With another chance, Ja Morant is lucky NBA suspension wasn’t longer

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In a Denver Boys and Girls Club, where the Nuggets helped renovate a STEM lab, a small group of reporters peppered NBA Commissioner Adam Silver with questions about Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant.

Minutes before, Silver told kids in attendance that the club was a place that could help make dreams come true, and reporters were focused on a player whose actions were destroying a dream.

It was between Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals. Two weeks later, the NBA suspended Morant 25 games without pay for conduct detrimental to the league.

“The league office found that, on May 13, Morant intentionally and prominently displayed a gun while in a car with several other individuals as they were leaving a social gathering in Memphis,” the league said in a news release. “Morant wielded the firearm while knowing that he was being recorded and that the recording was being live streamed on Instagram Live, despite having made commitments to the NBA and public statements that he would not repeat the conduct for which he was previously disciplined.”

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Predictions for Morant’s suspension were all over the place − from 41 games to 17 games to 25 games, which was the unofficial over-under established by NBA reporters at the Finals.

Morant is lucky it’s not more than 25, and at the same time, 25 is not insignificant.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant  reacts after scoring a basket against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 4 of their NBA playoffs series at Crypto.com Arena.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant reacts after scoring a basket against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 4 of their NBA playoffs series at Crypto.com Arena.

He will miss a third of the season, he will not be eligible for season-ending awards and 25 games places Morant’s return in December. It hurts Morant, who will also forfeit $7.6 million in salary, and it hurts the Grizzlies, who were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference in 2022-23 and have championship expectations. This is not how either wanted to start the 2023-24 season.

Silver is receiving criticism for what could be considered a light suspension, given Morant embarrassed the league with the same conduct detrimental to the league less than two months before the May incident.

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Silver said he was “disheartened” and “alarmed” by the repeat offense and also acknowledged that Morant had not committed a crime.

“Regardless of what people’s individual rules are on gun rights, everyone feels firearms should be handled in a safe way and waving them around, displaying them in a certain context is not consistent with gun safety and is not the proper message that an NBA player, particularly one at Ja’s level, should be sending to the tens of millions of followers he has,” Silver said.

You will read or hear that former NBA Commissioner David Stern would’ve hammered Morant with a stronger punishment. Perhaps. But maybe not. Stern hit former NBA player Gilbert Arenas with a 50-game suspension for bringing guns into an NBA locker room and pleading guilty to felony gun possession. To Silver, one was worse than the other, especially when Arenas’ Wizards teammates were worried about a shooting in the locker room.

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Silver thought through the pros and cons of a longer suspension. Morant is just 23 years old. Silver wants Morant to get the most out of life in the best way possible. Working with him is much better than pushing him away.

“Independent of whatever the discipline is, it then becomes a collective effort of the league and the union (National Basketball Players Association) and the team to work with our young players in many cases,” Silver said. “I hear that, yes, he’s an adult. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to own this and take responsibility, but to still work with him as a young man to help improve him and for him to come away with this saying, ‘Alright, there’s going to discipline, but what can I learn from this? What examples can I set for others?’ ”

Silver is giving Morant a chance to save more than his career.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Grizzlies’ Ja Morant lucky NBA suspension not longer than 25 games

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