The injury bug just won’t stop biting the Grizzlies.
Memphis’ depth took another significant hit after Ja Morant went down with an ankle injury during a Dec. 28 game against the Nets. The Grizzlies, already dealing with the absences of Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) and Justise Winslow (hip), must now figure out a way to survive an extended stretch without the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year award winner.
What’s next for the Memphis star? Here’s everything we know about Morant’s injury and the latest news on when he may return to the court.
What is Ja Morant’s injury?
During the second quarter of the game between the Grizzlies and Nets, Morant attempted to block a Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot jump shot. Morant landed on Luwawu-Cabarrot’s foot and immediately hopped off the floor. He was eventually taken to the locker room in a wheelchair.
Morant was later ruled out for the rest of the contest with a left ankle sprain. Initial X-rays showed Morant avoided a fracture, and the Grizzlies announced Dec. 29 that Morant had suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain.
How long will Ja Morant be out?
Memphis estimates Morant will be out three to five weeks. Other players who have suffered Grade 2 ankle sprains managed to return in 19 days on average, so there is some hope Morant can make a quick comeback.
Ja Morant joins an impressive list of players to sustain G2 ankle sprains at some point in their career, including point guards Kyle Lowry, Deron Williams, Mike Conley, and Kemba Walker. Average missed time was ~19 days and ~8 games
— Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) December 29, 2020
Here’s a look at when Morant may be available to rejoin the starting lineup based on the Grizzlies’ timeline:
|Jan. 20||at Trail Blazers|
|Jan. 22||at Trail Blazers|
|Jan. 24||vs. Kings|
|Jan. 25||vs. Kings|
|Jan. 27||vs. Bulls|
|Jan. 30||at Spurs|
|Feb. 1||at Spurs|
|Feb. 2||at Pacers|
What’s next for the Grizzlies?
Even if Morant only sits out three weeks of action, that would leave the Grizzlies without their best player for 11 games. Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins will need to get creative with his rotation in order to prevent a major drop in the standings.
The Grizzlies don’t have another player on their roster capable of creating for himself and others like Morant, so multiple guys will need to step up. Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas and Brandon Clarke will all see their usage percentages jump over the next few weeks, and backup point guard Tyus Jones should receive a big boost in minutes.
In the unforgiving Western Conference, a bad 11-game stretch could be enough to destroy a team’s playoff hopes. Remember, this is a 72-game season. We’re talking about 15-20 percent of the entire schedule here depending on how long Morant is stuck on the bench.
Memphis will keep the long view and not rush Morant back before he is ready. That’s what’s best for the franchise’s future. Unfortunately, it could also mean missing out on the 2021 NBA playoffs.