11 games into the 2019-20 NBA season and Ja Morant is already separating himself from the field.
On Wednesday night, the Memphis Grizzlies rookie returned to familiar grounds when he met the Charlotte Hornets. Morant grew up in Augusta, Georgia which is about 165 miles away from Charlotte, attended Crestwood High School in Sumter, South Carolina and had 100 friends and family in attendance.
The prodigal son didn’t disappoint, producing his first double-double of the season (23 points and 11 assists) in a Grizzlies win.
“It definitely felt good.”
With his parents & nearly 100 friends in the crowd, @JaMorant had his first double-double & game winner in the NBA!
23 PTS (10-15 FG)
11 AST (career-high)
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 14, 2019
In doing so, the 19-year-old Morant became the youngest player in franchise history to record a point – assist double-double.
Ja Morant went Super Saiyan in the closing seconds 💯 pic.twitter.com/7yU18g8J73
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 14, 2019
Morant even hit the game-winner, attacking two defenders in the hole for a dynamic layup.
The shot inspired his Dad “T” to run up and down the baseline in the arena. Let’s just call it what it is, he lost it for a moment, even embracing his son as he came towards the center court sideline. It was historic, memorable and awkward at the same time.
It’s the kind of pandemonium that would have had MSG rocking and the media dishing.
I said it prior to the Draft — when everybody thought the Knicks were going to draft Zion with the No. 1 overall pick — that Ja Morant is the player that should go first.
Zion went to the New Orleans Pelicans, who suffered a franchise-damaging blow when AD bounced to LA to play with LBJ. Unfortunately, the most anticipated rookie since LeBron James hasn’t played an NBA game yet because of a Meniscus injury and probably won’t be on the floor until after Christmas.
He’s currently spending his days as a post-game commentator and cheerleader.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 22 points off the bench tonight for the Pelicans, going 7-of-9 from the floor and 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
How’d Zion Williamson describe his play?
“Listen. Nickeil’s a bucket. Let’s put that on the record.” pic.twitter.com/5RbEQL9jDP
— Amie Just (@Amie_Just) October 12, 2019
RJ Barrett was a nice grab for the Knicks. The rook is averaging 16 points, 5.8 boards and 4.1 assists per game. That’s nothing to sneeze at, especially when you lack talent around you. But the Knicks would have been better off with Ja Morant. They needed instant electricity in a town that is basketball dead (The Brooklyn Nets are trying).
It was obvious that the wonder guard was a franchise changer with an athletic game designed to handle NBA competition. Ja blessed the world and shot up the draft board with a killer sophomore season at Murray State in which he averaged 16.1 points and 10 dimes a game.
Then he came to the league and is averaging 18.2 points and nearly 6 assists as he tries to navigate his inaugural campaign against the best players in the world.
While Zion sits on the sidelines and collects his shoe money and RJ Barrett tries to find his way with a rebuilding Knicks franchise, Morant continues to tighten his grip on that Kia Rookie of the Year award.
There were some individual thinkers who also shared my high praise of Morant. I thought he was the best player in the draft…with that crunchtime “it” factor. He’s proving me right.
His fourth-quarter dominance gives a true understanding of who he is. The 20-year-old’s 77 4th-quarter points this season are the most by a rookie in his first 10 games over the last 10 seasons.
The Grizzlies are rebuilding and just 4-7, but the future is bright as they have no doubt that they’ll be building around one of the game’s true superstars. Ja is on his way.