Ja Morant named Western Conference Player of the Week in first week back

Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant, who had been suspended for the first 25 games of the 2023-24 season, has recently returned to the court, and putting up some impressive performances in his first few games back was enough to win player of the week honors from December 18-December 24. Ja Morant

Notably, the second overall pick in the 2019 draft had been suspended for a combined 33 games, since he was first caught flashing a gun on an Instagram livestream at a strip club outside of Denver on March 4. To clarify, Morant had served his eight-game suspension toward the end of the 2022-2023 season. However, two months after being suspended for brandishing a firearm on social media, he was seen doing it a second time during the offseason, which led to the All-Star guard missing the first two months of this season.

Certainly, the off-the-court antics have cost the Grizzlies this season, with reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Jaren Jackson Jr., and guard Desmond Bane being left to try their best to carry an injury riddled Memphis team during Morant’s suspension.

Consequently, the Grizzlies had a 6-19 record throughout the two-time All-Star’s absence, and now that Morant is back in the lineup, the team has been revitalized, as they are now currently on a four-game win streak. Since last week’s return, Morant has averaged 28.8 points, 8.5 assists, and 5.3 rebounds in 36 minutes per game over the course of his first four games this season; needless to say, the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year and 2022 Most Improved Player, has been missed by the team and fans alike.  

“I’ve been putting work in, man. I haven’t played a game in eight months, had a lot of time to learn myself,” Morant said. “A lot of hard days where I went through it but basketball is my life, what I love, therapeutic to me and I’m just excited to be back.” 

Indeed, the 24-year-old Grizzlies’ star had a storybook return to the court, as in his first appearance of the season against the Pelicans on December 19, Morant scored 34 points, including a game-winning layup at the buzzer, to lead the team to a 115-113 victory. Then to mention, Morant had a double-double on December 23, as he dropped 30 points and dished out 11 assists, leading the Grizzlies to a 125-119 win over the Hawks.

To point out, this is Morant’s third time winning player of the week, as he won the award during the 2021-2022 season, particularly for consecutive weeks (December 27, 2021-January 9, 2022). Being that, Morant is still the only player to win back-to-back honors in Grizzlies’ franchise history.

In addition, 76ers’ Joel Embiid has been named ‘Eastern Conference Player of the Week,’ being the only player in the NBA to receive the honors for a second time this season. The 2022-23 MVP has been on a tear as of late, as over the last three games, Embiid has put up impressive averages of 40.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 2.3 blocks per game. To note, Embiid leads the NBA in scoring, while averaging a career-high 35 points per game this season.

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