Memphis Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant met with media members for the first time on Tuesday following his eight-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the league. While he was away from the team, Morant spent time at a counseling program in Florida in order to learn how to better manage stress, and even though he's set to get back to business on the court, he made it clear that his self-improvement journey is far from over.
"Obviously took that time to better myself, get in a better space mentally," Morant said, via ESPN. "It's an ongoing process, a continued process for me. Obviously, I've been there for two weeks, but that doesn't mean I'm completely better. So that's an ongoing process for me that I've still been continuing since I've come out.
"Obviously, I've made mistakes in the past that cause a lot of negative attention -- not only to me, but my family as well, my team, the organization -- and I'm completely sorry for that," he added "So my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don't cause any of that no more."
During his session with the media, Morant emphasized that he entered the counseling program to find ways to cope with stress and anxiety, not because of any substance abuse issue.
"I don't have an alcohol problem, never had an alcohol problem," Morant said. "I went [to Florida] for counseling to learn how to manage stress, cope with stress in a positive way instead of ways I've tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes."
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Moving forward, Morant says he plans to keep his full focus on the floor, where the Grizzlies currently sit second in the Western Conference standings with just a few weeks remaining in the regular season. They have a chance to make a real run in the postseason, but that obviously starts with Morant being right mentally and physically.
Having the game stripped from him -- albeit for a brief period of time -- bothered Morant, who lived up to his previous mistakes and vowed to be better.
"Obviously, I take responsibility for decisions I've made that pretty much hurt me to the core," Morant said. "Like I said, it not only affected me, but it affected everyone around me -- my family, this organization, my teammates -- and caused me not to be out there on the floor. Which, one thing I love to do the most is play basketball. So it's a lot, but like I said before, it's an ongoing process with everything I've been doing the past two weeks, and I'm going to continue to do that to get through everything I need to be healthy."
Morant is expected to return to game action this week, potentially against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. When he does, he'll have the opportunity to generate headlines for the right reasons again. Hopefully, he'll be able to keep it that way.