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In Jalen Duren’s short career, you’ve probably noticed his shot contests, the ones where he stops in his tracks, extends his arms to the heavens and launches all 6-foot-10, 250 pounds of himself into the air like he’s preparing to do a belly flop into a deep pool as a shooter, several feet away, tries to get off a clean look. It stands out because it’s unnatural. It sticks in your brain longer than a closeout should. Duren said he does it when he knows he can’t make a timely rotation or, simply, just to cause confusion. In his mind, the distraction can be as effective as a tight contest. “I’ve been doing that forever,” Duren said. “I do it at the end of the shot clock or if I know a guy is open enough. I feel like I’m big enough to contest it from the free-throw line by just using my athletic ability. I want to show my hands adjust, try to detour a shot from the basket.”
When Detroit head coach Dwane Casey was asked about Duren’s extension contests, he broke into a smile as if he was thinking back to the first time he saw it. Casey, who has been in the NBA for nearly 30 years, carried the look of someone who, back when he first saw it, was introduced to something brand new and, well, different. “I like it,” Casey said. “It’s hustle. He’s trying to distract the guy. I think he was doing it before Luke Kornet.”
“Quick shoutout to Niele, I think she’s in a tight battle right now,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said during his pregame press conference Sunday. “The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are playing UConn, I think, right now. I think they’re in a tight battle, it’s in the fourth quarter. Hopefully she’s able to pull it out.” Niele Ivey was unable to attend the Pistons’ 122-112 loss to the Grizzlies, but it was a moment for her and Jaden. Both Iveys share a close relationship with the Grizzlies, and particularly with Ja Morant, with whom Jaden shares a brotherly relationship. Niele was one of the first coaches Jenkins hired in Memphis. She handled pregame scouting reports and also did individual skill work with players. Her positivity and energy rubbed off on everyone.
Ivey has gotten off to an encouraging start to his rookie season, averaging 15.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. His early success isn’t a surprise to the Grizzlies who got to know him and his mom. Like Morant before him, Ivey is still adjusting to the increased pace and physicality of the NBA. He had rookie moments on Sunday, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds on 2-for-9 shooting. Jenkins and Jackson both saw Ivey’s success coming from afar. “With her and Memphis, my very first year, unbelievable coach, and then having Jaden pop around every now and then, he was at school at the time before he went off to Purdue,” Jenkins said. “We got to see him off and on every now and then, but not a whole lot. But just got to learn from her the type of person that he was. We would sit and just talk about his unique journey growing up as a player. But as a person, how humble he is, how much of a hard worker he is and then you get to see him from afar when he goes to Purdue, the stellar two years he has and then obviously a top-five pick.