To say that the Memphis Grizzlies are hot right now would be an understatement. The Grizzlies, winners of nine in a row, and a game out of third place in the Western Conference, have been absolutely on fire over the last two weeks. While Ja Morant - rightfully - gets the lion’s share of the credit due to his phenomenal play, the impact of the team’s supporting cast has been crucially important.
Canadian big man Brandon Clarke is doing all of the little things in a big way in his third NBA season. Drafted 21st overall in the 2019 Draft, Clarke has been steady as ever over the team’s nine-game winning streak. The Vancouver native is averaging 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game this season. Over his past six games, those averages are 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in just 23 minutes.
“Brandon’s been playing really well,” acting Grizzlies head coach Brad Jones said. “He comes in off the bench so, so well. Super excited for BC the way he’s playing here lately.”
Because of injuries and players moving in and out of health and safety protocols, Clarke knows his role varies game-to-game. What the team needs from him can change in a hurry. He’s been able to adapt and fill whatever role has been needed because of all of the preparation he puts in during the offseason.
“It’s being ready,” Clarkle told the media after a recent win over the San Antonio Spurs. “I’ve worked on this stuff my whole life. It’s just trusting my work, going out there and playing.”
While Clarke has been stringing together the best stretch of his season, his teammate, Canadian Dillon Brooks is expected to be sidelined once again after sustaining an ankle injury in the team’s recent win against the Los Angeles Clippers. It has been a tough season for Brooks, who has played brilliantly when he’s been able to stay on the floor, amid injuries as well as a stint in health and safety protocols. Recent reports say Brooks is expected to miss 3-5 weeks, and likely will not return until after the the All-Star break as he rehabs from the injury.
Another team that has been moving up the standings has been the Dallas Mavericks. Winners of six straight, the Mavs have moved into fifth place in the Western Conference. Veteran big man Dwight Powell is averaging 11.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.0 assists through five games in January. Powell had 15 points in a recent 130-106 victory against the Houston Rockets, and most recently, 10 points in a win against the Chicago Bulls that snapped Chicago’s nine-game winning streak.
Moving to the Eastern Conference, Trey Lyles has had a strong impact for the Detroit Pistons since returning to the court following a stint in health and safety protocols. In a 97-92 win against the Orlando Magic, Lyles had a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double. Teammate Cory Joseph added eight points, five rebounds and five assists in the game, in his own return to the court from health and safety protocols.
RJ Barrett continues to impress in New York, averaging 20.8 points through four games in January. After pouring in 32 points, eight rebounds and three assists in a 104-94 victory against the Indiana Pacers, Barrett followed that up with an incredible game-winning three-pointer against the Boston Celtics in a 25-point comeback.
So good, you’d better take another look at this one from the courtside view:
After a 15-point five-rebound, four-assist, two-block performance in front of family members at Scotiabank Arena, rookie Josh Primo earned his first career start for the San Antonio Spurs two days later.
Though the Spurs dropped a 119-100 decision to the Philadelphia 76ers, Primo started the team’s next game as well. In a wild 121-119 OT loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Primo, the youngest player in the NBA, contributed 12 points, three assists and a blocked shot in a career-high 39 minutes.
Though we’re not quite halfway through the month of January, 2022 is already off to a great start for Canadians around the league. Here’s to more highlights in the weeks and months to come.