The Golden State Warriors blew out the Memphis Grizzlies to take a 2-1 series lead on Saturday, and that was not the only loss Memphis suffered. Ja Morant limped off the court with apparent right knee discomfort at the 6:19 mark of the fourth quarter and didn’t return. On Sunday, the Grizzlies said that for Monday’s Game 4. Memphis was pretty adamant after the Game 3 loss that Jordan Poole is to blame for Morant’s injury.
The play in question happened with a little over seven minutes to play in the game. Morant found himself double-teamed near half-court by Poole and Andrew Wiggins. Poole knocked the ball loose, and as Morant and Wiggins scrambled for possession, Poole pretty clearly grabbed Morant’s right knee and pulled it backward.
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said Sunday this play resulted in Morant’s injury. Take a look:
You can see in the screenshot overlay that Morant tweeted “broke the code” in a clear shot at Steve Kerr, who has been taking “he broke the code” jabs at Dillon Brooks right and left since Brooks took out an airborne Gary Payton II, who fractured his elbow, early in Game 2 with a wild swing to the head. Morant quickly deleted the tweet, but the Grizzlies’ feelings on this Poole play are clear.
“We just watched the replay,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters Saturday night. “He was going after a dribble and Jordan Poole actually grabbed his knee and yanked it, which kind of triggered whatever happened, so I’m actually going to be very curious what happens after that.”
Jenkins initially said the Grizzlies would consider having the league look into Poole’s actions, with the implication being perhaps the act will prove worthy of a suspension. However, The Athletic reported Sunday that the NBA will take no action against Poole.
There is no proof, of course, that this interaction is actually what caused Morant’s injury, or even that it aggravated a previous one. Morant has been bothered by this knee at different points in the playoffs, and there were other plays in Game 3 that could have been the culprit.
Predictably, none of this is stopping Jenkins from continuing to assert that Poole’s actions indeed caused Morant’s injury.
Of course, everyone with the Warriors has laughed off idea that what Poole did may be considered a dirty play. Steve Kerr said he had no comment on Poole’s actions because there was “nothing to comment on,” but Kerr had plenty to say when Marcus Smart, while pursuing a loose ball, same as Poole, dove on the floor and happened to land on Curry’s foot, unintentionally hurting him, so you be the judge of what constitutes hypocrisy.
Stephen Curry said it’s no joking matter that Morant is hurt, but that there’s “no comparison” between what Poole did, which Curry believes was “nothing malicious,” and what Brooks did to Payton, adding that the suggestion that Poole did anything dirty is “total BS.”
So here’s the deal: It’s not BS. You can’t watch that video and arrive at any conclusion other than Poole definitely grabbed hold of Morant’s knee and pulled it backward. Was he trying to hurt Morant? I seriously doubt it. My guess is Poole knocked the ball loose, and in an impulsive attempt to restrain Morant from recovering it and given the low position his hands were already in, he grabbed anything he could, which happened to be Morant’s knee, to hold him back.
Had Poole grabbed Morant’s jersey and yanked him back, it just would’ve been a foul. But he didn’t grab his jersey. He grabbed his knee. Then yanked it. That’s dangerous. No two ways about it.
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Intent to injure is not the point here. Brooks almost certainly had no intention of injuring Payton, either. He saw a guy going in for a dunk and he wanted to stop him from doing it. He took a wild swing in an attempt to stop an opponent from scoring, not to hurt the guy. But he did hurt him. He took that risk when he decided to swing near a guy’s head.
In the end, it only matters what Poole did and the potential it had to hurt an opposing player. Knees are no joke. You can’t be grabbing and pulling them. You can clearly see Morant’s knee flex in the wrong direction.
Players do this sort of impulsive thing from time to time when they are trying to gain leverage, or perhaps more often, when they’re desperately trying to avoid losing it. Earlier in the game, Desmond Bane lost the ball and in an effort to keep Poole from recovering it, he dove headlong straight into Poole’s knees.
Earlier in the series, Morant was beat off the dribble and swung his knee straight into Curry’s knee and tripped him.
Again, these are impulsive plays that happen more than you think. Grayson Allen’s been tripping opponents since college. But two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because what Poole did was more subtle than what Brooks did to Payton doesn’t mean it was no big deal. They shouldn’t be evaluated in comparison to one another. They were independent actions. The only question is whether what Poole did was unnecessary and or excessive.
Poole called it a “basketball play.” I assure you there is no normal basketball play that involves grabbing hold of an opponent’s knee and pulling it backward. I don’t believe it was intentional. I don’t know if it actually caused the injury or aggravated a previous one or none of the above. All I know is Poole irrefutably grabbed hold of Morant’s knee. He didn’t graze it. He had hold of it, and he pulled it backward. From that point forward, in terms of intention or cause of injury or wherever else you want to take the conversation, that’s all debatable. But if you’re saying Poole didn’t do anything, intentional or otherwise, you’re being disingenuous.