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Ja Morant Is Coming Back

MEMPHIS, TN - FEBRUARY 27: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies participates in an all access team practice on February 27, 2023 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Two days after news broke that Ja Morant had checked into a nebulously defined "counseling program" in Florida, the NBA has announced the results of its investigation into his strip club gun incident and levied a formal suspension against him. Morant reportedly entered counseling shortly after releasing his initial apology, and he met with league officials in New York on Wednesday. Morant has been suspended for eight games, a punishment closer to Stephen Jackson's seven-gamer for a different strip club gun issue than the half-season that Gilbert Arenas received for his locker-room gun antics.

The suspension is retroactive, so he'll be eligible to return for the Grizzlies' March 20 home game against Dallas. The severity of Morant's inevitable suspension apparently hinged on where he got the gun and whether or not he brought it along with him to an NBA workplace. They concluded that he didn't bring it to Colorado, never had it in the arena, and it was not, in a Shams-esque show of passive voice, "displayed by him beyond a brief period." Since he's finished whatever program he was in, and since local authorities declined to charge him with any crimes, there was nothing but NBA discipline standing in the way of his return to action. Or, phrased in the most confusing way possible, Morant "moves closer to ramping up for return to season now."

The Grizzlies dropped their first two games without their all-star, though they've regained the Western Conference's second seed by winning three on the trot. They have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league, which means they will have the leeway to ease Morant back in, if that's what he needs. He's clearly going through something, and while he and his teammates want him to be a Grizzlies basketball player, the high-stress environment of a playoff run is an unforgiving place to reacclimatize. He'll be eligible to play in Memphis's final 12 games.

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