MEMPHIS — All-Star point guard Ja Morant will come off the bench for the first time in his career Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets, a situation he suggested to the Memphis Grizzlies’ coaching staff as he returns from an eight-game suspension.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said Morant, who sat out Monday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks due to conditioning concerns after being away from the team for two weeks, would be on a minutes restrictions in the low 20s.
“This was something he brought to the table as well as had been on my mind,” Jenkins said. “So we collectively thought this was the best strategy, at least for the first one or two games. And then we’ll kind of reevaluate after that.”
The Grizzlies went 6-3 in the nine games Morant missed, winning six of their last seven. Tyus Jones averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 assists while shooting 50.9% from the floor and 40% from 3-point range during that stretch.
Memphis plans to gradually ramp up Morant’s minutes over the next few games. He was not able to work out during the 11 days he spent in a Florida counseling facility after he livestreamed a video of himself brandishing a handgun at a Denver-area strip club, which resulted in the league-imposed suspension for conduct detrimental to the NBA.
“Obviously we don’t have a long runway until the end of the regular season, but we want to be smart with that layoff that we’re not doing anything to jeopardize his health,” Jenkins said.
Morant, who leads the Grizzlies with 27.1 points and 8.2 assists per game, started the first 240 games of his career.
The Grizzlies host the Rockets again on Friday, followed by a road game against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.