Ja Morant returns to Grizzlies after missing 9 games

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New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes (10) drives against Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant returned to action Saturday night against the New Orleans Pelicans after missing nine games with right knee soreness.

The point guard, the team scoring leader at 27.6 points a game, was announced in the starting lineup shortly before the game. Morant’s return gives Memphis an opportunity to have its starters play together before the playoffs.

Memphis holds the second seed in the Western Conference.

Morant, who was listed as questionable in the pregame injury report, hadn’t played since injuring the knee March 18 at Atlanta. During that span, the Grizzlies were 7-2, the losses coming in the last two games at Utah and Denver.

Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said even before it was determined Morant would play against New Orleans that no decision has been made regarding Morant’s status for the season-finale against Boston on Sunday.

Asked if Morant would be on a minute restriction against New Orleans, Jenkins replied: “He may not play his playoff minutes. We’ll be smart. Obviously, we want to get him as good a run as possible with the group he’s playing with.”

Morant, who was named an All-Star starter for the first time this season, also averages 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds and has been one of the main catalysts behind the Grizzlies rise near the top of the NBA this season. He also leads the league in points in the paint at 16.8 points, the only guard in the top 10 in the category mostly dominated by centers and forwards.