By TIM REYNOLDS (AP Basketball Writer)
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed disappointment Tuesday that Memphis guard Ja Morant apparently held a firearm again on social media this past weekend, but did not predict what punishment the league may impose.
Morant has already been suspended him from all team activities by the Grizzlies and the league has opened another investigation into the star guard’s off-court conduct.
Silver met with Morant after a similar incident in March and suspended him for eight games.
“Honestly, I was shocked when I saw, this weekend, that video,” Silver said in a televised interview with ESPN before the draft lottery in Chicago. “We’re in the process of investigating it and we’ll figure out exactly what happened as best as we can. The video’s a bit grainy and all that, but I’m assuming the worst. We’ll figure out exactly what happened there.”
It’s the second time in less than three months that Morant was seen on Instagram holding what appeared to be a weapon. The first led to the eight-game suspension that was handed down in March and cost Morant about $669,000 in salary.
This time, the suspension could be much longer and much more costly. The second video was captured Saturday night and widely shared online. It was streamed on the Instagram account of Morant associate Davonte Pack, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Grizzlies have not commented on the specifics of the latest video.
The video streamed by Pack shows Morant in the passenger seat of a vehicle, briefly appearing to display a handgun. At the very brief moment — maybe less than a second — when Morant is shown holding what appears to be a weapon as he sits in the passenger seat of a vehicle, the livestream had 111 viewers.
“He could have injured, maimed, killed himself, someone else, with an act like that,” Silver said. “And also the acknowledgement that he’s a star. He has an incredibly huge following. And my concern — and I thought he shared with me — that millions if not tens of millions of kids globally would see him as having done something that was celebrating in a way that act of using a firearm in that fashion.”
When the season ended a couple weeks ago, Morant said again that he needed to work on his decision-making.
“Being disciplined on both sides, off the court making better decisions and on the court being locked in even more,” Morant said following a season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. “Being a leader of this team, it pretty much starts with me. … I’ve got to be better in that area.”
Morant’s five-year, $194 million max contract is set to begin this coming season. He has endorsement deals with Nike and Powerade, though the sports drink company pulled an ad featuring Morant almost immediately after the March video emerged.
This is the third known NBA investigation surrounding Morant and the possible involvement of firearms so far in 2023.
Morant’s actions were investigated after a Jan. 29 incident in Memphis that he said led to Pack banned from Grizzlies’ home games for a year.
That incident followed a game against the Indiana Pacers; citing unnamed sources, The Indianapolis Star and USA Today reported that multiple members of the Pacers saw a red dot pointed at them while they were near the loading dock where their bus was located, and The Athletic reported that a Pacers security guard believed the laser was attached to a gun.
The NBA confirmed that unnamed individuals were banned from the arena but said its investigation found no evidence that anyone was threatened with a weapon.
Then came the Denver-area incident in the early hours of March 4, after the Grizzlies played a road game against the Nuggets when Morant started a livestream from inside a strip club while holding a gun. No charges were filed.
Morant and Pack also are involved in a civil lawsuit brought after an incident at Morant’s home last summer, in which a then-17-year-old alleged that they assaulted him. Morant filed a countersuit on April 12, accusing the teen of slander, battery and assault.
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