MikeCheck: Brooks boosting Grizzlies on both ends of floor amid impactful return from injury

There’s not a more mentally strong or confident player on the Grizzlies roster – and perhaps in the entire NBA – than Dillon Brooks.

Just ask Dillon Brooks.

But even the Grizzlies fifth-year swingman emerged from a pregame workout a week ago with plenty of uncertainty. He wondered how long it would take for him to regain his form after missing the season’s first month to recover from a broken hand he sustained over the summer.

Despite making it back in time to participate in training camp, Brooks was sidelined again after further exams revealed more time was needed for the hand to properly heal. So instead of opening the season in late October with his teammates, Brooks didn’t make his debut until nearly a month later, with the Grizzlies on the verge of four losses in a five-game stretch.

Simply put: Brooks is trying to make up for lost time at a delicate point in the season.

Dillon Brooks driving to the basket
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – NOVEMBER 10: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Memphis Grizzlies goes to the basket against Cody Martin #11 of the Charlotte Hornets during the second half at FedExForum. Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images.

“The biggest hurdle is just catching up, wondering, ‘How can I make an imprint? How can I make a difference on the floor?’” Brooks said ahead of the Grizzlies two-game trip that starts Saturday against Minnesota. “Every night, being 11 games behind, it’s a hurdle trying to figure my way through the offense and defense, figuring out what I can do to make both sides better.”

With Brooks back and regaining rhythm with each game, his imprint is having a definitive impact on the Grizzlies. Through four games this season, the 6-foot-7 small forward is averaging 19.3 points, three rebounds and 1.3 steals in 26.5 minutes. And it didn’t take long for Brooks to find his shooting touch, considering he’s converting at a 46-percent clip from the field overall and 44.4-percent from three-point range.

But what’s been most impressive about Brooks is the how effective and efficient the team has been when he’s on the floor. In Thursday’s 12-point home win over the Clippers, Brooks played 27 minutes and led the Grizzlies with a plus-22 rating in plus-minus impact while contributing 18 points and serving as the primary defender on All-NBA forward Paul George.

Every night, being 11 games behind, it’s a hurdle trying to figure my way through the offense and defense, figuring out what I can do to make both sides better.

Dillon Brooks

In his previous outing on Monday, Brooks was a plus-31 in plus-minus over 23 minutes on the court during a 136-102 rout of the Rockets. Teammates and coaches are seeing incremental progress overall defensively this week after a sluggish start to the season.

The expectation now is that with two days of practice time, in addition to the boost of consecutive victories, the Grizzlies can gradually improve an overall defensive rating that sits 29th among 30 NBA teams. With Brooks healthy as the team’s unquestioned swagger catalyst and perimeter defensive standout, there soon should be tangible evidence of a turnaround.

“One of Dillon’s great strengths, among multiple strengths, is his defensive intensity, execution and pure abilities,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We don’t have him to his normal substitution pattern just yet. But it’s going to give us a lot of versatility, having him. I’ve gained a lot of confidence with Dillon out to start the season, to see what Kyle Anderson can do with certain personnel, (and) what bigger wings like Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton have shown us. But now, when you have multiple guys and Brooks getting a bulk of that share, we have more depth throughout the game to give us a lot more defense intensity.”

Dillon Brooks guarding Paul George
MEMPHIS, TN – NOVEMBER 18: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers is defended by Dillon Brooks #24 of the Memphis Grizzlies. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images.

Few players in the league embrace their defensive role with the level of intensity Brooks brings to the court each night. Five seasons into his NBA career, Brooks is still motivated by having slipped to the 45th overall pick in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft after a decorated college career as PAC-12 Player of the Year out of Oregon.

As the longest-tenured member of the Grizzlies, Brooks has played for three different head coaches. He’s seen the roster transform from a veteran-laden group anchored by Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to one now fueled by 22-year-old stars in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant.

Brooks is midway through a three-year contract extension that allowed him to solidify a starting role as well as give the Grizzlies one of the best return-on-investment deals in the league.

We don’t have him to his normal substitution pattern just yet. But it’s going to give us a lot of versatility, having him. I’ve gained a lot of confidence with Dillon out to start the season, to see what Kyle Anderson can do with certain personnel, (and) what bigger wings like Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton have shown us. But now, when you have multiple guys and Brooks getting a bulk of that share, we have more depth throughout the game to give us a lot more defense intensity.

