Yes Morant suspension: What NBA insiders say about the league decision


There is no consensus among NBA scouts and executives about the 25-game suspension that Commissioner Adam Silver handed down to Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant for allegedly brandishing a pistol on social media last month. Most thought it was fair.

There was agreement on what would happen if another incident occurred.

“The next one,” said a Western Conference executive, “he’s done.”

Do you agree with Ja Morant’s 25-game ban? | SPEAK

Do you agree with Ja Morant's 25-game ban?  |  SPEAK

The manager was among the half-dozen scouts and executives that FOX Sports asked to rate the punishment, Goldilocks-style: too severe, too light, or just right.

“Exactly right,” said the manager. “It wasn’t time to destroy him, but it’s serious. Next is a year.”

Two scouts echoed that view, seeing it as an escalation of the eight-game suspension Morant received after a game in March after a similar incident at a Denver strip club. Morant met with Silver shortly after and, according to the press release announcing the 25-game ban, promised there would be no second time. And yet they existed.

That’s why a Western Conference scout said, “Ja got off lightly. I’m a staunch member of the David Stern School of player discipline. As a repeat offender, he should have gotten half a season, 41 games.”

The scout refers to the late Commissioner Stern, Silver’s predecessor, who suspended Washington Wizards guards Javaris Crittenton and Gilbert Arenas for about half a season over a gun incident in the team’s locker room. The incident happened in December of the 2009–10 season and following a league-led investigation, Stern announced in late January that Crittenton and Arenas were suspended for the remainder of the season.

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Yes Morant should use a 25-game suspension to 'get his grips back' |  THE HERD

The presence of firearms in the locker room is a direct violation of NBA policy. Morant’s incidents took place outside of league grounds, so another Western Conference executive suggested Silver “maybe been a little clumsy.” The earlier eight-game ban Morant received was due to league-damaging behavior, Silver said. Presumably that was the case with this incident as well, which is why the board suggested that doubling the previous suspension of eight games would have been enough.

“He broke no laws,” the executive said. “I see it a little differently than the Arenas situation.”

An Eastern Conference scout corroborated this opinion. “I thought there would be more, but he didn’t commit any actual crime,” the scout said. “I’m sure the league (for that reason) felt the pressure from the players’ union.”

Both a players’ agent and a Western Conference scout noted that the Grizzlies let the league do all the heavy lifting, right down to the punishment for Morant’s behavior. After all, the two incidents mentioned above weren’t the first Morant-related incidents that the team, at least publicly, didn’t address. Reports surfaced in January that Morant had punched a 17-year-old during a trick-taking match at Morant’s house the previous summer. In February, friends of Morant pointed a laser at members of the Indiana Pacers’ touring party, but the league’s investigation could not determine whether the laser was attached to a weapon.

“When will one of the Grizzlies take responsibility for what happened?” the agent asked.

Collective bargaining rules prevent the league and team from penalizing a player separately for the same infraction, but the Eastern Conference scout suggested the Grizzlies should have worked with the league to make it clear that they were partners in fulfilling Morant’s penalty are. Up to this point, they seem to be the parents, afraid of falling out of favor, stepping back and letting the other take the disciplinary role.

“He’s such a bright young star,” said the scout. “Everyone loves him. If you’re Memphis, maybe let the league add 15 to 20 games to send the message. How else is he supposed to learn his lesson?”

Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has authored two books: Rebound, about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s disease at a young age, and Yao: A Life In Two Worlds”. He also has a daily podcast called On The Ball with Ric Bucher. Follow him on Twitter @Ric Bucher.

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