Mon Aug 15 11:48am ET
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, center, handles the ball between Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins (22) and guard Stephen Curry (30) during Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Sunday, May 1, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Merry Christmas, Memphis. The Grizzlies are in line to be part of that holiday's NBA showcase for the first time.
Ja Morant and the Grizzlies will face Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Dec. 25 in San Francisco, according to a person with knowledge of the league's scheduling plans. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the league is not planning to release the season's full schedule until later this week.
Given that the league has not announced the final 1,230-game season slate, it is still possible that the Christmas schedule could change - though such a move is unlikely.
The Grizzlies were one of two current NBA franchises yet to have a game on Dec. 25. The Charlotte Hornets are now the only club still waiting for its first Christmas schedule invite.
The rest of the Christmas schedule, the person said, will have Philadelphia facing New York, Milwaukee meeting Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers playing against Dallas and Phoenix going up against two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.
If the Lakers' LeBron James - the all-time Christmas scoring leader, who enters the season 1,325 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most in NBA history - appears in that Dec. 25 game against the Mavericks, it'll be his 17th time playing on the holiday. That would break a tie with Lakers great Kobe Bryant for the most ever.
Golden State and Memphis met in the second round of last season's playoffs, as did Milwaukee and Boston.
This will mark the fifth consecutive year that Christmas - again, barring a late change - does not feature a rematch of the NBA Finals. Golden State topped Boston for this past season's championship; there hasn't been a finals rematch on Dec. 25 since the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers played in the 2017-18 season, on their way to a fourth consecutive meeting in the title series.
Noticeably absent from the Christmas schedule: Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets. Durant told the Nets in June that he wants a trade elsewhere, reiterating that request earlier this month.
Dallas will play host to a Christmas game for the second time. The other was in 2011, after the Mavericks topped the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals the previous season. James and the Heat spoiled that season opener for the Mavericks, winning 105-94.
The Lakers will be playing on Christmas for the 24th consecutive year, by far the longest stretch in the league. Golden State will make its 10th consecutive Christmas appearance, Boston its seventh in a row and Milwaukee its fifth straight on Dec. 25.
New York is playing on Christmas for the 55th time, extending its record.
Of the eight teams that made the conference semifinals this past season, seven appear on this year's Christmas schedule. The exception is Miami, the No. 1 seed in the East last season that fell to Boston in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.
With Memphis now getting a Dec. 25 game, the longest Christmas droughts besides Charlotte now belong to Sacramento (last Christmas game in 2003), Indiana (2004), Detroit (2005) and Orlando (2011).
The NBA season opens Oct. 18. Training camps open in late September.
Los Angeles Clippers guard/forward Amir Coffey finished with 11 points during Friday's preseason win over Israeli club Maccabi Ra'anana. The 25-year-old logged 18 minutes, shooting 4-for-6 from the field while adding five rebounds and three steals. Last season, Coffey made 30 appearances in the starting lineup, averaging 13.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and shot 42.5% from deep. He's reportedly added some muscle throughout the offseason, so it appears he's committed to having a breakout year in 2022-23. Fantasy managers shouldn't go out of the way to acquire Coffey, but he's a guy who could easily land a routine spot off the bench.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (wrist) won't be available at the beginning of the regular season. The veteran missed the final 10 games of the postseason because of a left knee injury while also having surgery in July to repair a torn ligament in his wrist. Middleton averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists while shooting 37.3% from behind the arc. With that said, Milwaukee certainly wasn't the same without Middleton, so the team hopes to get him back as soon as possible, although preserving him for a deep playoff run will be a priority. Nonetheless, Pat Connaughton is the favorite to fill the void in the starting lineup until Middleton or Joe Ingles (knee) are ready to roll.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kendrick Nunn has impressed the coaching staff, specifically head coach Darvin Ham. As a result, Nunn has been working with the starting unit during practice sessions as of late. The 27-year-old has averaged 15.0 points, 3.0 assists, and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 36.4% from deep throughout his two seasons of play, both with Miami. However, after inking a deal with the Lakers in the summer of 2021, he missed all last season with a right knee injury. With that said, fantasy managers will certainly want to monitor this situation, as Nunn may exceed expectations this season if he lands a spot in the starting lineup.
