MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Days before his season debut, Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant expressed gratitude for the support he has received during his 25-game suspension and guilt for the team's struggles without him.

Morant said basketball has been his therapy during his life and that taking the game away made things more difficult. He credited his family, his friends, the Grizzlies and others, as well as therapy, for helping him since NBA commissioner Adam Silver handed down Morant's second suspension in a four-month span in mid-June.

"It was definitely tough, some horrible days," Morant said Friday, the first time he has spoken to the media since the end of last season. "It was tough, but like I said, to start this with the support that I had throughout this process, it definitely helped me a lot. It's pretty much all I could lean on at that time. Obviously basketball is something I've been doing pretty much my whole life. Something that's therapeutic for me. Obviously taking that away, it makes it tougher. But I had the right people around me, from my family to the organization and to my other partners that helped me along in process."

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Morant's suspension is scheduled to end Tuesday, when the Grizzlies have a road game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Memphis, which has dealt with injuries to several key players in addition to Morant's absence, has stumbled to a 6-17 start entering Friday night's home game against the Houston Rockets. The Grizzlies, who were the Western Conference's No. 2 seed last season, are tied for the second-worst record in the West.

"It's definitely some guilt at that," said Morant, a two-time All-Star who led the Grizzlies with 26.2 points and 8.1 assists per game last season. "Obviously I'm not on the floor and obviously nobody likes losing, so our job is to go out there and get a win. I take full responsibility of that obviously, even though I'm not on the floor. Decisions I made didn't allow me to be out there to go to battle with my team."

After the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs in April, Morant vowed to make better decisions, acknowledging that his off-the-court issues had a negative impact on the team's season. He was suspended for eight games in March after displaying a handgun during an early-morning Instagram Live video from a Denver-area strip club.

Only two weeks later, Morant was singing with friends in a vehicle when caught holding up a handgun during another Instagram Live video. Silver weighed the situation and announced a second suspension along with other steps for Morant to take.

"We've, together, laid out a program for him over the last several weeks, and to the best of my knowledge, he's complied with everything he's been asked to do," Silver said last week before the in-season tournament final in Las Vegas. "As I said, we'll talk at least once this week before he comes back, and we will review the program and make sure the conditions are in place for him to be successful going forward."

Silver said then that he would have a "check-in" conversation with Morant this week. Morant described that conversation as "good" and again vowed to improve his off-court decision making.

"I honestly feel like I can't go away from being Ja," Morant said. "I feel like that's the most important thing, not trying to lose myself or be somebody that I'm not or act totally different, but the change will be my decision-making and how I go about my daily life of being a NBA player, a father, a role model, a brother, a son, and just focusing in on that being the best Ja I can be."

Morant was smiling and joking with his teammates at Friday morning's shootaround, pointing out when one of his shots would've gone in if not for someone else's ball knocking his attempt away from the bucket.

Under the terms of his suspension, Morant has been allowed to practice and travel with the Grizzlies and take part in morning shootarounds. But then he has had to leave and not be at the arena while Memphis plays.

Morant said he wouldn't put pressure on himself to have a "historic game my first game back," but he's "super excited" to return to the Grizzlies.

"As far as where we stand, I'm not worried at all," Morant said. "Obviously we have guys out, but I feel like we've been preaching over the years that next-man-up mentality. I say I don't think it'll be long before we find it. I feel like we're taking strides in the right direction as of now, as of late, and I feel like the only way for us is to go is up."

Morant said he learned some "eye-opening" things about himself over the past several months that have given him a "new look on life." Asked about specific steps he has taken during that time, Morant said, "Just protecting my peace."

Morant vowed to be a better leader for the Grizzlies but acknowledged he has to prove himself in that role.

"I can't make nobody believe me, outside of my actions," Morant said. "So me answering this question with just words probably won't mean nothing to nobody about it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.