Morant’s Game 2 status ‘in jeopardy’ after Grizzlies’ loss
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant shouted in agony as he ran off the court holding his right hand midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Game 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
X-rays were negative, but Morant described his status for Wednesday’s Game 2 as “in jeopardy.” “I’m in a good bit of pain,” Morant said after the 128-112 loss.
Morant was playing with that hand lightly wrapped because of an injury suffered in an April 7 win at the Milwaukee Bucks. He was not listed on the official injury report, and Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said pregame that Morant would have no limitations due to the sore hand.
Morant hurt the hand again when it slammed onto the court with 5:48 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Grizzlies trailing by four points as he fell after charging into Lakers big man Anthony Davis.
“[It is] tough, man, especially with everything I’ve been through pretty much this season,” said Morant, who served an eight-game suspension in March for conduct detrimental to the league. “My main focus was to be out there for my guys. It’s another incident where that’s pretty much in jeopardy.”
Morant, who attempted to attack the basket and finish over Davis but was called for an offensive foul, had the back of his fingers hit the court first and his wrist bent upon impact. Morant said his wrist is not a concern, but his right hand hurt so badly that he did not use it at all while getting dressed at his locker, tossing a pair of balled-up socks to a Grizzlies staffer to separate them.
After staying on the floor for several seconds, Morant got to his feet and immediately ran past the Grizzlies’ bench into the locker room.
Morant returned to the Grizzlies’ bench with 4:10 remaining — with a black wrap on his hand that was significantly more extensive than he wore while playing — and returned to the locker room after the game got out of hand. Jenkins said he was informed that Morant was available to return in “an emergency situation.”
“But probably the smartest thing was just to hold him out as we continue to go through evaluation,” Jenkins said.
It is the second consecutive postseason that Morant, who had 18 points, 2 assists and 6 turnovers in the loss to the Lakers, has been injured. A knee injury kept Morant out for the final three games of the Western Conference semifinals series last season against the Golden State Warriors, who eliminated Memphis in six games.
“At this point, I’m not even surprised with how my life’s been going,” said Morant, who received counseling at a Florida facility to help him manage stress in early March after flashing a handgun on a livestream session from a Colorado strip club, the incident that prompted his suspension.
“I don’t know, man. I’m just pretty much numb to everything now. It’s like I’m not even surprised. It’s one thing after another.”
Morant, who was not wearing a wrap on the hand postgame, said his pain threshold and ability to function with his right hand would likely be determining factors in whether he will play Wednesday.
“I’m going to do anything to try to be out there for my team, be out there on the floor,” said Morant, an All-Star who averaged 26.2 points and 8.1 assists this season. “It’s pretty much how much I can tolerate. If I feel like I can go out there and be somewhat myself, I’ll probably play. But if not, I don’t want to do anything to hurt the team.”
Memphis has gone 32-12 in games started by Morant’s backup Tyus Jones over the past two campaigns, including 13-9 this season, giving the Grizzlies confidence they can compete regardless of their superstar’s status.
“We’ve been in that position before without him on the floor, and Tyus is obviously capable to play a big role and make plays on both ends of the floor,” Memphis shooting guard Desmond Bane said. “Hopefully, [Morant] is back Wednesday, but if not I think Tyus will be ready to go.”
Bane described Morant as “tough as nails.”
Power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. downplayed the likelihood of Morant missing a game despite his comments.
“That’s just stuff that he’s telling y’all,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, he feels fine. He feels fine. He’ll push through anything. He’s just going to tell y’all something good.”