76ers’ Morey on Melton: ‘He is a young, tough, and talented two-way player’

On draft day, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Grizzlies guard De’Anthony Melton in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies as the team sent draft rights to the number 23 selection in the 2022 NBA Draft (David Roddy) and Danny Green to Memphis.

Last season with Memphis, the 24-year-old Melton averaged career highs across the board with 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.4 steals in 22.7 minutes per game. His average of 1.4 takeaways per contest led the NBA among players who played in 25-or-fewer minutes per game and also ranked within the league’s top 15 overall.

Over the past two seasons, the fourth-year guard raised his three-point shooting percentage to .388, a significant jump from the .294 mark he posted in his first two career campaigns. 

Originally selected by Houston with the No. 46 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Melton was traded to Phoenix before the start of the 2018-19 season. According to 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, Melton will prosper in Philadelphia.

“Heading into the draft, we had a goal of strengthening our rotation and believe we accomplished that by acquiring De’Anthony Melton,” Morey said. “He is a young, tough, and talented two-way player who can impact the game on multiple levels. We think he will thrive here, and we’re excited to add him to our roster,”  

Last season, the 76ers did not have a backup point guard and needed additional help off the bench. Melton, who is a two-way player, gives the 76ers just that.

With Joel Embiid and James Harden, who will reportedly opt-in and sign an extension with the team, Philadelphia is built to win now, so essentially, based on this move, they felt no one late in the first round was going to help this team right now. 

Grizzlies’ Brooks suspended one game for flagrant foul on Payton

Memphis Grizzlies guard/forward Dillon Brooks has been suspended one game and will miss Game 3 for having made unnecessary and excessive contact against Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II, resulting in substantial injury to Payton, the league announced Thursday.

Brooks was assessed a flagrant foul 2 and ejected after hitting Payton in the head, which caused Payton to fall and fracture his left elbow in the first quarter of the Grizzlies’ 106-101 win over the Warriors in Game 2 of their conference semifinals playoff series.

According to the Warriors, Payton is out and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Game 3 is Saturday night at Chase Center.

Morant wins Most Improved Player award

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has been named the 2021-22 NBA Most Improved Player, the league announced Monday.

A three-year NBA veteran, Morant becomes the first player to win the NBA Most Improved Player Award with Memphis. The annual award, which was first presented in the 1985-86 season, is designed to honor an up-and-coming player who has made a dramatic improvement from the previous season or seasons.

Morant received 221 points (38 first-place votes) from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray finished in second place with 183 points (20 first-place votes). Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland finished in third place with 178 points (11 first-place votes). P

layers were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

A first-time NBA All-Star selection this season, Morant averaged a career-high 27.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds in 33.1 minutes in 57 games. He also shot a career-best 49.3 percent from the field. Morant, 22, is the third player in NBA history to reach his 2021-22 numbers in points, assists, rebounds and field goal percentage within his first three seasons, joining NBA 75th Anniversary Team members Oscar Robertson and Dwyane Wade.

In addition to an 8.3-point increase in scoring and 4.3 percent improvement in field goal percentage from the 2020-21 season, Morant established career-high averages in minutes, rebounds, steals (1.16 spg), free throws made (5.5), free throws attempted (7.3) and three-pointers made (1.5). He also recorded a career high in three-point field goal percentage (34.4).

Behind Morant, the Grizzlies (56-26) finished with the second-best record in the NBA, matched the franchise’s single-season record for victories and secured their highest playoff seed ever (No. 2 in the Western Conference). Morant was one of three Memphis players to earn votes for the Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award, along with guard Desmond Bane (who finished in fifth place) and forward-center Jaren Jackson Jr. (who received one second-place vote).

Morant, the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year, was selected by the Grizzlies with the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He entered the 2021-22 season with career averages of 18.4 points, 7.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds across his first two seasons.

Garland and Murray had great cases to win the award, but it’s hard to argue with Morant getting the award.

