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Ja Morant came back in a big way, but will he be able to stay on the court?

Mike Golic Jr. and Mike Golic Sr. welcome Oddball’s Charlotte Wilder to discuss Ja’s return from suspension.

Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It was a Wilder Wednesday on GoJo and Golic as Oddball’s Charlotte Wilder joined Mike Golic Jr. and Mike Golic Sr. to discuss Ja Morant’s return to the court.

Yes, Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant took the floor for the first time this season after serving a 25-game suspension and made an immediate impact.

Setting aside the stat that Ja scored the most points for a player returning from a 25-game layoff, because really who else qualifies for that or would want to qualify for that, Charlotte says the fact that he was able to have such a big performance in his first game back is noteworthy, as is the way we will frame this and how we will talk about it given all the extra-curriculars surrounding Morant. Because if he is to be the future of the league, it doesn't matter so much what he says but rather what he does or doesn’t do.

Charlotte says we know what Morant can do on the basketball court and the fact that he immediately did it on his first game back, you couldn’t have scripted it any better. But the question becomes: Is he able to keep it together off the court? Because Charlotte notes he is a generational talent and she missed watching him play basketball. She wants to be able to continue to watch and enjoy his talents on the court, but it’s really up to him and it’s not so much about what happens in the next game but it’s about can they make it to the playoffs and can he make it to that point without being in the news for off the court issues.

GoJo notes that you saw all the star stuff you would expect in this game, including 27 of Morant’s 34 points coming in the second half. GoJo says Morants is so fast, so explosive, so powerful, that he’s one of those players that break math and angles don’t matter. Everything about Ja the player that came back is what made us all upset when all the off-the-court issues sprang up in the first place, GoJo says. The context of his suspension matters as it all rested on Ja and his actions and no one else. So, GoJo says, he didn’t really overcome anything to come back that he didn’t create. That’s why he was a little bit surprised by Ja talking about receipts as he sprinted off the court.

As awkward as it was to hear Ja talk about receipts, he was a bit more reflective speaking to the press after the game, talking about how everyone makes mistakes and it’s about taking advantage of second chances and reinventing yourself. GoJo says hearing those postgame comments is encouraging and that’s what you would hope to hear at this point. He says no one looked at what Ja did and said it should be the end of his career. And the vast majority of people looked at this situation and said they hoped that this stuff that Ja has brought to the forefront with his off-the-court issues become a non-factor going forward. We all want to see Ja play basketball, but the worry becomes when you see him running off the court talking about receipts is that everything on and off the court, no matter the source, becomes a chip on the shoulder in a case of peak sports brain.

Charlotte says it’s hard to talk about this with both accountability and some level of compassion for what it’s like to be a public figure and so famous so young. She is by no means saying that anything Ja did was anything outside of his control. But she does think that when you are Ja Morant and you hear people talking about him there probably is a part of him that becomes a bit calloused to the outside noise. And he probably carried that with him and it came out in that sort of way, which is another thing Charlotte thinks he will have to be careful about and manage. Those feelings, she says, are what he has to be able to compartmentalize in order to not go down the road of things bubbling up and boiling over again. He’s just got to keep it together.

Senior agrees that players look for anything to use as a chip on their shoulder. He also agrees with Charlotte that he’s not a kid, he’s a grown man at 24, but the things he did before he was in the spotlight that he’s doing now are being treated differently because he is in the spotlight. So if he was used to doing some things where nobody cared because he wasn’t in the spotlight all of a sudden his employers — the NBA — care and now it’s a different story. And now you have to watch yourself. Senior notes there’s never really been contrition, but he also doesn’t need it. He loves Ja on the court and what Ja does off the court is his business. But, Senior points out, there are rules to follow if you’re going to be employed by somebody and he’s broken those rules and been suspended for it. The only person this is on, Senior says, is Ja. So will he learn? Senior says he doesn’t care what he says to motivate himself, but his off-the-court behavior is on him. Senior notes that often times people don’t regret their actions, but rather regret that they’ve been caught.

GoJo says the notion of regret is not necessarily tied to needing him to feel remorse but rather how likely is this to happen again? What Senior says is his point is whether he feels regret or is keeping receipts, it all boils down to the same thing — Is he able to keep to what his employer wants him to do in order to stay on the court? It’s about your actions, not your words, Senior says. What will be his actions going forward, and the only one who can control that is Ja. As GoJo notes, we’re simply asking Ja to clear the lowest bar, and in this instance that’s not flashing guns on Instagram.

For the full conversation watch the segment above or listen/watch the full episode below for the Ja discussion, as well as talk about Aaron Rodgers, George Pickens and more.

SHOW BREAKDOWN

Hour 1: Wilder Wednesdays — Charlotte on Ja Morant’s Game-Winning Buzzer-Beater, the End of Aaron Rodgers Watch, Backup QB Of The Year, the Lakers’ IST Banner & Milk

Hour 2: LA Rams Playoff Potential, Steelers’ Criticism of George Pickens leads to Mike Tomlin Questions, FSU still feels the CFP Snub Sting, Arthur Smith’s ATL Hot Seat & Jokić’s Pony Commercial

VIDEO:


Watch GoJo and Golic every weekday on Samsung TV Plus, Roku, Xumo Play and DraftKingsNetwork.com from 8 to 10 a.m. ET. The show will also be available via audio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow Mike Golic Sr. on X at @golic and Mike Golic Jr. on X at @mikegolicjr.


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