Dillon Brooks is off to the best 11-game start of his career.
It should come as no surprise, however, as Brooks was pretty much forced to redshirt his second year in the NBA.
11 games into his sophomore season, Brooks suffered a sprained MCL, an injury that sidelined him for 21 games. After working his way back to the court, Brooks would play just seven games before rupturing a ligament in his right big toe, which ended up costing him the remainder of the season.
It was early January, the Memphis Grizzlies still had 42 games left on the season and Brooks had to come to grips with not being apart of that - on the floor, battling with his team.
Instead of using it as a time to feel bad for himself, the 23-year-old Canadian used it as a year of learning. Brooks sat on the sideline and absorbed what the league was doing around him, how hard the vets were working, how they carried themselves off the court, how they stayed in the NBA.
"I got to watch the game when I was hurt last season. I got to really watch the game," Brooks told NBA.com recently. "I feel like my first two years were two total different years - where I got to play a lot and then my second year I didn't get to play a lot.
"When I got injured I got a chance to watch players play... how things go... how to carry yourself in the NBA. I transitioned that into the summer by working on my game, getting ready because of all the moves that we made.
"All the expectations for me - trying to get back to the way I was playing my first year."
In his first season, Brooks turned himself into a reliable starter for the Grizzlies. He started in 74 games, playing in all 82 that season. Year two was different, though. Yes, the injuries put a stop to his momentum, but he was also coming off the bench behind a healthy Chandler Parsons and later veteran Kyle Anderson.
Then the reset button was hit in Memphis. The Grizzlies became sellers at the trade deadline, eventually trading Marc Gasol to Toronto. JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple also found themselves in new uniforms and Mike Conley, the last remaining face of the Grit and Grind era was finally shipped off to Utah. The rebuild is in progress in Memphis, but it may not take long. Ja Morant has shown promise to start the year and Jaren Jackson Jr. has all the makings of becoming an All-Star one day.
Brooks watched it all and used it as fuel for his offseason workout plan. Team Canada came calling, but Brooks didn't want to pass up on an opportunity to work on his game. Especially knowing that he would once again be looked on to have an impact on both ends of the floor.
So far it's paid off. No one on the Grizzlies has a bigger impact on the team's performance than Brooks through 11 games. According to NBA Stats , the team's offensive rating is 107.8 with him on the court compared to 95.9 with him on the bench
Defensively it's the same story. With Brooks on the court, Memphis' defensive rating is 107.6. It shoots up to 112.4 when he sits.
"I had to get it (for) myself," Brooks continued. "My first year in the (off-season) I was travelling a lot. I didn't get the chance to work on my game.
Dillon Brooks floats it off the glass!#PhantomCam x #GrindCity pic.twitter.com/HxhppDIXcJ- NBA (@NBA) November 12, 2019
"I just challenged myself to get back in the gym, keep working - seeing where I can get my shots. A lot of mid-range, a lot of finishing and I wanted to get better with my three because if I get better at my three then they gotta close out on me and then I'm playing into my strengths.
"I just want to challenge myself to take it professionally and get better because the life expectancy in the NBA is only like three or four years.
"I want to get to my next contract and solidify myself."
What was done in the gym this past off-season has shown up in his game to start the year. Brooks is averaging 13.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists - all of which are career-highs. It's not just that Brooks is getting more opportunities either. Even with the roster turnover and the vets that occupied his minutes while he was healthy last year now playing somewhere else, his usage rate is relatively the same. The Grizzlies are, however, playing faster, which has allowed Brooks more shots and he's cashing in on them. After sitting at or near the bottom of the league in pace in previous years, Memphis currently has the sixth-quickest pace in the NBA .
Brooks is also getting to the line and converting his free throws at an 88.5% clip, by far the best of his career. The hard work is paying off.
Brooks is seeing the fruits of his labour on the floor, but the time spent in the gym working on his game came at a cost. It meant he wasn't able to suit up for Canada at the FIBA World Cup this past August.
A lot was made over the summer of the poor turn out from the country's NBA talent, but Brooks wants to be clear - he wants to play for his country and help build the basketball culture.
A part of that cultural growth Brooks believes is the friendly competition amongst fellow Canadians. While he's not able to watch every game, Brooks is well-versed in what Canadians are doing around the league.
From Andrew Wiggins to Jamal Murray, from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to his teammate Brandon Clarke, Brooks is always routing for his Canadian brethren until, of course, they're on the opposite end of the court.
"I always feel like I'm in that (conversation)," Brooks said of being one of the best Canadians in the league. "But I want to take on the challenge of being one of the best on this team - one of the best or a household name in the NBA and then that will come... being a top Canadian player.
"I always come out here competitive to want to take on the challenge and same with the other Canadians.
"Wiggs has been balling, Shai been balling, Jamal - a lot of guys been balling. Brandon (Clarke) on our team.
"It's always like in college, AAU and in the NBA, you always look out for your Canadians to see how they're doing. It's kind of like a competitive thing as well. You see someone go off for 20 you say 'oh I want to get 20.'
"It helps the culture build up into a better basketball country."
As far as his availability for Team Canada this summer - should they come calling, Brooks will be ready.
"I plan on being there, I plan on playing regardless of if I get a contract or whatever happens," Brooks said. "I'm going to play for Team Canada because you know I missed out this year and I really want to play and make it to the Olympics.
"It's something in my basketball career that I want to do - wear that red and white. It's going to be a special year for us in Canada. "
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the NBA or its clubs.