Grit N’ Grind: Grizzlies season recap



Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks talk to players on the bench before playing against the Houston Rockets. The Grizzlies won the second time in a row against the Rockets in a blowout 151-114.

Ja Morant defends a three-point shot from Daishen Nix. The Grizzlies won the game against the Rockets 130-125. (GRACE AMGALAN//USED WITH PERMISSION)
Ja Morant shoots a free throw after being fouled. Morant has had a 74.7 percent free throw percentage and averaged 26.8 points per game this season. (GRACE AMGALAN//USED WITH PERMISSION)

Ja Morant to Dillon Brooks to an open three for Desmond Bane. Swish. The crowd roars while Morant hypes them up. The boys from Beale close out another game with a victory. 

The Grizzlies have maintained a top rank in the Western Conference throughout the season. Overall, the Grizzlies have grown well, have had a world-class roster and have seen a lot of success.

“It’s so great to have an NBA team in town,” AP United States Government and Politics teacher Curt Rakestraw said. “I have season tickets and go to every game to see the greatest athletes in the world.”

The Grizzlies acquired Luke Kennard from the Clippers for Danny Green and three second-round draft picks. They also retained most of their starting lineup, including Tyus Jones, considered one of the best backup point guards in the league.

“I think it’s great; we weren’t doing anything with Danny Green,” Rakestraw said. “He was kind of terrible when he came back, and I’m glad we used that asset. Kennard in the last couple of games has been more aggressive. Bane was the second-best three-point shooter last year percentage-wise, and Kennard is number one. It was amazing to have both those guys on the same team.”

Impressive players like Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. were crucial to the Grizzlies’ success. Morant has been a pivotal part of the team this season. Many remark watching Morant play is like watching a constant highlight reel. Morant is a talented player; he’s one who could very possibly be the face of the league in the coming years. He has been able to lead the team to win games and hype the crowds of the FedEx Forum. 

“Ja is the team leader,” Rakestraw said. “He is the focus of the offense. He is the character of the team, I feel like all the guys feed off of him and adopt aspects of his personality. I feel like it has helped the team come together over the last couple of years especially.” 

Morant plays with explosiveness and power, often driving as hard as he can all the time to score, inevitably leading to injuries. Not only that, but he has also been missing games due to his off-the-court behavior.

“The way that Ja plays is gonna lead to a lot of injuries and so he’s going to miss a lot of games every year that way,” Rakestraw said. “And he did, early in the season. The March absences because of his off-the-court behavior, obviously were not great for the team. It came at a bad time because we had just lost Steven Adams too.”

This could cost the Grizzlies games because Morant is the face of the team. Morant is synonymous with the Grizzlies, and without him, they lose an important player.

“He’s a star player, leading us in points per game,” James Yue (9) said. “His actions will lead to losses. The team’s mentality is not as strong without him because he’s a leader of the team. The team won’t be at 100 percent without him” 

Jackson is another amazing player on the team, with his accomplishments including being called to the NBA All-Star game and potentially being a defensive player of the year candidate. Jackson is a successful power forward, scoring crucial points and defending well.

“This last stretch where Ja has been out, Jaren has been playing the best basketball he has in his life,” Rakestraw said. “Jaren has finally grown into his body. Over these last few games, he’s been averaging almost thirty points a game. He was more aggressive offensively. All year long he’s been the best defensively. When Jaren was out, we were one of the worst teams defensively.” 

Desmond Bane is a sniper on the court, with a 40.9 three-point percentage this season. Bane consistently hits threes and other shots, again getting those crucial points for the team. He can work in conjunction with Morant and Jackson, creating a strong core.

“[Desmond Bane]’s shooting has really helped the team actually, a lot of clutch shooting,” Yue said. “He helps lead us when other players are down.”

The Grizzlies are often praised for their defense and are ranked third defensively in the whole NBA. 

“I think they excel at defense and are mentally strong,” Yue said. “They’ve had a lot of good comebacks. They just don’t give up no matter what.” 

Taking advantage of their strong defense, the Grizzlies are able to score consistently on the fast breaks. Using their individual strengths, players can drive to the goal and score by themselves.

“Defense is definitely the thing [the Grizzlies] focus on the most,” Rakestraw said. “Jaren and Dillon Brooks are the two best individually [on] defense. We aren’t great, especially without Steven Adams, at half-court offense. We really rely on our defense to create transitions, to create easy baskets. The Grizzlies score so much on the fast break, and that starts with the defense.”

One of the things the Grizzlies have struggled with this season is the free throw percentages. Few players on the team are above an 80 percent free throw percentage, and in games where there is a two or three-point difference, these points are very crucial. Steven Adams, a pivotal player on the team, struggles with a 36.4 percent free throw percentage. It affects how the Grizzlies can play certain players late in games because as soon as Adams or another player gets time, they can be immediately fouled without getting punished for it.

“Free throw percentages cost us,” Benjamin Mendez (10) said. “We can’t be relying on our shooters to have high free throw percentages because they aren’t getting fouled when the guys in the paint are getting fouled, and they need to be getting those free throws.” 

The Grizzlies have had some controversy over their on-the-court and off-the-court behavior. With there being many young players on the team, their behavior can be seen as immature and costing the team games with the technical fouls. Dillon Brooks has already been suspended from the Clippers game due to his exorbitant amount of technical fouls.

“Ever since [Morant’s] incident, [Morant]’s attitude to the team has really affected the team causing losses and could really affect our playoffs,” Yue said. “He needs to be mature. Brooks brings negative thoughts to the team and brings other players down. Not good for the Grizzlies and team and not good for the city.” 

Trash talk is ubiquitous in sports. It could be argued that their behavior gives the Grizzlies personality. It helps build the young players’ confidence against older, more experienced players and teams. Confidence is key to their success.

“I don’t think any of [Dillon Brooks’ behavior] is a problem,” Rakestraw said. “I think it’s important to the team. Much like we said about Ja, I think Dillon’s character and his on-court attitude is a big part of what the team is and what makes them successful. A guy like Desmond Bane is talking trash to Lebron on his second year. Most guys would never do that and I don’t think Desmond would ever do that if he started on a different team. Part of what makes Dillon successful is that he never stops talking during the game and gets in trouble. I think his behavior is an important part of the team and gets the team going.”

The playoff season is upcoming, and this year it looks like it could go anywhere. Many teams in the West pose a threat to the Grizzlies as they are all roughly evenly matched. The title looks to have many contenders, and the Grizzlies could be the winner. Whatever happens, it’s a Memphis thing mane.

“The Lakers suck, but they have Lebron and Anthony Davis,” Rakestraw said. “Even though their record is bad and their team is bad, in the playoffs, guys like that can make a difference and that’s why the Warriors are always scary every year. The Clippers have been pretty bad all year, but Kawhi Leonard played great [and] Paul George just got hurt so you never know. Kevin Durant has not really played any games with the Suns so far, so we don’t even know what the Suns look like with Kevin Durant. It’s almost like everyone in the West is scary, even the twelfth-place team, the Pelicans. We would struggle in a playoff series against the Pelicans. It’s a crazy year for the NBA because there are so many teams who are evenly matched, and I think that’s pretty fun because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”