I don’t know about anybody else, but I left Tuesday’s Memphis-Portland game really impressed with Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks.
The former Oregon star not only started, he was a key player in Memphis’ 98-97 win over the Trail Blazers, making a steal that he converted into an and-one layin with 39.4 seconds left.
Then on the game’s final play, his defense made CJ McCollum hesitate in the corner after the Blazers guard had chased down a potential game-winner that missed. McCollum’s hesitation caused the clock to run out and preserved the Grizzlies win.
“He makes plays in crunch moments,’’ Memphis coach David Fizdale said. “That was something we noticed, our front office guys noticed when they watched the film on him. He always rose to the occasion in crunch moments. That’s something we really liked about him. He finds a way to help you win when everything is on the line.’’
I’m not sure even the most die-hard Ducks fans who watched Brooks win the Pac-12 Player of the Year award thought Brooks would be making this kind of impact, this quickly.
In fact, it sounds like the more Memphis tours the NBA, the more eyes Brooks is opening.
“He looks like been playing in league for a while,’’ Memphis star Mike Conley said. “Each game he earns more respect, not just from us, but around the league. That’s all people come up and talk to us about – ‘that Dillon Brooks kid, he’s the real deal’ - and we love that. He plays with chip on shoulder and he’s not afraid of the moment.’’
Because of injuries, Brooks on Thursday started his third game, and it looks like he could stick in that role, in large part because he defended well within the Grizzlies’ active and aggressive system.
It’s why Fizdale had no hesitation putting Brooks on McCollum for the final shot.
“I feel good with him on anybody,’’ Fizdale said. “We’re developing him to be a starter. He has to go through mistakes, getting the respect of officials – all of that stuff. But we can’t hide him from those guys.’’
The question many around the league might be asking is where was Brooks hiding on draft night? He was drafted with the 45th pick overall by Houston, then traded to Memphis. On opening night, he scored 19 points against New Orleans, the highest scoring NBA debut by a Canadian, surpassing Rick Fox’s 13 points in 1991, and the highest-scoring debut by a Memphis player since Rudy Gay had 21 points in 2006.
“Man, somebody made a mistake not drafting him,’’ Grizzlies star Mike Conley said on opening night.
For the season, Brooks is averaging 8.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in 29.7 minutes a game after he finished with seven points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks on Tuesday. He played 38 minutes, the most of any player on Memphis.
“Before I came here I didn’t like playing defense,’’ Brooks said. “But now, I love playing defense. It keeps me on the floor. I get to challenge the best players in the NBA.’’
Today's Blazers' links:
Three final thoughts on Tuesday's loss to the Grizzlies.
Fan heckles Damian Lillard.
Trail Blazers.com looks at where the Blazers stack up in power rankings.