One thing that can be said about the Memphis Grizzlies is that the young team ‘ain’t never scared' to compete with any team in the league. This bunch has told the entire NBA: “We ready, (we ready) … For y’all.”
Star rookie Ja Morant always exhibits with the confidence of David against Goliath: “Whoever I’m going against put on their shoes the same way I do, there is nothing I should be afraid of.”
Morant and his teammates truly believe they can compete against any team in the league — and it's showing. The team has a chip on its shoulder and is proving doubters wrong.
After a recent win against the Washington Wizards, Morant talked about the mentality of the team. He said, “It feels like we’re all just preaching the same thing. We have this mentality to just fight to the end, go out and compete. At the end, just try to get a win.”
In that interview, the three-time NBA Rookie of the Month took a shot at the haters for doubting the Grizzlies, “What were we supposed to win, 26 games this year? I think we just passed that. Appreciate you all who bet against us,” the Murray State alum said.
The South Carolina native can back up his talk with his play on the court. In his first NBA season, Morant is averaging 17.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 7.1 assists in 29 minutes. He’s also Mr. Fourth quarter; Morant is ranked fourth in the league in fourth-quarter scoring with an average of 7.6 points.
The 20-year-old is also the front-runner for the 2020 Rookie of the Year Award.
The other half of the dynamic duo, Jaren Jackson, Jr., has the same attitude as Morant. Jackson sat down with HoopsHype during All Star Weekend and shared his thoughts on proving everyone wrong.
The Michigan State alum said, “It was definitely motivating, because nobody really thought that we’d be in this position at this point. People just said to us, “Oh, you have time. Don’t worry about it! You’re young!” We kind of were just like, “We don’t care.” That’s how we play and how we are — we just don’t care.”
Jackson continued, “When we go out there, you have to put five on the court, just like we have to put five on the court. It don’t matter if you’re young or old. There’s only one basketball. You have to literally beat us down if you want to win this game against us, because we like to compete. We’ll have off nights, for sure. But at the end of the day, we’re going to play hard.”
Jackson also has the receipts to back up his talk. In his sophomore season, his TS% (true shooting percentage) is an exceptional 59 percent. Jackson is averaging 17.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, with 1.7 blocks (ranked 9th) per game in 28.1 minutes.
Another young Grizz, Dillon Brooks, feels the same way as his teammates. (“Dillon Brooks always talks shit,” said one of my colleagues who covers an opposing Western Conference team.)
So it wasn’t surprising Brooks was the one who called out former Grizzlies asset Andre Iguodala near the trade deadline. According to the Commercial Appeal’s Mark Giannotto, Brooks said, “A guy that’s on our team doesn’t want to be on our team. I can’t wait til we find a way to trade him so we can play him and show him what really Memphis is about.”
Brooks got support for his remarks from his teammates and Grizzlies fans. Eventually, Iggy was traded in a deal to the Miami Heat, along with Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill. The Grizzlies ended up with Justise Winslow, Gorgui Dieng, and Jordan Bell when the dust settled.
Brooks had some parting shots for Iggy after the trades were finalized.
Dillon Brooks on the deal that is expected to send Andre Iguodala to Miami and Justise Winslow to Memphis: “Now we have a player that we’re getting that actually wants to play with us and thinks we’re good.” pic.twitter.com/LGjKIYmqIm— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) February 6, 2020
Brooks is having a career year with 15.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. The third-year guard only played 18 games last season due to injury, after playing all 82 games in his rookie season. Memphis is 17–1 when Brooks scores 20 or more points.
The Grizzlies are 28–26, two games above .500, and have a hold on the eight seed in the Western Conference, with a five-game lead in the loss column on Portland.