Jaren Jackson Jr.: Grizzlies Must ‘Navigate’ Life Without Ja Morant

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In the absence of star player Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. believes the Memphis Grizzlies face the challenging task of ‘navigating’ their way forward.

Jaren Jackson Jr., the Memphis Grizzlies star, acknowledged the challenge of playing without Ja Morant for the first 25 games of the upcoming season. Despite that, Jackson remains confident that Morant will continue to have a positive influence on the team even during his suspension.

“We just gotta navigate it,” Jackson said after Team USA’s final day of training camp here in Sin City, and ahead of its first exhibition game in preparation for the FIBA World Cup against Puerto Rico on Monday night. “Obviously, we know that not having Ja is a real big hole to fill, but, you know, he’s not, it’s not like he’s not gonna be around.

“He’s gonna give us all the tools to be able to get that done.”

In June, Morant faced a 25-game suspension without pay for “conduct detrimental to the league” due to a livestreamed video where he posed with a firearm in a car. This came just over two months after a similar incident in a Denver nightclub. He must fulfill specific conditions before returning to play and won’t be allowed to participate in any public league or team activities, including preseason games, during his suspension.

The Grizzlies experienced several significant changes this summer. Dillon Brooks, the team’s top perimeter defender and vocal leader, wasn’t re-signed after a challenging playoff series against the Lakers. In a three-team deal, Tyus Jones was traded to Washington, bringing longtime Celtics star Marcus Smart to Memphis.

Smart will step in as the team’s starting point guard in Morant’s absence and take over Brooks’ role as the top defensive option on the perimeter. Jackson, the league’s former Defensive Player of the Year, is eager about the impact Smart can make for Memphis next season.

“Oh, it’s dope,” Jackson said of the Smart addition. “I texted him already. It’s great to have someone like that who can play both ends, who’s been in a championship environment. We know what he brings to a team, that passion, that heart, and he knows a lot about the game as well. His mind is gonna be working great for the locker room, all that type of stuff. So, great addition.”

Jackson expressed his joy for teammate Desmond Bane, who secured a five-year, $207 million extension with the Grizzlies last month.

“Oh, yeah,” Jackson said with a smile and a laugh. “I mean, he got a boatload of money. So, yeah, for sure.”

In the upcoming weeks, Jackson’s primary focus will be on his work with Team USA, where he seems set to start as the center.

Despite this, he remains committed to the Grizzlies and looks forward to training camp in October. He expressed contentment with how the recent training camp concluded on Sunday.

“Really good,” Jackson said. “We’re getting to know each other. Haven’t played with each other ever. So getting to know different people. Everybody knows the game really well. Smart point guards, smart players, good coaches. It’s been good. We’ve been playing really well together. A lot of good energy, good talking, the coaches loved it. So we’re ready to go.”

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