Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is furious over an injury to his team’s defensive specialist and lashing out against the Memphis Grizzlies player responsible for it.
Warriors guard Gary Payton II took a hard foul from Grizzlies’ guard Dillon Brooks in the first quarter of Tuesday’s Game 2, crashing to the floor and fracturing his elbow. The foul earned an ejection for Brooks and drew some very angry words from Kerr after the game.
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Kerr Heated at Brooks
The play happened just three minutes into a Game 2 loss for the Warriors, with Payton going in for a layup before being clothes-lined by Brooks. Payton hit the floor writing in pain and was taken to the locker room, where an initial assessment revealed a broken elbow. Afteward, Kerr said it was a “dirty” play and accused Brooks of breaking an unwritten code against not trying to injure opposing players.
“I don’t know if it was intentional, but it was dirty,” Kerr said following the loss. “And playoff basketball is supposed to be physical, everybody’s going to compete, everybody is going to fight for everything. But there’s a code in this league, there’s a code that players follow where you never put a guy’s season/career in jeopardy by taking somebody out in mid-air and clubbing him across the head, ultimately fracturing Gary’s elbow.”
“Dillon Brooks broke the code,” Kerr added. “He broke the code. That’s how I see it. You don’t hit a guy when he’s in midair, club him, and break his elbow.”
Tensions have been high through the first two games of the series. Warriors big man Draymond Green earned an ejection in Game 1 after being assessed a flagrant-2 foul for a play where Green hit Brandon Clarke and snagged his jersey as Clarke was going up for a shot, sending the Grizzlies player to the ground.
After the game, Clarke accused Green of dirty play.
“He’s been known for flagrant fouls in his career,” Clarke said. “I’ve watched them on TV my whole life, it seems like. … It’s not shocking that he did that. It’s something he’s done in the past.”
The injury to Payton could deal a major blow to the Warriors. The 29-year-old guard was one of the team’s best defensive players and brought a spark off the bench, averaging 7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steal while playing 18 minutes per game through the team’s first six playoff games.
The Warriors had struggled with injuries all season, missing the veteran core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green for long stretches. The team had finally reached full health at the start of the playoffs.
After the game, Kerr lamented that Payton was missing out on a playoff run he had worked toward his entire career, which until this season had mostly been spent bouncing between the G League and NBA.
“This is a guy who’s been toiling the last six years trying to make it in this league, finally found a home, just playing his butt off this year in the playoffs,” Kerr said. “This should be the time of his life.”
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