In a matter of 18 months Ja Morant has fallen from a 22-year-old star on the rise to a 24-year-old staring down the barrel of his last chance in the NBA.
A string of incidents have plagued the point guard’s start to his NBA career, the latest of which – a second gun-flashing Instagram video – pulled his life in the league to screeching halt with a 25-game suspension.
But with the Grizzlies’ 116-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night marking Game No. 25, Morant is set to make his long-awaited return to the court tonight.
And Memphis and the NBA will be hoping Morant has learnt his lesson, or his future could well and truly be jeopardized by ‘irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous’ conduct.
Morant’s return marks a second – or rather third – chance, one which, after counseling, meetings with commissioner Adam Silver and what seems to be genuine repentance, he deserves but is likely also his last.
Ja Morant is set to make his long-awaited return for the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday night
The point guard was suspended after flashing a firearm on an Instagram Live
NBA commissioner Adam Silver handed down a 25-game suspension for Morant
But Morant hadn’t always been the type of player expected to be clawing his way to redemption. On paper, he was reportedly the perfect draftee without a single red flag.
‘He was the consummate coachable teammate, a choirboy,’ one veteran NBA scout told ESPN. ‘Underrecruited. Didn’t have many scholarship offers. Played with a chip on his shoulder. Glowing stuff. Nothing. There was absolutely nothing.’
Yet between being drafted out of Murray State by the Grizzlies in 2019 and March of this year, Morant had seemingly spiraled out of control with his fall from grace finishing in a Colorado strip club.
Morant had reportedly been a model citizen in the Memphis community, described as ‘courteous’ by local business owners, but the 2022 All-Star game seemingly marked a turning point.
‘He went to that first All-Star Game,’ a team source told ESPN, ‘and then the alligators got him.’
With being named an NBA All-Star starter in February 2022, the once-prospect became an NBA superstar struggling with the excess of fame and began down a path of troubling behavior, triggering concerns within the Grizzlies organization and the league, which they seemingly failed to address.
Morant, despite being underage, would reportedly go out drinking, even on nights before games, and would allegedly appear hungover or late to the arena.
However, the Grizzlies reportedly failed to instill discipline or control the situation with one source telling ESPN that the organization enabled Morant’s behavior.
The 2022 All-Star game was reportedly a turning point in the 24-year-old’s behavior
Morant is pictured with Stephen Curry, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen (L-R) ahead of the game
And with ‘s**t swept under the rug’, it wasn’t long before the trouble escalated beyond underage drinking.
During a July 22, 2022 altercation at a Memphis mall, Morant and friends threatened a salesperson and the head of security after his mother had become embroiled in a heated altercation with the member of staff.
Then, just a week later, it was yet another altercation, this time at Morant’s own home, where he and a friend allegedly struck an then-17-year-old boy, Josh Holloway, during a pickup game, which led to an ongoing civil lawsuit.
A month later, Morant was accused of threatening a highschool student during his sister’s volleyball game after she engaged in an argument in the stands.
In January of this year, the Indiana Pacers, following an away game at Memphis, alleged that a red laser, perhaps attached to a gun, had been pointed at them from an SUV Morant was in.
With the postgame confrontation, the Grizzlies finally appeared to reach boiling point.
Grizzlies General Manager Zach Kleiman and head coach Taylor Jenkins met with Morant to discuss his troubling conduct and its impact on the team.
Morant allegedly struck an then-17-year-old boy, Josh Holloway, at his Memphis mansion
Grizzlies General Manager Zach Kleiman (pictured) and head coach Taylor Jenkins met with Morant to discuss his troubling behavior earlier this year
It is a fine line for sports team organizations to walk when handling a superstar such as Morant.
But Memphis may have let one too many troubling incidents slide by before voicing their concerns or offering him support because following the January sit-down, Morant’s behavior not only continued but worsened.
On March 3, Morant flashed a gun on an Instagram Live video in Shotgun Willie’s, a strip club in Glendale, Colorado, following a loss to the Denver Nuggets.
The move sparked severe backlash with the NBA handing down an eight-game suspension to Morant, who checked himself into a private counseling facility in Colorado.
But eight games seemingly weren’t enough to drive the message home. Just ten weeks later, Morant was caught in yet another gun-flashing incident.
This time, having not learnt his lesson, Morant was captured waving the firearm in a car on friend Davonte Pack’s Instagram Live.
Once again Morant faced blowback, this time bigger than ever. It was the second incident of this nature in three months and the league took its time deliberating its punishment, before Silver landed on a 25-game suspension.
