Everything you need to know about Ja Morant’s 25-game suspension

ESPN.comJune 16, 2023, 2:27 PM ET8 minutes of reading

How the NBA decided to suspend Ja Morant for 25 games

Adrian Wojnarowski details Ja Morant’s suspension and how it will affect the Grizzlies next season.

After waiting nearly two months while the NBA conducted its investigation, The league announced a 25-game suspension Friday for Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant to start the 2023-24 season.

In March, Morant, 23, was suspended for eight games after an Instagram Live video showed him displaying a firearm at a Denver-area nightclub. In the days that followed, Morant spent time at a counseling center in Florida. Two months later, the two-time All-Star was filmed posing with a firearm in a car. The Grizzlies suspended Morant from team activities then, and he has been suspended ever since.

“Yes Morant’s decision to again use a firearm on social media is alarming and disturbing given his similar behavior in March, for which he was already suspended eight games,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in the league’s statement. “The potential for other young people to emulate Ja’s behavior is of particular concern. In these circumstances, we believe a 25 game suspension is appropriate and make it clear that engaging in reckless and irresponsible behavior with a weapon will not be tolerated.”

But the questions remain. Why 25 games? Where will Morant spend his offseason and his time away? How will the Grizzlies cover for his absence?

Here’s everything you need to know about the suspension, from how the NBA determined its severity to how it affects both Morant and the Grizzlies heading into free agency. NBA insiders Bobby Marks, Kevin Pelton, Tim MacMahon and Brian Windhorst provide the latest:

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Why did the league choose 25 games?

This punishment fits with where the league placed itself after Miles Bridges’ suspension in April. Bridges was suspended for 30 games, 20 of which were deemed to be served in the 2022–23 season, for pleading no contest to a domestic violence charge. Silver says Morant’s actions were a safety issue, not a legal one, which was the case for Bridges.

The league takes the position that Morant’s actions were reckless and portrayed him and the NBA in a negative light, but that the incident did not rise to the level of Bridges’ assault. Morant’s suspension ranks as the second-longest handed down during Silver’s 10-season tenure behind Bridges, tied with five players who were suspended for 25 games for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The NBPA believes from its perspective that the suspension is inconsistent with previous precedent. “As for the discipline imposed, which keeps him off the field until December and requires certain unspecified conditions to be met before he can return, we believe it is excessive and inappropriate for a number of reasons, including the facts involved in this particular incident and that it is not fair and consistent with past discipline in our league,” CEO Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement. “Together with Ja, we will explore all options and next steps.”

What precedent, if any, exists for this type of suspension?

Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton were both suspended for the rest of the season in January 2010 after an incident involving weapons in the Washington Wizards locker room. Arenas’ suspension (50 games) was technically longer than Crittenton’s (38) because Arenas had been suspended for 12 games before then-NBA commissioner David Stern made his official decision. In Morant’s case, the guns were not on team property, but this was a second offense after the March incident.

What rules did Morant break? And is there a complaint?

The NBA has broad powers if it believes player conduct is detrimental to the league. “When we have a standard for harmful behavior, it’s ultimately one that’s based on what we see as the values ​​of this league and what our expectations of our players are in relation to the image we portray to our fans .” Silver said before Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals. “So it’s not a legal standard. It’s a private organization standard.” As part of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, Morant has 30 days to file a grievance. An arbitrator will then decide whether the suspension applies or is reduced.

What must Morant do to bounce back?

Morant briefly checked into a counseling program in Florida after the incident in March, and he said he learned to deal with stress better. Silver has made it clear that the league will help approve the new counseling Morant will receive. “Prior to his return to play, he 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 said in Friday’s league statement.

What contact, if any, will the Grizzlies players, coaches and front office have with Morant during his suspension?

According to league officials, the exact terms of Morant’s participation in non-public team activities have not been decided. He will not be allowed to participate in public activities or play in preseason games. But in the past, players serving long suspensions were allowed to use team facilities for treatment and training, and that will likely be the case here. According to the general conditions of a suspension, the only restriction is that the player cannot be in the arena starting two hours before a match.

Where does Morant spend his free time? Do we expect him to be there during the suspension?

Morant previously spent the majority of his free time at his home in suburban Memphis. The Grizzlies and the league office will likely have some input on where he spends this summer and this suspension. In his statement released Friday, Morant said, “I am using the offseason and my suspension to continue to work on my own mental health and decision-making. I will also train so that I am ready to go when I can be back on the track.”

How does this affect Morant’s 2023-24 contract and salary?

The economic consequences are seismic. Unlike the previous suspension, which cost Morant $83,583 per game and a total of nearly $669,000, the current suspension rises to $304,545 per game and a total of more than $7.6 million. There are two reasons for the significant increase. The first is that because the suspension is for 20 games or more, the amount per game 1/110 of his salary for 2023-24. The eight-game ban during the season cost Morant just 1/145 of his 2022-23 salary per game. And second, Morant is set to enter Year 1 of a $194 million rookie max extension he signed last July. His salary jumps from $12.1 million to $33.5 million.

But the practical costs of these suspensions are far greater. Morant failed to be voted to the All-NBA team this past season and therefore lost out on a $39 million contract bonus that would have made the five-year deal worth more than $230 million. Had Morant not been suspended, he was on a likely track to make the team he had the season before.

And it is impossible to calculate lost revenue out of court as a result of the damage to his reputation. Two of Morant’s biggest partners are Powerade and Nike. Powerade pulled its ads in March, while Nike stands by him for now. “We are pleased that Ja is taking responsibility and prioritizing his well-being,” Nike said Friday in a statement. “We will continue to support him on and off the pitch.” But Morant has essentially forfeited nearly $50 million in salary from those incidents already and will also be out for All-NBA honors next year.

What are the salary cap/luxury tax implications of the suspension for the Grizzlies?

The Grizzlies will receive luxury tax and roster exemption, and 50% of the suspended amount will be credited to the Grizzlies’ luxury tax – but at the end of the season. Memphis will also receive an additional roster spot with the Morant suspension. Any player suspended by the NBA for six or more games will be transferred to the team’s suspended list after the fifth game of his suspension.

With the start of the new league year on July 1, how could the suspension affect the Grizzlies’ free agency plans?

The Grizzlies have backup Tyus Jones on the roster as a replacement with Morant out. Where the suspension could hurt is that the Grizzlies have an obvious need at small forward with Dillon Brooks set to enter free agency and his return unlikely. With Morant suspended, is a trade asset like Jones now off the table? In addition to making a trade, Memphis has a $12.2 million non-tax mid-level exception and three picks in Thursday’s draft (8 p.m. ET, ESPN and the ESPN app), including a first-rounder.

How does the suspension affect Memphis’ prospects in 2023-24? Who will replace Morant in the lineup?

Morant’s suspension hurts the Grizzlies’ projection in the West, but Memphis will still have a quality starting point. The Grizzlies often refer to Jones as the best backup point guard in the league, and he has proven to be more than capable of filling a starting role.

In 22 starts last season, Jones averaged 16.4 points, 8.1 assists, 1.8 steals and just 1.5 turnovers while shooting 50% from the floor and 41.5% from 3-point range. The question is how Memphis will handle backup point guard minutes in Morant’s absence, whether it counts on starting shooting guard Desmond Bane to handle those duties or finds another option in the draft or free agency.

How have the Grizzlies performed with Morant out?

Exceptionally good. The Grizzlies are 34-15 in games started by Jones over the past two seasons, including the playoffs. Morant is a ceiling-raising superstar in Memphis, but the Grizzlies have been more solid defensively and had better ball movement with Jones in the starting lineup.

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