Ja Morant is likely done for the playoffs, but the debate around his injury will linger for much longer.
After being coy about his diagnosis and outlook for days, the Grizzlies revealed Tuesday that Morant suffered a bone bruise in his knee and is “doubtful” for the remainder of the postseason. Morant, one of the NBA’s most exciting attractions, was hurt during Saturday’s Game 3 against the Warriors, limping off the court not long after Golden State’s Jordan Poole awkwardly tugged at his knee.
Morant insinuated Poole’s knee-grab was the source of the injury – and perhaps a dirty play – in his since deleted tweet, “broke the code.” Golden State coach Steve Kerr had used similar words to accuse Memphis guard Dillon Brooks of a reckless foul that fractured the wrist of Gary Payton II.
However, Poole’s tug was light and there’s skepticism it could cause such an injury to Morant’s knee, even after Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said it was the offending play.
Poole, who claimed he was going for the ball (Morant was dribbling), wasn’t punished by the NBA. Conversely, Brooks was suspended a game after his hard foul on Payton II.
“You know the code. Talk about the code all series at this point. It was a basketball play when we doubled him,” Poole said. “And I hit the ball, and I was going for the ball. I mean, obviously, you don’t want to see anybody get hurt. I’m not even that type of player. I respect everybody.”
Morant, who averaged 27.1 points and 9.8 assists in nine playoff games this year, missed Monday’s 101-98 loss to the Warriors, which placed the second-seeded Grizzlies in a 3-1 hole in the second round.
The offense sputtered without Morant and the Grizzlies could be eliminated at home Wednesday in Game 5.
Warriors forward Draymond Green, a professional antagonist, warned the Grizzlies in his podcast
“This isn’t the Minnesota Timberwolves,” Green said to Memphis. “You’re no longer playing that team. This is the Golden State Warriors. This is championship level basketball.”
The Warriors, seeded third, are trying to return to the Finals after two years away. Morant, who recently was awarded the NBA’s Most Improved Player, is expected to make a full recovery before next season, according to the Grizzlies.
He attended Game 4 in street clothes.