Sports | April 24, 2023 11:22 am

The Dillon Brooks Non-Suspension Reveals NBA Hypocrisy

Even though Draymond Green was suspended for a playoff game after stomping on an opponent, Brooks won't miss any after hitting LeBron James in his nether region

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with Dillon Brooks #24 of the Memphis Grizzlies before Game Three of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Arena on April 22, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Not long after this photo was taken, one of these men would hit the other in his bad place
Photo by Harry How / Getty Images

We all know that one way to stop a man dead in his tracks is to hit him in the testicles. We probably first learn this by accident while wrestling with our dads during toddler years and, later, we might bring it to the basketball court as teenagers just to piss off our friends. You would think an NBA player would have better defensive tactics to rely on than nut shots, but I guess when you’re trying to keep LeBron Freaking James from advancing up the court early in a seven-game playoff series, it apparently might be a good thing to try. It’s not like you’d be suspended or anything!

That’s what Dillon Brooks did in the third quarter of Game 3 between his Memphis Grizzlies and James’ Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. He was booked with a flagrant foul level 2, which meant an automatic ejection, and he later complained that the referees did him wrong because he’s perceived as a “villain,” thanks in part to media depictions of him. Well, there comes a time when we’re old enough to know that hitting daddy or your friends below the belt on purpose is a pretty evil thing to do, so allow me to be the latest sports writer to paint a villainous picture of the Grizzlies forward.

Watching the replay above, Brooks pretty clearly goes out of his way to take James out of action in the worst, most immature way possible. In the first angle the maneuver looks like it could have been an accident, but by the time you see the second angle you can tell that left hand of his had a target — two of them, in fact.

“The media making me a villain, the fans making me a villain and then that just creates a whole different persona on me,” Brooks said afterward. “So now you think I intended to hit LeBron James in the nuts. I’m playing basketball. I’m a basketball player. So if I intended — and that’s whatever is in the flagrant 2 category — if you think I did that, that means you think I’m that type of person.”

What if Draymond Green Punched Steph Curry Instead of Jordan Poole?

Green has been fined but was not suspended for assaulting his teammate in an incident captured on video

But as ESPN announcer Doris Burke said, Brooks led the NBA in technical fouls during the regular season, which brought about multiple suspensions. He was also fined $35,000 for shoving a camera person after chasing a loose ball, so it’s not like Brooks has been a model citizen this year. (After Brooks hit James, Burke somewhat hilariously also said that Brooks “doesn’t bring athleticism to the floor” and “obviously doesn’t bring shooting to the floor.”) He started talking trash about James prior to the series, and called him “old” after a Game 2 victory. Brooks, who will be a free agent this offseason, added that evening: “I’m creating a name for myself.”

He certainly is! As far as James, and probably many others, namely Lakers fans, are concerned that name is “motherfucking bum,” something James called Brooks during Game 2.

Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors had long established a similar name for himself in the NBA, which is probably part of the reason he was suspended for Game 3 of his series against the Sacramento Kings. Sure, he’d deliberately stomped on Domantas Sabonis, but it appears now that a one-game playoff suspension was perhaps overkill.

While Green should’ve shown more restraint, Sabonis had grabbed Green’s leg, an act that easily could have led to an injury. Green had not acquired enough flagrant foul points in the playoffs to that point to earn an automatic suspension, but the league levied one against him anyway — which turned out to be a Game 3 win for his Warriors. One of the league’s other bad boys, Green has been suspended by NBA and his own team on a number of occasions for violent behavior, including punching his own teammate Jordan Poole this past preseason. After the league forced him to sit out Game 3 against the Kings, multiple sports columnists said the Green suspension was unwarranted and was probably influenced because of his past indiscretions. Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers also defended Green, pointing to a different issue with the penalty.

“The league is setting up a very dangerous precedent right now, and this is not me campaigning, and I’m dead serious,” said Rivers. “If we’re going to start punishing the retaliators, and not the instigators, then we’ve got a problem in this league.”

Now there’s another reason to question the NBA’s judgment on the Green suspension. In the wake of the Brooks incident, the league said it will not suspend him for Game 4 of the Grizzlies series against James and the Lakers.

“At this point, all we can really determine is the NBA must feel it overreached on suspending Draymond Green,” wrote The Athletic in an article about the announcement. “Otherwise, not suspending Brooks makes no sense.”

Brooks, who openly discussed his desire to shut down James defensively, struck him without provocation — not counting the “motherfucking bum” remark, which is nothing like Sabonis grabbing Green’s leg. And if the league suspended Green in part because of his violent history, which as The Athletic reports was certainly the case, what about Brooks’ very recent past of overt aggression against players?

“[W]hile James dribbled around his back and any defender has a right to make a play on the ball, Brooks’ flicking of his wrist was a terrible, worthless attempt at defense if we are to believe that’s what he was trying to do,” wrote The Athletic. “He had less than no chance of poking away the basketball. Otherwise, Brooks was attempting to check James and hit him intentionally, right in a sensitive area.”

After the non-suspension ruling, Brooks said he was not surprised because his case more closely mirrored an incident between James Harden of the 76ers and Royce O’Neal of the Brooklyn Nets.

Like Brooks, Harden was ejected after earning a Flagrant 2 foul. However, he did not earn a suspension, and there’s less evidence that Harden’s act had malicious intent compared to that of Brooks. Harden’s contact with O’Neal’s bojangles appeared an unintentional byproduct of a pushoff that targeted the chest area.

But we’ll get to see Brooks in Game 4 against the Lakers, a pivotal contest in any best-of-seven series in which one team holds a two-games-to-one lead, as James’ team does. In addition to his “old” remark about James, the defensive-minded Brooks now famously said after Game 2, “I poke bears. I don’t respect no one until they come and give me 40 [points].”

Going forward, he probably won’t poke James in quite the same way as he did in Game 3. Then again, who knows? At this point we can’t be sure if the league would suspend him for nutting James twice.