Los Angeles Lakers center Damian Jones has been spending time with the starting unit during practices as of late. While head coach Darvin Ham hasn't announced who would begin the games for L.A. this season, Jones is in the running for the job. The 27-year-old signed with the Lakers in July after finishing last season in Sacramento, where he averaged 14.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 15 starts. Although Thomas Bryant will get minutes, Jones may be the No. 1 guy on the depth chart and commands attention from managers in deep formats, especially since he could easily surpass his fantasy expectations.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a two-year, $21.6 million extension with the team on Saturday. C.J. McCollum recently received a two-year extension of his own, so it's apparent the Pels are making the necessary moves to be relevant for years to come. Nance was traded to New Orleans before the deadline but played only nine regular season games due to injury. However, he averaged 9.2 points and 5.8 rebounds throughout the postseason, although he shot a rough 22.2% from deep. If the 29-year-old can stay healthy in 2022-23, he'll have a chance to establish a meaningful role off the bench, possibly even getting some starts here and there. Either way, Nance should provide value for fantasy managers in deep formats.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Robert Covington received 10 minutes off the bench during the preseason win over Maccabi Ra'anana on Friday evening. He looked good, finishing with 13 points, three rebounds, two steals, and shot 66% from deep. After being traded by Portland to L.A. ahead of the deadline last season, Covington finished the year by averaging 10.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks while draining 45.0% of his attempts from downtown. He is one of the most well-round players in the league, although his lack of regular minutes won't do him any favors on the fantasy end. However, Covington should undoubtedly get attention from managers in deep category formats heading into the 2022-23 campaign, especially since he may get more work as the season progresses.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. finished with 10 points during the preseason win over Maccabi Ra'anana. The veteran logged 14 minutes on Friday night, shooting 4-for-10 from the field and 2-for-5 from deep while adding four boards and two assists. Nonetheless, Morris is currently slotted behind Nicolas Batum on the depth chart. With that said, the 33-year-old probably won't be a consistent contributor for fantasy managers this season. However, he should make sporadic appearances in the starting lineup, which would temporarily increase his stock for those in need.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Luke Kennard finished with a team-high 16 points during the preseason win over Israeli club Maccabi Ra'anana on Friday. Kennard picked up right where he left off from last season, sinking four of his five attempts from deep. The 26-year-old is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while draining 44.9% of his tries from behind the arc. Kennard figures to have a regular, albeit limited, role in the rotation in 2022-23. However, unless someone on the roster goes down with an injury, his lack of consistent minutes will prevent him from being a routine fantasy contributor.
Portland Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant has been impressing the organization early in training camp. Fellow teammate Damian Lillard had plenty of praise for Grant. He mentioned that Grant has impressive athleticism and versatility. The Blazers are excited to have Grant on their roster. He should see a significant usage in Portland, but probably not quite as high as it was last season. Regardless, Grant should be a productive player from a fantasy standpoint in Portland.
Washington Wizards forward Will Barton (back) was unable to suit up for the first preseason game on Friday. The 31-year-old sat out this contest due to lower back tightness. This doesn't sound like something that is going to sideline Barton long term. He remains the favorite to start at the three spot heading into the season. He'll need to hold off Deni Avdija, which won't be an easy task. Barton could actually hold some fantasy value in Washington, assuming he stays healthy.
Philadelphia 76ers forward Paul Reed has been playing both the four and five during training camp. Last season, Reed was exclusively the backup center to Joel Embiid in Philly. However, the Sixers looked better whenever Embiid and Reed were on the floor together, according to head coach Doc Rivers. That being said, the Sixers want to get Reed more action at the four spot next season. That could mean more playing time and involved for Reed this upcoming season. He's worth monitoring throughout the rest of training camp.
