NBA: Ja Morant to rejoin the Grizzlies on the court after end of suspension

AP , Tuesday 19 Dec 2023

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant’s 25-game suspension stemming from his social media antics with handguns ended Tuesday, making him available to play against the Pelicans in New Orleans.

Ja Morant
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant chases the ball during the NBA basketball team's practice Friday, Dec. 15, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. Photo: AP

 

“He’s been awesome outside of not being able to play in the games,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said Friday night before Memphis' last home game. "He’s taken every opportunity to be with his teammates. He’s been leaning into the team a lot, (doing) off-court stuff with his teammates.”

Under the terms of his suspension, Morant was able to practice and travel with the Grizzlies and take part in morning shootarounds. But he was not permitted to be in an arena with his team during games.

Jenkins said the two-time NBA All-Star increasingly has been involved in practices during the past couple weeks. Morant also has been video-chatting with teammates during games.

“He seems to be in a really good spot. The way he’s responded in the 5-on-5s the last couple of days has been really good," Jenkins said. "He’s been preparing for this for the last couple of months. He’s really been pouring into the conditioning side of his body, strength, and really impressed with the work there.”

Morant, who spoke with reporters for the first time this season on Friday, has said he’s been counting down the days until his return and he is thankful to still be in the league and rejoining his team.

The No. 2 pick overall in the 2019 draft, 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year and 2022 Most Improved Player has been suspended for a combined 33 games since he first was caught flashing a gun on a social media livestream on March 4.

Morant first told reporters after the Los Angeles Lakers ousted Memphis from the playoffs in April that he had to make better decisions, knowing off-the-court issues affected the Grizzlies’ season. A team that earned a second straight No. 2 seed in the Western Conference lasted just six games in the postseason.

Only two weeks later, Morant was singing with friends when caught holding up a handgun during a livestream video. Silver weighed the situation and announced the second suspension along with other steps for Morant to take.

That included talking weekly with the NBA office and the National Basketball Players Association.

Morant rejoins a very different Memphis squad from the one he last took the court with in April.

These Grizzlies have been decimated by injuries and are among the NBA’s worst teams early this season. They come into Tuesday night's game on a five-game skid after a 116-97 loss in Oklahoma City on Monday night.

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