Grizzlies star Ja Morant was off to such an incredible start in the 2021-22 season that he was getting brought up in MVP chatter, but a bad knee sprain forced him to miss the last 12 games before making his return on Monday night.
During his absence, Memphis somehow never fell off, going 10-2 without its starting point guard, as other guards like Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones stepped up big time.
So you would assume that once Morant returned to action, the Grizzlies would continue their recent tear of success, right?
That wasn’t the case in Monday’s loss to the Thunder – a team the Morant-less Grizzlies defeated by an NBA-record margin of 73 points just a few weeks back.
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To be fair to Morant, the Thunder were missing two of their best players in that contest, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and standout rookie Josh Giddey were both sidelined. And it was that duo that made all the difference in the disappointing loss for Memphis, as Giddey (who had 19 points and 11 assists) found Gilgeous-Alexander (who had 23 points) on the game-sealing bucket.
But that didn’t stop a Grizzlies fan from making a baseless comment about Morant, which bothered the young star, admitting he was “hurt” by what he had heard.
“We beat this team by 73, and then we lose the day I come back against this team. It’s frustrating. I was already in my head coming back out and trusting my knee after missing 12 games. Basketball is my escape, I feel at my best when I play. So, it’s really frustrating,” Morant said after the loss.
“Even during the game, I was running down the court and I heard some of my fans courtside tell me I need to sit back out. So, I just don’t understand what they wanted to get out of that. I feel like that just makes it worse.
“I’m just frustrated,” he continued. “Normally, y’all have seen it, when anybody says something negative about me, it fuels me. But, tonight, the remarks from the fans actually hurt. I’m going to do what I normally do and bounce back and I’m very excited for this next game.”
After his press conference, Morant took to Twitter to announce he was taking a break from social media following the incident, but the tweet has since been deleted. Instead, he replaced it with a simple message: “appreciate da real ones.”
Morant is enjoying the best season of his young career, averaging a career-high 23.7 points to go with 6.9 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
He’ll have his opportunity to prove the doubters wrong on Thursday, Dec. 23 when the Grizzlies take on the Warriors at 10 p.m. ET.
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