On today’s show: Grizzlies made a trade (7:42), Chris played golf out at Southwind with Doug Barron, Loren Roberts, Rachel Heck and Gary Parrish (20:25) and we’ll talk more about the Grizzlies trading Jonas Valanciunas and acquiring the 10th pick in the NBA Draft (26:45).
Grind City Media’s Michael Wallace and Eric Hasseltine analyze the phenomenal outputs of Jonas Valanciunas, Jaren Jackson Jr. rookie Xavier Tillman, and Brandon Clarke.
Grind City Media’s 3-Point Stance segment is a Skype-styled conversation between 2 friends, with 2 perspectives, on 3 topics from the weekend centered on sports, entertainment and pop-culture presented by MTN Dew. On Episode 69, Jon Roser and Meghan Triplett discuss:
0:00 2021 Masters
Hideki Matsuyama came out on top on Sunday winning the 2021 Masters, the first male Japanese golfer to win in the United States in history. What does this mean for Hideki Matsuyama’s brand, Japanese golf going forward, and highlights from Chris Vernon’s Masters Updates?
4:40 Grizzlies Weekend
Over the weekend the Memphis Grizzlies dropped two games back-to-back against the New York Knicks blowing a 15pt lead, and the Indiana Pacers nearly coming back from 18 down. What happened in these two games and is there silver lining to an otherwise deflating end to a 4-1 road trip and record-setting night by Jonas Valanciunas?
8:34 Eddie George
Tennessee State is reportedly bringing on Tennessee Titans great & Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George as their new head coach; setting the stage for an Eddie George vs Deion Sanders Southern Heritage Classic. How well do you see him fitting into a head coaching role and what impact will this have on HBCUs bringing on former NFL greats going forward?
Grind City Media’s 3-Point Stance segment is a Skype-styled conversation between 2 friends, with 2 perspectives, on 3 topics from the weekend centered on sports, entertainment and pop-culture presented by MTN Dew. On Episode 65, Meghan Triplett and Jon Roser discuss:
0:00 March Madness Bracket
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is finally upon us! Last night, the NCAA Selection Sunday Show kicked off unveiling the top 64 teams that will tentatively compete in The Big Dance. Who’s your favorite to win, longshots to advance, and potential upsets you see in the coming days?
5:15 Memphis Grizzlies
After a controversial ending to a loss last Friday, the Grizzlies suffered another dismal loss to the OKC Thunder last night 122-128 after being outshot 22-38 in the 4th quarter. What happened in the team’s collapse and what lessons can be learned moving forward?
The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards were held Sunday night on CBS. Which performances stood out to you the most?
In this episode of #BeyondGrit, we revisit Jonas Valanciunas a.k.a. Lithuanian Lightning’s thunderous takeover against the Kings, the epic snowstorm that shutdown Memphis and mid-south, and the team’s resilience heading into All-Star Break.
Grind City Media’s 3-Point Stance segment is a Skype-styled conversation between 2 friends, with 2 perspectives, on 3 topics from the weekend centered on sports, entertainment and pop-culture presented by MTN Dew. On Episode 61, Devin Walker and Meghan Triplett discuss:
0:00 Jonas Valanciunas
Late in the fourth quarter between the Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings matchup, Kings two-way player Chimezie Metu dunked on Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas and wrapped his legs around him before being viciously thrown to the ground. Who was in the wrong here and do you agree with JV’s retaliation?
3:59 Valentine’s Day Weekend
The duo discuss what they did on Valentine’s Day and saw from celebrities around social media. What is your stance on public proposals and relationship announcements on Valentines Day?
7:34 Coach Melissa McFerrin
Memphis women’s basketball coach Melissa McFerrin announced today that she is retiring from the coaching after 13 years with the program and posting a 193-199 career record. What are your thoughts on McFerrin’s departure and will she be missed?
While the NBA regular season is on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace will take a look at various positions on the Grizzlies roster. This week, the duo assess the impact of Jonas Valanciunas in the Grizzlies’ post- Marc Gasol era trade, the addition of Gorgui Dieng to the team, and of course franchise cornerstone Jaren Jackson Jr.
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Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.
