Canadian Dillon Brooks impresses in return to action for Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks shoots against Maccabi Haifa center Daniel Koperberg in the first half of an exhibition NBA basketball game Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. (Brandon Dill/AP)

Before Sunday, Canadian Dillon Brooks hadn’t taken part in a basketball game since January when a ruptured ligament in his right big toe ended his sophomore season.

As the adage goes, good things come to those who wait.

Brooks returned to NBA hardwood during the Grizzlies’ pre-season opener against Maccabi Haifa, a professional Israeli basketball club, and started alongside fellow Canadian Brandon Clarke as well as second-overall pick Ja Morant — who put together and impressive NBA debut.

But Brooks showed flashes of the player the Grizzlies hoped he could be when they acquired him from the Houston Rockets during the 2017 NBA Draft.

The 23-year-old scored 16 points in just over 23 minutes of action, shooting 40 per cent from the field overall and 33 per cent from long range.

While the caveats are obvious — it’s pre-season action, and pre-season action against a non-NBA opponent at that — the positive signs are apparent as well.

Before the toe injury derailed his 2018-19 campaign, limiting him to just 18 games, Brooks seemed primed to emerge as a valuable cog in the Grizzlies’ future rotation.

During his rookie season, he was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year for the team, averaging 11 points and 36 per cent shooting from three and above-average defence, creating the faint outline of a “Three-and-D” role player.

That outline re-appeared in Sunday’s pre-season debut.

With little competition for minutes waiting for him in Memphis, and the hope that new head coach Taylor Jenkins’ pace-and-space offence helmed by an elite passer like Morant will create a more cohesive on-court environment, the opportunity for Brooks to be an integral part of the Grizzlies’ future has re-appeared.

Brooks and the Grizzlies’ next pre-season action will come on Tuesday against the New Zealand Breakers, a professional team from Auckland, NZ., and their first NBA-level test will come on Oct. 14 against the Charlotte Hornets.

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