The Grizzlies Are Done With Dillon Brooks
2:40 PM EDT on May 2, 2023
Dillon Brooks will have to take his wrestling-heel shtick to another team. Via The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Memphis Grizzlies told the ostensible three-and-D player in exit meetings that after six seasons, he will not be coming back "under any circumstances." Under any circumstances! That feels like a dramatic flourish by the nation's leader in syntax, but let's still cross off Memphis from Brooks's potential landing spots in free agency. His projected remaining options: a misguided NBA lottery team, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, and an LA Fitness with lax employee oversight of the basketball courts.
It's rare to see a team preemptively reject an upcoming free agent like this, but the Grizzlies are doing so because it offers them a patsy. The second-seeded team fell out of the playoffs after losing to the seventh-seeded Lakers in six games. Brooks's contributions to that first-round series were: 23.8 percent shooting from three, a 31.2 field goal percentage, sloppy defense, metaphorically kicking dirt on LeBron James, literally punching LeBron James in the balls, one ejection, indignance toward the media for supposedly turning him into a villain, and receiving a $25,000 fine when he skipped media availability. He was Draymond Green with less talent and a heavier backpack.
Brooks's presence also contributed to an unexpected framing of this series. In one corner, there was this guy and Ja Morant, the star who can't stop fighting teens; in the other, LeBron and the Lakers. Despite the clear advantage in talent, status, and accomplishments, the latter became the underdogs. The former became red meat for NBA media. The Skip Bayless and House of Highlights factions were united in their hope for an immature, arrogant squad to be humbled, and it happened. At one point, Austin Reaves was cooking these guys.
For these reasons and more, the Grizzlies allowed this news to get to Charania. Pin the playoff flameout on the guy already hated by everyone, to whom you owe no more money. Pretend he was the thing holding this team back, even though he was considered a core part, and hope that Morant will learn to stop hunting for scraps at the mall. It's easier to move past a first-round loss when there's a scapegoat, and Brooks is the perfect candidate after he built a national presence on being disliked. He'll be the target of SpongeBob memes and bear GIFs, even if head coach Taylor Jenkins was the one who kept giving him minutes.
There is one way in which I'm sympathetic to Brooks's dumb ass, and it's not because I think his on-court talent is unfairly derided. I just wonder why he was talking all this shit like he wasn't at the end of his contract, or why his agents didn't remind him of that. He was held in higher regard during the regular season; according to Charania's report, "Memphis did make contract extension offers to Brooks early in the season, which were rejected and led to the end of talks." Clearly he was banking on a decent playoff run so he could prove his worth, even if it were for another team in the offseason. He forgot to actually do anything on the court to solidify that. The Grizzlies are going to eat their shit this offseason, but they also fixed up a big plate for Brooks to take somewhere else.
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