Speaking about the recent incidents, Ja Morant says: “I realize what I have to lose.”

Tim MacMahonESPN Author4 minutes read

Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant said in an interview Wednesday that he realized how much he was risking with his pattern of bad decisions off court in the week and a half since the incident that led to his eight-game suspension from the NBA.

Hours after the Grizzlies played the Nuggets in Denver on March 3, Morant posted a live Instagram video from a local nightclub where he could be seen holding up a pistol with his left hand. The All-Star guard soon after attended a counseling program at a Florida facility while the league office investigated his handling of a firearm.

“Honestly I feel like we got ourselves into this situation with our past mistakes and now it’s only right that we focus on being smarter and more responsible and blaming each other for everything.” , Morant said Wednesday during an interview with ESPN’s Jalen Rose, referring to his inner circle. “I feel like in the past we didn’t know what was at stake. And now I finally have this time to realize everything, to have this time alone, I realize that now.

“I realize what I have to lose and for us as a group what we have to lose. It’s pretty much just about being more responsible and smarter and staying away from all the bad decisions.”

Morant conducted the sit-down interview with Rose in New York hours after meeting NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who called Morant’s behavior “irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous” in a statement Wednesday announcing the eight-game suspension .

Morant has been away from the Grizzlies since the video was released, and the franchise previously announced he would be out until at least Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat. The eight-game suspension from the league covers the six games he has already missed, including Wednesday in Miami.

“It was good – pretty much an open discussion,” Morant said of his meeting with Silver. “Obviously he’s said things I need to be better at, but more than just showing his support for me. I accepted that and also apologized to everyone – the league, myself, my teammates, my family for putting this negativity towards all of us with a bad decision.”

Morant said the gun featured in the video was “not mine” but did not specify who owned it or how it came into his hands.

“It’s not who I am,” Morant said. “I do not condone violence or any kind of violence, but I take full responsibility for my actions. I made a bad mistake. I can see the picture I’ve painted about myself with my recent mistakes. I’m going to show everyone who Ja really is, what I’m about and change this narrative that everyone has.

Morant described his decision to host an Instagram Live session while partying at Shotgun Willie’s, a strip club in Glendale, Colorado, as “pretty much just trying to be free.”

“I used that as an escape, which I shouldn’t have done,” Morant said. “I think that’s why I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my past, which doesn’t really describe me, doesn’t describe Yes as a person. I am a completely different person than what has been portrayed in the media. That’s my job now. That’s why I took this time to become a better Yes so everyone can really see who Yes really is and you know what he’s all about.

Morant vaguely discussed other recently reported incidents, including a fight with a 17-year-old during a pickup basketball game in his backyard, a confrontation with a security guard at a Memphis mall after his mother called him, a confrontation at a high school in Memphis in response to insulting his younger sister during a volleyball game and a post-game confrontation between Morant’s staff and the Indiana Pacers that sparked an NBA investigation. None of the incidents resulted in an arrest or criminal charges.

“Most things that have happened in the past I put myself in by just being there,” Morant said. “But all the incidents you’ve seen lately, most of them are lies. I can’t talk too much about these situations because they are all sealed. I can’t wait to finally tell the truth… But what I can say is like I said, none of this is my character. I’m a big family man. I always take care of my family. So it was just me checking on my family’s safety. As soon as my family is safe I left the scene.”

Shortly after posting the video in Colorado, Morant deactivated his Instagram and Twitter accounts. He entered the Florida counseling program after it was announced he was taking time off from the team.

As part of the counseling program, Morant said he’s spoken to therapists, learned it’s okay to express your feelings, and worked on techniques to manage stress, like Reiki treatments and fear breathing.

“I’m doing fine mentally — the best I’ve been in many years since I really got into the league,” said Morant, 23, a four-year NBA veteran. “I find myself in an environment in which I feel very comfortable. I’ve used these days to learn how to pretty much be there for myself and learn different ways to manage stress in a positive way.”

Morant reactivated his social media accounts on Wednesday evening and posted an advert for Powerade on his Instagram page.

Though he’s eligible to return to the Grizzlies on Monday, he won’t be playing the Dallas Mavericks at home that night. He said he needs to take a little more time to physically prepare for his return after not training during his time in Florida.

“I’ve also put my team in a difficult position with my inability to be on the floor on decisions I’ve made,” Morant said. “I regret it all. I can’t wait to get back on my feet and know what my punishment is. I accept that and I feel like I deserve this punishment for my mistakes and for what I did. Go back out there, I’ll be ready to go and ready to push for a ring.”

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