Originally posted on RealGM | By John Wilmes | Last updated 5/25/21
Within seconds of the Memphis Grizzlies’ overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, which clinched them the NBA’s final playoff spot, Dillon Brooks was on the phone. In the middle of the court, the stadium still loud, his team’s first playoff birth in four years still incredibly fresh — he was holding his cell phone to his ear, while still in uniform, looking so casual about it that he may very well have been ordering a post-game pizza. What, one may have wondered, was this man doing? What on earth?
It’s a recurring question with Brooks, a fourth-year player who has quickly earned the NBA’s top ranking when it comes to flustering opponents and audiences alike. Following the victory over the Warriors, and after his odd phone call moment, Brooks took media availability alongside dominant second-year point guard Ja Morant, and he was wearing sunglasses indoors for the moment — a move that, when done by Michael Jordan and John Wall in the past, has signified elevated weirdness. But this is not a special occasion kind of thing, for Brooks. The post-game sunglasses are customary for a man whose proprietary blend of aggression and strangeness is at the heart of both his game and his emergent team’s postseason mission.
There is much that’s delightfully uncanny about Morant’s game as well. A consummate trickster, he combines deception with elite athleticism and a seemingly total allergy to nervousness, slithering and wiggling his way to the rim for clutch baskets. Against the Warriors, he did this to the tune of 35 points, including a game-winning floater and one of the more memorable fake-out plays of this era. Not bad for a 21-year-old. Previously in the season, Ja quietly did revolutionary stuff on offense, utilizing the backboard as a passing pad in a way that league scorekeepers seem to not quite understand: credited as missed shots that then led to offensive rebounds and putback dunks for teammates — often big man Jonas Valanciunas — Morant pulls off a certain beguiling assist with increasing frequency.
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