Grizzlies' Ja Morant says he must be 'more responsible,' details counseling as he nears return to play
Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant could return to the court as soon as Wednesday and spoke to local media Tuesday for the first time since his eight-game suspension stemming from the nightclub incident on March 4. He returned to the team Monday, but sat on the sideline with teammates during a return-to-conditioning process.
Morant explained to reporters the counseling he underwent in Florida during his time away from the team was related to managing stress and wasn't related to alcohol consumption.
"I don't have an alcohol problem. I've never had an alcohol problem," Morant said. "I went there for counseling. To learn how to manage stress — cope with stress in a positive way. Instead of, you know, ways I've tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes."
He noted that he is “not completely better” and it will be an “ongoing process” as he re-focuses on what is the most important. He said he is not focused on outside distractions, including keeping his social media focused on basketball.
“Just being more responsible, smarter, that’s pretty much it for me,” Morant said, via The Athletic. “Obviously, you know, I made mistakes in the past that caused a lot of negative attention, not only to me, but my family as well, my team, the organization, and I’m completely sorry for that. So, you know, my job now is, like I said, being more responsible, smarter, and don’t cause any [more off-court controversy] anymore.”
Additionally, he apologized for his actions and how they may have affected his family and the Grizzlies.
“I’m completely sorry for that,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “So, you know, my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more."
day by day
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) March 21, 2023
He also added he's willing to come off the bench first and slowly increase his minutes before he regains his starter status. Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins later said the team "anticipates" Morant will be ready to play against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday and confirmed Morant could come off the bench.
Morant's tumultuous month began when a report surfaced on March 1 the Grizzlies guard allegedly assaulted a teenage boy over the summer. A video of Morant brandishing a gun at a strip club surfaced on social media three days later and he was away from the Grizzlies for what the team termed at least two games.
He went to Florida for counseling before the NBA officially suspended Morant for eight games, retroactive to the games he'd already missed. Morant exited counseling on March 15 and told ESPN's Jalen Rose in his first interview since the incident that the gun in the video wasn't his and he was focusing on "Reiki treatment," which included breathing exercises for help with stress and anxiety.
"I made a terrible mistake being inside a club and went live," Morant told Rose. "I put myself in a bad position, and also my daughter. There's times where she'll even tell me if she's had a bad day. I felt like if she can tell me that, then I can be able to go and talk to somebody as well."
Where Morant and Memphis go from here remains to be seen. His on-court presence could be a major boon for the Grizzlies, who sit second in the Western Conference with 11 games left in the season and 3.5 games back from the first-place Denver Nuggets. He signed a five-year, $231 million contract this past offseason and averaged 27.1 points and 8.2 assists per game before his suspension.