The superstar of the Memphis Grizzlies, Ja Morant, made his season debut on Tuesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans, starting in the starting lineup following his 25-game suspension.
Before the game, Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins remarked, “He’s fired up.” Since the beginning of the season, he has worked extremely hard and spent as much time as possible with the team. He is now afforded this chance at Game 26. I can’t wait to watch him go out and enjoy himself. That’s what we’ve discussed together. It’s a lot of work, so go out there, enjoy yourself, and develop relationships with your teammates while you take advantage of the chance to play basketball again.”
In May, two weeks after Memphis was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Morant brandished a firearm in an Instagram Live video. As a result, NBA commissioner Adam Silver suspended him for 25 games, and the Grizzlies went 6-19 without him. Following a similar incident in March of the previous season, Morant was suspended for eight games.
After his suspension the previous season, Morant came off the bench right away, but that was in a very different situation. In his absence, the Grizzlies went 6-3, with starting point guard Tyus Jones filling in admirably. Jones missed one game due to conditioning issues after his suspension ended.
In the offseason, Jones was part of the three-team trade that sent guard Marcus Smart—who hasn’t played since Nov. 14 because of a sprained left foot—to the Washington Wizards. Another seasoned point guard that Memphis added in the offseason, Derrick Rose, is also sidelined on Tuesday night because of a hamstring strain. In lieu of Morant, two-way player Jacob Gilyard has started eight games, including Monday night’s crushing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Without Jaesigun Walker, who led Memphis with 26.2 points and 8.1 assists per game the previous season, the Grizzlies have the worst offence in the league, averaging 105.9 points per 100 possessions.