Sacramento Kings center Chimezie Metu seemed all good to play against the Nets on Monday, one day after the Memphis Grizzlies’ Jonas Valanciunas angrily slammed him from the rim to the floor. Although Metu popped right back up after Valanciunas’s cheap shot, the fall will reportedly keep him out for a while.
During warmups before Monday’s game, Metu told the Kings’ coaching staff that his wrist was quite sore, which led to an X-ray and a grim diagnosis: He will miss at least a month with a fractured wrist, according to the Sacramento Bee. All because Valanciunas acted like a big bearded baby when he got jammed on:
At the time of the play, Kings players and staff were incredulous that Valanciunas hadn’t been assessed with a flagrant foul, even upon replay. Head coach Luke Walton had called it a “dangerous play.” The Bee reported that team management complained to the league office, who backed up the officiating crew.
For their part, the Grizzlies brushed it off and immediately ran a play to get Valanciunas a dunk over an innocent Cory Joseph. Point guard Ja Morant defended his center after the game. “[Metu] went a little overboard,” Morant said. “He got the dunk; probably was excited. I felt like he wrapped his legs around [Valanciunas] and that’s a little disrespectful to a man. I don’t blame JV at all.” Teammates will obviously defend each other, but Morant’s read of the play is wrong.
Metu will now miss what looked like the most crucial month of his young NBA career, as he was set to step into a significant role with a nominally competitive team. The Kings’ big-man cupboard is bare, which would have given the 23-year-old his first real opportunity to play significant minutes. Richaun Holmes, Marvin Bagley, and Harrison Barnes are all nursing injuries, and neither Nemanja Bjelica nor Hassan Whiteside are capable of moving laterally. Metu has shown flashes, especially in a Feb. 7 win over the Clippers, and an extended run with actually good players might have give him more security after two seasons of two-way purgatory.
Kings rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton said it best when asked about the play after Wednesday’s practice:
Mezie’s on a two-way contract. He’s fighting to stay in this league, to prove himself. And then something like that happens from a guy who’s a starter, who’s already proven himself, and now you put Mezie out four weeks, at a minimum. Mezie’s gotta work hard to get back and be able to prove himself again … so it’s kinda ridiculous. There are people who think that was right, which is also ridiculous.
We were down 20. He’s not trying to taunt him, he’s trying to stay safe. It’s just wrong.