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Everyone Hates Dillon Brooks

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - MARCH 18: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts during the game against the Golden State Warriors at FedExForum on March 18, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
Justin Ford/Getty Images

There is a certain amount of respect that almost all NBA players have for each other, a baseline acknowledgment that the league, for all of its rivalries and all the animosity harbored by fans, is something like a brotherhood. This buddy-buddy tendency off the court can raise the hackles of revanchists like Charles Barkley, though it undoubtedly makes the league a more pleasant and harmonious workplace, and it's not like players being friends has made the basketball any worse. Which is all to say: the way NBA players seem to actually loathe Dillon Brooks is remarkable.

Brooks has always been an asshole, able to flap the most unflappable of opponents, and he has elevated his game in recent weeks. Every team with serious ambitions needs an uber-competitor who will get in people's faces when the moment calls for it. There really isn't all that fine a line between being hard-nosed on the court and being a guy nobody can stand—take, for example, the recent Brook Lopez vs. Trey Lyles fight, where everyone only had good things to say about each other afterwards—and Brooks is squarely on the wrong side of it. Last night against the Mavericks, he guarded Kyrie Irving for most of the Grizzies' 112-108 home win against Dallas. Over the course of this one game, Irving voiced his displeasure with Brooks's "dumbass defense," Brooks picked up a technical foul for taunting the Mavericks bench after a dunk (which cut his team's deficit to six), and Brooks was left holding two jerseys like a fool after Irving ended their passive-aggressive postgame jersey swap without taking Brooks's jersey (he claimed it was unintentional).

The technical was Brooks's 18th of the season, which means he'll be suspended for the Grizzlies' next game, and will continue to be suspended for one game upon every other technical. Seeing as how his team is already without Ja Morant, surely Brooks would express some contrition for making his team even more shorthanded? Ah, well, no, he went out of his way to punch down and taunt Theo Pinson. "The dude was standing up on the bench. He should be sitting down," Brooks said. "We should be putting that on notice, but I just wanna let him know he's a cheerleader."

The Mavericks kerfuffle comes months after Brooks punched Donovan Mitchell in the dick and balls for no reason, weeks after he and Draymond Green had their national TV mewl-off, and days after he and Klay Thompson resumed Warriors-Grizzlies hostilities. As the Grizzlies were wrapping up a win over the Warriors, Klay Thompson kindly let Brooks know how many rings he has. Brooks declared himself a squatter in Thompson's head, and Thompson reiterated his legacy riff by claiming, "When he retires, I don't think anyone will ever talk about Dillon Brooks ever again." Oh, also, Brooks really laid it on this cameraman and got fined a bunch of money.

I have a theory here, which is that Brooks has become much worse because Steven Adams is out injured. The Grizzlies have won one playoff series and established themselves as the Western Conference's enfants terribles by playing harder than their opponents and pushing and shoving. Though Brooks embodies some of this, Steven Adams is the least fuck-withable player in the NBA and I'd posit that the Grizzlies' edge is kept sharpest by him. Without Adams, fellow all-action flier Brandon Clarke, or, for now anyway, Ja Morant, the Grizzlies are missing the few key players that cement their identity, and Brooks seems to me to be picking up the slack. The team is 6-1 in their last seven, and will probably hold off the Beam-lighters to hold onto the second seed. Brooks has been an important part of that stabilization, though it has nothing to do with his antics, and if they lose to the Rockets at home tomorrow without him, it's going to be so funny.

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