Taylor Jenkins

The two-game trip is symbolic for Brooks because it wraps up with the Grizzlies facing the Jazz on Monday in Salt Lake City. The Grizzlies return for the first time since they lost last season to the top-seeded Jazz in five games during a breakthrough postseason run after the Grizzlies won the NBA’s Play-In Tournament to secure the No. 8 seed.

At the end of last season, Brooks was a key reason why the Grizzlies pushed through to become the youngest team in a decade to advance to the NBA playoffs. In that series against the Jazz, Brooks significantly increased his regular-season production to average 25.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals while shooting 52.8-percent from the field and 42.9-percent on threes.

As a result, Brooks garnered league-wide attention as one of the NBA’s best young two-way players, equally capable of impacting a game on offense and defense.

Returning to Salt Lake City on Monday is a reminder of the form to which Brooks seeks to reclaim in helping the Grizzlies reach their potential this season.

“My whole thing is to be patient. I know I want to get back to where I was locked in at the end of last year, but I have to be really diligent,” Brooks said. “I’ve put in the work to earn that respect and to have that voice out there to be a leader on that end of the floor for my teammates, be that dog out there to lead us defensively and set the tone.”

Brooks is confident it’s only a matter of time before all the pieces fit together again.

Jenkins saw flashes of that elite wing defense in Thursday’s win against the Clippers, particularly how well Brooks approached the assignment of containing George. In the second game of the season with Brooks out of the lineup, George matched his season high with 15 made shots to finish with 41 points on Oct. 23 in a 120-114 home loss. On Thursday, George was limited to 23 points and never got the Clippers really clicking in a game they trailed by as many as 20.

I’ve put in the work to earn that respect and to have that voice out there to be a leader on that end of the floor for my teammates, be that dog out there to lead us defensively and set the tone.

Dillon Brooks

“Dillon relishes the opportunities to guard some of the best offensive players in the game (and) I thought when he was on Paul George his discipline was phenomenal,” Jenkins said. “(Brooks) had a good offensive game tonight, but when he puts that effort forward defensively, it filters throughout the team, and everyone feels that. I’m glad Dillon is back and continues to work his way back into full game shape. I’m proud of what he’s done so far.”

Brooks insists the steps forward he’s taken this week only mark the start of his journey back to peak production. Breaking his hand in a random injury during an offseason workout only delayed the momentum he anticipated carrying into this season. His feel for the game, however, is returning with each game he’s on the court.

“It’s been a rough one, but it’s made me grow as a person and it’s made me even more hungry to play this season as well as I can,” Brooks said of the injury and recovery process. “But I feel good; my hand feels great. I feel like I’m getting a little more wind and conditioning with each of these games. I’m having great balance on my shot, playing with great pace and just keeping my teammates involved as I work my way back to where I want to be.”

His impactful feel for the game, however, is growing each time he steps on the court.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

HBCU Huddle: TSU’s Penny Collins Stops By

On today’s show: CJ and Mike discuss Alcorn State’s resurgence, FAMU’s chances of getting into the FCS playoffs, coach Fobbs being out at Grambling State, coach Prime’s thoughts about the coaching rumors involving him, and they wish Albany State and Bowie State good luck in their D2 playoff runs. Tennessee State head men’s basketball coach Brian ‘Penny’ Collins hops on at the 37 minute mark to discuss the recruitment of Hercy Miller, the energy on campus, changes in recruiting at the HBCU level and more.

HBCU Huddle: SIAC And CIAA Championships

On today’s show: CJ and Mike discuss coach Prime announcing that he is out of the hospital after dealing with some health complications and TCU’s reported interest in THEE JSU coach. They also discuss Albany State’s continued dominance, Bowie State v. Fayetteville State in the CIAA championship, coach Simmons and FAMU’s playoff mentality, the Student Freedom Initiative, the start of college basketball season and more.

Rise & Grind - 11/10/21 | Tigers Basketball Looking Good, DeAngelo Williams and Kickball

Rise & Grind: Tigers Basketball Looking Good, DeAngelo Williams and Kickball

On today’s show: On today’s show: Jessica and Meghan discuss the Memphis Tigers performance in game one of the season and the CFP rankings. Mike Wallace joins the program to preview the Grizzlies v. Hornets. DeAngelo Williams swings thru for his usual shenanigan’s. The ladies also discuss the Fendi x Skims profits, Paul Rudd being named People’s Sexiest Man of the Year and more.

