MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – Memphis Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman said the 25- game suspension the NBA slapped guard Ja Morant with “was appropriate,” and it is up to Morant to change the behavior that led to two bans in four months.
The Grizzlies’ vice president of basketball operations made the comments after Thursday night’s NBA draft. Kleiman is the first team official to publicly discuss Morant’s situation and the NBA’s punishment of the two-time All-Star for flashing a gun on social media after the season.
Kleiman said the latest incident is part of a pattern of “problematic behavior” for Morant, the No. 2 overall pick in 2019 and the 2020 Rookie of the Year.
“At this point, it doesn’t matter until he follows through,” Kleiman said. “I couldn’t care less about words. Ja has to prove it.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the latest suspension June 16, and Silver made clear the guard must stop his “alarming” habit of flashing guns on social media.
The suspension for the upcoming season comes a month after a second video of Morant flashing a handgun was streamed online. The video of Morant showing a gun while sitting in the passenger seat of a car was posted after his eight-game suspension in March for a video in which he flashed a handgun in a Denver-area strip club.
The Grizzlies suspended Morant indefinitely from team activities after the second video surfaced. The team had issued only a statement that it supported the NBA’s punishment for this “latest episode.”
Morant is due to make around $33.5 million this season. He now stands to lose just over $300,000 per game – or approximately $7.5 million. He also will have to adhere to certain conditions before being reinstated, the NBA said.
Silver said the two-time All-Star’s decision-making is “disconcerting.”
Morant issued an apology to everyone after his latest suspension through his representatives.
There still apparently are some discussions about what Morant is allowed to do during the suspension. Kleiman expects once Morant is ”’re-integrated into the team environment” that he will be allowed to take part in individual workouts, conditioning and have access to team medical facilities.
The Grizzlies will be without Morant for the first 25 games when the season starts in October, and the guard’s margin for error is zero.
“There’s no room for steps back,” Kleiman said. “Ja has the opportunity to come back from this. And everyone wants him to be successful.”