MEMPHIS — All-Star point guard Ja Morant, who participated Tuesday in his first practice with the Memphis Grizzlies following an eight-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the NBA, described his attempt to find better ways to manage stress through counseling as “an ongoing process.”
Morant, who the Grizzlies anticipate will make his return in Wednesday’s home game against the Houston Rockets, spent 11 days in a Florida counseling facility in the wake of him brandishing a handgun during an early morning Instagram Live video stream from a Denver-area strip club on March 4.
“Obviously took that time to better myself, get in a better space mentally,” Morant said. “It’s an ongoing process, a continued process for me. Obviously, I’ve been there for two weeks, but that doesn’t mean I’m completely better. So that’s an ongoing process for me that I’ve still been continuing since I’ve come out.”
Morant said that he had become concerned about his stress level before the controversy in Colorado, but he did not want to leave his team to enter a counseling program during the season. Morant, who signed a five-year contract extension that could be worth up to $233 million if he is an All-NBA selection again this season, said he has realized over the past two weeks how much he has at stake.
“Obviously, I’ve made mistakes in the past that cause a lot of negative attention — not only to me, but my family as well, my team, the organization — and I’m completely sorry for that,” said Morant, who leads the Grizzlies with 27.1 points and 8.2 assists per game. “So my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more.”
According to the statement from the league announcing the suspension, NBA commissioner Adam Silver determined Morant was in an “intoxicated state” during the Instagram Live session. Morant, however, was adamant that he does not consider alcohol abuse to be an issue for him.
“I don’t have an alcohol problem, never had an alcohol problem,” Morant said. “I went [to Florida] for counseling to learn how to manage stress, 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, 23, deactivated his Instagram and Twitter accounts following the incident but recently reactivated them. Morant, however, said he will not be nearly as active on social media as he has been in the past, when he often provided the public glimpses into his private life.
He also said that “clubbing and all is not on my mind at all right now” when asked about curtailing his late-night social activities, particularly when the Grizzlies are on road trips.
“Right now for me, it’s just keeping the main thing, the main thing and continuing to go through my process of becoming a better me,” Morant said. “I feel like if I do that, not only will it help me, but it’ll help everybody around me as well.”
Morant, who has told the Memphis coaching staff that he’s willing to come off the bench as they gradually increase his minutes to normal levels, admitted that he is “uncomfortable” with the potential fan response after he returns from his suspension.
“It’s a lot, man,” Morant said. “A lot of people don’t know what’s going on — not in my shoes right now with everything that’s been going on as of late. Obviously, I take responsibility for decisions I’ve made that pretty much hurt me to the core.
“Like I said, it not only affected me, but it affected everyone around me — my family, this organization, my teammates — and caused me not to be out there on the floor. Which, one thing I love to do the most is play basketball. So it’s a lot, but like I said before, it’s an ongoing process with everything I’ve been doing the past two weeks, and I’m going to continue to do that to get through everything I need to be healthy.”
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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