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Grizzlies dealing with loss of Ja Morant for season

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The Memphis Grizzlies were still in a bit of shock a day after learning that All-Star guard Ja Morant is out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury

Morant was injured during practice Saturday, the Grizzlies said. The two-time All-Star was in a sling for a game against Phoenix on Sunday, and the season-ending news came a day later.

“Obviously, we’re devastated,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Devastated for Ja, everything that he’s been doing all season long to get back to this point, playing really good basketball, the team’s starting to play really good basketball.”

The news was a shock to Jenkins and his team, which learned the results of Morant’s MRI on Monday night in Dallas. They play the Mavericks on Tuesday night.

“It’s very unfortunate news, unfortunate timing, all this was unexpected,” Jenkins said. “Our medical team’s working extremely hard right now, finding the best surgeons for him.”

The injury ends what will amount to a lost season for Morant.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft, 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year, and 2022 Most Improved Player was suspended for the first 25 games for displaying a gun on social media. It was his second such suspension in less than a year after missing eight games last season for a similar offense.

“Everybody feels for him. We’re wrapping our arms around him, trying to be there for him,” teammate Desmond Bane said. “The season continues on. We’re going to keep doing our best to put our best foot forward. Obviously, every season presents its challenges, but we’ll continue to get better.”

Morant returned from the 25-game suspension and averaged 25.1 points in nine games, with the Grizzlies going 6-3 in those contests. But they are well under .500 without their best player, dimming Memphis’ playoff prospects after qualifying the past three seasons.

As for Morant, the 24-year-old is facing months with the game that he said has been therapy throughout his life. Those comments came in his first meeting with reporters after the latest suspension ended.

“They were playing at a high level, so seeing him out for the season is about peace and healing,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said before Tuesday’s game. “He’s going to come back stronger and better. We all wish him well on a speedy recovery.”

Morant, who is with the team in Dallas, will have the option of being around the team full-time as he recovers from surgery and looks ahead to the 2024-25 season, the second on his $197 million, five-year contract. The suspension cost him the first $7.6 million on the deal.

“He’s as much as possible feeling confident in the process, knowing that he’s going to get the best care and knowing that he’s going to be ready to go before next season,” Jenkins said. “I think it’s something that he’s really going to lean into.”

During his ban, Morant could practice, travel with the team, and participate in shootarounds but couldn’t be in the arena during games.

Morant had a stirring season debut, hitting a game-winning floater as time expired to cap a 34-point night in a 115-113 victory at New Orleans.

The former Murray State standout credited therapy, his family, and the franchise for helping him get back on the court. Morant may have to lean on all of them for support as he awaits his next return, presumably in late October.

“Had a lot of time to learn myself,” Morant said after sinking the game-winner against the Pelicans last month. “A lot of hard days where I went through it. But you know, basketball is my life – what I love, therapeutic for me.”

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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