Ja Morant tallied 17 points off the bench at 6-13 shooting with four rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block as he returned to the NBA floor Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets.
The 23-year-old said his position was “up in the air” on Tuesday, but manager Taylor Jenkins confirmed Morant would be part of the rotation.
It was the first All-Star game since the league-imposed suspension for brandishing a gun at a strip club on March 4.
Early in his return, Morant threw a signature dunk into an alleyway over Kenyon Martin Jr..
His father — T. Morant — who has been commented about his parenting role since the Denver incident, wore a hoodie with the “Redemption” logo on the front.
Memphis won the game, 130-125 – which, combined with the Mavericks’ loss, meant that the Grizzlies clinched the playoffs.
Ja Morant returned to the field in uniform on Wednesday after his leave of absence
The Grizzlies Twitter account posted a photo of its star on the way to the home locker room
In front of his home crowd, Morant helped lead the Grizzlies to a 130-125 victory over Houston
Morant recorded 17 points, four rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in the win
As Morant led the team in points off the bench, Jaren Jackson Jr. led all scorers on the night with 37 points and ten boards for the Grizzlies. Desmond Bean scored 20 points and seven assists for Memphis.
The Rockets had a pair of leading scorers with 30+ points – Jalen Green dropping 32 points and Kenyon Martin dropping 32 points. He put 31 in the penalty shootout.
Morant festively took his daughter, Carrie, to court where she repeated after him, “It’s an inner-city show, yeah.”
It’s a playoff-clinching win for Memphis, even as Morant took it a little easier than usual on his return to the NBA court.
“Obviously we don’t have a long runway until the end of the regular season, but we want to be smart with this layoff so we don’t do anything that jeopardizes his health,” Jenkins told reporters before the game.
Before the match started, Morant suggested he could play fewer minutes given his lack of competitive practice and play in recent weeks.
He hasn’t played an All-Star game since he was suspended by the league and the Grizzlies, and his last game was on March 3 against Denver.
“This was something I brought to the table as it was in my mind,” Jenkins said.
So we collectively thought that was the best strategy, at least for the first game or two. And then we’ll re-evaluate after that.
Morant arrived at the Downtown Memphis Arena on Wednesday night wearing an olive tracksuit and a white T-shirt.
Morant spoke publicly for the first time since ending his eight-game league ban on Tuesday, describing his current condition as an “ongoing process” after 11 days of counseling in Florida while he was away.
Morant, 23, found himself in trouble after firing a gun at a Denver nightclub on social media after the Grizzlies beat the Nuggets.
Morant returned to the FedEx Forum Monday night after his highly publicized comment
Obviously I’ve been there for two weeks, but that doesn’t mean I’m all better. So, this is an ongoing process for me and I’ve been going through it since I came out.
He denied any suggestion that he had difficulties dealing with alcohol amid NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s ruling that the 23-year-old was in a ‘drunk state’ via the league’s statement.
“I don’t have an alcohol problem, and I’ve never had an alcohol problem,” Morant said. ‘I went [to FL.] For advice to learn how to manage stress, and to deal with stress in a positive way instead of the ways I tried to deal with it before that made me make mistakes.
Morant again apologized for the incident in which he fired a gun at a Denver strip club in the hours following his March 3 defeat by the Nuggets.
“I’m completely sorry about that,” Morant said after training.
“So, as I said, my job now, as I said, is to be more responsible, more intelligent, and to cause none of that more.”
His last pro basketball game, which was the No. 2 pick the previous year, came against the Nuggets, on March 3
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