Well, remember when Ja Morant said “I’m fine in the West” during a December interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews when he named the Celtics as the only team that he looked at as genuine title competition for the Grizzlies?
Shortly thereafter, Morant was given a chance to walk back the comment. He doubled down instead. Now, after the Suns traded for Kevin Durant and the Mavericks added Kyrie Irving (the latter is obviously of lesser concern to the Grizzlies, or anyone else for that matter), Morant was again asked if he’s still fine in the West with the Grizzlies having lost nine of their last 12.
“Yeah, my confidence will never change,” Morant said. “I don’t care who got something to say about it.”
Morant started out by citing the confidence he has in himself and his team: “I don’t care. Honestly,” Morant said about the comment. “I said what I said, and I mean that. The confidence I had when I said that, is the confidence that got us to the point we’re at now, being a top team in this league.”
So here’s where Morant loses credibility. If he were just being confident in himself and his team, and that’s all that comment was about, he wouldn’t have singled out Boston as the only team that he feels can serve as a problem for the Grizzlies. He would’ve just said some variation of: “If we’re playing our best, there isn’t a team in the league that concerns me.”
But by admitting there is a team that Morant feels is a worthy adversary, just not one in the West, now that becomes a dig on everyone else. Now it’s not just about self-confidence. It’s about what Morant feels are weaker opponents in his own conference. That’s when people take notice.
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This is a lot like asking an elite player if they believe they’re the best in the world. If they say yes, they’re just talking about themselves, which everyone casts off as an understandably confident athlete saying what anyone else would say in that situation.
Hey Giannis Antetokounmpo, or Luka Doncic, or Stephen Curry, or Nikola Jokic, or Joel Embiid, or LeBron James, or Kevin Durant, are there any other players that you look at as being on your level? If they say no, that they believe they are the best player in the world, we’ve heard that a hundred times before. Of course they believe that.
But what Morant said, that’s more like when James Harden took the “no skill” shot at Antetokounmpo. Now he’s not just promoting his own abilities; he’s disparaging someone else’s. And that’s fine. But just own it if you’re Morant. Don’t say you’re just being confident in yourself. If that were the case, nobody would be of concern to you. Not even the Celtics.