng gave a much-needed spark off the bench and ended the night with 14 points and 8 rebounds. 

Desmond Bane, the rookie from TCU, got his first career start and finished with 10 points and 4 assists. 

Tyus Jones only scored 6 points, but provided a dozen assists as he made things easier for his teammates.  

 

The Grizzlies did all the right things, despite being short-handed, and it paid off.
They played smart defense, scoring 25 points off 19 Charlotte turnovers. And they sharing the ball well, with a team total of 34 assists. The performance in Charlotte is exactly what the Grizzlies need going forward. Everyone contributing something until the injured big guns — Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. — return.


Who Got Next?

The Grizzlies return home to face the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. Tip-off is at 5 pm CST.  

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Kyle Anderson Helps Grizzlies Outlast Nets in Brooklyn

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2020 at 12:57 PM

In a game reminiscent of last season, the Memphis Grizzlies gained their first win of the season in overtime against the Brooklyn Nets, 116-111.

New Jersey's own Kyle Anderson was the man of the match and led his team to victory with a career-high 28 points, while going 9 of 17 from the field and 4-of-8 from three-point range (a career high). It was the second game in a row in which Anderson scored 20 or more points. In three games this season, Anderson is averaging 18.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.

Dillon Brooks finished with a season high season-high 24 points, plus seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Brooks was complimentary of Anderson after the game.

“He’s confident,” Brooks explained "He's confident in his shot. He’s been working on his shot since the bubble and you can see it. He's playing like he played in New Jersey and for UCLA."

Brooks continued, "He’s leading us. We have a whole bunch of leaders on this team. It was Kyle today. It’s Ja. It’s Jaren, guys like that. We have a whole bunch of alpha males who want to play unselfish and you see it today."

After struggling in the first two games, the Grizzlies bench came alive. Brandon Clarke found his groove again, leading the reserves with a season-high 16 points, seven rebounds, and two assists. Tyus Jones chipped in nine points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. The Grizzlies bench outscored Brooklyn's reserves 40-35.     

A Scary Injury for the Grizzlies
Memphis fans were holding their collective breath when, with 2:43 left to play in the first half, Ja Morant went up for a block, came down hard on the foot of Brooklyn Nets guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and hobbled off the floor in obvious pain. The 21-year old was quickly attended to by both the Grizzlies and Nets medical staff, and was taken to the locker room in a wheelchair. He was diagnosed with a left ankle sprain.

“Unbelievable display of resiliency by our group,” said Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins after the win. “We came in with the mentality that we needed to get one pretty soon  —  we needed to play our best Grizzlies basketball. I thought we came out with an unbelievable edge in the first quarter but it was so tough to see Ja [Morant] go down. I know he’s going to bounce back and be fine. We'll have more updates as we're going through, but so far so good."

Jenkins added, "[Morant's] going to get looked at more this evening, post-game, and tomorrow. We will probably have an update tomorrow once we get to Boston."

Morant returned to the bench wearing a left ankle boot in the fourth quarter to cheer on his team.

“Ja came back and brought a bunch of energy to the bench and it really helped us,” said Clarke after the game. “Ja is just a guy who wants to win and even if he’s not playing he still find ways to help us win. It was awesome he could come in and do that.”

Jonas Valanciunas posted on Twitter dedicating the win to his fallen teammate.  

Morant took to Instagram regarding his injury.

Like the Grizzlies, the Nets were short-handed, as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant both sat out on the second night of a back-to-back. Spencer Dinwiddle is out for an extended period of time due to a partial ACL tear.

Memphis native Chris Chiozza led Brooklyn's bench unit with a career-high 14 points and four assists. Caris LeVert garnered his first double-double of the season with 28 points, 11 assists, and five steals. LeVert led his team in points, assists, and steals on the night. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot  (TLC) added 21 points, six rebounds, and two assists.

Up Next
The Grizzlies head to Boston to take on the Celtics on Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 6:30 p.m. inside TD Garden.

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Sunday, December 27, 2020

Grizzlies Fall to Hawks 122–112, Move to 0–2 to Start the Season

Posted By on Sun, Dec 27, 2020 at 2:58 PM

There are no moral victories in the NBA and this game was no exception. Yes, it was exciting to watch two dynamic young point guards face off. But much less so when it’s your team that takes the L. 

Ja Morant
  • Ja Morant

In the battle between Trae Young and Ja Morant, there is no denying who came out on top. Hint: it wasn’t Ja Morant. Say what you will about the officiating (and Morant did, earning him a technical foul late in the 4th quarter) but this was still a winnable game for the Grizzlies and they blew it.


