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Commissioner went soft on Ja Morant

by Stefan Bondy New York Daily News | June 17, 2023 at 2:21 a.m.

NEW YORK -- Ja Morant can count his blessings, and 70% of a splendid salary, that Adam Silver is the NBA commissioner and not David Stern.

Stern, who oversaw the NBA's rise to international prominence, dropped hammers. Silver drops plastic spoons unless they're on Donald Sterling.

To recap, Morant embarrassed the NBA, himself and especially Silver. He flashed a gun in March at a club while "in an intoxicated state," according to the league, and then went to a meeting with Silver that supposedly demonstrated Morant's "sincere contrition." The commissioner added at the time, "Ja has also made it clear to me that he has learned from this incident."

Clearly, Morant doesn't take Silver seriously. And why should he? Why should he worry about anything? His PR cleanup consisted of a short stay (emphasis on short) at a counseling facility and dancing around softball questions from ESPN's Jalen Rose. Then Morant flashed another gun in another video two months later, leaving us to assume the worst of his vast world outside of Instagram Live.

Morant was suspended 25 games Friday, and Silver acted like he was performing some great deterrent -- as if most of his stars don't rest 25 games during the season anyway. Morant lost 30% of his salary because of the suspension, but maintained his Nike deal and will be back by December.

He won.

"We believe a suspension of 25 games is appropriate and makes clear that engaging in reckless and irresponsible behavior with guns will not be tolerated," Silver said.

To be clear, the gun flashing is just a part of the concerning behavior from Morant, who plays the role of gangster in his personal life.

Although the NBA and the Grizzlies largely ignored them, news outlets uncovered multiple accusations of violence and threats just in the last year: a 17-year-old who alleged Morant repeatedly punched him during a pickup game and later flashed a gun; a verbal altercation involving Morant's family at a high school volleyball game; an employee at a sneaker store claiming he had to hide in a backroom for an hour as Morant and his friends threatened him; a mall security guard alleging he was assaulted by Morant's friend and threatened by Morant; an incident at a Pacers game involving Morant's friends confronting Pacers employees and an allegation of a red laser -- which was believed to be a gun's laser sight -- pointed at them from a car containing Morant.

All the while, Morant was protected by the Memphis police department and the Grizzlies, who, according to the Washington Post, worked together to keep allegations under wraps. With friends like these Morant only needed to keep a gun off Instagram Live and he couldn't manage.

At one point, the Grizzlies brought in former player Antonio Burks to speak with the team about the potential pitfalls of reckless behavior, a source told the New York Daily News (Burks, a 2004 second-round pick, was shot during a robbery attempt during a Memphis dice game). But when it came to disciplining Morant, the Grizzlies went silent and left it to the soft hands of Silver.

Emphasis on soft.

Print Headline: Commissioner went soft on Ja Morant


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