The Los Angeles Lakers are still working to overcome their dreadful start to the season. Despite winning three straight games before Tuesday’s loss to Phoenix, the Lakers still own the second-worst record in the West. Their last loss before that defeat was against old friend Malik Monk and the upstart Kings.
In a perfect world, the Lakers would’ve liked to re-sign Monk. With limited financial flexibility, though, they couldn’t meet his contract demands, and he wound up signing a two-year, $19 million deal with the Kings after a career year.
The Lakers could certainly use Monk’s ability to catch fire from three. Last season, the former Kentucky star ranked first on Los Angeles in three-point percentage (39.1%) among players who logged at least 50 games. Through 16 games, the Lakers’ 30.6% three-point percentage ranks dead-last in the NBA.
Though he left in free agency, Monk is still a fan favorite among the Staples Center faithful, and those fans will love what he accomplished on Tuesday.
Despite Ja Morant’s best efforts to rattle the former Laker, he was unfazed and nailed a pair of huge free throws in the closing seconds. On the ensuing Grizzlies possession, Morant missed two of three from the charity stripe with a chance to tie the game.
Former Lakers guard Malik Monk owned Grizzlies star Ja Morant.
This is cold-blooded from Monk, who wasn’t about to let Morant trash talk his way to a Grizzlies win. The best part is Monk didn’t retaliate. He could’ve returned the favor to Morant, but he allowed the former Rookie of the Year to get in his own head and miss crucial free throws with the game on the line.
Morant is a superstar in every sense of the word. It’s tough to identify one weakness in his offensive game. After shooting just 34.4% on threes last season, Morant is now shooting at a 39.9% clip from distance. He’s averaging a career high in points and his 47.2% field goal percentage is elite for a point guard.
However, his struggles from the foul line have followed him throughout his career. You’d expect a ball-dominant guard who lives in the paint to shoot better than 80% on free throws, but Morant currently owns just a 77.0% conversion rate on the year, bringing his career average to a middling 75.6%.
Monk, on the other hand, has long been one of the NBA’s premier foul shooters, and he’s currently knocking them down at a 91.4% clip. That’s good for 11th-best among all players.
Credit to Ja for trying to rattle Monk’s cage, but Lakers fans could’ve told him from the start it wasn’t going to work. Morant’s ego is too big to be embarrassed by blowing a regular season game in mid-November, but getting owned by Monk had to be a little humbling.
Sometimes, it’s better to say nothing at all. And if you do decide to trash talk, you better back it up when its your turn to deliver.