Sloppy defense, careless turnovers, and poor shot selection — once again, these cost the Grizzlies the game.

Morant had this to say postgame regarding contact in the paint: “A lot of contact down there which resulted in me being off-balance when I shoot so I missed the shot. As you see I got a tech. If that's what I got to do to get calls, then, oh well. It's my second year. I let a lot of stuff slide, but I’m not going for that no more. Everybody who knows me knows I'm always smiling and laughing, and when somebody gets fed up that's what happens.”


Morant is everything Memphis needed in a player. But the past two games have clearly demonstrated that while good, he cannot carry this team by himself. And this team cannot wait for the return of Jaren Jackson Jr. to start winning games, not if they want to stay competitive in a deep Western Conference. 

This means that everyone else on the team needs to come with their A game. What we have seen on the court in the past two games was at best a C+, and that is being extremely generous. 

The absence of De’Anthony Melton was surely felt, but that alone should not be enough to derail this team. Brandon Clarke looks like a different player than he was last year. While it is too early yet to panic about Clarke, it is concerning. Even more concerning is the Grizzlies' bench play. For the second game in a row, the opponent's bench outscored the Memphis bench by double digits. Nothing good can come from the bench being consistently outscored, much like nothing good can come from jacking up three-point shots five seconds into the shot clock. (Looking at you, Dillon Brooks.)

Here is a brief rundown of the second game of the season:

 

The good:

Kyle Anderson 

All five starters scoring double digits 

Fewer turnovers committed by the Grizzlies 

Grizzlies converting Hawks turnovers into points 

 

The bad:

Foul trouble 

Dillon Brooks shooting 3 of 11 from beyond the arc 

Grizzlies bench play 

Not driving to the basket

Let's all hope that what this team needs is just to shake off the rust. 

 

Who Got Next?

The Grizzlies will face off against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, December 28th. 

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Morant's Career Night Not Enough to Stop Spurs

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2020 at 8:19 AM

The San Antonio Spurs won the Grizzlies' season-opener (131–119) Wednesday, but the game belonged to Ja Morant, who had a career night. 

Morant scored 34 of his career-high 44 points (18-of-27) in the second half. The reigning NBA rookie of the year imposed his will by attacking the basket, and the Spurs had no answer for him. Morant also finished with nine assists and two steals. 

The stats didn’t mean anything to Morant. “I’m not happy at all,” Morant said after the loss. “Obviously, I wanted to win that game. We came up short  —  learning from this game and preparing for the next. For my play, I did alright.”

The 21-year-old was aggressive and kept his team in the game. “That’s just my mindset for the season,” said Morant. “I got tired of my teammates and coaches saying I have to be aggressive at all times last year, so that’s my mindset now. Just be aggressive and try to get something good out of each possession.”

Even though his team fell short of a victory in its opener, Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins had something to be proud of. Jenkins told the media during the post-game Zoom call, “I thought Ja was special tonight. His stat line, obviously, amazing. I thought his aggressive mentality was great.”

Jenkins went on to say, “The Spurs were throwing a lot of physicality on our entire roster, but I thought he [Morant] did a great job of handling it and finding a way to get into the paint, create for others with nine assists and one turnover, got to the foul line a number of times. He led a big charge, and we need to lean on him to keep this game somewhat competitive. Just didn’t get the results tonight. He had a heck of a game.”

Regarding one of the more amazing plays of the night, the Murray State alum described what happened when he threw an alley-oop to himself off the backboard: “I think we got a steal  and  B.C. [Brandon Clarke] was pushing the left-wing,” Morant said. “I was running down the middle of the floor. He kicked it to me, and we were pushing the break together. He was like, ‘I’m running with you.’ I saw DeMar [DeRozan] trying to play both. My mind actually was to throw B.C. an alley, and DeMar played the alley from B.C. and off the glass to myself was the only choice I had, so that’s what I did.”


Here’s the play:


Dillon Brooks (16 points, and six assists) fouled out after playing 33 minutes, but he was impressed by his teammate's performance. "He is getting to his spots, finishing, and finding guys.” 

However, Brooks was not pleased with the team’s performance. “Obviously, we are going to rely on him, but we got to find other guys to step up. I got to knock down some shots and guard the ball a lot better, because I’m going to be guarding the best players on each team.”