The voting results for the 2021-22 NBA Most Improved Player Award are below. The balloting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP. Complete ballots for each voter will be posted at PR.NBA.com after the announcement of all end-of-season awards.

The great, the not so great, & bottomline of Cavs’ loss to Grizzlies

On Wednesday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the Memphis Grizzlies in their season opener 132-121 at FedExForum. 

Memphis’ Ja Morant led all scorers with 37 points, including six assists and five rebounds.

Here’s the great for Cleveland:

-Darius Garland started slow but picked things up in the second half. Garland had two points in the first half, but the third-year point guard had 11 of his 13 points and eight of his team-high 12 assists in the second half.

-Ricky Rubio is just a professional point guard, and he also had a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists in 25 minutes of action. Rubio is a calming presence for this team.

-Jarrett Allen was perfect from the field(11-11) and had 25 points, four rebounds, and three block shots. He did a great job of scoring around the basket.

-Rookie Evan Mobley was impressive in his debut. He had a great stat line with 17 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in a team-high 38 minutes. He even showed off the range with three in the corner. 

-Cleveland was very unselfish last night. They had 38 assists on 47 field goals. The 38 assists are the most the Cavs have had in a game since 2016.

The Not So Great:

-Cleveland’s defense was not great last night. First, they allowed 132; next, they allowed 70 points in the paint, and finally, they allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 53% from the field, including 14-33 from downtown. 

Lauri Markkanen struggled with his shot last night(4-14 FG, 10 points). This is not a big deal, Markkanen is a solid shooter, and his shots will fall.

Bottom line:

The Cavaliers showed a lot of fight in this game. They battled back and cut the lead to one after falling behind by 14 in the fourth quarter. This was not a bad performance by Cleveland. Going forward, they have to be better on defense, but again, not a bad start for the young Cavaliers.

What’s next:

The Cavs will host the Hornets in their home-opener on Friday night.

Clippers acquire Eric Bledsoe from Memphis

The Los Angeles Clippers wanted to upgrade the guard spot, and they are hoping they’ve done just that. Los Angeles acquired Eric Bledsoe from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo, and Daniel Oturu, the team announced on Monday.

“We are excited to add Eric, a strong, versatile guard and an established playmaker who can attack the paint and defend multiple positions,” said Clippers president of basketball operations, Lawrence Frank. “Eric started his career with the Clippers, and we’re delighted to bring him back.” 

Bledsoe, who the Pelicans traded to the Grizzlies in early August, returns to the Clippers after starting his career with the team. Last season, the 31-year-old averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists for New Orleans.

Beverley, 33, appeared in 177 games over the last four seasons with the Clippers; last season, he averaged 7.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per contest. Beverley is a big-time defender and has been named to three All-Defensive teams in his career.

Rondo, 35, averaged 7.6 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.1 rebounds in 18 games with Los Angeles. The 6-foot-1 guard, who is a two-time NBA champion and four-time All-Star, came to the Clippers last December in the deal that sent Lou Williams to Atlanta. 

Oturu, 21, appeared in 30 games for the Clippers last season, averaging 1.8 points and 1.6 rebounds. The 6-foot-8 center played two seasons at the University of Minnesota.

For the Clippers, you get an athletic guard in Bledsoe, who is a decent scorer and solid defender. Regarding the Grizzlies, they are a young team, and adding veterans like Rondo and Beverley could be good, but they probably won’t keep both, so don’t be surprised if Rondo is re-routed elsewhere.

Spurs hoping to make the playoffs, but they have to get through Memphis

The tenth-seeded San Antonio Spurs are hoping to get back to the playoffs for the 23rd time in 24 seasons when they face the ninth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies on the road in the Play-In Tournament on Wednesday night. The winner of this game will play the loser of Warriors-Lakers for the eighth seed, while the loser’s season is done. 

Last season, the Spurs missed out on the playoffs for the first time in 23 seasons. In reality, for the Spurs to get to this point is a win for this team. San Antonio has one of the youngest rosters in basketball, and it’s never easy to win with young talent. 