Boston Celtics center Luke Kornet (ankle) will be sidelined one to two weeks due to a recent injury. The 27-year-old suffered a sprained ankle, which is bad timing in the middle of training camp. The Celtics recently added Blake Griffin to the mix, so Kornet wasn't going to see major minutes anyway. The Celtics are attempting to ease the loss of Robert Williams III (knee) with the signing of Griffin. Possibly, Kornet gets in the mix as well once he's healthy. However, it's unlikely that either Kornet or Griffin have great value in Boston.
San Antonio Spurs Isaiah Roby has impressed the team's coaching staff during in training camp. Head coach Gregg Popovich mentioned that Roby moves really well for a big man and has good athleticism. The 24-year-old could find himself with legitimate playing time in San Antonio. This team is rebuilding, which means Roby should have a decent role to begin the season. Jakob Poeltl is the starter, but could be on the trade block as well. Roby could find himself competing with Zach Collins for backup minutes right away.
The Rockets acquired guard Ty Jerome, along with Derrick Favors, Theo Maledon, and Maurice Harkless, from Oklahoma City. In exchange, the Thunder received David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, and Marquese Chriss. Jerome averaged 7.1 points, 2.3 assists, and 1.6 boards while shooting nearly 38% from deep in 48 games last season. With that said, he would have had trouble finding the floor in Houston, especially with Maledon, Kevin Porter Jr., and TyTy Washington Jr. figured to be ahead of him on the depth chart. However, the 25-year-old is expected to be waived, so that's no longer an issue. Nevertheless, while it may not take Jerome long to find a new team, he'll remain far from being relevant in any fantasy setup.
The Rockets acquired center Derrick Favors from OKC on Thursday. In addition, Houston is also receiving Ty Jerome, Theo Maledon, and Maurice Harkless in exchange for David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, and Marquese Chriss. Favors averaged 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 39 games with the Thunder in 2022-23. While the veteran's career is seemingly nearing an end, he likely has some solid performances left in the tank. With that said, if Alperen Sengun goes down with an injury this season, Favors will earn streaming appeal in deep formats.
Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (knee) reportedly feels normal and he's excited to get back on the court this season. He did not play at all last season while he recovered from an ACL tear in his left knee. The Nuggets are going to be cautious with Murray right away. He's expected to play during the preseason, but he won't be out there for every preseason game. Fantasy managers shouldn't be shocked if the Nuggets decide to have Murray on a minutes limit to begin the season. Despite that, Murray should hold top-30 value once he's able to get back to full strength.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (knee) is planning on participating during training camp. The expectation is that Leonard will be good to go during Tuesday's practice. It doesn't sound like the team has any plans on limiting Leonard right away. The hope is that Leonard will be fully ready to play when the regular season begins. He has been rehabbing his knee for basically a year, so Leonard should be ready to go. Fantasy managers might finally get a full season out of Leonard, but we'll see how cautious the Clippers are with him.
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (ankle) should be ready for the beginning of training camp. The 25-year-old big man reportedly tweaked his ankle during a recent Eurobasket tournament. Despite that, Zubac should be ready early in training camp and isn't expected to miss much time at all. He averaged career highs in points (10.3), rebounds (8.5), assists (1.6) last season. The Clippers don't have many options at center, so Zubac should see plenty of playing time. The expectation is that Robert Covington will cut into his minutes, but Zubac should still have low-end fantasy value.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (foot) reportedly feels great heading into training camp. The 22-year-old mentioned that he can moves faster and jumps higher than he could before. It appears that Williamson has fully recovered from a foot fracture that sidelined him all of last season. He also mentioned that he has learned a lot from a nutrition standpoint. The superstar forward looks to be in incredible shape heading into the season. He could be in for a huge bounce season year, so fantasy managers shouldn't sleep on Williamson.
Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons has been cleared for practice on Tuesday. He is reportedly ready to go, but you can never be confident when it comes to Simmons. It sounds like he has been practicing with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Possibly, things are finally going in the right direction for Simmons. He'll be a boom-or-bust fantasy option heading into the season. He's worth snagging towards the later rounds because his potential outweighs the risk.