There was a bit of surprise on Saturday morning when the Memphis Grizzlies released the injury report via Twitter. Multiple players were listed out due to rest and injury, but Justise Winslow was finally listed as questionable.
Many wondered if he would actually play against the Phoenix Suns Saturday night. It has been a long road for the 24-year-old to actually to suit up for the Grizzlies. Winslow was traded to the Grizzlies from the Miami Heat in February 2020 and was slated to make his Grizzlies debut then, just before the NBA went on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After a freak accident in the NBA bubble over the summer, Winslow was sidelined with a left hip displacement.
Grizzlies Coach Taylor Jenkins confirmed that Winslow would get some minutes against the Suns during the pregame media availability: “Justise is officially good to go . We are so excited to get him out there. I know that he is super-excited as well.”
Jenkins continued: “When we welcomed him here about a year ago, we knew the competitor we were getting, we knew the winning basketball player we were getting, the playmaker and the ultimate team guy. He’s the ultimate competitor. He’s been super vocal, super active on the sidelines and in the film sessions and whatever he participates in. In practice as well, he just brings a lot of spirit to us.”
With 6:29 left in the first quarter, Winslow checked in for the first time in a Memphis uniform. He received a round of applause from the 1,994 fans in attendance at FedExForum.
As expected, the Duke alum was a bit rusty in what became a 128–97 blowout loss to the Suns. Winslow went 0–9 from the field in the first half, but he was a bit better in the second half and finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds, and a steal in 21 minutes, while going 3-of-14 from the field. It was his first NBA action since January 8, 2020, as a member of the Miami Heat.
Winslow was happy to be back on the floor after being out for so long. After the game, he said, “It was a great day, man . I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. I was excited. A lot of nerves, to be honest, but just being out there competing was a lot of fun.”
Winslow added, “The first half, I was just trying to get that first bucket. A little excited, but once I settled down, settled into my game, I felt pretty comfortable out there. But a lot of praise to this organization, helping me get back out there. And my teammates, they helped me be very confident while I was out there playing.”
Winslow admitted that it was a challenging year for him with the injury and the pandemic that affected his rehab process. He added, “I give a lot of thanks to my family and my friends, and this organization. Like I said, they kept me steady; they kept me level. They believed in me. So, it’s been a hell of a journey. Tonight, was just a glimpse of the iceberg, just getting my feet wet. But it was a good experience for me, obviously, a lot to learn from, but I had fun out there despite the 30-point beatdown. But we’ll get better and attack Dallas Monday.”
Jenkins was pleased with Winslow’s debut and stated he would be initially coming off the bench. He said, “This guy’s got a bright future with us, and I’m so happy to see him out there and him having a lot of fun. I just want him to be a playmaker out there . I think having the ball in his hands is going to lead to some more good things. As much as I can continue to learn him as a player, as much as I already know, but seeing him with our group and in his teammates. I’m very excited about putting the ball in his hands a lot more.”
Winslow's future with the Grizzlies appears bright once he is settled in and playing and bringing energy on both ends of the court. With the loss, the Grizzlies fell to 13-13 on the season.