After leading Memphis to its first playoff berth in four seasons, Grizzlies star Ja Morant has bigger goals in mind for the team and himself.
Morant spoke with HoopsHype before training camp to discuss his expectations for the Grizzlies and himself this season. Morant also explained where he ranks among point guards in the league, what the return of a healthy Jaren Jackson Jr. will mean for the team, why Dillon Brooks deserves more respect, and why he’s become an investor in Hyperice training products.
You’ve always been a high-flying athlete, so how have Hyperice products helped you on the court and off it in your recovery days?
Morant: The products really help me depending on what I need them for if it’s for a practice or a game to have my body ready to go. If it’s a recovery day, having my body getting back to 100 percent.
Which are your favorite Hyperice products and why?
Morant: The Hypervolt and the Normatec boots are probably my favorites out of all of them as of now. Being able to use the Hypervolt if you have pain anywhere on your body. The boots helps my legs recover from running all around the court when my legs get tired.
Is there anything about these products that stand out to you compared to other devices you’ve used?
Morant: This is my first time having access to products like this, so once I was able to, I fell in love. They had my body feeling good and ready to go. Now, I take full responsibility for making sure my body is 100 percent the next day and always ready to go before anything I have to do.
Some of the athletes who use Hyperice are investors. Are you an investor in the company? If so, why?
Morant: I’m an investor in the company. I love the products. Once I got to use them, I knew I had to be a part of it. It’s something I use almost every day if it’s an off day or I have something to do that day.
Last year you helped Murray State set up a recovery room with the latest Hyperice gear. How did Murray State change your life, and why do you feel it’s important to give back?
Morant: (Murray State) took a chance with me offering me a scholarship. Since I’ve been there and since I left, they’ve made me feel like family. They told me basically they could get me to where I wanted to be as long as I bought in. I’m here (NBA). I was able to achieve my dream. Every time I go back, it’s the same thing. I still get the same love and treatment I’ve gotten like I’m still there and have been my whole life. When I was there, we didn’t have access to the products from Hyperice, so once I became an investor, I knew I had to give back to let the players there have access to the products and show how important it is to take care of your body.
Speaking of locker rooms, what are the expectations in the locker room for the Grizzlies this season? Where do you guys think you can compete on what type of level?
Morant: I feel like we can compete with the top teams in this league. We all have that mindset, and this chip on our shoulder we go out and play with each and every night. Now, it’s continuing to buy in and keep gelling as a team and getting better with chemistry. Having more guys step up and talk who’ve been in the game for a while to help the young guys come along. Our goal this year is to continue to be better in all areas and better than we were last year.
Your goal one day is to win a championship, so where is Memphis on that trajectory to try to get there?
Morant: I feel like we’re on the way. We’ve just got to continue to get better and come together as one. This past season, we played very well. We had to go through a lot to even make the playoffs with the play-in games. We had to beat some very good teams. In this league, it’s not easy to win, but each and every night, we show we’re going to fight until the end, and when we step on the court, it’s going to be a battle.
What are your individual goals or any surprises in your game that might surprise people this season?
Morant: My goals for this season are, number one, to be better than I was my last two seasons. To be an All-Star and make an All-NBA team are my other two goals this season.
What are your long-term career goals?
Morant: Multiple All-Stars. I want to be an MVP. Win championships. I want to be in that conversation when it’s all said and done to be considered with the greatest to ever play this game.
Where do you feel you rank among the top point guards in the game?
Morant: Top 5.
If you’re Top 5, who else is there with you?
Morant: Steph (Curry). I’m a big Chris Paul fan. I’d say Dame (Lillard) and (Russell) Westbrook. It’s tough. The point guard position is so loaded. Some guys have to get left out.
Your teammate, Jaren Jackson Jr., was the No. 2 breakout player, according to a poll of 15 NBA executives I did for HoopsHype. What do you expect from a healthy Jaren this season?
Morant: To me, personally, I think he’s No. 1 if he’s healthy. He’s been battling some injuries that set him back. A healthy Jaren is definitely the number one breakout player this season. He’s just a special talent that’s gifted. He’s 7-foot-1, can shoot the three, can put it on the floor, and can play inside. He does so much on the floor. As long as he stays healthy, which we need him to be, he’s definitely number one.
When you and Jaren started playing together, people would joke you guys are the next Mike Conley and Marc Gasol cornerstones for Memphis. What did you make of those comparisons?
Morant: No disrespect to the OGs, but I’m Ja, and he’s Jaren. We’re both totally different persons from that comparison. We have a bright future, so we’ve just got to continue to live up to being two of the greatest duos to play for the Grizzlies, such as Conley and Z-Bo (Zach Randolph) or Conley and Gasol.
What do you think of Dillon Brooks as a defender and as a player overall for this team?
Morant: Dillon is an important piece to this team offensively and defensively. I’ve been saying a lot now that I feel like he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his defense, especially against some of the top guys. Some of them probably won’t admit it, but I feel like most of the games when they struggled, Dillon was guarding them. Soon, that’ll come that he gets his respect for that. Offensively, how he’s able to score the ball from all three levels is big-time for us.
What are your thoughts on Jonas Valanciunas being gone and the addition of Steven Adams?
Morant: Playing with JV, I loved it. Each and every night, you knew he was going to bring it. He just did so much for us on the floor. He was our paint protector on both sides. In a lot of games, he had 20 and 20 or 20 and 15. It’s tough to see him go. I wish him the best. With Steven, we’re ready to go. My job is to make him comfortable within the system. We’ve got to continue to build our chemistry playing with each other for the first time. I feel like we’re going to be fine with Steven. He’s a good player as well, both offensively and defensively.
Any other things you’re working on off the court with Hyperice, etcetera?
Morant: Athletes, definitely invest in getting some Hyperice products. My motto is, “My body makes my money,” so I take care of my body and make sure it’s 100 percent. You can’t go out with a bad body and try to produce at a high level. Take care of your body, get some products, and be ready to go each day.
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto