At some point in every superstar's career, there's a passing of the torch. Often times, the debate comes prematurely. It isn't an insult per se, but a pure wonder if there could be an up-and-comer to match the greatness of said player.
With skill sets created from different planets, could this be happening with Steph Curry and Ja Morant?
Debate all you want with how we can categorize Curry. Some still see him as more of a shooting guard with Draymond Green playing the point guard role for the Warriors. Chauncey Billups calls him the greatest combo guard ever. But for the 13th straight season, Curry is listed as the Warriors' point guard, a position he stands atop right now, looking down at the rest of his competition.
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In Year 3, Morant isn't wasting any time looking to climb that mountain and crawl closer to Curry. So far, he has been on a tear this season, leading the Memphis Grizzlies to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference before their matchup with the top-seeded Warriors on Tuesday night at FedExForum.
Curry was hurt in Morant's rookie year and missed all three of the Warriors' games against the Grizzlies in the 2019-20 season. He then missed both of Golden State's games against the Grizzlies last March before finally squaring off with Morant in May. The game lived up to the hype, with a little motivational help from Memphis' young star.
The night before the Warriors were set to face the Grizzlies on May 16 at Chase Center, Morant used Curry's signature "lock in" tweet as his own Instagram story and that clearly caught Steph's attention. Curry dropped 46 points on Morant and the Grizzlies to secure the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference for the play-in tournament, and Morant only had 16 points.
"I was locked in," Curry said after the game.
To nobody's surprise, the two still showed their respect for each other after the game and Morant even tweeted that there's "no debate" Curry should be the 2020-21 NBA MVP, which he wound up finishing third in behind Joel Embiid and winner Nikola Jokic.
But Morant got the last laugh last season. In a game that still doesn't count towards either player's career stats -- as confusing as that is -- the Grizzlies ended the Warriors' season in the play-in tournament with Golden State dropping games to the Los Angeles Lakers and then Memphis. Curry scored a game-high 39 points, but Morant's 35, including two consecutive jumpers in the final 48 seconds of overtime, were too much for the Warriors.
Golden State Warriors
These two teams and these two superstar point guards already have played each other twice this season. The Warriors lost by three points in late October before beating the Grizzlies by nine two days before Christmas. Curry scored 36 points in the loss and 46 in the win. Morant put up 21 points when his team lost and 30 in the Grizzlies' win.
Now it's time for Round 3, with Morant's teammate Desmond Bane telling us we shouldn't be talking about Ja's All-Star status -- but rather if he's the best point guard in the NBA right now.
For the season so far, Morant is averaging a career-high 24.7 points per game while improving as a shooter and making 38.3 percent of his 3-point attempts and putting himself on nightly highlight tapes with mind-bending blocks and high-flying dunks. Curry is averaging 26.8 points, and his shooting slump -- to his standards -- have him at a career-low 38.7 percent from long distance.
Morant has shown on a nightly basis that all 174 pounds of him aren't scared of any obstacle, balancing his powers as both a spinning running back and daredevil on a high-wire act. Curry, as he proved yet again in his first battle with Morant last season, has always shown he's ready to quiet any doubts the moment they get louder than a whisper.
This is Curry's 13th season with the Warriors and only Morant's third for the rising Grizzlies. Curry turns 34 years old in March and Morant still is only 22 until this summer. Just like the Warriors, the Grizzlies have been built by the draft and a smart front office and will go just as Ja does. Curry has his fellow Splash Brother in Klay Thompson back, and has his eyes on a fourth championship ring after two seasons away from the playoffs.
One day, the torch will be passed. That day isn't today, won't be tomorrow and the same goes for the very near future. The more talk, the better for the Warriors. It will only inspire Curry that much more, although he's far past needing any more motivation at this point in his career.
Rivalry probably isn't even the right word for the way these two mutually respect each other. The younger generation looks up to Steph, who has been nothing but great to the players trying to further the game. Morant lands right in that group, and it will be fascinating to watch him push the envolope and do his best at knocking down the door as Curry's career continues.
Enjoy the show -- it has only just begun between these two.