Kennedy Chandler is in a good place. He’s playing with house money in Las Vegas.
The 20-year-old Chandler, a 6’0” point guard from Memphis. is one of the more intriguing stories on the Nets Summer League team. Drafted at No. 38 by the Spurs in 2022, then traded to the Grizzlies that night for a million dollars in cash considerations, he was signed to a four-year, $7.1 million deal, with three years and $4.9 million guaranteed. After a mediocre year in his hometown, he was cut by the Grizz in April, but is still owed $1.7 million this season and $2.1 million in 2024-25, all of it to be paid by Memphis. He’s one of six players on the SL roster with NBA experience but the only one still getting an NBA paycheck.
He told Brian Lewis that’s not what he’s thinking about as he competes for his next NBA contract. He hopes it’s with the Nets.
“I don’t really care that they still have to pay me for two years. I really don’t care about that because I want to get paid more,” Chandler told The Post. “It’s not just about the money. I could say ‘Nah, I’m good.’ I could sign a regular G-League, or a two-way.
“But I want to push myself and get back on a contract with another team and get back to what I used to do and be me, be myself,” he added. “I’m not dependent on what the Grizzlies are paying me. I want to get back on my feet. I’ve been grinding a lot this year and keeping quiet and now it’s time to show everybody me and get back to playing basketball.”
Coming out of high school, Chandler was five-star recruit, then played one year at Tennessee, winning the SEC title — and tournament MVP — while averaging 13.9 points on 38% shooting from deep. Things got even better at the NBA Combine when he registered a 41.5” max vertical. But after being mocked as high as No. 22, he fell to 38, but with some help from a friend, Ja Morant, he secured the big deal, the biggest for a second rounder last year.
But his lack of height and a regression in his 3-point shooting — he shot only 14% in the NBA and 21% in the G League — he was cut at the end of last season.
“My situation was just so unexpected … just an unfortunate situation. I woke up to it,” Chandler told The Post. “It was a hurtful feeling. Nothing against them. I don’t hate the organization, it’s a great organization.
“But everybody was shocked. I was shocked. I woke up to messages of it. I was asleep,” he told Lewis.
“It took me a little minute, a couple of weeks to really process, don’t take [anything] for granted, and how it’s a business. But my emotions have gotten so much better and my mental got a lot better. I’m just keeping a smile on my face, and looking forward to the Nets. … I really like the organization, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the future.”
Chandler also believes in his deep shooting, saying last season was an aberration. blaming his confidence level.
“I can shoot it. It’s really just about the confidence. My confidence was a little down last year with my shot, just not being openly confident in that shot,” Chandler told The Post. “But ever since I’ve been here from offseason work that confidence has translated over here.
“If I’m missing it or I’m making it, I’m shooting it. I’m feeling confident.
“I’ve been making that shot, so I don’t have doubts of taking that 3-ball compared to what I did last year. … With the Grizzlies, I lost a little confidence, but now I’ve regained that confidence. So I’m excited to get ready for [the Nets’ opener Friday] to show what I could do.”
He’ll have to if he wants to stick, Nets assistant — and Summer League head coach Trevor Hendry said.
“That’s a big factor for him. … He can’t change how tall he is,” Hendry said. “The more he drives in the paint, the more the defense is going to sag off him to force him to shoot, so if he can keep the defense honest he can be out there on the court because of his athleticism and his quickness.
“He has some serious athleticism for a guy his size.”
It’s not just a gamble. It’s an audition. The Nets have three two-way spots, but one has been set aside for Jalen Wilson, the 51st pick in the June Draft and RaiQuan Gray seems to be at least penciled in for the second. And the competition will be strong. The Nets are known to like 6’8” wing Jordan Hall who got a whiff of the NBA last year with San Antonio and 6’3” shooting guard Armoni Brooks who’s played 74 NBA games with the Rockets and Raptors.
Even if Brooks doesn’t get a two-way, it’s possible he’ll get a training camp invite come October and a G League contract for Long Island. One thing’s for sure: with his unique contract situation, he can bet on himself with worrying about financial consequences.
The young Nets take on their Cavs counterparts at 8:30 p.m. ET. The game will be telecast on NBA TV.
- After release from Grizzlies, Kennedy Chandler betting on Nets rebound - Brian Lewis - New York Post
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