The Memphis Grizzlies have entered the 2023-2024 season on the struggle bus, losing their first four games. With Ja Morant suspended for the first time 25 games of the season, some loss was to be expected, but not so right out of the gate. Last season, Memphis finished one game above .500 when Morant didn’t play. Two years ago, baby Grizz turned 20-5 while Ja was away.
“We’ve lost seven in a row, eight in a row, never at the start of the season, so it doesn’t get that much publicity… adversity when it comes always seems like a bad thing, but once you get through that you become stronger.”
On Monday night, the Grizzlies lost by 15 at home to the Dallas Mavericks in a game that ultimately became a three-man show for Memphis. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmon Bane both scored 30 points, followed by Marcus Smart with 23. No one else scored more than nine points. What makes this loss even worse is that Mavs guard Kyrie Irving did not suit up. Irving was out with one foot injuryand Dallas had no problem beating Memphis.
With 21 games remaining on Morant’s suspension, the Grizzlies need to recapture some of the mojo of years past that helped them get through Ja’s absence. Smart may be new on the roster and is still learning to get along with his teammates, but he is a veteran of the association and should take on a leadership role.
Next up for the Grizz is a three-game road trip out west to Utah, then back-to-back games with Portland. If they can’t get at least one win against those teams, Memphis could be in such a steep hole upon Morant’s return that they might as well hand over their shovels.
Morant will be eligible to play just before Christmas. No one expects Memphis to be in the top spot without Ja, but they need to wake up and turn things around quickly. Should they achieve a record of, say, 5-20 without Morant, their season could be over before we enter the new year.