The Memphis Grizzlies lost Ja Morant to an ankle injury in the third game of the season and early estimates suggest Morant could miss three to five weeks with a grade 2 sprain.
Training staff removed Morant from the floor in a wheelchair. Tests revealed a severe sprained ankle, but the Grizzlies hope he could return sooner than later.
“Every setback is a setup for a comeback,” tweeted Morant. “God wants to bring you out better than you were before.”
Morant recently tweeted that he’ll wear Kobe Bryant’s signature high top sneakers the rest of the year. The high tops will help Morant embrace the Mamba mentality to help him get through the rest of the season.
The Grizzlies selected Morant with the #2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft behind Zion Williamson. When knee surgery postponed Williamson’s NBA debut, Morant quickly emerged as the Rookie of the Year candidate after he won the starting point guard job in Memphis.
Ja Morant badly injures his ankle ?pic.twitter.com/iatCyp1Xvh
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) December 29, 2020
No Sophomore Slump for Morant
Morant began the season on a heater. He lit up the San Antonio Spurs for a career-high 44 points, 9 assists, and 2 steals on opening night. The day after Christmas, Morant tallied 26 points and 8 assists against the Atlanta Hawks. After two games, he led the NBA in scoring averaging 36 points per game.
Morant led the Grizzlies in scoring last season with 17.4 ppg, which earned him Rookie of the Year honors. Before suffering a severely sprained left ankle against the Brooklyn Nets, he scored seven points and dished three assists before he went down in the second quarter.
Tyus Jones, Next Man Up
Despite the injury, the Memphis Grizzlies embraced the “next man up” philosophy. Tyus Jones, a veteran out of Duke, backed up Morant last season averaging 7.1 ppg off the bench.
“So tough to see Ja go down,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins. “I know he’s going to bounce back and be fine.”
“We’re a team where it’s next-man up. Guys are ready,” said shooting guard Dillon Brooks. “We play hard in practice, training camp. Guys are confident. We endorse confidence and competing. Our front office only gets guys that compete, want to play, and wait for the opportunity and seize it.”
In the last four games, Jones started in place of Morant. In back-to-back games against the Lakers, Jones averaged 11 points and 5.5 assists per game.
Without Morant, the Grizzlies nearly toppled the defending champion LA Lakers. The Griz held a lead at halftime, but fell short 94-92 when the Lakers rallied in the second half.
The Grizzlies started the season without Jaren Jackson Jr., who tore his meniscus in August. Oddsmakers projected the Grizzlies would finish fourth in the Southwest division.