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#pounditMonday, December 6, 2021

Ja Morant

Ja Morant on Russell Westbrook: ‘He’s highly disrespected’

Russell Westbrook

Ja Morant was a big fan of Russell Westbrook growing up and is still defending his childhood favorite despite competing against him now.

Morant spoke about Westbrook ahead of Wednesday night’s game between his Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets and praised Westbrook.

“I still feel like he’s highly disrespected,” Morant told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “People take his play for granted. I mean, he averaged a triple-double for the last three or four years and I’m pretty sure they see what he’s doing this year, but it’s still the same thing. I just love that he still just goes out and plays and handles his business and doesn’t worry about it.”

Westbrook, in typical fashion, said he didn’t care what anybody thought about his game, but appreciate the support from Morant.

The Rockets continued their hot ways and won their fifth straight game, blasting Memphis 140-112. Westbrook had 33 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals in 34 minutes. He’s averaging 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game this season. More importantly, he hasn’t attempted more than four threes in a game in over a month. His 3-point shooting has long been a weakness in his game, and opponents often welcomed him to shoot more of them.

But is he disrespected? He has his fans and plenty of detractors. He won an NBA MVP award, so he definitely has earned a lot of respect and recognition.

Ja Morant says Knicks showers were not working

Ja Morant

Everything about the New York Knicks’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night was ugly.

The Knicks lost 127-106 at home, started a fight at the end of the game with a push of Jae Crowder, and fans chanted “sell the team.” As if all that weren’t enough, there were complaints about the visiting shower not working.

Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant said after the game that there was no hot water or water pressure in the showers, according to the New York Daily News’ Kristian Winfield.

Morant said he would wait to shower at the hotel rather than in the locker room with those conditions.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of cold water in a visitor’s shower, and it always is a concern. On top of all that embarrassment, Knicks forward Marcus Morris said Jae Crowder was playing like a girl.

Video: Ja Morant has trash talk for James Harden after 3-pointer

Ja Morant

Ja Morant had some extra motivation on Tuesday night.

The rookie led his Memphis Grizzlies to a 121-110 win over the Houston Rockets. Morant had 26 points, five rebounds and eight assists in the game and made an impressive 10/11 field goals. He also went 3/4 on three-pointers and was sure to let James Harden know about that.

After Harden failed to close out on a Morant 3-pointer, the rookie was seen saying “tell that motherf—er about me!”

That seemed to be Morant’s response to a lack of respect he felt Harden showed him by giving him so much room to take the shot. Harden paid the price.

Morant had another sweet moment when he went behind his back around Harden and threw a lob:

Now that’s how you earn respect as a rookie. You take it to the veterans one player at a time until they learn.

Kevin Love jokes on Twitter about Ja Morant nearly dunking all over him

Ja Morant Kevin Love

Kevin Love could only crack a joke and tip his cap after being humiliated by Ja Morant on Friday night.

Morant nearly went Vince Carter on Love with a huge dunk attempt in Friday night’s Memphis Grizzlies-Cleveland Cavaliers game. Morant raised up and just about jumped over Love’s entire body while going for the dunk. He did miss it though.

Few could even care that Morant missed the dunk. What mattered is the aggression and athleticism he showed on the play, and the simple willingness to challenge himself in that manner.

The Cavs won 114-107, while Morant had 8 points and 11 assists. Though his team lost, many would argue that Morant was the big winner — at least on social media.

Ja Morant returns from back injury scare after falling into photographer

Ja Morant

Ja Morant left Monday night’s Memphis Grizzlies-Indiana Pacers game after colliding with a photographer near the basket, though he seemed to be OK.

Morant was driving in the paint and went up for a lefty layup that was blocked by Myles Turner in the final minute of the first half. As he fell to the ground, Morant’s back landed against a knee of a photographer.

The Grizzlies rookie was helped to the locker room just before halftime. He was not in the lineup to start the third quarter, but he subbed in after three minutes.

Morant, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, has been a star for the Grizzlies so far this season. The 20-year-old is averaging 19.1 points, 6.0 assists, 1.1 steals and shooting 47.2 percent from the field.

Grizzlies holding out top rookies Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke for maintenance

Ja Morant

The Memphis Grizzlies appear to be taking load management a step further.

Michael Wallace of the team’s website reported that top rookies Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, who were ruled out of Saturday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, are sitting as part of a maintenance effort. Wallace said that the Grizzlies are taking a collaborative approach with training and performance staff as well as the front office and that the league was aware of the approach.

Memphis is currently on the second end of a back-to-back, part of a series of four games in six days. Clarke has also been battling back soreness with his absence listed as due to “injury maintenance.” Meanwhile, Morant, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, is not dealing with any known injury.

The Grizzlies are far from the only team implementing such measures — for one, the Mavs themselves are also sitting Kristaps Porzingis on Saturday (albeit a player in his first full season back from a torn ACL). But resting their two top rookies for maintenance purposes can’t create a good look for the league, especially with all the controversy over load management lately.

Watch: Ja Morant scores on Kyrie Irving, blocks him to send game to OT

Ja Morant

Ja Morant showed on Sunday why the Memphis Grizzlies saw a superstar when they drafted him No. 2 overall this year.

Morant had 30 points with nine assists as the Grizzlies beat the Brooklyn Nets 134-133 in overtime for their first win of the season. Morant looked great on a sequence where he scored on Kyrie Irving and then blocked the Nets guard’s shot to send the game to OT.

Morant was more or less finding his way in the Grizzlies’ first two games of the season (10 and 14 points scored), but he really looked good against Brooklyn.

In addition to Morant, the rebuilding Grizzlies have 2018 No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson Jr. as one of their cornerstones for the future. They no longer have Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. and instead are Ja’s squad.

Watch: Ja Morant smashes guitar before Memphis 901 FC game

Ja Morant

Ja Morant is already endearing himself to the Memphis sports community.

Morant attended Saturday’s Memphis 901 FC friendly against Pachuca. He took part in the ceremonial pregame guitar smash and succeeded in destroying it.

That might be the best pregame tradition we’ve seen.

Memphis is the heart of blues, soul and rock and roll, so the club developed a tradition of smashing a guitar before games.

“For every guitar smash we amplify our collective chip on our shoulder, we embrace our blue collar pride, we shout us against the world and we always #DefendMemphis” they say of the ritual.

The Grizzlies made Morant the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday’s draft. Two days later, he was already taking in a community event.