This year, the title of "March Madness" does not belong only to the college tournament that started this weekend.
This is an accurate description of the month passing by J. Morant.
The star of Memphis, one of the top teams in the NBA, turned almost instantly from one of the figures with the most positive image in the league to one of the most problematic figures in it.
Event after event in Ja's last few weeks, it's hard to keep up.
I will try to make some order.
Event followed event.
Morant (Photo: GettyImages, Tim Nwachukwu)
The first of March is a good place to start.
On the same day, an article was published by the Washington Post about two events from last summer in which Morant was involved.
In the first, a boy accused Jeh of punching him several times in the face after a tackle in a pick-up game, then went home and returned with a gun.
In the second, a mall security guard accused Jeh of coming with friends and threatened him following an argument he had with Morant's mother.
Following the article, a number of incidents that the coordinator and his entourage, which includes his father Ty, had during games throughout the season were also rewatched.
Three days later, with the league busy wondering if Jay Morant is a problem figure now, the star uploaded a live video on Instagram of him walking around with a gun in a Colorado nightclub.
After that, photos of him with a stripper from that night were also published.
From here began a very fast sequence of events that has not yet ended.
Memphis suspended Je for at least two games, he himself announced that he was taking a break from the team to get help, the Colorado police opened an investigation, at one point it seemed that Morant was on his way to a long rehabilitation process along with a long suspension, which might not even return to play this year.
But the situation has since calmed down: the police closed the investigation, the league suspended Morant for eight games and it currently appears that he plans to return to the team on Monday, when the suspension ends.
More on the Je Morant storm
Ja Morant broke his silence: "It's not who I am, I deserve the punishment"
following the gun incident: Ja Morant was suspended from eight games of Memphis
naked dancers, $50,000 in tips: the photos and testimonies of Ja Morant's wild night
The players' meeting No help: New details on Jay Morant's collapse
A surprising entanglement
Nothing in his background and the way Morant's career developed prepared us for this.
He grew up in a small town with two parents who were athletes in the past and a younger sister who is also involved in sports.
His childhood was completely normal, the only event I found in his childhood that was defined as traumatic was that he broke his arm jumping on a trampoline.
Today he is the father of a three-year-old girl with whom he makes sure to keep close contact.
He was always considered a promising talent, but not one of the seniors in his class, not one of those who become household names in high school.
Only in his second year in college he broke out and became a candidate for a very high pick in a draft that included big names like Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.
Even in the early years of Morant's NBA career, there was nothing to indicate a troubled player, on or off the floor.
on the contrary.
His character always seems ideal for a top player in the league.
His leadership stood out from his first moment in the league as much as his extraordinary talent.
He very quickly became a player that a whole team is built around, one that sweeps others, that teammates come to fight for him as well.
Memphis became one of the best teams in the league much faster than expected, even though its staff is one of the youngest in the NBA, mainly thanks to the special formation created in the locker room around the star and leader.
The love story was not only with the teammates and club members, but with the whole city.
Jah became the darling of the city of Memphis from the moment he landed there.
His underdog story, of someone who became a superstar almost out of nowhere, connected with the underdog story of the Grizzlies, a club that never knew significant success.
Jeh arrived in Memphis at the end of the Grit N' Grind era, of the underdogs fighting the biggest stars in the West, and connected with the ethos.
The current version of Memphis is of a team that combines the grit and the grind with talent and athleticism at the highest level, a team that doesn't deal in nonsense but only in winning games.
Until the nonsense took over the star and its leader.
Became in a short time one of the brightest NBA stars in the league.
Morant with a typical dunk (photo: official website, screenshot)
cry for help
So how can the sequence of events of the last year be explained?
If I put on my psychologist hat for a moment, the most logical explanation has to do with the difficulty of dealing with the success and publicity that came suddenly, on the part of Jah himself and probably also his family.
While high school stars who are marked from a very young age as the next big thing have their own difficulties, this situation does allow them more time to mentally prepare for life as a basketball star.
Morant went almost instantly from another relatively small college player to one of the most promising players in the NBA, riding a dizzying roller coaster without the preparation phase of the slow ride.
In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the need to face the mental challenges that come with great success and high expectations.
