Southwest Notes: Morant, Zion, Valanciunas, Rockets

Don’t count on Grizzlies guard Ja Morant joining the list of NBA stars who have become disgruntled with their circumstances and sought a way out, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. As Vardon details, Morant is thrilled with his situation in Memphis, and all signs point to him signing a long-term maximum-salary extension once he becomes eligible in the summer of 2022.

“I love everything about it,” Morant said of playing for the Grizzlies and living in Memphis. “I feel like this is my home, from the front office down, the fans, the community. Everybody brought me in and made me feel like family, and me and my family couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Morant – who advocated for the Grizzlies to extend Jaren Jackson Jr. this offseason, per Vardon – believes the Grizzlies already have enough talent to become a viable championship contender. And the young point guard is looking forward to competing for a title in Memphis rather than jumping ship to do so elsewhere.

“Me, I’m not a big fan on the leaving,” Morant said.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report takes a deep dive into the Zion Williamson situation in New Orleans, noting that teams around the NBA will be keeping a close eye on the Pelicans‘ relationship with their star forward. Williamson’s weight and his reaction to potentially playing on a minutes limit when he returns from his foot injury will be worth monitoring, according to Fischer, who notes that the star forward “reached north of 300 pounds” during the offseason and bristled in his rookie year at playing in limited bursts following his return from a knee injury.
  • After signing a two-year contract extension with the Pelicans on Wednesday, center Jonas Valanciunas explained why he was willing to commit to the team before playing in a regular season game, writes Christian Clark of “From a coaching standpoint, they understand me and what I do,” Valanciunas said. “My teammates, good teammates. They welcomed me. The organization was great talking to me and helping me out. They made it seem like I’ve been here a long time. I wanted to come back.”
  • Ahead of their regular season opener, the youthful Rockets were enthusiastic about embracing the challenge ahead, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Following a blowout loss in Minnesota on Wednesday, they have a better sense of what that challenge entails, Feigen writes. “It’s the NBA. It’s grown men,” rookie Jalen Green said of the physicality he experienced in his regular season debut. “I’m 19 years old. It’s not high school any more. It’s the real league, a man’s league.”
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