Brooks continued, “The Spurs’ starting lineup has three guys that scored 20 points, and the other guys had 16 points (each). That’s unacceptable. We have to guard the ball better and take on the challenge. I feel like they took the challenge to us with their physicality. They were blowing up screens. We have to do that more. That’s what we were taught, and we laid down a little bit, but that’s a good start.”

NOTES:

Memphis fell to 5-21 all-time in regular-season openers and 3-4 in their last seven. The team is now 9-17 in regular-season home openers, despite winning six of its last nine openers in FedExForum.


Morant is one of six players in NBA history to score 40+ points in the 1st game of his 2nd season. He joins Elgin Baylor (52 in 1959), Wilt Chamberlain (42 in 1960), Walt Bellamy (43 in 1962), Rick Barry (41 in 1966), and Shaquille O'Neal (42 in 1993).

UP NEXT

The Grizzlies will host the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, December 26th, in a matinee before heading out on its first road trip of the season.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Grizzlies 2021 Season Preview

Posted By and on Wed, Dec 23, 2020 at 3:56 PM

The 2019-2020 season for the Memphis Grizzlies was anything but ordinary. The team started off slow but figured things out and then took the NBA by surprise. Griz guard Ja Morant found his groove and proved he belonged in the league and everyone took notice. The Murray State alum eventually went on to become the NBA Rookie of the Year.

The Grizzlies finished last season 34-39, 9th in Western Conference. Memphis just missed the playoffs, losing to the Portland Trailblazers in an exciting play-in game.

Memphis is still hungry and has the desire to prove doubters wrong in the
upcoming season after being underestimated again. The team will have a mighty hill to climb without the immediate services of budding star Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee meniscus surgery recovery) and Justice Winslow (left hip displacement).

Prior to Wednesday night's season opener against the San Antonio Spurs, Aimee Stiegemeyer and Sharon Brown discuss seven key questions for the Grizzlies this season.

This will be Year Two of the rebuild. What are your expectations for the #GrzNxtGen team this season?
Aimee Stiegemeyer: Truth be told, they are already leaps and bounds ahead of what anyone would have expected from a franchise rebuild in year two. I would like to see a continuation on the progress that was built last season, with a focus on defense, and turning that defense into offense on the other end of the floor. Preseason games might not be an accurate metric of overall performance, but it was promising to see the young squad not just force so many turnovers against Minnesota, but scoring off them as well.
Sharon Brown: This team defied predictions and finished well above expectations last season. I expect them to do the same this season. The players seem to have a chip on their shoulders are out to continue to defy the odds and prove the haters wrong. Their season will go as far as Ja Morant can take them in the absence of Jackson Jackson Jr and Winslow.
clarke-morant-jackson.jpg
How would you grade the offseason moves made by the Grizzlies?
AS: I would give them a solid B+. They picked up a good young player in the draft in Desmond Bane. Re-signed De’Anthony Melton to a very reasonable contract. Did not make any ill-advised free agency signings that will hinder the front office’s ability to continue building around the young core of Ja Morant, JJJ, and Brandon Clarke.
SB: The offseason went about as I suspected. The Grizzlies have a certain type of guys who they want on the team with high IQ with no ego who can fit in the locker room. The key was signing De’Anthony Melton to an extension and building upon what they already have. The team is not in a win now mode and that’s a good thing. The offseason grade for me is B that might become an A in the near future.

Which player or players do you think will have a breakout season?
Kyle Anderson defends against the Spurs, Wednesday night. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Kyle Anderson defends against the Spurs, Wednesday night.

AS:
Kyle Anderson. Anderson seems to be fully healed from the procedure he had on his shoulder, and it has shown in his performance in the first few preseason games. With Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow both out for the foreseeable future, I see Anderson playing a bigger role with the starting unit.
SB: Dillon Brooks, only if he is consistent and become a better decision-maker on both ends of the court. Offensively, he needs to become a better facilitator and playmaker. He has to know when to pass the ball and get his teammates involved. Often, he has tunnel vision on the offensive end and can’t see when his teammates are open. Also he has to defend without fouling, Brooks led the NBA in personal fouls last season.
However, he has been working on his entire game during the offseason. In the four preseason games, Brooks was second in assists (14) behind Morant. It will be huge if that continues when games really matter. Big man, Jonas Valanciunas took joy in seeing Brooks pass the rock more. When asked about the teams 33 assists against the Atlanta Hawks in the final preseason games, JV said, “It’s fun to play that way. Sharing the ball is the key for us  —  even Dillon Brooks is passing the ball. That’s crazy.” It speaks volumes when his teammates notice he is sharing the ball more.

