Grizzlies 'hopeful' Ja Morant will return to play Wednesday

MEMPHIS -- The Memphis Grizzlies embraced All-Star point guard Ja Morant when he rejoined the team Monday after serving an eight-game suspension and anticipate that he will play in Wednesday night's home game against the Houston Rockets.

"We're hopeful for Wednesday, so long as everything medically clears out," coach Taylor Jenkins said before Monday's game, against the Dallas Mavericks.

Memphis opted to hold Morant out of Monday's game to allow him time to ramp up his conditioning after he was away from the team for two weeks. He was not able to work out during the week and a half that he spent at a Florida counseling facility after live-streaming video of himself holding a firearm while appearing to be in an intoxicated state at a Denver-area nightclub in the early-morning hours of March 4. He was suspended eight games for conduct detrimental to the league.

Morant addressed his Grizzlies teammates and the coaching staff Monday, but Jenkins and Memphis players declined to go into details about the discussion. Forward Dillon Brooks said Morant also apologized to each teammate individually.

"He's holding himself accountable," Brooks said after the Grizzlies' 112-108 win Monday, their sixth victory in the past seven games. "He's made some changes in his life. ... He's taking ownership of it, which is just a great thing for his growth, for his basketball career, for everything. You're going to see a different Ja out there who's going to be consistent every single night and who's going to give us that energy that we need to be that top team in the West."

Morant, who leads Memphis with 27.1 points and 8.2 assists per game, also did some individual work Monday and scrimmaged with Grizzlies reserves and staffers. He will participate in practice Tuesday and is expected to speak to the media afterward.

"You can't simulate an NBA game, but you try to do the best you can," Jenkins said. "So trying to get as much full-court action as possible -- that was the main goal."

Morant watched the Grizzlies' win over the Mavs from the Memphis bench, wearing a white T-shirt and jeans. He received a loud ovation from the FedExForum crowd when he walked to the bench moments before tip-off, a gesture from the fans that other Grizzlies players said they appreciated.

"It was dope," shooting guard Desmond Bane said. "We obviously got his back, but it's nice to know that the city, the fans, everybody in between has his back as well."

Morant also engaged in a postgame embrace and conversation with Mavs guard Kyrie Irving, who can relate to feeling "an overload of judgment from the public court of opinion," as Irving put it.

"With Ja dealing with that, I think the initial shock was dealing with the public opinion and all of the extra hoopla that comes with it, but then there's a real human being dealing with emotion," Irving said. "So I care about that aspect. That's where I poured my energy to. So I wish his family well wishes, I wished him well wishes, and I just prayed for his peace of mind. That's all I really care about in this. The basketball thing is one thing, but peace of mind is everything. So I'm happy to see him out there."