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Wednesday September 10, 2008 3:26 PM

Catching Up With Aaron Brooks


Lightning-quick guard looks forward to big things in second year

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON - The draft is done. The free agent frenzy and Olympics are, too. Preseason is still more than a month away. Yep, we've officially entered hoops hibernation.

So to get you through the basketball void, Rockets.com will spend the next few weeks catching up with various members of the team to find out what they've been up to this summer. The tour continues today as we chat with Aaron Brooks.

JCF: I haven't had a chance to talk to you since Summer League in Vegas - What have you been up to since then?

AB: Things have been good. I got a lot of work in, looked at a couple tapes from summer league and have just been in the gym since then.

JCF: When you looked at those tapes from summer league, what did you see?

AB: Besides my energy level not being where it needs to be, I think I made some great reads. I didn't knock down the shots like I wanted to, but that will come in time. I think, overall, it was pretty good. I want to improve on making better decisions still - there were a couple plays that I missed out there off screens and stuff - but I was pretty much, not impressed really, but I was fine.

JCF: What do you attribute the lack of energy to?

AB: I don't know. I just think five games in seven days is a lot of games; especially since I was playing 35-plus minutes every night. So there were times when I felt like I could have given more of an effort but, like I said, for the most part I liked the way I played. I got everybody involved and was also able to score, too, when it was needed.

JCF: Well, I know you tend to be your own toughest critic, but what do you feel you've improved upon from a year ago?

AB: I think the game has just slowed down a lot. That means I'm able to see stuff a little bit better and I'm making better decisions. That's what I wanted; it seemed like everything was just going so quick last year. So the game slowed down a little bit for me and I feel like I can contribute at this level even more.

JCF: I know you've also had a chance to go head-to-head with guys like T.J. Ford and Damon Stoudamire this summer. How much has that helped your game?

AB: I think it's helped a lot defensively. I mean, those are two great scorers so, defensively, I've improved a lot because it's given me a chance to work on my footwork. Offensively, going against somebody quicker than me and also even a bit shorter than me, my midrange game has gotten better. So I think that's really going to help me out in the long run - it's not just getting to the basket now, it's being able to pull up and shoot the midrange.

JCF: Now hold on a second. Did you really just say someone is quicker than you?

AB: (laughs) Well, I don't mean quicker but, you know, maybe as fast as I am. I mean, T.J. Ford has blazing speed and people have compared me to him all the way through high school and college. So to finally actually get to play against him, since I'd heard so much about him, was good for me. I get to see how he gets his points being the size that he is. I think he makes great reads off screens, so I've paid attention to that.

And Damon, he's an unbelievable scorer but he's also a smart point guard. So it's just real good to have those guys here, and I'm fortunate to have good point guards on the team right now with Steve and Rafer. I feel like I'm ahead of the curve as far as learning goes.

JCF: Speaking of those guys, do you feel like the backup point position is yours now? Or is it something you feel you still have to earn?

AB: Every day I have to earn. I feel like I'm constantly trying to prove myself. You gotta look at it like that. Being in this league, you don't have time to be [satisfied] as a backup or as a starter. There's always somebody waiting to take your spot. Everybody wants to play in the NBA and there's a lot of people out there. So if I aint doing my job, somebody else will.

JCF: What have the coaches said you have to do in order to earn more minutes?

AB: Just decision-making, getting stronger, being able to play defense, keeping guys in front of me, being able to guard the post a little bit without someone having to help as much. I mean, that's stuff that's going to come. I wouldn't say I'm worried about it, because I know I can do it.

JCF: When I spoke to coach Adelman in Las Vegas, he said the biggest thing he wanted from you was better defense. Obviously size will always be a bit of an issue since you're not suddenly going to sprout another six inches. So does it all just come down to footwork and fundamentals for you?

AB: Footwork, sure, but strength is a big thing. I mean, I find myself in front of players where I might stop them, but they use their strength to get over me. So I would say working on my strength. I feel like I got bigger over the summer so it'll come. I'm really not that concerned about it. I mean, I can play defense.

JCF: So is it just a matter of spending more time in the weight room?

AB: Definitely. Getting in the weight room and watching tape. Watching Rafer helps, too, because I think Rafer does a great job. He's not too much taller than me, but he does a great job by dictating where the ball-handler goes and by playing good off-the-ball defense.

