Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant’s suspension will not be shortened at any point, NBA officials said, but his mandated absence is not expected to be any longer than 25 games — which means he will likely return to the court by Christmas.
Morant was issued a 25-game suspension in mid-June for posing with a gun in a livestream video on Instagram in May. Barring any sort of off-court setback, a league official, who asked not to be quoted while providing background information, said the suspension isn’t expected to be any longer. Morant’s expected return, then, would be on Dec. 23 at Atlanta.
At the time of the suspension, the National Basketball Players Association expressed frustration with the vagueness of some aspects of the ruling. Specifically, it was the league’s decision that Morant would have to “meet certain conditions before he returns to play” that was highlighted by NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio.
When asked if Morant’s return-to-play protocol had since been clarified, and to share what the 24-year-old was doing to satisfy the league’s requirements, Joe Dumars, executive vice president of basketball operations for the NBA, declined to discuss details but indicated that the process was going well so far.
“The league and the Players Association and Ja and his people are in constant communication with this, and are all working together on this,” Dumars said. “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.”
While the league’s ruling indicated that Morant was “ineligible to participate in any public league or team activities, including preseason games, during the course of his suspension,” he has been practicing and traveling with the Grizzlies. As Dumars discussed, he believes that it’s important for Morant to be able to spend time with his team while he serves the suspension.
“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. “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.
“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.”
(Photo: Joe Murphy / NBAE via Getty Images)