Ja Morant sends strong message to critics doubting Grizzlies will hold No. 8 seed
Not many are giving the Memphis Grizzlies a fair shot to hold the eighth and last seed in the Western Conference.
Grizzlies rookie star Ja Morant has heard all the doubts, as the Grizzlies stand the most to lose under the current format that will bring 22 teams to Orlando to resume the 2019-20 season. Naturally, Morant is using the haters as motivation:
“We’ve been motivated by the doubters all season long,” said Morant on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “…Going into Orlando, it’s just more motivation, fuel to our fire.”
Morant, who had knee surgery a year ago before he was drafted by the Grizzlies, said he feels healthier after the long hiatus:
“I actually feel like I’m leaving the floor easier,” said Morant.
That’s a scary thing to hear for those vying for the eighth spot. Morant looked springy enough during the bulk of his rookie year, dunking over 6-foot-10 center Aron Baynes and threatening to put many others on a poster.
His athleticism was compared to that of Russell Westbrook while he was still at Murray State, so it’s haunting to think of what he can muster with a fully healthy knee.
Morant also put on 12 pounds of muscle during the hiatus, going from 174 pounds to a more robust 186 pounds to go with his 6-foot-3 frame.
That muscle gain will help him hold his own against bigger and taller point guards, as well as finishing through contact with a more stable frame.
Needless to say, the Grizzlies won’t go out without a fight if Morant has any say in it. Memphis has a 3.5-game lead for the final spot, but the remaining schedule is brutal and there’s a good chance of a play-in tournament for that No. 8 seed. The No. 9 seed will only have to be within four games in order for a play-in tourney to happen.