The NBA has been lacking an intense rivalry as of late, but there is one up-and-coming rivalry that could take the mantle. A great rivalry needs high-stakes games, competition, pettiness, and a level of hatred. The rivalry is better for everyone if there is a sense that the teams are DTF (down to fight). In this sense, a true rivalry is brewing in the Western Conference between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors.
It may seem like the Grizzlies are punching up to the Warriors, but the four-time champs seem just fine stooping down to the Grizzlies level. Let’s not forget that the young Grizz ended the Dubs season in their own building in the 2021 play-in tournament.
Despite ultimately getting eliminated by them this past year, Memphis gave the Warriors a lot to think about. In their postgame press conferences, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green both made comments about Memphis just minutes after becoming champions. While Klay and Dray have reverted to clever wordplay on Twitter, Ja Morant remains steadfast that he will simply kill them if they ever come to his city.
Let’s dive into the elements that could make this a unique and bitter rivalry.
got a lot of real estate 😂 https://t.co/5JYqhn8Vw0
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) June 17, 2022
Can Warriors-Grizzlies Be the Next Great Rivalry?
This rivalry has what it needs in terms of pettiness, physicality, and bad blood. Jaren Jackson’s “Strength in Numbers” tweet following a regular-season win over the Dubs struck a chord with the Warriors, and Klay could not wait to bring it up after being crowned a champion.
"I can't wait to retweet that thing. Freakin' bum."
Klay's been keeping receipts 🤣 pic.twitter.com/WJReCAVukK
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 17, 2022
The two teams have already given us a physical playoff series that featured one of the hardest fouls we’ve seen in recent history and a controversial injury to a superstar player. Of course, nobody wants to get ejected in the first 3 minutes of a playoff game, but if that Brooks foul on Gary Payton occurred in the regular season, I could’ve seen it escalating a lot further. It wouldn’t be surprising if that incident is still a source of controversy ahead of the first regular-season meeting between the teams in 2022.
On top of the Dillon Brooks and Gary Payton incident, there was a back and forth between the two sides after Jordan Poole’s “incidental contact” to Ja Morant’s knee knocked the Grizzlies star out of the series. The Grizzlies alleged that Poole “broke the code,” and words were exchanged. The feuds and the physicality are great for the rivalry.
In addition to the pettiness and physicality, these teams give us great basketball whenever they’re on the court. They have entirely different makeups; the Warriors are a veteran team, while the Grizzlies are the new kids on the block. The Grizzlies attempt the most 2-point shots in the league, while Golden State attempts the 29th most. However, both teams are dependent on their heliocentric superstar point guards, who are at the top of the entertainment rankings. Both teams are capable of beating each other. As previously mentioned, the Grizz eliminated the Warriors in 2021 and won the regular-season series this year 3-1. The Warriors won the Western semifinal series 4-2 but had to secure two 1 possession wins in order to do so.
The Hype is Already Building Around their 2022 matchup
With Draymond and Ja already speculating a Christmas day matchup on Twitter, it is clear that Memphis-Golden State will be one of the hot games on the calendar in 2022. Losing Gary Payton II from the equation hurts, but as long as Draymond and Dillon Brooks are on the court, there will always be a threat that the game could escalate from a regular basketball game to an all-out brawl.
Brooks has been thrown around in trade rumors, and this rivalry will persist without him, but the chances of it getting physical would decrease drastically. Steven Adams and Draymond have had some previous dust-ups, but with Adams rendered unplayable by Golden State’s small-ball five, it is unlikely that he finds himself in the middle of the action. I think Jaren Jackson will be subject to the Warriors’ trash talk when they play this season, but whether he has it in him to fight remains to be seen.
The champs play at home Young! Christmas Day… LJ 🙏🏿🙏🏿 https://t.co/n5ji0xpu0j
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) June 19, 2022
Could We See Another Playoff Series Between These Teams?
For this rivalry to be great, we need continuity on the rosters and more matchups in the playoffs. The player empowerment era has taken some hatred out of basketball, but there’s a chance for genuine hatred to arise here if the same key figures stick around. Obviously, Steph and Ja aren’t going to fight, but Dillon Brooks and Draymond might. So, we need guys like Dillon Brooks to be around if we want to see fisticuffs.
We’ll have to see what happens with Kevin Durant. But, with the Suns set to lose Ayton and the Nuggets and Clippers set to take it easy in the regular season as they bring guys back from significant injuries, the Grizzlies and the Dubs could be the top two seeds in the Western Conference next year. If these teams continue to face off in May and June with their respective seasons on the line, it will only add kerosene to a fire that has been burning for a couple of years.