Grizzlies: Ja Morant’s return shows everything that’s wrong with NBA fans

Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

When Ja Morant left a Memphis Grizzlies game a few weeks ago with a leg injury, fans panicked. Their star player who was in All-Star form would be out for what was originally pegged as “at least a few weeks.” But as quickly as the panic began, it faded.

The Grizzlies went on a 10-2 run without Morant and looked like the best team in the league during that stretch of basketball. Memphis was clicking on all cylinders, playing their best offense and defense of the year.

And upon Morant’s return, there were two trains of thought. The Grizzlies could become even better than they had been during that stretch or they could return to the team that they were before his absence, which was sitting at a 9-10 record. In game one, they returned to the latter.

If you’re a Memphis Grizzlies fan calling for Ja Morant to be benched, you are uneducated — it’s that simple

Sports are fun in the sense that fans have the opportunity to speak their opinion on virtually every matter. You don’t have to be an expert to weigh in on your favorite team because you can discuss that team with anybody.

That said, if you’re out here discussing the fact that the Memphis Grizzlies are a better basketball team without Ja Morant — you’re fighting a losing battle.

For some perspective, here’s what you’re doing to the 22-year-old Grizz point guard.

"“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. 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.”"

The knee-jerk reaction here is completely understandable, as the Grizzlies have played better basketball without their star player. As an example, the Grizzlies beat the Oklahoma City Thunder by 73 points in Morant’s absence. With Ja back, they lost to the very same team. Fortunately, the NBA season isn’t decided by 12-game stretches or two individual matchups.

There is no argument that can be made to prove that a team is better without a player who is averaging 23.7 points, 6.9 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Sure, his turnovers are a bit high, but the Grizzlies were averaging more turnovers in Morant’s absence.

Look at the numbers — the Grizzlies went from the lowest-rated defensive team in the NBA to the highest-rated in the league without Morant. I hate to break it to you, but the Grizz point guard isn’t such a bad defender that his absence makes that big of a difference.

The numbers simply do not add up.

There are two distinct possibilities here. The first is simple — the team just happened to be playing great basketball in his absence. We’ve seen worse teams get hotter in the past. The second possibility, however, seems like the likely truth.

This possibility involves a coach in Taylor Jenkins who doesn’t know how to utilize his star point guard in Ja Morant. We’ve seen him struggle to coach with Morant, specifically forcing the ball to the Grizz point guard in clutch time among other misuses.

Next. 3 reasons why you shouldn't overreact to loss with Morant. dark

In general, however, fans simply need to exercise more patience. Chemistry will do a full 180 when you insert a high-usage player back into the lineup after a month-long absence. The setback is expected — prematurely destroying a player’s self-esteem doesn’t help anybody.