Ja Morant Dedicates Grizzlies' Win over Thunder to Daughter on Her 1st Birthday

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2020

Memphis Grizzlies' Ja Morant (12) and head coach Taylor Jenkins look on against the Utah Jazz during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

Memphis Grizzlies rookie guard Ja Morant said Friday he struggled with the emotion of being in the NBA's Orlando bubble while his daughter, Kaari Jaidyn Morant, celebrated her first birthday back home.

Morant explained he called his parents before recording 19 points, nine assists and four rebounds in the Grizzlies' 121-92 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"I wasn't in a good mood at all," he told reporters. "[I] told them it was probably one of the toughest days of my life."

The Rookie of the Year contender said the victory was a bright spot in an otherwise difficult day.

"Kind of tough, but the thing I gave her today was a win," Morant said. "So hopefully she's thankful for that and all the gifts she's got back at the house."

It marked Memphis' first win at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida, after four straight losses to open the restarted 2019-20 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Grizzlies still own the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 33-37 record, one game ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers and two clear of the San Antonio Spurs. A play-in tournament, which is triggered if the No. 8 team is fewer than 4.5 games ahead of No. 9, is all but assured, though.

Morant, who's averaged 17.8 points, 7.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds through 64 appearances in his debut campaign, will play a crucial role in determining whether the Grizz claim that last berth.

Memphis returns to action Sunday with a 2 p.m. ET tip against the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors.