Ja Morant Suspended For 25 Games

The NBA has suspended Grizzlies guard Ja Morant for 25 games, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Morant, who will serve the suspension at the start of the 2023/24 season, will have to meet certain conditions to return to action, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The league has put out a formal statement officially confirming Charania’s and Wojnarowski’s reporting.

Morant’s suspension stems from an Instagram Live video that went viral last month. The Grizzlies star wielded a gun in that video, less than two-and-a-half months after he was suspended for eight games when a video showed him waving a gun around at a Colorado strip club.

Memphis suspended Morant indefinitely after his latest off-court incident while the NBA investigated the video and weighed its response. Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters at the start of the Finals on June 1 that the league would wait until after the season ended to make an announcement on the results of its investigation.

In its press release on Friday, the NBA said that Morant “intentionally and prominently” displayed a gun in the May 13 social media video, “knowing that he was being recorded and that the recording was being live streamed on Instagram Live.”

A significant factor in the decision to suspend the 23-year-old for 25 games is the fact that he “made commitments to the NBA and (in) public statements that he would not repeat the conduct for which he was previously disciplined,” per the league.

“Ja Morant’s decision to once again wield a firearm on social media is alarming and disconcerting given his similar conduct in March for which he was already suspended eight games,” Silver said in a statement. “The potential for other young people to emulate Ja’s conduct is particularly concerning. Under these circumstances, we believe a suspension of 25 games is appropriate and makes clear that engaging in reckless and irresponsible behavior with guns will not be tolerated.

“For Ja, basketball needs to take a back seat at this time. 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.”

Morant and the Grizzlies each released official responses to the NBA’s announcement.

The team’s press release is brief: “We respect the league’s decision to suspend Ja Morant following this latest episode. Our standards as a league and team are clear, and we expect that all team personnel will adhere to them.”

In a lengthier statement, Morant expressed remorse for his behavior and vowed to be better going forward, per Wojnarowski (Twitter link):

“I’ve had time to reflect and I realize how much hurt I’ve caused. I want to apologize to the NBA, the Grizzlies, my teammates and the city of Memphis. To Adam Silver, (Grizzlies executive) Zach Kleiman and (Grizzlies owner) Robert Pera – who gave me the opportunity to be a professional athlete and have supported me – I’m sorry for the harm I’ve done. To the kids who look up to me, I’m sorry for failing you as a role model. I promise I’m going to be better. To all my sponsors, I’m going to be a better representation of our brands. And to all of my fans, I’m going to make it up to you, I promise.

“I’m spending the offseason and my suspension continuing to work on my own mental health and decision making. I’m also going to be training so that I’m ready to go when I can be back on the court. I know my teammates are going to hold 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 I’m a better man than what I’ve been showing you.”

Prior to these gun-related videos in March and April, Morant was involved in a series of troubling off-court incidents. He punched a 17-year-old during a pickup game last summer, was accused of threatening a security guard at a Memphis mall, and was reportedly involved in a confrontation with members of the Pacers’ traveling party after a January game.

Although law enforcement looked into some of those allegations, Morant hasn’t faced any criminal charges. Still, the NBA has significant latitude to fine or suspend its players for conduct it deems detrimental to the league. Silver spoke earlier this month about the NBA’s focus being on “gun safety” rather than whether any local laws are being broken.

Morant was his usual productive self for the Grizzlies on the court in 2022/23, averaging 26.2 points, 8.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game in 61 regular season contests (31.9 MPG). For the first 25 games of next season, Memphis will likely turn to Tyus Jones as its starting point guard; the team also figures to seek additional depth at the position this summer.

Morant’s five-year, maximum-salary contract extension with the team will go into effect in ’23/24 and is projected to be worth $33.5MM in year one.

The two-time All-Star will lose 1/110th of his 2023/24 salary for each game of his suspension. That works out to $7,613,636 in forfeited salary if next season’s salary cap comes in at $134MM as projected.

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