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“Defense always gets attached to negative labels” — Isaiah Thomas defends Dillon Brooks against dirty play accusations

The animosity between both teams is now more apparent than ever.
NBA Hall-of-Famer Isiah Thomas and Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks

Isiah Thomas and Dillon Brooks

On Thursday, the NBA announced that Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks is suspended for the Flagrant 2  foul he committed on Garry Payton II in Game 2. Payton, who was going for a layup, was accidentally hit on the head by Brooks in midair resulting in a severe ligament and muscle injury that will keep the former out for at least two weeks.

The flagrant foul didn't sit well with Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and forward Draymond Green, who both believed this was a dirty play by Brooks. Kerr, in particular, said that Brooks broke the code and took a subtle jab at the Grizzlies during Thursday's practice.

"Just play hard. Battle for every loose ball, battle for every rebound, compete every possession. And, you know, don't risk a guy's career if he's ahead of the play in transition. That's our mantra," Kerr said in response to how the Warriors plan to bounce back in game three.

The leader of the "Detroit Bad boys" chimes in

Nobody understands hard-fought physical basketball more than Isiah Thomas, the point guard and leader of the Detroit "Bad Boys" Pistons era. Thomas, who has been on the side of committing hardcore fouls just like Brooks did, believes that Brooks is far from a dirty player.

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"[Brooks] is not a dirty player," Thomas continued. "Memphis is not a dirty team. They play hard, they play physical, they have always played the right way. When we talk about defense, unfortunately in sports, defense always gets attached to negative labels. When we describe offense, we always describe it with positive labels," Thomas said.

It's difficult to determine whether or not Brooks meant ill when he went up to deter Payton's layup. Back in Thomas' day, this could just be considered a regular defensive play, but the league has changed over time. Speaking from his experience, the two-time champion believes that Brooks' play was just a mere accident that's being taken out of context.

"It's a fast-moving physical game [and] accidents do happen," said Thomas. "Would I put this in the category of an accident? Yes. I think we need to be careful when we start labeling people and teams as dirty. I speak as a former [Detroit] Piston, NBA champion, Hall of Famer who has to fight and still fights these negative labels of 'dirty.' That carries a lot of implications in society when you move it outside the court," Thomas added.

What does this mean for both teams?

The suspension of Brooks and the injury of Payton II significantly affect the series between the Grizzlies and the Warriors. For the Grizzlies, it might be a blessing in disguise as it opens up minutes for DeAnthony Melton, who forced multiple turnovers against the Warriors in game two.

Meanwhile, for the Warriors, Payton's absence means that they lose their most potent point-of-attack defender, which is unfortunate, especially when it comes to containing the like of Ja Morant or even Chris Paul and Devin Booker if the Dubs do end up advancing to the next round.

Since Game 1, this series has been all about relentless trash talk, flagrant fouls, and physical battles. Brook's flagrant foul has only escalated this, and as the series heads to game three, the animosity between both teams is now more apparent than ever. 

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