Jaren Jackson Jr. Has Emerged As The Voice Of The Memphis Grizzlies
There is a twenty-year-old that has replaced the role of Marc Gasol in the Grizzlies locker room. For years Gasol was the final voice of the night. He'd give you all of the quotes that you needed as he gave his assessment of the good and the bad. He was the thermometer of the locker room. Marc's voice was the one that you waited late for - the one that you waited to get dressed so that he could give his State of the Union address. That distinction has been handed over to Jaren Jackson Jr. - a twenty-year-old that has only played in 77 games heading into Wednesday's matchup against the Bulls.
Jackson was praised heavily last season both locally and by national media. His rare combination of rim-protecting, defensive switchability, and the ability to shoot from long range garnered him comps to some of the best in the league, currently and all-time. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team and expectations were high. Maybe too high. He was the only bright light of youth from last season - and after the Grizzlies initiated their full rebuild this past summer, Jaren was handed the keys to the franchise.
Jackson has had an up-and-down season. Some nights he is dominating on defense, protecting the rim and being exactly where he is supposed to be. He is making shots from all over the court and dominating in the paint. But on other nights he struggles to even stay on the court. Plagued by self-damaging immature fouls as well as head-scratching calls by the officials, Jackson's biggest deterrent has been the bench - a place where his foul calls have led him to all too often.
Before the Grizzlies were awarded the second overall pick in the 2019 draft, this year's team seemed like it was going to be solely based around Jaren Jackson Jr. and only Jaren Jackson Jr., but then Ja Morant happened. Morant almost instantly took the reigns of the team upon his arrival and surprisingly but also unsurprisingly, Jackson has been his biggest supporter. While Morant has instantly become the face of the franchise, Jackson has happily embraced the role of being the voice.
His personality is addictive. He's funny. He's silly. He possesses a rare spirit of youthful energy that is contagious. You become intrigued and entranced in everything that he says. He's rarely down in the locker room after losses - not because he doesn't care but because he knows that his team needs him to stay that way. Foul trouble? - Jackson is there cheerleading on the bench when others would be sulking. Jackson can instantly go from talking about new music, video games and tv shows that he's watching to breaking down what makes his teammates great players and intricate details about what his team needs to do to improve.
Whether it's in the locker room, in-game promotions, or with the fans, Jackson happily accepts the role of being the voice of the team. Before the team's last game against the Indiana Pacers, the Grizzlies were hosting "TEAM Mentor, Appreciation Night" for the members of its mentor program. Rookie Marko Guduric was assigned to speak with the mentors and Jackson - who was preparing for his pregame shootaround noticed his teammates uneasiness. Guduric, who speaks English, will admit that he isn't as comfortable with it as he could be is also naturally not a talker and Jackson slid in unproked and helped out Guduric.
His game on the court shows promise. Scary promise. He has the tools to be something that the league has never seen. He is still a work in progress but his infectious personality and desire to be a great teammate, are definitely ahead of schedule.