Lonnie Walker IV is excited for the opportunity to make the playoffs, and Walker, who played in six playoff games in his three-year career, hopes to get the victory over Memphis on Wednesday night.

‘This is situation that I’ve never been in, and on top of that, we’re trying to make the playoffs,” Walker said. “I’m starving, I’m hungry, I’m excited, and I’m ready to play with my team and get a dub.”

Dejounte Murray knows what’s at stake, and it’s simple for Murray: it’s win or go home. 

“It’s one chance closer to get an opportunity to make the playoffs,” Murray said. “So, win or go home. It’s easy, said and done. You win, and you move on. You lose, and you go home.”

For San Antonio to get to the playoffs, they have to win two games on the road, which might be good for this team. The Spurs have been a better team on the road than at home this season. San Antonio is 19-17 at home but is 14-22 on the road, so maybe being on the road will benefit this team. Memphis took the season-series 2-1, but San Antonio’s only victory against the Grizzlies was in Memphis in the first game of the season. 

These two teams last played at the end of January and the beginning of February in a two-game set in San Antonio, which the Grizzlies swept. Memphis won both games by double-digits. 

At this point, Memphis, who lost to the Blazers in the Play-In game last season, has won five of their last six games, while the Spurs have lost five of their previous six. The Grizzlies are playing better basketball right now, but it’s one game, and anything can happen in a one-game situation, so we’ll see who will win and who will go home. 

Doncic on loss to Grizzlies: ‘That game was obviously one of the worst I’ve ever played’

In the final week of the NBA season, both the Dallas Mavericks(40-29) and Memphis Grizzlies(36-33) have a lot to play for. Dallas is trying to hold onto at least the sixth seed in the Western Conference to avoid the Play-In Tournament, while the Grizzlies are trying to move up to the eighth seed, which would mean they would have to win one game to advance in the Play-In Tournament.

The Grizzlies defeated the Pelicans 115-110 on Monday night, so you would think Dallas, who was off on Monday night, would be the fresher team, but that was not the case.

Behind Ja Morant’s 24 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds, and Dillon Brooks’ 22 points, Memphis routed the Mavericks 133-104 at FedExForum. 

Memphis had seven players in double-figures on Tuesday night and outscored Dallas by 11 points in the third quarter to take complete control of the game. The Grizzlies led by as many as 29 points in the fourth quarter.

For Dallas, Tim Hardaway Jr. led the way with 19 points, and Willie Cauley-Stein had a season-high 16 points. Luka Doncic struggled against the Grizzlies. He shot 4/16 from the field and had 12 points. Doncic also had five turnovers.

“I wasn’t myself,” Doncic said after the game. “We’ve got to bounce back, but that game was obviously one of the worst I’ve ever played. I’ve got to be better than that.”

According to Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, the game changed in the first quarter when the Grizzlies went on a 11-2 run to close the quarter, and Memphis led 28-27 after one.

“Obviously, we didn’t play well over the course of 48 minutes,” Carlisle said. “A key part of this was the way we ended the first quarter… They were able to finish the quarter, I think, on a 9-0 run to take the lead. They got the momentum from there, and we were never really able to get it back. Very disappointing loss, but we gotta get ready for tomorrow.”

This was a game Dallas needed to have and to play as poorly as they did, was disappointing. Dallas and Portland have identical records, but Portland is now the fifth seed, while Dallas has fallen to six. Dallas has a 1.0 game lead over the seventh-seeded Lakers.

The good news for Dallas is they are expected to get Kristaps Porzingis back on Wednesday against the Pelicans, who missed his seventh consecutive game due to a knee injury. However, they will be without JJ Redick, who left the game in the third quarter with a right heel injury and did not return. Redick missed 21 games with that same injury.

All is not lost, but Dallas needs to bounce back against New Orleans if they want to continue to be in a position to avoid the Play-In Tournament.

