Ja Morad will be sidelined for at least their next two games with the Memphis Grizzlies, the team announced Saturday, shortly after the NBA opened an investigation into a social media post by the guard, who live-streamed holding something that appeared to be a gun in a night club.
Morad said in a statement distributed through his agency that he takes “full responsibility” for his actions and will “take some time off to get help.”
The video was shared by Morant on his Instagram page early Saturday, hours after the Grizzlies faced off in Denver. They flew to Los Angeles on Saturday for games against the Clippers on Sunday and the Lakers on Tuesday.
Morad will miss those two games, at least, the Grizzlies said, without further comment.
The league will try to speak with Morant as part of that investigation, though it’s unclear when a meeting might take place. Morant apologized in a statement released by Tandem Sports + Entertainment.
“I take full responsibility for my actions last night,” Morad said. “I am sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire Grizzlies organization for letting you down. I’m going to take some time to get help and work on learning better ways to deal with stress and my overall well-being.”
It was not immediately clear what Morant meant by “help” or if he planned to be away from the team for more than the two-game minimum the Grizzlies announced.
The league, if found wrongdoing, could fine or suspend Morant. Based on the Grizzlies’ statement, the earliest Morant could play is Thursday at home against Golden State. His Instagram and Twitter accounts were deactivated shortly after the Grizzlies announced his absence.
Memphis is currently No. 2 in the Western Conference standings, led by Morad, a two-time all-star averaging 27.1 points and 8.2 assists per game.
Incident after the Pacers game
This is at least the second time in recent weeks that Morant has been the subject of a league investigation. Morad’s actions were investigated after a Jan. 29 incident in Memphis that he said resulted in a friend being banned from home games for a year.
This incident followed a game against the Indiana Pacers. Citing unnamed sources, the Indianapolis Star and USA Today reported that several members of the Pacers saw a red dot pointed at them, and The Athletic reported that a Pacers security guard believed the laser was connected to a weapon.
The NBA confirmed that unnamed people were ejected from the arena, but said its investigation found no evidence that anyone was threatened with a weapon.
Morant responded to the incident by tweeting that the reports “paint this negative image of me and my family. and banned my brother from home games for a year. unbelievable.” During the Jan. 29 game, he barked among Pacers players and Morant’s friends sitting on the sidelines. A close friend of Morant’s, Davonte Pack, was escorted out of the arena as Pacers bench players chanted in Pack’s direction.
Pack and Morand are also embroiled in a civil lawsuit following an incident at Morand’s home last summer in which a 17-year-old claimed he was assaulted. The Shelby County District Attorney’s office said in January that it was “aware of the incident and after a careful review of the facts, determined there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a case.”
There is precedent for the NBA to sanction a player for conduct involving weapons. In January 2010, then-Commissioner David Stern suspended Washington’s Gilbert Arenas indefinitely without pay after saying the player’s conduct made him “not fit to take the field at this time.”
The suspension followed a photo of Arenas before a game in Philadelphia playfully flashing his fake gun pointers at teammates while he was under investigation by federal and local authorities after he admitted to bringing weapons into the Wizards’ locker room.
Arenas ended up missing 50 games, the remainder of the 2009–10 season.
Morad, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NBA draft, has become a full-fledged superstar. His five-year, $194 million U.S. extension with the Grizzlies begins next season and will rise to about $230 million if he makes an All-NBA team this season.
He is also a sought-after promoter. Over Christmas, Nike unveiled Morant’s first signature shoe, which is set to release in the coming weeks. And earlier this week, Powerade announced a multi-year endorsement deal with Morant.
Questions about Morad’s behavior come at a time when gun violence is once again a prominent talking point in the sports world.
Top NBA draft prospect Brandon Miller and Alabama teammate Jaden Bradley have been linked to a murder scene by courtroom revelations. Neither has been charged or charged with a crime, but then-teammate Darius Miles and another man face manslaughter charges.
And New Mexico State’s men’s basketball season was shut down in February because of a fatal shooting and allegations of locker room hazing. Mike Peek, the New Mexico State player involved in the November slaying of New Mexico player Brandon Travis, said he was acting in self-defense and has not been charged with a crime.