Once one of the bright young stars in the NBA, Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has seen his career take a major turn off the court.
It has now led to the former Rookie of the Year receiving an 25-game ban from the NBA after multiple public incidents involving firearms.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made it clear after the announcement that Morant’s return comes with heavy conditions.
“Prior to his return to play, Ja Morant will be required to formulate and fulfill a program with the league that directly addresses the circumstances that led him to repeat this destructive behavior,” Silver on conditions for Morant’s return to action.
For his part, Morant also released a statement after his suspension was announced.
Back in May, the Grizzlies suspended Morant indefinitely following the release of a video on social media in which he was flashing a gun in a car. This came following Morant receiving an eight-game suspension by the NBA after he was seen on Instagram Live flashing a gun in a Colorado nightclub following a game against the Denver Nuggets in March.
The NBA’s decision to suspend Morant shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. It was during the NBA Finals that Silver indicated that new information came up during the league’s investigation into Morant. At that point, the NBA had already made a decision about a suspension but was waiting until the Finals were over.
“We’ve uncovered a fair amount of additional information. We probably could have brought it to a head now, but we’ve made the decision that it would be unfair to these players and these teams to announce that decision in the middle of this series,” Adam Silver on Ja Morant investigation from June 1.
Ja Morant suspension and what it means
By handing Morant a 25-game suspension, the NBA is showing that it means business. There are internal concerns about the young guard’s off-court maturity level and who he is surrounding himself with. Silver also made that clear before the suspension was announced.
“It’s important to point out that this is not about just discipline, and then we’ll just cross our fingers and then hope there’s not a third time,” Silver said earlier in June. “And my hope is that wherever we come out (with) in terms of discipline, that there’s an acceptance that we need to find ways to engage with each other going forward so he can change the trajectory he’s now on, which is not a positive one.”
Silver has made it clear numerous times that any discipline handed to Morant is as much about him receiving a wake-up call as anything else. Though, the All-Star’s status as a role model for young NBA fans also played a role in the decision-making process.
- Ja Morant stats (2022-23): 26.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 8.1 APG, 47% shooting
As you can see, Morant is one of the best young players in the game. He had the Grizzlies in NBA title contention before these incidents with the team finishing second in the Western Conference.
Memphis was then upset by the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Obviously, Morant’s off-court drama played a role in the premature exit.
The Grizzlies still fancy themselves as title contenders. Though, Morant’s 25-game suspension is going to have an impact from an on-court perspective. It will be interesting to see if they take into account said suspension heading into NBA free agency.
As for Morant, he did issue an apology following the most-recent incident.
“I know I’ve disappointed a lot of people who have supported me. This is a journey and I recognize there is more work to do. My words may not mean much right now, but I take full accountability for my actions. I’m committed to continuing to work on myself,” Ja Morant statement from back in May.
Outside Morant’s actions threatening his NBA career, he’s already seen pushback in the marketing department. That included Nike removing his signature shoe from its website.
Morant also signed a five-year, $194.3 million contract extension with Memphis back in July of 2022. Further off-court issues could lead to that being voided. The time is now for Morant to mature off the court and show he can be the face of the organization and maintain his status as one of the top young stars in the Association.
It’s going to be all about his actions during this suspension and how he handles himself following a return to action.