In the absence of Jaren Jackson, Jr. for the foreseeable future, will Jonas Valanciunas have a key role in the offense as he's paired with Ja Morant?
AS: I think that for the Grizzlies to build on the successes they had last season, Valanciunas will have to become more of an offensive contributor. He will almost certainly need to take on a larger role this year and I believe he is up to the challenge.
SB: Yes, Morant and JV will have to be the 1-2 punch in the absence of Jackson Jr. They have a great connection with the pick-and-roll and that's a major part of the reason the Grizzlies led the league in paint points (55.9 per game) last season. The offense shouldn't settle for threes and go inside more when shots aren't falling. JV also has been passing the ball more and having good assist numbers, so that will help on offense as well. Maybe JV can throw some lobs to Morant this season. 
Jonas Valanciunas
  • Jonas Valanciunas


How well will Memphis fare in the loaded Western Conference?
AS: This is another time when I am hesitant to speculate, but provided Jaren Jackson Jr. returns to his pre-injury form and the Grizzlies can avoid any major injuries — I don’t think a 7th or 8th seed is out of the realm of possibility. A healthy Grizzlies team can absolutely build on the success they had last season.
SB: My prediction is finishing between the 7 and 12 spot in the standings. The West is so unpredictable because of so many good teams. Hopefully, Jackson Jr. and Winslow are the pieces the Grizzlies are missing to go to the next level. The players have something to prove again, despite performing above expectations last season. They will continue to grow and continue to show they can compete with the best in the league.

It's year two for the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, Ja Morant, what areas of improvement do you think he should work on?
AS: Safe landings after dunking! Morant has such tremendous athleticism and court vision, and he plays with a level of physicality that rivals players who have many more years of experience in the league. His fearlessness is certainly a positive thing but I have been uncomfortable at times watching him land in ways that could contribute to serious injury.
SB: Morant needs to be a better defender; he had a tough time guarding CJ McCullom down the stretch in the play-in game against Portland last season. During a recent Zoom conference, Morant said one of his goals this year is to be a better defender. He wants to be a two-guard like Brooks and De’Anthony Melton. Morant has to be a better pick-and-roll defender or teams will exploit him every time. He also should work on his three point shot. During his rookie campaign he shot 48 percent from the field but managed only 33.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Also I wish for him to be a little more selfish, but I know that’s not him. His focus is to make his teammates better but there are times when he shouldn’t defer. Last season, as Morant was the seventh-best scorer in the league in the final period. He averaged 54.9 percent from the field! If he could turn it on earlier in games, it would be beneficial.

What are your expectations for Desmond Bane in his rookie season?
AS: He’s clearly got a very high basketball IQ, which I think will help his transition from collegiate play to the NBA. Based on his college career, he can play well both on and off ball, and his defensive skills will be a great addition. Bane might not be in the Rookie of the Year race, as Morant was last season, but I feel like he has the potential to be another great steal from the draft, much like Brandon Clarke has been.
SB: The TCU standout plays well on both ends of the floor. He fits the mold of the Grizzlies by being a high IQ player who plays hard and can knock down the three-ball at a high level. He shot 44.2 percent from three as a senior at TCU while averaging 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.9 3-pointers per game on 45.2 percent shooting.
In the Grizzlies preseason games, Bane scored in double figures in three-out-of-four games. He should continue to become comfortable in his shot and learn from the veterans. I expect him to be go-to player on the bench and develop a good chemistry with Tyus Jones, Melton, and Brandon Clarke. He should fit right in with one of the best benches in the league.

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Grizzlies Add New Assistant

Posted By on Mon, Sep 14, 2020 at 9:10 AM

The Memphis Grizzlies have hired longtime MIT women's coach Sonia Raman as an assistant on coach Taylor Jenkins' coaching staff, the team announced on Friday.

Raman spent 12 years as head coach of MIT, leading the Engineers to two NCAA Division tournament berths and a 91-45 record in her final five seasons.

Raman graduated from Tufts University, where she spent four years as a player and later served a two-year stint as an assistant coach. She also served as an assistant coach for Wellesley College for six seasons before becoming the women's head coach at MIT.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Tufts and went on to receive a Juris Doctor from Boston College Law School in 2001.  

Raman will replace Niele Ivey, who left in April to become head coach of the Notre Dame women's team, her alma mater. Raman is the second woman coach in Grizzlies team history and 14th in NBA history.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the Memphis Grizzlies coaching staff. I can’t wait to get to Memphis and get started with Taylor, his staff and the team’s emerging young core,” Raman said in a statement.   