From: Lang Whitaker
Date: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at 12:48 PM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: IMHO: Bigs
Last summer’s big offseason signing for the Grizzlies was actually a re-signing: The Grizz re-upped with Jonas Valanciunas, who came over from the Raptors as part of the Marc Gasol trade. Jonas was impressive in his brief time with the Grizz, showing grit and grind, but he was also a diametrically different center than Marc, who had become more of a perimeter-based player by that point.
The Grizz liked what they saw from Jonas enough to sign him to a reported three-year deal, and to me the early returns on Jonas fitting into Taylor Jenkins‘ system have been encouraging. The first few months of the season, it seemed like there were regularly games where Jonas couldn’t find a way to stay on the court—sometimes the game just seemed like it was too fast for him.
But to his credit, Jonas has increasingly found ways to make an impact on the games, turning in double-doubles almost every night and dominating the paint in an increasingly small-ball NBA. Mike, what have you seen from Jonas this season that has made him so effective for the Grizzlies?
From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at 3:22 PM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: Re: IMHO: Bigs
First and foremost, I see a career-high 34 double-doubles on the season beside his name in the production department. I see a 7-footer who has embraced the traditional nature of being a rugged, physical and bruising big man while also being open-minded enough to adapt to the modern NBA. Few players on the Grizz roster work as hard and as frequently after practices on their 3-point shooting than Valancuinas this season. And it’s paid off as he’s modestly raised his shot totals and efficiency from beyond the arc this season to career-best numbers.
More than anything, I credit Valanciunas for recognizing early on – well before he had any reason or evidence to do so – that Memphis would be a very comfortable and fertile spot for his game to continue to blossom and flourish. He committed to that three-year contract last summer, before he knew much of anything about where this organization was headed under a revamped front office, a new coaching staff and a retooled roster. He wanted it, regardless. And it’s paid off with a career season. His stability, rebounding and toughness have provided a much-needed, often overlooked foundation to this team. He’s always been about winning, and never accepted that this was a rebuilding season despite the youthful roster around him.
Jonas simply shows up, goes to work and produces night in and night out at a high rate as one of the top 10 centers in the league. Not only has he adapted to Jenkins’ system, as you mentioned, he’s also proved he could play alongside power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. in the starting frontcourt. It’s a shame that tandem was disrupted for the second straight spring, last year by injuries and this season by the Coronavirus pandemic.
And speaking of Jackson, we were on the verge of seeing Jackson piece together another historically unique season for a player at his age and position when it comes to combining three-point shooting and rim protection. A knee sprain sidelined Jackson in the weeks before the season was suspended, but he was in the process of returning to action in a matter of days. Aside from proving he can get through most or all of a season relative healthy, what else must Jackson show to continue his promising growth in the NBA?
From: Lang Whitaker
Date: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 at 9:38 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: Re: IMHO: Bigs
I thought Jaren proved himself as the best perimeter shooter on the Grizzlies last season. Which is an odd thing to say about a 6-11 dude who is all arms and hands, but yeah, Jaren attempted 340 threes (second only to Dillon Brooks) and hit right at 40 percent of them, which was the best of anyone who attempted them around that volume. Taylor Jenkins‘ staff realized this, and started finding ways to use Jaren almost like a 2-guard: running him off screens; using him in plays where he was the designated shooter.
Yet it was defensively, as you mentioned, where I thought we saw Jaren really make strides. When the season began he was still in foul trouble within minutes of the opening tip most nights, a trend that began his rookie season, and it happened frequently enough that people were wondering if perhaps Jaren was just always going to be a player who got called for a lot of fouls. He may as well have come out for the opening tip with a cookie jar on his hand — referees seemed almost gleeful to see how quickly they could get two fouls called on Jaren and get him to the bench.
And then it… stopped? Well, not stopped, entirely, but Jaren did show remarkable improvement at staying out of foul trouble, and managed to play deeper into the first quarters. And once he got better at not fouling, as the season rolled along he was able to become a shot blocker and rim protector, which seems like a natural transition for a player with his size and tools.
What’s next? I think the next step for Jaren is just cleaning things up. Physically he’s bulked up, and he has the size and speed to do anything he wants on the floor, but so often the little things slow him down: stepping out of bounds, turning the ball over trying a crossover, getting in foul trouble. To me, if Jaren can clean up all those little things, just tighten up his game in general, it will go a long way toward helping him make the next step.
