Memphis Grizzlies All-Star Ja Morant hasn’t played since March 3 in Denver as after that loss, he was streamed live on social media at about 5 am local time dancing shirtless in a strip club. There’s nothing wrong with that part, but Morant also had a gun in his hand. That led to an NBA suspension, which officially ended on Monday. Morant wasn’t ready to return for that one but will play tonight against the visiting and tanking Houston Rockets, who are nearly 14-point underdogs.
NBA News: Grizzlies’ Ja Morant To Return From Suspension Wednesday vs. Rockets
When: Tuesday, March 22, 2023 at 8:00 pm ET
Where: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
TV / Streaming: NBA League Pass, ATTSN SW, Bally SE
While Morant wasn’t charged with any crimes for having that weapon, it was a bad look for his brand as one of the most exciting players in the league and Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.” Morant used the time away from to go into counseling at a facility in Florida but added he “never had an alcohol problem.”
“I went to counseling to learn how to manage stress,” Morant said. “Cope with stress in a positive way, instead of ways I’ve tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes.” Morant said that his treatment is an “ongoing process,” adding that he was getting off social media and letting his actions speak for him.
Overall, Morant has been involved in several incidents in which he or acquaintances of his were alleged to have brandished a firearm. A recent Washington Post story also detailed two incidents involving Morant this past summer that resulted in police reports but no arrests. Memphis initially sidelined Morant on March 4, announcing he would miss at least two games after the gun incident. The NBA later gave Morant an eight-game suspension, counting five games he had missed already as time served.
He was on the bench Monday night as Memphis topped Dallas, 112-108, with a fourth-quarter surge that saw the Grizzlies overcome a 16-point deficit. The club wanted Morant to get in a bit more conditioning before returning to action and Morant said he’s fine coming off the bench tonight or until he’s 100 percent. He will be on a minutes limit regardless.
A return tonight would give Morant 11 games to play before the NBA playoffs, where Memphis is second in the West, a game ahead of No. 3 Sacramento. Little chance the Grizzlies can catch No. 1 Denver. Morant is averaging 27.1 points, 8.2 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game.
The Grizzlies remain without injured center Steven Adams and will be without starting forward Dillon Brooks tonight. He picked up his 18th technical foul of the season for taunting the Dallas bench during the Grizzlies’ win Monday. The NBA automatically suspends players for one game after they are assessed 16 technical fouls in a season, and every two technical fouls thereafter. Brooks is averaging 14.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
Memphis, 30-5 at FedExForum, owns the best home winning percentage (.857) in the NBA this season. The Grizzlies are two home wins shy of matching the single-season franchise record of 32, set during the 2012-13 season. They are on pace to capture their second straight Southwest Division title. Memphis has won all six home games against Southwest Division opponents this season and would finish the season a perfect 8-0 at home against division rivals by sweeping the next two games with Houston as the teams play again Friday.
Jaren Jackson Jr. has scored 25+ points in fourth straight games, the longest streak of his career. Jackson Jr. is the fourth player in franchise history to total 100+ points and 10+ blocks over any four-game span, joining Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Bryant Reeves.
Houston has lost two in a row as it tanks for the draft lottery. Rookie Jabari Smith is the player in NBA history to have his totals of at least 860 points, 492 rebounds, 64 blocks and 108 3FGM through the first 69 games of a career. Second-year Jalen Green Has scored 40+ points in four of his past 23 games played (once first 110 GP). Fellow guard Kevin Porter is one of 12 players averaging at least 18.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.0 apg and 1.00 spg this season and is the second-youngest doing so.
Memphis has won three straight vs. Houston dating to last season and is looking to tie its longest streak of four games set twice. The Rockets are 4-4 over their past eight home games overall after losing 17 of their previous 19.
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