Why the NBA needs Ja Morant to succeed | Good Word with Goodwill

Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill and Jake Fischer explain why Ja Morant is such an integral part of the NBA’s future.

Video Transcript


VINCENT GOODWILL: Ja Morant on IG live in the club, with his shirt off, polishing a gun that looked like a .380. It resulted in a let's take a break from each other statement from the Memphis Grizzlies. They didn't term it a suspension. He is under league investigation. Jake, I'll give you my thoughts later. I want to know your thoughts right now.

JAKE FISCHER: Well, that last particular thing you said about semantics was the first thing I was going to say. This was not a quote, unquote, "suspension," right, which I think that's important. And I think it's important for several reasons. The first being that the language, as reporters, as writers-- the language that teams use in all of their public communications-- I mean, people get paid big-time money to determine exactly what type of messaging they want to put out there to the masses.

And the fact that he was not suspended, I think, is very, very key here being that Memphis, this is Ja Morant's team, man. That's just the bottom line. They've been so scrupulous about how they've been building this thing, block by block. Everyone I talked to with the Grizzlies are so willing and able to deflect their success levels just talk about the luck that's been involved and how they've been patient and they haven't been willing to do anything too much to shake up what they're building there.

And obviously, this is a giant, giant, giant monkey wrench in all of that. But to not come down and give him-- and I'm not saying this to ridicule the process that Memphis did here. I just think it was super telling that he's just taking some time away from the team. And Nike is proud of him for getting the help that he says he seeks. This is not being framed as a punishment by any stretch.

And I mean, this could be a big inflection point for this franchise moving forward. I mean, hopefully, it is if you're a Grizzlies fan, if you're someone who's rooting for the franchise, if you're just in general someone who is hoping for the well-being of probably the biggest candidate to be the next face of the NBA of American-born players right now, which I know is a great point that you wrote in your column on Yahoo.

So I think that all suggests that there's a concerted effort here to try to move forward from this quickly and to leave it in the rearview and to leave it in the rearview for good. Because if there was a different direction, if there was a strict iron fist, and the fact that this punishment or whatever-- I mean, lack of-- you know what I'm saying. The fact that this directive came after the league finished their investigation, I think, goes to show that Memphis is really trying to just keep this as buttoned up as possible and move forward as quickly as they can.

VINCENT GOODWILL: Well, I don't think that the league ever stopped keeping their eyes on Ja Morant, you know what I mean? And I think you brought up the point about my column, Jake, and that's where I was going to go, was unlike an Allen Iverson, who was counterculture and the league was very hesitant to embrace him, the league wants so desperately to embrace Ja Morant. Regardless of being in Memphis, small market, and everything else-- he doesn't play for a legacy franchise-- he is so very important to the league.

The league is desiring that he steps forward into that post-LeBron, post-Steph Curry, post-Kevin Durant NBA. Because while the old guys have held on for a very long time, there isn't hardly too many guys next to a Jayson Tatum that you can say American-born, bankable superstar on the floor, available, all those things. So they're not trying to come down on him. They want him to succeed. They're going to give him every avenue possible to succeed.

And, Jake, there are things that work in his favor. Unlike other players that we may wind up talking about on this podcast, his teammates like him, right? They play hard for him. So there's a lot of fertile ground there. This isn't someone who is unlikeable to the people who are close to him as far as basketball-wise.

But there's this other element of his life that, OK, you're making a $200 million contract, you're playing in Memphis, and Memphis is not big enough. You live in New York. I live in Detroit. Memphis is closer to a Detroit in terms of size proximity, even though Detroit is worlds bigger than Memphis.

And I say that to say, Jake, the bad guys and the athletes don't hang out in different places. You know what I mean? There isn't that much space for the guys who make the money not quite the right way and the Ja Morants of the world to be in diametrically different places. So if you keep toting that thing, if you keep hanging around, wanting to play, someone's going to test you. And that's not going to end up well. And best believe the league knows that.