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#pounditTuesday, January 25, 2022

Ja Morant

Ja Morant responds to doubters with tweet

Ja Morant

Once upon a time, scouts and pundits believed Ja Morant was too small to make an impact in the paint. He lacked the necessary strength to finish at the rim, they said.

Fast forward several years and the Memphis Grizzlies guard continues to dispel all criticisms. Not only did Morant win the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year Award, he’s helped turn the Grizzlies organization around. They made the playoffs last season for the first time in four years, and are above .500 through 15 games this season.

Perhaps most impressively of all? The 6-foot-3, 174-pound Morant currently leads the NBA in points in the paint. And he wants to make sure his former critics know all about that.

Morant is an exciting player — one that feeds on both criticism and doubt. It fuels him and you see it in his game this season.

Over 15 starts, Morant is averaging 26.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 7.1 APG. And he’s only getting better each and every time he takes the court (or reads a negative review).

Ja Morant shares great message after missing clutch free throw

Ja Morant

Ja Morant was the best player on the floor in Sunday night’s game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers, but it was a shot he missed that generated the most headlines. Morant appears to be taking that in stride.

Morant scored 40 points and had 10 assists in the Grizzlies’ 121-118 loss. Had he scored 41, the game likely would have gone to overtime. Morant was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left and Memphis trailing by three. He hit the first two free throws but missed the third.

Following the miss, Morant sent several motivational tweets. He said missing the clutch free throw will only make him stronger.

Morant, a career 75-percent free throw shooter, is one of the best young players in the NBA. He continued to prove that with his performance against the Lakers. He probably did the Lakers a favor by missing that third free throw, as they have already been getting roasted by fans and analysts at the start of the season.

Ja Morant shoots down recent trade rumors involving Grizzlies

Ja Morant

Ja Morant fully expects to be running it back with the same core next season from the looks of it.

The Memphis Grizzlies guard took to Twitter this week to shoot down recent trade rumors involving teammates Dillon Brooks and Kyle Anderson. The two players had been linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a potential deal.

Morant replied to the rumors by tweeting “stop it” with a couple of laughing-face emojis. He also reposted a tweet from Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press, who said there had been no discussions between the two sides on either Brooks or Anderson. Morant called Sankofa’s report “the truth.”

Brooks and Anderson were two of the Grizzlies’ regular starters along with Morant last season. The team managed to make their first playoff appearance since 2017 but lost in the first round to the Utah Jazz.

While the trade rumors were certainly interesting, Memphis still has plenty of upside with their roster as it currently stands. They already made a couple of key additions this offseason in veteran center Steven Adams and former lottery pick Jarrett Culver. Getting a full season out of young big man Jaren Jackson Jr. should definitely help their cause too.

Ja Morant shares his complaint about NBA Draft

Ja Morant

Ja Morant has one complaint about the NBA Draft.

Morant was the No. 2 overall pick in 2019. He averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 assists per game as a rookie, winning Rookie of the Year.

Morant knows how special draft day is for players who get to realize their dream. But like many others, the Twitter spoilers bother him.

The Memphis Grizzlies point guard complained on Twitter about the way draft choices leak on Twitter minutes before they’re announced on TV, ruining the suspense.

The NBA knows this is an issue, as the Twitter leaks detract from the TV drama. They tried to address it a few years ago. The problem is even if a few reporters agree not to tip picks, others out there are hungry to gain attention and then leak picks, which unfortunately ruins the suspense.

We’re with you on this one, Ja.

Ja Morant sends blunt message to Team USA about replacing Bradley Beal

Ja Morant

Team USA is looking for a replacement for Bradley Beal after the guard was forced to withdraw from the team over a positive COVID-19 test. If one tweet is any indication, finding that replacement may be easier said than done.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant sent a tweet Thursday that seemed to be clearly directed at Team USA. Morant essentially said that USA Basketball didn’t contact him when putting together the initial roster, so they shouldn’t come calling now.

Some players who wanted to be on Team USA were left off the roster initially, but may get a look now. It will be interesting to see if any of them have the same attitude as Morant.

Morant has been pretty direct in suggesting that he feels disrespected by Team USA not even including him on the list of 57 finalists. This stance can’t come as much of a surprise.

Did Ja Morant take shot at Team USA after latest loss?

Ja Morant

Team USA is now a very uncharacteristic 0-2 to open Olympic exhibition play, and Ja Morant may have had shade for them after their latest loss.

Australia defeated Team USA Monday by a 90-83 final. The loss came days after Nigeria topped Team USA in another exhibition over the weekend.

After the game, the Memphis Grizzlies guard Morant asked what was going on with Team USA, adding that he was not watching. He then tweeted a crinkled-face emoji in response to the game’s final score.

Morant’s tweets might not seem like much on the surface. But the 21-year-old was a part of the USA Basketball consideration pool for the Olympics. Morant failed to even make the list of 57 finalists however, which was a head-scratching omission for many.

