LAS VEGAS — The time is approaching for Ja Morant to emerge from his 25-game suspension and suit up for the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 19 in New Orleans.
But before he does, he’s scheduled to meet up in person with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. It doesn’t feel like some prerequisite before he can return to play, but more like a check-in.
“I have been monitoring the situation closely, and him,” Silver said Saturday during a news conference before the final of the in-season tournament. “In fact, we intend to have a check-in this week directly, Ja and I.”
The NBA came down with a heavy hand, suspending the All-Star guard shortly after the conclusion of the Finals in June. It was following a series of troubling incidents and transgressions, with Morant displaying guns on social media both in a vehicle and in a nightclub in Denver.
Following the suspension, Silver made note Morant would have to follow a certain protocol before being allowed back on the floor. He has been permitted to practice and travel with his team during the suspension.
The league was clear on not wanting to throw Morant out of the league because of these transgressions, wanting to hold him accountable while also giving him a path to return, as one of the league’s most electrifying stars.
“Folks in the league office, together with Ja and his team and the players’ association, have been in regular contact, essentially weekly,” Silver said. “There have been those checkpoints.”
The supposed checkpoints haven’t been disclosed publicly, and after the NBPA released a statement claiming Morant’s suspension was excessive and unfair, it has undergone a critical leadership change at the top with Tamika Tremaglio being replaced, temporarily, by recently retired Andre Iguodala.
“We’ve, together, laid out a program for him over the last several weeks, and to the best of my knowledge, he’s complied with everything he’s been asked to do,” Silver said. “As I said, we’ll talk at least once this week before he comes back, and we will review the program and make sure the conditions are in place for him to be successful going forward.”
One would assume the checkpoints would involve Morant staying out of trouble during that time, and there hasn’t been anything revealed publicly during the last few months. He is, however, still dealing with the remnants of an incident that occurred prior to his displaying guns on social media.
Morant is being sued for allegedly assaulting a 17-year-old in his backyard following a basketball game. Morant will testify in court about that incident, and his mother, father and friend, Davonte Pack, have been subpoenaed, as well.
One could argue the league hasn’t missed Morant in the opening weeks of the season, with a bevy of young stars emerging. Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton and Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, both All-Stars already, have filled the void — Haliburton making himself even more of a household name during the IST.
The Grizzlies have missed him desperately, a reverse after two years of being able to withstand his absences. They are tied for the second-worst record in the West at 6-15, three games ahead of the San Antonio Spurs.