Jerami Grant explains why he left Denver


Blazers small forward Jerami Grant doesn’t act like he’s got any regrets.

Not about the way he left Denver in free agency following the Nuggets’ magical run in the Florida Bubble and not about the twists and turns his career has taken in the aftermath of that decision.

Grant, who opted to sign with the rebuilding Pistons in free agency rather than contend in Denver, had his reasons. Reading between the lines, there were many of them. After two strong but inefficient seasons in Detroit, the rangy wing got traded to Portland this offseason, where he’s thriving on a team that’s clawing for space in the crowded Western Conference.

In Grant’s opinion, had he not taken his circuitous route (he’s on his fifth franchise), he never would’ve developed into the sweet-shooting, high-volume scorer he’s become.

“I think I just grew as a player,” Grant told The Post prior to Thursday’s thriller in Portland. “I gave myself an opportunity to become who I am today. I think I’ve been this player, but there was a lot of work I needed to do. I think I gave myself room to grow.”

In retrospect, the writing might’ve been on the wall. Aging forward Paul Millsap started twice as many games as Grant in his lone season in Denver, which is what happens when a veteran forward is making three times more ($29 million) than a rising one ($8.7 million). Fellow wing Torrey Craig earned 27 starts to Grant’s 24, which could’ve been another sticking point.

From Grant’s vantage point, there’s no doubt he saw Michael Porter Jr.’s potential after just one season and knew the competition he’d be facing at small forward if he opted to stay. Despite the obvious potential the Nuggets had when Grant stunned many within the organization by leaving, it’s also not hard to understand his perspective.

“When you’re growing up, you dream of being this type of player who can contribute to the game in this way, and that was my vision, that’s what I wanted to be, so I gave myself an opportunity,” he said.

Several years removed, it’s tough to fault any player for wanting to push themselves competitively and pursue individual growth. Before Grant got traded to Denver, he was a featured piece in Oklahoma City where he played nearly 33 minutes per game.

Beyond that, one of Grant’s motivations in leaving Denver for Detroit was that he wanted to play in a predominantly Black city, for a Black head coach. His motivation was detailed beautifully by The Athletic. Again, having had ample time to reckon with the outside world while sequestered in the Bubble, it’s tough to criticize that mindset, too.

Now in Portland, where he’s averaging a career-high 22.8 points on 45% 3-point shooting, Grant believes he never would’ve gotten to this point in his career — a featured player on a competitive team — had he not dictated his own path.

“Whether it was working on my leadership when I was in Detroit, figuring out how to be that guy, when to shoot the ball, when not to, how to get players involved …,” Grant said before trailing off.

Even more impressive than his resolve is his self-awareness at 28. Asked specifically if it felt like Denver didn’t offer enough room to grow, and whether Detroit offered too much responsibility, Grant conceded his role in Portland, thus far, has been ideal.

“You could say that,” he said.


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