DimeMag

Ja Morant Dishes On Growing As A Leader And Shines A Spotlight On His Grizzlies Teammates

Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies were one of the best stories of the regular season, making the leap from the play-in last year to the No. 2 seed in the West. Now that it’s playoff time they hope to show they are more than just a good story, facing another young team on the rise, the Minnesota Timberwolves, in their first round series.

After dropping Game 1, Morant and the Grizzlies will look to even things up in Game 2 on Tuesday night, as they try to settle down and settle in to what looks to be a highly competitive and entertaining series. Adapting to new challenges is something Morant and the Grizzlies have done as well as anyone this season. For Morant, he made the leap into being an All-Star this season and has a case for All-NBA, despite missing some time with injuries, and maybe more importantly for the Grizzlies, he continues to grow into a leadership role on a young team that as a whole has adopted his cool confidence on and off the court.

Last week, prior to the Grizzlies’ matchup with the Timberwolves being set, we got a chance to talk with Morant over Zoom on behalf of BODYARMOR about his season, leadership, and his teammates, who he always ensures share the spotlight with him.

What are the lessons that you think you guys can take from from last year’s experience in the postseason and carry with you into this year?

Just how playoff basketball works, pretty much. That’s, you know, the main thing we can take from last year’s playoffs.

For you personally, you’re partnered with BODYARMOR on the Edge vs. Everybody campaign. How cool was it to be part of this ad campaign that’s going to start during the playoffs while you’re playing?

It’s definitely big time. Something to definitely be proud about. Definitely blessed and thrilled to be able to partner with BodyArmor in order to do this campaign and launch it during playoffs where I’m preparing to make a deep run.

How would you describe the vibe of the Grizzlies locker room to somebody like me who’s on the outside?

Pretty much just some fun, exciting guys who all have that similar mindset of going and proving ourselves each and every night. But also having fun while doing it.

And within that, what’s the level of competition like internally, because it seems you guys push each other to be better. We can all see the improvement that you guys as a collective have but also individually, it’s kind of remarkable the development each of you guys has shown. What is it like day to day that helps push you guys internally on the practice court?

Like no matter what’s going on, pretty much anytime we step on that floor we’re competing at a very high level. And as far as making each other better I feel like that’s what it is. If we play-in against each other or doing anything, you know, we’re competing and want to beat whoever’s on the other side. And that’s just pushing everybody to be better and helping us out in the long run.

Where do you think you personally have grown the most as a leader now that you’re in your third year?

Pretty much just leading by example. Showing guys how hard I play when I’m out there but as well as, you know, how much time I put into my game to also make me a better player.

You’ve had some time, most recently with with a knee injury, being out. Do you learn stuff about your teammates when you watch from the bench and watch them play without you that can help you when you get back out with them? To know some spots where maybe they have to take on a different role without you and you can see how they can they can thrive in different situations?

Of course, you know, just watching it and also being the point guard, you always have to know that where my teammates spots are at. And while I was out, I got to see a lot of guys take on bigger roles and go excel in whatever that was for them. And obviously that gives me confidence, but I know it gives them confidence as well and know when I came back to play you know, my mindset was just to keep those guys playing at that level that they were playing at.

I saw today that you finish the season averaging the most paint points per game of anybody in the NBA. What do you think that says about you that you are able to do that as a point guard?

Nobody can keep me in front of them.

Also, I think the question that people had coming into the draft was your size. Does it bring you some joy to show that is far from a weak point in your game and continue to show that you’re going to be able to get downhill and play with the trees and finish down there?

I’m glad they send me down there thinkin’ I couldn’t. So I don’t pay it too much mind, but I know exactly what people were saying when I was coming in. And, you know, for a guy with a small frame who they thought wouldn’t finish over bigs to lead the league in paint points tells you something.

To finish I want you to give me one word to describe some of your teammates, and we’ll start with Jaren Jackson Jr.

One word I’ll just say, Special. For him, just at his size, 7’1, to be able to you know, handle the basketball pretty much like a guard, he can shoot the three, can play in the post and then just how he anchors our defense, you know, on the other end of the floor is just big time.

Desmond Bane.

Professional Bucket. If you need one word, a bucket. He can score with the best of ’em. He can score from all over the floor, three-level scorer. So, bucket is my one word for him.

Dillon Brooks.

Menace. Like, no matter what he’s doing, he’s going hard. He’s engaged, playing very aggressive. So my one word for him would be menace.

De’Anthony Melton.

Ooh. Important. For him, not just talking like we have to talk but, you know, Melt is an important piece for us. Coming off the bench, being able to knock down the three-ball also, being able to handle the ball to release pressure off the point guard, and then him guarding the best players, being all over the court you know, in passing lanes, blocking shots. Just, he’s a very important piece for us.

Lastly, Steven Adams.

A bruiser. Steve-O does all the dirty work for us. With holding down the paint, you know, whether it’s getting the rebound, blocked shots or on the other end finishing drop offs, put backs and just giving us extra possessions to allow us to score the ball.

×