Commentary: Ja Morant suspended following gun incident

Ja Morant Suspended for 25 games for the 2023-24 NBA season.
Memphis Grizzlies Superstar Ja Morant donning the black face mask in his return against the Houston Rockets on March 22, 2023. (Photo/AP)

It has been a tumultuous few weeks for Memphis Grizzlies superstar guard Ja Morant. Many believe that the following events will be the catalyst for Morant’s ‘villain’ story arc within the league.

The NBA handed Morant an eight-game suspension for “conduct detrimental to the league” earlier this month. Prior to the league’s action, Morant missed six games, though the NBA noted that the missed games will count towards his sentence. The Memphis Grizzlies high-flyer was eligible to suit up for the team as early as March 20 in their match against the Dallas Mavericks.

Many believe Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins could shut down Morant for the remainder of the regular season.

One week prior to the suspension, after a March 3 match against the Nuggets, Morant and his entourage visited Shotgun Willies, a gentleman’s club outside of Denver.

At approximately 5:20 the next morning, Morant logged on to Instagram Live from inside a private room of the strip club. Viewers were immediately greeted by a gun-wielding Morant surrounded by hundreds of thousands of dollars on the ballroom floor.

A few days following the incident, a photo of Morant during the strip club incident was leaked to the Internet, showing a semi-nude Morant surrounded by scantily clad dancers and dollar bills. Shortly thereafter, the Glendale Police Department released a statement saying Morant would not be charged due to the lack of evidence.

However, the NBA suspended Morant for eight games. Morant couldn’t have chosen a more critical time to be involved with such controversy.

The Memphis Grizzlies are currently a Top Seed in the NBA Western Conference, and statistically are likely to finish with the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the conference.

However, it is worth noting that Tyus Jones, backup guard for the Grizzlies, is regarded as one of the best point guards to come off the bench. Considering a 53-game sample size between the 2021 and 2023 NBA seasons, Jones carried the Grizzlies to 32 wins. Over the course of those two seasons, Jones averaged 13.1 points, 6.8 assists, and 3.8 rebounds.

There is no other backup guard in the league with a better record.

Theoretically, the Grizzlies do not ‘need’ Morant. However, they could utilize the high-flying guard.

On the surface, Morant is having the best season of his budding career. He is currently averaging 27.1 points, six rebounds, and eight assists per game on 55.5% true shooting.

Currently, he is ranked ninth in points per game, despite missing a multitude of games.
Morant currently has a four-year, $39.6 million contract with every dollar guaranteed.

But according to Sportstrac, the high-flying point guard signed a max rookie extension on July 1, 2022, on a five-year, $193 million contract with nearly every dollar guaranteed. If Morant makes the All-NBA team this season, which is still a likely feat, then the total value of his current contract will increase by 30 percent.

By 2028, many believe that Morant will ink a veteran supermax deal worth nearly $300 million.

In a statement released by Morant, the superstar declared, “I take full responsibility for my actions (on March 4.) I’m sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire Grizzlies 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.”

Following the statement, Morant received firearm counseling from a rehabilitation facility in Florida.

The future is extremely bright for Ja Morant. But the only person who can get in the way of Ja Morant may just be Ja Morant.

Contact multimedia staff writer Noral Parham III at 317-762-7846. Follow him on Twitter @noralparham