Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics
VFL and current Memphis Grizzlies point guard Kennedy Chandler is continuing to put together strong performances in the NBA as his rookie season progresses.
Serving as the third-string point guard on the Grizzlies, the former Vol’s opportunities to make sizable impacts on a game in, game out basis are limited. But when an opportunity presents itself, such as a rest day for star starting point guard Ja Morant, Chandler has been taking full advantage.
The Memphis native had a career game against the Heat in early December, and when opportunity presented itself again against the Hawks on Monday night, Chandler rose to the occasion yet again. Chandler put together quite the highlight reel, both offensively and defensively, in the Grizzlies dominant 128-103 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Chandler quickly caught the attention of all watching the game when he drove to the basket and slammed down a huge dunk towards the end of the first quarter.
Kennedy Chandler with AUTHORITY ?#CenterCourt pic.twitter.com/1fuRSfDfqY
— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 13, 2022
As clearly seen in the video, Atlanta’s guard Trent Forrest wanted no part of trying to defend Chandler’s slam, letting the VFL do his thing that gave Memphis a six-point lead after the first quarter.
“What a heck of a play from KC,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said regarding the dunk after the win over the Hawks.
“That dunk was just a result of really quick decision making and good ball handling. We want him playing with force and attacking. It’s just a don’t give up play. It’s what we preach in the locker room. What a momentum play for a young kid to do that,” Jenkins added.
When asked by a media member if Chandler and Morant have had a contest to see who can jump higher, Jenkins chuckled and answered that they haven’t quite got around to it yet.
“We haven’t put the tape measures up on the backboard yet to see who’s got the highest leap,” Jenkins said.
The competition between two premier athletes such as Chandler and All-Star Ja Morant would be a must-see, especially considering their noticeable friendship off the court as well.
After both of Chandler’s big games this month, Morant has celebrated with the rookie, even crashing his postgame interviews from time to time.
21 & 1
? @thefishnation, @KChandler_1 & @1Tyus #BigMemphis pic.twitter.com/DZTW03RRbo
— Bally Sports: Grizzlies (@GrizzOnBally) December 13, 2022
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Moving along in the game, Chandler’s highlights did not end with the dunk, as the reigning SEC Tournament MVP made arguably even a better play midway through the fourth quarter.
Chandler was defending Hawks guard Aaron Holiday, who drove to the basket and went to make a layup, but the VFL had other plans.
KENNEDY CHANDLER CHASEDOWN BLOCK pic.twitter.com/8E3sqow3m0
— eric (@EricTweetsNBA) December 13, 2022
The exciting Grizzlies rookie finished the game with eight points on four of five shooting, seven assists, six rebounds, a steal and a block, filling up the stat sheet in Memphis’ 25-point victory.
Chandler was just a couple of marks away in each statistical category from a triple double, as the rookie did a fantastic job serving as the No. 2 point guard behind Tyus Jones.
Chandler’s productive night comes two games after his solid outing against the Heat when he scored a career-high nine points.
Across the two games, Chandler has tallied 17 points on 8-16 shooting, 12 assists, nine rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocks in 49 total minutes.
“I thought he was so great,” Jenkins said after Chandler’s performance against the Hawks. “I told him [after the game] ‘You were so close to a triple double. I loved your defense and how you attacked the ball handlers. Keep building on that and take advantage of every opportunity.’”
Chandler, who has been playing for both the Grizzlies and the G-League’s Memphis Hustle as a two-way player, will look to continue taking advantage of opportunities and potentially carve out a bigger role on a fully healthy Grizzlies roster.
Regardless of where he’s played in his first professional, Chandler has contributed significantly across the board, giving the Grizzlies a great return on investment through the first two months of the 2022-2023 season.
Okayyy KC pic.twitter.com/pcUgbsI86R
— Memphis Hustle (@MemphisHustle) December 7, 2022
The Grizzlies return to action Thursday night when they host the Milwaukee Bucks at 8 p.m. ET on NBATV.