LOS ANGELES — There’s no definitive timeline for Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant to return to the team, coach Taylor Jenkins said Sunday before the team’s loss to the LA Clippers.
The team had initially said Morant would be away for at least two games as he seeks help and the NBA conducts an investigation into the Instagram Live video he posted early Saturday morning, in which he displayed what appeared to be a gun while at a nightclub.
“We have said that it’s going to be at least these two games,” Jenkins said. “I mean, this is going be an ongoing healing process. … It’s really not a timetable situation.”
Jenkins said the team’s focus was on supporting Morant through what’s “going to be a difficult process” but also on holding him accountable for his actions.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” Jenkins said. “There’s a supportive element for someone that’s got to get better and needs some help. But then there’s also accountability to the team that we’ve got to stand for.
“Obviously nationwide, leaguewide, there’s been a lot of attention on gun violence, and so for us, that’s the stance that we’ve taken about how we can support Ja throughout this growth opportunity. It’s a learning opportunity, and hopefully we can be better from it.”
In 2015, the NBA collaborated with director Spike Lee and The Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund to create several public service announcements on gun violence. Stars such as Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Joakim Noah participated in the PSAs.
In addition to the Instagram video Saturday, Morant has been involved in several incidents in which he or acquaintances of his were alleged to have brandished a firearm.
A Washington Post story published Wednesday detailed two incidents involving Morant this summer that resulted in police reports but no arrests. In the second incident, according to police interviews obtained by The Washington Post, a 17-year-old boy alleged Morant emerged from his house with a gun in his waistband and his hand on the weapon after a fight between the boy and Morant during a pickup basketball game in the Grizzlies point guard’s backyard. The other incident was a confrontation with a mall security guard in a parking lot.
“Any and every allegation involving a firearm has been fully investigated and could not be corroborated,” Jim Tanner, Morant’s agent, said in a statement in response to the Post’s story. “This includes the NBA investigation last month, in which they found no evidence.”
That investigation stemmed from a postgame confrontation between acquaintances of Morant and the Indiana Pacers‘ traveling party after the Grizzlies’ Jan. 29 home win. After that incident, which occurred by the Indiana team bus in the loading area of FedExForum and was first reported by The Athletic, NBA security and investigators interviewed numerous eyewitnesses and reviewed video surveillance following allegations made by the Pacers organization that a red laser was pointed at members of the Pacers from a sports utility vehicle in which Morant was a passenger.
Jenkins was the only member of the Grizzlies’ staff or management to speak publicly before Sunday’s game, which Morant did not attend. The team flew from Denver to Los Angeles on Saturday morning; Morant was not with the team Sunday and is not in Los Angeles, sources said.
Following Sunday’s game, Grizzlies players expressed confidence in Morant taking the necessary steps toward accountability, and the team’s ability to move forward.
“He’s a resilient guy, tough-minded guy,” Desmond Bane said. “Whenever he’s ready to come back, we’ll welcome him with open arms.”
Tyus Jones, who said he’s talked with Morant a couple times since the Instagram Live video was posted, described the situation as “an emotional time” and “something we’re dealing with in-house.”
“I’m confident that Ja is going to handle his business and continue to do what he needs to do to get himself in the right place,” Jones said. “When it’s time to continue to play basketball, he’ll be ready … whenever it may be.”
Morant began his Instagram Live session at 5:19 a.m. ET Saturday, hours after the Grizzlies’ 113-97 loss to the Denver Nuggets. The All-Star guard, who was shirtless and rapping along with the music, could be seen holding up what appeared to be a handgun with his left hand. Morant deactivated both his Instagram and Twitter accounts Saturday afternoon.
In a statement, Morant said he takes “full responsibility for my actions last night.”
“I’m sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire organization for letting you down,” the statement read. “I’m going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.”
Jenkins said Morant’s acknowledgement of the severity of the situation and willingness to seek help were heartening.
“The focus right now is Ja’s taking on the responsibility to really get the help he needs to get into a better place,” Jenkins said. “But also … to be in a better place to embrace the responsibilities and expectations as a member of this team. That’s what we’re going to support him through, but we’re also going to hold him accountable, too.”
The league, if it finds wrongdoing, could fine or suspend Morant. The NBA collective bargaining agreement forbids players from possessing a firearm while at an NBA facility or traveling for league business. In 2010, the NBA suspended Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas indefinitely for bringing weapons to the team’s locker room.