One last thought: On a team defined by their youth, even though he was in his second NBA season, it’s easy to forget Jaren was still the youngest player on the Grizzlies. He’s going to be so good. But he still has some growing to do.
On the other hand, Brandon Clarke came in as a rookie and immediately played like a 7-year veteran. Clarke knew precisely what he could do, stayed within himself at all times, and played with such poise. His on-court personality reminds me very much of Tim Duncan—they both have that quiet confidence. Athletically, Clarke might be the most gifted player on the roster; if there was any Grizzlies player I wanted to see compete in the dunk contest, it was Clarke, not Ja Morant. As the season went along, Clarke expanded his range to the three-point line, added a floater, and generally played his way into all-rookie first team consideration.
And he’s a rookie! Mike, where do you see Brandon Clarke‘s game evolving next?
From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at 12:27 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: Re: IMHO: Bigs
Clarke told me early this season that he spent the bulk of his offseason working on two areas: three-point shooting and ball-handling. Those were the two biggest questions in his game coming out of Gonzaga, and he didn’t really need to stretch his game all that much on his way to Las Vegas Summer League MVP honors the month after the draft. But once he got deep into the NBA season, he started to show flashes of being able to shoot with range, and put the ball on the floor to get to his favorite spot a step inside the free-throw line to sink those floaters.
There’s a maturity to Clarke’s game, largely due to the fact that he didn’t enter the NBA as a one-and-done college player. He actually spent three seasons in the NCAA ranks, which strangely may have cost him a few spots in the draft. But considering his impact – he was among the top six NBA players overall in field goal shooting percentage, and also one of the top scorers and rebounders among all rookies – Clarke was the steal of the draft. But, as you mentioned, there is room for what Jenkins likes to refer to as growth opportunities.
For Clarke, that comes in being a better on-ball defender and becoming more effective in the pick-and-roll game. Even with his immense athleticism, the nuances required to be an effective defender capable of switching onto smaller offensive players is a process that takes a few seasons to develop. Clarke has the tools and the work ethic to make up for his average height and length with a phenomenal motor. He’s relentless. Nagging injuries to his back, hip and quad also kept him out of the lineup for stretches this season. Physically adjusting to the demands of the 82-game NBA season can be a major task. Clarke is coping with that transition, and it’s all been a valuable learning experience. But he’s an anchor of a frontcourt that includes Jackson, Valanciunas, Kyle Anderson, Gorgui Dieng and Justise Winslow. That’s quality depth and potential.
Lang, we’ll get out of here on this: I believe the Grizzlies should approach Jontay Porter as if he’s their de facto first-round pick of the 2020 draft. The team signed the talented, but oft-injured big man out of Missouri to see if he can develop into a solid NBA prospect. Knee issues derailed Porter’s college career, but he was widely projected as a first-round pick before going undrafted last year as he recovered. So quietly signing Porter last month was a low-risk, potentially high-reward scenario for Memphis. If he gets right, what kind of talent are the Grizzlies getting?
From: Lang Whitaker
Date: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at 9:46 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: Re: IMHO: Bigs
Let me start by saying that I learned long ago to not trust highlight videos. They are made, by design, to show you only the best of a player, to fool you into thinking this guy is the next superstar. I’d almost rather watch lowlight videos, to see the mistakes a player has made, to see if they are just a lack of athleticism or low basketball IQ.
That being said, when I googled Jontay Porter, the first highlight video that came up paints a pretty convincing picture of his abilities, at least offensively…
(Watching that video, the first thing that came to mind is that I’d bet Porter could learn a lot from just watching and being around Kyle Anderson. Porter seems to have a similar skill/size package, perhaps with better shooting. The other thing I thought of when watching that video is that Porter kind of plays like the Grizzlies were trying to get Ivan Rabb to play, which never seemed to click. The last thought I had when watching that video is that I still don’t trust highlight videos.)
I don’t think there is any doubting Porter’s ability to play basketball and understand what the Grizzlies want him to do. The bigger issue seems to be Porter’s injury history, considering he’s torn his ACL twice in the last few years. So this seems like the Grizzlies are betting on their ability to trust Porter’s rehab and development to their training staff, to get his body to a place where he can withstand long-term NBA wear and tear.
