Monday, July 15, 2024

Dillon Brooks: ‘Canada will be ready to play’ vs. Team USA

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LAS VEGAS — Dillon Brooks, never one to shy away from a superstar challenge or a sound bite, has a message for LeBron James, Stephen Curry and the rest of the Americans heading into Wednesday’s Olympics exhibition game between Team USA and Canada.

The Canadians are coming — again.

“I take it as (just) another game, but me being who I am, I like to make a statement,” Brooks, the Houston Rockets guard whose Canadian team won the program’s first-ever medal (a bronze) last September against the Americans in the FIBA World Cup, told reporters late Monday night. “So I’ll be ready to play. Team Canada will be ready to play, and we’re gonna go balls to the wall and watch the film after and see if we got better.”

As if this budding international rivalry wasn’t interesting enough already, Brooks’ involvement takes it to another level because of his long and sordid history with the two biggest stars on the American squad. During his Memphis Grizzlies days, Brooks’ battles with Curry’s Golden State Warriors were contentious at every turn. Ditto for his time against James’ Los Angeles Lakers, both with the Grizzlies and the Rockets, as he has taken the game’s greatest player head-on in a way no other player can claim.

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To hear Brooks tell it, his well-chronicled competitiveness will be reaching a new high because of the involvement of the Americans’ top two players. After all, no one can blame him for believing that the Canadians played a pivotal part in the American roster getting upgraded for this Olympics challenge.

Just one day after the Canadians beat the Americans in the bronze-medal game, when Brooks scored 39 points and the favored Americans had to head home without stepping on the medal stand, The Athletic reported that James was not only ready to commit to Team USA but that he was leading the recruiting efforts for other A-list talents. Curry topped the list. So, Brooks was asked, is it possible that he’s even more motivated than ever because of the unique dynamics in play?

“Yeah, because there’s new USA players, you know, that spoke up after (the bronze-medal game), and wanted to play,” he said. “So, you know, I’m happy that they’re playing because, you know, we get to test our talents against theirs. And you know, it should be a fun one.”

Who comes to mind?

“Well at the beginning, it was Steph and LeBron that came out and said something, and then everyone else started joining on,” Brooks continued. “I’m happy that they made the commitment, so let’s see. Talent against talent.

“They’ve gotta guard. They’ve gotta play defense. That’s my main thing. Every team that has to play against us has to guard, has to scout against us. And we’re just going to play our game and make adjustments during the game.”

While Team USA is certainly the Olympic favorite, the Canadians are hardly lacking for elite talent. From Oklahoma City Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (who was second in MVP voting last season) to the Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray, the Thunder’s Lu Dort on down, Team Canada is not only formidable but foundational. With Brooklyn Nets coach Jordi Fernandez at the helm, they have achieved a recent level of roster consistency that typically bodes well in international play. And the Americans, as Brooks made clear, are the biggest threat to the team goals that lie ahead.

“The belief was always there; we just had to put it together,” Brooks said. “Now we’ve got a lot of players that are committed, willing to build this every single summer to get better and better and build chemistry and build camaraderie.

“Our time was last year. And now (it’s) our time for this year. But instead of getting bronze, we want the gold.”

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(Photo: Jam Sta Rosa / AFP via Getty Images)

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