Memphis Grizzlies rising superstar Ja Morant was a recent guest on “The Pivot Podcast” with Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder, and Fred Taylor. The All-Star and All-NBA player talked about going from an unheralded underdog to the doorstep of NBA superstardom, and what fuels and motivates his electric play.
“Just because I’m me and I speak on whatever I want to and say what I’m feeling at the time that some people don’t like me,” Morant said. “So that’s why I bust they ass.”
"Just because I'm me and I speak on whatever I want to and say what I'm feeling at the time that some people don't like me. So that's why I bust their ass."
Ja Morant feels like some players don't like him 👀
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) September 13, 2022
Morant is fueled by the disrespect card. He and the Grizzlies play with swagger and do a lot of chirping. They’re going to need all of that and more if they want to excel in the regular season again and advance to the conference finals or farther in the playoffs.
The Grizzlies have taken on the personality of Morant. The hard-nosed, “nobody believes in us” mentality. Elite athletes have always used doubts, perceived or real, to motivate them to excel. It’s what makes them great.
Last season the team caught the league by surprise as they exceeded their preseason over-under win total. They finished with the second-best record in the NBA, and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They took the eventual champion Golden State Warriors to six games. Morant was injured in that series and missed the final three games.
There was a lot of chirping between the two teams during the series and on social media after the series as the Warriors went on their “petty tour.”
“It was pretty much our year, but that injury cause me to be out,” Morant said. “And now you have to change lineups and you know guys playing without me. I feel like that’s the most frustrating part for me. You know, being out there and not being able to compete. I felt like, me personally and my teammates, we were the favorites in that series.”
This coming season the Grizzlies won’t have the luxury of sneaking up on anyone and they will have the pressure of expectations.
The Grizzlies will be circled on every team’s scheduled as a measuring-stick game. They’ll have more nationally televised games, and with that comes expectations. They are known as a team that likes to talk, and teams will want to shut them up.
Morant and the Grizzlies will also begin the year without their All-Defensive stretch big Jaren Jackson Jr. The 22-year-old signed a four-year, $105 million rookie extension last October and really came into his own last season. He suffered a stress fracture this summer and underwent surgery. His timeline to return is four to six months.
If the Grizzlies are cautious, which they will be, he won’t be back until January.
Their collective resolve will have to buoy them during this storm and when the next storm arises. Last season the Grizzlies went 20-5 without Morant. Can they do something similar without JJJ?
How will Morant and the team handle the difference in expectations and getting every other team’s best shot?
NBA training camps open in a couple weeks, and the regular season begins on Oct. 18. We won’t have to wait long for answers.
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