Memphis Grizzlies fans will be disappointed at the news that All-Star point guard Ja Morant’s 25-game suspension will not be shortened at any point, as NBA executive vice president and head of basketball operations Joe Dumars told The Athletic on Wednesday.
Morant’s suspension is a result of him being filmed on two separate occasions displaying a gun, first in an Instagram Live video from inside a Denver-area nightclub in March, which cost him eight games, and then again from inside a vehicle in May, which led to the 25-game suspension that will be enforced at the start of the 2023-24 season.
When the 25-game suspension was handed down, NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio opposed the ruling in a statement, calling it “excessive and inappropriate for a number of reasons, including the facts involved in this particular incident,” continuing that the suspension is “not fair and consistent with past discipline in our league. We will explore with Ja all options and next steps.”
The NBPA presumably did explore options, and the league has not backed off. From The Athletic’s report on Wednesday:
“Here’s a 24-year-old kid, (and) he’s figuring it out as he goes, as a young man in the league,” Dumars said, via The Athletic. “Incredible talent. And early on in his career, a lot has come his way. I personally think the worst thing you can do is completely ostracize this kid from everything with his team.”
“… The league and the Players Association and Ja and his people are in constant communication with this, and are all working together on this. From a league office standpoint, with the Players Association, with Ja and his people, everybody is collaborating together on this to make sure that this kid makes a smooth transition back to the league — whenever that is. This is not the type of stuff you can (discuss) publicly and start talking about what’s happening behind the scenes, but it is happening.”
“… So the 25 games are the 25 games. But I think for this 24-year-old kid to continue to grow, he needs to continue to practice every day with his team and be around his team and team meetings. And all of that stuff, I think, really helps a young guy’s growth. He needs to be in that environment. I would hate for him to just have to go to some gym somewhere because we didn’t allow him to practice, just to try to stay in shape, but he’s completely isolated from everyone else. I don’t think that would be, and I don’t think the league thinks, that that would be an optimal option to give to a 24-year-old kid who’s figuring it out as he goes.”
Back in May, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the following in a league statement: “Prior to [Morant’s] 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.”
What, exactly, that program entails in terms of conditions remains unstated, and Dumars would not reveal the details on Wednesday. But clearly Morant, his representatives, the NBPA and the Grizzlies are aware of these return-to-play conditions, and as long as Morant satisfies them, the suspension is not expected to extend beyond 25 games, which would make him eligible to return on December 19 at New Orleans.