The NBA season will start without any sighting of Ja Morant on the court, but the league is making sure he’s not out of sight, out of mind and with no chance of redemption.
Morant is suspended for 25 games, unable to return until December. Morant’s behavior of displaying firearms on social media as well as detailed incidents caused the league to take action, which was announced after the NBA Finals.
But Morant has been practicing with the Memphis Grizzlies and will be permitted to travel with the team during his suspension as opposed to exile until his return.
“Here’s a 24-year-old kid, he’s figuring it out as he goes as a young man in the league,” NBA executive vice president Joe Dumars said on a conference call with select media Wednesday. “Incredible talent. And early on in his career, a lot has come his way. I personally think the worst thing you can do is completely ostracize this kid from everything with his team.
“So the 25 games are 25 games, but I think for this 24-year-old kid to continue to grow, he needs to continue to practice every day with his team and be around his team and team meetings and all of that stuff I think really helps a young guy’s growth. He needs to be in that environment.”
The league’s statement on June 16, which said Morant will be required to meet certain conditions before he’s allowed to return, was met with opposition by the National Basketball Players Association. A statement released that day said the discipline wasn’t consistent with league standards, excessive and “not fair.”
Morant has been photographed at Grizzlies practice and seen interacting with his teammates. He is still likely a critical element to the league’s future marketing as well as its appeal to a younger demographic.
Being permitted to be at a team’s practice facility during a suspension is on par, so the league isn’t making special allowances for Morant. But Dumars said the league is in contact with Morant and his camp on a consistent basis.
“Everybody is collaborating together to make sure this kid makes a smooth transition back to the league,” Dumars said.