Ja’s tweet, Grizzlies comments add fuel to fiery Dubs rivalry originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO — The first rule of Twitter should read like this: “Don’t tweet.”
Memphis Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant learned that the hard way Saturday night after the Warriors smacked his squad to a 142-112 trouncing at Chase Center in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, giving Golden State a two-games-to-one lead in the second round of the NBA playoffs. But the story of the night quickly turned from the Warriors’ dominant showing to a since-deleted tweet and comments from Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins.
Morant walked to the locker room with a slight limp and an apparent injury to his right knee as the Grizzlies were being blown out with just over six minutes remaining. Following the Warriors’ win, Jenkins stirred the pot by insinuating that Warriors rising star Jordan Poole injured Morant on a dirty play that the NBA should review.
“Jordan Poole actually grabbed his knee and yanked it, which kind of triggered whatever happened,” Jenkins said. “I’m actually going to be very curious to see what happens after that.”
Jenkins later said that he’ll talk with Grizzlies general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations Zach Kleiman and “we’ll take it from there” when asked if the league needs to look at the play.
Morant didn’t take questions from reporters, and though he walked to the Grizzlies’ team bus without help, he did so with a clear limp. Once he was on the bus, he also clearly had time to fire off a tweet minutes after his team lost by 30 points in a crucial playoff game.
He tweeted, and then later deleted, a clip of the play between he, Poole and others with the caption “broke the code,” referring to what Warriors coach Steve Kerr said about Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks for winding up and hitting Gary Payton II in the head from behind — a decision that deserved a “dirty play” label — which sent Payton crashing to the hardwood and fracturing his left elbow.
To make your own decision on the latest play that has spice doused upon the Warriors’ newest rivalry, here’s what has both Jenkins and Morant over the edge.
However, a different angle tells a different story to the play in question with Poole and Andrew Wiggins swiping for the ball and trying to come away with a steal on Morant.
More notably, Morant appears to have hurt that same knee early in the third quarter when contesting a Klay Thompson 3-point attempt, clanking knees with the Warriors shooting guard. Morant immediately avoids any weight off his right leg, and this play looks to have caused much more pain than the scrum with Poole and Wiggins.
Poole, who exploded for 27 points and was a plus-33 off the bench, hadn’t seen the replay when he came to the podium for his postgame press conference. Once The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson showed it to him on his phone, frustration of a building narrative was obvious from the soft-spoken sharpshooter.
“Yeah, it was a basketball play when we doubled him, and I hit the ball and I was going for the ball,” Poole said. “I mean, obviously you don’t want to see anybody get hurt. I’m not even that type of player. I respect everybody.
“Hopefully he gets better and we can see him out there next game. I don’t even play like that, for real. That’s not my type of game.”
When asked about Morant’s tweet, Poole turned to Game 3, saying “We’ve got another game on Monday.”
If there was a betting game as to who might give the best quote in response to Morant and Jenkins, Draymond Green had to have been the odds-on favorite. He’s one of the game’s all-time greatest talkers and has turned the volume up on this series for much more than what he was ejected from Game 1 for.
But Green took a different approach. In avoiding more fuel to the fire, he said he wasn’t going to “sit here and go tit-for-tat” with trash talk between the Warriors and Grizzlies. His was solely focused on what went into winning Game 3 and what the Warriors need to do to win Game 4.
Well, not exactly. It might not have been directly related to the Morant-Poole play in question, but Draymond wasn’t about to go down without a swing of his own.
“They’re the most physical team, right?” Green responded, with a not-so-subtle sense of sarcasm when asked if the Grizzlies are trying to paint a picture about his team. “We’ve historically been viewed as a pretty soft jump-shooting team, right? S–t, I mean I didn’t just make that up.
“The scouting report has always been get physical with them. That’s what it’s been since I’ve been here … it is what it is.”
The Splash Brothers of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson for far too long have been mislabeled as soft for being the catalyst of a jump-shooting team, that just so happened to make five straight NBA Finals and win three titles. They play with joy, but their fire burns just as deep as anyone else’s. They’re not as outwardly loud as Green but he would take them in any arena or street-ball court over anybody else.
And that’s not just for being the two greatest 3-point shooters of all time.
Both didn’t hide their disdain for how Poole was being talked about, with Thompson walking to the podium first.
He heard about Morant deleting his tweet in the hallway as he walked into the media room and began strongly shaking his head with a silent message of “own your words if you’re tough enough to tweet them.” The first question he received was regarding that same tweet, and in response, Thompson started laughing. Then came his annoyance and his own shot sent the opposition’s way.
“Me personally, I’ve been through a tough knee injury,” Thompson said. “I don’t think there’s any malicious intent from Jordan. I don’t even think he’s strong enough to affect somebody’s knee. But we’re not out there trying to hurt people or trying to club people in the back of the head on a fastbreak.
“We play the game the right way and I’m going to have his back.”
Curry first pretended he didn’t know about the play, the comments or the tweet, earning a few chuckles from the media. That didn’t last much longer.
Joking time was over, and just like Klay, Steph made sure to stick up for his teammate.
“It’s unfortunate that that’s a conversation right now, because obviously nobody wants to see anybody get hurt,” Curry said. “But there’s nothing malicious about what Jordan did. There’s no comparison to what Dillon did or Draymond, nothing in that vein.
“So it’s not a joking matter that Ja is hurt, but all the rest is total B.S. in terms of the conversation right now.”
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Through three games of the series, we’re a perfect 3-for-3 in a player being ejected. Green was first up, followed by Brooks the next game and then Grizzlies wing Kyle Anderson on Saturday night, which was lost in the shuffle among all the other hooplah.
We’ve had middle fingers thrown at fans and fines handed down to players. Actually, that was the same player. Take a bow, Draymond.
Brandon Clarke played the dangerous game of calling out Green for his foul on him in Game 1, that resulted in a questionable Flagrant 2 foul and ejection, with several stars around the league sticking up for the Warriors’ fiery leader. The Grizzlies took exception to Kerr’s “broke the code” comments, Brooks still hasn’t addressed the foul and he was the player the Grizzlies chose to be on their social media graphic promoting the upcoming Game 5 in Memphis, even after knowing the extent of Payton’s injury.
The Grizzlies ended the Warriors’ season last year in the play-in tournament, and have made it quite obvious they want to be the team to put an end to the Warriors’ reign. Jaren Jackson Jr. even trolled them with a “strength in numbers” tweet after the Grizzlies blew out Golden State in late March. They’re young, hungry and testing dangerous waters of poking a bear that isn’t afraid to bite back.
Now, the Warriors hold the lead in the series and the Grizzlies, who haven’t exactly been there and done that yet, face essentially a must-win Monday night in San Francisco. History is on the Warriors’ side, not just for having a series lead but for being tested in ways that don’t only pertain to basketball.
Whether they asked for it or not, the Super Villains are back at the head of the playoff table, and Poole has a seat reserved right next to Steph, Klay, Draymond and the rest of the Warriors’ championship DNA.
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