Mavs’ Carlisle on win over Memphis: ‘That was one of our best defensive games of the year’

The Dallas Mavericks finally got back on the court on Monday, and they played liked they never left. Behind strong defense and a big-time performance from Tim Hardaway Jr., who scored a game-high 29 points off the bench, the Mavericks defeated Memphis at home 102-92.

Dallas had not played since February 14 after two games were canceled due to severe weather hit Texas last week.

The defense set the tone for the Mavericks early in the game. Dallas held Memphis to 13 points in the first quarter, tying a season-low in points allowed in any quarter this season.

“That was one of our best defensive games of the year, and that was great to see,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. “I just thought we had a real presence from the beginning. The ending was not what we wanted. You want to close out games better than that, but we talked about it a little bit afterwards, and we just have to concentrate a little bit better.”

During their short break, Carlisle and the team worked on their defense, which he discussed after the game.

“It was a long wait,” he said. “It was probably the longest stretch between games ever in the NBA. I don’t even know if any COVID teams have had an eight-day break, but I may be wrong. It is a long time. Our practices worked out well this week, and it was clear that our guys were anxious to get out on the floor and compete. The work that we put into defense this week, I thought, paid off tonight. It is all about being able to sustain.”

Hardaway Jr. gave Dallas a big boost off the bench against Memphis, and he contributed 20 of his 29 points(7-11 three-point range) in the first half; the Mavericks improved to 6-1 when Hardaway Jr. goes for 20+ points and a perfect 3-0 when he hits 25+ points.

“I’ve said previously before when I see one or two go in; it’s pretty much an ocean for me, I feel like,” Hardaway Jr. said. “The game just comes naturally, and I just really pride myself in being one of our top shooters. When I check into the game, I just want to be that sparkplug for the team, anyway, shape or form I can, and just make sure I bring that attitude.”

Boston comes to town on Tuesday night, which won’t be an easy task for Dallas. The Mavericks are 5-2 on their current homestand and have a chance to get to .500 with a win over the Celtics.


-Luka Dončić recorded 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, marking the first game without 25+ points in his last 15 games. Now finished, Dončić’s streak of 14 consecutive games with 25+ points stands as the longest streak in franchise history and the second-longest streak in the NBA this season, behind Bradley Beal’s streak of 17 consecutive games with 25+ points.

• Kristaps Porzingis (lower back soreness) missed tonight’s game and Maxi Kleber (left ankle sprain) left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return.

Spurs’ Popovich on White: ‘I thought he did very, very well for having been gone so long’

During the Spurs’ three-game winning streak, San Antonio came up big on the defensive end, but on Saturday night against the Grizzlies, the defense came up small.

San Antonio, who allow 111.3 points per game and 47% from the field, let the Grizzlies score 129 points and shoot 56% from the field, and the Grizzlies shot 48.6 percent (17-35) from three-point range for 51 points, the second-most the Spurs have allowed this season from beyond the arc. Ultimately, the Spurs would fall to Memphis 129-112 at AT&T Center.

De’Anthony Melton scored 20 points, and Ja Morant added 19 points and 11 assists for the Grizzlies. Memphis is on a six-game winning streak and played their first game since January 20 due to health and safety protocols. 

After the game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said maybe the team playing on Friday night impacted their performance.

“Everybody plays back-to-backs and three and four nights, and it probably showed a little bit on us, but everybody goes through it,” Popovich said. “You just have to play. We got outplayed tonight. That’s the bottom line. 

While they lost, some good news came from this game for the Spurs. Derrick White returned after missing 14 games due to a toe injury, and in 22 minutes off the bench, White led the Spurs with 18 points. 

“I’m feeling good,” White said. “I don’t have a broken toe this time, so that’s cool, but I feel good. Just trying to get my legs underneath me. Feel like I haven’t played in a while, so just trying to get my legs back underneath me and do whatever it takes to help us compete. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

Popovich added on White: “I thought he did very, very well for having been gone so long.”

The beauty of the 2020-21 NBA schedule is the two-game sets, and for the Spurs, they have an opportunity to get back at it against the Grizzlies on Monday night and correct whatever they did wrong.