The Golden State Warriors blew out the Memphis Grizzlies to take a 2-1 series lead on Saturday, and that might not have been 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, and the Grizzlies are pretty adamant that Jordan Poole is to blame for Morant’s potential 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.
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. “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 said the Grizzlies will consider having the league look into Poole’s actions, with the implication being perhaps the act will prove worthy of a suspension, as was the case with Brooks, who was suspended for Game 3 after his hit on Payton.
Of course, everyone with the Warriors is laughing off the idea that what Poole did may be considered a dirty play. Stephen Curry said it’s no joking matter that Morant might be 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 keep Morant from recovering it, thus giving his teammate, Andrew Wiggins, a better shot, he grabbed 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. You go speeding down the highway and get in a wreck that hurts someone, your reckless actions are at fault, even though you didn’t set out to hurt them in the first place.
To that point, hopefully Morant isn’t hurt. If he is, we don’t even know for sure that this was the play that caused the injury. Perhaps it was one possession earlier.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether Poole’s knee grab is actually what hurt Morant’s knee, or potentially aggravated a previous injury, or even if Morant turns out to be free of injury, which we’ll all hope is the case. 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 knees. 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 win a possession, or often, when they’re desperately trying to avoid losing a possession. Earlier in the game, Desmond Bane lost the ball and in an effort to keep Poole from recovering it, he dove head first 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 this isn’t a two wrongs make a right sort of deal. Just because what Poole did was more subtle than what Brooks did to Payton doesn’t mean it was no big deal. Poole called it a “basketball play.” I assure you there is no basketball play that involves grabbing hold of an opponent’s knee and yanking it backward. Is Morant hurt? Let’s hope not. Was Poole trying to hurt Morant? Doesn’t matter. He took the risk with his actions, and now, if Memphis does indeed ask the league to consider suspending Poole, he might have to pay for it.