The Memphis Grizzlies are on a roll, winning 6 of the last seven games without their main star Ja Morant. How did they do it? For Jaren Jackson Jr., the formula is simple: eat and drink water.
Grizzlies rediscovered defense
In their game against the Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies held L.A. to only 95 points which is a testament to the team's recommitment to defense. The Grizzlies' "Grit n Grind" motto was a throwback to the days of Tony Allen, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol, but it's being revived with the current lineup. In their last six games, Memphis have held their opponents to 92.5 points on 38.7 percent shooting on the floor. Against L.A., the team stole the ball nine times in 2nd quarter alone.
Filling in the void left by Ja Morant, who entered the NBA's health and safety protocol, is a big task. Fortunately, several players have stepped up, including Jaren Jackson Jr. The 4th overall pick in the 2018 draft had been inconsistent in his career, but he improved his defense, especially in the block department. Jackson is averaging 1.9 blocks per game, and he delivered the offense needed in the absence of Morant. Jaren scored 25 points or more without their star guard in the lineup four times.
When asked what's his secret, the power forward reveals a light-hearted response to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
"You just got to keep drinking water. And then we go home and get a good meal and drink some water. You know? It just tastes good."
Another player worthy of credit is 2nd-year guard Desmond Bane who is averaging 16 points and 4.3 rebounds. With the way the team is performing, there is no rush to bring back Morant as he continues to recover. It's not known if Ja has Covid, but he has been fully vaccinated, including a booster shot.
Is Morant Memphis' problem?
Is Morant one of the problems of Memphis? Based on numbers alone, he's elevated his averages to career-highs in points, steals, rebounds, 3-point shooting, and field goal efficiency. However, the ball moves well in his absence, and the players commit to defense more. It's wrong to say that Morant keeps Grizzlies losing, but the coaching staff should look at it to prepare the team once Ja returns.