Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant was suspended eight games without pay by the NBA on Wednesday after streaming a video of himself holding a gun while intoxicated at a nightclub.
Morant, speaking to ESPN after his ban was announced, said he feels “mentally good” and added, “I feel like I deserve that punishment for my mistakes and what I did.”
Morant, banned for “conduct detrimental to the league,” missed his sixth game on Wednesday after undergoing counseling and therapy and while he will be eligible to return on Monday when Memphis plays Dallas, Morant said he will need more time to get physically ready to return to the NBA.
“When I get back out there, I’m going to be ready to go and ready to push for a (championship) ring,” Morant said.
The punishment comes after a league investigation into the March 4 incident at a Denver-area club and a meeting on Wednesday between Morant and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
“Ja’s conduct was irresponsible, reckless, and potentially very dangerous,” Silver said. “It also has serious consequences given his enormous following and influence, particularly among young fans who look up to him.
“He has expressed sincere contrition and remorse for his behavior. Ja has also made it clear to me that he has learned from this incident and that he understands his obligations and responsibility to the Memphis Grizzlies and the broader NBA community extend well beyond his play on the court.”
The NBA’s probe did not find the gun involved belonged to Morant, had been brought by him into the nightclub or was displayed by him beyond a brief period.
Morant did not have the gun while traveling with the team or in any NBA facility, and Colorado authorities did not find sufficient cause to charge him with a crime.
Morant called his talk with Silver “an open discussion” in which “he said things I need to be better at, but more of just showing his support towards me.”
He apologized to the NBA, the Grizzlies, and his family “for putting that negativity towards all of us with a bad decision.”
Morant did not reveal who owned the gun involved in the incident or how he came to be holding it.
“I don’t condone it or any type of violence but I take full responsibility from (sic) my actions,” he said.
“I can see the image that I painted over myself with my recent mistakes. But in the future, I’m going to show everybody who Ja really is, what I’m about, and change this narrative.”
Morant said the incident taught him — and his inner circle — how much he has to lose by reckless actions.
“I feel like we put ourselves in that situation with our past mistakes and now it’s only right that we focus in and lock in on being smarter and more responsible, holding each other accountable for everything,” Morant told ESPN.
“I feel like in the past we didn’t know what was at stake. And now finally me having that time alone, I realize that now. I realize what I have to lose.”
‘Trying to be free’
The 23-year-old playmaker was last season’s NBA Most Improved Player and an All-Star this season and last. Morant was the second pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year.
Morant averages 27.1 points, 8.2 assists and 6.0 rebounds a game for the Grizzlies, who at 41-26 rank second in the Western Conference, four games back of pace-setter Denver.
With such success comes pressure and Morant said the incident was him “pretty much just trying to be free,” adding, “I used that as an escape, which I shouldn’t have.”
Following his therapy sessions in Florida, Morant said, “I feel mentally good — like I haven’t been in many years since I really got dropped into the league.”
“I’m in a space where I’m very comfortable. I took those days to be able to learn how to pretty much be there for myself and learn different ways to manage stress in a positive way.”
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