Stephen Curry offers a simple answer to all the back and forth between his four-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors and the rising Memphis Grizzlies over the past two seasons.
For Curry, it’s not a feud or bitter rivalry. The Warriors don’t have the same history with the Grizzlies that they have with, say, the Cavaliers. Or with LeBron James in whatever uniform he’s wearing.
“Just a team that’s hard to beat,” Curry said of the Grizzlies. “You are really talented. … Also a team that you have to play well to beat, but the story isn’t there yet.”
Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. disagrees.
“Every time we hit the ground, it’s a rivalry,” Jackson said. “We have seen this team many times. We feel like every time we’re out there with them, it’s a rivalry.”
There always seems to be a bit of drama, a little something extra when the teams meet: hard fouls, trash talk or other theatrics.
PHOTOS: NBA feud or rivalry? The drama of Warriors, Memphis is a must-watch on TV
Warriors guard Jordan Poole said earlier this week: “I think some days you can call it a rivalry.”
Whatever it is, the Warriors and the young, brash Grizzlies are usually must-sees on TV.
Bad blood between the two really started to ooze during last season’s playoffs when Gary Payton II suffered a fractured left elbow in Game 2 after a blatant foul that suspended Memphis’ Dillon Brooks for Game 3.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Brooks crossed the line and broke “the code” of NBA behavior.
Ja Morant fired back after limping in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Jordan Poole, the warriors’ guard, grabbed his knee as he tried to brush off the ball and Morant later posted a video of the game and then deleted it with the words ‘broke the code’.
And the ill will has carried over into their first three games this season:
– Klay Thompson drew a technical draw in that win on Christmas night for facing Dillon Brooks and taunting him when he was down the court. Thompson called it “good old-fashioned trash talk.” Poole was kicked out and even Kerr drew one of Golden State’s six technical draws in the game.
– Curry was knocked out of Golden State’s 122-120 win on Jan. 25 after throwing his mouthpiece in frustration, apparently more with that teammate than the Grizzlies.
– Brooks and Green came face to face after a steal and bucket in Memphis’ 131-110 win a week ago and faced off for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Green said after the game that Brooks tried to lure him into a technical foul, but that he only pulls a tech when he wants to.
“One of us[is]baitable and one of us isn’t,” said Green, who said on his podcast prior to this game that the Grizzlies’ dynasty would only begin after they got rid of Brooks.
Brooks responded after the Grizzlies’ win, “The fact that he was trying to pin my teammates against me. That was a low blow. But that’s the kind of player he is.”
So, no, the story isn’t there and the Warriors downplay the matchup — it’s clear the Grizzlies have Golden State’s attention.
There should be a playoff atmosphere in the teams last regular season game on Saturday, which will impact the postseason.
Morant will remain out as part of his eight-game suspension by the NBA for displaying a gun in the early hours of March 4 at a Colorado strip club. Although Memphis defeated the Golden State last week without Morant.
Golden State needs every road win it can steal on the track. The Warriors are 7-27 away from home this season. Curry, who has another MVP season, understands the urgency and had 50 points in an away loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
The Grizzlies want to prolong the Warriors’ road troubles, not that they need extra incentive when they play Golden State.
“We have all the motivation we need to play this team the way it is, just the history we have with them,” Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones said. “It’s always a struggle. It’s always an intense matchup.”
Green spelled out the standard he uses to gauge whether or not the Warriors and Grizzlies will become a true rivalry: winning titles, not a game here or there.
“We’ve clearly won four times, and I think their organization has zero championships, so I can’t consider that a rivalry,” Green said.
Maybe not, but their matchups were very entertaining.
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