Ja Morant has similar to-do listing this 12 months


Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies as soon as once more appear to be an afterthought heading into the NBA season.

There is not a lot buzz about final 12 months’s NBA rookie of the 12 months. At the very least there’s not the eye the retooled Lakers, Kevin Durant’s return to the courtroom or Zion Williamson’s sophomore marketing campaign are getting.

Morant and this teammates have been a shock final 12 months and he plans to take away any doubt this 12 months.

”Attacking the season and proving everyone improper is my primary objective,” Morant mentioned.

Memphis’ younger star and Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins are in full settlement on what Mortant must work on in his second season.

”Every part,” Morant mentioned. ”I really feel prefer it’s that easy.”

Requested what he desires Morant to enhance on Jenkins mentioned, ”My easy reply can be every little thing.”

Expectations are very excessive in Memphis due to the purpose guard’s spectacular rookie debut.

Not solely was Morant an almost unanimous choose as NBA Rookie of the 12 months, he was the lone unanimous choose on the league’s All-Rookie first staff with teammate Brandon Clarke, one of many rising stars for All-Star Weekend in Chicago and a three-time choose because the Western Convention’s rookie of the month.

Morant led the Grizzlies scoring 17.8 factors whereas beginning 67 video games. He additionally averaged 7.3 assists and three.9 rebounds whereas taking pictures 47.7%. He had a pair of triple-doubles and 15 double-doubles.

However Memphis misplaced the play-in recreation Aug. 15 to Portland after going 2-6 within the seeding video games to overlook the playoffs. Morant took that personally even when the Grizzlies did not have Justice Winslow within the bubble and misplaced Jaren Jackson Jr. to a knee harm after three video games.

”I felt like I might have been higher in lots of locations,” Morant mentioned. ”Clearly, I did not get the job finished. In order that’s a giant takeaway.”

Jenkins believes Morant is motivated to enhance each aspect of his recreation, on and off the courtroom.

”How can he be a greater determination maker, shooter, chief on the offensive finish? How can he be the chief of our defensive unit? And being the primary line of assault, how can he a greater pick-and-roll defender, exercise, rebounder to begin our break,” Jenkins mentioned. ”It is holistic. I believe he embraces that problem. That is how he is constructed.”

The pinnacle coach, going into his second season as properly, mentioned he talked with Morant quite a bit about being a pacesetter, the necessity to work on his physique with weight-reduction plan and diet. Since leaving the bubble, the 6-foot-2 guard has added one other 5 kilos to his listed 175 kilos.

Morant additionally has labored on his shot and mentioned his percentages have been bettering with every exercise since final season ended. He shot almost 48% from the ground as a rookie, however solely 33.5% from 3-point vary.

The Grizzlies need Morant taking a couple of extra 3s per recreation, although Jenkins made clear they aren’t attempting to maintain Morant away from a mid-range jumper. Memphis coaches need Morant catching and taking pictures extra 3s after the guard was a 42% shooter in these conditions reasonably than off the dribble, the place he was within the low 30s.

In addition they need Morant to learn and react faster when the guard both shoots a 3 or goes to the basket.

”He is obtained an elite floater, and we would like him to excel in that and change into an elite finisher as properly …,” Jenkins mentioned. ”He is obtained the good means together with his sixth sense to type of learn conditions generally earlier than they even have occur.”

Morant already has proven he will be among the many NBA’s finest at ending video games.

He was the league’s seventh-best rating within the fourth quarter, trailing James Harden, Trae Younger, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Donovan Mitchell. Morant shot 54.9% within the fourth quarter, second solely to Antetokounmpo.

”Ja has gone above and past this summer time engaged on his shot …,” Jenkins mentioned. ”We all know he’ll take large steps this 12 months. The numbers would be the numbers. He is simply making the suitable choices, trusting the work behind it. They go hand in hand, and we’ll get the suitable numbers on the finish of day.”

Morant, who turned 21 in August, is engaged on his off-court decision-making. He was seen on video attending a celebration at a Memphis nightclub Thanksgiving weekend with out a masks throughout a spike within the coronavirus pandemic.

He mentioned he ought to have worn a masks all through the get together – or possibly not have gone – noting he is nonetheless studying all of the protocols the NBA expects of gamers this season.

Morant nonetheless carries a giant chip on his shoulder, and is working to show it might be mistake to miss the Grizzlies

He mentioned if he continues placing within the work, ”I would be capable of try this.”

Observe Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker

Extra AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports activities



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