There was already a litany of concerns. Ja Morant is being sued after allegedly punching a 17-year-old boy more than a dozen times and flashing a gun at him over the summer (accusations he has denied). Days before that incident, Morant and his friends got into it with security at a Memphis area shopping mall. During this season, Morant and friends were involved in a controversy with a member of the Pacers’ traveling party. After every incident and report, the people close to Morant — the Grizzlies organization, his teammates, his agent — defended him.
Then came the latest incident — Morant apparently flashing a gun on Instagram Live while at a club Friday night/Saturday morning — which has led to the team announcing the All-Star point guard will be “away from the team for at least two games.”
Statement from the Memphis Grizzlies pic.twitter.com/CLB2TG5nnI
— Grizzlies PR (@GrizzliesPR) March 4, 2023
While the Grizzlies are not calling it a suspension, it is one in practice. Morant will be out for the Grizzlies’ road games Sunday against the Clippers and Tuesday against the Lakers.
Morant released this statement through his agent:
“I take full responsibility for my actions last night. I’m sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire organization for letting you down. 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.”
Earlier in the day, NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement: “We are aware of a social media post involving Ja Morant and are investigating.” Morant has not been charged with any crime.
The discipline from the team — and reaction from the league and on social media — stems from a late night/early morning Instagram Live from Morant where he appears to flash a gun.
Grizzlies star Ja Morant was allegedly seen showing off a gun on his IG Live this morning.pic.twitter.com/HlhvoWlnYy
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) March 4, 2023
Morant’s Instagram and Twitter accounts have been deactivated.
There have been concerns within the Grizzlies about Morant’s off-court choices, league sources told NBC Sports, and this step by the team to discipline Morant appears to be an extension of earlier efforts to talk about him with that. Things moved beyond the “mentoring” stage.
On the court, Morant is one of the most dynamic and entertaining players in the league, and has played at an All-Star — maybe All-NBA — level in leading the Grizzlies to the No. 2 seed in the West. Morant is averaging 27.1 points and 8.2 assists a game this season and the team has been 6.6 points per 100 possessions better when Morant is on the court. His dynamic play and unwavering confidence has led to a Nike signature shoe (dropping in April) and a major sponsorship with Powerade (a new commercial featuring Morant will be everywhere during the NCAA Tournament). There is a financial risk for him with the accumulation of incidents.
The Grizzlies have gone 4-5 in the games Morant has missed this season.