A highly intriguing clash of up-and-coming Western Conference powers will be marred more by absences than initially anticipated.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum will miss his team’s tilt with the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday after entering health-and-safety protocols.
The Pelicans and Grizzlies have emerged as arguably the league’s best young teams this season, with Zion Williamson and Ja Morant—former AAU teammates who were the top-two picks in the 2019 NBA draft—headlining hordes of individual talent on both teams.
New Orleans and Memphis have two of basketball’s brightest coaches in Willie Green and Taylor Jenkins, too.
Expect Friday’s game to be must-watch entertainment regardless of McCollum’s absence. The Pelicans have plenty of depth at point guard in Jose Alvarado and Devonte’ Graham, not to mention several more players—including Williamson and potential All-Star Brandon Ingram—capable of sopping up additional ball handling duties.
But pump the brakes on what the game’s result could mean for a possible matchup between these teams in the playoffs.
Not only is McCollum missing Friday’s contest, but Grizzlies shooting guard Desmond Bane—averaging a career-high 24.7 points per game while shouldering more playmaking responsibilities–will also be out with a sprained right toe. The third-year sharpshooter suffered the injury on November 11th, and has a two-to-three week timeline to return to the floor.
Expect Alvarado and Graham to fill in admirably for CJ McCollum, while John Konchar and Tyus Jones continue picking up slack left by Bane in the Memphis backcourt.
The Pelicans and Grizzlies tipoff at 5:00 p.m. (PST) from FedEx Forum.