At the start of the NBA season, few teams had a better outlook than the Memphis Grizzlies. Fresh off a 56 win season and a second round playoff appearance, the team was poised for another successful campaign. Led by 23-year-old superstar Ja Morant, they were one of the most likable teams in the association. Now, just six months later, their reputation has completely shifted. They have become one of the most disliked teams in the league, and their ambition of winning the NBA championship this season does not look as likely as it once did.
The Grizzlies started the season strong, with a 35-22 mark at the All-Star break, good for second place in the Western Conference. Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. were both named All- Stars. However, after the All-Star break, the team’s outlook began to drastically change. The first domino to fall involved the unfortunate injury to Brandon Clarke. Clarke suffered a torn achilles on March 3, ruling him out for the remainder of the season. Clarke was a key bench contributor for the squad, as well as an important depth piece. The Grizzlies received more bad news just six days later, when it was announced that starting center Steven Adams, who was set to return from a lingering knee injury, was instead ruled out for at least the next month. Adams originally suffered the lower body injury on Jan. 29 and was predicted to return at the start of March, but his knee was not healing as quickly as expected, thus adding another setback to the Grizzlies season. Yet, while injuries have clearly hampered the team’s season so far, there has been another factor that has dragged down the team even more.
Surprisingly, the factor that has most prevented the Grizzlies from reaching their full potential thus far has been behavioral issues. The player who deserves most of the blame for this is Morant. The two-time All-Star had one of the bigger scandals in recent NBA history when, during the early hours of March 4, he posted a video on his Instagram account showing him flexing a gun while at a club.
Morant immediately received backlash for his actions. He was called out by almost all NBA media. Shannon Sharpe, co-host of a talk show called “Undisputed” on Fox Sports, weighed in on the situation. Sharpe claimed that Morant “was putting himself in harm’s way for no reason.” The Undisputed host later went on to address Morant directly, saying, “You pretend like you’re hard but you’re not, Ja.” Sharpe, and many others, were frustrated that Morant was resorting to live his life like a “thug” despite being blessed with the ability to make millions of dollars playing basketball. Morant had previously been accused of assaulting a 17-year-old boy, as well as threatening a mall security guard, so this behavior didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. As a result of his actions, the Grizzlies point guard was suspended for eight games by the NBA. The situation was surely a distraction for the team, and it took a toll on their reputation around the league.
The team has also seen behavior problems from starting wing Dillon Brooks. He has amassed almost $250,000 in fines so far this season and has received 18 technical fouls for poor behavior on the court. His tactics include extremely physical defense, as well as excessive trash talk, and the occasional ill-advised outburst of emotions. The latest example of this occurred when, on March 15, Brooks was running towards the sideline to try and save the ball, and as his momentum brought him into the crowd, he clearly and intentionally shoved a cameraman down, causing the cameraman to get injured. Brooks was fined $35,000 for this incident. It is clear that Brooks’ role on the Grizzlies is to instigate and irritate the opposition, but he has taken it to an extent where he has become hated by almost every team in the league, which in turn hurts the Grizzlies’ reputation.
There are no clear solutions to the Grizzlies’ behavior problems. However, some people have pointed out the fact that the team does not have a single player aged 30 or older. It could definitely benefit the team to bring in a player with years of experience to provide leadership and guidance for a team full of youth. Despite their struggles this season both on and off the court, the Grizzlies still have a chance at winning the NBA title. They are most likely going to finish as a top three seed in the Western Conference, and with Ja Morant returning for the final stretch of the season, they have as good a chance as anyone in the West. However, considering that just last year they were a young, up-and-coming team full of likable players that fans could root for, things have certainly taken a turn for the worse. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to all of the controversy they have been surrounded by in the recent months.
Fallen from grace?!? Lol
leo, you nailed ir
You nailed it, I’m over it! Memphis has given itself a bad name professionally and collegiately with the big headed stupid athletes, just sad!