FOX Sports NBA Analyst
There is no consensus among NBA scouts and executives about the 25-game suspension Commissioner Adam Silver imposed on Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant for allegedly brandishing a gun on social media last month. Most considered it fair.
There was consensus on what would happen if there was another incident.
“The next one,” said one Western Conference executive, “is over.”
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The executive was among half a dozen scouts and executives asked by FOX Sports to weigh in on the punishment, Goldilocks-style: too harsh, too light or fair.
“Right,” said the executive. “It wasn’t the time to squash it, but it’s serious. Next is a year.”
Two scouts seconded that opinion, seeing it as an escalation of the eight-game suspension Morant received in March after a similar incident at a Denver strip club after a game. Morant met with Silver shortly thereafter and, according to the statement announcing the 25-game suspension, promised there would not be a second time. And yet there was.
That’s why one Western Conference scout said: “Ja got away with it. I’m a leading member of the David Stern school of player discipline. I should have had half a season, 41 games, as a repeat offender.”
The scout is referring to the late Commissioner Stern, Silver’s predecessor, who suspended Washington Wizards guards Javaris Crittenton and Gilbert Arenas about half a season for a gun incident inside the team’s locker room. The incident occurred in December of the 2009-10 season and following a league-led investigation, Stern announced in late January that Crittenton and Arenas were suspended for the remainder of the season.
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Having firearms in the locker room is a direct violation of NBA policy. The Morant incidents occurred off any league property, which is why another Western Conference executive thought Silver “might have been a bit of a pushover.” The previous eight-game suspension Morant received fell under the auspices of conduct detrimental to the league, Silver said. Presumably this incident did as well, so the executive suggested that doubling the previous eight-game suspension would have sufficed.
“He didn’t break any laws,” the executive said. “I see it a little differently than the Arenas situation.”
An Eastern Conference scout echoed that sentiment. “I thought more would come, but he didn’t commit an actual crime,” the scout said. “I’m sure the league felt pressure from the players’ union (for that).”
Both a player agent and a Western Conference scout noted that the Grizzlies have let the league do all the heavy lifting, as far as punishing Morant’s behavior. After all, the two aforementioned incidents weren’t the first Morant-related incidents the team didn’t address, at least publicly. In January, reports surfaced that Morant had beaten a 17-year-old the previous summer during an impromptu game at Morant’s home. In February, friends of Morant pointed a laser at members of the Indiana Pacers traveling party, but the league’s investigation could not determine whether the laser had been attached to a weapon.
“When is someone with the Grizzlies going to accept some responsibility for what they’ve been going through?” asked the agent.
Collective bargaining rules prevent the league and team from penalizing a player separately for the same offense, but the Eastern Conference scout suggested the Grizzlies should have worked with the league to make it clear they’re partners in meeting compliance. Morant’s punishment. Up to this point, it seems to be the parents, fearful of losing favor, backing off and allowing the other to do the disciplining.
“He’s such a bright young star,” the scout said. “Everybody loves him. If you’re Memphis, maybe have the league add 15-20 games to send the message. How else is he going to learn the lesson?”
Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young-onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds.” . He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @ric bucher.
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