Ja Morant is just nine games into his NBA career, and the Memphis Grizzlies are already giving him the load management treatment.
The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft will sit out the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday against the Dallas Mavericks to rest. He logged nearly 26 minutes in Friday's loss to the Orlando Magic.
Saturday’s game is the Grizzlies’ first of 10 sets of back-to-back games this season, and their next one won’t come until early December. Given Morant’s injury history, the team doesn’t want to push their star point guard too much; he only ranks eighth among rookies at 27.5 minutes per game.
Although the team did not mention it on its injury report, Morant’s knee troubles are almost certainly the reason for the rest. Morant underwent minor knee surgery in July and appeared to narrowly avoid another knee injury this week. While load management is a controversial issue, especially with the rising cost of tickets for fans, the NBA has not totally outlawed resting healthy players.
Even without back-to-back games, the Grizzlies have had a pretty packed schedule. Six of the team's eight games have come on one day of rest, which is a far cry from the spread-out college schedule Morant was used to at Murray State.
Why didn’t Memphis rest Morant on Friday for a home divisional game?
It may not be fun for fans paying to see their team at home, but resting Morant for an 82-game slog is probably the right call. The question becomes why they didn’t rest him on the front end so that he could entertain the home crowd against a divisional rival.
A cynical answer would be that the Grizzlies aren’t exactly in the business of winning games at the moment. While Jaren Jackson Jr. and Morant form a nice core, they could really use Memphis native James Wiseman or another top pick to round out their rotation.
However, the more truthful answer is that while the league is generally OK with resting players for the long season, they don’t allow teams to rest their stars on the road. According to the Daily Memphian's Chris Herrington, the Grizzlies have been in close communication with the league about their load management decisions so as not to catch its ire.
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