Ja Morant has 'complied with everything,' Adam Silver says

December 9, 2023, 10:29 PM

LAS VEGAS -- NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that he plans to have an individual check-in with Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant this coming week ahead of his potential return from a 25-game suspension later this month.

"Yes, I have been monitoring the situation closely, and him. In fact, we intend to have a check-in this week directly, Ja and I," Silver said during his news conference ahead of the in-season tournament's championship game at T-Mobile Arena Saturday night. "But folks in the league office, together with Ja and his team and the Players Association, have been in regular contact, essentially weekly. There have been those checkpoints.

"We've, together, laid out a program for him over the last several weeks, and to the best of my knowledge, he's complied with everything he's been asked to do. As I said, we'll talk at least once this week before he comes back, and we will review the program and make sure the conditions are in place for him to be successful going forward."

Morant was suspended for 25 games for conduct detrimental to the league back in June after a video on social media circulated in May showing him brandishing a firearm, after he'd been suspended eight games in March after he was on Instagram Live holding up a handgun while at a Denver nightclub.

When Morant was suspended, Silver wrote in the statement announcing it that, "prior to his return to play, he will be required to formulate and fulfill a program with the league that directly addresses the circumstances that led him to repeat this destructive behavior."

Memphis, which has gone 6-15 to start this season, currently sits in a tie for 13th in the Western Conference standings and will play its 25th game on Dec. 18 in Oklahoma City against the Thunder -- meaning Morant, presuming things go as expected, will be eligible to return on Dec. 19 in New Orleans against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Without Morant, the Grizzlies were a non-factor in the in-season tournament, finishing 0-4. But the leaguewide buzz has been positive.

And Silver, not surprisingly -- after years of advocating for his league to adopt a tournament during the regular season, like ones that are held in European soccer and basketball leagues -- said he was pleased by the way the tournament has played out, and the way it has been embraced by players, coaches and fans.

Part of what has caused the players to embrace the tournament is the financial incentive. Each player on the winning team gets $500,000, with $200,000 going to players on the losing team in the title game, $100,000 to the semifinal losers and $50,000 to the quarterfinal losers.

When asked if a financial incentive could be used as a carrot to improve other events -- like the All-Star Game and Slam Dunk Contest, Silver expressed skepticism that would work.

"I'm pleasantly surprised that guys are not dismissing (the cash incentive) and saying, this isn't something real," Silver said. "And look, this is a business. I don't think there's anything wrong with money being a motivator in certain cases. I will say, we've learned over the years in terms of the All-Star Game, as we've experimented with different formats and different incentives, money alone has not made the difference there, which I think is why some of the cynics were saying it wouldn't here.

"In terms of the interest we are seeing around the in-season tournament, I don't think it was just the money. I think it was the competition, in part. I think it was coming to Vegas. I think it was all of those things that made the difference. On the Slam Dunk, you're familiar with this -- it has not just come from the league, but even in terms of partners of the league who have offered players, I think by any objective terms, a lot of money to participate in some of those contests. I think the players didn't think it was worth it for them, not because they didn't care about the money but because they were concerned about embarrassing themselves or disappointing people.

"I would say players, at the end of the day, they are not that different than other people we know, that money is a motivator but not a sole motivator of their behavior."

Meanwhile, Silver said he was surprised when the National Basketball Players Association's executive director, Tamika Tremaglio, abruptly stepped down from her post last month, and was replaced on an interim basis by longtime NBA player Andre Iguodala, though he added that there had been no change in the day-to-day relationship between the two parties after her departure.

"I was surprised when Tamika was replaced only because I had no prior knowledge that there was any issue there," Silver said. "I mean, she and I had a very professional relationship in the role. But ultimately, I recognized that changes we could make at the league office, the Players Association could be saying, I had no idea any changes were coming in terms of executive positions here. It's my job to work with whoever is presented to me.

"As far as I can tell from the outside, it's been a very smooth transition there to Andre Iguodala as I guess the interim executive director. Nothing has changed in terms of our day-to-day relations with them, and I have no other knowledge about why either the Players Association or Tamika decided to, you know, change the relationship.

"What we heard directly from other senior executives at the Players Association and the executive committee is this is business as usual with the league, and it has been."