Fresh blow for Novak Djokovic in the US decision.
Novak Djokovic has copped a fresh blow with United States travel authorities extending the requirement for non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 until at least April 10 this year.
Leading tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg tweeted that meant that if Djokovic remained unvaccinated, it would mean another year of missing tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.
It could also affect the 21-time Grand Slam champion’s ability to play in the US Open after he was forced to miss last year’s tournament, won by Carlos Alcaraz.
The news came after Serena Williams’ former coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, expressed fears that Djokovic would struggle with the burden of “emotional baggage” at the Australian Open.
The Serbian legend was sensationally deported from Australia before last year’s tournament after refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Fresh blow for Novak Djokovic in US decision
Djokovic has been granted permission to play at this year’s Melbourne grand slam and received a warm welcome from the crowd in his first-round win at the Adelaide International.
But the pressure and media attention will ratchet up significantly when the Australian Open gets underway on January 16, as well as the return of some unhappy memories.
“It’s going to be tough for Novak in Australia, that’s for sure,” Mouratoglou told Eurosport.
“He going to carry big emotional baggage. He’s been through so much, emotionally speaking. Nobody is immune. It’s going to be hard.
“I hope he doesn’t fall apart as he did at the US Open 2021 because there was too much. But it comes after probably a period where he has had a lot of rest.
“It’s the pre-season, it’s the off-season and there’s no stress of competition. So he’s going to be emotionally rested, which is good. And then he won’t start directly with the Australian Open, so he’ll have time to get used to the atmosphere there.”
Trade Secrets: Why now is the time to trade for Ja Morant
Trade Secrets: Why now is the time to trade for Ja Morant
Ja Morant is a former Rookie of the Year, a Most Improved Player and a two-time All-Star. When at his best, he’s proven to be one of the top players in the NBA, a potential MVP candidate and a rising star who can carry not only the Memphis Grizzlies but also fantasy teams.
And right now, as he serves his 25-game suspension due to multiple gun-related incidents, he’s a bit of an afterthought.
He is eligible to return as soon as the road game against New Orleans on Dec. 19, which is less than four weeks out, and that’s worth paying close attention to in your fantasy league.
Why, you might ask?
Because there may never be a better time to add him to your roster than now.
Fantasy managers with Morant could be eager to deal
The face of the franchise since he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2019 — one pick after Zion Williamson — Morant has averaged 22.4 points per game in his career, the highest of any player in Grizzlies history.
Even with fantasy managers knowing Morant’s tremendous on-court abilities, the star point guard still fell in virtually all fantasy drafts this season. He wasn’t drafted until after pick No. 60 in most leagues and fell even further, past pick 70 or 80, in plenty of other leagues.
It’s easy to understand the hesitation from many fantasy managers.
Taking a player like Morant, knowing he’d miss essentially a third of the fantasy basketball calendar, was one thing. As a suspended player, though, Morant also couldn’t be stashed in an IR slot, so drafting him meant essentially giving up a bench spot until late December — a non-starter for many fantasy managers.
Fast-forward to today and many of those who did draft Morant find themselves low in their league standings, trying to figure out a way to turn around their fortunes.
They’ve been patient, and in many cases, they’ve yet to be rewarded. That’s a nice way of saying that the season is rapidly getting away.
Now ask yourself what those fantasy managers might do when they see that trade offer for Morant hit their inbox? Even though they’ve already waited out half of his suspension, certainly the temptation will be there to move on before they’re too far back in the standings.
Yes, there is risk
It’s important to remember that even if you want Morant on your team, there’s no guarantee it works out. In fact, there are several pretty major risks.
First of all, he may be rusty and need some time to acclimate; after all, he hasn’t played in a game since April 28, 2023. Fantasy managers must be comfortable with fluctuating statistical production, at least in the first few weeks he returns to the court, and possibly longer.
Secondly, Morant’s overall availability is a legitimate concern when you consider his injury history. So far, he hasn’t played 70 regular season games in any of his first four NBA seasons.
Lastly, Memphis’ record could also adversely affect Morant’s fantasy value in the second half of the season if the team is not in playoff contention. Since the league expanded its playoffs to 16 teams back in 1984, 65 teams have started the season with an 0-5 record, like the Grizzlies, and only 10 of them reached the playoffs. If the Grizzlies fall deep out of playoff contention, there’s a chance he could miss games or be shut down as the team turns its attention to next season.
Waiting will only raise Morant’s trade value
If you’re willing to take on the risk that comes with trading for Morant, doing so sooner rather than later is the way to go.
The reason is simple.
Every week that passes and Morant is closer to getting back on the court, fantasy managers will become more apt to hold on to him and see what his return does for their team.
If you’re looking to get a deal done here, offering two intriguing mid-tier players who are currently playing well in exchange for Morant — and another month of waiting things out — is the way to go and could be too much to pass up for Morant managers.
The key with all this, again, is to move fast.
Other factors to consider
Without their star, the Grizzlies are unrecognizable, and their 3-10 record puts them near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Barring a drastic turnaround, things will be even worse by the time Morant steps on the court.
What’s clear is that there’s a massive difference between last season and this one, and not just due to the absence of Morant. Tyus Jones and Dillon Brooks leaving meant some of the Grizzlies’ young talent would have an opportunity to step up, and so far that hasn’t been the case. With Jones gone, Memphis’ backcourt lacks consistency and reliability, and Brooks’ loss has negatively affected the team’s defense.
While Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. remain on the Grizzlies’ roster, Marcus Smart was a solid offseason addition but is already sidelined with a foot sprain that is expected to keep him out another 2-4 weeks. The Grizzlies rank 27th in points scored per 100 possessions and have an effective field goal percentage of 50.7%, third lowest in the league.
All this highlights the integral role Morant has in this Grizzlies’ offense, which ranked 11th in points scored per 100 possessions last season. It’s clear they are lost without him, and the injuries to Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke don’t help, either.
Morant’s return can’t come soon enough for Memphis, and he should get off to a fast start. In training camp, he didn’t work with the starters since the Grizzlies needed to prepare them to start the season without him. However, he’s been practicing and traveling with the team during the regular season.
Morant averaged 26.2 PPG, 8.1 APG, 5.9 RPG and 1.1 SPG in 32.0 MPG last season, playing 61 games, and right now he can be had for a discount in many fantasy leagues. We have him projected to average 26.3 PPG, 7.9 APG, 5.7 RPG and 1.1 SPG this season across 50 games.
He is the epitome of a risk-reward player, and though better suited for points leagues than category formats, he has the potential to provide second round value.
Is that a risk you should take? Really, it comes down to your risk tolerance and the situation your team is in.
Just know this — playing it safe won’t help you win a fantasy basketball championship, and if you want Morant now is the time to get him.THERE IS COMMENT BOX AFTER THE ADS, SHARE YOUR THOUGHT WITH US
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