For the second time in 2023, the NBA has suspended the Memphis Grizzlies’ star point guard Ja Morant for multiple games in response to his affinity for flashing firearms online.
Morant’s latest suspension will cost him a whopping 25 games and he is set to serve it at the beginning of the upcoming ‘23-’24 season. This penalty is made even worse as it means that the maximum number of regular season games that he can appear in is 57, eight short of the newly mandated 65-game minimum for a player to become eligible for the league’s individual awards.
Memphis should be able to tread water without the two-time NBA All-Star Morant though, as they have excelled in his scattered absences over the past two seasons. Back-up point guard Tyus Jones has been as consistent as they have come in the 58 games where Morant has sat, averaging 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 1.5 steals.
The party with more to worry about in this situation is Morant. The 23-year-old guard is quickly becoming a pariah around the NBA and it would not come as a surprise if his on-court production begins to take a dip amidst all of these distractions.
However, all is not lost for Morant. By no means is he the first player in league history to receive a suspension of this length and there are some encouraging redemption arcs that have played out in the wake of extended bans like the one that he was just given.
19 years ago, Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers was suspended for 73 games after he charged into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in what is now remembered as the infamous “Malice at the Palace”. 25 years old at the time of the incident, he made the lone NBA All-Star appearance of his career in the year prior and did not make another following his act of aggression.
Despite not making another All-Star team, Artest still managed to carve out a long and successful career. He played 11 more seasons after his suspension, including highly successful stints with the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles Lakers–the latter of which he won an NBA title with in 2010.
Another player who received a suspension with a similar length is Latrell Sprewell who is best remembered for his time with the New York Knicks and claiming that a $21 million contract was not enough to feed his family. Prior to his stint in New York, Sprewell played the first six seasons of his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors beginning in 1992.
The rapid rise of Sprewell from the 24th overall pick in the NBA Draft to an All-NBA First Team member in his second year and one of the league’s best shooting guards is often forgotten nowadays. Instead, the memory of his time with Golden State has been tainted by his assault on the Warriors then-head coach P.J. Carlesimo while at practice in 1997.
Sprewell was handed a 68-game suspension for this episode and was shipped to the Knicks by the next season, the lockout-shortened ‘99 campaign. In his first year at New York, Sprewell helped the team make a run all the way to the NBA Finals as the East’s eighth seed–a feat that only the Miami Heat of this past season have been able to replicate.
The 6’5 guard wound up playing a total of five campaigns with the Knicks, including one NBA All-Star appearance in 2001, before suiting up for the Minnesota Timberwolves for two more seasons.
While at Minnesota, he helped Kevin Garnett lead the team to what still stands as the franchise’s only Western Conference Finals appearance. He then faded away in 2005 as he declined the Timberwolves’ contract extension offer that he deemed insufficient for his family’s needs.
Though Artest and Sprewell managed to bounce back, Morant will still have to handle his current situation carefully though as not all players have been as successful in reviving their careers. For example, the 50-game suspension of three-time NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas in 2010, though coupled with injuries as well, marked the beginning of the end of his once promising career.
All hope is not lost for Morant, but if he does not handle this delicate situation with utmost care, then this may very well be the turning point for the worst for his young career.