Tagged in: memphis

James Harden’s new deal with Philadelphia 76ers includes player option for 2023-24 season

Philadelphia 76ers free agent star James Harden is returning to the franchise on a new two-year, $68.6 million contract, including a player option for the 2023-24 season, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

The deal guarantees Harden $33 million for next season and the chance to decline his $35.6 million player option and negotiate another free agent deal next summer, sources said.

Harden, who had declined a $47.4 million player option for next season, delivered the 76ers salary-cap flexibility with his pay cut for 2022-23 — allowing them to sign free agents P.J. Tucker and Danuel House by using the midlevel and biannual exceptions, and facilitating the ability to get De’Anthony Melton in a draft night trade with Memphis.

Harden — a 10-time All-Star and a six-time first-team All-NBA guard — told Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey that he wanted to do his part to fortify the team’s roster and give it a better chance to fight for a championship. And declining that $47.4 million player option could also give the organization flexibility to make deals once this coming season is underway.

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The franchise is hopeful Harden’s commitment to winning will include him returning to preseason training camp in better physical condition than he played in both Brooklyn and Philadelphia last season.

Harden, who turns 33 next month, averaged 22 points and 10.3 assists across 65 games with the Nets and Sixers.

Brooklyn traded him to Philly in February as part of a blockbuster deal that included Ben Simmons joining the Nets. For the fourth time in five years, though, the Sixers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.

Harden spent only a year in Brooklyn, after his wildly successful eight-year run in Houston ended near the start of the 2020-21 season, when he was sent to partner with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the Nets for a significant package of draft assets and players.

After a second-round loss to the Milwaukee Bucks two years ago, Harden’s relationship with the Nets deteriorated in the wake of Irving’s inability to play in New York due to the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In Philadelphia, Harden was reunited with former Rockets general manager Morey, and they worked together to find a way to keep Harden a Sixer on this new deal and improve the franchise’s roster this summer.

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Ja Morant, with blurred vision, matches playoff career-high 47 points as Memphis Grizzlies even series with Golden State Warriors

All Ja Morant needed was one good eye to match his playoff career-high of 47 points and even the Memphis Grizzlies’ series with the Golden State Warriors.

Playing with blurred vision in his left eye after being poked in the third quarter, Morant scored the Grizzlies’ final 15 points to lift them to a 106-101 win in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series at FedEx Forum.

Morant concluded with a spectacular 47 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds to help Memphis avoid falling behind 0-2 in this best-of-seven series.

He joined LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as the only players with multiple 45-point games in the playoffs before turning 23 years old, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

And he did so after leaving the game at the end of the third quarter complaining, “I can’t see.”

“I still can’t [see],” Morant said when asked about his vision. “I can see on the middle. I can’t see on the outside. I got punched trying to get the rebound.” Morant added: “I got another good eye over here — 20-20 vision right here. Thank God for my right eye.”

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The Grizzlies trailed 97-93 with 3:50 remaining when Morant was in the midst of his fourth-quarter takeover. With starter Dillon Brooks ejected in the opening minutes due to a flagrant 2 foul on Gary Payton II, and Jaren Jackson Jr. having fouled out with 3:59 left, Morant scored on a second consecutive driving layup.

He then buried a 26-foot 3 and a 7-foot floater. Morant also drew a foul on Draymond Green as the two were chasing after a rebound that Green grabbed, but officials called a foul when he bumped into Morant with 49.8 seconds left. Morant made two free throws and then sank another driving floater to push the Grizzlies up 104-101 with 30.7 seconds left.

“I feel like I’ve just watched him transform into a true closer,” power forward Xavier Tillman said.

Morant sealed the game from the free throw line to even it up.

“Definitely big time,” Morant said of where this game ranks for him. “I felt like this was a must-win game for us. For me, I was frustrated with myself missing that layup in Game 1.”

Morant, whose career high is 52 points, was frustrated after missing a driving scoop layup over Klay Thompson and a trailing Payton at the end of Game 1’s 117-116 loss to Golden State.

Morant stated Warriors star Stephen Curry told him and Jackson after that loss that “it is going to be a battle. We are going to have some fun.”

As streamers fell from the ceiling after the buzzer on Tuesday night, Morant walked by Curry. He had returned the favor and told Curry, “We are going to have some fun.”

“I was able to return that message tonight,” Morant said. ” … I am having a lot of fun.”

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Grizzlies rout Timberwolves 124-96 to tie series at 1 apiece

Ja Morant scored 23 points and handed out 10 assists as the Memphis Grizzlies looked much more like the team that posted the NBA’s second-best record, routing the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-96 on Tuesday night to even up their first-round Western Conference series at 1 apiece.

