Ja Morant still has chip despite hot start: ‘It took me averaging 35 points a game to finally get some All-Star recognition’

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PORTLAND — Memphis Grizzlies third-year guard Ja Morant is now widely viewed as an All-Star player. Though he has yet to officially be voted as such, he carries an annoyance with those who are just now becoming believers.

“I feel like it took me averaging 35 points a game to finally get some All-Star recognition,” Morant told Yahoo Sports. “But, I really can’t speak too much on that. I feel like my chip will never leave.”

The Grizzlies’ franchise guard erupted to start the 2021-22 NBA campaign, scoring 37, 28, and 40 points, respectively, in his first three games of the season to place him at top of the scoring leaderboard.

In a lopsided loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, Morant tallied a season-low 17 points, but he did pull down a season-high nine rebounds and distributed 10 assists.

Though his scoring average dipped to 30.5 points, he remains at No. 1 with an opportunity to bounce back Thursday on the road against the Golden State Warriors.

Ja Morant looks over his shoulder during a game.
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant is off to a hot start this season, leading the NBA in scoring average. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

What makes Morant so scary is that he has the mindset of an undrafted player who has something to prove. And when the 22-year-old feels slighted, he doesn’t forget.

“I was in position to be an All-Star my first two years and didn’t make it. That bothered me a lot,” Morant told Yahoo Sports. “So I just stopped focusing on that and just focusing on my play. I’m a winner, and that’s the main goal. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself. I just got to control what I can control and that’s my play on the floor.”

The 2019-20 Rookie of the Year was an unheralded high school player with few college offers who helped put a mid-major — Murray State — on the map.

A few seasons in, he’s now making a case that he is, without question, the best player in the 2019 NBA draft. The New Orleans Pelicans selected the well-hyped Zion Williamson out of Duke at No. 1, but he has been plagued by injuries to start his career.

Ordinarily, Morant would hold a competitive grievance against a team for passing on him. But when it comes to that draft, he said he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I’m just happy that I got picked where I’m at right now,” Morant told Yahoo Sports. “I love the Grizzlies organization, I love the fans. If I went back to that draft, I hope I go No. 2 again.”

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