How Taylor Jenkins feels about Ja Morant, Grizzlies saying they're NBA's 'most hated' team
Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies believe they're the NBA's most hated team. That's what Morant said Tuesday while addressing a report involving his best friend confronting the Indiana Pacers postgame.
"You see it every day on social media," Morant said at shootaround. "Anything that got something to do with the Memphis Grizzlies, it’s front line, national television, national people tweeting it, putting it out. Anything else, it don’t be said."
The Grizzlies also believe in using anything as fuel whether it's love or dislike. So for coach Taylor Jenkins, he sees the recent chatter as part of their evolution as a team that's attracting more eyeballs, expectations and scrutiny.
After losing eight of their last nine games, Jenkins said that while players are hearing more noise, the challenge now is to absorb it and still play at a high level.
"I think it's no secret that there's a lot of attention on the Grizzlies for sure throughout the season whether it's external expectations or whatnot," Jenkins said. "We're focused on our expectations but I think it's really good. What we put out there, we've got to be able to back it up. That's what I continue to say, that's what I continue to remind our guys about.
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"No matter what's being said about us, you can't not turn your phone off or see what's going on out there. You would love for your guys to block out noise but sometimes that fuels us. That's a motivating factor for us. But as long as we're doing it together, that's the biggest thing that I'm focused on."
Morant said last week in Cleveland that he feels the NBA punishes the Grizzlies more harshly than other teams and doubled down on that criticism Tuesday. But Morant also has one of the NBA's top 10 selling jerseys for the first half of the season and the Grizzlies have been featured more on national television while being discussed more on NBA shows.
Jenkins acknowledged that things have changed from when the Grizzlies were an up-and-coming team. With success comes more attention and whether or not the team feels more hated, they have to respond on the court if they want to be seen as true contenders.
"There's a lot of attention. It creates that target on your back that we talk about. This is part of our evolution," Jenkins said. "The first three years, this is a different story. Teams are coming at us differently. We've got to rise to the challenge. That's the next step of our evolution as a team to get to where we want, which is winning championships here."
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Taylor Jenkins on Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies embracing 'most hated' NBA team