Grizzlies General Manager Zack Kleinman is convinced star guard Ja Morant is headed for the All-Star game. “Just wait until you see what we have from Ja Morant this season,” he said during media day. (Photo: Terry Davis)

After a return to the playoffs last season, the Memphis Grizzlies began the 2021-22 with annual media day at the FedExForum and star guard Ja Morant put the in-person session in a down-home context.

“Dang I miss yall,” said Durant as he entered the room.

The setting was noticeably more personable than talking into a computer screen, which was the norm last season given COVID-19 safety protocols. Some players even peeked into the room while other players were at the podium.

Before rookie Santi Aldama could answer his first question, Morant jokingly asked the media not to ask him any weird questions, telling Aldama to let him know if they do. 

Morant then asked Aldama, “Are you ready to go home?” 

“No,” Aldama replied.

“You should have said yes,” said Morant, “and then you could have got out of this.”

The quick, light-hearted back-and-forth exchange is part of building team chemistry, which historically has served the Grizzlies well, often helping them to overachieve in the eyes of some.

“I don’t think it (team chemistry) will take long,” said Morant. “Most of our guys are back. We do have some new guys. For now, it is film study for me. To find out where the guys like to have the ball.”

The theme of the press conference seemingly was that this season’s team will go as far as Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. can power them. The duo will be the core of the offense, with Dillion Brooks and Desmond Bane looked upon to get the second level of scoring.

After the media had finished with questions for Grizzlies General Manager Zack Kleinman, he blurted that no one has asked him about Morant.  

“Ja Morant will be an All-Star this season,” said Kleinman. “Just wait until you see what we have from Ja Morant this season. I am very excited for what he will be able to do.”

Sidelined by injury much of last season, Jackson is healthy and ready to go.

“I had a great summer working on my game,” said Jackson. “I had a great summer of bonding with my teammates. I have a fresh mindset and I am ready to tackle everything.”

Morant said during the offseason he had been “working in the dark.  My motto is you have to work behind closed doors.”

Asked what he worked on this off season, Morant said, “I worked on everything, but mainly shooting off the dribble to be more consistent.”

The Grizzlies will play six preseason games, beginning on October 5 when they host the NBA champions – the Milwaukee Bucks – at FedExForum at 7 p.m. CDT.

The regular season opens at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 20. Those attending must have been vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test to enter FedExForum this season.