Grizzlies stay mum on return of Morant beyond next game
DALLAS — The Memphis Grizzlies aren’t saying when star point guard Ja Morant will return with one game remaining in a four-game sabbatical the team said he needed to deal with personal issues.
Morant was away from the team for a fifth consecutive game on Monday night, a 104-88 victory over Dallas that gave the Grizzlies a sweep of a home-and-home set with the Mavericks.
Citing unidentified sources, ESPN reported during the game that Morant has entered a counseling program in Florida. Coach Taylor Jenkins declined to comment on that report.
“Outside of what I’ve said in the past, respectful to the nature of the situation and stuff, I think I said on the outset he was taking time and responsibility to get better himself so he could be better for our team,” Jenkins said. “I’m not going to really comment further until there’s more updates necessary.”
Morant is away from the team after posting a video recently in which the 23-year-old two-time All-Star appeared to be displaying a gun at a Denver-area strip club.
The sixth game of Morant’s absence will be Wednesday night at Miami, but Jenkins said the club isn’t ready to indicate what will happen after that.
“There are a lot of internal dialogues going on,” Jenkins said before the game. “There are still things going on at the league level that we’re in communication with. Ja’s fully engaged in this process and whatever comes next after these two games.”
The Grizzlies are in a tight race for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with Sacramento, with those teams about three games clear of a tightly packed group trying to stay in the top six and avoid the West play-in tournament.
“We’re focused on winning basketball games,” said guard Desmond Bane, who led the Grizzlies with 23 points in Monday’s victory over Dallas. “Obviously, Ja’s getting help. Whenever he’s ready to return to the team, we’re going to welcome him with open arms.”
Memphis won its third consecutive game without Morant after losing the first two he missed. The Grizzlies were 20-5 without him last year, when they finished second in the West.
“I think it’s a lot of factors,” Jenkins said of the success without Morant last season. “It’s not about doing more. It’s just about, in your opportunity, play better, just seek the opportunities.”