As if it wasn’t hard enough to figure out how to beat LeBron James and the Lakers, the Memphis Grizzlies had to navigate what general manager Zach Kleiman called “self-created distractions.” They couldn’t and got bounced in embarrassing fashion in Game 6.
The Grizzlies head into an offseason where they need some roster tweaks and attitude adjustments. Both of those will start with the Grizzlies not bringing back free agent Dillon Brooks — the guy that poked the bear of LeBron — reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
The Memphis Grizzlies have informed pending unrestricted free agent Dillon Brooks that he will not be brought back under any circumstances, league sources tell The Athletic. After his tumultuous end to the season, Brooks was told about the Grizzlies‘ decision to move on in exit meetings with team officials in recent days, those sources said.
Suddenly Draymond Green saying, “The dynasty starts after you, not with you” looks prophetic.
This is also not a surprise, speculation the Grizzlies might move on from Brooks bubbled up since he didn’t get a contract extension last summer. It only got louder during the playoffs.
While the media distraction of Brooks calling LeBron “old” and “tired” was an issue — as was him hitting LeBron in the family jewels — the bigger one is the Lakers left Brooks wide open all series and dared him to shoot. It messed up Memphis’ spacing. The entire Grizzlies offense is based on Ja Morant or Desmond Bane driving to the rim and getting a bucket, but the Lakers could crowd the paint with big bodies because they didn’t fear a kick-out pass to any shooter (Luke Kennard started to change that until his shoulder injury). While the Grizzlies could have used one of Steven Adams or Brandon Clarke against the Lakers, it didn’t change the core problem of not having enough shooting and floor spacing.
While Brooks helped establish the swagger and culture of these Grizzlies, they have grown beyond him. Through much of the series against the Lakers, the Grizzlies were playing two non-shooters (the backup center of choice plus Brooks), which doomed them. Memphis needs that shooting on the wing.
That said, don’t be shocked if the Grizzlies — who are already operating over the cap — do a sign-and-trade with Brooks to get him to a team that could use his impressive defensive skills. Memphis will want picks and veteran shooters in return.
The Grizzlies have a full roster, but more importantly have all their first-round picks, plus a 2024 first-rounder from the Warriors. Look for Kleiman to package picks and a tradable salary — Kennard, backup point guard Tyus Jones — to try and bring in veterans and shooters.
The veteran part goes to the attitude adjustment.
The best teams talk smack — have you seen Stephen Curry and the Warriors? — but more than back it up, they don’t get distracted by the circus. Morant missing eight games with a league suspension after waving a gun around at a strip club is a major distraction. Brooks “poking the bear” becomes a distraction. Throughout this roster there has been a lack of maturity, the Grizzlies could use a veteran or two who understand how to keep things on a simmer and not let them boil over.
Morant appears to have grown following his suspension and he is the leader and tone-setter for the Grizzlies. If he comes back with a new focus, a little more shooting around him, and a healthy Steven Adams in the paint next to Jaren Jackson Jr., then watch out. This might be a team ready to make a run next season.
But they have work to do this summer first.
Work without Dillon Brooks.