If Porter develops to that point, it’s almost like hitting the lottery without having a lottery pick. And if he doesn’t get to that point, well, at least you tried.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – When it comes to snagging rebounds, few players in the NBA are on a more prolific tear right now than Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas.
Just don’t bother talking individual stats with the 7-foot Lithuanian big man. Not unless you want to essentially get boxed out and penned under the rim as Valanciunas explains why he’d much rather discuss collective team results.
So it stands to reason Valanciunas is in a more accommodating mood now that Memphis notched consecutive wins on the heels of a five-game losing streak coming out of last month’s All-Star break. That turnaround coincides with a career-best spike in production as Valanciunas has raised his game to compensate for injuries that left a huge void in the frontcourt.
The Grizzlies (30-31) are now two weeks into their adjustment process amid the absences of starting power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and top backup forward Brandon Clarke. Both are expected to remain sidelined for the duration of the Grizzlies’ three-game trip that continues Wednesday against the Nets and wraps up Friday against the Mavericks.
It’s not hurting our team as much now, but still – however long they’re going to be out, somebody’s got to step up and do their job, do more, do as much as we can together and wait for them to come back healthy.
But after stumbling initially without them, the Grizzlies are regaining their footing largely because Valanciunas has strongly stood his ground in the paint. Over the last three games, the eighth-year veteran has averaged 16.7 points and 19.7 rebounds while shooting 55.5 percent overall from the field, 50 percent on three-pointers and converting 100 percent on free throws.
The 59 combined rebounds Valanciunas grabbed against the Kings, Lakers and Hawks are most by a player over any three-game span in franchise history. And in Monday’s blowout win in Atlanta, Valanciunas tallied 15 points and 15 boards to notch his 30th double-double of the season.
“We’re down two great players right now,” Valanciunas said as the Grizzlies pull together in the absences of Jackson and Clarke, who combine to average nearly 30 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks a game. “It’s not hurting our team as much now, but still – however long they’re going to be out, somebody’s got to step up and do their job, do more, do as much as we can together and wait for them to come back healthy.”
The onus has fallen mainly on Jonas. But as the Grizzlies proved in their most lopsided victory of the season on Monday, every available player has rallied together to contribute to the cause. Now, the team returns to action against the Nets looking to extend momentum from Saturday’s 105-88 home win over the Lakers and Monday’s 127-88 road victory against the Hawks.
A franchise-record nine players scored in double figures against Atlanta as the Grizzlies joined the Bucks as the NBA’s lone teams this season to hold consecutive foes to 88 or fewer points. And Valanciunas’ toughness and tenacity in the paint has provided a sturdy foundation as Memphis tries to strengthen its hold on the eighth and final playoff seed in the West.
“It’s recognizing how he can be an anchor, that mentality of how he can go out there and play full force on both ends of the floor,” Jenkins said of Valanciunas shouldering a larger load in recent games. “He’s playing some longer stretches with a couple of guys out, but I think that mentality allows him to go out there and realize what he can do to impact this game. And also, he’s just playing to his strengths. He’s been playing at a high level these last few games, and we’re going to need him even more moving forward.”
If you want to be good defensively and go farther in this process, you’ve got to do certain things. So, I’m just taking great pride in boxing out, being physical, playing tough, being active and getting those rebounds. That’s my job.
Despite his size and stature, it’s easy to overlook Valanciunas in the midst of a surprising season for the Grizzlies. The team’s ‘NXTGen’ slogan is a nod to the roster’s young core of Jackson, Clarke and NBA Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ja Morant. The Grizzlies have also made nearly a dozen trades or transactions over the past 14 months, including Monday’s move to sign veteran swingman Anthony Tolliver to a 10-day contract to add a needed three-point shooter.
But Valanciunas is hardly a forgotten man in the mix as he’s responded with a career season after the Grizzlies made him a major priority last summer in free agency. He’s in the first year of a three-year, $45 million deal he signed to remain with Memphis after initially being acquired at last season’s trade deadline from Toronto in exchange for Marc Gasol.
At the time, Valanciunas wasn’t certain what to expect after agreeing to stick with a team that underwent major changes in the front office and was headed into a roster makeover. But the 27-year-old experienced big man was certain of what he’d offer in return.