(start) Memphis Tigers basketball win
(10:00) CFP rankings
(16:47) Nikola Jokic suspension
(28:23) Mike Wallace/Mike Check Minute
(42:51) DeAngelo Williams
(1:22:00) Shailene Woodley defends Aaron Rodgers
(1:28:17) Fendi x Skims news
(1:34:07) Paul Rudd Sexiest Man of the Year

HBCU Huddle: Go Get It Time

On today’s show: As the football season begins to come to an end, CJ and Mike discuss how the latest FBS conference realignment may affect the HBCU landscape and coach Hill-Eley being let go at Alabama State before being joined by Press Box To Press Row’s Donal Ware to discuss TSU’s improvement, coach Primetime’s health, which non FCS HBCU’s are legit on the football field and more from around the HBCU football world. CJ and Mike also discuss HBCU bands at NFL stadiums, congratulate Morgan State’s  Edward Gainey on becoming the first black mayor in Pittsburgh history and discuss the HBCU Classic at the NBA All Star Weekend.

MikeCheck: Constructive communication key as Grizzlies set early season standards

MEMPHIS – The Grizzlies didn’t wait until returning home from a successful four-game road trip to take inventory of their biggest area of growth so far this season.

That process started in the heat of battle, in the heart of San Francisco the other night.

Trailing by 19 points to a proud and unbeaten Warriors team on the second night of a back-to-back set, the Grizzlies could have easily settled, accepted defeat for a second night in a row and retreated to Memphis and regrouped for their own homestand.

Ja Morant interviewing with Rob Fischer
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 28: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies interviews after the game against the Golden State Warriors. Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images.

But that would hardly be what these Grizzlies are at their core.

So, they assessed the situation midway through that game, committed to having some hard conversations about accountability and rededicated themselves to salvage the task at hand.

“I told our coaches before the game that this was going to be a great test for our guys early in the season,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said of facing his team’s first dose of adversity on the way to capping the trip with Thursday’s 104-101 overtime victory against the Warriors. “Obviously, you’ve got to give our guys a lot of credit.”

That credit rating is building by the game as the Grizzlies (3-2) return home after bracketing wins over the Clippers and Warriors around a close loss to the Lakers and a lopsided setback to the Blazers. One key that connected Memphis throughout its early-season journey was a commitment to meaningful and constructive communication.

We lost a close game against the Lakers, a tough one in Portland, and (it’s) definitely been a long road trip. We bounced back and played hard all the way throughout. My teammates and I were talking after we were down 19 at one point, so it is good to get a win like that for sure.

Desmond Bane

From franchise catalyst Ja Morant to 19-year-old rookie lottery pick Ziaire Williams, every player on the roster is empowered to speak up amid challenging times. To that end, no player is above reproach when mistakes are made and adjustments are needed.

Those levels of trust and credibility are at the foundation of what the Grizzlies are building in hopes of making a second straight run to the playoffs as one of the league’s youngest teams. Jenkins and several players credited the open communication they’re showing as the essential element that allowed them to rally from an early 19-point deficit against Golden State. That strong finish came a night after the Grizzlies fell flat in a blowout loss in Portland.



The challenge now is to settle in and find consistency at home. Saturday’s game against the Heat opens a stretch in which the Grizzlies play eight of 10 at FedExForum entering the Thanksgiving holiday. Consider it another growth opportunity for a team eager to stretch itself as many of the talented pieces come together around Morant and a retooled rotation.

“Hopefully, Grizz nation shows up, and I’m sure that they will – it’ll be fun,” swingman Desmond Bane said of carrying momentum from the trip into Saturday’s game. “We lost a close game against the Lakers, a tough one in Portland, and (it’s) definitely been a long road trip. We bounced back and played hard all the way throughout. My teammates and I were talking after we were down 19 at one point, so it is good to get a win like that for sure.”

Communication keeps the Grizzlies focused on playing to their strengths.

A lot of this experience is going to help us going forward. We just want to make sure we repeat that for any close games.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Against the Warriors, a defensive turnaround was needed. And the Grizzlies provided that spark by generating deflections and steals to stifle Golden State defensively and get into transition offensively. Memphis generated a combined 26 steals and blocked shots that led to scoring 23 points off Golden State turnovers.