“We are beyond excited to welcome Sonia to the Memphis Grizzlies,” Jenkins said. “She has a high basketball IQ and a tremendous ability to teach the game, as well as a strong passion for the game. She is going to be a great addition to our current coaching staff.”

Raman joins a Grizzlies coaching staff that added former San Antonio Spurs G-League coach Blake Ahearn this summer.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Will the Grizzlies Adjust To Clinch a Play-In Spot?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2020 at 2:02 PM

After going 1–4 in the NBA restart, the Grizzlies had a chance to clinch a play-in tournament for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors had other plans, defeating the Grizzlies 108–99. 

The Orlando bubble has not been kind to the Grizzlies, who have seen their 3.5 game lead dissipate. The Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, and Phoenix Suns are in hot pursuit to dethrone Memphis from the eighth spot. 

Memphis has two games remaining, and it’s do or die time. First-year guard Ja Morant is taking it one game at a time.

“I’m not worried about no play-in games right now,” Morant chirped after the loss. “My focus now is learning from my mistakes this game against the Raptors and trying to fix them.

“We seen a lot of positives tonight. We missed some wide-open shots, but I feel like we made the right reads attacking their defense  —  bottom line, there [were] a lot of positives from today’s game.”

There are so many things the Grizzlies need to fix in order for them to qualify for the play-in tournament, but one bright spot for the Grizzlies has been the emergence of backup guard Grayson Allen, who has been shooting the leather off the ball from the three-point line. In the five games played in Orlando, the Duke alum has averaged 16.6 points while shooting an impressive 52.6 percent from the three-point line. 

Keys to Avoiding an Early Trip Back to Memphis

The efficient Dillon Brooks has to show up

In Sunday’s loss, Dillon Brooks took a team-high 26 shot attempts and connected on 11 and went 3-of-10 from the three-point stripe. Brooks was efficient and effective in the Grizzlies only win in Orlando. He went 10-18 from the field while shooting 55.6 percent. In that game, Brooks took only four three-point shots and connected on two of them. 

In the four losses, Brooks hasn’t been as great, but has made key buckets that gave Memphis chances to win. In those losses, he shot 39.5 percent while going 7-of-19 from the field. Brooks has to be more consistent in order for the Grizzlies to advance to the play-in tournament. This isn’t a bash-a-Brooks commentary. He is not perfect and, at the same time, he’s not a horrible player. On Sunday, the starting shooting guard came alive in the 4th period, scoring 12 of his 25 points, so he can help the team if he's on target. 

shot_chart.png
With Jaren Jackson Jr. out for the season, the Grizzlies don't really have a lot of options offensively. But Brooks has to make the right decisions, ones that won’t cost the team when it matters most. He is better when he drives to the basket and with mid-range jumpers. He has to do a better job of finding his open teammates instead of forcing the issue by a taking bad shot.

Play to their strengths...

The Grizzlies have to play hard for 48 minutes. It seems like there's often no spark at the beginning of games and the team starts to play hard when it’s too late. And Memphis has to get more from its starters, in particular, Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas needs to have a better game than he did against his offensive output against Toronto, his former team, which held him scoreless.

The 6' 11" center’s effective field goal percentage is 60.5 percent, which helped the Grizzlies become one of the best in the league in scoring in the paint. But Valanciunas has to score for that to matter. The Raptors were effective at double-teaming the big man and taking him out of the game. Coach Jenkins has to find a way to get him more touches inside. 

In their lone win in the bubble, the Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 56–36 in the paint. 

Ja Morant has to get going early...

The presumptive NBA Rookie of the Year has to turn it on before the fourth quarter. Morant is really missing Jackson Jr. in the starting lineup, and all the pressure is on Morant to lead the team to the play-in tournament and playoffs.

Morant's court vision is exceptional and he has the knack for running an effective offense. The only thing that is lacking is efficient shooters around him. Morant is at his best finishing at the rim; we've all seen the highlight dunks. But teams have found ways to limit him in the bubble games, holding him to 41.2 percent from the field, compared to his effective field goal percentage for the year of 51.2 percent. 

The 21-year-old is unselfish and tries to get his teammates going, but he has the ability to take over a game. Morant has to realize with the injuries the Grizzlies have suffered, the team can go only as far he takes them. He is more deadly when he is having fun and Memphis need him to smile, have fun, and be the killer we know he can be. 

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