Ja Morant’s impending punishment will be severe, but will it deter another incident?

DENVER — Even the Lakers and Celtics would struggle to be overshadowed by what happens to Ja Morant.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver did his best to work his way through the wording, but it was clear the verdict on Morant will be harsh and possibly groundbreaking. Silver knew it would dominate the news cycle for more than a day and that these NBA Finals, or any other for that matter, didn’t deserve to be overshadowed by such a black mark.

Morant appeared to have another weapon in an Instagram Live video a few weeks ago, resulting in his suspension from the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s hard to say what Morant is actually suspended from right now, but we do know why he’s suspended: playing in your employer’s face.

The list goes on and, scarily, it doesn’t look like he’s hit rock bottom yet. After all, prior to this latest incident, its Nike ad ran throughout the playoffs, and until recently, Nike began limiting the release of its first signature shoe.

Perhaps it was fitting that Silver was a few miles from the scene of Morant’s first public transgression in March at Shotgun Willie’s strip club where he flashed a gun — again, on Instagram Live.

“So to assess what discipline is appropriate, if so, we look at both the history of past acts, but we also look at each player’s history,” Silver said Thursday. “And the seriousness, of course, of driving. These are all things that are taken into account.

“It’s not an exact science. It comes down to judgment ultimately on my part and that of my colleagues in the league office.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant could face unprecedented punishment from the NBA.  (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant could face unprecedented punishment from the NBA. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

How science is determined is by full investigation. Better believe the NBA used every resource it could find — team security, which often has FBI or military backgrounds, as well as local law enforcement to determine the activities of Morand.

“In terms of timing, we’ve uncovered a fair amount of additional information, I think, since I was first asked about the situation,” Silver said. “I will say we probably could have done it by now, but we made the decision, and I think the players’ association agrees with us, that it would be unfair to those players and those teams in the middle. of the series to announce the results of this investigation.

It’s a mouthful, though that wasn’t Silver’s intention. We already know a lot about Morant’s activities, largely because he posted them on the internet. The reported altercation at a Memphis shoe store inside a mall, the backyard beating Morant allegedly gave a 17-year-old a perceived disrespect. Then you add the laser scoring situation with the Indiana Pacers traveling party that the league didn’t quite validate, not only does that make it look like the NBA should have cracked down on Morant sooner, but that punishment will be a rating. .

We think here of recently retired Carmelo Anthony during a conversation he had with the late commissioner David Stern following an altercation in New York when Anthony was a young Denver Nugget.

Stern’s words to Anthony after inflicting a 15-game suspension in 2006: “I know who you’re with. I know where you live, I know where they live. I know when you close your eyes and when you wake up and I know what they do, he tells me. Either tell them to stop or cut them off.

Stern’s spirit was probably evoked by Silver in his findings.

And given that Silver referred to the NBPA in his statement, that certainly suggests the suspension will be so severe that the first inclination will be for the NBPA to challenge it in arbitration – but doing so jointly will mean that once it is returned , the decision will be final without possibility of appeal.

Silver wouldn’t say if Morant will be available to start next season, but it’s hard to imagine him making the grid on opening night in October.

The commissioner is not in an impossible position, but there is a line he walks. Sure, the punishment will be punitive given Morant’s now-public rap sheet, but it also needs to be a deterrent so it doesn’t happen again — something he thought he was accomplishing by giving Morant an eight-game suspension in March.

Silver was asked if he should have had a heavier hand, given everything he knows now. The exhaustive investigation that the league recently conducted should have been done sooner.

“I thought about it and [NBA executive vice president] Joe Dumars, who’s here, was in the room with me when we met Ja, and he’s known Ja longer than I have,” Silver said. “To me at the time, an eight-game suspension seemed very serious, and the conversation we had, and Tamika Tremaglio from the players’ association was also there, was sincere and serious. But I think he has understood that it wasn’t about his words, it was about his future conduct.

“I guess looking back, I don’t know. If it had been a 12-game suspension instead of an eight-game suspension, would it have mattered? I know it seemed based on precedent, and it’s represented, and we want to be fair in league terms, it seemed appropriate at the time. That’s all I can say. Maybe by definition, since we’ve all seen the video, it looks like he’s done it again, I guess you could say maybe not.

Deep down, Silver is a fan of the players, knowing that they are the biggest currency in the league. And he’s also a Morant fan. He knows Morant’s importance to the NBA, USA Basketball and Nike. So he doesn’t want to throw Morant out with the bathwater here.

Plus, he cares about Morant’s humanity — Silver, like most, wants Morant to turn the tables and not be a cautionary tale. Silver knows that Morant is at an inflection point in his career, and possibly even his life.

Playing with guns in a place like Memphis doesn’t usually have a happy ending, and even Morant’s popularity and massive wealth can’t save him from street justice if anyone determines.

That certainly sounds extreme, but perhaps only a trade will save Morant from himself. Even then, it makes it seem like Memphis is the problem and not Morant’s own actions. There’s a Memphis all over the NBA, if we’re being honest.

Morant didn’t go through the gauntlet of preparation that so many players do now, where they are pushed and prodded, then reminded at a very young age how aware they need to be of their actions before they physically mature.

It’s no guarantee as some players find themselves in trouble regardless of pedigree, but Morant’s rise out of nowhere means he’s skipped critical milestones in terms of attention management.

And whether he’s a studio mobster or one in real life doesn’t matter when it comes to the NBA doing justice. Morant took an olive branch of Grace from Silver and spat on it, in essence.

Every time the announcement comes, it will be a chance for Morant to do more than attend rehab at a fast food joint, but to really assess where he’s going and if he wants it all to end. earlier than expected.

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