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What Can Ya Really Ask For?

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On Tuesday, the Memphis Grizzlies were all over social media. It wasn’t for their surprise .500 record, any crazy statistics, or their young superstar. It wasn’t even tangentially related to their scrappy win the night before, which featured a big man battle that felt as old school as the teal Vancouver uniforms.  

Quite the opposite, actually. If center battling in the post is the old school reason to talk about the Grizzlies on Tuesday, is there a more 2020 conversation piece than Ja Morant, 20 year old favorite for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, and 24 year old Dillon Brooks talking trash on Twitter? 

Andre Iguodala was acquired by Memphis last summer and was not even assigned a jersey number. He has maintained he wants out of Memphis, Memphis has maintained they will not be buying him out, and the trade deadline is coming fast. At this point, Iguodala was not even spending his time in the city of Memphis, much less playing for the Grizz. Wednesday night, Iggy was sent to Miami for JJustise Winslow.  

Tuesday night,the third year NBA swingman claimed that “Andre Iguodala is a great player… [But] It’s not a distraction at all. I laugh at that type of stuff. A Guy that’s on our team that doesn’t want to be on our team, I can’t wait til we find a way to trade him so we can play him and show him what Memphis is about.” In  the NBA? Them’s fightin’ words.  

Rachel Nichols was covering the commentary, and posted a photo on social media taken from Steph Curry’s Instagram 

Ja Morant, the young face of the Grizzlies, replied with a pair of emojis and his own photo… 

Much of the rest of the day Tuesday became people on Twitter telling Ja to respect his elders, either subtly or directly. What was odd was when fans and former players thought they were roasting him by pulling up the Gen Z superstar’s old tweets declaring fandom and appreciation of Steph Curry’s game… to which Morant responded below : 

And then, to save folks the trouble, he did the work for them: 

Ja Morant is a vocal member of a new generation of NBA Star that has grown up digitally native. When Millenials came of age in the NBA, fans felt like we had a lot more access because of how their high school tapes went viral online. But now? Now we are watching a generation that was watching those tapes online. Further, as seen with Ja, they were paying attention and commenting on them online.  

It’s funny, the older generation always asks for respect from the younger because of what they have helped paved. The older generation, Andre Iguodala’s generation, did help grow the game to the point where a 20 year old from Murray State who is in his rookie year in Memphis can have nearly 400,000 Twitter followers and no one bats an eye. The older NBA generation demands respect from the youth. 

But respect comes in different forms every generation. The respect, for Morant and the young guns, is in the tweets he himself screenshot.  

We, as fans, have always looked for the moment when the young budding star sees idols become rivals. For the Jordan generation, it was the 1991 NBA Finals run. Jordan had to get past the Detroit Bad Boy Pistons and Magic’s Showtime LA Lakers. When he did it, it became his league. We’ve all seen a lot of discussion of when Kobe Bryant took the torch at the turn of the century. We saw it slowly get handed to LeBron as he moved to South Beach and became the dominant force of the NBA.  

But in these cases and other older ones, we only heard the new legend speak about his predecessor in prescribed moments. We saw interviews, read articles, and saw old home movies. We didn’t see Jordan’s thoughts on Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson in the late 1980s… But I think it’s safe to say, with the mythical competitive streak in Jordan, he wasn’t scared of them.  

Now, we have access to that part of the story. With the modern young star, as they’re writing their own NBA story, we have access to those thoughts. We now get to see Ja Morant change from a college and high school kid with favorite players to the cut throat competitor with worthy opponents.  

There’s a lot of tweeting and response asking Ja, and the rest of Gen Z, to stay in their place… Which is a dangerous command.  

While Ja Morant has a (hopefully) long career to go and certainly isn’t one of the Mount Rushmore-esque names mentioned with him in this article, he does have the potential to be a star in this league. He does have the potential to be the face of a franchise and of the NBA.  

And to do that, he can’t be scared. To have a shot at being the star we all want to watch, he has to be the fan that isn’t scared. Does that mean we can find old fanboy tweets? Certainly. He’s a digital native… We can find his thoughts on lots of things.  

Even chicken  

Ja Morant is not the first player that #NBATwitter has tried to roast for old tweets. He’s not even the first to get called out for his past fandom. What’s unique in many ways about Ja Morant is that he is unapologetic about being a fan in his past, and is open about being a competitor now.  

