The NBA has finally made its decision regarding Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant. After going on Instagram Live with a gun twice, the league has decided to suspend Morant for 25 games to start the 2023-24 season. This suspension comes as the sixth-longest suspension in league history following OJ Mayo (164 games), Ron Artest (86 games), Latrell Sprewell (68 games), Gilbert Arenas (50 games), and Javaris Crittenton (38). The league suspended Morant eight games in March when he first appeared on Instagram Live with a gun. The Grizzlies guard spent a couple of extra games away from the team, spending 48 hours in counseling before returning to the court. Morant would publicly apologize for his actions and committed to not repeating his actions, only to be seen once again with a gun on Instagram Live in May. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported that Morant will be required to create and fulfill a program with the league, in addition to his suspension, before returning to the court in the 2023-24 season. In addition, Morant will not be able to participate in any public league or team activities.
This suspension has immediate reproductions for both Ja and the Grizzlies. He immediately does not meet the criteria for awards. With the league introducing a 65 games minimum rule in the new CBA, Morant will not be in contention for any individual or all NBA awards. Many believe that Ja’s suspension during the 2022-23 season played a role in Ja missing out on All-NBA, something that directly determined his contract. Because he missed out on all NBA, the super-max trigger in his contract did not kick in, meaning he lost out on $39 M in his extension. Ja’s suspension will also come without pay, meaning that he will lose out on nearly $9 M right away.
For the Grizzlies, there 2023-24 season has immediate questions. Losing Ja, the Grizzlies with be without their superstar point guard for a quarter of the season at minimum. Luckily for the Grizzlies, they have a rather strong team, posting a 37-24 record without Morant in the four seasons he’s been in the league. The team only has two free agents this season with reports noting Memphis will not be re-signing Dillion Brooks under any conditions. With the West getting stronger and the Grizzlies putting up a 51-31 record (2nd in the West) during the 2022-23 season, many are expecting the team to drop in the standings.
Not too long after his suspension was announced, Morant put out a statement apologizing and reflecting on his actions:
“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.”
He would then go on to apologize to Commissioner Adam Silver, the kids who look up to him as a role model, and the sponsors that he has signed with. Morant also noted in his statement that he is taking the offseason and suspension to reflect on his mental health. Many have already criticized Morant’s apology, arguing it could be another fake apology, as many believed his first two statements were.
As for Ja’s future, there is much speculation. Multiple media outlets have made arguments for Ja being traded from the Grizzlies. Former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins argued that Ja Morant would be a fit with the Miami Heat and their well-known “Heat Culture” would be good for the young star. Another argument was made for Ja to be traded for Boston for Jaylen Brown, something that would shake up both teams. A fresh start is something that may be needed for Morant, with those around him being believed to be the reason for his actions off the court. The league’s decision to suspend Morant for 25 games shows that they took his action seriously. Prior to the NBA Finals, Commissioner Adam Silver noted that the final decision would not be politically based, but for Ja’s own safety and responsibility as a part of the NBA. NBA fans can only hope that Ja will take the offseason and suspension to better himself and learn from the mistakes he made.
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