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MikeCheck: Jenkins sets sights on bright future coming off ‘great season for Memphis Grizzlies’

by Michael Wallace | Grind City Media

MEMPHIS – The mission for Taylor Jenkins in his first year as Grizzlies coach was to establish the habits of a winning basketball culture.

Entering his second season a year ago, Jenkins’s mantra was to fortify the foundation.

Now, coming off a season in which the Grizzlies posted a winning record (38-34) and made the playoffs for the first time in four years, Jenkins is already focused on forward progress.

“People are going to say this was a good season, but this was a great season for the Memphis Grizzlies,” Jenkins said of an offseason of improvements. “We did some great things, and that’s only going to motivate us moving forward. We’ve got a bright future ahead of us.”

That future essentially begins now as the Grizzlies regroup from a grueling but encouraging season in which they became the youngest team in a decade to reach the NBA postseason. The next step in that maturation is on the horizon for the Grizzlies, who have 13 players under contract through next season and a coach eager to build on a breakthrough campaign.

With the NBA Draft and free agency looming in the coming weeks, Jenkins reflected on an impressive season, the next steps the Grizzlies must take to improve and where some key players are in the development process.

Key Dates for Grizzlies summer and start of 2021-22 NBA season

  • June 21-27: NBA Draft Combine
  • June 22: Draft Lottery
  • July 29: NBA Draft, Grizzlies hold picks No. 17, No. 51
  • Aug 2: Free Agency negotiating opens
  • Aug 6: Free Agency signing begin
  • Aug. 3-6: Salt Lake City NBA Summer League
  • Aug 8-17: MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas
  • Sept. 28: NBA Training Camps open
  • Oct. 19: NBA Regular Season starts

Jenkins on maintaining the Grizzlies’ growth-minded culture entering the offseason...

“It’s the number one thing we always talk about. We understand that culture is people. There is a way in how we work, how we develop players. It starts with protecting what we do and what we’re about. It’s pivotal and the starting point on whatever decisions we make. We’re going to dive in pretty quickly here on draft prep and free agency prep and building toward the future. So I’m really excited about it. We know what our vision is and hopefully that leads to more success. Everyone in our organization knows what we’re about and what we’re trying to build.”

Jenkins on his message to the team’s players after processing the playoff loss to the Jazz...

“It was all about how proud I am of them. This was an unbelievable season. So much team and individual growth to get to this point. Every team has gone through a unique season with unique challenges, but our team has pushed through and made a breakthrough to get to the playoffs. We did some great things and that’s going to motivate us moving forward. We’ve got a bright, bright future ahead of us.”

Jenkins on Ja Morant’s ascension in the playoffs after a breakout second season...

“Ja is an unbelievably huge part of our future, which gives me so much confidence in what we’re going to be able to accomplish. Ja has grown up so much this year, I know he’s going to be highly motivated going into the offseason to take himself to the next level, and improve this team. His words were, ‘We will be back.’ And that’s motivating for the team and the entire staff to know what we’ve laid as a foundation moving forward. He’s only scratching the surface of what he can become. His talent, his leadership, his IQ, his impact on winning. And in the playoffs, you saw him rise to the occasion. He’s built for these moments. He’s only going to learn and grow from these experiences. That’s how he’s motivated, that’s how he’s built. I’m very impressed with his second season, knowing he’s got so much great basketball in him.”

Taylor Jenkins talking to Ja Morant
SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 14: Head coach Taylor Jenkins of the Memphis Grizzlies coaches Ja Morant #12 during the game against the Sacramento Kings. Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images.

Jenkins on the team’s progress through a challenging season of rotation changes...

“I’m really happy with this year, what we’re building for the future, where it ranks, there’s so many different challenges as a head coach. But for me, I look at it as an awesome opportunity to make sure all of our guys understand their responsibility, whether they’re in the rotation or not. We always talk about the next-man-up mentality, and the work our guys put in was consistent and at a high level. So when your number is called, as you’ve seen throughout the year, different guys were able to step up at different times of the season.”

Jenkins on managing roles and playing time with so many players potentially returning...

“Guys are always going to want more opportunities. That’s the nature of the league and the nature of having a lot of depth. But I give our guys a ton of credit for understanding the positive spirit that they’ve got to maintain, the positive work ethic they’ve got to maintain, because that’s going to force them to get better. It’s going to help their teammates get better, and it’s going to help the team get better overall. So I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to establish and the work ethic we’re going to have to maintain that great depth.”

Jenkins on Jaren Jackson Jr.’s late-season return and plans for Jackson’s offseason...

“I’m very excited with what we’re going to be able to see from Jaren this summer. He always attacks his work every single day. This is going to be the first, true, fully healthy offseason for him, which is step one. Knowing he’s going to only continue to grow his game, he’s hungry. He’s been in constant communication with us about ways to grow his game this summer, his individual work and together with his teammates, to elevate what we’re wanting to do as a team. So I’m beyond excited to know all of the investment he’s going to have, the staff is going to have, the performance team, to help him take it to the next level.”

Jenkins on expectations for Justise Winslow as he works to regain his form this summer...

“For Justise it’s a challenge when he misses a lot of the season. But I’m very pleased with him getting healthy, diving into what it took to get healthy. Building those connections with his teammates, so when he was able to get his opportunity on the floor, he was able to help. I saw flashes of what we expect of him, and we want him to continue to find ways to get better. That’s going to be his motivation this offseason, regaining his best self. That’s what he’s excited about. The big picture is he knows he’s got much better basketball ahead of him. We know we can be part of that journey for him and that he’s going to take ownership of that this summer.”

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.

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