For all this talk about where Andre Iguodala might ultimately be traded, who would’ve thought that he could end up contributing on a playoff team by staying exactly where he’s at? Indeed, the Memphis Grizzlies, winners of six straight and 13 of their past 19, are sitting in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference to the sincere shock of, well, everyone.
They took out Houston 121-110 on Tuesday.
And Ja Morant was again scintillating.
It’s getting to the point where you’re scared to miss a Grzzlies game for fear of missing out on the latest Morant highlight. This guy is pure magic — an eye-popping athlete with Globetrotter ball skills and the confidence to set fire to the best players in the world. When James Harden had the audacity to sag off him in the first quarter on Tuesday, he let it be known that was a mistake.
Here Morant got Harden leaning back then hit the brakes — not quite a signature step-back, but a close enough facsimile to give Harden a taste of his own nasty medicine:
“The doubters said I couldn’t shoot, so I’m proving them wrong,” Morant told NBA TV’s Dennis Scott. “They keep going under the screens, so I just shoot and make them pay.”
Morant’s not kidding. He scored 26 points on Tuesday and missed just one of his 11 shots, going 3 of 4 from deep. Per Grizzlies PR, Morant is the first rookie in NBA history to post at least 25 points and eight assists while shooting 90 percent from the field. One of those eight dimes still has me rubbing my eyes to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.
You hear about guys wanting, or not wanting, the smoke. Morant wants the smoke. He wants the bright lights, the big stage, the superstar showdowns, the challenge of taking this Grizzlies team places nobody thought they could go this soon; he wants it all. Morant referenced being “hungry” multiple times in his postgame interview with Scott. He said it like he was starving. Salivating. There’s not backing down from a fight, and there’s going to look for one. Morant is seeking out helpless victims every time he touches the ball. He got Harden again here:
And the thing is, he’s not alone in Memphis. He’s got a couple sidekicks. Jaren Jackson Jr. is on his own star trajectory. Brandon Clarke, drafted No. 21 by Memphis this past June, is the PER leader among all rookies. Over this current six-game win streak, the Grizzlies have the No. 2 offense in the league and sit just outside the top 10 defensively. Since the beginning of December, in fact, the Grizz have the No. 8 offense and a top-10 net rating, per NBA.com, so it’s not like this all just started.
Memphis has quietly been coming on for a while. These past six games are just the explosion onto the scene. They’re still just 19-22 on the year, so let’s not get too crazy yet. The bottom of the Western Conference is a sub-.500 wasteland. Still, if the playoffs were to start this second, the Grizzlies would be in. Depleted conference depth of not, If you were to predict that back in October, you would’ve been laughed at.
Nobody’s laughing now. Morant is making sure of that.