The Memphis Grizzlies entered the NBA restart in pretty good standing.
Led by star rookie point guard Ja Morant, the Grizzlies took the league by storm and exceeded expectations during the regular season. Memphis entered the “bubble” as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, and had a good chance of advancing to the standard playoff bracket.
Instead, the Grizzlies stumbled to a 2-6 mark in Orlando, losing the eighth seed and also losing a play-in game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Granted, they were slightly banged up.
It was known Morant had been playing through a fractured thumb. But the Rookie of the Year said he also sustained an upper leg injury:
“I will be honest now. I was in a lot of pain,” Morant said, via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “But, I was trying to do whatever I could to help my team win. I wanted to make it to the playoffs, therefore I had to put my body on the line and fought with my teammates.”
Looking back, it is not a surprise to hear Morant was dealing with multiple setbacks. The Grizzlies second-year floor general was immensely inconsistent from game to game during the restart, at least in terms of scoring efficiency.
Still, learning of Morant's leg injury makes his efforts look that much more impressive. He played at least 34 minutes in the team's nine games in Orlando and surpassed the 40-minute plateau three times. The former Murray State star also averaged over 10 assists during that stretch.
Memphis faces the daunting prospect of another grinding playoff chase in a reloaded Western Conference. But Morant's talent was on full display in his rookie campaign, not to mention his heart and leadership.
The Grizzlies will be looking for Morant to continue his ascent to superstardom in his sophomore season.