Soon, Ja Morant will emerge from a tunnel flanked by his teammates as he steps onto the court of an NBA arena for the first time in his new reality.
He will address the media and answer repeated questions about his activities and habits that led to his eight-game suspension and treatment in Florida. His responses will likely sound rehearsed and uncharacteristic of Ja.
It will be the first day of adulthood in the NBA, with the innocence lost. Once you’ve danced with the demon that is NBA mortality, the days of the devil-may-care attitude will not come as easily, and he will likely be better for it as opposed to it hardening him.
It is one thing to flirt with peril, especially in public. Morant took a different path than the majority of NBA players, who are typically reserved and family-friendly. Until now, however, the general consensus was that he was innocuous, vivacious, and representative of the culture that the NBA now embraces — for better or for worse.
This uncertainty is now temporarily eliminated.
The NBA wants Morant to succeed. It was not in the league’s best interest to punish him for what “could’ve” occurred; not even the legal system goes that far. Moreover, it is aware of his importance to its future and present.
The Gilbert Arenas comparison is undoubtedly enticing, even if it’s so awful that it can cause tooth decay. However, the league determined that he did not bring a weapon onto team property, a significant distinction from Arenas’ incident nearly 15 years ago. This resulted in a 50-game suspension for Arenas from then-commissioner David Stern, who was free to suspend him as he saw appropriate.
Stephen Jackson’s incident outside of an Indianapolis strip club in 2006 is likely more comparable to Morant’s, according to Sportda sources. Jackson discharged a pistol into the air while attempting to break up a brawl and was struck by a vehicle as a result; the league determined that his actions warranted a five-game suspension at the beginning of the 2007-08 season, months after the legal case had concluded.
Before joining the Mavericks in 2014, Raymond Felton pleaded guilty to felony firearms offences while playing for the Knicks. He was suspended for four games.
In contrast to these examples, Morant was not charged with a crime, but his pattern of behaviour was becoming increasingly hazardous. Consequently, commissioner Adam Silver’s statement was his most direct in years.
Silver stated that Ja’s behaviour was negligent, impulsive, and potentially very hazardous. “It also has grave repercussions given his immense popularity and influence, especially among youthful admirers who look up to him. He has expressed genuine regret and contrition for his actions. Ja has also made it plain to me that he has learned from this incident and recognises that his obligations and responsibilities to the Memphis Grizzlies and the NBA community extend far beyond his on-court performance.
Morant, at the tender age of 23, has been recognised as a mentor to younger players in his orbit, most notably the freshman point guard for the Detroit Pistons, Jaden Ivey. The relationship began when Ivey’s mother, Niele, was an assistant coach with the Grizzlies before becoming the head coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.
And if you believe Morant is too immature to mentor, consider a senior in high school taking a freshman under his wing — peer-to-peer mentoring.
Morant will be approached by every older player he encounters for the foreseeable future, whether they are current or former.
Even with this first public assault, they will assure him he has the entire world in front of him, and that he can recover. Unfortunately, they will also inform him that the exposed information makes him an even greater target for provocation, particularly in Memphis.
He will not be placed in a cocoon, despite the fact that many people would undoubtedly like to do so. In the under-25 age bracket, there are a limited number of bankable American-born stars, and if you don’t think that’s significant, you need look no further than MLB’s waning popularity among young people, due to the fact that many of its stars are not from the United States.
The league will presumably wait to reinstate him before doing so. Then again, America adores nothing more than a story of redemption and contrition, especially from someone with a defiant personality.
Who knows if Morant will make formal contrition to those who have tried to draw him back from the brink, those in the Grizzlies organisation and those close to him who have confronted him about his behaviour, sources said, His behaviour may have been aimless, but it was observed over time, and he was likely no longer receptive.
Until he displayed a firearm on Instagram Live.
It was not an investigation that revealed this specific instance; rather, he made it public. In an interview with ESPN’s Jalen Rose, he stated that it wasn’t his pistol, making the decision all the more perplexing.
Either he was too lackadaisical, negligent, or oblivious to the events whirling around him to care, but this self-created obstruction appeared necessary.
The trip to Florida for “counselling” seemed more important, even if the wording was deliberately vague. Even if he hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt on that degree of privacy, one wonders if a couple of weeks of therapy will cure whatever ails him.
When it comes to decision-making, being propelled into the NBA’s adult world will either magnify the work or expose its absence.
If it’s something larger and more perilous, the work will have to be twice as difficult and more transparent. The smallest misstep will attract a throng that Morant does not want to hear from and, more significantly, an audience that the NBA would prefer to keep at bay.
The NBA wants Morant to succeed. Ja should also make sure Ja doesn’t falter.