JCF: What about off the court? I know you're a big video game guy and I know you've been playing NCAA and Madden...

AB: I'm not really very good at Madden...

JCF: No? Even though you play the college game?

AB: I'm good at NCAA, but not Madden. I don't know why. I can't find a team I like, really.

JCF: (laughs) You mean you don't like the Texans?

AB: (prolonged silence) I mean, the Texans are cool. I'm not going to say I don't like the Texans. (laughs) The thing is, with a video game, it's not who you like to watch, it's who you're good playing with. I mean, I haven't found a team that suits the way I play.

JCF: Okay, well we'll just focus on the NCAA game then. Obviously, you play as Oregon...

AB: Obviously.

JCF: Now are you playing against people...

AB: Now hold on, hold on, hold on. It depends. If somebody picks Florida or Oklahoma or Georgia, I can't play with Oregon because [EA] messed up on our rating. We should be No. 5 in the country or something. But we're not good enough in the game, so I'm going to have to run with Florida if I'm playing against a top ten team. But if it's anybody else, then I'm playing with Oregon all day.

JCF: Well you obviously need to get in touch with the folks at EA and give them a piece of your mind. Moving on to a less controversial subject, I know you're also a big movie guy, so what have been some of your favorite films so far this summer?

AB: Well, of course Batman; that was probably one of the best movies made.

JCF: Chuck really liked Tropic Thunder.

AB: No. I just saw that yesterday.

JCF: You didn't like it?

AB: I mean, it was cool, but I think I had to go see it with more people because I saw it late at night and there were only something like four people in the movie theater so it wasn't really that funny to me.

Let's see, what else? I can't really think of any other movies...

JCF: If nothing stands out that's not really a good sign.

AB: (laughs) Yeah, nothing really sticks out to me.

JCF: Do you feel as if Hollywood is sort of scraping the bottom of the barrel and just churning out a bunch of recycled stuff while ignoring anything even remotely original?

AB: Yeah, you know you've got all these movies coming out like Iron Man and Spider Man and Batman - there's nothing new coming out. But it's cool. I mean, Nike is coming out with all these remakes of old shoes so, I don't know, maybe that's just how the world is - we're into throwback stuff now, I guess.

JCF: Okay, getting back to the on-court stuff, I was talking to Rafer about this the other day: Playing point guard on this team has to be a point guard's dream come true now, with all the weapons that have been added during the offseason.

AB: I'm ecstatic. I mean, when you go out and get a player like Ron Artest, who's one of the league's best defenders, it just shows that you're really going for a championship, so you've gotta be impressed with the moves that the front office has been making.

I mean, being on a team with so many weapons makes my job a lot easier; you just gotta give them the ball. Like I said, the big thing is going to be being able to support them as far as defense and hitting open shots when they get doubled. So that takes a big weight off our shoudlers and I think this team is put together well and we gotta be ready to come out and play now.

JCF: Do you worry at all that adding such a powerful presence can adversely affect the chemistry and balance of a team that won 55 games the last two years? Or do you look at a club like Boston, who completely revamped its roster last year, yet was still able to come flying out of the gate?

AB: I think wins conquer everything. I mean, if you win basketball games all that negative stuff goes away. I think Ron's a guy who wants to win. He's been in the league a long time and doesn't have a ring, so when you have a guy like that who's a vet and already has his money, I mean, obviously he wants to win basketball games and this is the perfect place for him to do that.

JCF: Everybody has their preconceptions about Ron Artest as a player and person - but you've actually had a chance to be around him now for about a week. What's he really like?

AB: The reality is that, everyday, Ron works the hardest out of anybody here. He's right up there with Yao - he's a gym rat. And he's a good guy; from the time I've been here he's been real nice. Honestly, he's been real cool; smiling, laughing and joking like a regular guy.

I think he just likes the situation here. He's got Mac and Yao, and he gets to team up with them and his buddy, Rafer.

JCF: Did you have any preconceptions yourself about what he'd be like?

AB: Coming in, I thought he'd be somebody who'd be on his own little court and probably wasn't going to talk to anybody and we wouldn't really see him until game time. But, like I said, he's in here earlier than I am, he's out here getting his work in and he's looking forward to making a positive contribution to the team.

Have a comment, critique or suggestion for Rockets.com? Contact Jason Friedman via email at: jasonf@rocketball.com