Ja Morant

Southwest Notes: Morant, Brooks, Murray, Pelicans, Rockets

Tonight marks the final game of Ja Morant‘s suspension, but coach Taylor Jenkins confirmed that Morant is unlikely to play on Monday when the Grizzlies host the Mavericks, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Monday will be Morant’s first day back at the team facility after being out of action since March 3, and Jenkins said his All-Star guard will need some time to get ready.

“It’s a good chance he’s probably out for the Monday game because it’s going to be his first day back with the team,” Jenkins said. “Our anticipation is he’s at least out Monday, and then we’ll cross the bridge for Wednesday as we get a little bit closer.”

The Grizzlies will host the Rockets on Wednesday and Friday, and although Morant is likely to play in at least one of those games, Cole states that the team hasn’t reached a final decision. He adds that Morant’s minutes will be monitored whenever he returns.

“From a basketball standpoint, we know this guy and how he is wired,” Jenkins said. “I know he’s putting in work, staying ready, and he’s going to be chomping at the bit to get out there with his teammates on Monday and Tuesday, and we’ll see what Wednesday holds.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Grizzlies are talking to league officials about rescinding Dillon Brooks‘ most recent technical foul, his 17th this season, Cole tweets. Jenkins said Brooks was walking away from a confrontation when the technical was assessed. Brooks was already suspended for one game when he reached 16 technicals this season and would face an additional one-game suspension for every two techs he accumulates the rest of the way.
  • Dejounte Murray isn’t sure what kind of reception to expect Sunday in his first game back in San Antonio since the Spurs traded him to the Hawks, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Some fans are upset about statements and social media posts from Murray regarding his time in the city. “At the end of the day, I love this city, I love the San Antonio Spurs organization, the Austin Spurs, I love everything about it,” Murray said Saturday. “However it goes (Sunday) is however it goes. But I am excited to see the people I love and care about.”
  • The Pelicans‘ decision to let Zion Williamson run the offense has resulted in a lot of inefficiency when he’s not available, states Christian Clark of NOLA. New Orleans has the fourth-worst record in the league since Williamson was lost with a hamstring injury in early January and is 26th in points per 100 possessions over that span.
  • The Rockets will likely be aggressive in trying to trade down in the draft if their first-round pick doesn’t land in the top three in the lottery, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Expectations, JJJ, Bane

All-Star Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant is serving out the rest of his eight-game NBA suspension, due to a number of concerning offcourt issues, and could make his return to action as soon as this Monday.

Following a meeting with league commissioner Adam Silver, Morant sat down for an interview with ESPN’s Jalen Rose, in which he apologized and took accountability for his recent behavior.

These incidents away from the hardwood could have a major financial impact on what he’ll earn from his work on it. In a new piece, Keith Smith of Spotrac details how not qualifying for an All-NBA team this season would adversely affect the five-year, maximum-salary contract extension Morant signed last summer.

Language in the deal would enable Morant to earn more money with Memphis if he made an All-NBA team. Morant currently stands to make 25% of the NBA’s anticipated $134MM salary cap next season when the new extension begins. Were he to be named to an All-NBA team this year, his starting salary would begin at 30% of the cap.

Morant had a solid case for an All-NBA spot prior to his current suspension, but that case will be adversely affected by his extended absence.

There’s more out of Memphis:

  • The Grizzlies are not quite sure how Morant’s impending return to the floor will impact the team, writes Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Mannix notes that Morant was performing at an All-NBA level, and wonders if his extended time away will negatively affect his play in the short term.
  • While Morant has been away from the team, the pressure on the team’s other 2023 All-Star, power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., to produce offensively has increased, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He always shows flashes, and that’s been the thing with him,” backup point guard Tyus Jones said. “Consistency. He’s very capable of doing that. We need that from him, and he wants it. That’s the most important thing. He wants to continue to improve, he wants to dominate, he wants to be great. That’s all you can ask for.”
  • Grizzlies shooting guard Desmond Bane was ejected last night from a game against the Heat, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link). Bane was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul for colliding with the groin of Heat power forward Kevin Love during a play (ESPN video link).

