On Wednesday, Mar. 15, the NBA announced that Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant will be suspended for eight games without pay for “conduct detrimental to the league.” The 23-year-old has been away from his team for the past six games after an incident that followed an away game against the Denver Nuggets.
On an Instagram live video, the Grizzlies poster boy was holding a gun in what appeared to be a nightclub in Denver. The live video came days after police reports surfaced about Morant assaulting a mall security guard, jumping a teenager, and flashing a gun at him in his home in Memphis over the summer.
Morant released a statement the following day. “I’m sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis, and the entire Grizzlies’ organization for letting you down,” the statement read. “I’m going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.” Morant has since deactivated his Instagram and Twitter accounts.
On Mar. 13, Morant checked into a counseling program in Flordia. Two days later, Morant left the facility and was interviewed by Jalen Rose to address the situation. Morant had a calm demeanor and was apologetic in his approach. “Pretty much trying to be free,” Morant said when asked about his thought process while filming the live video. “I used that as an escape which I shouldn’t have,” Morant added. He alluded to this pursuit of freedom as the catalyst for his poor decision-making in the past but said these mistakes do not define who he is.
Morant said that the gun he held in the video was not his. He went on to say that he does not condone violence but takes full responsibility for his actions. “I’m in a space where I’m very comfortable,” Morant said. “I took those days to be able to learn how to pretty much be there for myself and learn different ways to manage stress in a positive way.”
The sincerity of Morant’s apology is not in question. However, media members unanimously agree that two days of counseling did not solve his problems.
“It would have been better if Ja Morant came out like ‘I still got a lot of issues, it’s a work in progress’,” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said on First Take. Smith added that people would give Morant more grace if he addressed how his problems did not go away in ten days. “Trying to give us the impression ‘problem solved’, is a different animal.”
FS1’s Shannon Sharpe emphasized the degree of Morant’s mistake in the spirit of pretending to be something he is not. “He was willing to throw it all away for someone else,” Sharpe said about the gun in the video not belonging to Morant. “He wanted to portray that he was hood, that he was a thug, that ain’t you.”
Sharpe, who was involved in an altercation with the Grizzlies in February pointed out Morant’s frequent use of gun gestures during games. “The real people that do that, you never know they’re about that life,” Sharpe said. “I just don’t get why he was trying to impress somebody, you’re Ja. Does he not realize that being Ja Morant is impressive enough?”
“I assume that he did check in because they said he did,” Sharpe’s co-host Skip Bayless said. “And he lasted a few days? It doesn’t work that way.”
“I’m happy he went and got the psychiatric help he needed, and I hope ongoing, he continues. But that didn’t do it,” Bayless added.
Aside from being in good mental and physical shape when he returns, Sharpe and Bayless discussed how Morant also needed to fix his inner circle and how that was part of the problem.
Morant is eligible to return to the court on Mar. 20 against the Dallas Mavericks. The Grizzlies have gone 5-4 in his absence and have held down their third place in the Western Conference.