Memphis Grizzlies' Ja Morant to miss at least a 'couple of weeks' with sprained knee

Evan Barnes
Memphis Commercial Appeal

Ja Morant is expected to miss at least a "couple of weeks" with a sprained left knee, Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said pregame Sunday.

Jenkins said there was no firm timeline for Morant's return but each week would bring more updates on his progress. He also that Morant avoided any tears or ligament damage to his knee.

"We're so thankful we avoided a significant injury," Jenkins said. "We expect a full recovery, and this is nothing long term that we're worried about."

The news was better than expected after Morant was helped to the locker room Friday against the Hawks in the first quarter. He couldn't put pressure on his left leg, but he returned to the bench in the third quarter with a slight limp.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) was injured during the first quarter of Saturday's game against the Atlanta Hawks.

He was seen on crutches at the end of practice Saturday during portions available to the media.

Tyus Jones will start in Morant's place for the Grizzlies (9-10), beginning with Sunday's game against the Sacramento Kings (8-12). Jenkins added that Desmond Bane will be the primary secondary point guard, and De'Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson also will fill in.

The injury puts a pause on Morant having a breakthrough season in his third year. He's averaging a career-high in points (25.3) and rebounds (5.8) and also 7.1 assists. More than numbers, his play through 18 games earned praise around the league for him as a potential all-star candidate.

Morant also got the Nike stamp of approval with his first commercial. The commercial also showed his impact on Memphis by spotlighting several city landmarks.

Now with him sidelined, the Grizzlies must replace his offense and leadership. Per Cleaning the Glass, an NBA advanced statistics website, the team scored 8.8 more points per 100 possessions with Morant on the court than off it, which is the best among the Grizzlies' rotation players.

"There's a gap there. We know what he brings, so everybody has to find a way to bring it. We all have to step up. It does have to be that mentality," the Grizzlies' Jaren Jackson Jr. said. "That's the mentality he would want. He'd want us to go out there and fight no matter what. That's what we're going to do."

Morant has shown he can recover from injury rather quickly. He missed eight games with a sprained ankle last season but returned slightly earlier than his expected three-to-five week timeline. 

"It's a credit to him that when he's had injuries in the past, he really dives into the process of getting back healthy in his return to play," Jenkins said. "We're in full communication that this is what we got to do off the court, on the court to get you back and he doesn't skip a beat."

You can reach Evan Barnes on Twitter (@Evan_B) or by email at evan.barnes@commercialappeal.com