The NBA needs to check on Ja Morant during his absence

The 2023-24 NBA season is over for Ja Morant and, quite frankly, it barely got started. He began the season with a 25-game suspension for a second offense of inappropriate use of a firearm on social media. Morant played all of nine games before suffering a shoulder injury that the Memphis Grizzlies announced is going to keep him out for the rest of this season. All that he and the Grizzlies will have from 2023-24 is his dunk on Victor Wembanyama, and the buzzer-beater in his return to the floor.

Per a team press release, Morant suffered the shoulder injury at practice on Saturday. An absolute bummer all the way around. He has already suffered the indignity and financial blow of that suspension, and now he has months of rehab ahead of him. Also, his team is going to stay pinned near the bottom of the standings.

The Grizzlies should swallow this entire bad-tasting season and then trade their 2024 lottery pick over the summer so Morant will return to a better roster next fall. Basketball decisions are the easy part. What to do to keep Morant’s head in the right space until the start of the 2024 training camp will require a great deal of brainstorming.

In the wee hours of the morning before the second gun incident, Morant posted on Xwitter, “seem to go my hardest, when I’m going through it.” In a 2021 interview with Taylor Rooks, Morant talked about a bad habit of not dealing with his feelings, and that it plagued him throughout the 2020 experience of being secluded in the Orlando bubble to finish that season.

“The times when I, you know, be in a dark place when I try to make sure everybody else good knowing I’m not good just be even more, you know, harder,” Morant told Rooks.

Adam Silver is the commissioner who said years ago that he was concerned about how many of the players in his league were unhappy. He shared those concerns at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference two years before the COVID-19 pandemic. During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show in May, Silver said that a program would be put in place for Morant along with the suspension to help change his “trajectory.”

This is a time for the NBA and the Grizzlies to show him their concern for him was about more than simply one of the league’s biggest stars making them look bad. Now that he will be away from the floor for a while due to non-disciplinary reasons, both entities need to reach out to Morant even more than they did during the suspension.

Hopefully, whatever program that was put in place has helped him become more willing to speak up when he is feeling down. However, there is no 8-game, or 25-game prescription for his well-being. That is a continual process.

Recently, there has been a setback. This time it had nothing to do with his behavior. He was simply unlucky. An unfortunate circumstance ended his 2023-24 season after only nine games. When players are sidelined with injuries, many feel isolated.

After everything that Morant went through last season — the civil case regarding his alleged assault of a 17-year-old in 2022 has still not been ruled on by a judge — what will most certainly not help him is a feeling of loneliness. Hopefully, the league and the Grizzlies are already working to help this young man who has already been through a lot.

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