Southwest Notes: Morant’s Return, Zion, Sochan

Ja Morant received an enthusiastic reception from Grizzlies fans as he returned from his suspension Wednesday night, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Fans showed their support when he took the floor for warmups, when he entered the game in the first quarter and when he touched the ball for the first time.

Morant wore headphones during his pregame routine to block out the outside noise, Cole adds. He also meditated before the game, which was among the recommendations he received during his two weeks of counseling in Florida.

“I’m thankful and grateful for everybody who has been supporting me during this time,” he said. “It definitely helped me a lot. It definitely made me feel a little better, eased everything that’s going on.”

Morant admitted feeling rusty after being away from the game, but he hit 6-of-13 shots and scored 17 points in nearly 24 minutes of action. The idea to come off the bench in his first game back was his, as Morant didn’t want to upset the Grizzlies’ recent hot streak.

“I didn’t want to come right back and mess any of that chemistry up,” Morant said. “I was watching film once my time was getting closer to being back, watching how they was playing. Obviously, it’s different from watching it to being out there.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Ja’s father, Tee Morant, told Kelly Iko of The Athletic that the past few weeks have been “rough” for his family, but he believes his son will benefit from the experience. Ja Morant has been criticized for a series of incidents that culminated with an Instagram Live video from a Denver-area strip club in which he appeared to be waving a gun. “I saw growth,” Tee Morant said in talking about Ja’s time away from the Grizzlies. “I saw growth, and I saw grace. And I know that he knows that God is in control of everything. Forget what the world got to say about you; you can only be judged by one.”
  • Pelicans coach Willie Green couldn’t offer any insight into whether Zion Williamson will play again this season, according to Christian Clark of NOLA. The team announced Wednesday that Williamson is able to resume on-court activities after being sidelined since January 2 with a hamstring injury, but he won’t be reevaluated for two more weeks, which will delay a potential return until at least the final week of the season. “Because of the re-injury, we are taking a slower approach with his rehabilitation,” Green said. “He’ll get on the floor. He’s starting to do some running, doing some shooting. But we’re taking it kind of slow.”
  • Jeremy Sochan returned Wednesday after missing two games with right knee soreness, but the Spurs rookie was still in obvious pain, observes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “He has grown a lot this year, playing through injuries and all that,” said teammate Keita Bates-Diop. “I think most of us are as well, but you can visibly see he is going through some stuff. But he wants to be out there, wants to play, wants to help us compete. I love that about him.”
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