Los Angeles Lakers players defended power forward Jarred Vanderbilt after his spat with Rockets forward Dillon Brooks and subsequent ejection in Monday’s 135-119 loss to Houston.
Early in the second quarter, Brooks pushed Vanderbilt in the back on an uncontested dunk in a dangerous play that had an immediate ripple effect. A few possessions later, Brooks arm-barred Vanderbilt under the basket, leading to Vanderbilt retaliating by pushing him back in the chest and earning a technical foul.
Brooks continued trash-talking Vanderbilt and walked toward him before turning his back. As he turned, Vanderbilt flicked Brooks’ braid, receiving a second technical foul and an ejection.
The Lakers’ Jarred Vanderbilt was ejected from Monday night’s game vs. the Rockets after this interaction with Dillon Brooks.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) January 30, 2024
“It’s not a safe play,” Anthony Davis said of Brooks’ foul on Vanderbilt. “Guys get hurt like that. And you got to know what type of player he is. You kind of let that just keep going on and he kind of provoked it. He talks and says whatever he wants to the refs, to players. And at the end of the day, we’re men. No man is going to talk towards another man the way he was talking to Vando. So, Vando did what he had to do.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham applauded Vanderbilt for standing up for himself, saying, “My hat’s off to Vando.”
“It’s hard to control yourself, man,” Ham said. “Maybe Dillon Brooks shouldn’t have been in the game either.”
The Lakers trailed by 20 points when Vanderbilt exited the game, with the deficit reaching upwards of 30 in the third quarter and 24 entering the fourth.
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Brooks said that Vanderbilt took their tussling “a little too far.”
“He felt like I did a dirty play,” Brooks said. “When he feels that way, he likes to bump. It’s basketball, we bump and tussle and I felt like he took it a little too far.”
Officials did not punish Brooks for his run-ins with Vanderbilt, but he did receive a Flagrant 1 foul after hitting LeBron James in the face late in the game.
Vanderbilt did not speak to reporters after the game. When taking questions in the locker room, James cut off a reporter asking about Dillon Brooks and said, “Next question.”
LeBron James when asked about Dillon Brooks postgame: “Next question.” pic.twitter.com/l4zBNa1j6g
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) January 30, 2024
Brooks is no stranger to dust-ups and is certainly no stranger to the Lakers. Over the years, the Rockets forward has willingly thrown himself into the line of fire regarding LeBron James and Anthony Davis. There have been taunts on both sides, hard fouls and soundbites that will live on long after Brooks’ playing days are done. The 28-year-old has entrenched himself in a villainous role and is quite comfortable not being well-received by James, Vanderbilt, the Lakers or any opponent who steps on the floor with him.
Of course, as Brooks alluded to, the line between hard and dirty is quite thin and at times, his actions get him in trouble — Brooks leads the league in total technical fouls (12) and fouls per game (3.73). But there’s no doubt that his toughness and grit have been welcomed in Houston by head coach Ime Udoka and his teammates.
“From all last year, I let it get too far and now I feel like I have a rein on it,” Brooks said. “Just bringing the energy knowing that certain things you do can take it too far, play within the lines.”
(Photo: Carmen Mandato / Getty Images)