Morant makes triumphant return for Grizzlies

NBA

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Ja Morant is officially back for the Memphis Grizzlies, though the team is making his return a gradual process.

The All-Star point guard scored 17 points off the bench Wednesday in his first game since March 3, with 6-of-13 shooting, five assists, four rebounds and two steals. The Grizzlies defeated the Houston Rockets 130-125.

It didn’t take Morant long to re-assert his authority, even as he came off the bench. He opened the second quarter with another highlight-reel dunk.

It probably won’t be the last time Morant comes off the bench, as Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said before the game he could continue doing so “for a couple games.”

Morant’s father Tee was also on hand, sporting a hoodie featuring his son and the word “Redemption.”

The performance came after Morant spent an extended stretch of time from the team following a series of troubling stories about the off-court behavior of himself and his entourage, culminating in an eight-game suspension by the NBA.

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - MARCH 22: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies handles the ball against Kevin Porter Jr. #3 of the Houston Rockets during the first half at FedExForum on March 22, 2023 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. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
Ja Morant might be coming off the bench, but he’s back. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

The straw that broke the camel’s back was Morant brandishing a gun while at a stripclub on Instagram Live, but allegations involving guns, threats and violence had become a recurring issue. There was the time Morant’s entourage allegedly threatened Indiana Pacers staffers and harassed them with a laser, possibly from a gun, while driving by in an SUV. There was a member of Morant’s entourage allegedly shoving a Memphis mall head of security in the head and Morant himself threatening the man. And there was Morant allegedly beating up a teenage boy and threatening him with a gun after a pick-up game gone wrong.

The prescription for all that wound up being therapy. Morant detailed his treatment after being sidelined by the Grizzlies in a recent interview with ESPN’s Jalen Rose:

“Me, personally, I feel mentally good that I haven’t been in many years. I’m in a space where I’m very comfortable. I was constantly talking to therapists. I’ve been doing Reiki treatment. I’ve been doing anxiety breathing, different stuff to help me manage that and release all that stuff from my body.

Before his return, Morant told reporters he was “not completely better,” but was able to return after the NBA counted his games missed as time served for his suspension. Where that journey takes him will probably be as important to the Grizzlies’ future as anything he’s doing on the court.

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