The Memphis Grizzlies are a legitimate contender in the Western Conference, looking to lock down the No. 2 seed for the second straight year, but with 20 games to go in the season, the conversation about the Grizzlies is about what is going on off the court with their All-Star guard, Ja Morant.
On Friday night, after Memphis lost in Denver to the Nuggets, Morant went on Instagram Live from a club, showing off a gun in the video that quickly spread around the internet. This came after numerous alleged incidents involving Morant and those around him came to light, in which Morant allegedly hit a 17-year-old multiple times in the face, threatened a security guard at a mall, and pointed lasers at members of the Pacers after a game in Indiana. All of it painted a picture of Morant going down a troubling path, but the Instagram Live video was the catalyst for the league to step in and investigate Morant, with the team announcing on Saturday that he would not be with the team for at least the next two games in L.A.
On Sunday night, prior to playing the Clippers without Morant, head coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters there was no timetable for Morant’s return and that the young star was “taking on the responsibility to get the help he needs” and the team was focused on being both supportive of him while also holding him accountable — and speaking on the overarching issue of gun violence and the importance of taking the time to handle this appropriately.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins on Ja Morant’s IG Live video and the lack of clarity on when he’ll return and what he needs to do to rejoin the team pic.twitter.com/tmIIgpY8zU
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) March 6, 2023
Prior to this point, Jenkins had deflected questions about the alleged incidents involving Morant, lamenting them as past issues that had been dealt with. Now, the Grizzlies are having to have whatever process they were hoping to keep behind closed doors play out more publicly, albeit Jenkins wouldn’t go so far as to lay out the steps the team has outlined for Morant’s return.
The hope is that Morant can take this moment to adjust the path he’s on and embrace, as Jenkins notes, the responsibility of being a leader on the team and what is required of that off the court as much as on it. How long it takes for him to show he’s taken those steps to the Grizzlies remains to be seen, but with the stretch run of the season upon them, the timing is certainly adding to the stress of the situation in Memphis.