2022 NBA Playoffs: All eyes on Ja Morant - bdsthanhhoavn.com

2022 NBA Playoffs: All eyes on Ja Morant

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

By the most recent count, LeBron James has tweeted 26 times about these NBA playoffs, although it’s a little difficult to keep track because they’re mixed in with messages about soccer, potato chips, tequila promos and Kendrick Lamar.

Regardless, there is no question James is heavily invested — as a fan — in a postseason he has no active part in, a scenario that has happened just four times since he entered the league.

His Twitter activity is enthusiastic and entertaining and there’s a little bit of everything. According to James, Ja Morant is now a bona fide superstar and Jordan Poole has got “wiggle.”

He has lauded Jaylen Brown’s on-court “cooking,” hyped his close friend Chris Paul by his “Point God” moniker, praised up Luka Dončić and highlighted the efforts of Gary Payton II before his untimely injury.

He’s extolled the virtues of a range of things, including his old teammate Kyrie Irving and even the Miami Heat’s player development system. He’s namechecked Spencer Dinwiddie, Jalen Brunson, Darius Garland and Trae Young, lambasted the use of early tipoff times and taken aim at media “dweebs” who vote on the NBA’s seasonal awards but don’t, according to him, watch basketball.

Mixed in among it all was a promise to never miss the playoffs again, discussing the pain caused by the Los Angeles Lakers’ elimination from contention following a desperate collapse in the second half of the season, despite a star-packed roster featuring himself, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.

“This s*** hurt,” he wrote.

However, and this may or may not be a popular sentiment, the postseason is presently doing just fine without James, and — whisper it now — might even be a little more entertaining with him in absentia.

For such is the force his status and personality exert over the sport after a career spanning two decades, that other players, teams and even entire series often get relegated to second billing. This time — not so.

There is now enough air in the room for performers like Morant to break out, both as athletes and also as potential future figureheads for the league. Morant’s 47-point explosion in Game 2 of the Grizzlies’ series against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night came with blurred vision in his left eye after being poked in the third quarter. His memorable outing answered any question critics might have had about the precocious youngster and begged just one more.

What could he have done if he’d been able to see properly?

Ja Morant’s 47 points propel Memphis to a Game 2 win I FIRST THINGS FIRST

Ja Morant's 47 points propel Memphis to a Game 2 win I FIRST THINGS FIRST

Is it crazy to say Ja Morant looks like the best player in the 2022 NBA playoffs at this point? Nick Wright explains to Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes why Ja has a case for being best player remaining in the playoffs.

James will be the face of the NBA for as long as he’s playing, but Morant has thrust himself into the mix alongside several others for that role down the road. In that sense, the ongoing second-round tussles and the next few weeks will continue to serve as an audition of sorts.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is again in mean mode as the Milwaukee Bucks seek to defend their title. Dončić is carrying an undermanned Dallas Mavericks squad on his back. Devin Booker looks ready to explode into life alongside Paul after overcoming some nagging injury issues.

However, it is presently Morant who is getting the most attention, and there are valid reasons for it. For a start, it is his first fully-fledged go-around in the playoffs, with the Grizzlies having been bounced at the first hurdle last year by the Utah Jazz.

Furthermore, the fearless nature of Morant’s play, combined with how this series is shaping up as a nasty, ferocious, feud-laced scrap, has pushed him to the fore. With Payton suffering a fractured elbow thanks to an ugly flagrant foul from Dillon Brooks, the Warriors must now hope veteran Andre Iguodala is fit enough to return to guard Morant.

“Not only might Ja be the greatest player in this series, Ja Morant might be one of the greatest all-time playoff performers we’ve ever seen,” FS1’s Chris Broussard said on “First Things First.” “Look at (the) numbers. Let’s give Ja his love. He is awesome. (Tuesday) was a historic performance.”

After 13 career postseason games, Morant is averaging 27.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 9.4 assists, and his all-around play has garnered plaudits from those who appreciate the intricacies of the game, as well as those who gravitate toward highlight-reel moments.

Just as importantly from the NBA’s point of view, he is exhilarating to watch. He doesn’t flow around the hardwood, he skips across it, ever ready for the latest twist and turn and flash of movement. He takes tough shots and makes them, and when crunch time comes, he calls his own number. On Tuesday, he scored Memphis’ final 15 points.

Ja Morant’s 47 pts vs. Warriors in Game 2 cement him as a superstar? I UNDISPUTED

Ja Morant's 47 pts vs. Warriors in Game 2 cement him as a superstar? I UNDISPUTED

Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe ponder if Ja Morant cemented himself as a Superstar in the NBA.

It has the basketball audience looking for more, from a guy who won the Most Improved Player award predominantly because he wasn’t getting enough credit previously.

As the playoffs heat up, Morant is front and center now, with no place to hide and every opportunity to further boost his stock. 

And, if all goes well, to get James tweeting some more.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

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