Every good story needs a villain. Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks has become that villain during the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Brooks has been building this character for some time, feuding with many of the top players in the league, such as Draymond Green and Donovan Mitchell. But this week’s events may prove to be a tipping point for him in Memphis.
Brooks and LeBron James had a slight verbal confrontation during Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals when the Grizzlies tied the Los Angeles Lakers at 1-1 in the series. That should’ve been expected of Brooks, an agitator and one of the league leaders in ejections.
Brooks didn’t leave it there. Instead, he decided to stoke the flames in his postgame comments, calling him “old” – not untrue by NBA standards, by the way – and said he doesn’t “respect no one until they come and give me 40.”
James didn’t get 40 in Game 3, but Brooks didn’t even make it to the end of the game. Instead, he struck James in the groin (accidentally, he said) early in the third quarter and was promptly tossed from the game, a Grizzlies defeat. It’s the same game the Grizzlies scored nine points in during the first quarter, all but dooming them as the Lakers scored 35.
The ejection was just another rough moment for Brooks in this series. His play hasn’t been good, especially on the offensive end, where the Lakers repeatedly have left him open. He shot 3-of-13 from the field before his ejection on Saturday.
At this point, his play isn’t making up for the distraction he’s becoming.
As Dillon Brooks becomes the main story of his series, is it time for the Memphis Grizzlies to rid themselves of the wing?
A decade ago, the Grizzlies burnished their reputation as one of the grittiest teams in the league. With Zach Randolph and Tony Allen in the fold, Memphis was going to make it difficult for opponents night after night.
Brooks felt like a continuation of that beloved era. He has no issues getting into it with opponents and demonstrating that, even if they’re more talented than he is, he’s not going to go down without a fight.
Where the grittiness of Memphis was once appreciated, however, the perception is darker these days. The actions of Brooks are crossing the lines into dirty play in the eyes of some. There are also the scandals that have enveloped Ja Morant’s season, including brandishing a weapon at a nightclub. The Grizzlies’ front office has to decide if Brooks is worthwhile to keep around.
He’ll be back around on Monday night when the Grizzlies try to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole against the Lakers. Beyond that, it’s an open question. There are already rumors spreading that the Grizzlies have tried ditching Brooks in the past. ESPN’s Tim McMahon recently said on Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective that the team tried to move on from him.
While the 27-year-old obviously wasn’t moved then, he could be now. He’s actually set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Before his latest controversy, an extension felt like a realistic possibility – less so, now.
Brooks certainly brings up the defensive intensity of Memphis. He’s a liability on the offensive end, though. He’s not a good shooter and having a good shooter could make Memphis more dangerous since Luke Kennard and Desmond Bane are already flanking the perimeter.
If what has gone on this season – and specifically, this series – is the last straw for Dillon Brooks in Memphis, at least he went out with a bang.