Through five games this season, the Grizzlies are performing among the NBA’s best teams on both sides of the ball. They are fourth in the league in rebounding (50.2) and fourth in steals (10.4), while also third in total three-pointers made (71) and fourth in assists (26.2).

That level of success is an early indicator of continuity, chemistry and clear communication.

We can get better in certain areas late in games. I put a lot of pressure and blame on me for being that point guard, because I have to get us in better actions to score and win.

Ja Morant

“We talked a lot better, and I just think we responded very well,” forward Jaren Jackson Jr. said of the connection his team is establishing on the fly this season. “A lot of this experience is going to help us going forward. We just want to make sure we repeat that for any close games.”

Solid habits are still forming for the Grizzlies. And they’re being pushed by Morant’s leadership and execution on the court in the third-year guard’s breakout start to the season.

Morant is the NBA’s second-leading scorer at 30.4 points a game and is also averaging 7.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 54.4 percent from the field and 40.6 percent on three-pointers. Entering the weekend, Morant was featured on NBA.com as one of the top-five early favorites for league MVP.

From here, the goal is sustainability.

“I feel like we’ve been good, came a long way and we’re continuing to learn,” Morant said. “We can get better in certain areas late in games. I put a lot of pressure and blame on me for being that point guard, because I have to get us in better actions to score and win.”

Morant then addressed the Grizzlies’ biggest area of growth and improvement.

“Communication is the biggest thing – we have to get better at it,” Morant said.

Fortunately, these Grizzlies don’t bite their tongues talking their way through it.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

HBCU Huddle: The HBCU Football Butterfly Effect

On today’s show: CJ and Mike explain how Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC could lead to Howard leaving the MEAC, discuss what is next for the MEAC if the Bison decide to join the CAA, take a look at this week’s HBCU football rankings, discuss the return of wrestling to Morgan State and give the former child stars that they would like to take a class from.

MikeCheck: Morant mindset fuels fearless approach as Grizzlies face challenging start to season

Fresh off completing a near-flawless performance in the Grizzlies’ season-opening home victory the other night, Ja Morant perhaps delivered his best effort after the game.

Morant’s scoring and playmaking were fabulous.

His postgame evaluation and perspective were even more on point.

“I know what it takes for us to get to that next level,” Morant surmised after the Grizzlies passed their first official test of the 82-game schedule. “My job is to continue to push us to get to that next level, continue on the floor to be a leader. We’ve got everybody we need. We’ve just got to continue to grow with each other and go out and play.”



If his words don’t quite reveal it, his relentless approach to this season certainly does.

Morant isn’t into any excuses. He’s only focused on execution.

That Morant mindset leads the Grizzlies into the fire of a treacherous four-game trip coming off their record-setting, 132-121 victory against the Cavaliers on Wednesday at FedExForum. That slate begins with a weekend back-to-back set in Los Angeles against two NBA title contenders in the Clippers on Saturday and the Lakers on Sunday.

And from there, the Grizzlies close the journey with another back-to-back set on Wednesday and Thursday against the Trail Blazers and Warriors. It’s all part of an early stretch in which the Grizzlies will play eight of nine games against teams that either made the playoffs last season or participated in the NBA’s Play-In Tournament.

So, it comes as no surprise that Morant is determined to attack the start of his third NBA season the way he storms up and down the court with the basketball in his hands. Morant’s mission to set the tone for the Grizzlies this season was evident from the outset in Wednesday’s opener, when he scored 20 of his game-high 37 points in the first half and attempted a career-high 29 shots from the field.



That take-charge approach is one the Grizzlies need from their catalyst as they begin the season with second-leading returning scorer Dillon Brooks still recovering from a fractured hand. It’s also essential as Memphis incorporates three new starters in wing players De’Anthony Melton and Desmond Bane, along with a veteran newcomer in center Steven Adams.

And it’s absolutely necessary as the Grizzlies give a healthy Jaren Jackson Jr. the space and cover to gradually develop his stride alongside Morant as one of the NBA’s top young tandems.

I’m really proud of his leadership throughout, just encouraging guys when there were some tough times, and then just to see him make his mark, especially in that fourth quarter, was big for us to get that win.

