Once the darlings of the NBA, the Memphis Grizzlies seem to be imploding internally due to
injuries and Ja Morant’s growing immaturity.
On Saturday at 5:19 a.m. ET, a few hours after Morant’s Grizzlies lost to the Denver Nuggets 113- 97, Ja went on Instagram Live while at the strip club. The video footage shows Morant and his friends in the VIP section, where Morant was shirtless and brandishing a gun.
Morant will be away from the team for at least their next two games, the team said Saturday not long after the NBA opened an investigation into the incident. The league, if it finds wrongdoing, could fine or suspend Morant.
In the last weeks, multiple reports have emerged of violent and illegal behavior by Morant, including an accusation he hit a 17-year-old boy “12 or 13 times” in the head and pulled out a gun at his house during a pickup game last summer. It was also reported after a game against the Indiana Pacers, either Morant or his associates pointed a red laser pen, which could have been mistaken for a gun laser dot, at staffers inside the Indiana Pacers’ FedEx Forum stadium.
The league investigated the incident and released the following statement, “NBA Security and league investigators conducted an investigation interviewing numerous eyewitnesses and reviewing video surveillance following allegations made by the Indiana Pacers organization regarding a post-game incident on Jan. 29. While we substantiated that a post-game situation arose that was confrontational, based on interviews and other evidence gathered, we could not corroborate that any individual threatened others with a weapon. Certain individuals involved in the postgame situation and a related matter during the game that night have been subsequently banned from attending games in the arena. If additional information becomes available related to the postgame situation, the league office will conduct a further review.”
The Washington Post also reported on Friday that Ja Morant was involved in an encounter last summer. The report said the head of security at a Memphis mall told police that Morant “threatened” him during an altercation in the parking lot, leaving him alarmed enough that he filed a police report. A member of Morant’s group shoved the director in the head, he told police.
No arrests were made as a result of either of the incidents, and neither the league or the Grizzlies have taken formal discipline.
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Ja Morant and memories of Gilbert Arenas
Not since Gilbert Arenas has there been an NBA player this intent on projecting themselves alongside fake thug culture and armed weaponry. In 2009, when Arenas was with the Washington Wizards, a high-stakes card game between two teammates, JaVale McGee, and Javaris Crittenton, on a team flight resulted in Crittenton losing a significant amount of money. Following the flight, an altercation ensued between the players, during which Crittenton allegedly threatened to shoot
Arenas in the knee.
Several days later, tensions reached a boiling point when Arenas brought four firearms to the Wizards’ practice facility and brandished them in the team’s locker room, reportedly confronting Crittenton. The incident led to a suspension for both players and significant legal consequences
Ja Morant hasn’t brought his weapons into the Grizzlies’ locker room yet, but he is displaying a
similar toxic trend of idealizing gun culture to his young fan base.
It’s a strange turn of events as Ja grew up in a modest home with his family in Sumter, South
Carolina. His father was a former basketball player who taught Ja the game.
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Morant stayed out of violence and away from the legal system growing up. He went on to earn South Carolina’s Class 3A All-State honors during his junior and senior seasons. He also became a three-time All-Region Most Valuable Player. His clean record and high character helped him earn a chance encounter with the Murray State coach Matt McMahon, where he was given a scholarship on his way toward collegiate stardom before being drafted second overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2019 NBA Draft.
This season, Ja Morant is averaging 27.3 points and a career-high 8.3 assists.
To add further chaos to the Grizzlies’ culture and winning record, the team announced Saturday that key rotation player Brandon Clarke suffered a season-ending left Achilles tear. Clarke was
averaging 10 PPG on 65% shooting.
Lee Escobedo covers the NBA for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @_leeescobedo