Grizzlies

Morant, Bane Putting Memphis Back on NBA Map

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It’s been three years since a Memphis Grizzlies player has been involved in any capacity with NBA All-Star Weekend (Mike Conley – Skills Challenge).

It’s been seven years since any Grizzlies player has played — let alone started — in the big game on Sunday (Marc Gasol), so it’s safe to say the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend was one for the books for Grizzlies fans all over the world.

The young-and-exciting backcourt duo of Ja Morant and Desmond Bane were selected to participate in this years All-Star festivities and although it may not have gone ideally how they both envisioned, they both came out of the weekend with moments to remember.

Bane Comes Up Clutch

Desmond Bane got the party started on Friday with the Rising Stars game which dawned a brand-new format for 2022. Sticking to the ever-so-popular draft model, 28 players comprised of rookies, sophomores and G-League Ignite players were drafted into four different teams by NBA legends.

Bane’s Team Isiah (Thomas) was the favorite to win in this new format due to both the talent and experience they heralded compared to the other three teams, but they fell short to Team Barry who ran out the likes of Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley and 2021 All-Rookie selection, Jae’Sean Tate.

Bane went just 4-for-13 from the field (3/10 from 3), but came up clutch in Game 1 to seal the win for Team Isiah by hitting a pair of game winning free throws to send his team to the Championship game.

During the intermission before the championship game between Team Isiah and Team Barry, Bane also competed in the first-ever Clutch Challenge where teams of two were given the task of recreating and making memorable shots from the NBA Playoffs.

Once again, Bane struggled early in the competition, but came up big by hitting the Damian Lillard half-court heave that sent Paul George and the OKC Thunder packing back in the 2019 playoffs.Ā  It was fitting to do so with how clutch Desmond Bane has been for the 3rd-seeded Grizzlies this entire season, and although it was clear he wasn’t going for the MVP award, Bane gave the Cleveland crowd flashes of what he does on a nightly basis; come up BIG when you need him to.

Bane also was selected to participate in Saturday night’s 3-Point Competition in which he competed against the likes of Trae Young, CJ McCollum, Karl-Anthony Towns and more. Bane was set to lead off the competition and finished with 18 points after two were removed due to seemingly stepping on the line on his last shot at the middle rack.

He didn’t advance to the final round of the shootout, but it would be borderline impossible to assume this will be his last go-around in this particular competition.

All Eyes On Ja

All eyes were on Ja Morant this weekend, and that should be taken quite literally. Morant went viral on Friday for his video of him and his family celebrating his All-Star selection on a private jet en route to Cleveland for this weekend’s event.

In the video, the 22-year-old can be seen enjoying a drink with his dad, dancing and soaking in the reality that after a break-out season, he will be reaping the benefits of being selected as an all-star starter in his first appearance.

There was a case to be made last year that Morant should have been selected as a replacement for the 2021 All-Star Game, a spot that was taken by his Memphis predecessor Mike Conley, but like everything else Morant has had to endure, he preferred to earn his spot versus being selected as replacement.

Upon arriving, Morant got a chance to support his backcourt mate during Friday night’s festivities and prepared to enjoy a day full of media galore on Saturday. After Team Durant’s open practice, Ja went to do some interviews which were filled with questions about his viral video, judged a separate dunk contest, and got to enjoy Saturday night’s events in which seemingly the entire NBA community begged of him to save the Dunk Contest by participating next year.

He was even asked again, or practically begged on bended knee by NBA Legend Reggie Miller during Sunday’s game.

But as we’ve consistently heard from Ja, it sounds like it’s less and less likely to happen. He answered Miller’s question by saying “I don’t think the 10-foot rim is high enough for me.”

We all agree, but boy would it be exciting to see Morant in the contest if he ever changed his mind.

With Sunday’s big game to cap off the weekend, there was a lot of buzz around Morant being the favorite for All-Star MVP honors due to his play style already being filled with constant creativity and flare that we’ve never seen as consistently as we do with Ja.

And if there was an over/under on Morant highlights, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone taking the under.

It was easy to see Morant was feeling the game out early on, and possibly just due to instinct, he did a lot of passing the first few minutes of the game until he threw down an insane reverse alley-oop from Trae Young.

He finished the game with six points and three assists on just 17 minutes played– the second fewest among all 10 starters (Andrew Wiggins).

There wasn’t anything reported as a reason for the low amount of minutes, and after Morant himself declaring he was on a mission to capture the first Kobe Bryant MVP trophy, it was questionable as to why the most exciting player in today’s NBA wouldn’t play more throughout the game and not at all in the fourth quarter.

The blessing in disguise, however, was that after a scary ankle injury last week, Morant seems to be fully healthy and didn’t risk further issues that could sideline him in what is definitely going to be a strong playoff push with 22 games remaining.

What’s Next for #GrizzNxtGen?

The Grizzlies come out of the All-Star break with a 41-19 record and just 1.5 games behind the Golden State Warriors for second in the West. Per Tankathon.com, the Grizzlies have the third-easiest remaining schedule, and with Draymond Green out with an apparent back issue, it is a strong possibility this young team can solidify a top-two seed for the first time ever in Grizzlies franchise history.

And with Dillon Brooks set to return from injury any day now, the NBA should be terrified.

After losing their last game before the All-Star break and the duo of Morant and Bane not having exactly ideal results from the weekend, you would have to expect this to fuel them as more motivation to capitalize on an already-successful season.

About Chris Ingram

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