Ja Morant: “I Take Full Responsibility…I Made A Bad Mistake”

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.”

Regarding the other troubling off-court incidents that he’s reportedly been involved in over the past several months, Morant discussed them in vague terms.

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.”

Ja Morant Meets With Adam Silver, Receives Suspension

2:02pm: The NBA has suspended Morant for eight games without pay, the league announced today in a press release (Twitter link). However, that suspension will be retroactive to March 5, the first game he missed, so he’ll be eligible to return to action this coming Monday (March 20).

According to the NBA’s announcement, its investigation did not determine that the gun Morant brandished in the Instagram Live video belonged to him or that he brought it to the night club. The investigation also didn’t find that Morant possessed the gun while traveling with the Grizzlies or at any NBA facility.

“Ja’s conduct was irresponsible, reckless, and potentially very dangerous,” Silver said in a statement. “It also has serious consequences given his enormous following and influence, particularly among young fans who look up to him.

“He has expressed sincere contrition and remorse for this behavior. Ja has also made it clear to me that he has learned from this incident and that he understands his obligations and responsibility to the Memphis Grizzlies and the broader NBA community extend well beyond his play on the court.”

After being away from the Grizzlies for multiple weeks, Morant may not suit up on Monday immediately upon rejoining the team, but the expectation it that his return will occur not long after that, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian.

Morant’s eight missed games will cost him nearly $669K in salary, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. His base salary for this season had been approximately $12.1MM.

1:54pm: Grizzlies star Ja Morant met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver in New York on Wednesday, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

While Wojnarowski doesn’t offer any details on what was discussed during that meeting, he says Morant has left his counseling program in Florida and is moving closer to preparing for a return to the court. However, the All-Star guard will have to wait until the NBA announces the results of its investigation into his Instagram Live video from a Denver-area strip club, which is expected to happen soon, per Wojnarowski.

The NBA opened a probe into Morant after he posted a video in which he flashed a gun at a strip club. It was the latest in a series of troubling off-court incidents allegedly involving the 23-year-old, who 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.

After the league announced it was looking into the latest incident involving Morant, the Grizzlies said that he would be away from the team for two games, then four more. He’ll miss his sixth game on Wednesday night when Memphis visits the Heat in Miami and it sounds like his status beyond that will be determined in large part by the outcome of the NBA’s investigation.

Police also investigated the strip club video and didn’t find enough evidence to bring any charges against Morant, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the league will close its own probe without disciplining the Grizzlies guard.

The NBA has a good deal of latitude to fine or suspend players for conduct detrimental to the league’s best interests. The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement also includes language specifically related to firearms, so if there’s evidence that Morant had a gun on him when traveling with the team or when at a team facility, that could result in a more punitive penalty.

Still, based on the tone of Wojnarowski’s latest report, it doesn’t sound like the league is preparing to drop the hammer on Morant.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies’ star:

  • While news of Morant entering a counseling program didn’t break until this Monday, he took that step earlier in the month, shortly after announcing that he would be away from the team, sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
  • While he was in Florida undergoing counseling, Morant was communicating with his Memphis teammates via text and FaceTime video, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Vardon adds that Morant was accompanied to that “retreat-like setting” in Florida by a Grizzlies security officer.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Vardon spoke to a handful of Grizzlies players about their conversations with Morant and noted that they seemed to be operating under the belief that the star guard would rejoin the club, possibly very soon. Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks said Morant has “made strides” and is “ready to come back.”

Ja Morant Enters Counseling Program, Still Out Indefinitely

Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant has entered a counseling program in Florida and there remains no timetable for his return to the court, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon report (Twitter link).

Morant has already missed five games. He took a leave of absence following an incident in which he flashed a gun on an Instagram Live video while at a Denver-area strip club. Police in Glendale, Colorado said last week that Morant wouldn’t be charged with a crime for his actions at the club.

However, Morant has allegedly been involved in a number of troubling off-court incidents, convincing him to seek help.

Prior to Memphis’ game on Monday against Dallas, coach Taylor Jenkins was asked about Morant’s potential return date. He did not provide any specifics, MacMahon tweets.

