Ja Morant’s predilection for flashing guns at teenagers during pickup runs and hitting send on threatening posts that invoke hollow-point rounds have repeatedly disrupted both his ascent and Memphis’ pursuit of the franchise’s first title. Morant’s affinity for brandishing firearms in inappropriate settings earned him a 25-game suspension which the player’s union and Ja apologists have deemed excessive. But Adam Silver did him a favor. Once Morant’s banishment is over, he can move on from this saga, but if anyone ever questions the intent behind Silver’s message, Mikey Williams’ dilemma is your answer.
On Tuesday, a San Diego County Superior Court judge ordered the Memphis Tigers point guard to stand trial on five counts of assault with a firearm and one count of shooting at an occupied vehicle. He faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted on all counts. Shooters gonna shoot is not the scouting report for defending Mikey Williams. It’s the prosecution’s.
The charges Williams faces stem from a shooting outside his home just before midnight on March 27. Two weeks after the shooting, detectives searched Williams’ home and found a handgun on his nightstand along with a loaded magazine and a semi-automatic rifle stocked with live rounds in the basement.
The gun used in the shooting wasn’t uncovered, but Williams’ getting smacked by reality is a cautionary tale for Morant. The California prospect began his prep career as the No. 2 player in his class and by his junior season, became the first high school athlete to sign a multi-year contract with a global footwear brand.
However, Williams’ standing in the basketball community has plummeted since his peak as MaxPreps’ National Freshman of the Year. Williams is trapped in a relatively small frame for a volume-scoring guard who never got the benefit of that golden ticket growth spurt his peers did. That, and a variety of factors contributed to him plummeting before his senior campaign.
However, Memphis is a renowned rehabilitation center for troubled phenoms who’ve tumbled in recruiting rankings. Williams’ fall from grace was comparable to Emoni Bates’ leading into his much-maligned freshman season at Memphis. Bates is now in the league tearing it up as a two-way player on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Williams potentially sunk his comeback bid before he could arrive on campus.
Eyewitness testimony doesn’t make Williams look any better either. During a preliminary hearing, one girl testified that their Tesla was hit by multiple rounds not long after Williams told them they “better get to stepping or you’ll leave with bullet holes.”
The detailed accusations against Williams parallel Morant’s role in confronting a teenager with a gun in his waistband or an Indiana Pacers security guard accusing an SUV Morant’s entourage was riding in of training a red laser on members of Indiana’s traveling party near the team bus outside Memphis’ FedEx Forum following an earlier altercation involving Morant’s associates.
We may never know if Williams pulled a trigger, but at a minimum, his proximity to the crime has cost him dearly. Williams operated in his own cocoon of sycophants and brown nosers. The financial losses Morant will incur due to his NBA suspension pale in comparison to the limbo Williams finds himself in. Morant’s Nike shoe deal is intact, but Williams’ NIL portfolio circled the toilet bowl. Williams is taking classes online and remains on Memphis’ roster, but his career is cryogenically frozen until further notice. William Is prohibited from participating in team activities, hasn’t practiced with the Tigers, and is persona non grata at least until his trial concludes.
Morant’s suspension has an end date, but if he continues on his own downward spiral, the law of averages will catch up eventually. Williams didn’t have to pull a trigger to bring his career to a screeching halt. His upcoming trial and stalled career should be a wake-up call for Morant. He’s lucky to be suiting for court action and not for a criminal court. All it takes is one of Morant’s friends making a reckless decision for him to get roped into a similar predicament. Morant is the best thing to happen in its franchise’s history, but all that can kismet can dissipate in an instant if Morant doesn’t rein it in.
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