When did you hit your growth spurt and take that next step as a player? Jaren Jackson Jr: I probably hit my growth spurt during freshman year or toward the end of freshman year. It was probably because, I don’t know, I was eating a lot of broccoli or something (laughs). Then, I just grew. I was about 6-foot-5 and then I became 6-foot-10 real quick, so I had to figure out how not to trip over myself all the time (laughs). Once I got all of that together, I was good!
The Raptors ended up being an early signal of the coming shift as Masai Ujiri negotiated extensions with both Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam. Ujiri willingly conceding spending power, albeit to retain two pivotal members of their championship team, helped clarify how little many front offices cared about maximizing 2020 cap space. It was unsurprising to see less flexible front offices like the 76ers (Ben Simmons) and Nets (Caris LeVert and Taurean Prince) lock up young players ahead of restricted free agency, but a group of teams that includes the Raptors, Grizzlies (Dillon Brooks) and Kings (Buddy Hield) deliberately gave up cap space, and that meaningfully reduced the league-wide spending power this summer.
“For the guys sometimes coming from a strong nation like Spain, it’s tougher,” said Tomas Satoransky, a Czech who spent seven years playing in Spain before joining the Washington Wizards and now starts for the Chicago Bulls. “I think that was a big issue, a big barrier for Juan Carlos to be successful.” Of course, he also had a choice of cities in which to play — Memphis or Barcelona. “He was in Memphis. He could stay in Barcelona,” Satoransky said. “That was an easier choice. It’s tougher for them to adapt.”
This Grizzlies team is currently in the eighth seed out West and there’s a real chance that you guys could make the playoffs this year. How motivating was it to have everyone count you guys out prior to the season and how nice is it to silence those doubters now? Jaren Jackson Jr: It was definitely motivating because nobody really thought that we’d be in this position at this point. People just said to us, “Oh, you have time. Don’t worry about it! You’re young!” We kind of were just like, “We don’t care.” That’s how we play and how we are – we just don’t care. When we go out there, you have to put five on the court just like we have to put five on the court. It don’t matter if you’re young or old. There’s only one basketball. You have to literally beat us down if you want to win this game against us because we like to compete. We’ll have off nights, for sure. But at the end of the day, we’re going to play hard.
You’ve formed an excellent duo with Ja Morant. Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian wrote something interesting: If the Grizzlies make the postseason, this would be the first time in NBA history that a playoff team’s top-two scorers are both 20 years old or younger. What has it been like teaming up with Ja and developing alongside each other? Jaren Jackson Jr: It’s been crazy, man. Our chemistry really started off the court because we weren’t really playing in Summer League, so we really had that whole time to just hang out. From there, it was a very smooth transition once we got on the court together just because we were already so cool with each other. We were just able to mesh really well.