Although Ja Morant will miss the first 25 games of the season while serving his suspension, the Memphis Grizzlies star will be allowed to travel with the team and participate fully in practice.
Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman confirmed Monday during the team’s media day that Morant — who was suspended 25 games for conduct detrimental to the league after displaying a handgun on multiple Instagram Live videos last season — won’t have to be away from the team until he can return.
"I think it's great for Ja, and I think it's great for the group that he can be with us day-to-day," Kleiman said, via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. "The NBA basically has said that as long as Ja continues to stay on track, he's going to be clear to participate in all private team activities, so practices, shootarounds, traveling with the team. He's not going to be with us, obviously, for preseason games and the first 25, but we'll see him out there and we can't wait to have him back Game 26."
Morant was involved in several troubling incidents last season. He went live on Instagram in March from a Colorado nightclub hours after the team's game against the Nuggets and flashed what appeared to be a gun. He was not charged with a crime. He then flashed a handgun in a vehicle again in May, and the league suspended him 25 games. NBA commissioner Adam Silver cited gun violence when speaking earlier this summer about the reason for the length of the suspension.
Besides the gun incidents, Morant’s entourage allegedly threatened Indiana Pacers staff members after a contentious game between the two teams in Memphis last season. Staff members claimed that someone riding in Morant’s slow-moving SUV aimed a red laser at them, which they thought was attached to a gun. Morant also allegedly assaulted a teenager and threatened him with a gun during a pickup game at his house last summer, and he allegedly threatened the head of security at a Memphis mall.
Morant did not participate in the Grizzlies’ media day Monday, and Kleiman declined to get into specifics regarding his progress this offseason and how the team plans to work with Morant during the season. Kleiman simply said Morant has “been putting in great work and I think taking a lot of steps in the right direction.”
"We're going to continue to give him the structure to be able to follow through on that,” Kleiman said, via ESPN.
Morant averaged 26.2 points, 8.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds last season, his fourth with the Grizzlies. The 24-year-old is entering the first year of a five-year, $197 million deal with the team.
The Grizzlies open the season Oct. 25 against the New Orleans Pelicans. Morant will be allowed to return for the Grizzlies’ game against the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 23.
"We've got a separate plan designed for him outside just the team training where we're going to push him," Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said, via ESPN. "He's excited about it and how we can challenge him even more, when we talk about being the best version of Ja moving forward."