Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant is set to make his 2023-24 debut as early as Dec. 19 after serving a 25-game suspension issued by the NBA. On Friday, Morant reflected on being away from the team and his journey back to eligibility in his first public presser since the summer. 

“It was definitely tough, some horrible days,” Morant told reporters. “It was tough, but like I said to start this, with the support that I had throughout this process, it definitely helped me a lot. It’s pretty much all I could lean on at that time. Obviously, basketball is something I’ve been doing pretty much my whole life. Something that’s therapeutic for me. Obviously taking that away, it makes it tougher. But I had the right people around me, from my family to the organization and to my other partners that helped me along in the process.”  

In June, Morant was suspended for the first 25 games of this season for repeatedly brandishing firearms. The first instance occurred in March when Morant was seen holding a gun at a strip club outside of Denver. Morant was suspended for eight games and went to a counseling program in Florida. On May 13, after the Grizzlies had been eliminated from the playoffs, Morant again displayed a gun on a livestream.

Morant said on Friday the time away from basketball has given him perspective.

“I feel like I’m not done yet learning myself or learning new things,” Morant said. “But I definitely see why the things [that] happened, happened. But like I said earlier, I can’t say I sit up here and regret it because in the end, I feel like it made me better.”

Morant also spoke on how he felt some “guilt” about contributing to the hole Memphis has found itself in to start the season. Without Morant in the lineup, the Grizzlies have predictably struggled and rank 13th in the Western Conference with a 6-17 record. 

“It’s definitely some guilt at that,” Morant said. “Obviously I’m not on the floor and obviously nobody likes losing, so our job is to go out there and get a win. I take full responsibility of that obviously, even though I’m not on the floor. Decisions I made didn’t allow me to be out there to go to battle with my team.”  

While the dynamic point guard hasn’t gotten any game time, he has been keeping up with the team by watching tape on what they’ve been doing without him in the fold.

“It’s pretty much been film study for me,” Morant said. “Obviously, I’ve been with the majority of the players for a while now, obviously we’ve got some new pieces, so me being the point guard, that’s guys I have to learn and find out where they want to be on the floor. As far as where we stand, I’m not worried at all.”

Memphis added new pieces like Derrick Rose and Marcus Smart, but injuries and lack of chemistry have made it hard for the team to get wins. Morant is confident that he can help the Grizzlies turn things around despite some thinking he’s fallen behind in comparison to other point guards who’ve been thriving this season.

“Hats off to them for leading their teams and playing great,” Morant said. “Obviously the league has a lot of talented players. I have no say on who’s better than me and who’s not. Obviously, that’s everybody else’s opinion. So yeah. I don’t get mad about that stuff, man.”

The two-time All-Star has a point to prove and acknowledged that there’s a chip on his shoulder ahead of his first game back.

“Yeah, it’s a share size now,” Morant said. “Share size. Not a little small chip no more, it’s a share size.”

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