After a very long wait for the Memphis Grizzlies, Ja Morant is finally back at their side.
Playing his first game since being out from his hiatus and eight-game suspension, Morant put up a show to help Memphis hold off the Houston Rockets, 130-125, on their Wednesday homestand.
Morant, showered by cheers and jubilation from the entire FedEx Forum crowd, entered at the 3:05 mark of the first frame and played off the bench for the Grizzlies – an idea he already opened up to further restrict his body from grinding return off a long layoff.
He finished with 17 points, five assists, and four rebounds.
“Once I got out there on the court and seen the fans reaction to me being back, it definitely helped me a lot,” said Morant in the postgame, who also shot a fairly efficient 6-for-13 from the field. “Made me feel good inside.”
Morant saw himself back in action after he was swarmed by public outroar in wake of his viral Instagram live of flashing a gun at a strip club party in Glendale, Colorado. He was shut down by the Grizzlies starting on Mar. 3 and underwent counseling in Florida to boost his mental well-being.
To conclude his inactivity, he then went to have a meeting with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to discuss his improper conduct as well as his reflective regrets on the incident. Amid his absence for 20 days, Memphis managed to withstand the competition, splendidly etching a 6-3 run on nine games with Morant out.
“I’m thankful and grateful for everybody that’s been supporting me during this time,” Morant said after the game. “It definitely helped me a lot. It put me at ease.”
Jaren Jackson Jr. came up huge to dominate the Rockets, scoring a season-high 37 points to go with 10 boards. Desmond Bane chipped in 20 points while Tyus Jones, who has started at point reliably since Morant out, churned 14 markers and seven dimes.
With the win, the Grizzlies won the Southwest Division title for the second consecutive year. They will play the Rockets again on Friday to end their back-to-back series this season.
“We loved that we won the division, but we trying to win a championship,” Morant said. “So we’ve got to continue to do the little things that will help us win games.”