In an interview with ESPN’s Jalen Rose (partial video link), Grizzlies guard Ja Morant expressed contrition for flashing a gun at a Denver-area strip club, which led to him being suspended for eight games without pay. When asked who the gun belonged to, Morant simply replied “the gun wasn’t mine.”
“It’s not who I am,” Morant said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I don’t condone it or any type of violence, but I take full responsibility from my actions. I made a bad mistake. I can see the image that I painted over myself with my recent mistakes. But in the future, I’m going to show everybody who Ja really is, what I’m about and change this narrative that everybody got.”
“The majority of the things that’s happened in the past, obviously, I kind of put myself into by even being there,” Morant said. “But all the incidents you’ve seen recently, most of them is a lie. I can’t speak too much on those situations because all of ’em are sealed. I really can’t wait to be able to finally tell the truth. But what I can say is, like I said before, none of those are my character. I’m a big family guy. I always care for my family. So it was just me checking on my family’s safety. Once my family is safe, I left the scene.”
Morant acknowledged that he and his inner circle have made some “bad decisions” recently, and says his time away — which included entering a counseling program — helped him reflect on those mistakes, according to MacMahon.
“Honestly, I feel like we put ourselves in that situation with our past mistakes, and now it’s only right that we focus in and lock in on being smarter and more responsible, holding each other accountable for everything,” Morant said. “I feel like in the past we didn’t know what was at stake. And now finally me having that time to realize everything, have that time alone, I realize that now.
“I realize what I have to lose, and for us as a group, what we have to lose. It’s pretty much just that being more responsible, more smarter and staying away from all the bad decisions.”
As MacMahon writes, the fourth-year guard says he’s in a better mental space now and has learned how to “manage stress in a positive way.” Morant technically could play in Monday’s game, which is when the retroactive suspension will lift, but he will require a short ramp-up period to get back in shape before he returns to action.
“I also put my team in a tough position with me not being able to be out there on the floor for decisions I’ve made,” Morant said. “I regret all that. I can’t wait to be back out there on the floor now, knowing what my punishment is. I accept that, and I feel like I deserve that punishment for my mistakes and what I did. But when I get back out there, I’m going to be ready to go and ready to push for a ring.”