JJJ teases return, Grizzlies seek more respect as they enter season

One of the biggest questions going into the year was how the team would adjust without Jaylen Jackson Jr. At least for the foreseeable future.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — The NBA season is just around the corner, and Monday was the first look at the 2022 Memphis Grizzlies.

As the Grizzlies gear up for the season, the day gave them the main vibe on their first day of school. They know they’re not hunters anymore, they’re the ones to be hunted after finishing second in the regular-season Western Conference and the Western Conference semifinals.

One of the biggest questions going into the year was how the team would adjust without Jaylen Jackson Jr. At least for the foreseeable future. Injury or not, the mission of the season is the same.

“We know the journey starts today or tomorrow, from the first day of training camp, to where we ultimately want to be, which is to win a championship,” coach Tyler Jenkins said.

They will begin this journey without their first-team All-Defensive center Jackson, who suffered a foot injury in the summer. The timeline for a return is four to six months, but Jackson hinted on Instagram and media day that he may be back sooner.

“Opening night? Probably unlikely,” Jackson said of a possible first-day return. “But I mean you’ll see it, you’ll like it. You’ll like it.”

As for who will replace him, Jenkins and general manager Zach Kleiman made it clear that it would be an open competition. However, one name came up multiple times in the first place — Spaniard second-year center Santi Aldama.

“I think a lot of people make an impact. I think Santi had a great offseason. Santi did a great job,” Kleiman said.

“I see Santi having a great summer right now. He’s playing with confidence,” Jenkins said.

“You’re going to be very surprised by what you’ve seen from Santi this year. 100 percent,” forward Dillon Brooks said.

Ultimately, the Grizzlies will reach 12. Ja Morant was named to the All-NBA First Team in his third year in the league, averaging 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game.

In Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Golden State Warriors, Morant averaged 38.3 points, 8.3 assists and 6.7 rebounds. He’s motivated to come back stronger and go further, but there’s no pressure.

“There’s no pressure on us. We didn’t win a championship, so for us, it’s pretty much going to the next level, continuing to improve and win a championship,” Morant said.

The Grizzlies will play 18 games on national television and were selected fourth in the league. Respect for M is finally here.

“It doesn’t mean our chips should go, ‘Okay, we’ve got respect, now we can relax. No, we have to go and earn more respect, because there are still some people who don’t believe us,'” Morant said.

As for what they’re doing in the dark, Morant said fans will see it on opening night.

The Grizzlies start training camp on Tuesday. Their first preseason game will be Saturday, October. 1.

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