The NBA commissioner branded Morant’s conduct ‘alarming and disconcerting’ and ‘reckless and irresponsible,’ noting that the star is a role model for many children.
The ban has forced Morant to miss the start of the season, which has seen the Grizzlies go 6-19 without him.
But after putting basketball on the backseat, as Silver had insisted he needed to, Morant’s return has arrived and he must seize it.
Morant was seen with a gun on an Instagram Live video for a second time in May
The Grizzlies reportedly parted ways with second-year center Kenneth Lofton Jr., according to The Commercial Appeal, paving the way for Morant to return tonight against the New Orleans Pelicans.
And after head coach Jenkins said that he expects Morant to ‘be full-go come Game 26’. But which Morant will show up?
‘I honestly feel like I can’t go away from being Ja,’ Morant said last week. ‘I feel like that’s the most important thing, not trying to lose myself or be somebody that I’m not or act totally different, but the change will be my decision-making and how I go about my daily life of being a NBA player, a father, a role model, a brother, a son, and just focusing in on that being the best Ja I can be.’
And he needn’t overhaul his entire personality, Morant merely needs to demonstrate the ‘choirboy’ player that got him drafted into the league.
Morant heads into the game against the Pelicans tonight with the opportunity for redemption. A second chance to prove he can be the NBA superstar his talent promised.
‘I can’t make nobody believe me, outside of my actions,’ he added. ‘So me answering this question with just words probably won’t mean nothing to nobody about it.’
But actions are all he needs. Morant needs to deliver the entertainment on the court, and leave the drama off it behind him.
Morant has a shot at the ultimate redemption: Helping his teammates.
After leaving the Grizzlies stranded at the start of the season, Memphis has gone 6-19 amid Morant’s suspension, while also battling a throng of injuries.
The Grizzlies, who were the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed last season, are now tied for the second-worst record in the West.
‘It’s definitely some guilt at that,’ said Morant, who led the Grizzlies with 26.2 points and 8.1 assists per game last season.
Memphis has gone 6-19 amid Morant’s suspension, while also battling a throng of injuries
Head coach Taylor Jenkins said that he expects Morant to ‘be full-go come Game 26’
‘Obviously I’m not on the floor and obviously nobody likes losing, so our job is to go out there and get a win. I take full responsibility of that obviously, even though I’m not on the floor. Decisions I made didn’t allow me to be out there to go to battle with my team.’
Yet, now he has the chance to erase at least some of that guilt by focusing on delivering on the court – and in the process salvage his NBA career.
His agent, Jim Tanner, said in a statement to ESPN that he hopes ‘people will give him a chance to move forward’ and fans, the league, coaches and his fellow players should.
Morant has been a young player thrust into the limelight, who lost his way amid the excess of fame.
But now older and wiser, and with the support of the league and the organization, Morant should be better equipped to handle the pressure.
He deserves another chance but, after having already had a first and second, Morant cannot afford to waste what could be his last.
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Sports Event Casino Handicap Description
|It means not giving in to each other, and winning 1 point wins all.
|Indicates that when the handicap team is tied with the transferee team, the team betting on the handicap loses 50%.
|Indicates that when the handicap team is tied with the transferee team, the team betting on the handicap loses.
|When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap wins 50% and wins all 2 points.
|Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the two teams will tie and win by 2 points.
|When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 2 points.
|When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins by 2 points.
|When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap wins 50% and wins all 3 points.
|Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the two teams will tie and win all 3 points.
|When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 3 points.
|When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins all 3 points.
|When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap wins 50%, and all 4 points win.
|Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the two teams will tie and win all 4 points.
|When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 4 points.
|When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins all 4 points.
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Winning the Game: This is one of the most common sports betting variants where players bet on which team or athlete will win the game before it starts.
Handicap Market: This bet is based on point difference, and punters must predict whether the winner's point difference is greater or less than a preset point difference.
Over/Under: This bet is based on the total points scored in the game, and punters must predict whether the total points in the game will be greater or less than the preset score.
Specific Event Markets: This type of betting usually involves specific events in the game, such as first score, player scoring, free throw percentage, etc., and the punter must predict whether the specific event will occur or be achieved.
Online betting: This type of play refers to betting while the game is in progress, and the punter can change the bet at any time and make a decision based on the real-time situation of the game.
It should be noted that sports betting is a high-risk gambling activity that needs to be treated with caution. It is recommended to gamble on legal betting websites and bet according to your own financial ability.
A global casino site is usually an online platform that offers a variety of entertainment games, including gambling, lottery, video games, and sports betting. These sites are usually registered and licensed to comply with local gaming regulations and legal requirements.
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