Taylor Jenkins

Having opened the season with the third-youngest roster in the league, and no player over the age of 28, coach Taylor Jenkins knows that there will be early growing pains this season. But the progress the Grizzlies made through the preseason offered glimpses of just how prepared this team is to face any adversity ahead.

Jenkins believes Morant’s ability to adapt his game to any situation necessary is one of the biggest strengths the Grizzlies carry into the grind of an 82-game regular season.

“We really haven’t had a ton of time yet to really go through these end-of-game moments in the preseason, and to get to it in that first game is awesome,” Jenkins said of Morant’s ability to take over in the late stages as the Grizzlies pulled away from Cleveland. “I’m really proud of his leadership throughout, just encouraging guys when there were some tough times, and then just to see him make his mark, especially in that fourth quarter, was big for us to get that win.”

Balance for the Grizzlies will be key to success this season.

We’ve been at this for two, three years (together), so I think we’re all growing up together. We all understand what it takes to win. It’s not easy in this league.

De’Anthony Melton

Scoring will be needed beyond Morant’s binges, particularly against the caliber of teams Memphis will face on this upcoming road trip. There will need to be a repeat of the multiple players who scored in double figures on opening night, when Bane added 22 points and Melton chipped in 20. Teamwide defense and rebounding must remain priorities, with Jackson, Adams and Kyle Anderson combining for 27 of the team’s 53 boards.

As first impressions go, the Grizzlies couldn’t have painted a more productive picture offensively on the way to setting franchise opening-night records for scoring (132) and made three-pointers (14).

“We’re all grown up,” Melton said of the collective energy and production he’s seen from the team’s blossoming core. “We’ve been at this for two, three years (together), so I think we’re all growing up together. We all understand what it takes to win. It’s not easy in this league.”

De'Anthony Melton against the Cleveland Cavaliers
MEMPHIS, TN – OCTOBER 20: DeAnthony Melton #0 of the Memphis Grizzlies controls the ball against Collin Sexton #2. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images.

And it certainly won’t be easy over the coming days as the Grizzlies grind their way along the road against some of the elite teams in the Western Conference.

But there’s a fearless young leader steering these Grizzlies, one whose opening-night performance was hardly a fluke. In fact, Morant isn’t taking a backseat to anyone this season while pushing the Grizzlies forward.

“Experience is pretty much all I can say,” Morant said of what’s driving him this season. “The main thing I’ve been telling our team is that we’ve got to win (in different ways). We’ve got to win the pretty ones and the ugly ones. We’ve got a few things to work on, but we’ll be fine.”

Morant will make headlines for his highlight plays this season.

But it’s his solid foundation and astute perspective that keep the Grizzlies deeply rooted.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

HBCU Huddle: Homecoming

On today’s show: CJ and Mike discuss JSU continue to roll over opponents and their record setting Homecoming attendance before being joined by Prairie View A&M defensive lineman and Memphis native (shout out to Lausanne) Joshua Crawford for a conversation about the Panthers’ season so far, a potential matchup with Jackson State, the State Fair Classic and more. Mike and CJ also preview the big matchup in the MEAC between Howard and Norfolk State. The guys also discuss the Lionel Hollins joining the LeMoyne-Owen coaching staff and the SWAC men’s preseason basketball rankings.

MikeCheck: As season opener looms, growth-minded Grizzlies preparing to ‘protect the culture’

CHICAGO – They’re more than mantras.

Consider them more like guideposts and guardrails to keep the Grizzlies on track. At the start of each of his three seasons in Memphis as coach, Taylor Jenkins set a clear and definitive tone for the team’s mission from the outset of training camp. Year one’s task was to ‘build the right way’ as Jenkins took over as a rookie head coach a few months after changes took shape in the front office and a retooled roster was developing.

Going into his second season last year, Jenkins and the Grizzlies set out to ‘fortify the foundation.’ And after delivering the franchise’s first winning record and playoff berth in four years – with the NBA’s youngest playing rotation – the next objective is in place.

“Protect the culture,” Jenkins surmised as he looked ahead to the start of his third season with the Grizzlies. “There’s growth in a lot of areas, and the chemistry within this team is showing a lot. Coming into Year 3, you’re wondering about retention areas from one year to the next. But I feel guys are accelerating a lot with some of the things we ended the season with last year. Our guys are more quickly getting to the things we need to as we get closer to opening night.”

