Summer 2022

Ja Morant relying on God as he helps Memphis Grizzlies become NBA's hottest team

The Memphis Grizzlies have steadily improved since Ja Morant and head coach Taylor Jenkins arrived prior to the 2019-20 season. Memphis won 34 games in Morant’s rookie year and made the playoffs with a 38-34 record in 2020-21.

The improvement has continued this season, but at a much faster pace. At 31-15, the Grizzlies are third in the Western Conference and the hottest team in the NBA, having won 12 of their past 13 games (through Monday).

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Morant is averaging 24.4 points and 6.7 assists this season, the most efficient of his young career to date. Only Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry had more All-Star votes among Western Conference guards in the most recent voting update on Thursday. Morant would be the first Grizzly to make the All-Star team since Marc Gasol in 2016-17, and just the fourth player in franchise history to receive the honor.

Memphis beat the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 26 to start an 11-game winning streak that featured victories over the Phoenix Suns, Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors. A loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday — the Grizzlies’ first defeat since Dec. 23 — was followed up by a 119-106 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls on Monday. Morant tied for the team lead with 25 points in the victory.

“It was big time for us, especially after coming off a loss,” he said after the game. “We had to turn the page and get back in the column we want to be in, which is the winning column, and start a new streak.”

The winning streak coincided with Morant’s return from a knee injury that sidelined him for 12 games. He is averaging 24.9 points and shooting 50.2 percent from the floor since returning to action Dec. 20.

A first-team All-American in his sophomore year at Murray State, Morant opted to enter the 2019 NBA Draft and was taken second overall by the Grizzlies. He instantly became the face of one of the league’s most promising group of young stars.

“No. 1, we’re one of the best teams in the league,” Morant told ESPN earlier this month. “I feel like that’s No. 1. And No. 2, we’re showing how deep our roster is. No matter what’s thrown at us, we bounce back from it and come out and win games. We’ve got to keep it rolling, continue to play together, continue to battle.”

Throughout his rise in the NBA, the 22-year-old’s Twitter account has been filled with references to his faith. Included among his tweets are passages from Luke, Isaiah, Deuteronomy and Philippians.

In November 2019, he tweeted a photo with the caption, “God’s timing is always perfect. Trust his delays. He got you.”

Morant also used social media to point to God after suffering a scary ankle injury in December 2020 that caused him to miss eight games. He posted a prayer during his recovery asking God for comfort and strength.

The Grizzlies are on pace for their second-best season in franchise history, with their .674 winning percentage trailing only the 2012-13 team that reached the Western Conference Finals. Memphis begins a four-game road trip by visiting the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

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