Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies warms up before play against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena on April 28, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. AFP PHOTO
LOS ANGELES: Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant was suspended for 25 games by the NBA on Friday after being caught waving a gun in a social media video for the second time this year.
Morant, one of the brightest young stars in the NBA, had already served an eight-game suspension in March after another video in which he flashed a firearm in a nightclub.
In a statement, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Morant’s latest suspension would send a message that the league will crack down on “reckless behavior” with firearms.
“Ja Morant’s decision to once again wield a firearm on social media is alarming and disconcerting given his similar conduct in March for which he was already suspended eight games,” Silver said.
“The potential for other young people to emulate Ja’s conduct is particularly concerning. Under these circumstances, we believe a suspension of 25 games is appropriate and makes clear that engaging in reckless and irresponsible behavior with guns will not be tolerated.”
“I’ve had time to reflect and realize how much hurt I’ve caused,” said Morant, who was suspended from team activities by the Grizzlies last month following the emergence of the latest gun video.
“I want to apologize to the NBA, the Grizzlies, my teammates and the city of Memphis. I’m spending the off-season and my suspension continuing to work on my own mental health and decision making.
“I hope you’ll give me the chance to prove to you over time I’m a better man than what I’ve been showing.”
In a separate statement, the Grizzlies accepted Morant’s suspension.
“We respect the league’s decision to suspend Ja Morant following this latest episode,” Memphis said.
“Our standards as a league and team are clear, and we expect that all team personnel will adhere to them.”
However, the National Basketball Players Association, the league’s players union, hit out at the severity of Morant’s suspension, branding it “excessive and inappropriate.”
“It is not fair consistent with past discipline in our league,” NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement, noting that Morant had “expressed remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions.”
“We will explore with Ja all options and next steps,” Tremaglio added.
Friday’s suspension is just the latest stop on what has been a turbulent year for Morant, widely regarded as one of the most gifted young players in the NBA.
The 23-year-old is also being sued by a high school student who accused Morant of punching him during a pickup basketball game at the star’s home in July of 2022.
No charges were brought in that incident, in which the player’s agent said he was acting in self defense.
Morant was also in the headlines in February when the NBA investigated allegations by the Indiana Pacers that the player’s entourage “aggressively confronted” members of their traveling party, possibly pointing a red laser at them, after a game in Memphis.
Silver said on Friday that “basketball needs to take a back seat” for Morant for the time being.
“Prior to his 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,” Silver said.
Morant’s suspension means he will be unlikely to challenge for any individual end-of-season honors in 2024.
Under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, a player must appear in at least 65 of the regular season’s 82 games in order to be eligible for awards such as Most Valuable Player.
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