Morant went to the bench with 4:40 left to a huge ovation. He finished a rebound shy of a triple-double. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. each added 16 with Jackson hitting 4 of 7 from 3-point range as the Grizzlies set a franchise-record for largest margin of victory in the postseason.

Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins stated Morant was phenomenal along with the bench outscoring Minnesota 60-43. “This is our recipe …,” Jenkins said. “But this is the more the style that we got to play.”

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Seven Grizzlies ended in double figures with Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman Sr. and Ziaire Williams each having 13. Tyus Jones added 10.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Minneapolis.

Anthony Edwards, who scored 36 points in his playoff debut in Game 1, led Minnesota with 20. All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Naz Reid and Taurean Prince had 12 each off the bench, and D’Angelo Russell added 11.

The Timberwolves dominated the series opener after scoring a franchise-record 41 points in the first quarter.

This time, officials stayed very busy calling 20 fouls in a very long first quarter. That kept the NBA’s top scoring teams in the regular season from getting into any rhythm as they combined to shoot 33 free throws.

At one point, Memphis had Steven Adams, Jackson, Clarke and Dillon Brooks on the bench with two fouls. That forced coach Taylor Jenkins to turn to Tillman who didn’t play in Game 1, and he turned in the best playoff game of his young career.

The Grizzlies grabbed their biggest lead of this short series at 30-23 on a floater by Jones with 2:11 left, and they led 33-32 after the first quarter when Morant’s long buzzer-beater attempt hit off the rim and off.

“Then our offense just dried up. Our shot selection in the second quarter basically started the avalanche,” said Minnesota coach Chris Finch, who added that the Grizzlies also started controlling the glass. “That’s really where the game was won.”

Memphis started running in the second and opened the quarter with an 11-2 run and finished on an 11-5 run for a 60-49 lead at halftime with Morant not scoring a point. Patrick Beverley summed up Minnesota’s struggles when his layup before the buzzer rolled off the rim.

The Grizzlies pushed that lead to as much as 27 with a 25-9 run in the third, and Morant scored 12 in the quarter hitting 5 of 7 shots, including both 3-pointers.

His layup gave Memphis a 87-60 lead with 4:15 to go in the third, and the Grizzlies led 96-77 going into the fourth. Minnesota was the NBA’s best-shooting team outside the arc and outscored Memphis 48-21 in Game 1 as the Grizzlies shooting 26% outside the arc with only three knocking down a 3-pointer.

This time, Memphis shot 11-of-34 with six Grizzlies knocking down at least one.

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Grizzlies throttle Thunder by NBA-record 73-point margin

The game was long decided and the Memphis starters were relegated to cheerleaders on the bench when John Konchar got a steal and headed to the basket.

His right-handed dunk gave the Grizzlies a 145-67 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder with 3:02 left and a new franchise record for points in a match.

That 78-point advantage was Memphis’ biggest lead on Thursday night, but by the time it was over the Grizzlies were still 73 points ahead. Their 152-79 victory over the Thunder shattered the NBA record for the largest margin of victory.

“At that moment, I didn’t know it was a franchise record,” Konchar said. “I just kind of saw the lane, and I dunked it. But it’s awesome.”

The 73-point margin easily topped the previous mark, which was Cleveland’s 68-point win over Miami. The Cavaliers topped the Heat 148-80 on Dec. 17, 1991.

“Tonight is not necessarily who we are,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I think we’ve definitely shown that from a competitive standpoint. This isn’t indicative of who our team is.”

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Memphis used 12 players and nine of them reached double figures in scoring, with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s 27 points leading the way for the Grizzlies. Memphis was without its best player, injured guard Ja Morant.

It was 72-36 at halftime and the Grizzlies just kept adding to the lead.

“I think there was some slippage defensively and I think before you know it, teams are in a rhythm and the game is out of hand,” Oklahoma City’s Mike Muscala said. “We didn’t fight, obviously. You’d rather go out fighting. You would rather go out putting your best foot forward and playing together.”

The Thunder flirted with being on the wrong end of the record last season, trailing Indiana by 67 points on May 1 before rallying — such as it was — to lose by merely 57 points, 152-95.

This was worse. Historically worse.

The Grizzlies set a franchise record for shooting, making 62.5% of their shots. De’Anthony Melton scored 19 points, Santi Aldama scored 18 and John Konchar scored 17 for the Grizzlies, and none of those three players even started.

