It cost Grizzlies $193 million for a five-year contract for designated rookie extension that could become worth $231 million according to a report.
Ja Morant shared his thoughts on social media after it was revealed, quoted, “Memphis is my home”.
Morant became extension-eligible following the 2021-22 season, and a max contract felt inevitable.
“I’m definitely happy to be here,” the All-Star guard told reporters in May. “Memphis is my home. As that goes when that conversation comes up, I feel like it will be in the media for everybody to see. If your answer is “do I want to be in Memphis: Hell yeah.”
General manager Zach Kleiman struck a similar tone.
“I’m of course not allowed to say specifics on that,” he said of a possible contract. “Whatever I’m allowed to say under the NBA rules without violating the CBA, I hereby say about what our plans would be for Ja as a cornerstone here.”
Morant averaged 27.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds in 57 games. He shot 49.3 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from beyond the arc. The 22-year-old’s step forward was rewarded with the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
The Grizzlies, meanwhile, tied a franchise record with 56 wins and earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Were it not for Morant’s bone bruise in the playoffs, Memphis might have advanced to the conference finals.
More than just his individual numbers or the team’s wins and losses, Morant has epitomized the ideals of a true franchise player.
Almost immediately, the 6’3″ playmaker understood the opportunity for him to become a symbol for the entire city of Memphis.
“I think Ja could retire a Grizzly because he sees himself in this place and this place sees itself in him,” John Martin of Radio 92.9 in Memphis told Andscape’s Justin Tinsley. “Ja’s not from here. But he’s of here.”
Jerry Dover Jr., who coaches girls’ basketball at a private school in East Memphis, told Tinsley that Morant “will have an Allen Iverson-like effect on the city.”
On the court, Morant’s personality and confidence can rub off on his teammates. Throughout this past season, Memphis displayed an attitude belying the squad’s general youth and lack of collective success.
Morant described the franchise’s culture as “drippy” in a February interview with Tim MacMahon.
“That’s our identity, and that’s going to continue to be our identity,” he said. “Some guys don’t like it, but it gives us an edge. It gives us a boost, a lot of energy out there on the floor, so we’re going to continue to do it.”
The “Grit and Grind” era brought sustained relevancy to the Grizzlies for the first time and yielded a trio of stars (Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph) who felt unique to the organization. Randolph was the first player to have his jersey retired by the team.
However, with all due respect to Conley, Gasol and Randolph, Morant can be a truly transformative figure on a different scale, an All-NBA talent with the charisma to match.
Giving him the most money allowable under the collective bargaining agreement was a no-brainer, and there was nothing to indicate he would hesitate to agree when presented with a formal offer.
Now, the hard part for Kleiman comes with improving the supporting cast around Morant to get the Grizzlies their first championship.