Grizzlies’ Ja Morant was suspended 25 games by the NBA

Tim McMahonESPN staff writerJune 16, 2023, 10:59 a.m. ET6 minute 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.

The NBA is suspended Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant for 25 games to start the 2023-2024 season for conduct prejudicial to the league, it was announced Friday.

The Grizzlies suspended Morant from team activities on May 14 after a video circulated on social media showing the All-Star brandishing a firearm. The NBA suspended Morant for eight games after a similar incident in March when he was seen on Instagram Live holding a gun while intoxicated at a Denver-area club.

“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 a 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.”

The suspension will come with conditions on his return, the league said.

“For Yes, basketball needs to take a back seat at this point,” Silver said in the statement. “Prior to his return to the game, he will be required to formulate and fulfill a program with the league that directly addresses the circumstances that caused him to repeat this destructive behavior.”

Morant will not be eligible to participate in any public league or team activities, including preseason games, during the suspension.

“I have had time to reflect and I realize how much hurt I have caused,” Morant said in a statement released Friday. “I want to apologize to the NBA, the Grizzlies, my teammates and the city of Memphis. To Adam Silver, Zach Kleiman and Robert Pera – who gave me the opportunity to be a professional athlete and have supported me – I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused. To the kids who look up to me, I’m sorry for letting you down as a role model. I promise I’ll be better. To all my sponsors, I’m going to be a better representation of our brands. And to all my fans , I will make it up to you, I promise.

“I’m using the offseason and my suspension to continue to work on my own mental health and decision-making. I’m also going to train so I’m ready to go when I can be back on the field. I know my teammates will keep it down and I’m so sorry I won’t be out there with you at the beginning of the season I hope you’ll give me the chance to prove to you over time that I’m a better man than what I have shown you.”

The NBA’s investigation into the incident has been completed for weeks, but Silver waited until the conclusion of the NBA Finals to announce the suspension because he did not want to distract from the league’s championship streak.

The NBA said Friday that Morant “raised the firearm while knowing he was being recorded … despite making commitments to the NBA and public statements that he would not repeat the conduct for which he was previously disciplined for.”

After the March incident, Morant checked into a counseling facility in Florida — to learn how to better deal with stress, he later said — before traveling to New York City to meet with Silver at the commissioner’s office.

Silver chose to suspend Morant for eight games without pay for conduct prejudicial to the league — a punishment that included six games the point guard had already missed — and issued a stern statement calling Morant’s behavior “irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous.”

“I think he understood it wasn’t about his words,” Silver said during his press conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. “It was supposed to be about his future behavior.

“I think in hindsight, I don’t know. If it had been a 12-game suspension instead of an eight-game suspension, would it have mattered? I know it seemed based on precedent, and he’s represented and we want to be fair to the league, it seemed appropriate at the time. That’s all I can say. Maybe to the extent that we’ve all seen the video that it appears that he have done it again, I guess you could say, maybe not.”

The Instagram Live video that surfaced in May came from Morant’s best friend, Davonte Pack, who has been involved in several of Morant’s off-court incidents that merited investigation by the league office.

Pack was banned from Grizzlies home games for a year following an investigation into a postgame confrontation with the Indiana Pacers’ tour company on Jan. 29, when a red laser was allegedly pointed out of an SUV in which Morant was traveling.

Silver said during his June 1 news conference at the finals that factors he would weigh in determining the suspension included “the history of past actions” as well as “the history of the individual player” and “the seriousness of the conduct.”

Silver also said Morant not being charged with a crime would not prevent the league from doling out more discipline.

The Grizzlies issued a statement Friday saying they respect the league’s decision to suspend Morant.

“Our standards as a league and team are clear,” the Grizzlies said, “and we expect all team personnel to adhere to them.”

Including the postseason, Morant has missed 50 games over the past two seasons. However, the Grizzlies have fared well without their star, posting a 33-17 record in those games — including a 20-5 mark in the 2021-22 regular season that is tied for the best winning percentage by a team in NBA history in games played without a player averaging 25 points per game game or more, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Memphis went 11-10 in games without Morant this past season, including the playoffs.

Morant’s five-year, max $194 million contract is set to begin this coming season. That could have escalated to a supermax if he had made All-NBA this season, which he didn’t, costing him about $39 million in future earnings.

He has endorsement deals with Nike and Powerade, although the sports drink company released an ad featuring him after the March video and it is currently not running.

Morant averaged 26.2 points this season and helped Memphis secure the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, where they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

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