Memphis rookie guard Ja Morant returns to the court Saturday when the Grizzlies take on the visiting Washington Wizards.
He was held out of Friday’s 127-114 loss to Milwaukee. The Grizzlies listed him as being out for “injury maintenance” while nursing his back while fellow rookie Brandon Clarke also sat out for the same reason (oblique).
Both Morant and Clarke have made a real impact on Memphis so far this season, but the former has really raised some eyebrows around the NBA. Morant was the second overall pick in this year’s draft and is averaging 18.7 points and 6.4 assists per game at the age of 20.
The Grizzlies had back-to-back games with Milwaukee and Washington at home so that’s likely why they sat him versus the Bucks, trying to give Morant some early-season rest after battling an injury.
Memphis had won two in a row before that loss.
Jaren Jackson Jr. picked up the slack for Morant and Clarke by scoring a career-high 43 points in the Milwaukee loss thanks to nine 3-pointers. According to the Grizzlies, the 20-year-old is the youngest player in NBA history to make nine triples in a game and the lone player under the age of 21 to do so.
Morant is leading the way as a young team tries to build with a lot of promising talent that’s still lacking experience. That is why Jae Crowder of Memphis said that each game is an important learning experience.
“We’re just trying to build each game,” he told NBA.com. “I feel our young guys are soaking everything in and applying as much of what we’re trying to do as possible. It takes time. But it feels good when everything you’re trying to do starts to come together.”
The Wizards will have to slow Morant — or try to — on Saturday and that could prove to be a very tall task as the rookie guard can cause trouble in so many ways.
Morant has gotten off to a great start in his rookie year, and he’s certainly impressed Washington coach Scott Brooks.
“He’s as dynamic and explosive as any player that has come in (the NBA) in a long time,” Brooks told NBC Sports Washington. “You see a lot of (Russell) Westbrook in him where he attacks and is fearless. He plays hard, he puts so much pressure on the defense.”
Washington is coming off a 114-107 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday despite a career-best 32 points from Davis Bertans.
Bertans helped the team rally in the fourth quarter as the Wizards made the game close — they were down by 16 in the third period — but Washington couldn’t do enough. Still, Bertans made eight of 12 3-pointers and helped the Wizards have a chance.
“I was just trying to do my job,” Bertans said on the team’s website. “They were in there guarding me closer, and I was just trying to come off screens and … just kind of have the defense gravitate towards me and somebody else can get open. I think we got a lot of good looks at the end.”
–Field Level Media