The Grizzlies entered the weekend having concluded their six-game preseason slate with Friday’s loss in Chicago against the Bulls. Behind them is a productive and encouraging three weeks of training camp and exhibitions that showed strides made in key areas as well as some challenges that will be addressed moving forward.

There’s growth in a lot of areas, and the chemistry within this team is showing a lot. Coming into Year 3, you’re wondering about retention areas from one year to the next. But I feel guys are accelerating a lot with some of the things we ended the season with last year. Our guys are more quickly getting to the things we need to as we get closer to opening night.

Taylor Jenkins

But more than anything else, there’s a sustainable culture in place. And Jenkins has seen franchise cornerstones in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant work to protect what’s been established. Along the way, newcomers such as veteran Steven Adams and rookie lottery pick Ziaire Williams have seamlessly stepped into that culture as ideal fits for the present and future.

After regrouping through the weekend, the Grizzlies will gear up for Wednesday’s season and home opener at FedExForum against the Cavaliers. Then comes a difficult four-game West trip with matchups against the Clippers and Lakers on a back-to-back set and ends with another two-games-in-as-many-nights slate against the Blazers and Warriors.

In all, eight of the Grizzlies’ first nine games this season are against teams that made the playoffs last season or were in the NBA’s play-in tournament. But even as they maintain a methodical development approach overall, the Grizzlies emerged from the preseason with the postseason mentality to pick up where they left off six months ago.

ja maront highfive teammates
Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies dribbles the ball past Lonzo Ball #2 and Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls in the second half during a preseason game at United Center on October 15, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images.

“We have a lot of guys returning, and the mindset is the same,” Jackson said of capitalizing on the lessons that culminated in last season’s first-round series against the top-seeded Jazz. “We reached a point last year where we achieved some of the things that were our main goals, like getting to the playoffs. And that was good. But once you get to that, you’ve got to build off it with other things. We’re not satisfied with that at all. We have a lot going on here.”

The Grizzlies made progress in several key areas through their preseason preparation.

Morant’s leadership, intensity and production set a tone from the outset. His intentions were clear when he responded to top basketball executive Zach Kleiman’s assertion on Media Day that Morant would be a certified NBA All-Star this season.

We reached a point last year where we achieved some of the things that were our main goals, like getting to the playoffs. And that was good. But once you get to that, you’ve got to build off it with other things. We’re not satisfied with that at all. We have a lot going on here.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

“I feel he’s telling you all the right thing,” Morant said through a sheepish grin. “Stay tuned.”

Morant then turned in a near-flawless preseason stretch in which he averaged 22.3 points on 63.4-percent shooting in 24.7 minutes. He also led the NBA in fast break scoring and points in the paint entering Friday’s preseason finale. Finding ways to mesh with Adams while also rekindling his connection on the court with Jackson were priorities for Morant.

The result was a two-game stretch in the preseason that saw the Grizzlies obliterate Charlotte and Detroit to lead by as many as 39 points with Morant, Jackson and Adams all in action. Morant insists the encouraging sample sizes were a result of the chemistry the group built over weeks of informal workouts when many players got together on their own well ahead of camp.



Injuries and attrition slowed the process of Morant and Jackson sustaining the on-court bond the franchise hopes will lead to success well into the future. But they’re ready to blossom now.

“If we all stay healthy, there’s nothing we can’t do,” Morant vowed. “I’m speechless being able to play alongside a guy like J.J. – it’s good for me. Both of our goals this summer was to work on our bodies. That’s why we were together so much this summer, to build our chemistry.”

Jenkins sees the results of the initial work put in to protect the culture.

“The guys are super motivated, super locked in,” Jenkins said. “We know it’s a long season and there’s a ton of work to do. But our guys have that mentality of, ‘We know what we’re capable of doing.’ We know what we’ve got to get better in, and the priority is to understand where we’re at and the self-motivation needed to approach the rest of the season.”

I’m speechless being able to play alongside a guy like J.J. – it’s good for me. Both of our goals this summer was to work on our bodies. That’s why we were together so much this summer, to build our chemistry.

Ja Morant

For the Grizzlies, it’s a culture of chemistry.

It’s a culture of incremental progress.

It’s a culture of competitive growth.

The proper pillars are in place to protect it.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.