LOS ANGELES — It was the brand the Grizzlies tried to sell: Brash, talented, young, athletic, electric, trash-talking and they backed it up on the court.
Except they didn’t back it up on the court. Friday night, LeBron James and the veteran Lakers showed poise and let their game do the talking in a 40-point blowout win that eliminated Memphis from the playoffs in the first round.
Postgame, a reflective Ja Morant admitted the off-the-court actions — highlighted by his own eight-game suspension for waiving a gun at a club on social media — proved a distraction the Grizzlies could not overcome.
“I just got to be better with my decision-making. Off-the-court issues affected us as an organization,” Morant said.
When asked about his takeaways from being eliminated, Morant returned to that theme.
“My [takeaways] are off the court and on the court. Just, being disciplined. Off the court, it’s about making better decisions,” Morant said. “On the court, it’s about being locked in even more. Being the leader of the team, it starts with me. However I attack any situation, I know my guys will follow. I just have to be better in that area.”
Dillon Brooks, the frontman for the Grizzlies trash talk, was out of the Memphis locker room before the media was let in Friday night — the third straight game he chose not to speak to the media postgame. He is a free agent this summer.
The Grizzlies trash-talking brand became a distraction this season.
Early in the season, Morant assessed the Grizzlies’ chances by saying “I’m fine in the West.” Brooks poked the bear with LeBron James saying he doesn’t respect anyone who doesn’t drop 40 on him. Morant was not only suspended for the gun incident, he is in a lawsuit with a 17-year-old Memphis area player over an altercation at a pick-up game at Morant’s home. And all that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Grizzlies couldn’t back it up, and the experienced Lakers shrugged it off.
“People gonna talk,” Davis said. “We’ve had some trash talk on the court in the series, but you know, all the talking to media and all that stuff we just go out and let our game talk and play basketball. We try not to get into a back-and-forth with those guys. Obviously, that’s how a lot of times guys kind of get their stuff going. But there’s nothing if the guys constantly talk to you and not say anything back. They eventually stop.”
The Grizzlies have stopped because they are going home, and they have some soul-searching to do this offseason.