MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said Tuesday that two-time All-Star point guard Ja Morant suffered no ligament damage to his right hand in Memphis’ opening playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and will be a game-time decision Wednesday night for Game 2.
Morant had an MRI on Monday that showed only bruising of the tissue between the bones as the fourth-year guard aggravated an injury from April 7 when Memphis clinched the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference during a win at Milwaukee. Jenkins said Morant is dealing with pain and soreness.
“Symptoms are slightly improving from the other night,” Jenkins said after practice. “He’s going to be a game-time decision. He’s going to come in and get working in the morning and test it out, see how is feeling.”
Morant appeared to bend his right hand as he landed after driving to the basket against Lakers center Anthony Davis. He was called for a charge with 5:48 left, writhed in pain, then ran toward the Grizzlies’ bench letting out a yell near midcourt before sprinting to the locker room.
He returned to the bench with his hand wrapped with a black brace rather than the white tape Morant played with during the 128-112 loss to the Lakers.
During the portion of practice open to reporters, Morant did not use his right hand at all. He used his left hand to help rebound and put up a couple of shots. He finished the session with a bag of ice wrapped over his right hand.
This has been a very challenging season for Morant.
He signed a five-year, supermax contract last July after being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. It was the latest step for the No. 2 pick overall in the 2019 draft who wound up the league’s Rookie of the Year. Morant made his first All-Star game last season as the Grizzlies earned the No. 2 seed in the West.
This season, Morant landed a signature shoe deal with Nike for the Ja 1 that goes on sale to the general public Wednesday. He also debuted a deal with Powerade before news broke of a sealed lawsuit accusing him of punching a 17-year-old during a pickup basketball game at his home last July.
Morant filed his own countersuit last week accusing the now 18-year-old Joshua Holloway of slander, battery and assault.
The Grizzlies guard also wound up suspended by the NBA for eight games in March after he livestreamed video of himself holding a gun in the early morning hours of March 4 at a Denver-area strip club.
“At this point, I’m not even surprised with the way my life has been going,” Morant said when asked after the Game 1 loss about the pain in his hand. “Back-to-back.”
Morant smiled as reporters watched the end of practice, and Jenkins said the guard tested his hand earlier Tuesday dribbling and shooting but wasn’t his normal self as Morant figures out how much he can push his hand using the ball.
“We’ll see how he does tomorrow,” Jenkins said.
The Grizzlies do have some backup insurance if Morant can’t play against the Lakers. Memphis signed veteran Tyus Jones to a two-year, $29 million fully guaranteed extension last summer for insurance and to give Jenkins the chance to put both Morant and Jones on the court together at times.
Jaren Jackson Jr., named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Monday night, said Jones is a smart player and knows where everyone is supposed to be on the floor. Both Jones and Morant are pass-first guards.
“Obviously Ja is super bouncy and athletic, so it’s a little bit different,” Jackson said. “But, you know, they’re both amazing.”
Last season, the Grizzlies lost their opener to Minnesota and responded by winning the first-round series in six games. Morant played in each of those games. When he bruised his knee in Game 3 of Memphis’ Western Conference semifinals, Morant didn’t return.
The Grizzlies won once without Morant before losing the series to eventual NBA champ Golden State in six games.
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