“Man, it feels great. It feels great to be in the history books, especially in front of our home crowd,” Melton stated. “And we did it one through 15. Everybody contributed, everybody played hard and we all got to get in the game. So, it’s always a blessing.

“We knew with (Morant) going down what we had to do,” Melton said. “We had to step up.”

No Memphis starter played more than 21 minutes. Lu Dort led the Thunder with 15 points, and Oklahoma City shot only 33%.

It was 12-8 after five minutes. From there, there was no stopping Memphis. The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder by 15 points in each of the four quarters.

It was the third consecutive game the Grizzlies have led from start to finish.

The Thunder lost their eighth straight as they continued to play without a number of players, including leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered concussion protocol earlier Thursday. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 39 points against the Rockets on Wednesday night but suffered a blow to the head late in the match.

Point guard Josh Giddey, who averages 10.4 points and 5.5 assists, sat out with a non-COVID-19 illness, and the remaining players couldn’t fill the void in Oklahoma City’s offense.

The Thunder had been competitive in their seven straight losses before Thursday night. Their largest margin of defeat was 13 points.

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Grizzlies send Houston to its 12 straight defeat 136-102

Ja Morant had 22 points, six rebounds and six assists, Jaren Jackson Jr. added 18 points and the Memphis Grizzlies defeated Houston 136-102 Monday night, sending the Rockets to their 12th consecutive loss.

Dillon Brooks finished with 16 points, and Kyle Anderson added 15 as Memphis snapped a three-game losing streak. The 136 points was a season-high for the Grizzlies. Brooks and other Grizzlies said a renewed energy meant better defense.

“That should never die,” Brooks said. “The energy every single game, every single day at practice. …We should never lack energy.”

Jalen Green led the Rockets with 15 points, while Jae’Sean Tate added 14 points and nine rebounds. Houston, again was stymied by poor shooting, connecting on only 38%.

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Neither team entered Monday night playing well.

Memphis struggled in its previous three games – all losses by double-digit margins to Charlotte, Phoenix and New Orleans. Meanwhile, over the last four matches, the Rockets have lost by an average of 14.3 points a game.

The misery continued early for the Rockets, who just couldn’t match the Grizzlies, even though Memphis had its own problems with turnovers early. But whatever issues Memphis was dealing with, the Rockets had more with a dozen miscues. The Rockets shot a respectable 44% in the half, but Memphis connected on 56% building its lead.

A 20-0 run in the third quarter, part of Memphis outscoring the Rockets 31-15 in the frame, guaranteed Houston’s losing streak would continue for at least another game as the Grizzlies lead reached 40 in the second half.

“I feel like we played great defense,” Morant said. “We held them to a 15-point quarter. Obviously got to be better rebounding the ball, especially when we play hard defense to get a stop, which we need to get out and run.”

Rockets coach Stephen Silas dealt with a similar lengthy losing streak last season, but there are differences with this skid. “It’s right at the beginning of the season, and we’re trying to find ourselves and trust ourselves,” the Rockets coach said.

“The message is the same. It’s the process. It’s the work, the preparation, the trust. All of those things and trusting that if you do things the right way, we’ll get out of the streak.”

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Rajon Rondo likely to sign with Los Angeles Lakers after buyout from Memphis Grizzlies

Another former Laker seems to be on his way back to the purple and gold.

Rajon Rondo will likely sign with the Lakers, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, upon clearing waivers after a contract buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

Rondo, 35, was traded from the LA Clippers to the Grizzlies earlier this month as a part of the Eric Bledsoe deal, but he reached an agreement on the final year of his contract worth $8.3 million to go back on the market.

The two-time champion and four-time All-Star played for the Lakers for two seasons from 2018 to 2020 and was an integral piece on L.A.’s title team in the Orlando bubble.

The 16-year veteran would provide depth for the Lakers at point guard, with LeBron James and Russell Westbrook figuring to shoulder the ballhandling duties for the starting lineup.

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Rondo would sign with L.A. on a veteran’s minimum contract and occupy one of the Lakers’ three final open spots on the roster.

He would be the fifth former player to come back into the fold for the Lakers this offseason, joining Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore.

Rondo averaged 5.4 points and 4.4 assists in 45 matches with the Clippers and Atlanta Hawks last season, shooting a career-best 40.4% from 3.

He spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career with the Boston Celtics after entering the league in 2006. He has averaged 10.0 points, 8.1 assists and 4.6 rebounds over his career, which also stops stops with the Mavericks, Kings, Bulls and Pelicans.

Rondo will fill the 15th roster spot on the Lakers heading into camp. How much he helps them is up for debate.

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