LOS ANGELES (AP) — Memphis agitator Dillon Brooks believes his image as an NBA villain contributed to the decision to eject him from Game 3 of the Grizzlies’ playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers after he struck LeBron James in the groin.
Brooks said Sunday his flagrant foul 2 was an accident, and he believes his reputation in the media and among the basketball public were factors in his ejection from the third quarter of Memphis’ 111-101 loss Saturday night.
“The media making me a villain, the fans making me a villain and then that just creates a whole different persona on me,” Brooks told reporters after the Grizzlies’ off-day shootaround at USC’s Galen Center.
Brooks struck James just 17 seconds into the second half, and he was ejected after a brief video review. Brooks’ teammates tried to argue after the game that Brooks’ flagrant foul had been unintentional.
Brooks was ejected from a game for the third time this season, delighting a Lakers home crowd that had been booing his every move since pregame warmups. He did not receive a suspension for the act.
Game 4 is Monday in Los Angeles.
Brooks led the NBA with 18 technical fouls this season, earning a pair of one-game suspensions in the process. He described his own playing philosophy last week as: “I poke bears,” and he made headlines across the league by dismissively calling James “old” even though the 27-year-old Brooks is the oldest active player on his own roster.
Brooks and James have jostled verbally in the past two games of the series, but James hasn’t said anything publicly about Brooks.
Brooks also got tossed for striking Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell in the groin in February. He was even thrown out of a playoff game last season for a flagrant foul on Golden State’s Gary Payton II, earning another suspension.
Yet Brooks apparently believes he has been miscast as a villain for the past two years, and he intends to prove his haters wrong by improving as a player. He has struggled against the Lakers, and he was 3-for-13 with little defensive impact at the time of his ejection from Game 3.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Brooks said. “I’m going to keep playing my game and get better and better each and every day and as long as my career goes.”