Reports broke Saturday morning detailing the arrest of Grizzlies free agent James Johnson. According to FOX 13 in Memphis, Johnson allegedly hit his wife and choked her. A detailed explanation can be read here.
Johnson was arrested by the Memphis Police Department and charged with domestic assault.
Grizzlies.com, the team’s official website, released a statement (seen via Twitter) that the team was “currently gathering information” regarding Johnson’s arrest.
While the main concern should be the health of the victims (in addition to Johnson’s wife, her child and mother were reported to be involved), the team’s passive statement isn’t exactly a strong sign of support.
Nor should it be.
This has been an abysmal end to a once-promising season for the Grizzlies. Forward Zach Randolph’s suspension following an incident during Game 6 of Memphis’ matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder resulted in a blowout loss in the deciding and final game of the season. The team’s front office, previously believed to be a model of stability, has undergone numerous changes. Owner Robert Pera dismissed CEO Jason Levien and assistant general manager Stu Lash. Head Coach Dave Joerger began an on-again/off-again flirtation to fill the Minnesota Timberwolves’ vacant coaching position, and was then given a contract extension. Pera has shown himself to be erratic, rash and bordering on unstable, if reports on his behavior are accurate.
And now the Johnson arrest comes at arguably the worst time in the franchise’s history.
Johnson was a fan-favorite this past season, his first with the Grizzlies. Playing in 52 games, he averaged 7.4 points per game but provided a tough presence in a team that prides itself on its defensive pressure. But if the allegations of the domestic incident are true, then the team should sever all ties with the free agent forward as soon as possible.
While the short term outlook is that this franchise must try to reshape its public image immediately, of greater concern is how the team, the City of Memphis, and the NBA view incidents of domestic abuse. The league has been very proactive regarding the ongoing Donald Sterling situation in Los Angeles. Johnson’s arrest won’t garner the same headlines but it’s a situation that requires immediate and decisive action.
For a team that has already undergone some serious house-cleaning, parting ways with Johnson should go a long way toward polishing the team’s sloppy off-season.