Top athletes, including some NBA stars, talk about it openly.
Everyone reacts to this differently, there are those who develop depression or anxiety and there are those whose difficulties are expressed in problematic and even violent behavior.
In the various affairs that Je is involved in, there is a common factor of someone who feels that he is allowed everything because he is a big and famous star, he is allowed and his people are also allowed, no one will set limits for him.
And no one has really set limits for him until now.
Those very problematic affairs in the summer (at least in the version of the boy and the security guard) went completely under the radar until the article at the beginning of the month flooded them.
His father is not only not currently functioning as a reassuring father figure, but has made himself part of the entourage that is nursing his son's success.
He regularly sits in the front rows of games, cheers loudly and has become a relatively famous figure thanks to altercations with commentators and players of opposing teams.
Memphis built its roster without veteran players with influence in the locker room, and perhaps in retrospect what was missing was the veteran who could recognize that something bad was happening to Morant and help him deal with it.
The Instagram video with the gun isn't the most problematic event, but it is the one that turned on a bright red light.
Mainly because of its timing.
In the days when Jeh's previous affairs became the talk of the day in the NBA, including one in which he apparently used a gun as an implied threat to a 17-year-old boy, he responded with blatant defiance.
It was hard not to understand this video as a message from a reckless star that he doesn't count anyone and will continue to do whatever he wants.
But I feel this video was also Jah's way of calling for help.
On an unconscious level, it was his way of making it clear that it was no longer possible to sweep the problems under the rug, to beg someone or something to set him the limits he was unable to set for himself.
No one set boundaries.
Morant (Photo: GettyImages, Justin Ford)
Help on the way?
Fortunately for Jeh, we live in an era where the league is much less forgiving than before of incidents of violence, direct or implied, off the floor.
The Instagram video did turn out to be the moment when the line was crossed in terms of the club and the NBA.
Morant himself also responded with an immediate U-turn, going from defiance to saying he needed help.
The important question is whether he actually received and will receive help, or if it will turn out to be more of a PR move.
Along with the awareness of the mental difficulties of successful athletes, there is also an awareness of the importance of mental support, psychological accompaniment.
If in the past we thought that the goal of psychological treatment for athletes was to help them maximize their abilities, quickly solve problems in order to return to being focused on sports, today it is clear that it is a much more complex story.
Sometimes you need the time for a significant process, sometimes a stop is required in the short term to help the person and the career in the long term, sometimes it even turns out that the commitment to the career hurts the person, as in the case of Simone Bales and Naomi Osaka who consciously chose to slow down from their careers.
Jeh, it is important to emphasize, belongs to the genre of the truly great athletes, those who have an insatiable hunger for success.
This is not another problematic talent that moves on the axis between Kevin Porter and Kyrie Irving, but someone who looks like a super athlete in the making, a leader who is constantly trying to improve himself and his team.
He is no longer a player for Memphis, he is a franchise player, one of the most promising teams in the NBA is built around him.
Therefore, the long term should be at the forefront of everyone involved, even at the cost of damage in the short term, in the current season.
At the professional level, Memphis also thinks in the long term, giving up moves that could have strengthened it now in order to continue to promote young people and save the cards for future moves.
There is no reason to rush to return Jah to the team without full confidence that it will not harm the mental process he needs to go through.
The events of the last year testify to problems that cannot be solved with a Band-Aid, which require a deeper approach.
In this respect, I would be more relaxed if Morant had indeed entered a significant process without a clear return date.
His apparent return to the group may indicate an attempt to sweep the problems back under the carpet and continue as if nothing had happened.
I hope that both the people of the club and Jah himself understand that this is not what he needs, and that his return only indicates that he believes that he will be able to carry out a process at the same time as integrating back into the team.
We can only know that in the future.
In any case, it is likely that Memphis will need time, as a team, to digest what happened to their star.
In advance, it didn't look like a team that could go all the way this year, still too immature, after the last few weeks the chances of it being able to connect to the playoffs are significantly smaller.
It shouldn't bother her.
The only thing that matters is that Jah eventually gets back to being the leader he knows how to be.
He, the young supporting stars at his side and the management of the Grizzlies have enough time to build a championship contender in the years to come.