“There are a lot of internal dialogues going on and obviously there’s still things going on at the league level that we’re in communication with,” Jenkins said. “Ja’s fully engaged in this process and ready for whatever comes next after these two games.”

Southwest Notes: Morant, Roddy, Wood, H. Jones

In addition to the off-court incidents allegedly involving Ja Morant that have been previously reported, the Grizzlies guard was also investigated by police in September for an incident at Houston High School in Tennessee, according to a TMZ report.

As TMZ details, police said that Morant’s sister – a student at Houston H.S. – got into a verbal argument with another student following a volleyball game and called Ja, who allegedly showed up at the gym a short time later with his parents, his baby daughter, and a “group” of adult males.

While the incident didn’t escalate much further, the mother of the student who was initially involved in the altercation with Morant’s sister wanted to press charges for threats and intimidation, according to TMZ, whose report says police investigated and decline to file any charges. Police later told the Grizzlies’ head of security to give a “verbal trespass warning to all parties” at the request of the school’s principal, per TMZ.

Morant has missed the Grizzlies’ last four games while he takes a leave of absence following an incident in which he flashed a gun on an Instagram Live video while at a Denver-area strip club. He’ll remain away from the team for at least two more contests.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Grizzlies rookie David Roddy had the best game of his young NBA career in a victory over Dallas on Saturday, scoring 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting in 23 minutes. As Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes, Roddy has been hard on himself during the ups and downs of his first professional season, so his teammates were thrilled to see him break through. “He holds himself to a high standard, and that’s why he’ll be in the league for a long time,” Tyus Jones said.
  • Mavericks big man Christian Wood was averaging more than 38 minutes per night in his last five games as a starter before fracturing his thumb in January, but has come off the bench in each of his 13 contests since returning and has averaged fewer than 20 minutes in those games. On Saturday, head coach Jason Kidd cited the team’s frontcourt depth as the reason for Wood’s modest role (Twitter video link via Bally Sports), an explanation that Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link) has trouble buying.
  • In just his second NBA season, Herbert Jones has emerged as a team leader and a key part of the Pelicans‘ identity, but he’ll need to become more reliable as a shooter to establish himself as more than just a defensive specialist, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. Jones’ shooting numbers have slipped to .444/.291/.748 in 2022/23.

Southwest Notes: Cauley-Stein, Smith, Wembanyama, Morant

Veteran center Willie Cauley-Stein‘s 10-day deal with the Rockets has expired, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Feigen adds that Houston does not have any players on the docket to fill his roster spot immediately.

Given that the Rockets are now carrying just 13 players on standard contracts, one below the NBA’s required minimum, they’ll have two weeks to add a 14th player. As Feigen notes, Cauley-Stein did not play while with Houston.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr. has struggled in an uneven first pro season, Feigen writes in a separate article. Selected with the third pick in 2022 out of Auburn, the 6’10” power forward has exhibited enticing defensive flashes, but has struggled offensively, Feigen notes.
  • The rebuilding Spurs‘ current players can’t help but acknowledge the ongoing sweepstakes for the right to draft top 2023 prospect Victor Wembanyama, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “It’s hard not to avoid looking at the bottom,” forward Keita Bates-Diop said. “I don’t like looking at it when I see it.” Veteran San Antonio forward Doug McDermott also weighed in: “I know everyone is probably aware of (the standings). You see it on social media and it’s kind of hard to escape. But it’s not like I’m checking on my phone every night to see where we’re at.”
  • Warriors power forward Draymond Green weighed in on the plight of troubled Grizzlies All-Star point guard Ja Morant on his self-titled podcast. Green opined that Morant could learn from All-Star veterans LeBron James and Stephen Curry, both of whom have been model citizens while operating as the de facto faces of the league. (hat tip to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal for the transcription). “You can’t be the face of the NBA putting the NBA in harm’s way,” Green said. “A team competing at a championship level, No. 2 seed in the West, it’s being thrown away.”

Ja Morant To Miss At Least Four More Games

The Grizzlies have released a statement (via Twitter) announcing that Ja Morant will continue to be away from the team for at least four more games.

