Grizzlies coach: Ja Morant closer to return from sore knee

DENVER (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies would like for All-Star guard Ja Morant to play at least once before the regular season ends.

The final decision for Morant’s return rests with the team’s medical staff.

“He’s doing great,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “All signs are in a really good direction, but he’s definitely getting close.”

Jenkins updated Morant’s status Thursday night before the Grizzlies’ final road game of the regular season at Denver. The Grizzlies’ leading scorer has missed the last eight games after tweaking his right knee against Atlanta on March 18 and already had been declared out against the Nuggets.

Jenkins said the Grizzlies have ramped up Morant’s work over the past week and will continue taking it day by day.

“He did 5-on-5 for the first time today, so that’s really encouraging,” Jenkins said. “(He) responded well afterward we’ll see how he responds (Friday) obviously, as we go into this back-to-back back home.”

Morant is Memphis’ leading scorer, averaging 27.6 points. He missed 12 games earlier this season with a left knee sprain and sat out the game before Atlanta with back soreness.

The Grizzlies already the No. 2 seed in the West. They can set a franchise-record for victories in a season by winning two of their final three. They wrap up the regular season with a visit from New Orleans on Saturday before the finale Sunday night against Boston.

Jenkins said they would like to have at least one game with their full contingent before the postseason. But health matters more.

“If that’s not what’s the recommendation of the medical team, we don’t feel like that’s the smartest move, then we won’t do it,” Jenkins said.

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