“You’ve got to rebound, because rebounding is the last phase of your defense,” Valanciunas insisted. “If you want to be good defensively and go farther in this process, you’ve got to do certain things. So, I’m just taking great pride in boxing out, being physical, playing tough, being active and getting those rebounds. That’s my job.”
He’s playing some longer stretches with a couple of guys out, but I think that mentality allows him to go out there and realize what he can do to impact this game. And also, he’s just playing to his strengths. He’s been playing at a high level these last few games, and we’re going to need him even more moving forward.
And few in the league are doing it more relentlessly than the man in Memphis.
Valanciunas’ season-high 25 rebounds in Friday’s loss over the Kings were the most in the league by any player in a game this season. His 30 double-doubles through 58 games this season are already the most he’s ever collected in any season of his career. Those 30 double-doubles are also tied for 12th-most in the league this season. Among that list, Valanciunas is the only NBA player with at least 30 double-doubles averaging fewer than 30 minutes a game.
Valanciunas has averaged 14.0 rebounds per game since the All-Star break, which ranks third in the league in that span. And his 4.6 offensive boards a game are second-most in the NBA.
“We know exactly how important J.V. is to us; we know we’ve got one of the best centers in the league leading us into battle down there every night,” Jackson recently said of Valanciunas. “He makes it easier for me to do certain things in my game, and it’s the same way for me with him. We all just try to feed off how hard he’s playing in there every night.”
Jackson, who has missed the past four games with a sprained knee, has progressed in recent workouts and is expected to be reevaluated at the end of this week. Clarke has missed the past three games with a quad injury and an update on his status is likely coming in that timeframe.
In the meantime, Gorgui Dieng has seen his role expand off the bench as the second center/power forward in the rotation behind Valanciunas. Dieng is coming off his first double-double since he was added at the trade deadline last month, when he finished with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench Monday.
He makes it easier for me to do certain things in my game, and it’s the same way for me with him. We all just try to feed off how hard he’s playing in there every night.
Contributing in productive ways has been contagious the past two games.
“I feel everybody is here for a reason, because they’ve been good enough to get here,” reserve forward Josh Jackson said. “So you just have to find where you fit in … find a role to play.”
It’s tough to find anyone who knows their role more than Valanciunas, who is averaging a career-best 11.0 rebounds a game this season, good for ninth overall in the NBA. But he’s also stretched his game out to become an effective three-point threat, having knocked down 37.1 percent of a career-high 78 attempts from beyond the arc this season.
“The key word is consistency,” Jenkins added. “He’s just been giving consistent effort all season. It’s helped him expand his game on the offensive end. I’m a big believer in having someone that anchors your defense. And the fact he’s really elevated his game since the turn of the year, blocking shots, protecting the paint, rotations, altering shots that may not show up in the box score and, obviously, the last few games, the 20-rebound efforts, that’s just a credit to him.”
In the process, the Grizzlies have gone from one of the least productive rebounding teams in the league before Valanciunas arrived to ranking seventh in the NBA entering March. Offensively, Memphis has ranked at or near the top in points in the paint all season as well.
But the grittiest of all Grizzlies is far less interested in rankings.
It’s all about results.
He’s just been giving consistent effort all season. It’s helped him expand his game on the offensive end. I’m a big believer in having someone that anchors your defense. And the fact he’s really elevated his game since the turn of the year, blocking shots, protecting the paint, rotations, altering shots that may not show up in the box score and, obviously, the last few games, the 20-rebound efforts, that’s just a credit to him.
“It’s not an individual sport, so winning is ultimately what matters,” Valanciunas declared. “That’s why we’re here. Winning is the first priority. We’re in playoff position and playing hard. We’re also a young team that’s had some ups and downs; it’s been a roller-coaster. But we’re learning and growing together. And it’s been fun going about it this way.”
Through all the ups and downs, these resilient Grizzlies keep finding a way to regroup.
That’s mainly because Valanciunas is always in position to rebound.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
This week on Just Grizzlies, Kelcey chats with Jonas Valanciunas about the move from Toronto to Memphis, how his role has changed within the Grizzlies’ young roster, and more. Then, ESPN writer Tim MacMahon joins the podcast to discuss what he likes about the Grizzlies this season, their success so far this year, and he shares his projection for the squad looking ahead at the playoff push.