Brandon Clarke Upgraded for Lakers Game Tonight


Although the 24-48 Memphis Grizzlies’ 2023-24 NBA season may be over, the team is healing as the year winds down. To be fair, Memphis has a whole boatload of injuries, including most critically a season-ending one to All-Star point guard Ja Morant, and so perhaps it makes sense that the team is getting a bit healthier. It’d be hard to get even more banged up!

Per ClutchPoints, Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins, backup Grizzlies big man Brandon Clarke has finally recovered enough from his Achilles tear to become available for tonight’s action. The Grizzlies will face a surging 40-32 Los Angeles Lakers club, hot off a stunning 128-124 double-overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks last night.

The Grizzlies’ season may be toast (they’ve been eliminated from even play-in tournament bracket contention at this stage), but it’s still a big moment nevertheless. The 6’8″ Clarke, a 27-year-old power forward/center out of Gonzaga, first incurred the injury in a 113-97 loss to the eventual league champion Denver Nuggets on March 3, 2023. Clarke appeared for all of 2:07 in that contest before getting hurt. He chipped in one point, via a foul shot.

Brandon Clarke Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jaren Jackson Jr. #13 of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrates with Brandon Clarke #15 after the Grizzlies defeated the Phoenix Suns 121-115 at Footprint Center on January 07, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. Clarke has even…

Clarke had emerged as a critical contributor for an ascendant young Grizzlies team. After finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2019-20, the young big man settled into his role as primarily a tough, defense-first four. He had been the team’s third big man on two 50+ win clubs in 2021-22 (when the Grizzlies went 56-26) and 2022-23 (51-31).

For his career, Clarke has averaged 10.7 points on 60.4% shooting from the field and 70.5% shooting from the foul line, along with 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.9 blocks and 0.7 steals in the regular season. All this output has happened in an average of 21.3 minutes a night. Across his 237 regular season bouts, he’s only made 29 starts.

Tonight, the Lakers are currently -4.5 point favorites to best the Grizzlies, according to The Action Network. The action tips off at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET. Clarke’s job in the paint will be a bit easier than he may have expected yesterday. All-Star center Anthony Davis (knee) and backup bigs Christian Wood (knee) and Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) are all on the shelf for Los Angeles. All-Star combo forward LeBron James, however, is available to suit up, after having sat out the Bucks game last night (and both of his team’s Milwaukee regular season games overall).

Win or lose, there’s no doubt Brandon Clarke will soak up his return to the hardwood after more than a year away. Here’s hoping he makes a splash.