Team USA now looks like they really could have used a dynamic playmaker like Morant. Their roster construction is weighted heavily with one-on-one scorers without many pass-first guys to balance the boat. As for Morant himself, he is a player who takes notice of being snubbed. As such, these posts could easily read as a subtweet of Team USA.

Donovan Mitchell roasts Ja Morant over workout video

Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell got the better of Ja Morant in this year’s playoffs, and now he is getting the better of him on social media as well.

The Memphis Grizzlies guard Morant shared a video of himself working out with Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette this weekend. In the video, Morant seemed to be struggling a bit as he ran on a treadmill.

Mitchell responded to the video with a funny roast. “Bruh fightin for his life on that treadmill,” the Utah Jazz guard tweeted with two crying-face emojis.

Morant is known as one of the speediest young players in the league, so that treadmill probably had to be going pretty darn fast. As for Mitchell, his team did defeat Morant and the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. But as we have seen, there is a lot of mutual respect between these two players.

Ja Morant hilariously explains how his dad shows him tough love

Ja Morant father Tee

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant is one of the best young players in the NBA, and just about anyone who follows basketball could tell you that. His own father will never admit it, however.

Morant has said in the past that his father, Tee, was his first “hater.” What he means by that is that his dad is always pushing him to be better and never wants to inflate his son’s ego. In an entertaining appearance on the “Pardon My Take” podcast this week, Morant shed some light on his relationship with his old man.

“I think when I won Rookie of the Year his message after was, ‘Good job, you still suck,'” Morant recalled. “There isn’t too much I can do to make him say something positive.”

Morant did say that Tee told him how proud he was of Ja after the former Murray State star’s first two NBA seasons. Ja says Tee told him “you know I don’t do this, but I’m proud of you” and then started laughing.

Tee was also a star basketball player and played with Ray Allen in high school. Despite that, Ja says his father refuses to play him 1-on-1 now.

“He won’t play me no more. I beat him last time when we had this kids vs. adults game,” Morant recalled. “I hit the game-winner and he won’t play me no more … Once I got a little taller and more athletic he would never play me 1-on-1.”

Tee gave up his own basketball career when Morant’s mother, Jamie, became pregnant with Ja. After Morant was drafted second overall in 2019, he became emotional while talking about the work his father has put in with him (video here). The two are obviously extremely close.

NBA stars complain about ‘soft’ league after Nikola Jokic ejection

Ja Morant

Some NBA players took issue with the ejection of Nikola Jokic during Game 4 of the Denver Nuggets-Phoenix Suns series.

Jokic was tossed for a hard foul he committed on Cameron Payne late in the third quarter. Jokic was given a flagrant 2 foul, which triggered the automatic ejection.

Stars like Ja Morant and Trae Young couldn’t believe the ejection. Morant called the league “soft” over the call.

Young couldn’t believe they called Jokic’s foul a flagrant 2.

The league deemed Jokic’s contact with Payne to be excessive and above the shoulders.

“We saw wind-up, impact and follow through, which led to unnecessary and excessive contact above the shoulders and also into the face.”

This is not the first time a top player called the league “soft” recently. It seems to be a common complaint.

Ja Morant’s father rooting for Jazz to win NBA title

Ja Morant

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant’s father endured racist heckling from a group of Utah Jazz fans during the Grizzlies’ first round series against the team. It turns out that after the Jazz eliminated the Grizzlies, he’s pulling for them to go a lot further.

Tee Morant was heard telling Jazz star Donovan Mitchell after Wednesday’s Utah victory that he hoped Utah went on to win the championship, crediting the organization for how it handled the vulgar fans earlier in the series.

“Hey yo, I’m going for y’all right now,” Tee Morant told Mitchell courtside after Utah’s win. “Why? Y’all didn’t have to do that. Y’all didn’t have to show love to us like that.

“This is what I’m saying: When s— goes bad and then you reach out, that’s how you bridge the gap. Most people don’t realize that. That’s why I appreciate you, and that’s why I hope the Jazz win the championship.”

Mitchell told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that he had a great deal of respect for Morant and his family, and was very appreciative for the support.

“For me, it was just the ultimate sign of respect,” Mitchell said. “You see him talking about the way he handled it, the way we went about it. For me, that’s just how you approach it. Things are going to happen, and you’ve got to show a side of gratitude — bridging that gap, like he said.

“The fact that he’s pulling for us is dope. We appreciate it. There’s just a lot of respect. Hard-fought series. I feel like Ja and I are going to have battles for a long time in our careers. This was just the first one, but there’s just a lot of respect all around.”

The Jazz swiftly banned three fans for directing racist and vulgar taunts at Morant’s family during Game 2 in Utah. Clearly, Tee Morant was more than satisfied with the organization’s response to the incident.