It was April 14 at 8:35 a.m. Central Time on Tuesday in Memphis, Tennessee when a hardwood crime was reported on the FedExForum.
The victim, Gary Payton II, was finally on his feet after seven years as a pro. This was his first full season in an NBA rotation. It was his birthright to choke the full-back. His father, Gary Payton, could steal the pockets of even the most skilled ball handlers. Payton II finally lived up to the nickname “The Mitten”, a nod to his father’s nickname “The Glove”. It’s the only thing that’s been gifted to him in his NBA career. He’s spent most of his career climbing the G-League mountain.
The 2022 playoffs were the highlight of his career. Payton was the yin to Jordan Poole’s offensive yang in the first round. The Mitten even started in the first two games of the Warriors’ Western Conference Semifinals series against the Memphis Grizzlies. His attacking defense frustrated Ja Morant like hell in Game 1. Game 2 was to be his encore, until his fateful encounter with Brooks at 9:08 in the first quarter, when Draymond Green led the Warriors into the transition.
Green laced up a pass forward to Payton, who had slid into a crevice between Memphis’ transition defenses. A split second later, Payton was sprawled on the hardwood, clutching his left arm in pain. Payton’s injury was later diagnosed as a fractured left elbow that dealt a blow to Golden State’s rotation. His playoffs could be over. Now Warriors fans, who have harbored Draymond Green for nearly a decade, insist Dillon Brooks be brought to justice for his crimes against basketball.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was particularly animated by Brooks’ mid-air foul on Payton.
“I don’t know if it was intentional, but it was dirty.” said Kerr. “There is a code that players follow. You never jeopardize a man’s season or career by knocking someone out in mid-air, hitting them in the head with your fist and eventually breaking Gary’s elbow.”
Disclaimer: The people mentioned in this article cannot and will not be tried in court. Our sole jurisdiction is the NBA disciplinary process. However, we reserve the right to drag either party before the judges of the Slam Dunk Contest for a mock trial.
Ultimately, the NBA will be the final arbiter here. The league will soon rule on Brooks’ intent and whether his action was worthy of criminal justice or whether his exclusion from Game 2 was enough. A second ban would essentially be a 2 game ban as he only played 3 minutes in Game 1.
Is Dillon Brooks a vengeful headhunter who saw an opportunity to beat the snot out of a player who made life difficult for Morant? Or was this a crime of fast-break passionate passion executed in the blink of an eye with rushes of adrenaline? Barring an admission of guilt from Brooks, NBA PIs can only watch the replay over and over in super slow motion (the most common description of Brooks’ understudy, Kyle Anderson’s playing style), filling in the puzzle pieces and searching for clues that a basketball grand jury might indict.
However, it’s important to know the backstory and how the loss of Payton will impact this series. Like Will Smith exhausted by Chris Rock’s Jada Pinkett Smith Jokes long before the Oscars, tensions were already running high. Green spent the last 48 hours explaining his attack on Brandon Clarke through every medium he could find, including TNT’s Inside the NBA, which felt like Hannibal Lecter discussing the texture of meat over a nice Chianti.
The Grizzlies have been trying to get a message across to these warriors for at least three years now. Last May the grizz ended Golden State’s season in play-in play. Her true obsession is with Andre Iguodala, a Grizzlies persona non grata because he never played a game for Memphis, which helped propel her to the top. Conveniently, they can now have his full attention. With Payton out of action for the foreseeable future, Golden State will rely more heavily on Iguodala if he’s allowed to return for Game 3.
During the warrior In the summer of 2019, Iguodala was sold to Golden State with the understanding that it would be bought out or sold to a competitor. Dillon Brooks in particular, took offense at Iguodala’s refusal Sharing wisdom with their young squad and highlighting them at every opportunity. Even after Iguodala was traded to the Grizzlies, Iggy despised Brooks the most, to the point that it started giving off Eminem “Stan” vibes with angry letters.
Brooks mentioned him in press conferences as late as March.
Her background on various sides of the Oregon State-Oregon Civil War adds circumstantial evidence for the league office to consider. There was already some fat between them, and any attorney in the country worth his JD could admit that evidence.
Ultimately, Brooks’ foul changed the tone of this series. Payton will miss considerable time rehabilitating his elbow and robbing Marcus Smart’s Golden State of her poor husband. It’s not as brutal as Zaza’s manslaughter of Kawhi Leonard’s ankles in 2017, but in a series decided by razor-thin differences between two teams at the penthouse of the NBA hierarchy, the adjustments Kerr makes could mean all the difference. Winning is the best elixir. Even if Brooks isn’t handed a suspension, there’s more than one way for Golden State to do justice to The Mitten.