Though an announcement likely won’t come until after the NBA Finals, Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant is expected to face a significant suspension, with one report indicating he could miss half of next season. A ban of that length would no doubt get Morant’s attention, presenting a clear ultimatum to get his life together or risk serious consequences.
While Morant has to be held accountable for his actions, Ryen Russillo feels that can be accomplished without throwing the book at him, arguing that, in this instance, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.
“I think 20 games is egregious and people seem to think that’s not enough,” Russillo opined on a recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast. “Are we the only sane people here?”
Along with incidents detailed in an explosive Washington Post report, Morant has developed a troubling infatuation with guns, serving an eight-game suspension in March for brandishing a firearm at a Denver strip club. Prior to being reinstated, Morant met with commissioner Adam Silver, who warned that another slip-up could cost him his career. Barely two months later, Morant was back on Instagram holding a gun, prompting his immediate suspension from all team activities.
“Like you really think a guy should lose half of a season because of some Instagram videos?” asked Russillo, noting how the media has turned Morant’s punishment into a “contest,” seeing who can come down hardest on a troubled 23-year-old in the thick of what appears to be a mental-health crisis. “That, to me, is insanity.”
Russillo made clear he’s not condoning Ja’s behavior in any way, or suggesting the controversial point guard shouldn’t be disciplined. But levying an excessive punishment could also send the wrong message, making an unnecessary example out of a player who, more than anything, needs support right now.
“It doesn’t mean I like Ja. It doesn’t mean I think any of this **** is cool. It doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s made huge mistakes and has to figure some stuff out. The interview with Jalen [Rose] was terrible. I don’t like any of it,” Russillo insisted. “You don’t have to like anything he did. You could think he’s the dumbest guy in the league. But there should still be kind of a line where that’s too far. You can’t suspend him half the season for this stuff.”
Simmons shared a similar sentiment, confused why Morant is being crucified for something that wasn’t a crime. “The part I don’t get is, nobody was being hurt or threatened or anything in any way. He was just acting like a jack***,” Simmons argued. “The [Gilbert] Arenas thing, I was like, I get it. That’s ****ing crazy. They had guns in the locker room and threatened to shoot each other. Yeah, I get it. I don’t really get this.”
Silver has struck a decidedly grim tone whenever Morant’s name has come up in interviews, which makes Simmons wonder if there’s more to the story. “The other piece is, obviously there’s something really bad going on with this guy,” said Simmons, alluding to a recent welfare check conducted on Morant after a concerning Instagram post that felt like a goodbye message. “Honestly, if you’re comparing this to stuff in the eighties, this is like a one out of 10. I just don’t know how you lose half a season. That’s what makes me think there’s got to be more stuff that hasn’t come out.”