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As Memphis grapples with a tragedy, Grizzlies grind along with them

All of the Grizzlies players and coaches know that basketball is not everything. They knew that long before they took the court intending to put the brakes on a five-game skid on the road. And they were freshly reminded of it by the jarring death of Tyre D. Nichols and the video footage that has gripped Memphis – the city they “rep.”

Back in the embracing environment of FedExForum and adoring Memphis fans, the Grizzlies halted their losing streak with a 112-100 win over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday (Jan. 29). They handled their business amid the backdrop of the ongoing dynamics in pursuit of “justice for Tyre” and the national spotlight on the city of Memphis.

Afterward, thoughts were shared about those dynamics. Here are some of those reflections.

 Ja Morant – Did he watch the video? How does he feel about it?

“… (H)onestly man, I couldn’t even make it through. I feel like everybody knows how I feel about situations like that. Hate to see it happen again, somewhere close to us. Same message. At some point, this has just got to stop. … Prayers to his family.

“It’s just mind-blowing and scary, frustrating. I’m a father. I have to go home. If I get pulled over now… having to be scared to get pulled over, it’s just not supposed to happen. … I just feel like, for the most part, the most important thing is for the city of Memphis just to continue to come together for him and his family and hold them tight and let them know that we are here with them. It was a good thing to see how the city came together right after it was released. It’s just tough man.”

Jaren Jackson Jr. – How has everything going on in Memphis affected the team?

“You’re just feeling for your own community. … I think this community is really great at coming together when things like that happen. … so you just give your prayers and thoughts to the people involved … you just support those people. You come together for them.”

Head coach Taylor Jenkins: Has he seen the video? What about discussions within the team:

“Yeah, we’re still having ongoing dialogues. … I’m not going to share what each individual’s choices were when it comes to watching the film. When there’s a time for us to make statements or do something, individually or as a team, that time will come.

Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins. (Screen capture)

“I have watched it. Beyond disturbing. … It’s an embarrassment of humanity. You got to call it straight up what it is. … we lost one of our own in one of the most brutal fashions. … Hopefully, the Grizzlies can be a huge part of that healing process. There’s a lot of healing to be done myself. … I was emotional. I cried. …

“There’s still a lot to unfold, but there’s a lot to learn from it and to see the support throughout the NBA, support throughout the country, talking about how much they love our city and (that) they’re thinking about our city and praying for our city, but also praying for the Nichols family, the Wells family. It’s powerful, but it doesn’t stop now. … It’s got to be action, and it’s got to be change of behaviors. Our behaviors, what we can do every single day to bring hope and love to each one of the members of our community but especially the Nichols and Wells family and carry on Tyre’s legacy. He’s going to be in my heart forever, and I have never met him. This is going to sit with me forever and hopefully, make me a better person, better leader, and hopefully, that does for everyone in our community.”

Jenkins – Managing the struggle the city of Memphis is going through:

“As a team, we’re talking as necessary throughout it. Obviously, these guys are grappling with it. We’re speaking on it in team settings, as often as we can, but also giving them due space. We don’t want to put any pressure on anyone to speak up or act out. Do it on your own terms. …

“I’ve spent a lot of my downtime thinking about my relationship with the city: what we can do as a team? What I can do as an individual? … (S)adly, this is reminiscent of George Floyd back in 2020. … George Floyd can’t be an afterthought; so many others can’t be an afterthought. So, there’s a lot going through my head, but you know, when it’s time to coach basketball and play basketball, luckily, we’re focused on that. But then after the fact, we’re still grappling with how to manage it.”

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