Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies liked where they were when the NBA closed in March.
Now, with the restart of the NBA, Morant says he believes it is unfair that the Grizzlies’ padding built between them and the contenders for the closest playoffs in the West may prove irrelevant.
“But, you know, we can’t control it,” said Morant in an interview on ESPN’s The Jump broadcast Thursday. “The only thing we can control is how, as you know, we go out and attack each of these games before that decision is made.”
The Grizzlies are currently 8 suits and have an advantage of 3½ games on three teams. But in the NBA bubble format, Memphis should be 4½ games ahead when the eight seeding games are complete to avoid one game or games to determine the eighth and final playoff team.
“I feel like it’s an extra chip,” said Morant, when asked if the format could give the Grizzlies a chip on the shoulder. “You know, more fuel for the fire, more motivation for us.”
Three of the Grizzlies’ eight games will be against other Western teams fighting for the last playoff point starting Friday, when Memphis will face the Portland Trail Blazers, who have returned to 3½ games. The Grizzlies play pelicans on Monday. The kings are also 3½ games behind Memphis.
On Sunday, Memphis plays the Spurs, who have returned in four games.
The Grizzlies had 17 games to play when the season ended on March 11th.
“Coming into the season, I think we were projected into 29th place and watch us now,” said Morant on The Jump. “So we only use it as fuel, we keep running. We are all very hungry. We know what we are capable of. Get out and play.”
Morant will benefit from another adjustment that the NBA has made for its reboot, which starts on Thursday. Earlier this month, the league said the eight seeding games would not count towards post-season prizes, essentially ending campaigning for the prizes, including the rookie of the year, that Morant had been the standout favorite for conquer Zion Williamson of the Pelicans, who was missing much of the season after undergoing knee surgery.
“It’s definitely beautiful,” said Morant. “For now, I can’t say it’s my main goal. You know, I have some games to play, I try to play the playoffs. But where I come from, what I did to get here, the things I went through, definitely an honor. I am blessed. “