Ja Morant is set to make his NBA season debut on Tuesday after serving a 25-game suspension levied for issues with firearms. During his absence from the court, the Memphis Grizzlies reportedly have used their head of team security to focus on keeping tabs on the 24-year-old.
That detail was revealed as ESPN relayed a story of Morant joining his teammates prior to their road game at the Houston Rockets last Wednesday.
“But per the terms of the suspension handed down by the NBA, Morant couldn’t be with the Grizzlies later that night at the arena,” wrote Baxter Holmes and Tim MacMahon. “Instead, he had to remain at the Post Oak Hotel in uptown Houston, where the team was staying. Keeping a close eye on Morant was Kevin Helms, the Grizzlies’ head of team security, whose duties this season focus almost solely on shadowing Morant, team sources said.”
Morant was suspended by the NBA in June for “for conduct detrimental to the league” after social media video showed him wielding a firearm. Earlier in the 2022-23 season, he was suspended for eight games after he live-streamed himself with a firearm at a nightclub.
As part of the terms of his latest suspension, Morant was required to meet certain conditions before he was allowed to be reinstated. Though those conditions have not been specified, ESPN reported that Morant has been in regular contact with the league.
“Morant has been engaged in periodic check-ins with the league office about his well-being and efforts to improve, as well as therapy,” Holmes and MacMahon wrote.
Morant issued an apology for his behavior back in May, but posts he made on social media later that month led police to conduct a welfare check on him. In addition, there was a report that stated Morant was apathetic when Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman and head coach Taylor Jenkins tried to talk to him about his off-court conduct.
In July 2022, Morant signed a five-year contract extension worth $194 million. At the time, it seemed worth it for a popular emerging superstar who won the league’s Most Improved Player award for the 2021-22 season and was selected to an All-NBA team.
Last season, he averaged 26.2 points, 8.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds in the 61 games he played after averaging 27.4 points per contest in the previous campaign.
Memphis is coming off three straight playoff appearances, but is off to a 6-19 start in the 2023-24 NBA campaign without Morant. The Grizzlies are in 13th place in the Western Conference, 7.5 games behind the final play-in position.
The All-Star’s highly anticipated and high-profile return that begins Tuesday at the New Orleans Pelicans will certainly draw significant attention around the league in the days and weeks ahead.