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Ja Morant benefits from Grizzlies’ conscious effort to unleash the rookie


The Memphis Grizzlies have made a conscious effort to loosen the ropes and unleashing their rookie star Ja Morant, a risk that has paid huge dividends for the organization that now finds itself in the playoff race after a statement 121-110 win over the Houston Rockets.

First-year head coach Taylor Jenkins admitted his rookie point guard has made all the difference for this young team, one that has now won six straight games and eight of their last 10.

“He just goes out there and plays his game,” said Jenkins, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “That’s been our mentality. Let him go unleash his talents, his competitiveness, his unselfishness. He gets to have fun. You see how he engages the crowd and his teammates engage the crowd. It’s fun to watch from the sidelines, to see what this team is doing for the city and for this fan base. I think they feel that as well, so why not have some fun while we’re playing this style?”

Morant had undoubtedly his best game as a pro on Tuesday, making 10 of his 11 shots from the field and going off for 26 points, five rebounds, eight assists, a steal, and a block during the win over a James Harden-led Rockets team that rested Russell Westbrook.

The Grizzlies have now moved a half-game past the San Antonio Spurs, but are on an island of their own at the eighth spot, 4.5 games back of the seventh-place Oklahoma City Thunder and 6.5 games back of the Dallas Mavericks.

Morant’s play could land them in the playoffs, so long as the 20-year-old continues to play with the same joy and making the Grizzlies one of the most fun teams to watch on offense.