The Aaron Brooks Conundrum

Prior to this season, when all was well in Rocket-land as Chase Budinger still could be known as a shooter and Yao Ming could actually walk around, my friend Eric and I often found ourselves most geeked about the asset that was Aaron Brooks. Though there had been some rumblings about Brooks’ contract situation (as has been well documented, the Rockets roundly refused to extend the fourth-year point guard), his value was one that seemed limitless; he was in a position at which the Rockets appeared deep (we had all read somewhere that Courtney Lee had backup point abilities. That place, obviously, was a book of lies) and coming off of a very public, lauded breakout year, the kind of player opposing general managers think they’d be so brilliant to scoop up before Brooks “really” took the next step. This would, of course, lead to another Daryl Morey robbery that would leave Houston with a superstar, an enticing young prospect or, at very least, a bundle of expiring contracts and draft picks from a team that had a pick someone might actually want. Then that jerk Manu Ginobili had to come along an screw it all up.

Well, to be both honest and fair to everyone’s favorite dynamic Argentinian outside of the Houston area, the train had obviously already come off of the tracks. The Rockets had lost five games to start the season already, but Brooks’ injury certainly added a certain foreboding aura to the start of a season that supposedly would be the Rockets’ chance at reclaiming the relevance that it had to put on hold for a year while its giant recovered. The team’s record tells the story since that unfortunate beginning, but little has been made of the awkward situation in which that injury put the Rockets’ backcourt, Brooks and Kyle Lowry specifically. All viewers have assumed that Brooks would gladly sit back on that bench again after firmly entrenching himself in the starter’s role through his play and leadership over the last two years, something that the little warrior simply doesn’t seem up to doing any longer.

This all came to a head in Saturday night’s overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies, a game in which Brooks only appeared for 14 ineffectual minutes that exemplified the diminished role that Brooks has had in the team’s offense this year. While he’s essentially run the second unit, Brooks has seen his minutes around the 20 minute mark all year, a crushing blow for the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Brooks walked off of the court before the game ended Saturday, earning him a one game suspension from the team and a host of trade rumors sending him to New York, Sacramento and elsewhere. I think there’s little doubt that Brooks would invite a trade ushering him out of Houston, but if Houston’s willing to give up on the little bruiser for only an expiring deal (as Newsday has suggested) because of a tiff with Coach Rick Adelman, something has gone sour in the Rockets’ front office.

Aaron Brooks may be a problem. He’s definitely not helping on the court (the little guy’s Usage rate has somehow increased this year as his efficiency numbers like True Shooting Percentage and Assist Percentage have all plummeted) and could be causing Lowry to feel added pressure (Lowry’s hot month of December mostly took place with Brooks recuperating; his numbers have also dropped since Brooks’ return). Coach Adelman may have had enough of his frustration and lack of inspiration hindering a team dealing with its fair share of hindrances right now. Above all, though, Aaron Brooks is a decent basketball player and a useful asset. Daryl Morey knows a thing or two about both of those things, and despite the rumors in New York papers that are friendly to New York, I’m pretty sure Morey still knows how valuable even a disgruntled Aaron Brooks can be.

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