Grizzlies

Grizzlies Suffering the Most From Morant’s Absurd Suspension

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Ja Morant’s suspension was always questionable.

It becomes absurd when compared to other recent NBA discipline decisions. While Adam Silver treated Morant unfairly with his 25-game suspension, the biggest victims are Morant’s teammates. 

After winning 50 or more games each of the past two seasons, the Grizzlies are 4-13 in Morant’s absence. With eight games left before Morant can return, Memphis could be effectively eliminated from playoff contention before its best player sees the floor. Seven of those losses have come by single-digits – even if Morant swayed three of those games, the Grizzlies would have a far-more-manageable record. 

Morant’s teammates might miss the playoffs because of overreaching discipline from the league. 

Morant’s suspension came after he held up a gun in an Instagram live video for the second time – he was suspended eight games in March for a similar incident. While a punishment three times more severe for a second offense seems reasonable, it becomes ludicrous when compared to other suspensions for far more harmful behaviors. 

Recent NBA suspensions

Miles Bridges returned to play on Nov. 17 for Charlotte after serving a 30-game suspension for domestic violence. In June 2022, he allegedly beat his girlfriend in front of their children. He pleaded no contest to the charge. The Hornets quietly re-signed him over the summer. Then in October of this year, he turned himself in to police for a protective order violation – he allegedly threw pool balls through the windows of a car with his children inside. 

Yet Bridges saw the floor before Morant. 

Yes, Bridges missed all of last season. But the NBA credited him with 20 games served on his suspension even though he was not eligible to play. So, he only had to miss 10 games this season despite the second domestic violence incident. If Morant received far more harsh punishment for a second offense, so should Bridges. 

Then, there’s Josh Primo. The former San Antonio first-round pick was released by the team last season for allegedly exposing himself to women in the organization, including nine times to a former team psychologist. The NBA punishment for Primo’s alleged sexual harassment? A four-game suspension. He’s now signed to a standard deal with the Clippers. He could presumably appear at any point. 

Just a few weeks ago, Draymond Green received a mere five-game suspension for putting Rudy Gobert in a headlock despite instances of similar violent behavior throughout this career

This doesn’t even address Josh Giddey – it’s too soon to say if the NBA has handled his case fairly. What we do know is that Giddey has continued playing despite allegations of him having an improper relationship with a minor. After the first gun incident, the Grizzlies immediately removed Morant from the lineup. The NBA has confirmed it is investigating the Giddey incident, yet the league has not responded publicly with as much force or speed as they did with Morant. 

Primo and Bridges missed more time than Morant because they were either cut from the team or not eligible to compete. But the message of the official NBA suspension matters – it shows what the league values. Silver’s soft punishments for Primo and Bridges alongside his stern discipline for Morant sends a clear message: the league values its image over fair discipline. 

Why Morant got such harsh treatment

Morant is by far the most popular player of those three. He has been top 10 in NBA jersey sales the past two seasons. His Nike signature shoe sold out in minutes. He’s one of the best young American players with a Hall of Fame-worthy highlight reel. He was on track to be the face of the league. 

Because Morant’s actions generated the most negative publicity, the league handed him a suspension incongruous with his actions. 

After all, Morant was never charged for the first gun incident. Nothing about the second gun video was remotely illegal. Flaunting a gun in public is irresponsible, but it doesn’t hold a candle to domestic violence or sexual harassment. 

The logical defense of Morant’s punishment is that he met with Silver, likely promised he would refrain from such behavior, then went back on his promise within two months.

He certainly deserved discipline. But the punishment he got hurts the organization more than the individual. 

What the NBA should have done

Morant’s teammates didn’t brandish a gun. They made no ill-fated promises to the commissioner. Yet they are paying the price for Morant’s actions. 

After Morant essentially lost $40 million, eight games, and his sterling reputation from the first two incidents, Silver probably thought the only discipline that would work is a lengthy suspension. A more fair punishment would have been targeted specifically at Morant. 

Make him automatically ineligible for All-NBA and the All-Star Game. Require him to travel with a Grizzlies staffer at all times. Subject him to a seven-figure fine, then donate it to anti-gun violence organizations. Put him through a public-relations tour where he denounces gun violence and speaks to kids about gun safety. Then, suspend him for 10 games – no more than Bridges – and tell him that another gun incident leads to a one-year ban from the league. 

Instead, Memphis must navigate the Western Conference logjam without its best player. Desmond Bane’s incredible start to the season is overshadowed by a bevy of close losses that Morant alone could easily have overturned.

Adam Silver wanted to send a message to Morant. He actually sent a message to Morant’s teammates: their season doesn’t matter as much as the NBA’s image.

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