Process – by definition – is a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. Applied to Ja Morant, it is reality.
The All-Star point guards return Monday night to the Memphis Grizzlies after an NBA-imposed eight-game suspension was a step forward. Tuesday, he practiced with the team in the familiar confines of FedExForum and answered questions from the media afterward.
The “particular end” of the process is a “better” Ja Morant – a person better able to handle the stress in his life; someone who makes a 180-degree better decision than the one that landed him on a social media post briefly flashing a gun in a Denver-area strip club after a loss hours before to the Nuggets.
Morant was on the bench in street clothes as the Grizzlies overcame the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. Head coach Taylor Jenkins met with the media before tipoff.
“The reception (by the Grizzlies team) was great. Everyone welcomed him with (open) arms. He addressed his teammates and staff. He got a playgroup in. We are hopeful for Wednesday. Good first day back.”
The crowd was supportive, delivering a standing ovation.
Morant’s next chance to play comes Wednesday night when the Grizzlies host the Houston Rockets. Memphis is second in the Western Conference with 11 games to play.
Morant had his first public interview last week with ESPN’s Jalen Rose. Tuesday’s after-practice session was a Memphis media affair.
Q – How have the last two weeks been?
“They have been pretty good. I have spent that time learning and taking the time to better myself. I am trying to get to a better space mentally.”
Q – What type of counseling program have you been involved in and is there an ongoing or outpatient aspect of that?
“It is ongoing and (a) continuing process for me. I have been there for two weeks, but that don’t mean I am completely better.”
Q – Whose decision was it?
Q – What was it for?
To be a better me. Learning how to be there for myself. Realigning myself with my personal life. Being more responsible and more smarter. Leading a better life. I have made mistakes in the past that has caused some unnecessary attention, not only to me but to my family, team and organization. I am completely sorry for that. My job now is to be smarter and more responsible.”
Q – Was alcohol the reason for the issues?
“I don’t have an alcohol problem. I didn’t go there for alcohol. I went there for counseling. I went there to learn how to manage stress. Coping with stress in a positive way.”
Regarding being outgoing on social media.
“I won’t be doing that at all. Action speaks louder than words. That is my main focus now. Super excited to be back with my teammates. That is the main thing for me right now. I am going to keep the main thing the main thing. I am going to continue to go through this process (toward) being a better me. If I do that, not only will it help me, but it will help everybody around me as well.”
Q – The most difficult part to accept?
“Just being away. I made a terrible decision. That is what hurt the most. I sent a message to them apologizing. It was better to talk to them in person. Being able to be back to do that, really helps a lot.”
Q – Gun violence is big in Memphis and kids look up to you. What is your message to them?
“I don’t condone any type of violence at all.”
Q – With your platform can you still continue to be Ja Morant”
“I am always going to be Ja. I won’t change for anybody. The only problem with me now is I need to get to a space mentally, that I am very comfortable in. That is why I made the decision to take the time away.”
Q – What was the process in accepting your role in some of the things that happened? (Media reports have linked Morant to several confrontations in recent months.)
“I did not have a role and I did not say that I did anything wrong. All of those cases are sealed and I can’t speak on those. When I have my time to, I will. Everybody will know the truth on what happened in every incident that I have been in.”
Q – While you were out did you fear that you would miss the rest of the season?
“That wasn’t what was on my mind at all. I just wanted to get in a better space mentally for me. That is the number one thing, being healthy in all areas of life.”
On getting to play tomorrow.
“I don’t know. That is another thing that has been tough for me. Going out with the team, I felt uncomfortable. That is how I feel right now. … Once I feel I am back in rhythm and in good condition to go out there, I will go out there.”
NOTE: Tipoff for Wednesday night’s game is set for 7 p.m.