Southwest Notes: Morant, Luka, Pelicans, Wemby

Speaking today to reporters for the first time this season, Grizzlies guard Ja Morant admitted he made “a lot” of mistakes in the past and said he had “some horrible days” this year as he focused on his behavior away from basketball, according to reports from Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal and Teresa M. Walker of The Associated Press. However, he’s hopeful that he’ll ultimately benefit from his 25-game suspension and the requirements that came with it, including therapy.

“In the end, I feel like it made me better,” Morant said. “I feel like I learned some stuff about myself that I did during that process. Very eye-opening. It kind of gave me a new look on life. How I go about my days. How I carry myself.”

Morant, who acknowledged that his actions will speak louder than his words when it comes to being a better leader on and off the court for the Grizzlies, also said he felt guilty about the fact that the team has struggled without him while he has served his 25-game suspension. After winning 107 regular season games over the last two seasons, Memphis is off to a 6-17 start this fall.

“Yes, it’s definitely some guilt in that,” he said. “Obviously I’m not on the floor. Nobody like losing. … I take full responsibility of that. Even though I’m not on the floor, decisions I’ve made didn’t allow me to be out there to go to battle with my team.”

Morant remains on track to make his return on Tuesday against New Orleans. His teammates, who have been seeing what he’s doing in practice, are excited about how he’s looked and the impact his return will have on the club, as Cole writes for The Commercial Appeal. Jaren Jackson Jr. said Morant has the “same quick-trigger bounce” as he always has, while Vince Williams referred to the star guard as an “energy guy” in practices.

“I feel like he’s putting in a lot more effort on the defensive end in practice,” Williams said. “If he’s doing it in practice, I know he’s going to do it in the games for us.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Appearing on Headliners with Rachel Nichols (Twitter video link), Mavericks star Luka Doncic was asked if he’d seek an exit from Dallas if he didn’t feel like the team was moving toward title contention. Doncic suggested that’s not something he’s considered. “I feel great here,” he said. “They drafted me. I’ve felt at home since day one. I’m really happy where I’m at. I think we made some great moves this offseason. Yeah, I’m happy here.”
  • The Pelicans have the pieces to be an effective small-ball team and have been leaning more on those lineups as of late, William Guillory writes for The Athletic. In Guillory’s view, embracing a small-ball identity could take the team to new heights, so he thinks it’s important to see what a lineup consisting of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy, and Herbert Jones looks like once they’re all healthy — those five players have shared the court for just one minute so far this season.
  • Former No. 1 overall picks Anthony Davis and LeBron James are sympathetic to the expectations that Spurs big man Victor Wembanyama is facing in San Antonio, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscriber link), who notes that neither Davis nor James made the playoffs during their first two NBA seasons. “You’ve just got to go in and just play, find your way,” Davis said of Wembanyama this week. “You’re going to have ups and downs in the season. Obviously, he’s an exceptional talent. But don’t stress yourself out over the pressure from everyone else. You’ve got to know what your team wants from you. And don’t think that you have to turn the franchise around in one year.”
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