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Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies into playoffs after ousting Warriors in overtime

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Memphis Grizzlies are headed to the playoffs because Ja Morant delivered in the biggest moment of his young career.

The 21-year-old scored 35 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out six assists in a thrilling 117-112 overtime win over the Golden State Warriors. The win not only gave the Grizzlies the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference playoffs, it gave Morant the added bonus of toppling two-time MVP Stephen Curry and a proud Warriors group in the process.

With the Grizzlies clinging to a 110-109 lead late in overtime, Morant hit two straight running 10-foot floaters, including one with 4.5 seconds left that sealed the deal. He had 15 points total in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The Grizzlies win in the final play-in game of the year is one of the biggest in recent franchise history — especially given that many around the league expected Curry to carry his team into the postseason. Memphis returns to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and will play the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals on Sunday.

Whenever the Grizzlies needed to make a play, Morant or one of his other young teammates rose to the occasion on Friday night. Memphis roared out to an early 13-point lead at halftime, raising it up to as many as 17 in the second half before a furious Warriors second-half rally erased the deficit and sent the game into overtime. Warriors forward Draymond Green had a chance to win the game at the buzzer but missed a running floater as time expired in regulation.

Once overtime hit, Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen hit several huge shots, followed up by Xavier Tillman, who hit a three-pointer with 1:20 that gave the Grizzlies the lead and set the stage for Morant’s clutch buckets in the final minute.

What makes this particular win even sweeter for Morant and the Grizzlies is that it comes just just five days after the Warriors beat them inside Chase Center to earn the eighth seed heading into the Play-In Tournament. The loss forced the Grizzlies to fly back to Memphis for an elimination game against the San Antonio Spurs and then they had to fly back to the Bay Area to face Curry and the Warriors once more.

Aside from Morant’s heroics, it was the solid defense the Grizzlies played throughout the night that helped push them to victory. The Warriors finished with 21 turnovers, including 13 by Curry and Green.

In a season where it always seemed like Curry had an answer for his team, it was Morant that had the last laugh on Friday night.

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Top NBA draft prospect Jalen Suggs signs multiyear deal with Adidas

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Jalen Suggs has landed a multiyear footwear and apparel deal with Adidas ahead of his anticipated selection early in the 2021 NBA draft on Thursday.

“I’m so excited to be with the brand,” the former Gonzaga star said. “I grew up inspired by D-Rose and Dame [Lillard] and want to follow in the steps of the young Adidas family coming up now like Trae [Young] and Don [Mitchell].”

After a breakout freshman season leading the Nike-sponsored Bulldogs to the national championship game of the NCAA tournament, Suggs became one of the most sought-after players entering shoe deal talks this spring.

The deal was negotiated by Wasserman, with Suggs and the agency holding a series of seven presentations — most in person, some virtual — in Los Angeles to begin the process. Adidas ultimately emerged as Suggs’ choice.

Along with outlining product plans for Green in both basketball and lifestyle footwear categories, the brand committed to funding a court refurbishment in his hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and mapped out a pathway to a potential signature shoe down the road.

Adidas currently makes signature footwear for James Harden, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell and Trae Young, with each product being released during the player’s second or third season with the company.

In addition to Suggs, Adidas has finalized endorsement deals with three other players expected to be selected near the top of the draft, signing explosive wing Jalen Green, versatile big man Evan Mobley and scoring guard Sharife Cooper.

“Each individual brings something unique to our team,” Eric Wise, global GM of basketball at Adidas, said in a statement. “From their talent and work ethic on the court, to a community-first mindset, values and openness to collaboration, we cannot wait to see where this week takes them.”

Behind the scenes, the brand recently merged its Originals and Basketball departments to work more closely together, as the culture of the sport has continued to blur the lines between performance and lifestyle in recent years.

Another factor in swaying players to land with the brand has been the recent appointment of designer Jerry Lorenzo, founder of high-fashion brand Fear of God, to help lead the creative and business strategy of Adidas Basketball. Lorenzo has launched coveted crossover basketball sneakers with Nike in the past, while also carving out his own sought-after footwear category at Fear of God, before signing a long-term partnership with Adidas in late 2020.

With new designers at the helm and a new hybrid marketing approach, along with existing signature athletes he has long looked up to, Suggs is looking ahead to a future with Adidas as he begins his NBA career.

“We will create culture together,” Suggs said. “And if you give me some time, I will pursue greatness like them.”

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Nets announce Mike D’Antoni’s departure from coach Steve Nash’s staff

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NEW YORK — Mike D’Antoni is leaving the Brooklyn Nets, forcing Steve Nash to make another change on his coaching staff.

Nash announced the 70-year-old D’Antoni’s decision in a statement Wednesday, saying having the two-time Coach of the Year was “invaluable” in his first season as a coach.

“I will be forever grateful for his guidance and will carry on a lifetime of lessons from the many years we’ve spent together,” Nash said in the statement. “Our players and staff all benefited from this time in Broolyn and we wish Mike, Laurel and their family the very best in what lies ahead.”

D’Antoni won the 2005 Coach of the Year award in Phoenix when Nash was his point guard, then another in Houston in 2017. He has long been regarded as one of the NBA’s best offensive coaches and helped the Nets reach the second round of the playoffs, where they lost to eventual champion Milwaukee in seven games.

The Nets already lost one assistant this offseason when Ime Udoka left to become Boston Celtics coach. David Vanterpool was hired to replace him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Mike D’Antoni announces departure from Nets coach Steve Nash’s staff

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NEW YORK — Mike D’Antoni is leaving the Brooklyn Nets, forcing Steve Nash to make another change on his coaching staff.

Nash announced the 70-year-old D’Antoni’s decision in a statement Wednesday, saying having the two-time Coach of the Year was “invaluable” in his first season as a coach.

“I will be forever grateful for his guidance and will carry on a lifetime of lessons from the many years we’ve spent together,” Nash said in the statement. “Our players and staff all benefited from this time in Broolyn and we wish Mike, Laurel and their family the very best in what lies ahead.”

D’Antoni won the 2005 Coach of the Year award in Phoenix when Nash was his point guard, then another in Houston in 2017. He has long been regarded as one of the NBA’s best offensive coaches and helped the Nets reach the second round of the playoffs, where they lost to eventual champion Milwaukee in seven games.

The Nets already lost one assistant this offseason when Ime Udoka left to become Boston Celtics coach. David Vanterpool was hired to replace him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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