The Memphis Grizzlies finally are back on a basketball court and hoping to get back to playing games.
The Grizzlies returned to practice Wednesday night after having their last five games postponed because of contact tracing within the team and the length of time they were unable to practice.
They had been allowed to do individual workouts with one coach over the past couple days, and coach Taylor Jenkins said it was great to be back.
“It’s definitely been unique,” Jenkins said. “But I think our entire team, a lot of credit to our players, our staff to adjust obviously working really closely with the league on what are the best courses of action over the last dating back to when we were in Portland. But everyone’s handled it really well.”
The NBA stopped play last March with the Grizzlies in Portland for a road game against the Trail Blazers the next night. They were in Portland again last week on a five-game winning streak only to have the first of a back-to-back with the Trail Blazers postponed, followed quickly by the next four games.
“Man, I’m starting to think Portland don’t like us man," Grizzlies guard Ja Morant said with a laugh.
Morant said he feels the Grizzlies have held each other accountable following league protocols to stay safe with COVID-19. Jenkins said centre Jonas Valanciunas is working through those protocols along with another unnamed player and hopes Valanciunas returns soon.
“All we can control is every time that we have an opportunity to work, we make the most of it," Jenkins said. “So obviously, the last week has put us in a test, you know, but I think our guys rose to the occasion.”
The Grizzlies currently have had a league-high six games postponed, tied with Washington. The Wizards went 13 days between games after six players tested positive for COVID-19 and three others had to sit out because of contact tracing.
Memphis will have gone 12 days without games if it plays in San Antonio on Saturday. The Spurs had Monday night's game with New Orleans postponed but beat Boston on Wednesday night. The NBA has postponed 22 games this season, 21 since Jan. 10.
The Grizzlies still are waiting for Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow to return from injuries sustained last summer in the bubble. Once Memphis resumes playing, it is looking at playing 41 games in potentially 67 days.
At least Morant is healthier. The NBA Rookie of the Year had only been back two games from a sprained left ankle when the Grizzlies were forced to stop playing. He's played only five of Memphis' 13 games so far.
“I took this time to allow my ankle to heal even more and continue to get stronger to you know, be back to the Ja, you know, who’s just jumping around and stuff," Morant said. "So I feel like although it was tough, it was good for me.”
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Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press