Dillon Brooks’ reputation in the league is well-known at this point and, unfortunately, the Lakers got the latest look at the type of player he is.
Early in the second quarter, Brooks was involved in multiple heated moments that eventually led to the ejection of Jarred Vanderbilt. A hard — some might argue dirty — play by Brooks was reviewed by the officials and determined not to be anything more than a common foul.
Jarred Vanderbilt was shaken up after this hard foul by Dillon Brooks— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) January 30, 2024
Was a common foul the right call here? pic.twitter.com/w2y3BQcjEG
It took less than one in-game minute for that situation to completely boil over as Brooks’ chirping led to a shove and a hit to the head from Vando which resulted in a pair of technical fouls and an ejection.
Jarred Vanderbilt was ejected after getting into it with Dillon Brooks— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) January 30, 2024
Brooks’ controversial night wasn’t done, though, as he would inevitably get tangled with LeBron James as well. In a play that looked even more cut and dry as a dirty play, Brooks hit LeBron across the face during a rebound “attempt,” a word used very loosely once seen on replay.
LeBron James went down after being hit in the head by Dillon Brooks— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) January 30, 2024
Hope he’s okay pic.twitter.com/Dscxax4mlf
Again, Brooks escaped ejection, though this time he was given a Flagrant 1 foul. LeBron came away from the situation quite displeased, an emotion the Lakers had as a whole postgame.
No one, though, had stronger words than Anthony Davis.
“He was going for a wide open dunk and he pushed him in the back,” AD said of the foul on Vando. “It’s not a safe play. Guys get hurt like that. You got to know the type of player he is. You just let that keep going on and that provoked it. He talks and says whatever he wants to the refs, to players. At the end of the day, we’re men. No man is going to talk to another man the way he talked to Vando so Vando did what he had to do.”
“You take a hard foul. It’s part of basketball,” he added when asked if Brooks crossed a line. “But you’re just not going to blatantly push someone in the back when they have no control of their body in the air. I think he should have got ejected for that. And then, you know that him and LeBron have their whatever and from what I saw, it was just a blatant hit to LeBron in the face. The refs saw it differently. It is what it is, though.”
There was no sentiment of frustration or anger for Vanderbilt. Quite the contrary, in fact. D’Angelo Russell said that Vando made the “right play” in that situation. Darvin Ham also defended his wing while also stating that Brooks should have been ejected as well.
“It’s hard to control yourself,” Ham said. “Being competitive is one thing. Dillon Brooks is one of the most competitive players our league has. (He) competes at a high level. (But) whether it’s cheap shots or putting players at risk with injury with certain plays – I just watched it again before I came in here. (He) pushes him on the back, a guy that’s in the air, airborne, defenseless.
“And then Bron’s play, Bron goes to the basket and it’s a double move with his arm. One, the arm is trying to deflect the ball, goes back and then it goes across (LeBron’s) face, so maybe Dillon Brooks shouldn’t have been in the game either. It’s unfortunate. My hat’s off to Vando for taking up for himself and his team. It is what it is.”
The only person who didn’t comment on the matter was LeBron himself. When asked about it the first time postgame, LeBron dodged the question, stating they needed to be a better team. When asked a second time, he cut off the question with a “Next question” response.
LeBron James, who credited Dillon Brooks’ competitive nature earlier in the year, did not care to speak about him tonight: “Next question” pic.twitter.com/AdpYqq8yox— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 30, 2024
This Lakers core has a rapidly growing history with Brooks. Much of it transpired in the playoffs last season when Brooks imploded on and off the court as the Lakers won convincingly. Brooks switched cities and teams, but nothing changed as he continued to talk and the Lakers continued to win.
The non-stop chirping with minimal recourse likely played a role in things finally boiling over on Monday, both on the court with Vando and off the court. The Lakers have taken a pretty hard stance in the past about not acknowledging Brooks’ countless attempts at antagonizing them either on or off the court, but they have clearly reached a breaking point.
Perhaps for the best, the Lakers and Rockets do not meet again this regular season. A play-in or postseason match-up could loom but it’s clear the Lakers are no longer willing to sit back and watch Brooks’ dirty plays silently anymore.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.