Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Back To The Future, Gotta Slow Up For The Present, I'm Fast
How does it feel to be Aaron Brooks right now?
When the former Oregon standout was drafted in June, he instantly had a really good chance of starting for the Rockets, who were noticeably thin at the point guard position, at some point during his rookie year.
New GM Daryl Morey had already traded for scoring guard Mike James, who came from the Timberwolves in exchange for Juwan Howard, in May after losing to the Jazz in the first round. Everybody in Houston was relieved at the return of James (who played here during the 2004-05 playoff season), and with the arrival of Brooks, it was clear to all that Rafer Alston, who was widely inconsistent and struggled against any pg that would be rated an 80 or above on NBA Live. We had just gotten rid of David Carr, and Skip was next.
Then, Brooks ran through the NBA Vegas Summer League in July, winning top rookie honors (averaging 21 ppg and 5 apg in the process), and I was two seconds away from putting 26's on the Aaron Brooks bandwagon. After his impressive showing as a member of the U.S. Select Team playing against the U.S. Senior Men's Team, it was crystal clear that this kid was ready for the big time. If everything would have stayed the same, Brooks would be going into his first NBA training camp with a chance of being the starting point guard on a potential championship team.
Then the Rockets traded for Luis Scola (and Jackie Butler), and Aaron became the second most important offseason addition; then the Rox (Houston, when did we start calling the team the Rox? Who authorized this?) signed former franchise Franchise Steve Francis, and Brooks was the third most important acquisition. Then the predictions and expectations started to roll in, and the little rookie was barely even being mentioned. Shame.
No biggee, because, Aaron Brooks is still one of the most vital players the Rockets have added in years. Actually, I think he's the 3rd most important acquisition (with Tracy McGrady and Yao 1 and 2, obviously) Houston has made since we brought back Clyde Drexler in 1995.
Here me out here. The Rockets' history with point guards has been kinda average. Yeah, we had Calvin Murphy and then John Lucas, Sr., but after the Lucas era ended in 1978, our starting guards were Mike Dunleavy (who never led the team in assists) and Allen Leavell (who?). Lucas, Sr. came back in 1984 and helped lead the Rockets back to the Finals in '86, and then he was pretty much out of the league after that.
Then there was Rodney McCray and the non-Spur-like Sleepy Floyd before Kenny Smith came arrived in 1990. Smith, though a solid point and an accurate outside shooter, was never a spectacular guard (his Rocket-high in assists was 7.1 in '91), though it was mostly because he didn't have to. The Rockets were run exclusively through Hakeem Olajuwon and didn't have much space in the offense for creative penetration, as evident by the fact that Vernon Maxwell, a two guard, and Sam Cassell, then a second year role player off the bench, led the Rockets in assists during their two-year run as World Champs.
Then there were the gawd-awful Matt Maloney years, followed by the (thankfully) temporary Cuttino Mobley point guard experiment during the lockout season in 1999. Then, with the trade for rookie Steve Francis in '99, we finally had a dynamic, game-changer at the 1. But, after Steve was traded out (for T-Mac) in '04, we were subjected to the inconsistencies that were James and Alston. Both are serviceable NBA guards; neither is the pure point guard the Rockets need.
Brooks is. He's quick, speedy, can handle and shoot the ball with precision, score in bunches, get into the lane at will, and find the open man consistently. Not to mention he's a pure, pass-first pg and is undoubtedly clutch. I've been watching him since his freshman season at Oregon, where he started all four years, and he's one of those few players that steadily get better every year. I liken him a lot to Tony Parker. Both are super-quick, undersized guards with major scoring ability. Both have the ability to drive past bigger, stronger defenders to get into the paint. Both were drafted at the tail end of the first round by playoff teams, from Texas at that. And, like Parker, Brooks has a chance to make an immediate impact on a very good team. Parker took over the starting point guard position from the aging Terry Porter in the first month of his rookie season in '01-'02, and the Spurs took off from there. He later became a key part of a championship team ('03, '05, and '07) and is poised to be so for years to come.
The same can possibly be said for Brooks. Sure, he's probably not going to get a ton of minutes this year (hey, he'll get more minutes than Greg Oden. Oops.), and he most likely won't start over Francis in '07-'08, but he'll work his way into the rotation. Talented players with heart always seem to. I think he'll show that he's one of the new era guards that will be a force in the league over time (I put him ahead of Mike Conley, Jr., easily).
The future of the Rockets franchise starts in two weeks. Don't say I didn't warn you.
P.S. Spurs and Mavs fans, be scared.