In the wake of an Instagram Live video over the weekend showing Morant with a gun at a strip club, the Grizzlies issued a statement on Saturday saying that he wouldn’t be with the team for its next two games. Those games took place Sunday and Tuesday in Los Angeles, with Memphis falling to both the Clippers and Lakers.

On Monday, head coach Taylor Jenkins said the situation should be viewed as “an ongoing healing process” and there’s no timetable in place for Morant to return. Grizzlies players also expressed their support for Morant to get whatever help he needs.

Police in Glendale, Colorado, announced earlier today that Morant won’t be charged with a crime for his actions at the club. A press release cited a lack of available evidence to show that anyone was threatened or menaced, adding that the firearm in the video hasn’t been located.

The Grizzlies’ statement means Morant will miss home games Thursday against the Warriors and Saturday against the Mavericks, along with Monday’s game at Dallas and next Wednesday’s contest at Miami.

Ja Morant Will Not Be Charged With A Crime

The Glendale, Colorado Police Department announced in a press release (via Twitter) that it has concluded its investigation and will not charge Ja Morant with a crime due to a lack of “available evidence.”

GPD was not able to determine that probable cause existed for the filing of any charges. … The investigation also concluded that no one was threatened or menaced with the firearm and in fact no firearm was ever located. Although the video was concerning enough to prompt an investigation, there was not enough available evidence to charge anyone with a crime,” per the statement.

Police were investigating the Grizzlies star for an incident that took place over the weekend in which Morant appeared to waive a gun during an Instagram Live stream at a strip club in Glendale early Saturday morning. It was the latest in a string of incidents that have caused many to question Morant’s off-the-court behavior.

While it’s certainly good news for Morant that he will not be criminally charged, the NBA is still investigating the incident and it has been reported that the league is “concerned” and has been monitoring his actions for months. The 23-year-old apologized after the Grizzlies announced that he would be away from the team for at least two games, which have now been played.

However, head coach Taylor Jenkins said there’s no timetable for Morant to return to the team and it doesn’t sound like he’s planning on having him back tomorrow versus Golden State.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Doncic, Lewis, Pelicans

When the Grizzlies announced over the weekend that Ja Morant would miss games against the Clippers and Lakers, they made it clear that his absence could extend beyond those two contests. Now that Morant has sat out those two games, the timeline for his return is unclear, but it doesn’t sound like head coach Taylor Jenkins is counting on having him back in the starting lineup on Thursday vs. Golden State.

Jenkins said on Tuesday that Morant is “healing and figuring things out” and that his absence is a “day-to-day process,” according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“If everyone expects something to change overnight, we’ve got to be due diligence and respectful on that. We’re talking about Ja being in a better place personally and also professionally,” Jenkins said. “To put a timetable on it, I think, is disrespectful in my opinion. We want to make sure he’s in a great place for himself but as a responsible teammate here.”

Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones, who has replaced Morant in the starting lineup over the last two games, referred to the situation as “unique” and admitted that “no one knows exactly how to handle” it, but said Morant’s teammates are there for him (Twitter link via Mark Medina of NBA.com).

“We just care for our brother,” Jones said. “We want the best for him and hope he’s in a great place physically and mentally. That’s not going to change. Basketball always comes second. Everyone in here is human. We’ll continue to be there for him.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic ranks third in the NBA in technical fouls with 14, meaning he’ll face an automatic one-game suspension if he receives two more techs before the end of the regular season. As Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News writes, Doncic’s high rate of technical fouls – and the possibility of a suspension – is more concerning this year than it was last season due to how tenuous the team’s spot in the playoff race is.
  • Pelicans guard Kira Lewis, who returned from an ACL tear earlier this season, said this week that he feels like his “burst is back,” per Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Lewis still doesn’t have much of a role in New Orleans’ backcourt, but had one of his best nights of the season last Friday, scoring nine points in 10 minutes against Golden State.
  • The Pelicans have lost 17 of their last 22 games, and while their slide in standings is concerning on its own, the way they’re losing games has to be even more troubling for the organization, according to William Guillory of The Athletic, who says the team has often looked “lackadaisical” and “unfocused.” New Orleans entered the new year in January as the No. 2 seed in the West but now finds itself in a three-way tie for the No. 10 spot.