Is Dillon Brooks just asking to get cooked in Game 3?
After Game 2, when the Memphis Grizzlies evened their NBA playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers with a 103-93 win, Brooks, who said LeBron James called him "dumb" for picking up his fourth foul, then Brooks called James old and said, "I poke bears."
"I don't care -- he's old. You know what I mean?" Brooks said of the 38-year-old James. "I was waiting for that. I was expecting him to do that Game 4, Game 5. He wanted to say something when I got my fourth foul. He should have been saying that earlier on. But I poke bears."
LeBron had 28 points in Game 2.
This has been a tête-à-tête that goes back a couple years.
In a January 2021 game, James, who had 26 points, hit a fadeaway jumper over Brooks in a 94-92 win, then did the "too small" celebration in Brooks' direction. LeBron's celebration might have been getting back at Brooks for a similar move earlier that night.
LeBron doesn't forget 😂pic.twitter.com/tZfKNxOftp— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) January 6, 2021
Fast forward two years. L.A. was struggling, having lost four of its previous five games before facing Memphis, and the Grizzlies were riding high. The Lakers won the game and James had 23 points, but it came on 8-of-21 shooting and 1-of-5 from 3. It was the only time James played against the Grizzlies the regular season.
Brooks claimed the rough shooting came from a particular defensive strategy.
Grizzlies' Dillon Brooks on Lakers' LeBron James: "He doesn't want to go left. I was just making him go left all game. He would settle or he would pass the ball." pic.twitter.com/nBJ9p3OslK— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 21, 2023
Then came the postseason. The Grizzlies were locked into the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Lakers rallied after the All-Star break, losing just five games in the season's final month, but had to compete in the play-in tournament. Ahead of the Lakers' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, which would decide Memphis' first round matchup, Brooks began his bear-poking in earnest.
"I wouldn't mind playing LeBron in a seven-game series," Brooks said prior to the series. "The legacy is there. First time back in the playoffs, knock him out right away. They'll test us good. They got good pieces, good players. That'll be a good first-round matchup for us."
Brooks got his wish.
In Game 1, James had 21 points in the 128-112 win. King James played his own mind games with Brooks and Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins at one point in the game.
LeBron James trying to listen into Dillon Brooks and Taylor Jenkins' conversation 👂pic.twitter.com/vWirp3sxy3— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 16, 2023
For Game 2, James and Brooks turned to staring contests.
Dillon Brooks going at Bron 👀 pic.twitter.com/NkV8RszyFh— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 20, 2023
LeBron James and Dillon Brooks exchanged words 👀🍿 pic.twitter.com/cyox1hI5kc— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 20, 2023
There has been a litany of LeBron agitators through the years. They've had mixed results against King James. With the Miami Heat in 2013, James threw down a huge dunk on Jason Terry in a game against the Dallas Mavericks. Lance Stephenson was that guy when he faced James in the playoffs with the Indiana Pacers. Stephenson once made the choke sign at James and famously blew in James' ear at the free throw line. James said, "I'm not even going to give him the time," when asked about Stephenson during a postseason series against the Pacers.
Through two games in this series with Memphis, James is shooting 50% and 3-of-7 from 3 when Brooks is his primary defender. James has scored 18 points when Brooks is defending him.
On Wednesday, Brooks said, "I don't respect no one until they come and give me 40."
This season, only Damian Lillard has scored 40 against Memphis when Brooks has played. In Game 3, is LeBron about to join that small club and cast aside another would-be irritant?