DENVER — The latest sanctions, if any, that the NBA plans to levy against Memphis guard Ja Morant for his second instance of displaying a gun on social media will be announced shortly after the finals, Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday.
Silver did not say what the penalties were, not even saying if Morant would be available at the start of next season. Morant was suspended for eight games by the NBA in March for an incident where he broadcast himself on Instagram displaying a gun in a suburban Denver club, and was suspended by the Grizzlies last month after another video showed Morant displaying what appeared to be a gun yet again.
Silver said the league has discovered more information during its current investigation, but the decision was made to not have the next round of Morant news overshadow the NBA Finals.
“We probably could have brought it to a head now, but we made the decision — and I believe the players' association agrees with us — that it would be unfair to these players and these teams, in the middle of this series, to announce the results of that investigation,” Silver said.
The first suspension cost Morant about $669,000 in salary. The second incident was streamed on the Instagram account of Morant associate Davonte Pack. The video 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, the livestream had 111 viewers.
“In assessing what discipline is appropriate, if that's the case, we look at both the history of prior acts but then we look at the individual player's history as well and the seriousness, of course, of the conduct," Silver said. “Those are all things that get factored. It's not an exact science. It comes down to judgment at the end of the day on the part of me and my colleagues in the league office.”
This will be at least 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 — someone Morant calls “my brother” — 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.
Silver said he's hoping this episode sparks change for Morant.
“He seems to be a fine young man, in terms of my dealings with him,” Silver said. “He's clearly made some mistakes. But he's young and I'm hoping now, once we conclude at the end of our process, what the appropriate discipline is, that it's not just about the discipline. It's about now what we, the players' association, his team, he and the people around him around him are going to do to create better circumstances going forward. That's ultimately what's most important.”
The NBA Finals matchup no longer seems predictable months in advance, and Silver doesn’t mind that fact whatsoever.
Silver, speaking just before the start of a Denver-Miami matchup in the title series, said those two clubs making the finals “speaks a lot to the competitiveness in this league.” This is the league’s sixth different finals matchup in the last six seasons, and nine different teams have played for a title in that span.
“With just a little over a week left in the season, you had 26 teams still competing for the playoffs,” Silver said in his annual pre-finals address. “That's a record.”
Denver is in the finals for the first time, and Miami is the second team to get there as a No. 8 seed — plus the first to get there after needing to survive the play-in tournament just to qualify for the playoffs. It’s also a matchup of teams in the middle of the pack of the NBA market; Denver is No. 16 in market size, according to Nielsen, while South Florida is No. 18.
“I think that's intriguing,” Silver said.
There’s been no shortage of examples of the same team — or two, even — making the finals on what seems like an annual basis.
Golden State played Cleveland four consecutive times from 2015 through 2018; Miami was in four consecutive finals from 2011 through 2014 and played San Antonio in the last two of those years; and the Los Angeles Lakers played three consecutive finals from 2008 through 2010, two of those matchups against Boston.
There were seven teams with better odds of winning the NBA title going into the season than Miami; there were eight with better odds than Denver.
“Competition is great for the league,” Silver said.