And the NBA better be ready for Morant on multiple fronts… Because it appears that we will have this kind of access to budding stars for the foreseeable future. We will continue to have a twitterlog of old thoughts and opinions of young stars, and we can’t just assume these guys in their 20s weren’t fans or active on social media in their youth. They’re allowed to be as normal as possible, that’s the fun. Holding that against the guys will only close the access, or shrink up the output. Of course Ja Morant was tweeting about being a Steph Curry fan the last 6 years. 6 years ago, he was 14.  

We want NBA guys that aren’t scared. We want guys that understand the game and have been fans for a long time. We can’t ask for a guy to somehow never be a fan, but still know about the history of the game, because at 14 he should have been confident enough to know he’d eventually be playing against his heroes. That all mixes as well as oil and water.  

The NBA fans need to be ready to appreciate the innocent childish tweets of a Ja Morant from years past AND appreciat the fierce competitor that kid grew into… And the NBA needs to try to be ready to guard him. Because, in his own words, he ain’t scared.  

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Basketball

Mike Conley Jr. Removed From the Utah Jazz Starting Lineup Amid Slump

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When the Memphis Grizzlies traded for Mike Conley Jr. in July, it appeared that he was the finishing piece that would put their roster over the top.

Conley was coming off a season with the Grizzlies in which he averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game as one of the best point guards in the NBA.

Utah expected him to be the perfect fit alongside All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, but that hasn’t worked out as planned.

Now the Jazz have decided to make a move to spark their team after losing eight of their last 12 games by sliding Conley to the bench.

The move to add Royce O’Neale into the starting lineup is aimed to bolster the defense of that group, with O’Neale being the teams best perimeter defender.

By moving O’Neale to play with that unit, Joe Ingles can slid into the backcourt alongside Mitchell and take on a more prominent role on offense.

Ingles and Rudy Gobert are potent together in the pick and roll and taking the ball out of Conley’s hands with that starting group is aimed to help that pairing flourish as well.

On the other hand, Conley now moves to the bench, where he can form a really dynamic scoring punch with Jordan Clarkson.

Conley is averaging 13.4 points and a career-low 4.1 assists per game across 34 games played with the Jazz.

Next year will be the final season of a massive five-year, $152.6 million contract he signed with the Grizzlies. The Jazz are on the hook to pay Conley $34.5 million for the 2020-21 NBA season.

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Hornets’ Guard Malik Monk Suspended Indefinitely for Violating Anti-Drug Policy

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Malik Monk was in the middle of his pivotal third season in the NBA and was just hitting his stride with a recent hot streak.

Unfortunately that string of good play now comes to the end due to his conduct off the court, as Monk has been suspended indefinitely by the NBA for violating their anti-drug policy.

There is no indication what Monk has failed the test for, but he will need to follow the NBA’s program to be reinstated into the league.

Monk was the 11th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, after being the SEC Player of the Year in his lone season at Kentucky.

Since entering the league, Monk has struggled to find his footing and that same level of success, but he was just recently on a great run of scoring.

The suspension paired with his better play has led some to question whether it was performance-enhancing drugs that he was suspended for, although we don’t know that at this time.

When Deandre Ayton and John Collins were suspended this season, each received 25-game bans and were then able to return to the floor.

The substances they were suspended for were also announced to the public at the time of their suspensions.

The fact that we don’t know what he was suspended for, or how long of a suspension he will receive is certainly an interesting distinction when it comes to Monk.

It will be interesting to see what information comes out about Monk’s suspension in the coming days and if an actual timetable is put on his return.

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Stephen Curry to Return to the Lineup on Sunday Against the Washington Wizards

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The Golden State Warriors season essentially ended on October 30th, when an awkward fall resulted in a broken hand for Stephen Curry.

Curry has since been sidelined for four months and in his absence, the Warriors have gone 11-43 and sit with the wowarst record in the NBA.

Luckily things are about to get a lot better for Warriors fans, as Curry is set to return to lineup for Golden State on Sunday.

Adding a six-time All-Star, three-time champion and two-time MVP back into the starting lineup is sure to help the Warriors win a few more games down the stretch.

In the four games Curry played this year he shot 24% from three-point range, which is something he will look to clean up over the final games of this season.

Golden State has their eyes toward the future, looking to land a top lottery pick to their roster and incumbent Big Three of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

The Warriors have 25 games left this season and are four games behind the closest team for the worst record in the NBA.

As long as Golden State finishes with one of the three worst records in the NBA, they will have the best possible odds of winning the lottery. So Curry’s arrival should not hurt their position in that regard.

Instead Curry will bring some excitement to an ailing fan base, while building some chemistry with Andrew Wiggins and the other young Warriors that may be on the roster next season.

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