GM says Grizzlies will spend to keep Morant, core together
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By CLAY BAILEY
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies are willing to spend whatever necessary to keep their core together, including signing All-Star guard Ja Morant to a contract extension this offseason.
Zach Kleiman, the Grizzlies' general manager and vice president of basketball operations, made that very clear Sunday. Memphis finished with the second-best record in the NBA and its highest playoff seeding at No. 2 in the Western Conference. Memphis was eliminated in six games by Golden State in the semifinals Friday night.
"We're not going to have any issues paying anyone who we want to pay," Kleiman said of the future. "There's never going to be any issue with retention here."
Kleiman emphasized that is what owner Robert Pera wants. Memphis' goal is maintaining team chemistry while working toward winning a championship despite being one of the NBA's small-market teams. Memphis ranked 10th in the league for merchandise sales recently with Morant ninth among players.
"We're not worried about small market notions or any of this or that," said Kleiman, this season's NBA executive of the year. "We're not going to have any issue whatsoever keeping together whoever we ultimately decide along the way."
That certainly includes Morant, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft, who has improved from Rookie of the Year in 2020 to All-Star starter this season and as the NBA's Most Improved Player who also finished seventh in MVP voting. Morant is eligible for a five-year maximum contract extension this offseason.
And Kleiman made it as clear as possible that he intends to make sure Morant is in Memphis for a long time.
"Whatever I'm allowed to say under the NBA rules without violating the CBA, I hereby say about what our plans would be for Ja," Kleiman said.
Morant's desire is keeping the Grizzlies intact as well, starting with himself.
"I'm definitely happy to be here. Memphis is my home," said Morant, who knows his contract situation will be a hot topic this offseason. "If your (question) is: Do I want to be in Memphis? Hell, yeah."
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Updated May 15, 2022