Harsh reality check pours cold water on Ja Morant's return to Grizzlies

Dec 19, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) celebrates a score
Dec 19, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) celebrates a score / Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

26 games into the 2023-24 season, Ja Morant became eligible to return to the Memphis Grizzlies following the expiration of a league-issued suspension due to conduct detrimental to the NBA.

As a result, the superstar guard has immediately gone on to do superstar things, making history for most points scored in a return game after 25+ absences, knocking down a buzzer-beating game winner to snap a five-game losing streak, and, to this point, has guided the club to a small yet inarguable undefeated record of 2-0.

And yet, while excitement amongst the fanbase is certainly at Everest heights, there are still plenty out there are are convinced that this resurgence may be too little too late.

At least, that's what ESPN's Brian Windhorst seems to be suggesting as he provided what he called a "reality check" on this Grizzlies team during a recent episode of NBA Today, highlighting a painfully specific rest-of-season win-loss breakdown that, to him, appears to be unlikely due to many factors.

Grizzlies provided 'reality check' amid Ja Morant's resurgent return

"The reality is they're in rough shape [and] that they are way behind. They would need to go 34-22 [with Morant now back] -- which is basically the percentage they won at last year, they were a 60 percent win team last year -- just to get to .500 which frankly I don't think is going to do it. Maybe it will for the Play-In, maybe it wont. If they really want to be sure they get into it [they need to go] 38-18. That could happen, they could do that. Ja, if he keeps playing this way, could do that but they've also got a bunch of other injuries and the west is tough."

Brian Windhorst on Grizzlies

Despite this take by Windhorst and the odds of landing a playoff spot at this point being rather stacked against them, since Morant's return there has been a clear shift in energy on this team and, during the guard's first home game of the season this past Thursday, the fanbase seemed to take notice of this, as they were a raucous bunch from start to finish.

On top of this, recent rumblings suggest that there soon will be other players returning to the lineup to help with Memphis' rest of season stretch, as veteran Marcus Smart could come back from his nagging ankle ailment as soon as Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks while Luke Kennard seems to be inching closer to a full recovery from a left knee injury.

With the Grizzlies at 9-19, will the road to redemption prove to be an easy journey? Of course not -- it never is!

That said, with Morant now back in the mix and several other key contributors seemingly on the verge of making their way back to the hardwood as well, a successful second half of the year seems far more realistic than it may have been just a few short weeks ago