MEMPHIS, Tenn — The NBA season is right around the corner and Monday was the first look at the 2022 Memphis Grizzlies.
The day gave off major first day of school vibes for the Grizzlies as they prepare for the season. They know they are no longer the hunter, they are the hunted after finishing second in the Western Conference during the regular season and a Western Conference semifinals finish.
One of the biggest questions entering the year is how the team adjusts without Jaren Jackson Jr. at least for the foreseeable future. Injury or not, the season’s mission is the same.
"We know the journey starts today or really tomorrow in training camp day one to get to where we ultimately want to go and that’s winning championships," said head coach Taylor Jenkins.
They will start that journey without their 1st team All-Defensive center, Jackson, after he injured his foot over the summer. The timeline for return is four to six months, but Jackson hinted on Instagram and at media day that he could be back sooner.
"Opening night? Probably not likely," Jackson said about a possible day one return. "But I mean you’ll see, you’ll like it. You’ll like it."
As for who will replace him, Jenkins and General Manager Zach Kleiman made it clear it’ll be an open competition. However, one name came up first several times - Santi Aldama, the Spaniard second-year center.
"I think a lot of guys are going to make an impact. I think Santi had an excellent off-season. Santi did a great job," Kleiman said.
"I see Santi having a great summer right now. He’s playing with a lot of confidence," Jenkins said.
"You guys are going to be really surprised by what you see out of Santi this year. 100 percent," said forward Dillon Brooks.
Ultimately, the Grizzlies will go as far as 12 takes them. Ja Morant was named All-NBA First Team in just his third year in the league, while averaging 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
Morant averaged 38.3 points, 8.3 assists and 6.7 rebounds before suffering a bone bruise in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Golden State Warriors. He's motivated to come back stronger and go further, but no pressure.
"It’s no pressure for us. We didn’t win the championship so for us it’s pretty much going to the next level, continuing to improve and go win a championship," Morant said.
The Grizzlies will play 18 games on national TV and were picked to finish fourth in the league. Respect for the M is finally there.
"That doesn’t mean our chip should leave, 'Alright we’ve got the respect now we can lay back. No, we got to go earn even more respect because there’s still some that don’t believe in us,'" Morant said.
As for what they’ve been working on in the dark, Morant said fans will see it on opening night.
The Grizzlies begin training camp Tuesday. Their first preseason game will be Saturday, Oct. 1.