“We are coming” promise young Grizzlies after semi-final loss | Sports News

By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The youngest NBA team to reach a conference semifinal in 25 years wasted little time turning disappointment into motivation.

Yes, the Memphis Grizzlies soaked up every lesson to help chase their first NBA championship.

“It will motivate us to move forward,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Individual growth, collective growth this season, it’s only going to make us better. It’s a step in the direction of that bright future that we talk about all the time.

The Grizzlies have made great strides since a franchise revamp in April 2019. They went from being knocked out of playoff contention in the Orlando bubble in August 2020 to earning the No. 8 seed in the qualifying tournament a year ago. .

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The NBA’s second-youngest team earned the West’s No. 2 seed for the first time by tying the most wins in franchise history with 56. The Grizzlies won their first playoff series in seven in six games before losing in six games to the Golden State Warriors. – the last three without All-Star guard Ja Morant due to a bone bruise in his right knee.

Dillon Brooks summed up the Grizzlies’ future after losing a series to the three-time NBA champions who reached their sixth Western Finals in eight years, with two losses at Memphis by a combined four points.

“We’re young, they’re getting older, so they know we come every year,” Brooks said.

The NBA’s most improved player won’t need surgery for the bruised bone in his right knee that ended his best playoff streak late in Game 3 against Golden State. It’s the same right knee he suffered after being the second pick in the 2019 draft and the third injury to one of his knees this season.

Still, Morant is the superstar Memphis never had with his jersey ranked ninth among NBA sales. He averaged 38 points and eight assists in the semifinals and joined Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the only players in NBA history with multiple 45-point playoff performances before turning 23. .

Morant, who turns 23 in August, was an All-Star starter and finished seventh in MVP voting. He can sign a five-year extension this offseason.

The Grizzlies ranked second in the NBA with 115.6 points per game, a franchise record with not a single point from a player 30 or older. It was the first time Memphis finished in the top five in scoring average.

They also became the first team to lead the NBA in rebounds, steals and blocks since steals and blocks became official stats in 1973. They led the league in points in the paint, second chance points, offensive rebounds and quick break points.

Jaren Jackson Jr. is coming off his best season yet and won’t turn 23 until September. The fourth overall pick in 2018 played a career-high 78 games, and he also led the NBA in blocks, setting franchise records with 177 and 2.27 per game.

But Jackson must learn to play flawlessly. He’s fouled three times this playoffs.

“I try to work on everything, there’s a lot of things I can do on the court and I want to continue to build on all of them and just get more polished and become more efficient,” Jackson said. .

The 30th pick in the 2020 draft has already become one of the top 3-point threats in the NBA. Desmond Bane leads the NBA in shooting 43.5 percent from outside the arc during that span with a minimum of 600 3-point attempts, and he set the franchise single-season record with 228 3-pointers.

Bane became the third player in NBA history to score at least seven 3-pointers in consecutive playoff games, joining Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Bane doubled his scoring from his rookie season to 18.2 points and led the Grizzlies in scoring in their first-round series win. He’s shooting 49% on 3 in the playoffs.

Memphis has two first-round picks in the upcoming NBA draft at numbers 22 and 29.

Both Kyle Anderson and guard Tyus Jones are expected to enter free agency this summer. Controlling owner Robert Pera said he’s willing to spend what’s necessary to keep the Grizzlies together, and Jones is giving Memphis plenty of options to support Morant or play alongside him.

Brooks and Bane also made it clear that the Grizzlies now understand the need to work harder each offseason. Improving different facets of their game yes, but also conditioning their bodies to handle the regular season and a long post-season.

“We have to be healthy and realize that every year we’re going to struggle,” Brooks said.

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